Electric Cars at the Crossroads

Have you ever heard the story about Robert Johnson at the crossroads?

Johnson was a blues man, back in the ‘20s. The story goes he acquired his skill as a blues man by signing a contract with Legba, a term now out of currency for you-know-who.

The Devil, in case you don’t.

Johnson sold his soul to play the blues.

What does this have to do with cars?

Another interesting crossroads approaches.

Electric cars are mostly sold on their speed — since it’s hard to sell them on their cost or their practicality, which is much too high (and much too low) respectively. Elon Musk, for example, is very boastful about the ludicrous speed of his electric cars.

And they are.

The Model S sedan is one of the quickest cars ever made — even vs. race cars. It can get to 60 in less than 3 seconds, which is ludicrous speed.

The thing is a rocket.

Briefly, but still.

Ludicrous speed is something worth spending money on regardless of practicality or efficiency. People have done so for years. Porsche’s entire business was built on the concept.

But what happens to EVs if that one advantage goes away?

What if a Tesla can’t go any faster than a Corolla — but is unable to go as far as one? And takes at least 5-6 times as long (a minimum of 30-45 minutes) to get going again?

And costs at least twice as much — but only lasts half as long?

An EV’s battery life determines the EV’s useful life. Once the battery needs to be replaced, it’s time to recycle the car because of the cost of the battery vs. the worth of the car; this happens after about eight years. Actually, sooner because before batteries croak entirely, they lose efficiency partially. Which means whatever the range of the car was when it was new it is less now.

Which means you spend even more time recharging. Eventually and inevitably, the EV can’t be recharged at all. It becomes functionally and economically kaput.

An IC-powered car has a useful life of 15-20 years. Its range never declines during this time, and it always takes the same time (not more time) to refuel.

Other than speed, what reason is there to buy an EV?

There’s the “green” aspect, of course. But most of this is just posturing by affluent virtue signalers who wouldn’t be caught dead in something slow and unglamorous. Elon understands this.

Most people who spend substantially more for a car expect substantially more.

Of something other than what they paid.

Of something other than impracticality.

A slow EV, or at least, one that’s no faster than any other car is a car that is going to be a hard sell.

Well, EVs are about to have that problem, Houston if the speed limiting tech that has already been mandated for cars sold in Europe comes here.

Which it will, almost inevitably because it’s already on its way.

Speed Limit Assist, as it is styled (more here) will become de facto standard in cars sold here, even if it’s not formally mandated.

Because it’s been mandated in Europe.

For the same reason, Daytime Running Lamps are de facto standard equipment on most new cars.

It is less trouble to manufacture cars one way rather than two ways. If Audi and VW and Porsche and BMW and Mercedes and Fiat and Land Rover and Jaguar and Mini are required by EU law to install speed limit “assist” their cars because they are European brands and so subject to European laws, they are going to subject us to the same.

They will do so on the making-of-lemonade-from-lemons principle.

The speed limiting “assist” will be marketed as a safety feature, of a piece with things like Lane Keep “assist” and automated brake “assist” and other “assists,” which you may have noticed are very quickly becoming de facto unavoidable in new cars, here and everywhere else.

Bear in mind the power (Darth Vader voice) of the Safety Cut — and the supine poltroonery of the car industry. How it eagerly presents its belly at the first sign of complaint or criticism on any matter claimed to be related to safety.

It is a dogma of our times that “speeding” — and “aggressive” acceleration — are the apotheosis of unsafe.

Do you suppose, given the tech that is now available to prevent it, that any manufacturer of cars will be able to continue selling cars that lack the tech?

For the children, of course.

And because it will save at least one life.

This, when it comes to pass, will be the ruin of all cars as other than Transportation Modules and become the end of driving. At least, it will be the end of any point to it.

And it will be fatal to electric cars, which will become nothing more than very expensive and very impractical cars.

But it will be just desserts for Elon, et al., who rent-seeked the EV into the monstrosity it has become, as opposed to what it might have been.

Government mandates and government (taxpayer) money perverted the idea of developing EVs as more economical, more practical alternatives to conventional cars into a grotesque burlesque of the virtue-signaling rich mulcting the not-rich to finance glamour and glitz and ludicrous speed.

Somewhere, Legba is smiling.



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3 Responses to “Electric Cars at the Crossroads”

  1. David Holzman says:

    I would be very surprised if Europe’s speed limiters come to America any time soon. I find it hard to imagine most Americans tolerating Uncle Sam putting his foot on their brakes.

    And I can tell you that–living in a neighborhood with 60 houses–many of which are worth more than $1 million–that among the 15+ or so EVs in the neighborhood, there is a Volt and a Bolt, and probably several others of similar ilk, along with the eight or nine Tesla Model 3s and a Tesla Model S. And I suspect that these people would have EVs even if they came with speed limiters.

    Of course, this IS Massachusetts.

    And so I suspect that if there were speed limiters on EVs, and if Teslas didn’t exist, maybe a third of the Tesla owners would have a more mundane EV. And I do have a couple of friends who have mundane EVs who probably couldn’t afford Teslas. The latter friends are people who feel strongly about doing whatever they can to reduce greenhouse emissions. One, in California, has solarized his house.

    But at least twice, recently, I’ve advised friends car shopping not to get EVs if they ever plan to drive their new cars on road trips. One told me she asked several other friends who advised the same thing.

  2. Brian says:

    You guys don’t like EVs then? As the owner of multiple Tesla. ..plus my Dad got a Model 3, and my friend who built a ’67 Mustang has two Model 3, and another friend just got a base $35,400 Model 3 Standard Range, and yes, even that car kicks @ss. Oh, and my friend who got me interested in electric vehicles back in 2011 when he got a Nissan LEAF and I (unknowingly) asked him why he didn’t get a Prius.

    Not sure what the point of the article is. To discuss The Devil, to trash Tesla and/or Elon with FUD about the longevity and recycling EVs and batteries, or speed limit controls.

    In any case, as someone who’s done durability testing for multiple auto manufacturers and frankly, as someone who’s always considered themself as a driver, you guys who haven’t tested or actually driven a Tesla don’t know what you’re missing. And sure you can claim it’s virtue signaling or any other silly term you want to come up with but hey, at least I’m travelling now well over 100,000 miles without buying gas, and that’s just in the past four years.

  3. John Carr says:

    I know somebody who is a perfect candidate for an EV. 15 mile commute each way, half of it slow and urban. Could use the low end torque to merge into 65 mph traffic from a stop sign. But she already has an old Prius. It doesn’t make sense to spend $20,000 to upgrade.

    If the computer limited her to the speed limit an EV would be right out. That merge into 65 mph traffic happens in a 45 mph speed zone.