Electric Cars Going Mainstream?

The new Ford Mustang may be the harbinger of things to come.

Andrew Hawkins review of the new Mustang Mach E, which he terms “Ford’s first real electric car,” is a good read and helps explain the automaker’s decision to use the name of their iconic muscle car for the crossover. It also has me thinking my next car may well be an electric.

To be clear, it won’t be this electric. I’m one of the rare individuals who drives a large SUV (Mazda’s CX-9) and actually needs the seating capacity on a regular basis. (Indeed, it’s actually rather tight when we have all seven household members aboard.) Still, we’ve already reached the point where all-electrics have enough range for my normal needs* and are fun to drive. And we’re fast approaching the point where they’ll be available at a reasonable price and charging infrastructure will be in place.

Hawkins, a suburban dad who notes that this Mustang has room for two car seats, complains that the $44,000 base price ($66,000 for the one he test drove) is out of reach for the average car buyer. Still, he sees this car as Ford’s entrée into the electric market and, as with Tesla’s Model S, they started with a cool, expensive car that people can aspire to before going mainstream.

We just bought my wife a new car in January and I bought the CX-9 slightly used just two years ago, so it’ll be a few years before we’re in the market absent theft or accident. Hopefully, by that point, manufacturers (perhaps with an assist from a government looking to lower carbon emissions) will have deployed enough charging stations to take this from a novelty to a viable option.

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*Post-pandemic, we’ll likely take a handful of long trips a year. Airplane tickets for seven makes enduring a long drive a worthwhile tradeoff.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Science & Technology
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Hari says:

    I don’t know if you’re amenable to minivans but I bought a Pacifica Hybrid in 2017 which has been great. It’s a plug-in, gets 30 miles per charge, and then the gas engine kicks in for another 300+ mile range. My daily drive (used to be …) 24 miles round trip so I filled up once every couple of months. We’re certainly going to replace my wife’s CR-V with an electric when it’s time.

    4
  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I hope to get an electric car someday. I’d still need my truck for hauling but it would be perfect for running errands into town.

    4
  3. Michael Cain says:

    Within a couple of years we’ll become a one-car household. Right now, the choice is to swap the old Hondas and the necessary cash for a Nissan Leaf coming in after a two- or three-year lease. The garage in our new townhouse has 240-volt service wired in, so all we’ll have to add there is the charger.

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  4. James Joyner says:

    @Hari: I think my minivan days are behind me. The CX-9 was a replacement for the 2010 Sienna but I’m not hauling around a soccer team or anything.

    2
  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Within ten years everything will be electric, and you’ll wonder why it didn’t happen sooner.
    Prices need to come down, and ranges have to extend.
    But instant maximum torque? What’s not to like?
    GM is making a truck with 1000HP and 11,000 ft-lbs of torque. That’ll pull your boat.
    Gearheads like me will miss the sounds (I own a Ducati mostly for the sounds it makes) but that won’t take long to get over.

    1
  6. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think my minivan days are behind me.

    Minivans are the worst. Take everything that makes driving cool and fun and remove it, and you have a minivan. They’re 30% of the vehicles on the road but 90% of the vehicles I curse at for doing stupid shit on the road.

    And if you see a minivan with Maryland plates, stay away. Far away. That’s the drive time equivalent of crossing the streams.

    1
  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mikey: And if you see a minivan with Maryland plates, stay away. Far away.

    Especially if it’s being driven by an old man in a hat, doubly so if the hat is a fedora.

    3
  8. Jeff Wynn says:

    Wife and I have a plug-in 2017 Prius and 2020 Crosstrek. They are awesome, especially since 98% of our travel is around town. Haven’t put gas in the Prius since, like, Christmas 2019. Can’t wait for larger electric vehicles to come out!

    1
  9. Kathy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    The one thing that can bring electric cars mainstream right away, would be a 5 minute full charge at a charging/service station. Sure, you can plug them in at night, but if you forget, or there’s a blackout, or a fuse blows, next day you don’t have much of a charge. Besides people will want to drive long distances, and that means charging at intervals on highways and freeways. Long charging times hamper trips.

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  10. MarkedMan says:

    This transition seemed to turn a corner in the last couple of years. I am due for a new car in 2021, and would love to buy an electric car but we have some unique circumstances that preclude it (we moved downtown and park on the street, and once we move back into a house, plan on getting a popup trailer and so will need a tow vehicle. Future Outback Hybrid?)

    One factor that hasn’t hit people yet is the lower cost of maintaining an electric vehicle. Here’s a guy who bought a used luxury Tesla and proceeded to put 200K on it in five years, bringing it to 250K total, definitely not babying it. He logged $5400 in maintenance costs. I can easily imagine any $100K German car costing that in a year. Even a Chevy with 250K would need valve work, radiator(s), maybe a transmission, and on and on. To top it off, he calculates he saved $20K in gas. If he charged only at home, he probably spent a couple of thousand on electricity

  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    We’ve looked repeatedly at electrics. No on Tesla because they don’t do Apple play, the build isn’t great, the interior looks like an inter-terminal airport train, and the all touch-screen controls are stupid. I want controls on my steering wheel not a reach. Also: no convertible, which is a deal-breaker for me.

    My wife currently has a Volvo XC60, which isn’t awful for a tank. She might get a small electric SUV but other than the Jaguar (which isn’t that small) there isn’t anything with luxury and range and great crash tests that isn’t also ugly as sin. (Lookin’ at you, Subaru.) Kia/Hyundai are the current frontrunners along with the smaller Volvo SUV, but there’s not much sex appeal there.

    About two months before Covid I bought a Mercedes E450 Cabriolet in dark blue. A year old and I’ve put a grand total of 500 miles on it.

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  12. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: There has been some work done on induction chargers in the floor of a garage, such that when you park it automatically starts charging. That could go a decent way towards solving the problem.

  13. Sleeping Dog says:

    When one of the cars we have dies, we’ll go down to one, but it won’t be purely battery powered. We take enough trips beyond the greatest range of EV’s that I don’t want to be searching around for a charger in some rural area, rather than enjoying myself.

    Something I’m curious about; what percentage of current EV owners will choose an EV for the next car? Anecdotally, it seems that a hefty percentage of current owners, won’t get another, but I’d like to see actual survey data.

    Something I wonder about; Will the great EV change over be like the great Dem demographic blue wave, something we keep waiting for?

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  14. HarvardLaw92 says:

    I think that they have promise, but to be adopted on a widespread basis they’re going to have to resolve the charging and range limitations (which they seem to be making progress on, but not there yet). I can see the appeal for urban dwellers, but if I’m taking a trip, for example, I don’t have any interest in sitting at a charging station forever (the last I checked a supercharger will give you 80% capacity in 40 minutes) until I can get back on my way. They’re less of a niche product than they were, but IMO they aren’t out of niche product territory yet.

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  15. MarkedMan says:

    that isn’t also ugly as sin

    I agree but don’t blame this on electrics, I blame it on SUVs and Crossovers. SUV’s are minivans with and extra 3 inches of ground clearance and less interior space and Crossovers are station wagons with those same characteristics, but people want them to look aggressive and edgy. High ground clearance minivans and station wagons designed to be aggressive and edgy end up looking ridiculous.

    I’m not a Jaguar guy but definitely appreciate the integrity of their styling. Even if it’s not my style I admire their lines and cohesiveness. Except for my bosses electric Jaguar SUV. It is as if a cartoonist was given the assignment to create a car that had equal parts Gayle Sayers and William “The Refrigerator” Perry.

    1
  16. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Adding to the anecdote, I know several people who own an EV (I don’t include hybrids in that), but as far as I know none of them depend on it as their sole vehicle. I’d slot some of them into virtue signalling and others into the nifty toy category, but all of them still own petroleum powered vehicles in addition to their EV.

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  17. Michael Cain says:

    Random electric thoughts…

    I expect that the rental markets will eventually adapt so that it’s easier and less expensive to rent the large-capacity or long-range vehicles for the 3% of trips when the typical suburbanite needs it. Low-priced several-day long-mileage rentals that are significantly cheaper than airfare. Add-on fifth-wheel gensets that keep the battery topped up on the move.

    If it is no longer possible to buy a non-electric car by 2030, the need for the existing wholesale/retail gasoline distribution infrastructure is effectively gone before 2050. There’s money to be made by firms that can dig up and safely dispose of all those underground toxic waste containers.

    I am in the minority that believes retail charging services will be much less common than gasoline stations are today. The US at least seems disinclined to deploy a very large fleet of new load-following nuke plants, so renewables it is. And while load-balancing over longer distances fixes part of the intermittency problem, storage will be important. It seems to me that the incentives will favor keeping idle cars plugged into the grid where they can fill that role.

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  18. Teve says:

    @Mikey: I haven’t tested this obviously, but a few years ago I read that thanks to modern tuned independent suspensions, on a curvy track, a 2018 Honda Odyssey can beat sports cars from the 70s.

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  19. Teve says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    the all touch-screen controls are stupid.

    That is indeed true. Driving down the road I can adjust the AC, heat, fan, radio without looking. Making all those things touch screen is idiotic. It’s the appeal of form over function.

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  20. reid says:

    Same here. I currently drive a 2013 BMW X3 in an area that can get significant snow. I’m hoping that the X3 will last several more years, in time for me to get something similar but electric. The little research I’ve done suggests that there are already some models like it. The ranges are getting respectable, too.

    If I can get solar panels and a 240V charger installed too, I’d be all set. (We get a lot of sun in NM.)

    2
  21. dazedandconfused says:

    Harvard,

    I wouldn’t call it virtue signaling. I know an electrical engineer from Boeing who has calculated that if his Leaf had a gas engine and was getting 30mpg, he would be paying the equivalent of 25 cents a gallon for gas in his commuter car. It’s that much cheaper. Their other car is a full cab pickup, for use on long trips and towing.

    I suspect this might be the most typical market-model. The mfgs may be going the wrong way with top-end electrical cars, which IMO are virtue signals. The larger market could well be the family work-commuter. Basic, cheap.

    2
  22. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    If you knew the specific people I was referring to, you’d agree with me that it’s virtue signalling where they are concerned. They’re worse than vegans when it comes to evangelizing about their pet obsession.

    They typically go with the top-end models first because those generate the cash flow they need to fund continuing development. Like I said, I think they have promise, but we’re not there yet. They’re still a niche product and they’re still expensive for what you get, and they’re still enormously subsidized to boot. For them to become the de facto standard, they’re eventually going to have to match or beat petroleum vehicles in range, refueling time, AND cost, without the taxpayers underwriting them.

    3
  23. gVOR08 says:

    @Teve:

    I read that thanks to modern tuned independent suspensions, on a curvy track, a 2018 Honda Odyssey can beat sports cars from the 70s.

    I own an Odyssey and once owned a ’66 MG B (for which I wish I’d found a barn somewhere and stored). Suspension, and tires, are way better these days, but I think the high CG would cancel that out. But with a quick Google, the B would do 0-60 in 12.2m sec and a quarter mile in 17.8. The Odyssey can do 6.5 and 14.5. So yes, the Odyssey could easily outrun the B. And to establish a trendline, Road & Track recently did an article about the late 40s MG TC, the car that brought sports cars to the masses, which did 0-60 in 22.7. But the B would be more fun, and the TC even more. But I have my Mazdaspeed 3 and Mazdaspeed Miata for fun.

    There’s sort of a frog boiling thing, we don’t realize how much better cars have gotten. In the 70s we made fun of bad cars. I talked about my parents Buick requiring an iterative driving technique. You turned in and waited for body roll to change your line, then corrected, waited for roll, rinse and repeat. GM got sued over mid 70s X cars swapping ends under braking. They deserved it. Among other improvements, there are no longer any bad cars. And much of the improvement was due to dreaded gubmint regulation. R&T used to be LA area based. One day years ago their editor wrote he’d gone outside and looked at the mountains and apologized for having opposed smog controls.

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  24. MarkedMan says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Yep. We are a two car, two person household. But I wouldn’t buy an electric for virtue signaling. Having a daily commuter electric makes a ton of sense, provided you have a garage to charge it in. And if Suburu comes out with their Outback hybrid and it can go 30 miles on a charge and pull 3500 pounds when I need that, it would be the perfect vehicle for me. 30 miles would cover 75% of my round trip commute, and we may put in a few charging stations in the parking lot, so that would take me to 100%. And aggressive regenerative breaking is a godsend for towing in hilly or mountainous terrain.

    The reality is that the gasoline internal combustion engine is a bizarre compromise. It can’t start itself so it needs an electrical motor and charging system just to get it going. It doesn’t generate enough power to keep from stalling until it is already moving at several hundred rpm and it needs significantly more than that before it will move the car without stalling. To get around those limitations we need complicated gearing and clutching in the transmissions, and since the power band is so narrow and fuel efficiency is so dependent on RPM we end up with modern cars with ten different gear rations. And when we want to get fancy by doing things like applying different torques to different wheels to improve handling or prevent skids it requires yet another complicated set of gearing. It’s amazing it has lasted as long as it has.

    5
  25. Michael Cain says:

    @Teve:

    I haven’t tested this obviously, but a few years ago I read that thanks to modern tuned independent suspensions, on a curvy track, a 2018 Honda Odyssey can beat sports cars from the 70s.

    I would say it’s not quite true for my wife’s 1998 Odyssey, but definitely true for my 2008 Honda Fit. It’s obvious every time I have the Fit on some twisty two-lane blacktop up in the foothills.

    To pick on another of the vast improvements, the Odyssey is 22 years old and the Fit is twelve. I’m sure some of the 70s sports cars made it twelve years, but the Fit has never had any work that wasn’t replacing bits that were intended to wear out and everything still operates smoothly. (I remember hearing a joke once about an MGB failing the inspection when it came off the assembly line — there were no fluid leaks.) The Odyssey is showing its age in the form of things that just don’t run smoothly any more, mostly plastic bushings wearing down. But how much effort was required to keep a 70s sports car running at all for 22 years?

    2
  26. dazedandconfused says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    That may be achievable, electric motors are much simpler and last longer than internal combustion engines, so with mass production there should be a cost savings. The charging issue can only be resolved (IMO) by standardized battery packs which could be quickly switched out at any of our existing “gas” stations.

  27. Sleeping Dog says:

    @gVOR08:

    The most fun I’ve ever had in an automobile was a car that had ~54HP and 4″ wide tires. It was an MG-TD and I managed a 4 wheel drift at 10 mph in a cul-de-sac and no one noticed but me.

    2
  28. Michael Cain says:

    @Michael Cain:
    Should have added to the maintenance thought: My son’s girlfriend has a Nissan Leaf. Routine maintenance is rotate tires (replace as necessary) and check the coolant level for the battery pack, plus undercarriage inspections. Replace wipers annually, and the 12V battery that runs the electronics every four years. IIRC, everything else is good for 75,000 miles. The friction brakes for 150,000. New ICEs have gotten much more reliable, but the electrics are a whole different thing.

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  29. gVOR08 says:

    @MarkedMan:

    One factor that hasn’t hit people yet is the lower cost of maintaining an electric vehicle.

    A bit of history rhymes trivia. The thing that sold the 707 to the airlines was maintenance costs. A jet engine just turns, a piston engine goes bang bang bang and with each bang it puts a fatigue cycle, or two, on each of the many, many reciprocating parts. Turbine parts are loaded, but steadily. Many turbine parts are hot, but again, they don’t cycle, they stay hot. The moving parts of a jet engine rotate on bearings, pistons slide on cylinder walls, which also tends to mix the combustion products and wear debris with the oil. Late generation piston engines were hugely complex, the R-4360 in several airliners and the B-36 was a 71 liter, 28 cylinder supercharged monstrosity. I read somewhere that when one required a complete overhaul, the Air Force would winch it into a bomb bay and drop it as a practice bomb. Wasn’t there an old Mazda rotary add that said other engines go thump thump thump, Mazda engine goes Hummmmm? Electric motors and solid state electronics do tend to be reliable.

    1
  30. gVOR08 says:

    @gVOR08: Apparently I don’t get edit. Yes, batteries are less reliable. But last time I saw someone ask what a battery pack replacement cost, the answer seemed to be we don’t know, nobody’s done it yet.

  31. Andy says:

    I have the same problem of having a larger family and needing a larger vehicle. We decided to lease a Subaru Ascent – at the end of the lease at least one, possibly two, kids will be out on their own.

    But we did seriously look at a small electric vehicle for commuting and even went so far as to get an estimate for the electrical installation in the garage. Turns out that we’d need a panel upgrade (our mid-90’s house only has a 100amp panel) and that alone would run $5-6k plus another grand for the outlet and charging system itself. Added to the price premium for an electric vehicle, it made the up-front cost too steep for us. We elected to just keep our existing 15-yo car for now.

  32. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @gVOR08:

    Not sure if this is indicative, but it is a replacement on a Tesla Model 3. Parts and labor came to around $16.000.

  33. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I think the “makes sense” case would be different for everyone, but I can see how they’d be useful to some people. Getting to the point where they’re not only useful to all buyers, but also as or more useful to them than their petroleum fueled competitors AND cost competitive without the enormous subsidies is the rub.

    I can only speak for me, but I don’t see giving up my 760i for an EV any time soon. That doesn’t make them bad; it just indicates that they’re bad for me. I’d certainly support you guys buying whatever meets you needs, EV or otherwise.

    1
  34. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    I’m willing to watch and see how that goes, but the skeptic in me says that people aren’t going to be willing to sit through a battery pack replacement every time they need to fill up. There might be some purists / true believers that would, sure, but the average driver (I’d think) is primarily concerned with utility and time, much more so than they are with TCOO (those costs are borne incrementally, so drivers tend to consider them in terms of the incremental cost). The argument then becomes “why should I go through all that when I can just fill up at the pump in 5 mins or less?”

    I’ll certainly agree that every diver is different, and motivated by different needs. What appeals to me about my car (interior design and materials quality, handling, acceleration, etc.) are probably meaningless to someone else. The kicker then is that for me to consider buying an EV, it’ll have to be built and furnished as least as well as, handle at least as well as, accelerate at least as well as, and be able to be refueled in the same time or less than my 760i. The only vehicle that even begins to come close to ticking any of those boxes is the Model S, and as Reynolds alluded to, their fit / finish, material quality, and design is a disaster.

    We’re early in this product arc though. I’m certainly willing to watch and see where it goes.

  35. Michael Cain says:

    @gVOR08:

    But last time I saw someone ask what a battery pack replacement cost, the answer seemed to be we don’t know, nobody’s done it yet.

    Ah, but the other way :^) According to the son’s girlfriend, there is an active market in used Nissan Leaf battery packs from totaled vehicles where the pack can be salvaged, for use in home power systems. You know, the people who either want to time-shift their usage on a sizeable scale, or take full advantage of their oversized PV array, or be the one house with the lights all on when the power goes out in the blizzard.

    2
  36. gVOR08 says:

    Can somebody explain SUVs to me?

    With respect to popular culture I often find myself out of step. I’m an engineer by training and inclination, probably somewhere on the Asperger’s scale, and largely indifferent to image. I think we’re on our sixth or seventh minivan. We had one kid, who left home about five minivans ago. They handle like sedans, they park like sedans, our Odyssey has seated seven comfortably, eight if I put the folding middle center seat back in. Compared to James’s CX-9 our Odyssey has double the cargo capacity, either seats up or folded. I’ve carried 4×8 sheet material in it. We’ve carried five people who have no idea how to pack and luggage for a week. And sliding doors make the middle seats much easier to get into than many SUVs.

    I realize SUVs have some image thing minivans don’t. But how do they maintain it now that everybody has one? Four wheel drive has some utility, for a very small percentage of the people who buy it, but very few SUVs on the road have it. Some car mag writer said SUVs do nothing something else doesn’t do better. My Odyssey has the same cargo capacity as a Suburban. I’ve seen bits and snatches on SUV marketing. It makes you think Freud was on to something: mines bigger than yours, I’m higher up looking down on you, snarly face pickup grills. I think the auto universe would be a different place if that marketing genius (sic) Lee Iacocca had called them “sport haulers” instead of “minisomething”. Also, part of his plan was that they had lower entry height so women in skirts could get in without embarrassment. Is it that women wear skirts less often now or that they’re less prone to embarrassment?

    One entertaining thing is that what most people actually need is a hatchback sedan. I think BMW did a brilliant job of selling small hatchbacks with the Mini. But hatchbacks aren’t cool, so people buy smallish crossover SUVs, which are really FWD hatchbacks, but with SUV styling. I’ll put in a plug for a friend of mine, he does a car history, and occasionally architecture, blog, Poeschl on Cars. He is a genuine expert on sports car history. He’s of the opinion SUVs destroyed auto styling. (OK, minivans are pretty box like too.)

    I give up, what is the big appeal to SUVs?

    4
  37. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Kathy:

    The one thing that can bring electric cars mainstream right away, would be a 5 minute full charge at a charging/service station.

    Yes…what you are talking about is infrastructure. Think about it…we have spent trillions creating and maintaining the infrastructure for fossil fuels. We are simply going to have to replicate and/or evolve that infrastructure.
    The infrastructure for fossil fuels is so ingrained in our culture that we don’t even realize how much we spend supporting that industry…both directly and to an even greater extent, indirectly.

    3
  38. MarkedMan says:

    @gVOR08: The couple of years worth of Tesla battery battery packs seemed to get 200-250K miles, with more recent versions doing better than that. The big discussion around next generation battery packs come from the other end: what to do with still viable battery packs after the car has worn out.

    M spokesman Phil Lienert. “We’re seeing this with hundreds of Bolt EV customers, and our data shows that million-mile battery life is achievable with our next-generation Ultium batteries.”

    That’s seconded by Tim Grewe, GM’s global electrification and battery systems director, who’s said, “We do have million-mile battery life, especially in shared mobility usage, in our sights and are getting great results when it comes to that.” GM’s nearly three-million-square foot Ultium battery cell plant under construction in Lordstown, Ohio, will use using technology developed in a joint venture with Korea’s LG Chem.

    Tesla has also talked about million-mile-plus low-cobalt batteries (with results from lab tests), though CEO Elon Musk’s comments on Battery Day last September focused more on technology that could halve battery costs per kilowatt-hour.

    The Tesla comment is kind of interesting, as they’ve reached the point with battery life that they are switching over to cost reduction as the primary driver of innovation.

    3
  39. Michael Reynolds says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    At this point EVs make the most sense in bright, sunny states where you can mount solar panels and charge the car for free. (Well, free-ish). Unfortunately the states with ample sunshine also tend to be states with lots of open space to cross. From LA I can drive north to the Bay (377 miles from my house to Union Square) or east to Vegas, (265 miles from my house to the Aria) but I cannot do either without a lengthy recharge. Get me to 400 mile range – and not bullshit numbers requiring me to drive 55* – in a vehicle with some sex appeal, great crash numbers and a drop top and I’m in.

    *Because, I can’t drive, fifty-fiiiiiive!

    5
  40. MarkedMan says:

    @MarkedMan: Whoops, no edit key, and I realized the way I clipped those comments made it seem like the Bolt is getting million miles. The article states that there are hundreds of Bolt customers who are already above 100K miles. The cars have been out long enough to have much higher mileage than that.

    1
  41. Michael Reynolds says:

    @gVOR08:

    Can somebody explain SUVs to me?

    My answers:

    1) Driving position – you can see over at least some of the traffic.
    2) Driving position part B, higher seating means safety – an SUV hits a car at chest and head, a car hits an SUV at hips and legs.
    3) Driving position part C: At age 66 it’s not entirely easy climbing out of a sedan.
    4) You can haul a flat-pack home from IKEA.
    5) Worst comes to worst, you can sleep in an SUV.

    2
  42. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Oh, and also, if I’m driving away from a wildfire (I live in LA) or through the debris of an earthquake (I live in LA) or through a riot (I live in LA) I don’t think a low-slung ragtop would be my best bet.

    3
  43. Andy says:

    @gVOR08:

    I’m with you on minivans. We still have our 2005 Odyssey. It blows away our 2020 Subaru Ascent in terms of cargo, seating, and access to the seats. But we like our Ascent too and got it initially to replace the van because we now live in an area where AWD borders on necessary in the winter. And we only plan to have it for three years.

    Minivans are great. Yeah, they have an image problem, but for a family and real utility they can’t be beat.

    2
  44. Andy says:

    I talked to my brother this morning, who has lived in Germany for 25 or 30 years now.

    He got a “free” Renault Zoe (actually mostly free for two years of a lease) there thanks to a subsidy program described here. Definitely not a family vehicle, but my brother says it’s fun to drive.

  45. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    That’s my take on it. Brussels is 224 miles, Amsterdam 311 miles, Zurich 368 miles, and for the more adventurous Berlin and Prague are both less than 700 miles, well doable for someone who likes to drive. Florence isn’t that much further. There’s London as well, but bleh, pass. It’s depressing and nobody without a death wish drives in London.

    I looked at a Model S and was basically underwhelmed, as it sounded like you were as well. I think we’re on the same page – give me a reasonable replacement for what I already have, and I’m on board. They’re nowhere near that yet.

    (the E450 is a sweet and fun ride. Congrats, love those)

    2
  46. Sleeping Dog says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    …I don’t see giving up my 760i for an EV any time soon.

    If you did, you might crater the oil futures market 🙂

    1
  47. MarkedMan says:

    @gVOR08: Within the last year or so there was an impassioned Jalopnik.com piece from a columnist who, when he wasn’t tooling around in a Porsche on-loan for a review, needed to schlep his family, dog, car parts, etc around. And he just couldn’t understand why people opted for SUVs over minivans. He pulled an SUV and a minivan for a comparison and showed that for the same roof height, width and length, the same gas mileage, acceleration and stopping distance, you go 30% more cargo space, much easier removal or reconfiguration of the seats, better passenger access and significantly more passenger headroom and legroom.

    In fairness, he was like me and though that minivans and SUVs were equally ugly.

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  48. Slugger says:

    Since Covid, I’m driving a lot less. Before Covid, my car was parked 80-90% of the time. Even assuming a 90 minute commute to work one way, the car sits parked the vast majority of the time. A small city commuter car and renting a truck or SUV for special projects would be the most rational thing I could do. But that’s not what I want. I want a baby blue Lambo Huracan!
    Any VW ID.4 owners out there?

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  49. Sleeping Dog says:

    @gVOR08:

    “He’s of the opinion SUVs destroyed auto styling.”

    In part he is right, but there are a number of other contributing factors, slavery to the lowest coefficient of drag to improve fuel mileage, side impact safety standards that have eliminated tall green house windows on sedans, today windows often look like gunslits, European pedestrian safety standards have all but eliminated sloped front hoods.

    As fugly as SUV’s are, it is easier to have greater variety in appearance and still meet the requirements.

    Why an SUV? Utility mostly. A station wagon would do, but beyond MB, BMW, Volvo and VW, they pretty much don’t exist. When we bought the Pilot, we were considering a small travel trailer and needed some towing capacity that is far beyond any sedan or wagon. But every time I go to the dump, lumber yard or haul dogs, I like the Pilot, but a sedan would meet most of my needs. As I get older, I do find it easier to get in and out of most SUVs than the typical sedan.

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  50. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    LOL, it’s not as bad as you’d think as long as you don’t get seriously insane with the accelerator. On long trips I’ve managed to average as much as 22mpg, but I’ll fess up and admit that I didn’t really buy the car to lope along at a glacial pace down the highway.

    What’s bizarre is that France, despite having by far the largest percentage of nuclear in its generation mix in the world (something like 73% of the power here comes from nuclear), has exorbitant electricity prices. The last time that I compared, which was a while ago, it was close to $0.22 per kWh – roughly four times or more expensive as in the US.

    I think the thing that annoys me the most is the ginormous subsidies we’re paying to entice people into converting. They hit €13,000 per vehicle this year. I can see maybe underwriting the R&D, but if the cars were that great, we wouldn’t need to be handing over 13,000 euros to convince somebody to buy one. That we do suggests that there is some work to be done.

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  51. dazedandconfused says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Yes, it will have to be a battery pack swap in 5 min or less, but with everybody carrying the same designed-for-quick-switching pack that’s doable, but self-service battery pack stations are unlikely.

    Nevertheless I must admit it’s the same for me, not interested unless I can get comparable convenience/performance. They have some ways to go yet for that.

    1
  52. Teve says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Global subsidies for fossil fuels are something like $5 trillion per year.

    1
  53. Teve says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    3) Driving position part C: At age 66 it’s not entirely easy climbing out of a sedan.

    if you don’t do it already, I’d suggest the two-feet method of getting in and out of cars. It is easier and avoids back injury.

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  54. Jay L Gischer says:

    One note, since I’ve seen several say “I need a truck for hauling”. Electric trucks are coming, and as long as you don’t need the range of a gasoline-powered vehicle, electric trucks will be better for towing and hauling. That is because an electric motor has its best torque at 0 rpm. Best. No revving the engine and stressing the torque converter, or wearing the clutch.

    Model S’s have been known to just tow a truck parked to block a charging station. There is video of a truck, with it’s brakes on, and wheels locked, getting dragged across blacktop by a Model S.
    They aren’t even a truck meant for towing. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClDpGqj3PGA)

    But range – that’s where gasoline cars still win, and probably will continue to win for a long time.

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  55. al Ameda says:

    I don’t think it’s there yet, but it’s coming, and quicker than most people realize.
    (1) Related: I’m on my second Prius and I have no complaints what so ever – 54 miles/gallon and virtually no maintenance beyond oil changes = no complaints.
    (2) If EV gets to the point where a charged-range is 500 miles – here that’s San Francisco to San Diego – and where rapid charging stations are common throughout our cities and the state, then you can count me in.
    (3) a Note: My neighbor has an EV, re-charges in his garage and he draws electricity from his solar panels. He says right now he gets about 120 miles on a ‘fill up charge’ which for him, hecause he works about 8 miles from home, is about 7 days of commuting at a fraction of the cost of gasoline.
    (4) A supermaket parking lot near my home has 3 charging stations and they’re used regularly.

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  56. Sleeping Dog says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    I’ve driven several 7’s and they are nice cars. Though if I were spending the $120K+ for a car that in the US, that depreciates like a stone, I’d go with the S-Class, I simply like the interiors more. A friend just picked up an Apina B6 Grand Coupe, very nice car.

    Here in Cow Hampshire we get about 55% of our electricity from nukes and our cost per kw/hr is among the highest in the nation. So the cost in France doesn’t surprise me. And yeah the subsidies for EV’s are out of hand, particularly when, because of the cost of the car, the buyer doesn’t need it. Another transfer of wealth to the wealthy.

  57. Kathy says:

    re, touch screens don’t get along well with moving vehicles. I hope the SpaceX Crew Dragon doesn’t crash one day because the display moved under the pilot’s finger and they entered the wrong command, or wound up swiping instead of tapping.

    Now, about electric cars in particular, one thing that concerns me is power used for things other than propelling the car, like the stereo, windows, A/C, wipers, etc.

    In a gas car, you pretty much have unlimited electrical power, as it gets generated by the alternator non-stop so long as the engine’s running. The A/C takes up some direct engine power to run the compressor (which is why using it lowers gas mileage), but with a full tank and reasonable expectation for refills, that is not a major concern.

    This is the same situation you have on airplanes and ships: the engines are power plants in addition to being engines. In an electric car, there is no engine producing power, but rather one or more motors using the battery power.

    So running the A/C, listening to music, wiping away rain from the windshield, and charging your phone reduces the range you can drive. Paired with the time it takes to recharge, this can be a big deal in some situations.

  58. dazedandconfused says:

    @Kathy:

    With some (but not a heck of a lot) exception for the heater-defroster, the accessory’s loads are all but trivial compared to the energy required to push a car up to and hold freeway speeds.

    1
  59. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    I admit to going back and forth on the S class vs 7 series for a while before I finally pulled the trigger on this latest one. It ended up being mainly about wanting that V-12. I just liked the power delivery from the BMW better. The S’es are some beautiful cars though, no argument at all from me about that. Totally world class.

  60. Mu Yixiao says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    Cold temperatures can sap electric car batteries, temporarily reducing their range by more than 40 percent when interior heaters are used, a new study found.

    AP News

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  61. Kathy says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    Good point.

    In a prehistoric car, heat comes from the waste heat of the engine, and the rear window defroster is electrically powered.

    Long ago, the alternator in my car crapped out in the middle of a rainstorm at night, while we were on the freeway (we later learned it was a belt that broke). I had to keep the lights, wipers and, intermittently, the defroster. I shut everything else down. Power in a gas car battery doesn’t last long.

  62. dazedandconfused says:

    @Kathy:

    Mu is correct though, deep cold takes some out of batteries and running the heater on max-melt is not an inconsiderable draw.

    The energy consumed by lights is less than it once was, as all electric cars are going to have LEDs. Used to be a big hit. In high school we had a teacher who taught basic electricity. He had a ten speed on a stand powering a car-alternator and with a standard car headlight on the front. The demonstration was how much more difficult it was to pedal with the light on…you felt it right away, and when he hit the high-beam? Required standing up off the saddle and doing some real work. Just one headlight… humbling.

    1
  63. Michael Reynolds says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    My first Merc was a 2002 black S-500. God I loved that car. My first drive after clearing my record and getting my license. 22 years I didn’t drive, so I figured, fuck it, go straight to the Official Car of Movie Bad Guys. I gave it up when we moved to Italy.* Tiny roads. I figured I’d drive it into some mountain village and have to leave it there.

    I had the 2014 E350 cabriolet and loved it. The S at this point has very little over the E’s unless . . . you want to go to the new AMG S Class cabriolet which I’ll admit I lusted after. They had a pearlescent gold one with the top down and the engine running. . . just sitting there. Talking to me. It was basically Satan tempting Jesus in the desert. But like Jesus (with whom I am often compared) I did not give in to temptation, and got the E450. And actually felt virtuous. As I drove it past the homeless encampments.

    *Jesus God, could I sound more like a bougie twat?

    2
  64. Fog says:

    I’m sorry, but it seems to me that almost all the complaints about the capabilities of EVs can be transported back to 1910 by swapping the word “airplanes” for “EVs.”
    Battery performance is increasing by leaps and bounds, and most importantly,
    the technical problems concerning wireless transmission of electricity have been for the most part solved. The battery may wind up evolving into an emergency backup. But like a lot of big inventions, the military gets it first. They paid for the research. It will be decades before we see any commercial applications, but it’s coming.
    The future belongs to Reddy Kilowatt.

    2
  65. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy: One of the reasons that AWD is so prevalent nowadays is that we ride on much wider tires. And, even in snow country, more and more I see people using all-season tires in the winter. For snow nothing beats a narrow tire with an aggressive and deep tread, AKA a snow tire.

    1
  66. Kathy says:

    To be clear, I don’t consider the power issues with EVs as a deal breaker, or implying they’re inferior to gas cars. It’s just an illustration of Kathy’s First Law: There is a Downside to Everything.

    Perhaps a cold weather EV could have bigger or additional batteries (and there’s a downside to that). Perhaps for cold weather regions, hydrogen fuel cells would be a better system, or a complementary one. Say a hybrid hydrogen fuel cell and battery car.

  67. MarkedMan says:

    Just a comment on SUV safety: If you get hit or if you hit someone, it’s better to be in an SUV than in a Mini Cooper. But if someone does something stupid in front of you, and you are a good driver with decent reactions, you are less likely to get in that accident in the first place.

    I had this point illustrated with maximum effectiveness when I rounded a curve on mountain (ambitious hill?) highway at 55 mph only to discover a woman in a massive SUV attempting a 3 point turn in the middle of an S curve. She was exactly perpendicular to road, blocking both narrow lanes, with extremely steep rocky slopes up and down. I stomped on the brakes (thank god for ABS) and felt the seatbelt dig in as I jittered to a halt about 6 feet from her. I looked at her, and she looked at me, and then she started her agonizing 3 point (or rather, 15 point) turn again. Thank god no one came behind me or from the other direction.

    I had always read the occasional car mag, and after that I became fixated on 60-0 stopping distances. I don’t remember the exact numbers but the Mini had one of the best and I came across some god-awful SUV that took 70 feet longer to stop. 70 feet! If I’d been driving anything else I would have T-boned her, and then we would have both been at the mercy of cars rounding the curves in either direction, until enough had wrecked that people could see them before they hit the curve.

    1
  68. MarkedMan says:

    @HarvardLaw92: FWIW, Teslas no longer qualify for federal subsidy in the US, and are still selling like gang-busters.

    1
  69. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: I suspect that if EV’s came first and it was ICE’s trying to break into the market, people would be bemoaning the fact that you couldn’t fuel them at your house, but had to drive to a special station, where they might have a line, for gawds sake!

    3
  70. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    The first cars used coal and steam power. But I recall reading there were some very early electric cars by the dawn of the XX Century.

    At the time, though, we were talking lead-acid batteries, I guess, which are massive and weak. And electricity wasn’t nearly universal as it is today. As I recall, rural electrification went on well into the 40s under Roosevelt.

    1
  71. dazedandconfused says:

    Now it’s seaplanes…

    https://www.flightglobal.com/aerospace/harbour-air-to-resume-electric-powered-beaver-flights-as-certification-work-begins/136071.article

    It’s all about finding lighter and less bulky batteries, but even with what we have now Harbor Air is willing to spend the buck to get some up and running for their rather unique ops. Nobody does more, and more very short, seaplane ops than Harbor Air. The savings they are looking for here isn’t only fuel, it’s in the $1/4 mil hot section overhauls of those PT6s. The Magnx electric motors are capable of lasting much longer and are a ton cheaper to make if they don’t.

    2
  72. JohnSF says:

    Came a cross some interesting articles recently upon a couple of innovative battery designs that have promise, the lithium-air battery and a lithium-ion/capacitor hybrid.
    Apparently both have higher energy density, especially the Li-air, therfore lower weight for given range, and the capacitor/battery combination has much faster charging times (c.80% capacity in five minutes).
    Presumably a hybrid of Li-air and capacitor would be an even greater step forward.

    Another interesting way around range and charging issues might be a methane fuel cell backup to batteries. There have been proposals for hydrogen fuel cell and/or combustion with battery hybrids.
    But the problem with hydrogen is it’s storage and leakage issues. Methane would get round that, and still enable a shift to non-fossil source via clean electricity synth methane (which could also be useful for electricity surplus storage buffers).
    That sort of methane would almost certainly be much more expensive than fossil natural gas, and petrol, but as you’re not using it as the primary power mode, that might not be a deal-breaker either in personal term or from a national economic perspective.

    (The methane would release CO2 in use, but as it’s a non-fossil cycle of make/burn, that should not necessarily be a problem, especially as the “urban/suburban” mode is still almost entirely battery)

    2
  73. Teve says:

    @JohnSF: yeah but if you’ve got low-grade methane leaks on 1 billion cars car you could be supercharging global warming.

    Frankly if we didn’t have piece of shit Republicans we could be pouring Moon Landing amounts of money into new battery technology, for both cars and solar, and fix the whole problem in a decade or two.

    2
  74. JohnSF says:

    On the subject of SUV though, I’ve noticed that in icy/snowy weather, there are some roads near me that with rather sharper-than-first glance corners whose verges, and occasionally hedges, tend to acquire regular 4wd SUVs decoration.
    Their drivers have forgotten that while 4wd may well give better start-off traction, they don’t necessarily help much with rolling traction, or at all with adhesion.
    IIRC there have been studies that in fact 4wd are more likely to have accidents in wintery conditions than 2wd.

    Though in slippery conditions, you also tend to see a lot of RWD saloons driven by overconfident executives who are finding that, once they get past the limits of the vehicles ABS/TCS, they are not in fact the highly skilled drivers they think they are. One road in the winter of 2010 I counted about a dozen BMW’s, Mercs and Jags abandoned on the verge.

    Always amused me that a lot of Brits think 4wd is the thing for snowy weather, when the Scandinavians almost universally went for 2wd plus winter tyres.
    I’ve heard that Saab and Volvo introduced 4wd mainly due to the Brit demand for it!

    2
  75. Kathy says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    I think planes will go for bio fuels, carbon capture schemes, and maybe planes for the 2040s will use hydrogen as fuel (for burning, not in fuel cells). I don’t think you can get to jet speeds (Mach 0.8-0.9) with electrical motors turning propellers (though the GE UDF engine could be a plausible model).

    1
  76. JohnSF says:

    @Teve:
    True, given methane is more potent as a warmer than CO2.
    You’d want to study the figures carefully.
    OTOH Europe relies, and will continue to rely for several decades at least, on methane for domestic fuel, and leakage is not a major issue.
    And a Li-air “batacitor” would prob. make it moot anyway; as would a easily handled hydrogen storage, which is also a prospect (not heard much about that lately). If used, methane hybrids are likely only a stop-gap.

    IMHO most likely mix long term will be advanced electrics urban/suburban use (plus I’d bet in high density and “controllable” urban zones, much greater public transport and also automated cars) with hydrogen hybrids for rural/long distance and heavy vehicles.

    1
  77. MarkedMan says:

    @Teve: I’m going to be a contrarian here. There is no shortage of money being poured into battery technology. Government money should go elsewhere.

    2
  78. Teve says:

    @MarkedMan: most government spending for battery research and development goes through the department of energy. Best I can tell, the DOE budget for battery and grid research in 2018 was $160 million. That’s .0036% of the federal budget. At the height of the space race in 1965, NASA got 5% percent of the federal budget. The total cost of the Apollo program in 2020 dollars was $175 billion.

    So I think we should be spending mountains more cash on battery R&D.

    1
  79. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Wow, so many “get a horse!” comments here.

    I have a 2017 Chevy Bolt. All electric (not hybrid). Takes about $5.00 to fill my “tank” for 240 miles. Instead of $30 per week. ((30-5)x52)) = $1300 in annual savings.

    No oil changes, fuel mixtures, maintenance. Regenerative charging means that I barely ever use my brakes… so no brake jobs. Maybe 40 hours of my life saved annually in not dealing with that stuff?

    May not work for you… works great for me. Looks awesome parked next to the 1969 Vette.

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  80. SC_Birdflyte says:

    I suspect at some point, my wife and I will downgrade from two vehicles to one. That might be an opportune to switch over to a hybrid or an all-electric vehicle. At that point, the chance that we’ll be doing any long-distance driving is almost nil.

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  81. Andy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Snow tires are definitely critical and I get dedicated snow tires for all my vehicles, including the AWD Subaru.

  82. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I was speaking more to the concept of subsidies in general, especially the ones we’re handing out here (which are ridiculous IMO). Tesla sold about 367,000 vehicles last year, which is impressive, but GM alone sold something like 7.7 million in the same time frame. It’s still a niche product.