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Hagerty Employee

Avoidable Contact #132: A gym that collapsed on 9/12, and how to get decent people interested in electric cars

Strictly speaking, my dreams of designing and building the world's greatest computers for retail sale were crushed, not on September 11th of 2001, but on the day afterwards. And they were crushed not by a terror attack but rather by a dozen exercise bicycles falling from a great height.

Spot on regarding Apple. What you missed is that their bespoke O/S is done well. Turns out people willingly pay a premium for something that works well and is chic to boot. And no, I don't own anything Apple.

What boggles my mind is the valuations of companies like Tesla, Lucid, and Rivian. Two of the three don't even really have product on the market yet and the third sells a fraction of the volume of any main stream auto manufacturer. Technological prowess, marketing, and chic is part of it, but a bigger part is herd mentality. Most people want their work done for them and are most comfortable following trends dictated by a few influencers.

I would say their OS gets worse every year; I've been using Apples since 1981 so I was very heartened by the arrival of a Mach kernel/*nix-like OS X when it happened, but they seem intent on taking functionality out lately.
Advanced Driver

Nephew uses latest greatest apple and samsung phones.After fiddling around with my Motorola came to an epiphany....I pay waaay too much for phones.
Intermediate Driver

I like old cars. My latest acquisition is 57 years old. Citroen 2cv. Arguably one of the simplest, most fixable cars ever made. I've installed new engine mounts, rebuilt the shifter mechanism, gone through the carburetor, changed out the plugs and wires, replaced the rag top, and I have a new old stock speedo to install next. All fun simple stuff done with a minimum of tools. This car is a real head turner, fun to drive downtown. By mistake I ended up in the local parade last summer down main street. Got lots of cheers and waving. Great car.
My daily driver is a Volt. As a race car mechanic in my younger days, I am amazed to say I never even opened the hood before I bought it, and then not even till the windshield washer fluid ran out a couple months later did I realize I hadn't done so. When I did open it, I didn't recognize much of anything under there anyway. I suppose I do what I need to do, and leave the rest to sort itself out.
There are guys out there who do really cool hotrodding of EV's. Tesla drive units (motor and axles) apparently make great drop ins, if you can figure out the electronics. I think if a guy takes the time to look around and see what's available and what other guys are doing, try to get past the notion that EV's are evil, there's hope out there. My problem is I don't understand electronics, or even advanced electrics. Watts, volts and amps, I just never got it. But plenty of guys do.
So I just drive my EV the 30 miles of range I get before the gas powered generator kicks in, and then plug in at home. Definitely the cheapest car to drive I have ever owned.
Economics and convenience are what's driving the shift to EV's. Indeed, nothing else COULD drive people to do so. My brother, a musician, not a car guy, happily saves a ton of money driving his Tesla around the Bay Area without a thought about range anxiety or the high price of gas. He could care less about opening the hood. There are a lot of people like him out there.
I think when the electric Ford 150 and the Silverado come out, we will see some very interesting personal transitions in the ICE/EV debates. Ford and GM definitely know where the heart of the US market is, and they are plunging the knife deep with these two incredibly capable big trucks. Ford had to quadruple its production target, from 40,000 units annually to 150,000 units with the Lightning already, and it's not even in production yet. So there's that.
We live in interesting times, guys. Whining doesn't change anything, and it's not a good look.

"these two incredibly capable big trucks."

Incredibly capable of *what*? I keep hearing about "400 miles and 10k tow". I think that's best stated as "400 miles OR 10k tow".

I think they'll be incredibly capable of going to the mall, anyway.

As cheap as your Volt is to run, a 1981 Tercel would be cheaper. By a factor of fifty percent or more. And while I like the Volt, and wouldn't mind having one, the market sure hated it.
Intermediate Driver

1981 Tercel? Lovely car. Not a ton of amenities, but doubtless a runner. My Volt costs something like 4 cents per mile to charge the battery at home overnight. Plus tires and windshield wipers. Oh, and one oil change in 80k miles. So let's see, say the Tercel gets 42 mpg (36 town/48 hwy) at $3.50/gallon. That's $3.5/42 miles = 8.3 cents per mile. + oil changes every 5k miles. Costs twice as much to run, not half as much. Off by a factor of four.
So the Lightning and Silverado capabilities I refer to are interesting to many, though to some just fluff, I am sure. They each have multiple 110v and 220v AC outlets capable of powering whatever you want to plug in, charge your electric ATV, or even charge your EV. I'm not sure about the Silverado, but the Lightning is capable of powering your home in a power outage. Maybe some truck buyers in Texas would find that of interest. Both have gigantic lockable, watertight Frunks, or front trunks, which a person can easily climb into with room to spare. So, yeah, lots of new and interesting capabilities which do not currently exist with ICE trucks. I am not asking you to like these trucks. Perhaps you prefer the Tercel. Stick shift, I'm sure.
Advanced Driver

you may have missed listing your cost of ownership. What did the Volt cost to buy .. and how are you amortizing it into the cost per mile driven. The '81 Tercel is probably a $2000 used Toyota with 140k mi. already on it, so amortization of the cost of ownership is likely pretty low. Just sayin'
Intermediate Driver

Not sure why we are comparing an '81 Tercel with a 2015 Volt. So let's compare to a 2015 ICE to kind of level it out. I just looked up a 2015 Civic. (My daughter owns a 2017 Civic, generally comparable) They are going for $15 - $19k depending on mileage, etc. I bought the Volt two years ago for $13K with 40k miles on it. Car prices were lower then, so can we give that a wash? Civic mpg listed as 31/41, so 36mpg average. Gas in LA this morning was $5/gal, lets call it $4 cause gas prices fluctuate wildly, so $4/36 = 9.5 cents per mile + oil changes. So total cost of ownership (TCO) is looking favorable for the Volt. This is just math, no opinion.
As for opinion, I do like the silent driving, and the smooth power of the electric drive. But jeez, I'm an old guy with a jillion miles on my old Norton 750 and Ducati 900ss, and ringing ears from tuning race engines with no ear protection. Now I kind of like gliding around without making a sound.
It occurs to me that new ICE vehicles are just as tech heavy, full of chips, and uncustomizable as any EV. You are not going to beat a 60 year old anything for work-on-ability and customization-ablity. If anything, a pure EV, (BEV) is simpler than a modern ICE. So, in theory, should be more work-on-able. There are plenty of guys out there wrenching on them. It is a different world, for sure.
I wonder what great Grampa said about Model T's when they came along. Probably wanted to stick to his horse as long as he could. Or maybe he just jumped right in.
Intermediate Driver

So if this gal can do this, what is the problem?
Advanced Driver

The main reason your EV is so cheap to run is that the government has not figured out how to properly tax it.  That is coming with the new mileage tax.  

My electric bill went up by 25% this past year.  That trend will continue as more "Green Electric Power" is being pushed down our throats.  By the way the amount of electricity being generated by coal has gone up over the past year.

Enjoy your "Cheap" EV while it lasts.


Intermediate Driver

An EV tax may well come about. Perhaps fossil fuel subsidies will wane. I suppose it's possible, though not likely. These are linked together by the gigantic lobbying power the oil and car companies wield in the US. They are going to great lengths to keep fossil fuels viable. As well as endeavoring to slow the transition to electric transportation.
I have noticed a distinct sort of sneering at the trend towards electrification of transportation in these comments. Keep it up. Totally encourages me to keep writing.
Electric buses? Hmm, really nice to not get blasted with diesel exhaust as the bus leaves the bus stop. Electric garbage trucks at 5am, much quieter. Electric Amazon, UPS, FedEx trucks? No starter motors, far less wear on brakes, no clutch, no fan belts, no radiators, hoses or exhaust systems. Cheaper fuel. Much less wearing on the drivers. So total cost of operation is far less, by a wide margin. Those guys who run those fleets can do the math. Those companies are buying electric delivery vans by the tens of thousands, and they are just getting started.
As for coal generation, I believe you are correct. Energy generated by coal did go slightly up in 2021 vs 2020. However, the larger picture is set forth by this ​quote from the US Energy Information Administration.
"Operators have scheduled 14.9 gigawatts (GW) of electric generating capacity to retire in the United States during 2022, according to our latest inventory of electric generators. The majority of the scheduled retirements are coal-fired power plants (85%), followed by natural gas (8%) and nuclear (5%).
​After substantial retirements of U.S. coal-fired electric generating capacity from 2015 to 2020 that averaged 11.0 GW a year, coal capacity retirements slowed to 4.6 GW in 2021. However, we expect retirement of coal-fired generators to increase again this year; 12.6 GW of coal capacity is scheduled to retire in 2022, or 6% of the coal-fired generating capacity that was operating at the end of 2021.""
And that generating capacity is being replaced by what? Hmm, what could possibly be cheaper than coal or gas? Wind and solar, and again, by a wide margin, and getting wider. So economics and convenience
Advanced Driver

You are completely missing the boat.We are going from a fossil fuel world to an electric world.Period.Like it or not.Tech will make these battery cars just as functional as ICE,weve come a long way from Henry Ford and electrics are in Henry's level of development. Its coming,just how it is.
New Driver

I resonated with this article on a number of levels.
As a boomer I have experienced concern and dismay at current events in our country/culture generally, and the auto industry specifically.
Most of my discontent comes from the intrusion of regulators and politicians and corporations who seem to want to limit my free choices to a short list of those that they deem acceptable.
While generally conservative, I tend to be a libertarian where the government and corporations are concerned. I think that anyone wishing to drive an electric vehicle should, but I don't want to be told I can no longer drive my ICE vehicles as a consequence of their free choices.
I acknowledge that there are some benefits and virtues from electric powered transportation (however these are generally overstated by their supporters). Also, the law of unintended consequences is already beginning to manifest itself here.
I expect that my free choices may become limited due to adverse regulation and pricing, rather than overt legislation. But I will drive my 1999 Miata and my 1974 Jaguar E-type as long as I can.
My children and grandchildren will choose to drive what they want. My hope for them and for all of us, is that we learn and practice thinking for ourselves rather than being told something and simply believing it without thinking critically.
The Mercedes ESV is probably an excellent vehicle. It targets a market segment that will be excited to own and drive one. I wish them every satisfaction in their ownership and driving experience.
But I am not in that target segment, and I want that to continue to be ok.

my every annual sojourn to the international auto show confirms Mercedes are as plastic inside as the Honda to one side and Cadillac display the other;

even now it is virtually impossible to take a Mercedes to a non-factory shop;

like BMW, 90% of the parts are esoteric as the early IBM desktops, cost a small fortune and do nothing to improve the reliability of Mercedes, which is nudging ever so close to British Leyland levels;

why should their EVs be any different?

Mercedes have a Barnum and Bailey, sucker born every minute clientele who swear by their Panzermobiles with an almost comical fervor;

i’d like nothing better than to park my authentic—i.e., front engine RWD—Corvette and build up an EV kit like a Lotus 7, but automakers and their stooges in Congress have to much money invested into each other to allow me that kind of freedom;

i can just see the regulations now Congress pass into law much like the dune buggy restrictions in California;

suppose i’ll just go on rowing gears (sports cars have manual transmissions, dear) and see what comes;

American farmers depend on a multi-million dollar fleet of big machines for every aspect of their operation. Big Green has integrated computer controls, satellite interface and proprietary software (just like the fruit guys) that is inaccessible to the famers that paid for their machines. Deere Leader's techs are the only one who can look under the hood, and thus effectively control your food supply. When a few, select corporate giants can control the electron pathways that manage our communications, groceries and personal transportation, it's scarier than Sky Net.

However, MB is being proactive (at least their lawyers are) in that uninformed owners "tinkering" on an EV can be like working on your clothes dryer, while it's still plugged in. You could've crashed that open source computer hardware, but it wouldn't blow you across the garage or start an uncontrollable fire in the core. The shocking future of the automotive hobby will need more than warning labels.
Pit Crew

I'm keeping my bicycle in good working order.

I am in the uniquely depressing position of being a former pro cyclist who can still get over a 25 foot gap jump who nonetheless is falling apart physically JUST as cycling becomes an urban default. By the time I NEED to ride a bike, my knees won't be able to!
New Driver

"The mere presence of such a firm that could set basic standards for inter-operation of parts would encourage a lot of suppliers to get into the action. You’d have a few common standards for how parts bolt up to and “talk” to each other."

Reminds me of when the first "IBM Compatible" desktop PCs came on the market in the late 80s or early 90s. I've built a few PCs for my personal use by picking and choosing components from various suppliers knowing that using standardized interfaces they will work together properly. I can customize the hardware for my needs then install an operating system of my choosing. Another benefit of building my own is that is not full of bloatware pushed on us by Dell, HP, Lenovo, and all the others.
I'm a DIYer and tinkerer at heart. If I could assemble a BEV with a similar approach to PCs I might like to try it.

You're about ten years too early (or was I ten years too late?). My Degree thesis was an EV hot rod, repurposing a Tesla Model S drive train. My justification was that when the Model S was worn out, there would still be value in the batteries and motors, and reusing them would prevent them going to landfill (gotta get that sustainability in there to pass the academic 'sniff' test....)
I pitched it as a boutique collector type car, on the high end, but the thinking was that we are moving out of an age of mechanical tinkerers and into an age of electronic tinkerers.
Advanced Driver

Spot on last sentence,todays kids are not like we were,they get this electronics stuff.My nephew makes things from arduinos constantly that i cant grasp for a minute.

I've tried a few times to understand electronics and programming; despite being autistic my brain just doesn't work in a way that allows me to grasp even the simplest concepts involving numbers, transistors, or instructions.