electric busses, electric trucks, Elon Musk, EPA, EVs, green energy, green new deal, Jennifer Granholm, joe biden, Kamala Harris, laws of physics, Not ready for prime time, Pete Buttigieg, Proterra, Tesla, The Peter Principle, Twilight Zone
It’s time, gentle readers, for another visit to the electric vehicle Twilight Zone. This time we visit the minuscule mental wasteland that is Kamala Harris, and electric busses and long haul trucks. We begin with not only Kamala Harris, who epitomized the Peter Principle the moment she took office as California’s AG, but Pete Buttigieg, who reached his Peter Principle pinnacle as the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, where he was unable to fix potholes. The New York Post kindly explains:
Vice President Kamala Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg were criticized Monday for a ‘tone-deaf’ event focused on promoting electric buses as gas prices soared for most Americans.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, tweeted, ‘The Biden Administration could not be more tone-deaf.’
Oh, they could, and regularly are, but this is indeed tone deaf, even for them.
‘Vice President Kamala Harris and [Transportation] Secretary Pete Buttigieg spent the afternoon promoting electric vehicles and Green New Deal policies.
‘Are you kidding me?’ Mullin wrote.
Harris asked her audience to ‘imagine a future’ with electric vehicles.
‘Imagine a future: the freight trucks that deliver bread and milk to our grocery store shelves and the buses that take children to school and parents to work. Imagine all the heavy-duty vehicles that keep our supply lines strong and allow our economy to grow. Imagine that they produce zero emissions. Well, you all imagined it,’ she said.
Actually, no they didn’t, for reasons I’ll explain shortly. Before we continue, however, one substantial reason they haven’t imagined it, is they live in the real world and actually know electricity doesn’t magically appear. It has to be produced using fossil fuels or nuclear power, both despised by greenie zealots. Hydro power is limited, solar and wind even more so.
‘Our transportation sector has reached a turning point. We are all in the midst of a turning point,’ Harris said. ‘We have the technology to transition to a zero-emission fleet. Our administration together, all of us, is working to make that possibility a reality.’
No Kamala, we don’t have the technology, as I’ll explain shortly. And have we reached a “turning point” or are we “in the midst” of one? Is Corn Pop somehow involved?
‘We can clean our air and protect the health of our children. We can connect all our communities for affordable, accessible, and reliable public transportation. We can address the climate crisis and grow our economy at the same time,’ she continued.
And how are we going to “transition?” Why, by doing away with conventional buses and trucks and replacing them with miraculous electric versions, which run on fairy dust and unicorn farts! The White House kindly explains Kamala’s assertions with this “fact sheet”:
Fact Sheet: Vice President Harris Announces Actions to Accelerate Clean Transit Buses, School Buses, and Trucks
*Electrifying School Buses: The Environmental Protection Agency is awarding $17 million to fund electric zero-emission and low-emission school buses. Through the American Rescue Plan, $7 million is being awarded to replace old diesel school buses in underserved communities with new, zero-emission electric buses. In addition, $10 million is being awarded to replace old diesel school buses with new cleaner buses through the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebate Program. This funding complements the $5 billion in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for clean school buses, the first tranche of which will become available in the coming months.
*Innovation on Clean Trucks of the Future: The Department of Energy is partnering with industry to expand zero-emission truck technology through its SuperTruck 3 Program, with the latest round of $127 million in funding focused for the first time on reducing costs and improving durability in hydrogen and battery electric trucks.
The mummified meat puppet Biden Administration is demanding electric vehicles of all kinds, but Kamala was focusing on full sized buses, and semi trucks. Keep in mind, gentle readers, there are essentially three ways to increase mileage in any vehicle:
1) Make it more aerodynamic.
2) Make it lighter.
3) Make its propulsion system more efficient.
Contemporary motor vehicles have embraced all of these methods, and improvements in each area are now, due to the laws of physics, which even the mighty gay brain of Transportation Secretary Buttigieg has yet to overcome, incremental rather than transformative. Buses and trucks aren’t going to get any lighter, nor are they going to become more aerodynamic. Batteries sufficient to propel such vehicles are very big and very heavy, and carry far less useful energy than tanks of gas or diesel. We regularly see cheerleading articles about this or that “breakthrough” in battery or hydrogen fuel cell technology that will change everything, yet those “breakthroughs” never seem to make it into production and everything remains unchanged. We are stuck, it seems, with the laws of physics, with plain old, stodgy reality. And so are those who cheerlead electric buses, as I reported in Electric Vehicles: They’re On Fire (I’ll keep the quote blocks from the original article):
In ignorance of this reality—the reality of physics—the Administration is pushing public transportation—with electric buses. John Hinderaker at Powline explains how well that’s going:
‘Moreover, governments’ politically-motivated reliance on electric vehicles like buses has been a disaster. This is a typical “green” fiasco:
‘More than two dozen electric Proterra buses first unveiled by the city of Philadelphia in 2016 are already out of operation, according to a WHYY investigation.
The entire fleet of Proterra buses was removed from the roads by SEPTA, the city’s transit authority, in February 2020 due to both structural and logistical problems—the weight of the powerful battery was cracking the vehicles’ chassis, and the battery life was insufficient for the city’s bus routes.
The city paid $24 million for the 25 new Proterra buses, subsidized in part by a $2.6 million federal grant.’
Why would Philadelphia buy these buses? Why, because Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is on Protera’s board! OK, so it’s the usual crony corruption, but how have the buses worked out?
Philadelphia placed the Proterra buses in areas where it thought they could succeed but quickly learned it was mistaken. Two pilot routes selected in South Philadelphia that were relatively short and flat compared with others in the city were too much for the electric buses.
‘Even those routes needed buses to pull around 100 miles each day, while the Proterras were averaging just 30 to 50 miles per charge,’ WHYY reporter Ryan Briggs wrote.
Protera claims a 329 mile range for its 40 foot bus model. Keep in mind an electric bus fleet would require many times the number of conventionally powered vehicles–judging by Philadelphia’s results, three electric buses per 8-hour shift/route–just to keep the same number of busses on the street 24/7/365. Where’s that cost savings again? Protera’s performance is no better elsewhere:
Similar problems have been found in other cities that partnered with Proterra. Duluth, Minn., which, like Philadelphia, waited three years for its Proterra buses to be delivered, ultimately pulled its seven buses from service ‘because their braking systems were struggling on Duluth’s hills, and a software problem was causing them to roll back when accelerating uphill from a standstill,’ according to the Duluth Monitor.
EVs in cold climates like Duluth are particularly inappropriate. Cold weather dramatically reduces battery range and lengthens charging times, as does running heaters powerful enough to adequately heat a bus cabin. And if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s this:
An electric bus made by Proterra went up in flames while charging in a California city that is reportedly thinking about removing the electric buses from the road.
The Washington Free Beacon reported Friday:
The Foothill Transit agency, which serves the valleys surrounding Los Angeles, will decide on Friday whether costly Proterra buses purchased in the last decade are still operable. Problems cited by the agency include not only the bus that caught fire in what’s described as a “thermal event,” but also buses that melt in the California heat and have transmission failures. Roland Cordero, the agency’s director of maintenance and vehicle technology, says the problems with the buses are exacerbated by Proterra’s inability to help with repairs.
‘With the number of failures we are experiencing and the inability of Proterra to provide parts, these [Battery Electric Buses] BEBs will only get worse as we continue to operate them whenever the BEBs are available for service,’ Cordero wrote prior to Friday’s executive board meeting.
“Thermal event.” Cute.
So the primary, pretty much only, manufacturer of electric buses makes a product that performs, in every way, so far below its miraculous claims, it’s a miracle they’re not already bankrupt. As usual, it’s only the bus loads of taxpayer cash poured into this kind of green money pit that keeps them in business. We must also keep in mind much of America, particularly in Flyover Country, has no public bus service. Where school buses are concerned, a substantial portion run in places that feature winter, which dramatically reduces EV range. School districts can’t afford to have buses full of kids stranded without heaters in winter.
When an EV bus or semi runs out of juice, it’s either charged in place or towed to where it can be charged. There are no other options.
But what about electric semis? There really aren’t any. Less than 1% of goods are hauled electrically, and all of those within cities by smaller trucks–short distance hauling. This cheerleading article promises huge quantities of freight will be hauled by electric trucks any day now, but it doesn’t take reading between the lines to realize any significant production of such vehicles is something that is going to occur next year, and maybe the year after that, and certainly the year after that, etc..
Most contemporary noise about electric semis has been made by Tesla, who have produce a prototype, and will go into full scale production, well, next year, or so. This Electrek article explains:
While there are already a few electric trucks on the road, none of them have the specs enabling longer range hauling in a class 8 semi-truck, like the Tesla Semi is promising.
When launching Tesla Semi in 2017, the automaker said that the electric truck’s production versions, a class 8 truck with an 80,000-lb capacity, will have 300-mile and 500-mile range options for $150,000 and $180,000, respectively.
It would also have the lowest cost of operation of any semi-truck, making it extremely disruptive in an industry where every cent counts.
However, the electric vehicle has seen many delays that cost it its momentum.
When unveiled in 2017, Tesla said that it would come to market in 2019, and it started taking reservations from many companies looking to electrify their fleets.
Tesla couldn’t deliver the truck in 2019. So it was delayed in 2020, which became 2021, but now things are really starting to move.
The rest of the article is very excited about the huge, industry-changing production that is going to happen any minute now. Let’s visit Trucks.com’s website, which throws a bucket of cold water on the scantily clad EV cheerleaders:
The Tesla Semi is expected to run on a global network of solar-powered ‘megachargers’ that do not currently exist. Details for the logistics of the megachargers have not been released. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk has said that megacharger use will cost 7 cents per kilowatt.
Uh huh. “Solar-powered ‘megachargers’ that do not currently exist.” We have no idea how long it’s going to take to charge batteries capable of moving a loaded semi, particularly without “megachargers that do not currently exist.” The idea such chargers will be “solar powered” is nonsense. It wouldn’t be believable in a science fiction novel. Absent that particular miracle–essentially free energy–things are going to cost a hell of a lot more than 7 cents a kilowatt.
The Tesla Semi will feature Enhanced Autopilot technology. On Tesla passenger cars, Enhanced Autopilot includes self-driving capabilities that can steer the vehicle around corners and keep it in its lane. It can match speed to traffic conditions, decelerate down to a stop and begin again when traffic moves. It can change lanes and exit freeways without driver input.
When grouped together, Tesla Semis will be capable of “platooning.” This allows multiple trucks to connect to one another digitally and follow at close distances for improved safety and fuel efficiency.
Yeah, how’s that autopilot stuff working out for yah? These preliminary specs from Tesla are not reassuring:
Here’s another dose of reality. An unloaded tractor-trailer weighs about 35,000 pounds. With few exceptions, the maximum total load allowed in the US is 80,000 pounds, so that means about 45,000 pounds of freight.
Experience teaches manufacturer EV range estimates have to be taken not with a grain, but a block, of salt. Touting its upcoming F-150 sized “Lightning” EV pickup, Ford grudgingly admits it loses about 50% of its mediocre range when towing–and presumably carrying–anything heavy. Tesla is making no such admission, and neither company is admitting how much cold weather will limit mileage, but it’s certainly not unreasonable to halve Tesla range figures, which makes their trucks largely useless, particularly for long haul trucking. And notice the asterisk relating to “Chassis Cab models,” which I assume means tractors with sleeping accommodations. This is a tacit admission such tractors, essential for long hauls, don’t do nearly as well as the optimistic figures provided suggest. And anyone thinking Tesla semis will cost a mere $180,000 dollars is delusional, a Biden Administration minion, or considering who Biden has hired, both.
Trucks, an essential element of the supply chain, work on very tight schedules and profit margins. Independent drivers and companies can make money only if they are able to deliver goods on time. To survive, they have to carry goods whenever they’re on the road. Anytime they’re pulling an empty trailer, they’re losing money. They can’t afford to spend any portion of any day sitting at a “megacharger” station that doesn’t exist, and those that do would surely take even longer than cheerlead estimates. But wait; there’s more!
There are few, if any, charging facilities set up to take the sheer size of semi tractor-trailers, nor is there anyplace for drivers to wait, out of the cold or heat, for many hours to charge their rigs, and they really can’t leave their vehicles alone while charging, because they could go up in flames at any moment.
Final Thoughts: I could go on and on, gentle readers, but I’m sure you get the point. There will be no “transition,” because the green technology just isn’t ready for prime time, and probably, absent actual technological breakthroughs that can be practically, affordably produced, never will be.
If electric vehicles of all kinds really are superior to conventional vehicles, the market will prevail. Americans, who are far smarter and more practical than the self-imagined elite, will demand them, and the market will respond. But that’s not what’s happening, now or in the foreseeable future. EVs continue to be bought only by households in the top 7% of income; that’s about 1% of the driving public. They don’t rely on them as their sole, useful transportation, but as greenie street cred. They can afford a $70,000 dollar EV toy because they already have as many conventional vehicles as they want or need.
The danger is government, just as it did during the Age of Obama, will continue to waste untold billions of taxpayer dollars, chasing the ever elusive, Twilight Zone, “clean energy” utopia. The only way EVs are going to be remotely economically feasible for most Americans is if government drives the price of gas so high it’s impossible to afford. Sound familiar? And then, inflation will be so out of control, virtually no one can afford an EV much more expensive then conventional vehicles, or any new or even used vehicle for that matter. Inflation will continue to rise, the national debt will precipitously increase, and electricity will continue to be produced by non-magical means.
One minor nit to pick and a point to make.
Nit: I work for a company that contracts exclusively with public transit agencies. We basically provide computerized solutions (both hardware and software) to help them manage their service…this includes the telemetry and communications equipment onboard their vehicle fleet. I personally have worked with over 30 transit agencies across the nation including MTA in NYC, Dart Dallas, RTD Denver, Metrolink in LA, KCM Seattle, HART Honolulu, etc etc etc.
That’s to say that Proterra isn’t the only game in town with regard to electric buses. There are several other vendors who produce them and few have had the reliability issues that Proterra has. All of them will still have to deal with the reduced range, charge time and problems with infrastructure capacity because those are just physics…you can’t get around that, but at least if they buy a Volvo, or Gillig, or one of the others, they won’t have to worry so much about the transmission giving out in a few months.
Next, the point: You mention that the Ford Lightning’s range is reduced by 50% when hauling a load. This is prima facia evidence that this isn’t even intended to be a practical replacement for working vehicles. Most people who own trucks these days don’t really use them as trucks. They’re luxury vehicles that are often just status symbols.
For those of us who actually use our trucks, there is no way an electric vehicle will cut it; My 11 year old truck gets about 15.5 mpg on the highway under normal conditions. I recently had to tow a 10,000lb load 285 miles of which about 150 were in the mountains. I was able to make the entire trip on a single tank of gas and had well over 1/4 tank left at the end. I averaged 13.8 mpg. So, with my conventional (albeit large) gas engine, towing about 80% of the maximum rated load of the vehicle, I only lost about 11% fuel efficiency…and as I mentioned, over half the trip was through mountains. In the midwest or plains states I probably would have done even better.
Until electric trucks can approximate that kind of range and capacity, they’re not ready for prime time…at least for those of us who actually need a truck and not a fashion statement.
Mike McDaniel said:
Thanks for the useful nit! Also, thanks for your informed comment.
I don’t use my F-150 for work, but I have it because it’s very useful for hauling all manner of things around the household, from lumber for carpentry projects, to soil, rock and other items for landscaping. It hauled home a snow thrower, a lawnmower, and a wide variety of other things. And of course, 4WD is awfully handy in the northern states. When we allow government to tell us what we “need,” we’ve already lost liberty.
As you say, particularly in states with actual winter, EVs are a foolish choice. Also in midwestern states where there are a great many miles between city limits, they’re next to useless.