It’s time once again, gentle readers, to review the state of Electric vehicles, particularly in light of the 2020 election. First, however, let’s visit Arstechnica.com for a sort of update on the current state of EVs, post-Chevy Volt. As regular readers may recall, I wrote about the demise of the Volt, the brave new harbinger of inevitable change, on 11-30-18.
The last Volt ever made rolled off the assembly line on February 19, 2019. The advent of the Volt forecast only its demise.
The end of 2019 saw a bunch of headlines proclaiming that it was a huge year for the electric vehicle. Yet more declare that actually, 2020 will be the year the EV really takes off. It’s true there are now more EVs; plug-in hybrid ones, battery ones, and even hydrogen fuel cell EVs in a range of shapes, sizes, and prices, and five of them made it into my list of the 10 best things I drove last year. When the numbers for 2019’s plug-in EV sales are complete, we expect more EVs to have been sold in 2019 than any year before, even if total new car sales in the UShave dropped.
Sound exciting? Brave new, shining future? Not so much.
Still, let’s not get ahead of ourselves; EVs might be outselling manual transmissions by nearly 2:1, but they still account for little more than a rounding error in the context of ~17 million new car and truck sales. If that has you depressed, take heart that the trend for EV sales is moving in the right direction. And it’s a trend that is starting to worry some of the states. That’s because the US has traditionally paid for the upkeep of its roads via direct taxation of gasoline and diesel fuel, which means that as our fleet becomes more fuel-efficient, that revenue will drop in relation to the total number of vehicle miles traveled each year.
Indeed. Whenever we fill our gas tanks, we’re paying taxes that supposedly go to upkeep of road and bridge networks. That’s more of less the case most places, but certainly not in California, for instance.
As a result, some states are starting to grapple with the problem of how to get drivers to pay for the roads they use in cars that use less or even no gas per mile. At the start of this year, Utah has begun a pilot Road Usage Charge program, coupled to an increase in registration fees for alternative fuel vehicles. Assuming a state gas tax of 30c/gallon and 15,542 miles/year driven, Utah says it collects $777 a year from a 6mpg heavy truck, $311 from a pickup getting 15mpg, $187 from a 25mpg sedan, $93 from a 50mpg hybrid, and nothing from anyone driving a battery EV.
So in 2020, Utah is increasing vehicle registration fees. In 2019, registering a BEV in Utah would cost $60; in 2020 that will be $90, increasing to $120 in 2021. PHEV fees were $26 in 2019, increasing to $39 this year and $52 in 2021, and not-plug-in hybrid fees have gone from $10 to $15, increasing to $20 next year. An extra $30 a year—or even $60 a year—is pretty small in the grand scheme of things, particularly considering how much cheaper an EV is to run.
But Utahns with EVs have an alternative. Instead of paying that flat fee, they can enroll in the pilot program that involves fitting a telematics device to the car. The device tracks the actual number of miles driven on Utah’s roads. These are billed at a rate of 1.5c/mile, but only until the total equals whatever that year’s registration fee for the vehicle would have been; participating in the pilot means you could pay less than you would otherwise, but Utah’s Department of Transportation says that participants would not ever be charged more than that year’s registration fee. The data will be collected by a contractor called Emovis, which operates toll roads around the US.
I’m sure we all want government devices tracking our every movement, don’t we? Isn’t this a small price to pay for EV virtue? Arstechnica appears to be of the opinion that the complete replacement of gas-powered vehicles with EVs is an inevitable and very good thing, and on the near horizon, so we’d better get our tax revenue ducks in a row!
A variety of EV boosters are also claiming that EVs are inevitable because battery packs are now cheaper and provide greater range. Chevrolet is claiming more than 200 miles per charge on their subcompact Bolt. What this probably means, if experience is a guide, is one can count on about half that range under normal driving conditions, and while charging times do appear to have declined somewhat, full charges with “superchargers” are still measured in hours. Another factor is that the federal EV tax subsidy, once as high as $7000, is currently no higher than about $1800, and will soon be entirely phased out. But all this should make EVS much cheaper, right? Not so much, as the header graphic from Chevy’s Bolt website reveals.
So a minimally equipped Bolt is about $37,000 and a reasonably well-equipped model is over $41,000? But that’s MSRP! Actual prices are always lower! Not so. GM lost money—surely much more than the cost of building each vehicle—on the Volt. There is no reason to believe they’re making a profit on the Bolt. Historically, dealers—those that accepted EVs in the first place—virtually never discounted Volts, getting full MSRP, and in some cases, substantially more, from those desperately seeking greenie street cred. Those high prices are offset only marginally by the federal tax credit remaining—for now. Better-appointed gas powered subcompacts cost considerably less, and so do compacts, and even many SUVs. Historically, EVs have been purchased only by the top 7% of US wage earners. They’re vanity purchases, toys, rolling virtue signals for people who can afford a variety of conventionally powered vehicles, and who can certainly afford to fly for trips of any duration. Most Americans can’t afford toys of that type.
GM never sold more than about 20,000 Volts in their best year. By comparison, in 2016, GM sold more than 40,000 Corvettes. The comparison is more apt than one might think. Both are niche vehicles catering to a small portion of the motoring public. Despite costing more than a Volt, the Corvette remains in production despite sales numbers far below those of other GM offerings, and presumably, the Corvette is profitable..
Now, gentle readers, let’s examine the bold new EV future, according to Mike Bloomberg.
Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg called for a requirement that all new vehicles sold in America be carbon-free by 2035.
Bloomberg’s proposal released Friday targets the transportation sector, the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, as part of his overall goal of cutting emissions economy-wide 50% by 2030 in order to fully decarbonize before midcentury.
Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, is trying to distinguish himself in the Democratic field by promoting his philanthropic success working with environmental groups to shut down more than half the nation’s coal plants.
Promising to wipe out the coal industry didn’t work so well for Hillary Clinton, but she wasn’t willing to spend billions of her own money on her campaign. Bloomberg has reportedly already spent more than $200 million. Bloomberg is also after natural gas:
He’s pledged to stop the construction of new natural gas plants to achieve 80% clean electricity by 2028.
Earlier this week, he released a plan to make all new buildings zero-carbon by 2025 and retrofit old ones by phasing out natural gas appliances, through federal incentives and standards.
Bloomberg would use a similar formula to cut emissions from transportation, a tough task considering the lack of viable alternatives to gas-based vehicles, ingrained driving habits, and a shortage of charging infrastructure.
Electric vehicles are declining in price because of cheaper batteries, but represent only about 2% of sales.
Piffle. What does any of that matter when, like Barack Obama, you have a pen and a phone?
The Bloomberg adviser said a president could ‘go far’ using executive authority to mandate that new vehicles be emissions-free. His plan would also force 15% of new trucks and buses to be emissions-free by 2030.
And people think Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have insanely costly, absolutely ludicrous ideas. He’s apparently following the California model of compiling so many costly building regulations that virtually no one can afford to build anything, and no one can afford to buy whatever is built. Imagine an entire nation of Californias. Bloomberg is also going to reinstate federal EV subsidies:
To lower the cost of EVs, he would expand tax credits for buyers and allow low- and moderate-income people to trade in their gas-based vehicles for electric ones, or instead receive vouchers they can use on transit.
Transit. Right. Bloomberg apparently thinks everywhere is New York City. For much of the nation, there is no “transit.” That’s not only because Americans prefer and need personal vehicles. In many parts of the nation public transportation is not remotely self-sustaining, nor does it make the least bit of sense. This is particularly good:
He’d also expand federal grants for school districts and transit agencies to buy zero-emissions buses, collaborate with ride-share and taxi companies to convert their fleets to EVs, and build a network of charging stations along highways using tax credits and ‘low-cost financing,’ aiming to place a station every 50 miles.
Oh my. Charging stations every 50 miles. The cost of land—unless he simply intends to declare eminent domain on a heretofore unheard of scale—would be astronomical, and they’d better be damned big charging stations, because if everyone had EVs, they’d be constantly full, with long lines of power depleted vehicles. That would be a bit inconvenient in winter. People freezing to death waiting to charge their EVs might also be a bit inconvenient. Let us, just for the fun of it, ignore the almost complete incompatibility of EVs with cold climates.
When everyone has one or two EVs in their garages, from where will the electricity necessary to charge them come? If there is no more natural gas or coal, or fuel oil or propane, how do people heat their homes? How do they air condition them in summer months?
What Bloomberg apparently doesn’t know, or more likely, doesn’t care about, is fleets of electric busses have to be at least twice, likely three to four times, the size of conventionally powered fleets. Because they have to operate 24/7/365, busses can’t be out of operation for hours while charging. There must be charged replacements ready for each route at a moment’s notice. The kind of stop and go, constant-on heating and air conditioning, such fleets require would dramatically reduce EV range, and would inevitably strand passengers at bus stops as busses trundled off to recharging stations at unpredictable times. No one could ever be certain of bus schedules, so the economic and social disruptions would be immense and never-ending. This is really good too:
Bloomberg called to jump-start the dormant U.S. high-speed rail system by working with states to build at least one new high-speed rail corridor, or network, by 2025.
The United States has only 54 miles of high-speed rail, compared with countries, such as Spain, Japan, and Germany, that have more than 3,000 miles each.
Golly. We’re America. We can build at least 3000 miles of high-speed rail, can’t we? No we can’t. Google California’s high-speed-rail-to- nowhere boondoggle to see how that would work out. But first, examine these maps of America, Spain, Germany and Japan:
The point? America’s population is about 327 million. Japan: about 126 million. Germany: about 83 million. Spain: about 47 million. To build a high-speed rail network proportionate to those of Spain, Germany and Japan would require not just 3000 miles, but many times 3000 miles. All three countries would fit into the boundaries of the US many times over—not counting Alaska (they’d all easily fit there) and Hawaii–and such calculations do not account for the many portions of the nation that due to adverse terrain, can never support high-speed rail. But the federal government could do it much more cheaply and efficiently than California! Sure they could, because nothing is more efficient than a D/S/C ruled federal government.
What about Alaska? How many high-speed rail lines do we build to Alaska, and from which states? Does Canada have any say in the matter? And what about Hawaii? Electric 747s? Or do we just write off Hawaii? And by the way, what’s powering these high speed trains?
Bloomberg also seems unaware that electricity—absent lightning—doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. Solar and wind sources provide only a tiny portion of our electrical needs, and both must be backed up by fossil-fueled plants when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, which is 50% of the time and more. Where will the factories that are going to build all these EVS get their power? What will power the machinery necessary to build the high-speed rail networks and the engines and passenger coaches? Where will the steel factories making the rails and everything else made of steel get their power? And what will power the public charging stations? Unicorn farts and fairy dust?
Consider the economic displacement of everyone whose jobs come, in at least some way, from the production of fossil fuels. It’s not just roughnecks and oil company employees. What happens when long haul truckers that bring us every necessity of modern life can’t keep to schedules, or those schedules are greatly lengthened? How much more will everything cost when trucking companies must field three times the vehicles and employ three times the drivers? Twenty-dollar Big Macs, when a local McDonald’s can get delivery of the makings? Will just-in-time businesses like McDonalds even exist? What happens to air transport, or will jets be reserved only for the self-imagined elite? Will there be enough of them vacationing to keep Hawaii afloat? What about solar or wind-powered ships? What happens when ambulances run out of power on the way to a call, or on the way to a hospital?
And what about endangered species about which D/S/Cs claim to care so much? Their habitats will be displaced by high-speed rail lines, solar plants, windmill farms and charging stations. Wilderness will be despoiled. Solar plants and windmills will slice, dice and flash fry billions of birds—species that will quickly become endangered if they’re not already–out of the sky.
If Bloomberg gets his way, gentle readers, we’re heading backward in time—way, way back. Of course, Bloomberg and other self-imaged elites won’t have to make such sacrifices. They’ll need every modern convenience to enable them to properly rule us. And no, you don’t get to keep any guns for hunting. Remember, this is Michael Bloomberg we’re talking about, the man funding Virginia’s gun grab. Your shiny, new Chevy Bolt will primarily gather dust in the garage—if you’re allowed to have a garage or a Bolt–in the vain hope of finding power to charge it.
Bloomberg is indeed unique, but he joins the ranks of the other D/S/C candidates who would not only bankrupt the nation, but impoverish, even kill, innumerable Americans while taking their liberty in the process of building a glorious, socialist utopia. Long live the green revolution!