Never Stop Driving #64: EV struggles


The EV deals are just around the corner. Tesla has already repeatedly dropped the price of its cars, while new EV models continue to join the market. General Motors, for example, is debuting several new EVs before the end of the year, with the Chevrolet Silverado EV slated to start production soon.

Meanwhile, some dealers are struggling to sell the EVs already for sale. One dealer I spoke with, who sells Mercedes and other high-end brands in a cold-climate state, told me that he had five EVs bolted to the showroom floor. He said that all the early adopters have already bought their EVs and his customers are concerned about reduced range as we head into the winter months. There’s an EV glut coming, with a silver lining being likely deep discounts.

Car companies are well aware that the transition to electric vehicles is going to be messy. They’re responding, however, to several future government regulations on tailpipe emissions that essentially mandate EVs. Even Dodge’s architect of the Charger and Challenger muscle-car awesomeness, CEO Tim Kuniskis, pragmatically acknowledged the transition at the recent burnout-fest known as Roadkill Nights. In an interview published by Automotive News, Kuniskis talked about the new electric-powered technology. “I get it: Not everybody is adopting to this technology right away, and not everybody will,” he said. “It will take many years for everybody to, but people will. Early adopters will, and when they see what we can do with this technology, they will start coming along.” Kuniskis also said, “This is the regulation. This is where the industry is going. This is what we have to do.” Dodge has already revealed an electric version of the Challenger that blends muscle-car looks with a synthetically generated exhaust sound.

Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Concept front three-quarter

Regulations cost money and several car companies have acknowledged that profits from gas-powered vehicles are temporarily needed to fund development of EVs. Tesla seems to be making money with EVs, but that company enjoyed a long head start. The average price of a new car is now nearly 50 grand. Auto loans are feeling more like house mortgages and now average six years. Not surprisingly, people are keeping their cars for longer and the average age of the cars on our roads continues to climb: It’s now at 12.5 years. There are only a few new cars for sale that cost around 20 grand yet dozens for more than 100. Interestingly, GM reversed the decision to kill its most successful EV, the Bolt, which will utilize a new, more efficient Ultium battery pack that should cost 40 percent less than the current Bolt’s battery technology. One can assume that this second-gen Bolt will cost less, too.

2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV rear three-quarter

I imagine many of you are thinking, “There goes ol’ libertarian Larry slamming the gubment.” Actually, I understand the need for regulation and the benefits it achieves. When I lived in a town that was beset with smelly and heavy smoke from nearby steel mills, I experienced how air pollution negatively affected the quality of life. A few years ago we published a piece on the EPA’s 50th anniversary. That agency faced plenty of pushback some 50 years ago when it enacted the car-emissions rules that ultimately helped reduce Los Angeles’s pea-soup smog. The computer-controlled engines initially made to meet those EPA regs are one major reason we now have gazillion-horsepower Dodges and Chevies that start on cold mornings and idle easily in traffic. I’m also grateful for the increased crash safety of modern cars and once made a film about how the Corvair was the sacrificial lamb that sparked the auto-safety push.

I am conflicted about our current state. Change is often painful and unwanted. Are we experiencing the discomfort of change or reaching too far for something the buyers don’t want? I often think about the dozens of off-the-record conversations with car executives I’ve had over the years who all point out that when gas is expensive, people use less and demand alternatives. While my mom regularly complains about the price of fuel, that figure has actually been remarkably stable over time when one adjusts for inflation. This despite the fact that we consume some 30 percent more oil than we did 50 years ago.

These are complicated issues that I fear I’ve oversimplified and in turn perhaps projected a pessimistic view of the future. I feel positive, in fact, partly because of what we do at Hagerty Media, which is to embrace all cars but largely focus on the past. That research reveals time after time the ingenuity of humans to find unexpected and inventive solutions to problems. I hope you agree that we highlight those stories and if you’d like to support us, please join the Hagerty Drivers Club.

The thought of optimism reminded me of a recent visit with Hagerty columnist and car fan Jay Leno. My colleague Aaron Robinson and I watched Leno perform at The Comedy & Magic Club, where Leno proved he’s as funny as ever. The next day, we went to Leno’s garage for a wide-ranging conversation that included autonomous and electric cars. Leno, who regularly drives his Tesla, is infectiously optimistic. He simultaneously loves the past but also embraces change. We could all learn plenty from Leno.

Have a great weekend!

P.S.: Your feedback is very welcome. Comment below!

Please share this newsletter with your car-obsessed friends and encourage them to sign up for the free weekly email. The easy-to-complete form is here. And if you’d like to support the efforts of Hagerty Media, please consider joining the Hagerty Drivers Club.

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    I completely agree with “Dave B.” and “DMcG.” Not just “No,” Larry, “HELL NO!” We are not talking about pollution. They are talking about a trace gas which comprises less than one percent of the atmosphere and which is vital to the life cycle. And even if CO2 were a legitimate threat, the so called anthropomorphic contribution is minuscule compared with natural sources.

    EVs will never provide the same liberty, freedom and utility of ICEs and “The Powers That [shouldn’t] Be” are well aware of this. They want everything on the electric grid because it’s (we will be) easier to control. “In the future, you will go nowhere and you will be happy.” I’m not quite a “Boomer” but I will fight and resist this insanity to my last breath.

    I wish I had a day with access to your “rolodex,” Larry. These pathetic auto executives are in a much better position to resist unconstitutional government edicts.

    “Synthetic exhaust?”?? Did you really type that with a “straight face?”

    I’m not a fan of electric cars, nor of government intervention (especially the current edition of government); but I appreciate your attempt to provide a balanced perspective on the issue.

    Such a great lead-in article from Mr. Webster. Thank You. I have enjoyed reading the comments, and will once again say we as a nation will survive not because of the government, but in spite of it! Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-everything, but this EV change is a place where there is SO much that is being swept under a rug and NOT being talked about. I am a 74 year old native Minnesotan. Growing through/with the muscle car era has certainly swayed my thoughts and memories. People, you must understand that these high-performance EV’s we all talk about are NOT going to be the ones that will bring the groceries home..anymore than a Hellcat makes for the perfect daily driver. The EV that will set the standard of the future will have to be the Model A of the present day. I don’t know where to stop with this, but a closing thought: We often talk about our power grid. Frankly, I am more concerned about the high percentage of homes and dwellings that have their individual 200 amp power panels tapped out and at max usage already??

    Why not leave the transition to basic economics – the marketplace? Top-down planning by governments doesn’t usually end well. Just ask Breznev.

    I have been reading your work since your days at C&D. You are an entertaining, informative and gifted writer. I really like your current commentaries. I have enjoyed a love affair with automobiles all my long (72 and still kicking) life. I have owned, restored, driven and enjoyed over 150 cars in my life. I studied mechanical engineering at, among others, Georgia Tech before going on to several advanced degrees in business and having a long career in the major leagues of investment banking. I was a participant in several successful automotive companies while in college and graduate school, including the somewhat revered FAF Motorcars in Atlanta that helped advance the Ferrari business in he USA in the 70’s and 80’s. I was their banker who was referenced in one of their publications as having used their parts and advice in rebuilding the Columbo V-12 in my 1966 330GT 2+2. The bottom line is that I am a die hard car guy. I currently own 13 cars (mostly Mercedes and other high end imports…..all older, mostly bought new) which is the smallest number in many years. I sold all my Ferraris about 7-8 years ago. like many, many others in the automobile enthusiast circles, I have endless memories, experiences and stories that I share with friends, new and old and enjoy hearing others’ stories. So, keep up the great work. I will join the Drivers Club. I cannot imagine why I have not done so long ago.
    Thanks for keeping me entertained and informed for so long.
    Robert Hynote
    Napa, CA.

    Robert – Are you watching the game tonight? BIE, I’ll be 72 this December. I too work on cars, but nothing like you.

    EV’s are not for everybody, and it is a carbon industry fiction that they are being “mandated” by a deep state shadow government or other such poppycock. The period of transition will be longer than the OE’s have planned – they are much better at making cars and trucks than they are at changing cultures.

    Providing the support to build out infrastructure to ensure that people who SHOULD be in EVs can do so with the same confidence as an ICE should the the 6:30 AM Monday meeting agenda at every automaker.

    Dealers have to get with the program and be as familiar with how to guide an EV charger installation as they are at pushing floor mats, paint protection and gold trim. However, the turnover is so high at most stores, building and retaining a staff that is as smart as the vehicle is going to be the biggest challenge of all.

    Ultimately, it is the möbius loop. Without a lot of EV product on the road, who will install and maintain chargers? Without sufficient chargers, who will embrace the EV? Tesla seems to have cracked the case, now it remains to be seen if the rest can follow.

    At the turn of the previous century there were more electric car manufacturers than petroleum powered car manufacturers. Some of those same problems with electric vehicles continue today. I don’t feel that those concerns have been addressed to the level where the general public is comfortable with current technology, support, availability of charging stations and financial data on battery life and maintenance costs. I think a total package which would include the vehicle plus a home powered solar charging station would be an ideal solution for gaining acceptance.

    People (Americans) don’t like being told what to do. The whole approach of forcing EV’s on the populace far too early, before the infrastructure is in place to support them adds to the problem. This created animosity from many in the public that would have otherwise supported EV’s if the transition was more natural. Anyway at my stage in life I have what I always wanted when I retired, a Cadillac and a Corvette in my garage. I’m happy as is.

    Well I don’t see EV sales as struggling. To be honest they have been growing slowly and often the media are the ones who predicted the transition would be fast.

    The development is time consuming and expensive. But the Automakers have no choice as they are being forced into this not of their own free will.

    The time of development is always changing as is the cost as of the last couple years the cost reductions have slowed with the poor economy.

    Some old timers like to think the next election will change things but the flaw in that thinking is there will be another election in 4 more years and automakers are not going to changer planning every 4 years.

    The future I think GM has clearly mapped out. They will continue to build ICE models for as long as possible as they continue on the development of EV models. Might want to note GM has two Blazers, Two Equinox, Two Silverado’s ETC. GM is also building a new V8.

    The problem is many other brands don’t have the capital to do all this. For us funding EV with layoffs of 8,000 engineers. It is showing in quality issues.

    Some areas the EV is thriving and even in my area with cold they are very common sights today vs a few years ago when you only read about a Tesla.

    The Government and CARB both need to come to the realization that the EV still needs work and time to become the principal vehicle. The problem is I don’t see those pushing the new green agenda changing this.

    As for the vote them out. Too late for that. Those who voted them in already let the genie out of the bottle and that is not going to put back.

    Also this is a global thing as these cars have to sell everywhere not just here.

    The best we can hope for is the deadlines are soften and pushed back a bit.

    But the refuse to accept and to understand is not also going to work as you will at some point if you are under 70 years old know how to deal with this.

    Being real and understanding exactly what is going on is key. The media has been miss leading both ways.

    I work in the performance racing field and this is really going to impact my future. We are learning how to deal with it now. We will try to save what we can and adapt to what we have to.

    The sooner we start being honest with what is coming the better.

    The willingness to accept misinformation evidenced on this thread is staggering, so I’ll be the contrarian here. I’m all for it. The sooner the switch, the better. People who say they need a vehicle that will tow an 800 lb horse trailer halfway across the country at the drop of a hat (usually the loudest EV critics) make up at once such an infinitesimally small percent of drivers, and yet seem to be most public of EV hand-wringers. They’re seeing a reality where the ICE car has had a nearly century-long head start in both industrial and infrastructure development and then get all “WELL I DON’T KNOW ABOUT THIS” when the conversation turns to EVs. Put the rapidity of EV development over the last 10 years up against similar development in the ICE field and it becomes pretty obvious that EVs are closing that gap rapidly. So then they say, “I’ll buy one when I can charge it at the corner in the same amount of time it takes to fill my tank” – guess what: that day’s coming and probably sooner than you think. The infrastructure will happen and then we’ll all look back and realize how silly we were to harrumph and cross our arms and stomp our feet, just like we were with leaded gas, seatbelts, air bags, emission controls, etc. But until then, we need to actually keep investing in the manufacturing and development technologies and not let up on the accelerator of progress so that EVs won’t need to command huge MSRPs to make sense on their manufacturers’ balance sheets. Guess how that comes about: putting the manufacturers’ feet to the fire with EV mandates, because the alternative is cash infusions and we all know how well that would go over…

    I think the die-hard EV skeptics here would have been the type to stick with their horse-drawn carriages in the early 20th century, rather than try one of the new ICE-powered automobiles. “Too loud! Too smelly! Too dangerous! What’s wrong with my horse??” By the way, more than a century later you can still ride a horse, if you want to.

    Change is inevitable. Yes, we need lots of infrastructure change and a hardier electrical grid, but those will come in due time. Why not try to be part of the solution?

    Maybe these Bob Dylan lyrics will resonate: “Your old road is rapidly agin’. Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand, for the times they are a-changin’.”

    There would likely be a lot less critics if there wasn’t fear that in 100 years (or less) ICE vehicles will no longer be an option. And if they aren’t an option at some point in the next 100 years, it won’t be because of a lack of fossil fuels. It’ll be because of the ever increasing regulations put on manufacturers, refineries, etc. Bring on the EVs and the updated infrastructure, but let’s keep ICE around. Let’s keep the horses around too, just in case.

    If EVs are the future of Vehicle Transportation, we all better encourage Nuclear Power or EVs will just sit in garages.

    Hybrids Yes, EVs No.

    If EVs are the future of Vehicle Transportation, we all better encourage Nuclear Power or EVs will just sit in garages.

    Hybrids Yes, EVs No.

    Hybrid? Maybe. Electric? Never. Electric is just Betamax revisited. The future is solar, hydrogen, or an alternative/synthetic fuel compatible with the ICE.

    We are nearing 2024. Two of my vehicles (both 2011 models, BTW) have pano glass roofs. That such roofs on today’s car are not solar collectors is absolutely ridiculously shameful.

    Yeah, EV’s are the future and the future is today! The sooner the switch, the better!
    These are probably the same folks jumping or about to jump on the newfangled “flying car” bandwagon.
    Two dimensional car wrecks (EV or ICE) are bad enough, can’t wait to see the three dimensional wrecks.
    Wait! Let’s have AI do the driving for you!

    Rose colored glasses. What a load Mr. Jetson.
    Remember what P.T. Barnum said.

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