May — June 2022 Commentary

The electric vehicle market has a long way to go before becoming a mainstream pillar of the transportation sector. Anyone looking to purchase an electric vehicle today may want to offset higher prices for gasoline or diesel, but the savings are often illusionary for drivers accustomed to quick fill-ups, long trips, and ready access to multiple fueling stations.
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a cartoon figure dragging a car by a charging cable just out of reach of a charging station
Illustration by James Yang

“Electric cars are not going to take the market by storm, but it’s going to be a gradual improvement”
-Carlos Ghosn, former chairman and CEO, Renault and Nissan


Automotive – Carbon Games

The electric vehicle market has a long way to go before becoming a mainstream pillar of the transportation sector. Anyone looking to purchase an electric vehicle today may want to offset higher prices for gasoline or diesel, but the savings are often illusionary for drivers accustomed to quick fill-ups, long trips, and ready access to multiple fueling stations.

In fact, even as automakers prepare to convert traditional vehicle lineups to electric propulsion, there’s been pushback. “What’s clear is that electrification is a technology chosen by politicians, not the industry,” Carlos Tavares, CEO of Stellantis, which has its North American headquarters in Auburn Hills, said during a recent media presentation.

May June 22 commentary inside the numbers: 434,000 bevs sold in US in 2021. 3 percent of 2021 vehicle sales were bevs. the average bev costs $56,000He and others have been sounding the alarm that the introduction of electric vehicles isn’t being driven by market demand. Dealers report EVs are often slow to sell among everyday consumers; instead, most buyers are wealthy individuals who share a passion for environmental sustainability. At the same time, politicians are pushing to ban internal combustion engines and replace them with so-called zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

What political leaders fail to account for, or conveniently leave out of their rosy projections of an all-electric utopia, are the human and environmental factors of mandating EVs. Consider child-labor issues of sourcing rare minerals needed for battery production, supply-chain challenges for raw materials, the environmental cost of producing batteries, and waste disposal — when the batteries reach the end of their lifespan, there are major challenges in recycling what are toxic materials, including lithium-ion, nickel-metal oxide, and nickel-cadmium.

What’s more, purchased EVs lose considerable value once they’re driven off a dealer’s lot, which is why most consumers opt to lease such vehicles. The problem is compounded by the high costs of EVs. Even though zero-emission vehicles (what comes out of the tailpipe) have 10 percent of the parts of a gas-powered vehicle, they’re much more expensive. Bloomberg reports “less than 15 percent of U.S. drivers can afford a battery-powered set of wheels.”

In Europe, where environmental sustainability is more pronounced than in the United States, “an electric car needs to drive 70,000 kilometers (43,500 miles) to compensate for the carbon footprint of manufacturing the battery alone and to start catching up with a light hybrid vehicle, which costs half as much as an EV,” Tavares recently told reporters.

Apart from sticker shock, EVs can take hours to recharge, have lower range than traditional cars and trucks, and suffer from a drop in efficiency in colder weather. In addition, there are too few charging stations across the nation, and the electric grid can be compromised if two or three EVs are charging on the same block in a subdivision — which is a safety hazard for other homes on that block.

So where does the industry go from here? When politicians thrust CAFE standards on the auto industry in the 1970s, it took a decade or more for OEMs to recover. To avoid a repeat performance — developing entirely new vehicles is tremendously expensive — the industry should push back on politicians until the technology is more affordable and fill-up times and range are comparable to gas-powered engines.


Public Safety – Earnest Vigilance

Violent crime has been rampant in multiple cities across the nation since the tragic death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, following his arrest by the Minneapolis Police Department. While most Americans were supportive of police reform to prevent such incidents, they didn’t approve of the violent crime wave that resulted from the many protests that swept through many large cities.

Detroit, which saw minimal damage to its downtown buildings following Floyd’s death, has been commended for reaching out and listening to the concerns of protestors. The police allowed the demonstrations to continue as long as the crowds remained peaceful.

The earnest, yet cordial, vigilance exercised by the Detroit Police Department should continue lest the city experience an explosion of crime similar to what has occurred in other metropolitan centers over the past two years. Consider Seattle: Following Floyd’s death, anti-police protestors took over several blocks and converted the area into an anti-police zone. After a few weeks, police moved to take back the area following an explosion of violence.

Other parts of Seattle, meanwhile, are still being impacted. In March, Amazon announced it was moving 1,800 workers out of a downtown Seattle office building due to rampant crime in the neighborhood. By allowing peaceful protests, and quickly arresting those who seek to harm people or damage property, Detroit has avoided the relocation of businesses.


Health Care – COVID-19 Reality

As some politicians argue for additional COVID-19 relief funds from Congress — $40 billion more was requested by the White House in mid-March — a look at the actual impact of the virus is illuminating. Consider nearly 80 million cases of coronavirus in the U.S. resulted in 969,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), meaning 1.2 percent of those who became ill died.

Taking it a step further, and factoring in an estimated U.S. population of 332,400,000 people, the death rate from COVID-19 was roughly 0.14 percent in each of the last two years. But the actual death rate is, in fact, lower, considering many medical professionals counted anyone who happened to have COVID-19, no matter what other fatal medical issues they were suffering from, as passing from the virus.

Rather than ask for additional funds for COVID-19 treatment at a time when the virus is impacting fewer people, politicians must base such requests on accurate numbers (or the actual “science”). That’s especially important since no other coronavirus, other than COVID-19, has counted death rates with such a broad brush, which makes it difficult to compare the current virus to past outbreaks like SARS or MERS.

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