You’ve probably had something electronic that still worked just fine but which could no longer be used – because it was no longer supported – i.e., rendered useless by the company that made it, in order to cajole you into buying a replacement.
Owners of one of the first mass-produced electric cars – the Chevrolet Spark – are getting just this treatment. General Motors, it has ben reported, will no longer support the Spark – by no longer stocking replacement battery packs for it. GM has stopped making them – and since no one else does, it means that once the Spark you own’s battery pack no longer holds charge – an inevitability with every battery – you are left holding the keys to about 3,000 pounds of essentially worthless deadweight, since a car that cannot move is about as useful as a toilet that doesn’t flush.
But this “toilet” is only ten years old.
The first Sparks came to market back in 2012, which wasn’t all that long ago.
The last new ones were sold in 2016.
None of these are old cars. In fact, the oldest Spark is younger than the average non-electric car currently in service as a daily driver, which is about twelve years old. Most of these with many more years of useful service left, because they don’t have battery packs that cost more than the car is worth (by then) to replace.
Which is a built-in problem for all electric cars. Some may recall the case of the irate Finnish man who TNT’d his not-very-old Tesla Model S when he found out that replacing its dead battery pack would cost him on the order of $20,000.
But at least a replacement battery was still available.
Without that, you’ve got nothing – no matter how much you’re willing to pay for it. And unlike non-electric cars, there is very little you can do about it – other than eat the loss and move on to the next one. This is because an EV’s dead battery pack is not like a non-electric car’s failed transmission or engine – or even both, together. In the case of the latter, it is almost always possible to swap in a used or remanufactured/rebuilt transmission or engine – and drive on. It is not possible with electric cars for which there aren’t any replacements available, new or used.
And even if the original manufacturer no longer makes new replacement engines/transmissions for a given IC car, these can usually both be rebuilt at a price that’s worth the doing. Electric car battery packs, once dead, are throw-aways – just like the dead battery that no longer powers your sail fawn. At which point, you throw away the sail fawn.
The electric car, too.
The difference being you probably paid a lot more for the electric car.
Interestingly, there has been little-to-no coverage in the general or even the automotive press about this business. It’s interesting – because you can imagine the uproar that would arise if any other barely ten-year-old car was no longer supported by its manufacturer – and had a built-in design feature that assured it would be rendered useless years before it reached the age of the average non-electric car currently in service.
Of course, the reason for the absence of such coverage is because it might call attention to the shorter useful lifespan of electric cars, due to the shorter useful life of their battery packs relative to the useful life of an IC car’s engine or transmission. These are expected to last at least 12-15 years – and most last longer. If they fail sooner, the car – and its maker – gets a well-deserved reputation for shoddiness and most people will avoid buying a car made by that maker.
But here we have an electric car that becomes an electric brick around the ten-year mark. Maybe sooner, depending upon how many almost-depletions and “fast” charges its battery pack is subjected to. Which – in the case of a car used every day – would be regularly. This is a paradox built into the electric car. If you use it to the full extent of its capabilities – i.e., if you regularly drive it to or close to the limit of its range and thereby frequently deplete the battery, you accelerate the demise of battery.
It is discharge-recharge cycling that ages a battery. Especially “fast” charging. You can limit the damage by not “fast” charging – and not discharging – the EV battery. But then the EV isn’t much use, is it?
No such issue exists with non-electric cars in that driving down to fumes in the tank has no effect at all on the useful service life of the vehicle. A non-electric car that’s 15 or 20 years old holds as much gas in its tank – and travels just as far – as it did when it was new. An electric car’s battery pack is unlikely to be capable of holding the same charge it could when new when it is ten years old – and maybe sooner.
And if there’s no replacement battery available – or it costs more than it’s worth to replace it – the car is useless.
Many people will find out about this after they bought an EV. It probably explains another interesting thing about EVs that the general press (and the automotive press) haven’t covered much, which is that a large percentage of first-time EV buyers didn’t buy a second one.
Ironically – tragically, even – the Spark was what an EV should be, i.e., inexpensive and useful, in the manner that most other EVs aren’t. It was designed specifically to be an affordable little “city” car – useful for people who didn’t need a long range highway car – just a car that could get them to work and back and for cheap.
The last new one sold for about $25k. It made a lot more sense than a $50k Tesla Model 3.
But never mind all of that. If sense entered into any of this, none of this would be happening, at all.
. . .
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