Wastrels April 5, 2019

I have been driving a battery-powered electric vehicle (EV) for more than six years. People who have never driven an electric car cannot comprehend what an epiphany it is to drive one. The responsiveness is amazing. When you push on the go pedal, it goes, quickly and silently. Instead of the roar of an engine, a faint whine of gears is all you will hear. The response is immediate and strong. But the best part of all is knowing that when you go home at night and plug it in, you will have a “full tank” in the morning, at a fraction of the cost of a stop at the pump.

When my original lease ran out, I was offered an opportunity to extend it, which I did. But when the extension ran out, no opportunity for a further extension or buyout was offered, even though the car was still in near-new condition with low mileage. The inherent simplicity of EV’s compared to gasoline-engine cars results in near-zero maintenance costs. Servicing consists of checking tire pressures and wheel alignment. Even brake pads rarely need replacement. Regenerative braking nearly eliminates the need for those archaic “friction” brakes, as it recharges the battery.

And therein lies the problem with EV’s from a dealer’s point of view. New car dealers make most of their money on service, not on sales, so they have little incentive to sell EV’s. Automakers are probably not that excited about EV’s either. The simple and robust design will result in owners keeping them for many more years before replacing them. That doesn’t help sales.

In California, automakers have another problem. In 2012, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) established a requirement for companies selling cars in California. A certain percentage of their sales must be “zero emission vehicles.” The result was a number of “compliance cars.” Most of them are retrofits of existing gasoline-engine vehicles. The number produced was generally the minimum required by the law, and they were produced at a loss. But dealers had to train technicians and stock parts for the cars, a further expense. It is no wonder that the vehicle industry is not enthusiastic about EV’s. The business prospects are dismal.

My EV was a compliance car, and most of the small number of cars like mine have already been taken off the road, and the dealers want to get rid of the rest. What will happen to my car? My guess is that it will be “recycled.” It will go to a junkyard where any usable parts will be salvaged, and the rest will be crushed. What a waste! The car is capable of many years of useful service. There has been no discernable deterioration in range, indicating that the battery is still in good shape. It appalls me to think of this vehicle being thrown away like a worn-out pair of socks.

What does it say about us as a society that we casually waste the resources of the planet? EV’s are not only far more efficient than gasoline-engine cars. They are environmentally “clean,” producing no exhaust gases. While it is true that CO2 may have been produced to generate the juice that drives the car, that is not necessarily true, and is becoming less so every day as clean, renewable energy sources grow.

There are a lot of vested interests that want to see the emergence of EV’s as replacement for gasoline burners delayed…or better yet obliterated. I think…and hope…that a combination of public insistence and economic reality will defeat them.


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