The electric vehicle express trundles unsteadily along on fast deteriorating, and mostly non-existent, high-speed rail tracks. A few excerpts from my January, 2020 missive on EVS, Electric Vehicles: Long Live The Green Revolution:
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.
Failed D/S/C presidential candidate and gazillionaire Michael Bloomberg, who is currently tossing money around in another failed attempt to force D/S/C wonders on the public, was back in January pushing the glories of EVs. The public wasn’t buying then:
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?
How indeed, but more on this shortly. We turn now, gentle readers, to Oil Price.com, for an update on government giving away your tax dollars so the wealthiest Americans can virtue signal, four wheeled style:
The end of the year  is drawing near and it’s time for last-minute legislation in the U.S. Congress. As is tradition, various industries are using this time to lobby for their interests–and the car manufacturing industry is no exception. This time, the spotlight is on electric cars. Tax credits for electric cars, to be specific.
GM, Tesla, and other manufacturers of EVs were pushing for an extension of the tax credits introduced during the first Obama administration. The reason: the credits are only granted for the first 200,000 EVs a carmaker manufactures. After the 200,000 mark, a phase-out begins. To their chagrin, Congress did not pass the proposal for an EV tax credit extension. [skip]
Tesla and, to a lesser extent GM, dominate the space and both have reached their 200,000 limit. This means EVs will now become an even pricier luxury for many.
So what happened? Did Congress extend the EV tax credit, forking over $7500 dollars of tax money whenever one of the wealthy—that’s who almost exclusively buys EVs—buys a Tesla? Nope, as Plug In America.org wails:
Despite a flurry of activity in December and thousands of emails and phone calls to Congressional offices (thank you!), an extension of the federal EV tax credit was left out of the final federal spending bill. According to Senator Debbie Stabenow, it was left out due to “extreme resistance from the president,” despite support from both sides of Congress. While the tax credit has been phasing out for Tesla and GM vehicles, it is still in place for automakers that have yet to sell 200,000 vehicles.
Let’s keep in mind the EV market is owned almost entirely by Tesla and GM, and GM is selling only the micro-compact Chevy Bolt, the unlamented Volt, as I predicted for years, having been cancelled a decent interval after the Age of Obama came to an end. It took little prescience to make that prediction. Chevy lost money on every Volt it sold, by some estimates as much as ten times, even more, than the MSRP. Circa September, 2020, there are few EV options eligible for a tax credit of any amount, which is a good thing. Government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers. If a product can’t survive on its own merits in the marketplace, too bad, so sad. Build something the public wants to buy. President Trump seems to understand this well.
Tesla continues to deliver far more in terms of marketing and promises than actual affordable, practical EVs, so let’s take a look at the 2020 Chevy Bolt, via Car And Driver:
The Chevrolet Bolt EV was on top of the world when it debuted in 2016. At a time when most affordable EVs struggled to go even 100 miles on a charge, the Bolt was a revolution that promised an EPA-rated 238 miles of range for less than $40,000. But life comes at you fast when you’re a revolutionary. In short order, General Motors’s pride and joy was confronted by a raft of stiff EV competition from Hyundai, Kia, and—yes—the Tesla Model 3.
“Less than $40,000” amounts to pocket change. Mrs. Manor and I recently bought a Ford Eco Sport and paid about $29,000 dollars for a very well equipped small SUV with far greater range, all wheel drive, far greater and more flexible and usable interior space, and no range anxiety. We could have easily spent up to $40,000 on a variety of larger and more luxurious vehicles, but are happy with our little red—“ruby red metallic,” the sole color extra cost option in the line–pseudo four wheeler.
C & D’s review is, in many respects, embarrassingly fawning, with a few exceptions, like this:
The Bolt, however, still does cost considerably more than most economy cars. Our fully loaded test car, with its optional premium audio system, fast-charging capability, and set of driver-assistance features, rang in at $43,735. That’s a lot of cash to spend on a dorky-looking hatchback, no matter how practical it is or how far it can go on a charge. And therein lies the rub with the Bolt’s commitment to EV rationality. It’s not cool by any stretch of the imagination, and the recent battery upgrades don’t make it any more desirable on an emotional level. If you’re spending around $40K on an electric vehicle, it’s tough not to make a case instead for a sexier Tesla Model 3 and the brand cachet that comes with it. We know that sounds irrational, but that’s how car buying often works.
Sure, that’s an insane price for a subcompact that could leave one out of juice at the roadside with little warning, but what about the range? According to C & D, Chevy is claiming 258 miles per full charge, and C & D got this:
But we did drive one 268 miles on a single charge in a non-scientific test in the mountains of Death Valley—and even had an indicated 33 miles of range remaining when we were finished. Back in Michigan and now under a different sort of extreme circumstances, we certainly did not feel any sort of range anxiety while running (essential) errands in our Bolt Premier test car.
Hmmm. “Death Valley?” Where weather conditions are just about optimized for an EV? Certainly Chevy would not have given C & D a “tweaked” test car, would they, a car modified to provide unrealistic and unrealizable range? This lack of range anxiety is far less compelling that one might realize. The average drive, running errands, is unlikely to break 50 miles, which even the Volt could usually manage on a single charge. Of course, add winter weather and all range bets are off.
Back in Texas, on one of our frequent trike riding routes, we passed through an upscale neighborhood. A lonely white Chevy Bolt sat at the curb in front of a mini-mansion for nearly a year, its tires slowly losing air, until on one ride shortly before we retired and moved to Wyoming, it was gone. Was this an example of lawn ornament virtue signaling, and did the owner finally tire of it? No way to know, but one would expect such a wonder car to be, you know, driven upon occasion.
What’s that you say? What about lunatic and utterly unrealistic virtue signaling? Obviously you’re speaking about California, and Fox News provides:
The order directs the California Air Resources Board to develop a phase-out plan that would require 100 percent zero-emissions personal use and dryage vehicles by 2035 and as many medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicle applications deemed feasible by 2045.
‘Pull away from the gas pumps,’ Newsom said. ‘Let us no longer be victims of geopolitical dictators that manipulate global supply chains and global markets.’
California is both the largest new car market in the U.S., with 1.8 million vehicle sales in 2019, and also accounts for the most electric car purchases of any state.
That’s right gentle readers. By 2035, no new gas or diesel powered vehicles in California. But isn’t this the same California with rolling blackouts? The same California currently on fire, and not with heat from the shut down porn industry? The same California with no plans to expand the electric grid or water infrastructure? The same California that can’t reliably keep air conditioning on? The same California so concerned with critical power and water shortages, shortages that will take decades, even generations, to address, the legislature recently boldly acted by reducing penalties for pedophile rape? Yes. That California.
On one hand, people are fleeing the state in droves, but even that won’t be enough to provide the nightly necessary electricity to power all those technologically miraculous EVs, which by 2035 surely will get 1000 miles per charge and cost $12.95 for a well-equipped model. And of course, from where will the electrons come to charge all those EVs away from home? When they’re not on fire, that is.
As I’ve always noted, if you can afford an EV and it meets your needs, good for you. Buy one for each day of the week and change them with your undies. But for now, and the potentially predictable future, EVs are, for the vast majority of the public, still not ready for prime time. At least we’re not, mostly, paying for them anymore.