Reader Question: “Emissions” Just “Spin”?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Graham asks: I am a bit surprised that you are still in the “emissions” camp as the reason for going electric. You rightly point out a modern IC engine is a very low emitter. It’s all about automated manufacturing costs. The IC has about a million nuts bolts and screws to be fitted. An electric motor is a dream for automation in a factory. The batteries seem expensive at the moment, but that will soon change. The electric cars once they really get going will have almost a zero service requirement (except Tesla) and apart from brake pads will run like washing machines and refrigerators, maybe 500,000 miles “Emissions” is just the Political spin.

My reply: You’re right – and wrong.

Certainly, it is easier to assemble an EV. It is not cheaper.  I have been hearing that battery costs will come down for decades. EV batteries don’t “seem” expensive. They are  massively expensive – far too expensive for EVs to be other than massively subsidized boutique cars for the virtue-signaling affluent.

Consider that the lowest-priced EV on the market – the Nissan Leaf – lists for $30,000. This is more than twice the price of a current non-electric entry-level compact sedan/hatchback.

In plain language, EVs double the cost of driving. While reducing how far you can drive and making it more of a PITAS to drive.

The $30k Leaf has a pathetic 150 mile range and even the 200 mile model – which costs $40k – takes forever to recharge.

It’s silly. As well as crazy.

Your statement that EVs have (or will have) almost zero service needs is also silly. I dealt with this issue in my column about Jay Leno. EVs simply have different service issues – as well as additional service issues. Including battery replacement – which is a massive hidden cost that few people appreciate. Because they’re not told about it.

A new non-electric car has almost no service needs for the first five years, other than inexpensive things like oil and filter changes (which are vastly less expensive than the cost of the EV or its batteries or the “fast” charger you’ll have to pay someone to install at your house).

It may need to have its tires rotated or replaced, its brake pads changed.

EVs need exactly the same things.

A non-electric car might need things like a timing belt after 70,000 miles (or whatever the interval is) which an EV will never need. But the non-EV will never need a new battery – and its owner will never pay several thousand dollars to replace it.

The non-EV’s range will never decline, either. The EV’s will – as the battery loses charge capacity – which is inherent in the chemistry of batteries as they exist.

Maybe a new kind of battery will be invented that doesn’t lose charge capacity for at least 150,000 miles of daily-driving (and daily recharging). But it does not exist now. Debating what might be is interesting – in the manner of Area 51 and the little men supposedly working there in cahoots with the U.S. government – but it’s neither here nor there as regards what is, eh?

And 500,000 miles? Really? My teeth just fell out of my head. How long does a computer or sail fawn generally last? And what is an EV if not a sail fawn that rolls? And hits potholes. And sits in the hot sun – and the extreme cold. That gets wet.

Yeah. 500,000 miles … like a washing machine. Have you noticed they don’t last very long anymore?

Guess why?

Because they have got-damned computers, too – and are sail fawns that wash clothes.

For a couple of years. Then you throw it away and buy a new one. Which is exactly what will happen with EVs. What is planned for us. Less mobility – for more money.

To keep us paying … and to keep us in debt. As well as under control.

. . .

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  1. He’s exactly correct. The modern EVs will run exactly like modern “washing machines and refrigerators”. They will fail in five to ten years requiring replacement.

    Generally unless people abuse their cars it is not the fuel system or the motive power that puts them down for the count. It’s the body rusting out, the suspension wearing out, the transmission giving out. The brakes needing to be completely replaced (cheap if you do it yourself, expensive otherwise). All these things and more are still present on battery EVs and any other sort of EV the future may bring unless it is a flying vehicle. There is the odd design problem that will take out internal combustion engines early like an IMS bearing or bad head gasket design. The last instance of a head gasket issue was probably a parts mix up at the factory. Of course EVs are far from immune to such issues in and out of warranty. They are simply different issues that have similar cost impact.

    Speaking of cost impact, with EVs these weak points are generally not serviceable to the do it yourselfer. Parts are not available unless you bid up wreck at a salvage auction. You can sometimes engineer your way around it. For the ICE car one can usually do the job or replace the part preemptively for cheap or relatively cheaply. The hostility of EV makers to aftermarket modification will also make it difficult to purchase cheap solutions to common problems.

    • Brent – He’s exactly correct. The modern EVs will run exactly like modern “washing machines and refrigerators”. They will fail in five to ten years requiring replacement.

      I thought exactly the same.
      But it is of little consequence to most as that is a feature not a bug to the modern vapid consumer. “Great. Now we get to buy a better, more status signalling, IoT appliance.”

      • Still trying to find one of my books from my youth I misplaced somewhere. Had a great story about a consumption driven society where everything had to disposed of and replaced every year, regardless of condition, to keep the economy working. As a kid, it was fantasy. As a 20 something it appeared predictive. Now, it looks like an inevitability.

        • Interesting.

          When I was a kid in the 60s and 70s, things were designed to last a while. At that time, the economy we had was second to none. Most consumer goods lasted a good long time. People were working at near full employment for the majority of the time. As the 1970s began, yes, we did have a fuel crisis and some rampant price inflation, but most people were still working. You didn’t need to be in perpetual debt or serfdom to get the things you needed. The effective tax rates paid by all Americans were as low as they are today and certainly state and local taxes were lower. As the 80s marched on, the state and local tax burdens grew and the federal numbers dropped only slightly. As the incentive to hire and invest in the US was eliminated, unemployment settled much higher than it was previously. To sustain a reasonable level, and living standards, things began to be made overseas and disposable. Jobs were created in “sales” and reduced at the factory floor. It’s a shell game

          • You couldn’t compare taxes then and now. Of course the federal govt. was doing its thing by saying we had a fuel shortage.

            We truckers knew better. We’d watch a hundred tankers off the La. coast waiting to be unloaded. We knew guys who hauled fuel and they would say don’t leave your bathroom window open after you take a bath or you’ll come home to find fuel in your tub. They stuck the stuff in every tank they could find. Old truckstops had tanks that were full that hadn’t been operated in a decade. It was all a lie and OPEC supplied something like 4% of our oil back then.

            I went to work in the patch and never had to worry about fuel. If I couldn’t get it from a company terminal they made sure I could get it somewhere….cause I was hauling oilfield equipment. I hauled plenty loads to the La. coast for use in offshore drilling. You didn’t have to wait for loads but they did break it off when you got the bill.

            Naw, 74 was a pretty good year without the fuel debacle. You made a living and didn’t have to worry about it. Cars didn’t last back then but a lot of that was because so many people didn’t do due diligence maintenance-wise. I knew a guy who had 330,000 miles on a 63 Impala and sold it to his nephew. The car still looked like new 8 years old. But cars were cheap compared to salaries so people just normally looked to keep one only 3-4 years and some kept them longer because they’d go longer.

            Engines and transmissions were the weak points but not all engines or all transmissions. GM knew their SBC’s would go forever so they put nylon timing gears to make sure they didn’t. I shelled one out with 200K on it due to a timing gear failure and the rest of it was fine. Had I just changed all that out around the 150K mark no telling how far it would have gone…..330K perhaps?

          • That is a good one, thanks.

            Not the one I am possibly mis-remembering. It had cars and appliances being destroyed and replaced yearly. Maybe a story by another author inspired by that one.

            It was many decades ago…

  2. “The batteries seem expensive at the moment, but that will soon change.”

    How soon? Why will it change? Because you want it to? Because Elon or Bill Nye say so?

    What FACTS would support your asserted BELIEF? Why would you not list them rather than just asserting something will happen?

    If wishes were horses…….

  3. I suppose that electric cars don’t have wheel bearings, lug nuts, ball joints, tie rod ends, spring struts, sway bar links and bushings, and control arm bushings ???

    Or do these parts just magically not wear out on electric cars? (perhaps they don’t since the car spends most of its time parked and being charged!)

    Anyway, in almost 120K miles I’ve replaced on small part on the engine on my car ($50 and about 20 minutes) but the suspension and steering requires constant upkeep.


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