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This Has to be The Stupidest Article I’ve Ever Read on Electric Vehicles

ev cartoon
Cartoon by Adam Raeside

Ryan Cornell, a writer for Slate, and an enthusiastic electric car owner, recently wrote an article extolling the virtues of owning an EV:

Electric vehicles save a significant amount of time in daily driving; one second to plug in at home is significantly faster than spending 10 minutes to stop and fill up with gasoline. It’s possible that long road trips can take more time in an EV, but the difference disappears quickly if you are driving with kids or like to partake in such extravagances as eating or going to the bathroom. What rarely gets discussed is the significant advantage that EVs have on short road trips.

When we hear “road trip” we think about long days of driving and multiple stops to fill up with gas. In reality, 78 percent of road trips are 50 to 249 miles one way. If you hop in a gasoline-powered car and drive 150 miles one way, it is likely that you will still need to stop for gas on the way home. But most new electric vehicles thrive at this distance, and as long as you can charge at your destination, you won’t have to stop at all. I am not speaking about this in a hypothetical sense. I am speaking from experience.

Our family has made the 140-mile trek from Scottsdale to Oro Valley, Arizona, countless times over the past 15 years. For most of those years we drove in a gas car, and we stopped at a gas station on every single one of those trips. Now, you might be thinking: Didn’t your car have more than 280 miles of range? Of course. But it was unlikely that we started with close to a full tank of gas, which means that our range was always less than the maximum.

The process is much simpler in our electric vehicle: We start the trip with a full battery. Plug in when we get there. Spend the day or night. Then drive home. No unnecessary stops along the way. No wasted time.

Cornell says it takes one second to charge an EV at home and ten minutes to fuel a gas-powered vehicle. Really? Does it really take six-hundred times longer to gas up your vehicle? Of course not. You have to pull your EV into the driveway and into your garage. Then you have to get out of your car, open the charging port, and plug it in. You then must repeat this process when you leave the next day.

We drive a 2020 Ford Edge, which cost us almost $40,000. A similar EV would cost $60,000.

CNBC reports:

The average transaction price for an electric vehicle (EV) is $56,437, according to Kelley Blue Book — roughly $10,000 higher than the overall industry average of $46,329 that includes gas and EVs. In terms of pricing, an EV is equivalent to an entry-level luxury car. 

To save time charging EVs and extend battery life, many drivers also install what’s known as “Level 2” chargers in their home, for a total cost of around $2,000, including installation. With a Level 2 charger, it will take less than eight hours to charge your vehicle, according to JD Power.

Most EVs come with a Level 1 charging cable that can be plugged into a common 120-volt household electric outlet, but it can take up to 40 hours to fully charge your vehicle. It’s cheaper, but less convenient.

We fill our SUV, which gets twenty-seven miles per gallon, once a week. It takes all of five minutes to fill up our car. I suspect there is very little difference time-wise between charging an EV and filling our SUV. Besides, we saved $20,000 buying our environmentalist-offending vehicle. If it takes a minute or two longer to fuel, that’s okay.

The most absurd part of Cornell’s article is his assertion that EVs can go farther between fill-ups than gas-powered vehicles. Really? Cornell extols the virtues of how far an EV can go on a charge. He neglects to tell readers that travel distance before charging is affected by the number and weight of the passengers, terrain, and ambient outdoor temperature. I have read real-world reports that suggest that cold weather substantially affects battery capacity in EVs.

My SUV can go 410 miles between fill-ups. So we can easily take Cornell’s 300-mile trip without refueling. Cornell skews his numbers by suggesting you start the trip with your EV fully charged, but if you drive a gas-powered vehicle you likely don’t fill your car up before you leave on your trip. Really? As a family who takes dozens of road trips every year, we ALWAYS fill up before embarking on our journey. I suspect most drivers do the same. Cornell should have compared apples to apples. I easily dispatched his argument about charging vs. gas station time difference. The same goes for his trip scenario. A fully fueled automobile can make a 300 miles trip without refueling. A fully charged EV will require one 8-12 hour recharge before making the trip home. This is not an insignificant difference.

I am not anti-EV. In fact, once the price of EVs is comparable to gas vehicles and battery capacity is improved, we will buy one. What irritates the hell out of me is when reporters play loose with facts to advance their agenda or to justify their own economic choices.

And as far as the point of Cornell’s article: should we allow guests we are entertaining to charge their vehicles at our home? I say sure, as long as Cornell keeps a 100-gallon fuel tank on his property so I can gas up my car when I stop over to play cards and drink a few beers. Absurd? Yes, and so is trying to suggest that it is the “polite” thing to do to allow guests to charge their vehicles at your home, with you paying for the privilege.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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10 Comments

  1. Avatar
    BJW

    Obviously, Cornell is writing from an affluent angle, not stopping to think about what people who aren’t privileged might be able to afford. We aren’t going to lose much of our retirement savings by buying an EV that is “only” $60,000. Heck, the last new car my husband and I bought was…1987, I believe. I would welcome having an EV if they were reasonable.

  2. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    The value of electric vehicles, to society, is realized when the cost/benefit analysis says that the electricity can be produced with less environmental impact than the gas/diesel required for conventional vehicles. Are we there? Yes, no, maybe.

    The cost/benefit analysis for any given vehicle owner must take into account what kind of travel they do, how much weight they carry on those trips, what are options for charging along the way and at the ends of the trip, what kind of environments they’re driving in, and so on. EVs are good choices for lots of people. They aren’t for everyone. And so rah, rah, cheerleading articles like this irritate the heck out of me.

    I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where EVs are very popular. More and more charging stations are going in, but the idea that you can just do your 50, 60, 70-mile one-way commute and blithely expect to find a charging station somewhere near your workplace that a couple dozen other drivers aren’t also vying for, is still a dream for many. (Yes, people do commutes like that here, since housing prices are astronomical for both buying and renting.) And yet, for the folks who live closer in, their EVs make absolute cost/benefit sense.

    My Subaru sits high enough that even with knees that work grudgingly, I can get in and out of it easily. I would like better in-town fuel economy. But I also drive mountain roads, sometimes in inclement weather, even inclement weather that the Weather Service didn’t see coming. Those mountain roads have fuel stations far between, and charging stations much more far between. I plan my fuel stops with lots of leeway for unexpected situations. At the end of a drive into the mountains, I can navigate a few inches of snow on an unimproved quarter-mile of driveway, or mud during the spring runoff. These things are important to ME, given MY situation. It says NOTHING about anyone else’s needs and situation.

    But the folks who drive Priuses, Teslas, and other EVs in my town? More power to ’em. Now, if we can just get more of that power coming mindfully from non-fossil-fuel sources, without putting all our collective money in Big Solar or Big Wind, or at least manage those industries so they don’t trash the environment…

    Sorry I’m cynical, but California has long had a regulatory agency (Public Utilities Commission) with the spine of a common earthworm.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      We have to drive for everything. Maybe when we both retire, an EV might be more feasible. I’m an environmentalist (hypocritical, at times). That said, I hate it when people manipulate data or lie to validate their point of view.

      EVs are the horseless carriages of the 1920s. We have a long way to go before there is widespread EV adoption. I’ll be pushing up daisies, by then. 😢😢😝😝

  3. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Articles like that one reinforce an idea that many people have: Environmental consciousness is a great idea, for those who can afford it.

    That said, I am in favor of electric vehicles. But there needs to be more development before they’re practical and affordable for most people.

  4. Avatar
    Lacy

    This article is silly. As previously mentioned, I think we are a long way from an EV being widely accepted form of transportation. I can see it’s usefulness in a city setting, provided more charging stations were accessable, but if it takes 8-10 hours to fully charge? Who’s got that kind of time? We just aren’t there yet.
    There is no accounting for those of us who live in rural areas. Texas is a big, vast state, especially going west. There is no way an EV would make it from my home to say, El Paso without being stuck on the side of I10, waiting for a tow to the nearest charging station, hundreds of miles away. It would cost a fortune to tow it back to somewhere to charge.

    I have a horse. I have to haul hay, big heavy bags of feed and the like. It’s just not feaseable. We just aren’t there yet, with the technology and usefulness. I hope we are one day-but it’s just too early at this juncture.

    • Avatar
      thatotherjean

      And in Texas, you have the additional problem, besides long distances, of a fragile electrical grid that can’t really handle prolonged extreme temperatures. How could it effectively charge thousands of EVs in hundred-degree temperatures in summer, or in below-freezing winters, when it’s stressed to capacity now?

      • Avatar
        Chikirin

        I was just about to say this. Every year in the U.S. we have blizzards, hurricanes, floods, tornados, and people might be without power for weeks. If you have an EV you’d need a second gas powered vehicle as a back up, or a horse.

        I don’t buy that oil is the devil, it smacks of the way marijuana was demonized in the 1920s. With legal weed people don’t have to rely on pharma as much. In business you have to smear and demonize your competition.

  5. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    We need a heck of a lot more infrastructure to support electric vehicles. Here in the Northeast, we are starting to see charging stations, but they are few and far between. The cost of these vehicles is one thing – I am not at a point where I want to spend so much more on an EV. And I wouldn’t feel confident driving it outside the Northeast.

    I also despise skewed evidence and data in articles.

  6. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    I am fully in support of EV development and am somewhat positive about its survival in an industry that has successfully crushed competition and development in electric vehicles for a long time…. just no interest, too expensive, secret polluters! Competition in transport is always good. EV’s are subsidized in Canada but still too expensive. Nevertheless, things get better every year and I hope that my next four-wheeler will be fully electric. Do your own research: Throw off the blinders of billboards and bullshit advertising and support innovation! Don’t be like the corner church still longing for 50, 70, 100 years ago!

  7. Avatar
    Christopher Peterson

    While yes, an at-home charger won’t literally charge an EV in 1 second, he seems to be talking about the effort involved. Plug it in when you get home, then unplug it in the morning when you’re going to leave, and it’s good to go. You don’t have to go to a separate location to fill your car up for day to day driving.

    In regards to charging on a road trip – newer EVs are able to charge incredibly quickly, at up to 350 kW/hr with DC Fast Charging. Examples include the Kia EV6 and the Hyundai ioniq5. This can get them from 10 to 80% in roughly 10 minutes. The Technology Connections YouTube channel recently did a video on it (I highly recommend watching if you have the time): https://youtu.be/sZOuz_laH9I

    Regarding prices….yeah, that’s still a big problem.

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Bruce Gerencser