April 02, 2022

Toward the back of this month’s AAA magazine was an article called “Power Trip”, where Eric Noble reviewed some of the history of the current (no pun intended) EV craze.  While EVs are in the news, they are hardly new.  Ferdinand Porsche worked on an electric automobile in 1898 and steam, electric, and gas-powered vehicles all shared the road in the early 1900’s.  Gasoline cars took over by the late 1920’s because they were quick to refuel and had longer driving ranges, and the EVs dropped from production.  Improvements in battery technology has revived interest in EVs.  There are 29 EV models for 2022 and nearly 100 set to debut by 2025.  These range from the inexpensive (tiny) two seaters all the way to muscle cars and powerful pickup trucks.

When I looked online, I found electric cars, or electric vehicles (EVs), are fully electric and rely on batteries for their power.  There are plug-in hybrids that act like EVs but can also operate like gas-electric hybrids when the charge is depleted.  Automakers often speak of “electrifying” their lineups, but that can mean almost anything.  The EV designation typically means fully or “pure” electric in most references.  Technically, electric motors are more efficient than gasoline or diesel engines and can provide cheaper operation per mile, but it depends on the cost of gasoline (or diesel) and electricity where you live, and EVs tend to cost more up front.  EVs are becoming the technology of choice for eco-friendly car buyers because they have no localized emissions tied to their operation.  They can be powered with clean, renewable energy, and even when charged with power from nonrenewable sources they release less carbon per mile when compared to similar non-EVs.  While fast public chargers are becoming more available (often quite expensive), owners need to have a plan to stay charged.

Several weeks ago, I was in conversation with a fellow Jeep owner, and he mentioned he was considering purchasing of one of the new e series vehicles.  I had never considered an off-road vehicle as EVs because of the range.  When I take extended off-road trips, I am forced to bring extra cans of gas and even then, have had to make trips into town to fill them up.  It would be some feat to find a charger station in the desert or canyonlands.  I was intrigued and checked for prices.  The base price models ran about $20,000 more for a new e series.  Equipped to enhance the off-road capability the grand Wagoneer topped out around $100,000.  I have always said the difference between a standard vehicle and four-wheel drive was you just get stuck in more inaccessible places.  I cannot image leaving $100,000 sitting in a wash at the bottom of a canyon.

THOUGHTS:  Cold is the EVs Achilles’ heel regardless of make or model.  Range plummets as the battery pack cools and is further sacrificed to heat the cabin.  According to AAA, EVs can lose more than 40% of their range at 20F compared with 75F.  Using heated steering wheel, seats, and preheating the cabin while the car is still plugged in helps, but the effect of cold must be factored when determining how much range you need before purchasing.  You will not be able to hitch to the nearest gas station for a refill.  Of the nearly 290 million vehicles on the road in the US, only 2% are EVs.  Noble closed his review saying, “For people with ample budgets, home garages, low electricity rates, and perhaps a daily commute with a carpool lane, an electric vehicle can be a good choice.”  For the planet, it is a good choice regardless.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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