Reader Question: Automated EVs on I-80?

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

Ray asks: I recently traveled from Sacramento to Iowa. On my trip east, I-80 was closed for most of one day starting at Evanston, Wyoming. In spite of the push for electric vehicles, I did not see any on I-80. While charging station are being installed at local Walmart (Tracy, CA), I saw nothing of the kind on I-80. Because of road conditions signs cautioned drivers not to use cruise control. My question: When do you expect to see the electric powered self-driving semis on I-80? My opinion is that I may see the failure of the companies trying create such semis first.

My reply: The media has created the false impression that EVs are everywhere  – in order to further the narrative that they are The Future – but in fact, EVs constitute a tiny sliver of the nation’s vehicle fleet – about 1 percent – and most of that 1 percent concentrated in places like CA and AZ, where conditions are more suited to EVs.

This includes the affluence to afford EVs.

Unless two things happen, this whole EV thing is going to hit the wall – soon. Those two things are:

Number one: Someone figures out a way to build an EV that’s as affordable as a current IC economy car/family car.

Number two: Someone figures out a way to make an EV battery that can be recharged to full capacity in the same amount of time it takes to refuel an IC car.

Until those two “breakthroughs” occur, EVs will remain what they are – expensive and functionally compromised indulgences for the few who can afford to spend 30-50 percent more for a car.

But two-thirds (probably more) of the public cannot afford to spend 30-50 percent more for a car – whether EV or IC – and no matter how much they may want one. It doesn’t matter how speedy or silent – or even “clean,” if you buy that line – an EV is if people can’t handle the tab.

That it’s even necessary to state (and restate) this, almost every day, is giving me a perpetual pain in the neck!

I don’t expect to see electric semis on the highway anytime soon – unless they carry diesel generators along for the ride (ad diesel-electric locomotives do). The same problems that beset electric cars beset electric trucks even more so. Having to stop for a lengthy recharge session after just 200 miles or so of driving is a hassle when you are driving a car. It is time and money down the drain when you are driving a big rig. EV big rigs would also cost 2-3 times as much as a conventional big rig, so that even if automated – not “autonomous” – the investment in the truck will obliterate any savings realized by getting rid of the trucker.

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Did you see that Musk is taking deposits for that electric “truck” already (not even coming out for another two years)? Why are we the only ones that can see what a crook he is?

    • You mean that “bulletproof” truck? His chief designer threw a rock at each side window…..not hard, and they both broke. I’d like to see 4mm SS stop any rifle round. I’ll make him a bet. He can drive by and I’ll shoot at it with some green tip and the first to holler calf rope loses.

      • 3mm stainless

        9mm was the claim. Fat low energy round generally.

        Either way, vehicles get ballistic ratings. Nobody with understanding of armor would really claim anything was bulletPROOF by shooting a 9mm at it. Bullet resistant, OK.

        If Elon really believes the hype he put his ass where his mouth is (wait…..) and sit in it while fired upon.

    • I think Musk went a step too far with this made on a brake-press and shear bodied ‘truck’. It’s such a crude prototype and then the tug of war thing. Even Lego is making fun of them. I think this has made a lot of people openly aware just what a showman huckster Musk is. Musk may have finally gone across the line where the marks woke up.

      • No such luck. All the “internet car enthusiasts” are already lined up to defend the stupid thing even as they mock its appearance (with a game company and its playerbase comparing it to the German “Hetzer” tank destroyer from WWII sans gun).

      • Brent, I always wanted to build a pickup and use what is known as an “oil field” front end, stamped steel panels to create a fender out of 3 pieces and stamped aluminum to create a one piece hood that hinges in front for complete engine access as well as front-end parts.

        The Musk creation is like something I might have seen on a sci-fi book cover. An artist’s rendering of futuristic vehicles. An artist with little understanding of vehicle design.

        Where are the bumpers?

  2. So-called “solid state batteries” portend to be the solution to those two problems. They’ve been in the lab for at least 3 years now, but are still 5 years away. I think every automobile manufacturer, legislator and marketer thinks they’re just around the corner. From what I can see there must be some insurmountable issue with manufacturing them at scale, or they’re not living up to the hype. Another potential problem might be a patent holdout.

    • Hi RK,

      The “kessel” is now obvious; first, raise a generation to be – at best – uninterested in cars. Do this by raising them in sssssssaaaaaaaaaaaaafety seats, then by withholding full driving privileges until 17 or 18 and by making cars expensive and unapproachable. Make them believe cars are both unsafe and “bad for the environment.”

      Second, immerse this generation in electronics and the attendant passivity of tapping/swiping at screen programmed by others.

      Voila – the ready-made environment for the Cult of the EV.

      • eric, these are the same people who are hell on wheels to prevent child abuse but I say looking backward everywhere you go is just about the biggest abuse you could heap on a child in a vehicle rolling down the road. Even my dad had to stop to get things straightened out at times. Sure made you wish you hadn’t caused it although he didn’t mete out corporal punishment.

      • I’m seeing the working-out of this on other forums now. No care for the future of car culture, but lots of love for cycling, EVs, robocars, and calling me arrogant or a “boomer” (because apparently that’s an insult now) when I dare to suggest things aren’t all sunshine and lollipops.

        • Hi Chuck,

          I get the same – and though I’m not a Boomer, I’m old enough to have experienced the slow-death of car culture – which got started in the ’70s but didn’t really gain traction until the early 2000s, by which time a generation (yours) had been reared to either dislike or not be interested in cars and the car industry began genuflecting to the sssssaaaaaaaaaaafety cult in earnest.

          • I don’t get it in west Texas. Woe be unto somebody that tries it though. When I get excited I can cut a person to pieces with my words.

            I really don’t hear that sort of shit here. I know it’s not “proper” but even the youngest are cowboys or work in the patch. Either way, you don’t talk trash… anyone.

    • The “miracle battery” will probably wind up being like controlled thermonuclear fusion. (We’ve been 10-15 years away from practical fusion power for over 60 years.)


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