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!

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    You article was thought provoking and informative. But I think you were far too soft on the EPA and the Biden Administration and overly optimistic of the ability of the auto industry to adapt. These EV policies will cause unprecedented disruption in the auto and energy industries, at the cost of middle-class prosperity, which is already under attack by Bideneconomics.

    My issue with E cars are the batteries. More info needs to be widely and thoroughly released and inform the masses just how much water and energy plus carcinogenic materials are required to build batteries and then recycle them. Then there’s the fact that the power grid needed to charge them is inadequate AND comes mostly from coal, another filthy un healthy industry

    Diane, the info is available. McKinsey did a study and it shows that after 150K miles, today’s electric vehicle has a carbon contribution equal to 90% of an ICE vehicle – and that’s with the broad assumption that batteries will definitely last over 10 years.

    According to McKinsey “An EV has roughly double the production footprint of a typical internal-combustion-engine (ICE) vehicle. Both have similar embedded production emissions from, for example, producing the body of the vehicle, which is between five and ten tons of CO2e emissions, depending on its size and production location. On top of that, however, producing a typical EV (with a 75-kWh battery pack) emits more than seven tons of CO2e emissions on the battery alone.”

    And this iis quoted from a pro EV article. They wave their magic wants to say this will improve in the future. Here is the link to the article:

    So if you don’t buy a new vehicle, and instead keep something more than 12.5 years (typical life cycle) going as your main car… you are carbon negative for years? [because most of the emissions are from the making]

    -yes you would subtract emissions from new parts needed.
    -sure, it’s likely an old ICE so more emissions… but the making appears to be much of the emissions…

    For economy I’ll continue to ride my Honda sportbike. I’m not buying a EV. To make a battery it destroys the environment far worse than people are told. I’ll keep my 69 charger and 87 ram rolling until big brother bans ice in their infinite wisdom ha. This is all about control. They will find a way to tax you for driving so many miles next. Wake up.

    I am convinced we will burn every drop of obtainable oil in the ground. If the major powers slow consumption, the price will drop, and the other nations will pick up where we left off, and overtake us economically. It is free energy, and there is no getting around that.

    It’s not about EVs and whether they are good or cheap enough but a forced and unneeded agenda. It is not science or saving the world. It is about control by a few and politicians that have been bought and therefore resistance is necessary.

    Hi Larry,
    Very interesting article, but I was writing more about your film about the corvair. I’m not a boomer “anti-guvmint! (But don’t touch my social security or Medicare benefits!)” like a lot of the posters, I’m a genXer like you. I’m a life long gear head and racing fan, nearly 20 year Hagerty customer, and car collector. But I’m also probably the only Hagerty customer who worked for two years as Ralph Nader’s administrative assistant in the early nineties. Respectfully, you got a number of things wrong or misrepresented in your Corvair film. Send me an email if you would like my input and a respectful dialogue (I have no desire to start a flame war with some of the boomers here).

    Larry, I’ve been making the same comment about the “early adopter” sales starting to wane. My reasoning was the dicey charging network situation…hadn’t considered the cold weather issue, but certainly a valid point. Tesla is now suffering from the lack of “refresh” throughout it’s model line. Sooner or later, markets have become accustomed to refreshes. The cycles are certainly longer than they were decades ago, when a refresh happened in as little as two or three years! Tolerance has certainly grown over the decades. If Tesla hasn’t factored this regular occurring cost into their business model, then shame on them. It will become a big problem the longer it is allowed to continue.

    Automotive refresh is an interesting concept.

    VW Beetle and original Mini didn’t get a lot of refresh in their runs. Part of the charm of Squarebody GM trucks is the long run with few changes. Modern Chargers, challengers, half Toyotas products and Nissan Frontier show this can still work.

    So much of the refresh has been fake all along. New platforms that obsolete parts with incremental (at best) improvements most consumers wouldn’t even notice. The “evolutionary” styling of F150, Subarus really push this point as you get a “new” vehicle that looks pretty much the same as the outgoing but they have changed a bunch of stuff (no biggie for the first 4 years owner, adds costs/hassle down the line to the customer).

    This EV skateboard universal platform era we are attempting to enter… should mean cosmetic refreshing is done to generate interest, but really why else?

    Dodge could probably sell unchanged 2022 Chargers for the next decade (if they were allowed to). Add in some new colours every other year and that likely boost sales too.

    The entire EV transition is apparently inevitable. But very interesting, and revealing, to learn from our local newspapers that first responders here, and across the country, are attending training sessions on how to deal with these new battery fires. Entirely different animal than fighting all other types of fires that they’ve experienced in the past. Even the manufacturers (Tesla, etc.) instruct them to have 3000 to 5000 gallons of water to subdue those fires. However most quick response fire truck only have 500 gallon tanks. So the instructors are telling the firefighters to get the burning unit away from everything and let the fire burn itself out. Which may take up to 48 hours. Then secure the hulk because flames may reoccur.

    That strikes me as a problem that will reasonably quickly be solved by technology, both on the prevention side (better battery components) and on the fire-fighting side.

    Have to tell you how much I enjoy your posts. Yet to read one I didn’t enjoy.
    Gary Hooper … a 77 year old gear head that is still very much into cars, mine and anyone else’s.

    As a student engineer, I worked on our electric car project in the early ‘70’s. The car was a Mini Cooper with an electric motor and lead acid batteries. Great car, but no range. The conclusion was better batteries would herald the acceptance of electric cars. Fifty years on, lithium ion is certainly a better battery but I agree with Mr. Toyoda that a design that utilizes a battery assist, with a ICE engine provides an excellent interim solution until the next battery with better capacity, quicker charging, lighter weight, any or all of the above makes an electric vehicle the best design.

    Really interesting piece, Larry, as always. I think that as much as old timers like me (67) may dislike electric cars, I think the Gen X and Millenials will take to electrics readily once the price level comes down. They are used to an electronic interface, as well as computer generated sounds, which will make the whole driving experience a mere extension of their video gaming experiences.
    Uh oh!

    A friend bought one of the earliest first-generation Prius sedans in San Diego. Its battery warranty was 100,000 miles, so it was no surprise when at 104,000 miles the battery quit. The replacement battery, not covered by the warranty, cost over $4,000 dollars. At his untimely death the Prius had less than 110,000 miles on it. When his sister settled his affairs the Kelley Blue Book value of the Prius with nearly new batteries was only $2,500! No, I’m not interested in buying an EV or a hybrid like his Prius.

    Today’s EV charging infrastructure is at about the same level of development as gasoline infrastructure was about 1910. at that time the vast majority of gasoline was dispensed in cans and steel barrels from the back of Hardware stores and blacksmith shops.

    Last Thursday I arranged to meet another vehicle who would follow me across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to a family event. The location for us to meet was a large gas station and convenience store, with 12 fuel islands & 4 pumps on each island [2 per side]. The other vehicle was late due to heavy traffic, so I waited for well over 30 minutes.

    Being bored, I began timing the cars getting gasoline and diesel. The vast majority used credit cards and were in & out within about 5 minutes. As that day was just before the start of the Labor day weekend, traffic was very heavy and the place was especially busy. Those 48 fuel pumps were in regular use the whole time. If we assume a low rate of turnover being 4 cars per pump over the 30 minutes I was watching, that would indicate 192 vehicles used those pumps during that time. For an hour that means 384 vehicles fueled up.

    Off to one side of the facility I observed 6 Tesla charging stations. All were in use, and at the end of the 30 minutes the same 6 cars were still charging, with 2 other EVs patiently waiting their turn.

    I’m going to assume the typical charge time for the EV cars at that location would be at least 2 hours, but to keep this simple, let’s say the EV cars required only 1 hour of charging per visit. Unless I’m missing something, to provide the same level of customer needs, just to handle 1 hour of charging for a comparable number of EV cars, the station would require 384 EV charging stations. The land alone would take up 2 or more city blocks, and imagine how much electricity that facility will require for almost 400 charging stations.

    On Labor Day [last Monday] another close family member ended up in the hospital emergency room a couple of hundred miles from where we were staying. As we were vacationing and visiting various tourist and amusement locations, that afternoon the fuel level in my Toyota Camry was at about 1/2 tank when we had to cut our trip short & head home. We had to leave right away to make the long trip to the ER. Along the way I was able to re-fuel within 5 minutes. Had I been driving an all-electric car, my travel time would have been more than double. And of course the large regional hospital didn’t have any EV charging locations at all, while there were multiple gas stations nearby.

    If I was to consider the purchase of another vehicle, a 100% EV would not even be considered. A hybrid vehicle might be in the running, but I’d likely buy another gasoline powered vehicle.

    The “infrastructure” issues are going to manifest themselves in last mile delivery. Especially in areas where individual home charging is being mandated in high-density multi-family dwellings like it is here in Oregon. The upgrades needed to provide individual charging for 100, 200, 300 vehicles in a one block radius is going to overwhelm local power providers.
    Combine that with city planning initiatives that don’t require developers to provide any on-site parking for their high-density projects and where are these folks going to charge their cars?
    I agree with others that the alternate fuels path has not been/was not explored fully to the detriment of all.

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