Sat, Jul

Private Sector Shuns Electric Cars, Government Remains Committed: And My Personal EV Rental Tale


ELECTRIC VEHICLES - I thought it would be perfect to clock in the 2024 new year with an update on the sweeping electric vehicle mandates originally set for hard mandates by 2030, but now pushed back to 2035.  Everywhere we go, low-productivity (mostly government) entities have been bragging about their supposed progress towards “zero emissions”. I see it as mostly distracting from the lack of actual productivity on things that matter.  

A great example was a long meandering speech at the State of the Port Long Beach last week, where the CEO dedicated the bulk of his speech to thanking those who he owed political favors to. Actual achievements? Paper thin to none, if you decide to count reopening Pier A after pandemic as some sort of huge achievement.  Also, no mention of the port delays, lack of efficiency or how their neighbor Port of Los Angeles is getting more volume than Long Beach. But please keep patting yourself on the back, Mario.  

We start 2024, 11 years before the magic phase out of all gas operated vehicles and this mandate looks even more ridiculous than it did a year ago.  

But let’s get down to the micro level, shall we? Why is the EV market doomed to fail? The #1 car manufacturer, Toyota, decided to not even play in the market. I bet their market research indicated what many previous EV owners experienced, on the ground.  

I will share my own personal experience with a recent 2-day EV rental from Hertz to take a trip from the Victorville area to Calexico, right by the border. If I were to have taken a gas vehicle or even my Prius, it would have been a very simple 380-mile round trip.  I may not even have needed to fill up my gas tank and did the whole trip on one tank of gas. At worst I would have filled my gas tank once, costing the same amount of money, I paid in electric charges, with 5 minutes at the most at a gas station.  

Instead, I had to stop at least 5 times, wait for a combined 3 or 4 wasted hours and had to deal with constantly trying to find EV charging stations, driving around to these random locations, while constantly worried I would run out of power and being stranded.  

There are simply not enough charging stations, where it matters. Unless you are going a predictable path, less popular destinations can leave you with few options to charge.  

While there are certain stations, mostly government subsidized and/or Tesla, filled with a sea of empty charging stations, these lie in predictable paths such as along major freeways. Going to Calexico for me involved going down less-traveled and less population-dense areas, leaving miles and miles of geography with zero charging station options. Thankfully I did some math and didn’t need to access a charging station at the Salton Sea for example.  

This sparseness mostly reflects a simple lack of demand. Not only are people not buying EVs, current owners have traded in or sold their EVs, after dealing with the frustrating realities. So naturally, there is no widespread availability despite government’s constant pushing of this agenda.  Instead we have these wastelands of Tesla charging stations with few customers. Again, government shouldn’t get involved in assessing what the market wants. They are usually tone deaf.  

Too many stations are slow charging, requiring 8 hours until your car is charged fully.  

The dirty secret is that most EV charging stations are actually slow charging ones.  For example, hotels such as the Best Western, have a bunch of charging stations (again, mostly empty) and they take 8 hours to get your car’s charge to full. Makes sense if you’re staying overnight at the hotel but if you’re in a hurry, 15 minutes or even an hour of charging will yield you an extra 30 miles on your “tank”?

Fast charging stations at certain gas stations or malls only have one or two spots.  

When I picked up my rental car, there was barely any charge left so I had the added annoyance of having to devote an evening to getting it charged before my trip. The first few charging stations I went to required a membership which I didn’t feel like subscribing to so I drove to Victor Valley Mall where there were 3 charging spots in a sketchy part of the mall behind the old JC Penny. Maybe I’m paranoid but the thought of getting mugged crossed my mind a few times.  

There were 2 others charging so I picked up the last spot, wondering if things were different and someone else was in the third spot, would I have to wait 45 minutes on top of the 45 minutes I was already going to devote to charging this thing.  

Thankfully this one took credit cards. I plugged it in and went to have dinner. When I came back from dinner, the charging stopped midway. So you can’t even rely on it to do its job while you step away. Do I have to babysit my car during 45 minute charge sessions to ensure this doesn’t happen again? Apparently so.  

There is no transparency around payment, while certain apps require you to give out sensitive info like it’s nothing.  

Some EV charging companies require you to download their app and put in your credit card info which they keep indefinitely. Yet they can’t give you the courtesy of a receipt after your charge session. And sometimes, rates aren’t even posted and visible. What kind of lack of accountability is this? Its actually unprecedented. I don’t know the charges until I receive my credit card statement? There is something very wrong about this.  

In addition, there are so many different apps and companies, all with a different app and  process. So you expect me, as a consumer, to clutter my phone with 5 different apps just to be able to access stations? Plus all my info out there on these multiple apps with no reassurance on my privacy concerns? No thanks.  

The worst annoyance is a constant worry you will run out of power, so you’re constantly budgeting your miles but yet “miles left” is inaccurate and usually underestimates.  

There was nothing more unreliable on the trip than the Chevy Bolt’s estimation of how many miles I had left in my “tank”. For example, coming back from Calexico to Victorville required scaling 3 to 4 thousand feet in elevation. The “miles left” number dramatically dropped and while it estimated I had about 200 miles on the start of my trip indicating I could get back home without having to recharge, the reality is I ran out of charge by the time I got to Palm Springs.  

This was despite the fact that it was in ideal weather conditions and I did not need to use the AC or heater. The one time I tested the heater, the “miles left” dropped like a rock, meaning prolonged usage of temperature control would eat up your mileage.  

So going up hills and using the heater is an energy drain. How do they expect big freight trucks with cargo to scale the Cajon pass or the Grapevine? Especially during winter, a burning hot summer or in less than ideal weather conditions? 

A 92 mph limit on how fast your EV can go seems like a safety feature but in reality, it is the opposite: a nonsensical and unnecessary, maybe dangerous, arbitrary control mechanism.  

To put an upper limit on how fast the car can go seems like a dangerous feature. What if you needed that extra push to get away from a crazy driver on the road stalking you? This is just too much micromanagement from the manufacturer and as we saw with self driving cars, automation could be fatal.  

And therein lies the problem.  Are we ok with the EV experience to put us in a limited and predictable box? To only drive on mainstream travelled paths and constrict our travel options? Will road trips or exploring the great outdoors be a thing of the past? 

How about all the wasted man hours charging or worrying about losing power and becoming stranded? Have we become a society that doesn’t value our time anymore? I certainly don’t have hours to burn sitting around waiting for a charge or putting myself at risk sitting in my car, potential stranded and without power.  

Let’s not forget the actual carbon footprint of making these EVs. Worse for the environment than gas. But this is often not talked about as those who push EVs want to just ignore this basic but important fact. If you truly care about the environment and climate change, shouldn’t the elephant in the room be acknowledged? 

Obviously the average consumer agrees with me and the private sector is rejecting all-electric vehicles big time. Governments, however, will continue to try to make “fetch” happen. Look up the “Mean Girls” movie if you don’t get that reference.  

(Marc Ang ([email protected]) is a community organizer in Southern California and the founder of Asian Industry B2B. He has written many pieces on pop culture and it’s context in the world and politics with a different “minority” angle. Marc’s book “Minority Retort” was released on November 9, 2022 through Trinity Broadcasting Network available on Amazon, Target, Barnes & Noble and many more outlets.)