Electric Vehicles have gotten some (well-deserved) negative publicity of late. Lets look at just a few of the stories rocking the industry. First, in what could be a bit of a metaphor for the whole E.V. enterprise, a Dutch freighter carrying more than 3,700 cars caught fire in the North Sea, leading to the 21-member crew to abandon ship. Fire-fighting ships and helicopters were deployed to beat back the blaze. Unfortunately for them, the ship was carrying nearly 500 Electric Vehicles, which, according to the Associated Press, made "fighting the flames more difficult."
Why? Because burning E.V.s are incredibly difficult to extinguish, due to the residual energy stored in their batteries, which, when damaged, have a tendency to become extremely hot and continually reignite. As we mentioned in a previous post, Tesla's only advice for putting them out is "use lots of water." And they do mean lots. One E.V. fire outside of Houston took eight firemen spraying 28,000 gallons of water over the course of seven hours to finally get under control. Imagine dealing with 500!
In the case of the Dutch freighter, it took them a solid week. Luckily the ship didn't sink — it was right in the local shipping-lanes, so that would have been a nightmare for the navigation — and it has since been towed into port for salvage. Unluckily, there was one fatality — a crewman who was attempting to put out the fire — while several other members of the crew were treated for "broken bones, burns, and breathing" issues. Of course, it is also a black eye for the industry, since it calls attention to the, ah, burning problem.
Now, an E.V. enthusiast might offer the counter that we've reached a point of such market saturation with E.V.s that a story like that isn't going to matter much. But the problem with that argument is that they aren't exactly flying out of the dealerships, as our rulers had hoped. Says Axios, "Unsold electric cars are piling up on dealer lots." Some brands are doing worse than others — they mention that the Korean luxury E.V. maker Genesis "sold only 18 of its nearly $82,000 Electrified G80 sedans in the 30 days leading up to June 29, and had 210 in stock nationwide — a 350-day supply." (For comparison, dealers tend to maintain between a 50 and 70 day supply of gas-and-diesel driven cars.)
How do we explain the mismatch between E.V. supply and demand? Another Axios article answers that: "The next roadblock for electric cars: The early adopter era is over." Many enthusiastic (and wealthy) environmentalists bought E.V.s just as they began to be mass produced, and those early sales numbers encouraged companies to invest heavily in increased production. But eventually those low-hanging fruits were exhausted, and the transition to "the more price-sensitive "early majority" — is proving to be more elusive." Consequently, they add:
The E.V. transition will likely be longer and bumpier than many experts predicted — which explains why some automakers are hedging their bets, cutting prices and recalibrating their strategies.
HotAir's David Strom rightly points out that "Tesla pretty much owns the electric car market at the moment," which is bad news for nearly every other manufacturer, "since fewer than 7 percent of cars sold these days are E.V.s, and the demand just isn’t there for a massive expansion in sales."
Despite a recent sales slump of its own, Tesla has the kind of customer loyalty other companies only dream of. But there are reasons to wonder if that will last. Loyalty is a two-way street, and there's a firestorm brewing around the company which calls into question its own devotion to its customers. Earlier this month it was reported that Tesla has been "systematically overstating its electric vehicles’ range capability and stonewalling frustrated customers who have sought help over the discrepancy." From The Scroll:
Last summer Tesla established a Las Vegas call center dedicated to denying service requests from customers who discovered that their cars were running out of juice after driving, in some cases, less than half of the distance promised when they purchased their vehicles. For example, the current estimated range of the Tesla 3 listed on the carmaker’s website is 333 miles per charge, but one customer quoted in the article says his vehicle was only getting 150 miles per charge. When he asked for an appointment, he was told a remote diagnostic found no issue, and when he brought the car into a service center, his concerns were again dismissed.
Batteries very much included.
Reuters, which broke the story, explained that Tesla's computer system contains an algorithm which shows a significantly inflated driving range until the battery drops to 50 percent, at which point it flips to a more accurate range. And they spoke to a source who said that this design comes right from the top — "[Tesla Chief Executive] Elon [Musk] wanted to show good range numbers when fully charged,” the person said, adding: “When you buy a car off the lot seeing 350-mile, 400-mile range, it makes you feel good.”'
Sure, but you won't feel so good when you're planning to drive somewhere on a 400-mile charge, only to find yourself desperately searching for a charging station halfway there. And that doesn't even take into account the unplanned hours you'll have to spend waiting for it to charge. And when you try to schedule a service appointment to find out why your battery keeps dying so quickly only to be told that the computer says its fine and no one is going to look at it, you're likely to be apoplectic. Brand loyalty isn't going to survive that. Before too long, Tesla drivers will be fondly reminiscing about their old car's gas gage, whose simple gas tank float isn't so easily manipulated.
The point in all of this is that thus far only very plugged-in observers — including readers of The Pipeline — have paid close attention to E.V.s and their downsides. The bad news for automakers, and the central planners trying to force them on us, is that the wider public is beginning to notice as well.