Monday, August 29, 2022

You clean your own windshield, too

Hooman Shahidi in front of the Porsche Taycan. 

     We were somewhere around Mount Pleasant on the edge of Racine when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like...
     OK, there were no drugs, beyond caffeine in the coffee — I had to mention them to pay homage to the opening of Hunter S. Thompson’s epic road adventure, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”
     We certainly were on a road trip, to Milwaukee for lunch. In a somewhat boss ride: a 2022 Porsche Taycan electric sports car, part of a revolution taking place on America’s roads. Merrily blasting north on 94 at ... ah ... umm, yes, the customary speed. 
     Over 600,000 electric vehicles were sold last year. California just announced they are banning the sale of gasoline-powered cars after 2035, perhaps sounding the death knell for the internal combustion engine that reigned for a century.
     Yet electric vehicles all share the same drawback.
     “They’re no good if you can’t plug them in and they’re no good if you can’t find [charging stations] and they’re no good if they’re creating all these barriers to actually charge your vehicle,” said Hooman Shahidi, co-founder and president of EVPassport, riding shotgun beside me.
     The federal government will pour $5 billion into EV charging stations over the next five years, with $148 million of that slated for Illinois.
     EVPassport is one of the smaller players in the scramble to provide those stations. The California company is not yet two years old, with 1,500 chargers in 23 states and Canada.
     “We’re hoping to get 10,000 chargers 12 months from now,” said Shahidi.
     There are only about 6,000 fast-charging public EV charging stations in the U.S., according to MIT Technology Review, plus 48,000 slower charging stations. A third the number of gas stations. Since EV stations generally have no attendants, they are more susceptible to breakage and vandalism. A recent study of EV stations around San Francisco found more than a quarter out of service at any given time.
     Those that do work are not always easy to operate — that was the point of our trip. Shahidi wanted to demonstrate how bothersome his competitors are.

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  1. It seems to me that encouraging (or even demanding) that gas stations provide charging stations would be a gigantic leap into what is now a very uncertain future for electric vehicles. No doubt there is some huge immovable object in the way.


  2. We kept our previous car for 20 years, and I was kinda hoping that by the time we bought a new one, the electric revolution would have proceeded much further than it has.

    Since we live in a hundred-unit building with no chargers in the garage, an EV wouldn't have been particularly practical, anyway, but "range anxiety" was certainly another concern. When we needed to get a new car last year, the pandemic had screwed things up to the degree that we couldn't even find the hybrid we wanted in a timely fashion, so we stuck with the most current version of that old, world-destroying, internal combustion technology. Kinda embarrassed about that, actually.

    Neil, my question is, once you figured out how to operate the charging equipment, how long did it take to charge the car? How long does it take to go from pretty low to full on one of this guy's devices? Having to make extra stops because you "don't want to get really low" doesn't seem very appealing to me. Though gratuitously continuing to pollute the air and help fuel the next climate catastrophe every time we drive anywhere isn't very appealing, either, to be fair.

  3. To be clear, isn't California only banning sale of new gasoline-powered cars after 2035?

    1. Yes, I kinda skated over that. I've clarified it in the copy. Thanks.

  4. This piece highlights some of the practical problems and challenges that emerge in attempting to transition to electric power, something not always grasped by those of us who’ve long regarded electric cars as being a kind of magic bullet for helping to achieve the environmental goals that are their impetus.
    One idea that I never hear floated that would undoubtedly help to achieve those goals (if only marginally), and would not require the death knell of the internal combustion engine would be for manual transmission to become the standard again for the industry, and for automatics to be phased out. It’s known that stick shifts get better mileage, but I don’t think most people understand how much better mileage. I only have to fill my 2014 Honda Civic (stick) about once a week, whereas the 2004 Civic (automatic) that I drove before had to be filled about every four days, all for driving about the same distances. If my own little experiment is any indication, it seems that extraordinary strides could be made in reducing emissions and making tremendous progress in pursuit of ecological goals by simply replacing gas guzzling automatic transmissions with more ecologically sound manuals.
    An added bonus would be an almost certain and significant reduction in auto fatalities as people would suddenly be required to keep both hands engaged for the purpose of driving and not being able to fuck around with their phones as weapons of mass distraction.I’ve seen figures that suggest that this move could save as many as 7000 lives each year, no mean achievement.
    I’m not naive, however, and realize that the chances of a plan like this bearing fruit are about as good as a them opening a Vatican in Vegas, not least for the reason that the average dumb, lazy American is never going to bother to learn how to manipulate a clutch and gear selector. Regardless, whatever political candidate grows the balls to call for this eminently sensible plan will instantly earn my vote.

    1. Well, Mr. "Wrigley sucks!" and "Gimme that wall-to-wall carpeting," I guess you're singing a different tune when it comes to transmissions, going the old-fashioned route. ; )

      I'll just point out that, in your example, the 2004 Civic is 18 years old -- things have changed. As the below article notes: "But as modern automatics gained additional gears and relied less on a torque converter, they have overtaken manuals in terms of fuel economy." A 2022 Civic hatchback manual is rated 28 / 37 when it comes to mileage. The automatic is 30 / 38. In the real world, our automatic Accord can get up to 45 mpg on the highway if I don't speed!

      I used to have a car with a standard transmission. That was fine, but shifting in the city, with a stop sign or light every two blocks, gets old real fast. Your theory about people having to pay attention more, and that that would be a good thing is interesting. Something certainly needs to be done about distracted driving, but I'm not sure that's the best solution.

  5. One ten-gallon tank of regular gas (for five bucks, back in '76) would get my stick-shift '66 VW Beetle from Evanston to Ann Arbor, MI...33 mpg on the highway. And the Bug was fun to drive...the most enjoyable vehicle I've ever owned--until it finally got terminal body cancer from road salt. "Weapons of mass distraction" is not only a wonderful pun...that's also some great snark. The kind of snark like Mother used to make.

    1. My 2014 Civic gets about 36 mpg highway. As good as that is, it pales in comparison to the ‘93 Geo Metro that I once had that got something like 53 mpg hwy.
      You touch on another advantage to manuals: they’re just more fun to drive. True, they’re kind of tedious in traffic and other places with lots of stop and go, but otherwise, you feel more engaged in the actual function of driving, unlike the zoned out passiveness of commandeering an automatic.
      Wish I could take credit for weapons of mass distraction, but I’ve heard it somewhere before.

    2. My wife totaled the '86 Olds Cutlass Ciera that had belonged to her mother. I inherited it with just 52,000 miles on it. She bought it new. The original work order, from the GM plant in Georgia, was still under the front seat. I bought a '97 stick-shift four-seater Saturn coupe to replace it. I was 57. Maybe I just wanted to relive my youth.

      I kept that car for a decade, but it wasn't garaged. It finally rusted away and had to be junked. I did enjoy driving a manual-transmission vehicle again, but after I hit my mid-60s, that just became less and less fun, and it was a relief to own and drive a PT Cruiser.

      Don't be ashamed...all the best comics pirate their humor from one another. Bob Hope had filing cabinets full of jokes, organized by topic. Many were bought...but some...well...use your imagination.


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