“18% Of EV Drivers In California Switched Back To Gasoline Cars” – (OilPrice.com)

In a pleasant change of topic from my previous series of posts published last month, I came across an interesting statistic as reported by Irina Slav of the platform Oilprice.com. As noted in the title of this post (and the article I am giving commentary on), allegedly EV’s are not the game-changer that 18% of Californians thought they would be.  Coming from a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry, there really must be something to this news.

Right?

Let’s find out!

Close to a fifth of all EV drivers in California have switched back to gasoline cars because charging their electric cars was a hassle, according to a new study bound to send ripples across an industry that has plans for market domination.

The study from the University of California, published in Nature Energy, looked at drivers who bought EVs between 2012 and 2018 and found that 18 percent of battery electric vehicle buyers switched back to gasoline-powered cars, as did 20 percent of plug-in hybrid buyers. The main problem cited by respondents to the surveys that the authors conducted was with charging times.

Insider, in a report on the study, quoted Bloomberg’s car analyst Kevin Tinan as explaining that he had just tested a Mustang Mach-E. It had charged—in a household outlet—at a rate of just 3 miles of range per hour. This makes just 36 miles of range for overnight charging, Tinan noted.

The technicalities of EV charging rarely make the headlines, and the reason is that they are a bit inconvenient for EV proponents. If you buy an EV that you use every day, you won’t be able to do it by charging it at home. The reason is that household outlets give out some 120 volts of power, which makes for the aforementioned rate of charging.

Public charging points, in comparison, put out 240 volts, which means faster charging. Then there are Tesla’s Superchargers, which give out 480 volts. Yet even with a Supercharger, it would take an hour to “fill up” an EV batter. This compares to just a handful of minutes to fill up a gasoline-powered vehicle.

 

I am unsure if it is deliberate or not, but there is already a small bit of misinformation about available charging infrastructure (as in available to the consumer!) at this point. While it is true that most home charging of EVs likely does occur at the painfully slow 120V’s of a household outlet, 240V/208V charging can be installed for home/business/condo use. While the tier 1 or 2 single-phase charging infrastructure available to households is indeed slower at adding miles (or kilometres in the rest of the world) than 3 phase level 3 systems, 240V/208V can be installed in residential settings. There is just an extra cost for doing so.

Yes, you do have to pay an electrician to come to your home and properly wire everything into place. Though these rates may fluctuate depending on where in the US one lives, this Home Advisor article puts the total cost at around $3000 or below.

 

The national average for installing a standard electric vehicle charging station ranges between $456 and $1,072, while the median cost is $759 each. The price of the stations alone runs $400 to $2,000, depending on whether you choose a Level 1 or a Level 2. Hardwiring a Level 2 or installing a circuit for plug-in types adds another $500 to $1,500.

https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/garages/install-an-electric-vehicle-charging-station/

 

Since I am speaking of level 2 charging equipment, using the upper end of the costs as represented here brings us to around $3,500 plus taxes (unless rebates are available). Indeed, it is definitely NOT nothing. But at the same time, assuming it to be a one-time purchase that will be usable for all future vehicles (assuming you stick to EV’s AND don’t move), it’s not that great of an expense. You are shelling out $40,000 to $60,000 or more for the vehicle, after all. It’s not much to take onto the car payment itself and pay in installments. And if you can’t, then EV manufacturers should get on that!

I’m sure electricians all over North America and beyond would jump at the chance of being the official electrition of *EV BRAND HERE*. Who doesn’t like guaranteed business!

According to Edmunds.com, most consumers drive their brand new vehicles for about 6 and a half years and used vehicles for around 5 and a half years. In that time, on top of oil changes, fluid flushes, and various other maintenance (depending on the make and model), most consumers will be shelling out at least $2,000 for gasoline per year. Indeed, this number will vary for everyone, and electricity (your new ongoing cost) isn’t free. But it’s a whole lot cheaper than gasoline. And again, this is NOT including other maintenance costs of internal combustion engines.

* * *

While a paragraph such as this:

Insider, in a report on the study, quoted Bloomberg’s car analyst Kevin Tinan as explaining that he had just tested a Mustang Mach-E. It had charged—in a household outlet—at a rate of just 3 miles of range per hour. This makes just 36 miles of range for overnight charging, Tinan noted.

. . . isn’t EXACTLY misleading (no one should expect a reporter OR Ford to pay the cost of a level 2 install just for a test drive), it indeed is leaving details out.

Another area that I should also touch on is the study that is being cited. Using the abstract, we can determine the main factors for the reversal of the adoption of EVs in California.

 

We show that discontinuance is related to dissatisfaction with the convenience of charging, having other vehicles in the household that are less efficient, not having level 2 (240-volt) charging at home, having fewer household vehicles and not being male.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41560-021-00814-9?utm_medium=affiliate&utm_source=commission_junction&utm_campaign=3_nsn6445_deeplink_PID100024933&utm_content=deeplink

 

We are keenly aware of the first reason and somewhat aware of the 3ed reason. However, the other 3 reasons are somewhat surprising and borderline irrational (particularly not being male. That isn’t how I would have thought that bias would play out!).

Not being sure how one would tackle those issues, i’ll stick to the convenience factor. Though owning an EV can be made a somewhat viable experience for everyday use, at present there is always a catch. In order to gain the maximum amount of convenience out of your experience, you need to shell out for a level 2 charging station. And when it comes to the road trip scenarios (or just needing to travel long distances a lot), charging stops have to be factored in. While it’s easy for me to just say “go with the flow! Enjoy the downtime!”, this won’t cut it for some people. A factor that must be taken into consideration going forward.

Obviously, the current EV landscape is not for them as it stands. However, this would seem to be easily alleviated simply by creating some kind of battery swap or rent-a-battery program. Pop the drained one out, plop the fresh one in, and off you go for another 300 or so miles (or whatever the capacity is, minus cabin comforts). Depending on the configuration of these vehicles, I can see this as being an even faster process than waiting for a tank to fill with fuel., thereby eliminating one of the few selling points petroleum as a fuel source has left. 

We will see how the EV industry tackles this problem. I don’t see it as being the impediment that the oil industry would like it to be, however.

 

What’s more, according to the study from the University of California, two-thirds of EV drivers didn’t use public charging stations, although the reasons for this were not specified.

Such studies don’t bode well for the future of EVs.

 

Not exactly correct, but I know who is paying your salary.

When I consider the Nature study linked above, most of the problems are fairly easily remedied when factors of convenience are eliminated. 2 of them are essentially the same (other inefficient vehicles in the household, fewer household vehicles) and will eventually be solved by obsolescence. And is not a male can easily be tackled by marketing.
Hell, all of these can be easily reversed by a good marketing campaign. After all, if a good marketing campaign can sell a consumer into an irrational activity or habit, then it can certainly sell a sensible one!

The fossil fuel industry is great at this marketing trickery (“We don’t sell Oil or Coal, we sell Energy!“). Remember when BP tried to rebrand itself Beyond Petroleum, but a massive pipeline spill in Alaska (not to mention the Deepwater Horizon disaster) smashed that facade like a brick through a window?
If Big Oil can attempt to sell us on what they are not, then EV’s can sell themselves as the viable alternatives that they are.

I am nothing if not pragmatic.

 

The Biden administration—and the state of California—have superambitious plans for EV adoption, and so have all big carmakers. But studies such as the one from nature Energy suggest success may not be as certain as some would like it to be. Car dealers are already aware of that: a recent article in the Wall Street Journal noted EVs still make up a tiny minority of total car sales and cited one car dealer as saying, “The consumer in the middle of America just isn’t there yet.”

 

This is fairly true. I live on the Canadian Prairies, which are fairly comparable to many northern middle American agricultural states (Nebraska, Montana, etc). And indeed, very few people here (outside of people like me who keep their finger on the pulse of this stuff) view EV’s as anything more than a futuristic technology. And a not-insignificant number of people simply scoff at the idea of EVs entirely.

While this IS indeed the reality, it must be considered that most people are coming to these conclusions based off of outdated and/or misleading information. While there does exist a cohort that proudly proclaims that they will never go EV, most people are far more receptive once they learn what is now available.

While range limitations are in fact still a legitimate consideration for people such as farmers or anyone with a very long commute, the vast majority of the populace of most states and provinces lives much of their lives either in or near an urban center. As such, the average driving need of most people can easily fit within the limitations of many new EV offerings.

Part of the reason why so many people are still running off of misinformation lies with the car manufacturers themselves. Aside from the offerings of a handful of largely newly minted and unknown EV-only manufacturers (with Tesla and Rivian at the forefront), the automotive industry has been slow to embrace and push EVs. While the reasoning for the hesitation is understandable from the business perspective of legacy automakers (re-tooling isn’t going to come cheap, and there WILL be casualties along the way. No industry as large or complex as the modern-day auto industry can turn on a dime), even the EV-focused manufacturers have failed to sell themselves adequately.

Having just browsed the offerings from both Rivian and Tesla, it’s easy to see why many label them as more providers of a status symbol than leaders of a revolution in automotive manufacturing. When it comes to Tesla, you have the choice between  4 sedans and a god-awful monstrosity masquerading as a pick-up truck (or is it an SUV? Uh). Rivian has a truck that actually LOOKS like a truck, but alongside that . . . essentially a Hummer clone on wheels.

Some people don’t mind a sedan, and some people don’t mind an ungodly monstrosity on wheels. But left out are most average folks, driving SUVs and crossovers ranging from small, to medium to roomy. And most of all, missing is the familiarity of an already trusted model. Until the existence of this giant cohort is acknowledged, EV sales will drag.

 

Right to Repair

 

While it is tempting to draw this post to close, it occurs to me that there is another segment of the population that the EV transition risks alienating. That is backyard (and otherwise amateur) mechanics. While the transition itself will not necessarily affect them (skills can be upgraded if they so desire), the manufacturer’s stances on right to repair may have a negative effect on such individuals.

First of all, I should explain what is entailed by the term Right to Repair. Essentially, it is your right to either self repair your device, or to bring the device to a source other than the manufacturer for repairs. However, this is often made very difficult (if not impossible!) by various manufacturers by way of hardware or software blocks, warrantee clauses, and other trickery.  Though the most notorious 2 offenders sell products designed in California and manufacture green farm equipment, the trend is spreading all over the manufacturing space.

Though the above video is primarily focused on the technology industry as opposed to the automotive industry, it should be noted that Tesla is one of the companies that does all it can to prevent outside repairs and modifications (including software) to its vehicles. While this stance on software can rightfully be defended on one hand (it would be easy to cause potential instability, with Tesla taking the blame for the failure no matter why it occurred). However, given that the range of some models can be increased with a paid software update (or during emergency situations), is it wrong to want this capability out of the vehicle you purchased WITHOUT paying the thousands extra?

 

In its newly updated Model S sedan, Tesla is selling a 70kWh battery that is secretly a 75kWh battery. The company has been selling them for almost a month, and is just now telling the world about it. Even better? If you bought one of those 70kWh Model S sedans, you can pay $3,250 to “unlock” the extra juice. Bizarre? Absolutely. But maybe brilliant, too.

There’s a long history of “upgrading” cars to give them more horsepower or better cosmetics. It’s just that most of those upgrades are usually done by adding physical bits to the car — a new turbocharger or better tires or an exhaust system. The idea of upgrading a car with software via an over-the-air update is something totally new, especially when the hardware is already in place. There is one physical upgrade made to the car, though: Tesla says it will swap the 70 badge on the back of an upgraded Model S for a 75 badge the next time it comes into a service center.

https://www.theverge.com/2016/5/5/11597508/tesla-model-s-70-battery-upgrade-pay-unlock-battery

 

As you can see, this is old news (pre-Trump. VERY old news lol). Nonetheless, it is interesting how Tesla selling the EV equivalent of a preinstalled expandable gas tank that is about a quarter less volume than a typical tank is considered Brilliant. I get that people love Elon, but bloody hell . . . If any of the big 3 tried this crap, Elizabeth Warren would have their CEO’s in front of congress.

Either way, I’ve strayed from right to repair. So back we go.

As outspoken advocates have known for years, it is hard to put Right To Repair on people’s radar. While various media platforms and individuals like Louis Rossman (you may remember him from my post outlining the GME/AMC amusement of 3 months back) try their best, it can be hard to make people care. Having grown up in this throw-away era, and having little interest in fixing my own stuff (despite purchasing some equipment for the purpose at one point!), I get it.

Having recently shattered the camera lens on my nearly brand new Motorola Razr flip phone (yes, this is a thing), I also see what people like Rossman are trying to do for consumers. Such a form of damage would void the warranty of the device (unless my research is incorrect). However, given that it is so new, I am not even sure if repair shops (be it Rossman, or any independents located in my city) would even have the part yet. Fortunately, the camera still can see through the damage, so I didn’t lose any functionality. Given that I am carrying around a device with several loosely held shards of razor shard glass, however, I hope someone can do something about it.

I’m reminded of the first-gen Blackberry Curve I had years ago which I had to repair with tape. The plastic cover over the sunken screen somehow got cracked, so I quite literally ended up with a Crackberry.
Good ole Blackberries . . . most of the males around me that bought them back in the day ended up with moto razer’s within around 6 months. As it turns out, 18 to 20-year-old males are hard on devices initially designed for the business cautious.

How things change.

Getting back to Right to Repair and the EV transition, however, we have to focus on a group that I would normally be tempted to write off. A group that I referred to earlier in fact. The cohort of the driving public that insists they will never operate anything but a good ole internal combustion engine.

Though some people are this way because of preference, there is another reason to adopt this attitude. The older the ICE vehicle model and engine they have, the easier they are to fix. While the sentiment is common amongst car enthusiasts,  mechanics or otherwise people that don’t like wasting money, you can also find this sentiment on farms all over North America.

Not only do older vehicles, combines and other farm equipments tend to be easier to work on than more complex newer models, they are also unencumbered by the industry’s recent trend towards monopolizing repair of said machinery. Though I have to thank Louis Roosman for bringing this to my attention, it’s something I have heard about anecdotally from working with people connected to the agricultural industry. A really unfortunate thing since most farmers don’t have the time to screw around with going to a dealer and waiting on repairs in the middle of the working season. Time is money, and no farmer can afford downtime.

Given the way that agricultural equipment manufacturers are behaving, it isn’t hard to see why many would prize their older but still functional equipment over new, expensive, and more technological (and also, impossible to repair on the fly) equipment. The elimination of the internal combustion engine may well take away the last machine that they can legally work on without ramification.

Though one of the selling points of EVs is their overall lack of moving parts (and as such, the ease in repairing them), the bad ethics demonstrated by arguably the industry’s leader in terms of the right to repair is not a great precedent to be setting.

While right to repair isn’t on most of our agendas (nor is the EV transition, really), it really should be. Because this is not just a problem of farmers, out of towners and otherwise people most of us don’t consider in our day to day consumer activities. It is a problem for all of us, because pricy repairs WILL eventually affect all of us, and planned or forced obsolescence WILL affect all of us. And to think big picture, planned and forced obsolescence is terrible for the environment. Though many components of technology can be reclaimed and technically recycled into new products, the process is hardly clean. Most residents of western nations tend to not see that part of the electronic life cycle since so much e-waste tends to get dumped in 3ed world nations. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is.

The Growing Crisis of E-Waste in Developing Countries

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/donated-clothing-where-it-ends-up-1.4662023

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/17/recycled-plastic-america-global-crisis

Obsolescence is not just unnecessarily expensive and resource-intensive, it has effects on local economies and ecologies long after the item leaves your local blue bin, donation box, or e-waste collection facility. While no one can guarantee that the used lithium-ion batteries of this most recent crop of EVs won’t meet a similar fate, all one can do is pay attention. Don’t let out of sight mean out of mind.

Like any of the other resource depletion topics outlined above, right to repair ain’t sexy. But neither is infrastructure, on which the entirety of a functioning society is built. If we allow our infrastructure to fall into disrepair, then we all suffer the consequences. The same goes for unethical repair behaviours by manufacturers.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.