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Are you gonna get an electric car anytime soon? (Or do you already have one?)

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  • Are you gonna get an electric car anytime soon? (Or do you already have one?)

    This is a continuation of my famous "Are You Gonna Get" series, in which previous entries (on the old board) have included "Are You Gonna Get an Apple Watch?" and "Are you Gonna Get an iPad?" and one or two others I can't remember. I figure eventually everyone will have an EV for at least part of their vehicle fleet, so that's why I added "anytime soon" to the question.

    Anyway, since in general, Film-Techers are a high-tech bunch, I'm curious about your feelings about EVs... pro and con. If you have one now, how do you like it? Problems, pitfalls, etc? And if you're planning to get one, what are you getting? Or do you think they are a bad idea and/or being pushed too hard, too soon?

    As always, no politics please.

    Myself, I'm in the auto parts business for my day job, so I'm at least intrigued by EVs and I would seriously love to try driving one. I'm a little leery about the range, since here in Montana it can be over 100 miles to the next city (we are currently 45 miles from the nearest charging station), but I can see having one for my daily driver and keeping the gas vehicle for long trips. My current vehicle (F-150 pickup with the extended range fuel tank) can get about 630 miles on a tank of gas, so I could drive clear to Idaho before needing a fill-up.

    An electrician friend of mine told me that only about 10 to 20% of the houses in this town have the electrical capacity for an EV fast charger, so there's that to think about too.

    I do kind of wonder what'll happen to the auto parts industry -- currently, our best selling items are filters and alternators/batteries, none of which will be needed for an EV. Of course EVs have a lot of the same things gas cars do -- brakes, chassis, electronics, sensors, interiors that need cleaning and exteriors that need waxing, light bulbs, HVAC systems, window motors, etc. etc. etc so I think the industry will still be around. I can even imaging things will evolve to where the motors that drive the wheels, or maybe even the battery cells, might be a "user changeable" item.... but I do think the car industry is going to take a page from the farm equipment industry, in that they're going to try to tie your car to its dealer for parts and repairs. Probably a lot of lawsuits looming over that issue. But on the other hand, I'm getting old enough (almost 66) that there's a good chance I'll be retired before the EV really takes over the world -- unless it happens much faster than expected, like what happened with flat screen TVs.

    Anyway those are my basic EV thoughts, what are yours?

  • #2
    The math simply doesn't add up, and range would be an issue. Depending on the intensity of service calls, I drive 30 to 40K miles a year. My current car is a 2018 Honda HR-V (EX, AWD, manual transmission), currently with 138K miles on the clock. I do most of my own maintenance, taking it to the dealership for stuff that either I don't have the tools for, or is outside my competence/comfort zone. Apart from recalls, the only thing I've needed them for is the 100K miles valve clearance adjustments. Apart from one battery failure and two tire blowouts (weird, given that I rotate them every 5K miles and check their pressures every 2-3 weeks), it's been totally reliable. It receives all the planned maintenance asked for by the automated nag messages, in addition to which I flush and replace the coolant every year, and clean the (K & N) engine and cabin air filters every 20K miles. It is used in a very hot climate, so I think this is sensible.

    It has probably given me 35-37 MPG over its service life so far. Assuming it lasts to 250K miles and is worth zero by the time I part with it (both assumptions, I hope, are pessimistic), I guesstimate that it will have cost me in the ballpark of 45-48c a mile to run, factoring in everything.

    I have looked at EVs on offer. The last time I did, the nearest one currently on the market in size and general spec to my current ICE-powered car is a Volkswagen ID4. When all the overheads, and installing a charger in my garage, are taken into account, I would have to find $55-60K to buy one, and another $10K to add more solar panels to our roof such that I wasn't having to buy power from SoCal Edison to charge it. A very rough mental calculation suggests that even if the energy to power it costs zero, I'd be looking at 4-5 years before I break even, relative to buying another HR-V and gas at $5 a gallon. The reason is that a new HR-V literally costs half, out the door, what an ID4 plus installing a level 2 charger in the garage would. And then there is the range. Even the highest spec ID4 only reliably offers around 250 miles on a full charge. On a typical day in the field I will drive 150-200 miles (so no problem), but on between one and two days a month (averaged out) I go over 250. That's often enough for range to be an issue: I would need to research in advance to be sure of finding somewhere I could charge it away from home.

    The calculations are somewhat unusual in my case, because of my high mileage and the fact that I do almost all my own maintenance (meaning that I pay less than a typical ICE car owner for maintenance: I don't have to pay for labor, just parts and consumables). But for a driver doing close to the national average of 12-13K miles a year, the EV is going to take even longer to break even. And for someone who has to park on the street or in an apartment complex lot and is reliant on public chargers that cost 50c or more per kWH, even longer still.

    The bottom line is that these things are going to have to get a lot cheaper (and that can only happen with an alternative battery technology to lithium ion, IMHO), and the infrastructure to support them has to get a lot better, before they make economic sense for most people.
    Last edited by Leo Enticknap; 09-11-2022, 05:28 PM.


    • #3
      Not that I have anything against electric vehicles, I personally have no plans to buy one anytime soon, if ever. The deal beaker for me is the limited range. Most models don't get more than about 300 miles per charge. I have relatives in Colorado and New Mexico (among other places). So I absolutely must have a vehicle that can drive at least 400-600 miles with only brief stops made for re-fueling. I don't know just how long it takes for an all-electric vehicle to fully re-charge, but I'm pretty sure it takes a whole lot longer than the 5 minutes or so it takes me to re-fuel my pickup truck.

      I don't understand people getting politically offended at the sight of an electric vehicle. My own criticisms of them are on mere practical, realistic lines. The cost of ownership is pretty high; they're still pretty much priced as a luxury item. I already mentioned the limited range. The use of Lithium-based batteries can only be a short term, stop-gap solution. There's not nearly enough Lithium in the world for that material to be a realistic, long term replacement for oil. Lithium is not exactly a "renewable" energy. Plus the United States has only one Lithium brine pool facility. We're dependent on Lithium imports, mostly from Australia and China. I haven't seen much new going on with hydrogen fuel cell technology advancement. Fossil fuel oil has its own drawbacks, not to mention there is a finite supply of it too. The auto industry, scientists, chemists, etc need to somehow come up with some better ideas.


      • #4
        You know...discussing EVs in 2022 is sort of like discussing DCinema in 2002. It isn't that it didn't work but it was so clearly at the beginning of its journey. You knew it was going to was just a matter of when it made sense in many different criteria and it would evolve over the next couple decades and it continues to evolve.

        For now, EVs can have an appeal to the commuter between work and home where the daily commute is in the 70 mile or less range and not really worry about battery charging. It also works for the person that drives around town tending to domestic needs (groceries).

        At the present time, neither I nor my wife would qualify for those sorts of "typical" commutes so EVs would pose a problem. My ICE car is a 2019 so I'm not looking to replace it anytime soon anyway and I suspect my wife's next car will be an ICE since it will be in the near future. In 5-years time, if either of us were looking for cars, the answers may be different.

        However, in addition to the cars themselves and the various ranges and charging speeds that they can support, there is the entire infrastructure (electrical) that needs to be better thought out. Where should charging stations be? Clearly, homes and parking lots that serve office buildings. Note, these do NOT need to be fast chargers either. If people are going to be at these places for a typical 8-hour + stay, they can charge based on those rates. Conversely, if you are catering to the highway driver, are gas stations really the appropriate place? Probably not as they are space limited, by can't have just 6 or 8 charging places if EVERYONE is going to "fill up" and it takes 20-min to an hour per fill up. Perhaps restaurants would make better places to locate chargers. Places where people are bound to stop for 1+ hours that could make better use of the larger parking lots and the chargers. At first, the charging spots could even be the lure that the current convenience stores have with gasoline. I think that it will be the small convenience stores that will be most affected by a transition to electric as their biggest profits are when you come in, not when you fill up (sort of like cinemas). If you aren't filling up...why are you stopping there? I think the Wawa and Sheetz of the world will be okay has they are more than just a place to get some chips and drink but the little guys...they might not fare so well.

        When it comes to chargers, at the moment, the EV world has broken them down into three, very basic and loosely labeled categories. A Level-1 charger is one that plugs into a normal wall outlet. And I mean, in the USA, a 15A normal household outlet and will have a 12A limit to its charging. It may sound crazy but it isn't. There are charts out there that will do "typical" Miles Per Hour (get it? how many miles can you go with an hour of charging). Now, it is based on your vehicles charge rate so it is loose number. But a Level-1 is a 2-4 MPH charger. However, if you get home at night around 6pm and don't go back out until 8am. That could get you around a 56-mile range (on the optimistic side). Closer to 30-miles on the lower side. But if you live 10-miles from is plenty and when you get to work, you continue the charging for another 8 hours or you can see...for that person, this sort of charging works.

        Level-2 is loosely the typical AC charger using, for lack of a better term, "Dryer Outlet" (something like an NEMA 14-50). USA domestic power should be around 240V. Since you are doubling the voltage and, at least, doubling the amperage...your MPH is going to go up 4-fold or better (it all depends on how big a spigot you have). So, somewhere between 12-30MPH or an overnight charge on most domestic vehicles would be a "fill up" Your electric bill is going to go way up...after all you just installed a new dryer and are running it for 8-10 hours straight (per vehicle) but you aren't buying gasoline any more so, on balance, it should be quite a bit cheaper.

        The Level-3 chargers are the DC fast chargers (and they come in varieties too). Depending on the vehicle and charging capacity of the commercial charging stations, you could be in and out in minutes (20 minutes or more) and be topped off.

        One thing to consider in all of this...if you are in a colder climate area...heat is no longer free, the way it is with gas engines that generate more heat than propulsion, if you need heat, that comes (significantly) off of your range. You could be losing 25-30% of your range running your heater.

        Then there is the electrical infrastructure as a whole. The capacity for the "grid" to handle a substantial increase in demand at all hours has to be considered. Heavy ups put into buildings (e.g. parking garages) to handle this new "demand." The electric generation has to be considered too. How is that going to come about? The sun isn't going to shine any longer because we are using more electricity nor is the wind going to blow any harder or the water to fall any faster. These technologies are not going to improve enough, either, in a time frame that some are trying to force EVs. So, you have big bad old coal or the extremely low polluting nuclear...which has had its own examples of potential issues. Me, personally, I think nuclear development has the greatest potential (no-pun) for satisfying the generation demands and has a future in evolution that would make it far safer than the fission reactors of the current. But even if everyone held hands, sang their kumbia songs and blessed buidling fast could we, realistically, get such infrastructure on line with enough ampacity capabilities to support an EV fleet of cars that essentially replace a substantial majority of gas powered vehicles?

        And, let's look at what this new demand on electricity will do to electric prices. If government (and I don't care what country you are in) regulations don't curtail the normal supply/demand market forces, the cost of driving an EV will be outrageous. There will never be enough competition for electric delivery to set up a proper free-market. It will be like having the one cable service in your area...except everyone will HAVE to subscribe to them (because even if you don't own a car, you are going to ride on some form of transportation that still is buying electricity from that effective monopoly). I don't think this has really been thought out. Electricity would need to be heavily regulated to keep it from spinning out of control.

        So, I think EV is still in its infancy. At the moment, it has to compete with ICE. To a degree, it is a novelty. It hasn't had to really deal with the full weight of an entire society depending on it like the ICE vehicles have. It will have its own pollution (batteries) and it will be interesting to see how sustainable the repairs will be (can people afford to change the batteries?...will programs pop up that come up with batteries as a service so part of what one subscribes to is a battery service so one doesn't get hit with the huge bill?). There is much to figure out still.


        • #5
          I think that electric cars are cool but they aren't going to solve the main problem. A car weighs two tons. It takes a certain amount of energy to push a two-ton hunk of steel down the road, whether it be powered by gasoline, electricity or unicorn dust. Where are we going to get that energy from?

          As it is, today, our electrical grid is being pushed to its limits, not to mention old and worn out infrastructure that needs to be replaced. If we suddenly shift from gasoline vehicles to electric ones, it will put a huge strain on an already stressed electrical system.

          Ultimately, the best solution is going to be to drive fewer cars.

          In the mean time, I think that the best interim solution would be gasoline-electric hybrid cars.


          • #6
            Another major problem is lithium ion thermal runaway battery fires. The last time we renewed our home insurance, they added a clause excluding fire cover if an EV is parked in the garage or driveway. It is not unusual to see notices at the entrance to parking structures in these parts stating that Chevy Bolts and Hyundai Konas are not permitted inside (because of numerous spontaneous ignition battery fires associated with these models). And while there haven't been a significant number of spontaneous ignition incidents, Tesla batteries being ignited by crashes is a known problem, after which the vehicles burn so intensively that firefighters have to attend them for hours. This hasn't been a major risk with gas tanks since the days of the Ford Pinto.

            Lithium ion batteries were designed and intended for cameras and cellphones (and even on that small scale thermal runaway is a significant risk, hence the ban on li-ion batteries in checked airline luggage), not to be used on a scale measured in kWH. Both the safety issue and the cost, environmental, and political problems (most lithium refining takes place in China) involved in making them add up to us needing a fundamentally new power storage technology in order for EVs to viably go mainstream.


            • #7
              I've driven a Tesla Model S for a few months as a company car and while it may work great for some use-patterns, for me, it didn't work. I remember how I was sitting at a Supercharger while the rest was long home...

              As for scalability, I see the same problems as every body else... where do we get all the lithium to get everybody driving an EV? Where do we get the electrical power on a grid that's already stretched thin? And how green are we really if we keep charing our EVs with electricity produced from coal, gas and oil?

              I guess there is no easy drop-in solution. Hydrogen sounds promising, but it also has quite a few unsolved problems. So eventually, maybe we really need to adapt our life to dramatically reduce the dependency on cars...


              • #8
                Steve made a great point. I do plan to purchase an EV in 2023. Specifically the Chevy Bolt EUV. I live in a city with a really great charging station, and my workplace offers free EV charging in our parking garage. I live less than 2 miles from work, and the furthest I drive is an hour out of town. If we ever want to take a road trip, we can hop in my partner's vehicle. Range anxiety certainly does exist, but for me it's less of a concern based on my use and needs. From what I hear, the Chevy Bolt EUV can typically be fully charged overnight (7 hours) on a regular household outlet. On a Level 3 Public DC charger you can get 100mi/30min. Not sure what everyone in the forum thinks, but makes me wonder what the percentage of EV vs ICE vehicles on the road will be in the next 10 years.


                • #9
                  I do not see adapting to fewer cars as viable in the USA (as a potential solution). About the only place where it is really viable is when one is working in a major city where the people density is so large that mass transit is viable and parking spaces are not. But, even then it is a serious compromise. I also wonder, with many jobs showing that they don't need an office setting if the need to move about just for work won't reduce the need for any transportation.

                  It doesn't help our industry as we REALLY want people to move about. I also carry a significant amount of equipment with me that would not be practical to use mass transit. But, if all I need is a laptop...then no, I don't to drive there myself and often would prefer not to.


                  • #10
                    Anecdotal sidenote, but worth mentioning. Several years ago I was enrolled on a now-defunct bulletin board where another user was a manager of a Toyota deallership during the late 1990s/early 2000s, around the time the second-generation Prius was first being announced. His story was as such: A rep from Toyota USA was there to give the sales staff and management a presentation/lecture on the forthcoming vehicle. Lithium batteries, of course, have a finite useful life and are only reliable for so many charging cycles. When the Q&A session began, he had enquired as to what Toyota's policy was for warranty replacement of exhusted battery packs (which easily ran upwards of $8K-$10K+ then) and their environmental policy regarding disposal of old ones. His question was promptly ignored. It later came back to him that these were rather faux pas questions that Toyota did not want to draw attention to, since they neither had replacement nor recycling programs in place at that point.

                    So, a couple of years later, and he was the department manager of the dealler's service garage. At least twice a month a tow truck would pull in carrying a Prius that had broken down typicaly alongside the highway. Typically he'd ask the customer if they'd remembered to put gas in the car before their drive. About 90% of the time, customer reply was along the lines of "but it's an hybrid, it's not supposed to need gas!" Brilliant.
                    Last edited by Van Dalton; 09-12-2022, 12:08 PM.


                    • #11
                      I think that battery technology needs to progress further before I'd buy one and there will be more charging stations by then. The US designs are also going to be somewhat primitive, and likely prone to issues. Think firmware updates! Because, except for Tesla, the big three are just starting to design and release them now. The purchase of any EV should really include roof top solar panels and power wall plus a properly sized AC converter. Otherwise you are essentially still running your car on coal, and paying to charge it. Roadside charger stations are not free! And if you're charging your car on coal suppiled power, then what's the point? Battery packs do fail, and can often be repaired, but it's expensive. A new pack can cost up to 20 grand. Even a Prius hybrid battery pack is over a grand.
                      So I'm gonna wait and watch at least a couple more years before I get one...

                      Mike, pretty soon you'll be selling EV packs, motors and parts!!

                      Meanwhile, this is a hoot to watch and very educational.



                      • #12
                        I'm not as concerned about the source of the electricity, in terms of is it green enough. I would not equate the efficiency of a power plant, regardless of energy source, compared to an ICE. The ICE efficiency is horrible, at best, and it goes down from there. One is down in the 20-35% range on an ICE. Mind you...coal is not great but they tend to start at the level where ICE is at its best and we are, increasingly using non-coal that figure will only get better.

                        As for AC converters...EVs already do their own power conversion. The Level-1 and Level-2 AC power sources are, for the most part, "dumb" boxes...the inverters is happening under the hood of your vehicle.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Steve Guttag View Post
                          I do not see adapting to fewer cars as viable in the USA (as a potential solution). About the only place where it is really viable is when one is working in a major city where the people density is so large that mass transit is viable and parking spaces are not. But, even then it is a serious compromise. I also wonder, with many jobs showing that they don't need an office setting if the need to move about just for work won't reduce the need for any transportation.
                          Maybe, if we make cities more liveable, walkeable and bikeable, people will be more inclined to move to some denser populated areas. We don't all need to live in dystopian monster-cities, in tiny boxes high in the sky, but urban sprawl and the need for owning a "single family home" with a big lawn and garden in a quiet neighborhood, where the only mode of transportation is the car is the other extreme. There was life before the car was invented, so there surely are options to reduce the amount of cars on the road, without collapsing society.

                          Originally posted by Steve Guttag View Post
                          It doesn't help our industry as we REALLY want people to move about. I also carry a significant amount of equipment with me that would not be practical to use mass transit. But, if all I need is a laptop...then no, I don't to drive there myself and often would prefer not to.
                          In our industry it doesn't matter if people come by car, foot, bike, train or bus, as long as they do come. Many movie theaters can be found in or near city centers and not just in some soulless half-forgotten mall on a never-ending plane of half-rotten concrete.


                          • #14
                            There are several possible alternatives to lithium ion that are at the proof of concept stage, but do not appear to be close to the point at which they can be mass produced. A significant breakthrough on any one of them would be a real boost for taking EVs into the mainstream. Lithium ion is too expensive, too dangerous, and with too limited a cycles lifetime for vehicles powered by these batteries to ever be economically competitive with ICE-powered ones, IMHO, unless the market is artificially distorted even more than it currently is.

                            Originally posted by Mark Gulbrandsen
                            And if you're charging your car on coal suppiled power, then what's the point?
                            Even with catalytic converters and unleaded gas, tailpipe emissions are still not good for human health. If it's a choice between a coal-powered generating station belching out crap in the middle of nowhere, and half a million cars belching out crap in a metro where people are trying to live and work, I'd take the power station and use it to charge EVs.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Leo Enticknap View Post
                              Even with catalytic converters and unleaded gas, tailpipe emissions are still not good for human health. If it's a choice between a coal-powered generating station belching out crap in the middle of nowhere, and half a million cars belching out crap in a metro where people are trying to live and work, I'd take the power station and use it to charge EVs.
                              Unfortunately, not quite true yet. The USA is only at about 2% total EV so far. Until we get into the 20% range there isn't going to be any difference made. All this should have started 30 years ago. But CA does have the right idea.