Home » Here’s Why This One Car Brand Isn’t Going Fully EV Anytime Soon

Here’s Why This One Car Brand Isn’t Going Fully EV Anytime Soon

Morningdumptop

Dacia’s not going green so fast, lithium prices are sky-rocketing anyway, and the trial for Nikola founder Trevor Milton had a pretty huge reveal today.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

Dacia Says ‘Not Quite Yet’ To EV Transformation

Daciamanifesto
Image via Dacia

Saying that you support the full electrification of cars implies one of two things:

  • You accept numerous conundrums and contradictions, and value the net good as being strong enough to overcome the many challenges.
  • You haven’t thought about it at all, you don’t think of developing nations when you think of anything, and the word infrastructure makes you want to take a nap.

To say we should switch over to electric cars implies that we’ll be driving cars forever, and there’s an argument to be made that the promise of EVs merely slows the adoption of higher density development and better transit, which is an even bigger net environmental good. Then again, electric vehicles are good for short distances and sitting in traffic, which is what you have in urban environments… where higher density and transit makes the most sense. And what about developing nations that experience constant electric grid issues like India or Texas?

In some ways, it’s easier to just adopt the second point of view.

Dacia, the budget Romanian offshoot of Nissan and Renault, is adopting both views simultaneously. As Reuters reports in its article “Renault’s Dacia Will Stick to Thermal Engines as Long as It Can, CEO Says,” Dacia isn’t giving up on internal combustion anytime soon:

“Renault will push to be the champion of electric engines, this has a risk,” Le Vot said on the sideline of a presentation in Le Bourget near Paris.

“This is also why Dacia exists. Depending on how fast the market converts to electric engines and of clients’ appetite, Dacia is here. The two can co-exist in an intimate fashion,” he said.

This is sensible! Renault can push on EVs and, hey, if you are in a place where it doesn’t make sense or you’re worried about it, go buy a Dacia Duster. They’re great, cheap cars. The next one might have some visual inspiration from the Manifesto Concept, which is shown above.

When EVs come to developing nations it’s probably not going to be cars first. It’s going to be two-wheelers, according to this meta lit review of the existing barriers and opportunities for electric adoption in places that aren’t the United States, China, Japan, or Western Europe.

Nissan/Dacia’s plan reminds me of what furniture store owner Mattress Mack does in Houston. He’s a big Astros fan and he makes a huge bet on the World Series while simultaneously offering free furniture to customers who buy mattresses from him if the Astros go all the way. It’s the ultimate hedge. If the Astros win he gets money to offset the free furniture. If the Astros lose, he already sold the furniture.

Lithium Costs Go Way Way Up

Tesla Battery
Image via Tesla

Sure, Dacia isn’t jumping into the EV market with both feet, but pretty much everyone else is. This is making the price of lithium, an essential part of the most popular battery chemistries, go way way way up. Per Automotive News:

Lithium carbonate hit a fresh record of 500,500 yuan ($71,315) a ton in China on Friday, according to data from Asian Metal Inc. Prices more than tripled in the past year, inflating the cost of batteries used in EVs, with recent gains driven by strong demand and disruptions at a domestic producing hub.

[…]

Meanwhile, a power crunch during August in Sichuan province — home to more than one-fifth of China’s lithium production — caused two weeks of electricity cuts, hampering supply in an already-squeezed market.

That’s not great.

It’s hard to beat the benefits of the typical lithium ion battery, but automakers are already looking to cobalt-less lithium iron phosphate batteries to offset the costs. Tesla made the switch last year and it seems to be paying off, per Barrons:

The lithium, and other metals, in all lithium-ion batteries refers to the battery cathode. Cathodes and anodes are the sides of a battery that facilitate electric charge. The anode in a lithium-ion battery is typically graphite. The cathode is typically a compound of lithium and other metals such as cobalt, nickel and manganese.

Those latter three metals are pricey. A metric ton of cobalt, for instance, costs about $47,000. A metric ton of iron costs about $600.

[…]

The savings look to have shown up in Tesla’s numbers. Tesla began shifting to LFP batteries back in late 2021. Gross profit per car has averaged about $16,000 since then, up from an average of about $13,000 in the year leading up to the shift. Many things, of course, impact gross margins, but managing battery costs is one factor.

At some point we’ll maybe look back at lithium ion batteries the same way we do at leaded gasoline. It worked. It worked well. But the effects were devastating and the world would have been better off if we’d have switched to something else sooner. I don’t think lithium is chemically dangerous in the same way, but it’s an expedient with massive geopolitical and ecological downsides.

Nikola’s Badger Was Apparently A Raptor Underneath

Nikolabadger
Image via Nikola

Surprising absolutely no one, jurors in a trial for Nikola Founder Trevor Milton found out via texts between employees of the company that the Badger EV the company was touting was partially a Ford Raptor, borrowing heavily from parts on that vehicle Bloomberg reports. From the news site:

Engineers working on the heavily hyped Badger in 2020 merged parts from the gasoline-powered Raptor with a “chopped up” electric Nikola power sports vehicle, also in early development, former Nikola employee Brendan Babiarz told the jurors Thursday in federal court in Manhattan. Babiarz, who led design and created renderings for the Badger, said it was done to meet a deadline Milton had imposed for unveiling the pickup.

Milton’s on trial for a variety of alleged abuses of the truth that lead to, almost, a deal with GM that fell apart as soon as GM caught wind of what was allegedly happening.

Basically, don’t believe anything that a startup EV car company tells you until they make at least five cars or trucks.

The Flush

Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. It’s Friday, the media preview of the Detroit Auto Show is over, did anything get you excited about the show? Anything you’re looking forward to?

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40 Responses

  1. As I’ve screamed into the void here several times…the amount of money that’s getting incinerated by these EV startups is disgusting to me, and frankly I’m sure it’s disgusting to all of us. I know there are good and well-intentioned people in the tech field, but I don’t think I’m painting with too broad of a brush when I say the industry as a whole is remarkably wasteful and is, naturally, attracting a plethora of unsavory people.

    Our infrastructure is a mess. We lack high speed rail. A lot of our basic government institutions (the USPS comes to mind) are on the verge of collapse. Teachers are striking nation wide because they barely make enough money to live off of. Income inequality is staggering. The majority of the country is currently living paycheck to paycheck. The list is endless.

    …and yet we, as a society, are willing to throw billions upon billions of dollars at tech bros who have a few ideas related to EVs, and basically just let them figure out everything else? Stop it already. It’s absurd. We are lighting an incompressible amount of resources on fire so a small handful of egomaniacs can continue to line their pockets, and what do we have to show for it? Like…maybe 4-5 new cars total that are actually in production.

    Enough already. I’m not one to look towards the gubment for solutions all the time but they absolutely need to step in and slap an ungodly amount of regulations and penalties on Silicone Valley as whole….and by extension the EV startups. All we’re doing is funneling more and more money into the pockets of the 1%.

    Unfortunately nothing got me excited about the auto show. I was looking forward to seeing the new Mustang but ultimately wound up disappointed. I think the styling and tech dystopia interior are a miss, and honestly I’m upset with Ford for putting too much in the car that idiots can harm others with…particularly the drift brake and the function to rev the damn thing with the key fob.

    I hate how American manufacturers (others do this too, but I don’t see the same extent of it) make so much of their money by pandering to the lowest common denominator. What we wind up with is an irresponsible amount of vehicle in the hands of people that shouldn’t be trusted with it.

    Nothing good is going to come out of handing the keys to a 500ish horsepower RWD two ton barge of a car with a drift brake to your local Papa John’s manager Kyle….just like nothing good comes out of offering him the keys to a 5,500 pound pickup with 400 horsepower and a hood so high pedestrians can’t be seen in front of it.

    And yet Ford, GM, and Stellantis will all happily do it….if you have a credit score and a pulse they’ll finance it in house over 7-10 year term at a payment that you could make work at almost any income level. I personally think that’s a problem and I don’t like them designing products that so openly invite buffoonery. People like to push back on the Mustang=crowd killer sentiment but it’s true. It’s also really exploitative, as they prey on people that are financially illiterate. Those loans may have a manageable payment but the interest is staggering.

    Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I think they’re bad cars. Au contraire actually…the Camaro and Mustang are amazing driver’s cars in this day and age, and at a price point many can dream of affording. But I think they’re too powerful for the average person and way, way, way too easy to access.

    1. I made a similar comment on that evtol article the other day. It’s obviously somewhat reductive, but I’m really tired of these VC tech bro gold rushes because they have literally more money than they can spend because they can’t be arsed to pay fucking taxes. Yeah, I don’t like paying taxes either, and I have lots of issues with how government in general administers said tax money. None of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or Elon Musk or Peter Thiel or literally any other billionaire has a batter track record though, so let’s stop kidding ourselves about the profit motive’s ability to improve public services or some supposed inherent efficiency of running anything “like a business.”

      Whatever, there’s a lot government could be doing to help had they any political will, but instead we have ::gestures vaguely around:: all this

    2. My local PJ manager has a first gen CTS-V with about 200,000 miles on it. He also has a fairly new 150 crew cab 4 wheel drive, but that only has a six cylinder in it.

    3. I’d settle for getting rid of all subsidies, to both EVs and to oil production, ending all of the geopolitical interference that has occurred to secure oil or lithium(and other metals), accounting for externalities, removing the disparity between how passenger cars and “light trucks” are regulated in both safety and fuel economy, removing many regulations to allow smaller automotive startups to get a foothold into the market without the need for government subsidies, and ending business subsidies for “light trucks”. EVs would come into their own without any government push if that happened, and by necessity, both EV and ICE powertrains would have to be used in significantly more efficient platforms.

      There’s no reason we need massive 90+ kWh battery packs to get 300 miles range. The cars themselves are designed to be way too inefficient, deliberately, which drives cost up. We should be using half the battery pack or less for the same range, and that can be done by streamlining vehicle body shapes and making them less feature-laden/massive. We need to have inexpensive entry-level ICE cars that cost around $10k and get 70+ mpg while seating a whole family, and EV versions of said cars that get at least 80-100 miles range, both of which are more than possible with today’s tech.

      Personally, I’d like to see the Mustangs and Camaros keep the same V8 engines we all know and love, but do so in smaller, lighter, more aerodynamic packages. The laws of physics would definitely allow non-hybrid, naturally-aspirated V8 musclecars to get 50+ mpg highway if they had half the road load. For the same amount of horsepower, performance would improve greatly.

      1. you had me until this

        “There’s no reason we need massive 90+ kWh battery packs to get 300 miles range. The cars themselves are designed to be way too inefficient, deliberately, which drives cost up. We should be using half the battery pack or less for the same range, and that can be done by streamlining vehicle body shapes and making them less feature-laden/massive. We need to have inexpensive entry-level ICE cars that cost around $10k and get 70+ mpg while seating a whole family, and EV versions of said cars that get at least 80-100 miles range, both of which are more than possible with today’s tech.”

        This is just wishful thinking. 10k for a safe usable family car that also gets 70+mpg? The closest I found is a Suzuki Celerio that is a little over 10k, gets 65 mpg on wildly optimistic cycles (closer to mid to low 50’s on the US cycles). Its also historically been a deathtrap, but I can’t find data on the new model. It finally gets standard airbags and ABS this year though so Im sure its not anymore….

        I get what you are saying – That we should allow our market to be like other markers where new car regs are so relaxed that something like the Celerio could be made but
        1. They wouldn’t make it because
        2. No one would buy it because
        3. People would rather buy a 10 year old car that gets 30 mpg, can keep up with traffic and won’t kill them for the same money.

        Do I want less regulation and more efficiency? You bet. But I think you need to be more realistic with your expectations. I mean, how many people are clamoring to buy the Mirage at 15k and 40 mpg? A little more than 20,000 people a year.

        Also, there is no way to get the same mileage from an EV from half the battery. I don’t know where you got the idea that EV’s are deliberately inefficient, but I don’t think that is supportable. Some are, like the hummer, heavier and more energy intensive than they need to be, strictly speaking, but no one is making a deliberately inefficient EV. The difference between the most energy efficient EV for 2021 (Model 3 standard range RWD) and the worst (non-truck) the Taycan Turbo S is 240 watts per mile to 480 watts/mile. Even 480 watts/mile is amazingly efficient. 60-70-80 miles using the same energy as a 50 inch plasma TV in an hour? The Model 3 can take me to another town with the energy it take to keep my fridge cold for an hour and yet it takes 75 Kwh to do 300 miles. The Lightyear one is the closest example we have to what you want – slippery, efficient, simple – and they are claiming 317 miles of range with 60Kwh (at 110 km/hr). And of course…it doesn’t exist yet, these estimates are likely to be optimistic in the real world and the thing may never be financially viable. Even the super crappy Hummer which gets 1.6 miles/Kwh (623 watts/mile) is still netting 54 MPGe. The sheer fact that all EV’s have their range figures WRECKED towing any kind of load indicates they are highly optimised and efficient.

        I like your idea for leveling the playing field and making it easier to innovate, but I think you need to recalibrate your expectations.

        1. My expectations are based on the laws of physics and what the industry has proven itself capable of making as proof of concepts. Road-going cars with drag coefficients of under 0.15 have been demonstrated as possible for more than 50 years. Couple that with shrinking the frontal area of modern vehicles by 10-20% by making the vehicle a tiny bit smaller(say, like a car from the early 2000s), and you can nearly halve the drag of the vehicle. Throw in some mass reduction by taking out expensive accessories and power-everything, and that 240 Wh/mile sedan can be turned into a 140 Wh/mile sedan for the same set of driving conditions. Turn it into a lighter, smaller sports car instead of a sedan, and you can get below 100 Wh/mile, for those same conditions; that is what Reverend Gadget did with his GT6-bodied Triumph Spitfire.

          An efficient car doesn’t necessarily have to be small like that Suzuki you mention. It just needs to be streamlined very well. That is how come the current Tesla Model S PLAID, weighing almost as much as a Hummer H2, has an efficiency comparable to a first gen Nissan Leaf, while weighing twice as much as the Leaf and having more performance-oriented tires than the Leaf. It has significantly better aero than the Leaf, a 0.20 Cd versus the 0.28 of the Leaf. If the Leaf had the drag coefficient of the 2005 Mercedes Bionic at 0.19 instead of the 0.28 it had, it could have increased its range by more than 30% on the same battery pack with no other changes, for little to no added expense.

          Safety has more to do with the design of the vehicle and less to do with the mass of the vehicle. The Smart ForTwo is one of the safest cars ever made.

          The cost to streamline a car spread out over tens of thousands of units amounts to a few hundred dollars added cost to each vehicle, while saving the operator thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars over the vehicle’s life span.

          The Lightyear One is an interesting design. Unlike the Stella prototype that inspired it, it compromised ultimate aero efficiency and added frontal area to accommodate the solar panel array it needs. Solar cars introduce all kinds of new design constraints, that non-solar-powered cars won’t have. The Lightyear One has a Cd of 0.19, which isn’t terrible, but it’s a far cry from the 2020 GAC ENO 146(0.146 Cd), 2000 GM Precept(0.16 Cd), or 1983 Ford Probe IV(0.15 Cd). All of which are perfectly viable forms for inexpensive sedans. For a sports car, look to the 1967 Panhard CD Peugeot 66C(0.13 Cd) to get a glimpse of what is possible.

          1. I’m not saying that making an efficient car is impossible. Im saying it’s impossible to make a cheap, usable, safe, and efficient car.

            This statement
            “Throw in some mass reduction by taking out expensive accessories and power-everything, and that 240 Wh/mile sedan can be turned into a 140 Wh/mile sedan for the same set of driving conditions.”

            is incongruent with this statement
            “My expectations are based on the laws of physics”

            How much do you think an EV’s weight is creature comforts and niceties? A model 3 doesn’t have 40% efficiency on the table to remove no matter how you do the mental gymnastics. If you slammed it to the ground and stripped it to a shell you might get 200 watts/mile on the same cycle…and it wouldn’t be a car people could own.

            Again “based on the laws of physics and what the industry has proven itself capable of” the lightyear one, touts itself as having a world record for being the most aerodynamic production car, weighs nearly 1000 lbs less than a model 3, and still needs 60kw to do 317 miles. That’s 190 watts/mile.

            We CAN make very efficient science experiments. No problem. But saying one of the most efficient actual production cars ever made deliberately inefficient with 40% left on the table…that’s obtuse.

            1. Creature comforts and niceties are often hundreds of pounds of the car. There was an excellent article by Dave Coleman nearly 20 years ago that showcased a “full-retard” weight reduction of a 2001 Nissan Sentra SE, where they literally stripped the car of everything they could, including its roof, getting it down to 1,674 lbs from its stock 2,762 lbs. That went well beyond just stripping out the unnecessary creature comforts, but the creature comforts were well over 300 lbs just by themselves, much of it sound deadener. Modern cars are even more bloated.

              In many modern “supercars”, the unnecessary niceties can approach or even exceed 1,000 lbs just by themselves. All of those features come “standard” and add to the car’s cost and pad profit margins, and do nothing to improve either performance or efficiency, but detract from it. Ultra-luxury over-weight road-hippos pretending to be race cars.

              A Model 3 has a lot more drag than it needs for its purpose. I already listed a number of midsized cars that have it well beat regarding this metric. It is indeed the most efficient platform currently sold, but that does NOT mean it is the most efficient platform that is possible to sell. Even so, it is still ahead of everything else on the market by at least a generation, and Tesla can’t keep up with demand, even though auto industry execs will argue “why build the world’s most aerodynamic car that no one will buy?” Tesla at least has made good progress. The Model S used to have a Cd of 0.25, and it has been brought down to 0.20, without any significant compromises and without the consumer giving up anything. A book on road vehicle aerodynamics by Wolf-Heinrich Hucho mentioned way back in the 1980s that a 0.15 was possible for midsized passenger cars while still retaining enough variety in shapes and styling to meet expectations.

              The Lightyear One needs a lot of flat surfaces facing the sun for its solar panels. The design constraint imposed by being solar powered limits the options available for streamlining. So it makes perfect sense why it isn’t much more slippery. Compare it to the Aptera, which has about 50% the overall CdA of the Lightyear One, and you will realize there is a lot lower a car could go regarding energy consumption. It is claimed the Aptera will only need 100 Wh/mile, about half that of the Lightyear One, and greatly less than the 140 Wh/mile I mentioned as being possible. Albeit, the Aptera isn’t a midsized car, but the frontal area penalty from sizing the vehicle up to a midsize car is only about 20%.

      2. You and I discussed the lighter pony car thing on another thread. I agree. I fully understand the glory of an NA V8 and would love to see them stick around….but the unwieldy nature of the current pony cars in general just baffles me.

        They’re HUGE….roughly the same footprint as multiple full sized SUVs. And for what? The back seats are completely useless, so they’re effectively 2 seaters other than the Challenger. The interiors are cramped. Visibility ranges from blah (Mustang and Challenger) to so bad it’s borderline dangerous (Camaro). The doors are so massive that you can’t fully open them in a normal sized space in a crowded parking lot. They all weigh around 2 tons. They have small trunk openings and all the manufacturers refuse to make them lift backs (I assume because hatch=loser car to a lot of their buyers) so the cargo space is less efficient than it could be.

        Just…why? They don’t need to be like this. I lived with a Camaro SS for a week and I loved how it drove but I couldn’t give the keys back fast enough because of how difficult it was to live with, even on an island made up of small towns and my wife and I being the only occupants.

        I’m also not sure where all the muscle car folks who always chime in to say “I’m getting mid 20s in my (insert V8 coupe here) so you’re wrong about them being inefficient” are driving (I assume suburbs and varying degrees of rural roads) because I’ve never gotten anywhere near EPA estimates when driving big American V8s. The Camaro returned around 10 in the week I had it and I was mostly driving within the confines of the law.

        They’re cool cars, but they’re needlessly wasteful and unwieldy. I wish the manufacturers would bring them into the future (with ICE, I know the electrics are here and more are coming) so we can keep enjoying them. I’d love to buy a big burbling V8 sports car…but not one that’s like any of the current ones. Shave off several hundred pounds, make the interior and trunk space actually usable, get the city MPG into the 20s. and I’ll place an order.

        But alas, no can do. So I’m left with my burbling rascally turbo 4 cylinder…which I still love, but it sure doesn’t get my blood pumping like an LS at wide open throttle.

        1. This also blows my mind. Mid 20s mpg in 2022 is *not good*. Mid 20s mpg was not great 20 years ago. It is astounding how badly the engineering progress of basically my entire lifetime has been squandered in the pursuit of overcar-ing everything.

          Before I get shouted down, I’m not trying to ruin everyone’s fun or ban anything. I’m mostly angry about how I’ve lived through decades of corporate pissing and moaning about any attempt to mandate efficiency improvements on one hand while the size of vehicles has exploded. Whinging about how small cars are too hard to sell as they make no effort to try to sell them, etc. and so on

          1. The industry spent billions of dollars convincing everyone that they need larger/more dangerous/heavier vehicles and that it somehow made everything safer. The industry forces us to buy what they want us to buy by limiting what types of options are available, and doesn’t let the consumer form their own opinion. With the growing disparity in wealth, the low-end has been priced out of the market altogether, and the people who can actually afford new vehicles of any kind in the U.S.(even your base model Mitsubishi Mirage or Chevrolet Spark) are generally within the upper quintile of income earners, and to them, money is less of an issue when it comes to purchase cost and vehicle upkeep, further reinforcing the paradigm.

            The government, captured by industry, also enabled this paradigm. And it sucks.

            It’s all about extracting as much money from people as possible. One of the reasons we don’t have inexpensive, fun, light sports cars is because the industry thinks that such things should be exclusive to the wealthy only. If you want performance, you should have to PAY for it, not just in purchase price, but also in upkeep. Notice how vehicles purchase price tends to be proportional to vehicle horsepower? None of this is coincidental.

            We have the technology today to make a light-weight Miata-priced electric car that would run circles around hypercars on a track, and with aerodynamic improvements, even share their top speeds on greatly less horsepower. But that would certainly cannibalize the sales of much more expensive vehicles that us mere mortals would never be able to afford.

  2. I mean, if they used available parts, to tide them over until all the R&D is done, why not? Remember when the Model S was being developed and it was wearing a Dodge Magnum shell? Also, I’d love to electrify my Magnum, all that torque sounds amazing.

  3. Saw in today’s news that China will be most unhappy if we manage to reduce — or cut out — their primacy in the lithium market. Adding what is already known about the costs and effects of lithium mining, that’s not so good. At all.

    I agree Dacia would be a good fit for many U.S. buyers who want their transportation in smaller, less expensive packages. Though they seem to getting into the CUV/SUV/Crossover market, there’s still the Sandero, which is a sub-$20K sedan in the UK.

    Nikola? Fuggedabutit. I don’t expect to see them around in a year. If it takes that long.

  4. I’ve had some interactions with Nikola professionally…just one bright red warning sign after another with them. Having worked with a number of EV startups, you get used to an elevated amount of risk – but they were off the charts.

      1. All smoke and mirrors, ridiculous claims on volumes they were going to produce/development schedules, lack of engineering rigor, etc. Just a complete lack of substance.

        Basically doing what Tesla did, but without any actual ideas.

  5. I would guess many other companies are keeping at least some level of ICE development going “just in case” in spite of their public announcements/virtue signaling to the contrary.

      1. Yep, the ones like VW and GM that have publicly committed to electric only in the relatively near future are the ones I’m referring to here.

        Basically I suspect that every single legacy automaker has contingency plans in case the EV revolution doesn’t come to pass on the optimistic timelines everyone seems to be assuming.

        1. I’m all for EVs taking over, but I’m vehemently against banning ICE engines. There are legitimate use cases for ICE where EVs will not be able to fulfill the same role, and I’m generally against people’s choices being removed from them.

          I say this as someone who supported California’s ZEV mandate in the 1990s, because the EV tech at the time had just begun to be “good enough” for affordable vehicles with 150+ mile ranges(if mass produced and if the platforms were designed for efficiency, like the Solectria Sunrise) and which were acceptable to a subset of would-be buyers, but the entire industry was dragging its feet to keep that tech unavailable to consumers because it didn’t want the sales of more profitable vehicles to be cannibalized. The mandate was at the time the only hope we’d get these vehicles available at all because of the barrier of entry to mass producing a car, also the result of government over-regulation that the mainstream automakers lobbied into existence.

          Tesla finally got the genie out of the bottle 2 decades later than was possible after the California ZEV mandate was defeated by special interests, and now all the automakers are scrambling to catch up lest they be rendered obsolete. Teslas cars are kind of crap, but the unmet demand for EVs was so large that they haven’t been able to keep up with demand in spite of that. Without Tesla and other startups, I’m doubtful we’d have commercially available electric cars at all from any mainstream automaker.

          1. If EVs are or will be as good as their backers claim them to be, bans shouldn’t be necessary.

            Of course stories like today’s road trip comparison give me some pause.

        2. GM has always gone in for “The Great Leap Forward” approach – recall when every GM car except the Corvette HAD to be FWD?

          I rather suspect that this leap will go about as well as that one.

  6. Summary of something that crops up in comments around here a lot:

    “I’m smart enough to know what I want in a product but everyone else is brainwashed by corporate marketing and only buys what they are told”

    Do people really think that way about their fellow humans? Wow that’s a snooty take.

    If corporate interests are allowed to buy the regulations they want, is it a free market? If governments set unrealistic standards, is it a free market? If consumers don’t buy fuel efficient vehicles even when offered is it because gas is too cheap or they want the heavy goodies or they like SUVs for hauling kids and crap around or cars remain a status symbol or they just like honking engine sounds or ???

    And whoever talks about high density transport in the US better bring some cost data to the table because OMG are those costs unswallowable for any elected official to put on a bond referendum. Reorganizing city life and finding pathways that don’t eff up existing homes and business is a nightmare beyond the hard costs of laying track or bus lanes. And the suburbs make it exponentially harder to service their big populations. Rural areas…forget it. I’m interested to see how the houston to Dallas rail plan plays out since it includes private money, but they’ve had some unanticipated hurdles.

    With 70-80 years of literally building the US society around cars as personal transportation, are the switching costs even worth considering?

    I’m frustrated with the “imma make a platitude that makes me sound like a good person but hides two things: (1) I don’t think much of other people and (2) I either don’t understand or care to discuss the underlying complexity of what I’ve proposed”

    To paraphrase Big Dan Teague, “end of rant”

    1. The free market is an illusion. The auto industry as it exists today is a creature of government largesse, and many of the problems it has caused, whether environmentally, socially/politically, regarding resource consumption, ect. stem from this fact. Many of today’s regulations were written by industry lobbyists, and the public good was not a consideration.

      Regarding what consumers want, a recent survey indicated that fuel economy was a top feature that consumers wanted, with aesthetics/vehicle design being toward the bottom of considerations. Safety was in 2nd place. Modern vehicles are almost as far away from being efficient designs as is possible. Cutting aerodynamic drag to one-third to one-half current levels is a low hanging fruit yet to be plucked, but it threatens the industry model of planned obsolescence. Car aero today is only marginally better than it was in the 1980s, and the average new car has a drag coefficient that has just recently begun to match the 1921 Rumpler Tropfenwagen. The recent Hyundai IONIQ 6 scheduled for production in 2023 has a drag coefficient of 0.21, which matches that of the 1935 Tatra T77A. THAT is how backwards things have been. We could have had 35+ mpg V8 musclecars in the 1970s fuel crisis if we had streamlining comparable to the Tatra, but that low-hanging fruit was ignored in production cars, even though it was demonstrated as viable in road-going concepts.

      Unfortunately, the upper 20% of income earners are what generally drives new vehicle sales in the present day as inflation and income/wealth disparity have driven most people of ordinary financial means out of the new car market altogether in the US, so efficiency and operating cost are not nearly as important of factors to the current crop of new car buyers as they are to someone with less money who has to make due with the offerings on the used market. Cars generally aren’t designed with the effects upon the 2nd-hand market in mind, otherwise they’d be getting double or more the fuel economy that they currently do and they would be designed to last a lifetime and be repairable so that someone who buys the car in college could pass it down to their grandkids with all the parts neded to repair it still available, instead of landfill fodder.

      The fact that the U.S. is designed to be dependent upon automobile use was a deliberate policy decision to help incentivize the spending of money coming out of the great depression. It is well documented that in the 1940s, the auto industry, tire industry, oil industry, and government conspired to destroy the expansive electric light-rail network that used to exist throught the U.S., a feature of the U.S. landscape dating back to the late 19th century. For a nickel, my grandmother used to be able to take a trolley from the suburbs of St. Louis, MO, all the way to Scott Airforce Base nearly 30 miles away, and unlike the Metrolink the area has today, the trolleys went nearly everywhere and she never had to walk more than a few blocks. Car ownership jumped from 1 car per 4 persons in the 1920s to nearly 1 car per person today, because cars became a necessity instead of a luxury. Unfortunately, there’s no easy or inexpensive way to correct this.

      I propose ultralight vehicles that are inexpensive to produce, and can be enclosed for operation in inclement weather. They can use the existing road infrastructure. I built such a thing viewable in my profile. I can do 150-200 miles at 30-35 mph cruising speeds on only 1.5 kWh of electricity. That is not a typo. This thing is receiving upgrades and will eventually be faster than most cars, while safer than a motorcycle.

      1. I guess from your statement telling me that it is an illusion that you missed the point where I was using Socratic wit to point out that we don’t have a free market.

        That put me back in rant mode since arguing on the net often involves people arguing for against what they think someone else is saying.

        Now on to more important questions for you.

        Was the fuel efficiency question to buyers posed in isolation? Or was it ranked order or was it using trade offs? Or? Cuz I (not a survey expert) can lead the witness with my survey. I have acquaintances in all types of demographics and socioeconomic strata, so the sniff test on my anecdotal data of your assertion about lots of people wanting this lightweight, small, aerodynamic, not safe (“safer than a motorcycle” is not a superlative to anyone with kids) vehicle you describe. To extend my anecdotal research, I see the cars that families get on the used market around here and fuel efficiency looks to be tertiary at best in the decision tree. Electric is a non starter for anyone in an apartment around here…and if they all magically got EVs, I pity the final 500 feet of our grid system or the mom who comes home later than 90% of her neighbors.

        I’m not sure that I ever made any claim about what the impetus for building our society around cars was. My point was that it happened and we are living with those decisions. Kudos for following up with a clearly stated solution tho. Not one I agree with, as I think we could use better data to continue to argue. None of this is meant to say we shouldn’t look for solutions. But it is massively more complex than rewriting regs to allow your futuremobile to go into production and sale. Your argument hits me as quite arrogant until and unless you break down all the laws, regulations, corruption(?) you’d have to wade through and change. That costs money and time (I infer you believe these costs are outweighed by the benefits, I remain unconvinced). Can we at least agree that we should want our elected officials to do cost/benefit analyses on lots of options?

        Oh and please discuss pedestrian safety w.r.t. coefficient of drag. I am not read up on it but I recall reading years ago that EU front end design rules to keep pedestrians from being killed by swoopy cars meant a limit on Cd.

        1. Regarding the survey, it is in the link below:

          https://www.statista.com/chart/13075/most-important-factors-when-buying-a-car/

          I never argued my microcar is what consumers want. At best, if I ever produce such a thing, it will be a tiny niche, at least as long as civilization remains relatively “normal” in relation to how it has been in the last half century. I mentioned this vehicle to demonstrate what is possible regarding efficiency for individual transportation. If such a thing could be mass produced, it could perform like a car, keep the operator enclosed like a car, cost as much to build as a moped or scooter, and have an overall lifetime per-mile operating cost that is less than taking the bus. AND it wouldn’t need any kind of special infrastructure to use.

          The values for cars on the used market are a good indicator of what is in demand. Cars that retain their value well are often the ones people want to buy. This means your Tesla Model 3s, Toyota Camrys/Corollas, Honda Accords/Civics, Nissan Altimas/Versa, and the like are the best fits to what consumers actually want in a car out of what is available. They are al efficient, reliable, fun to drive cars. The luxury SUVs and high-end luxury trucks tend to see their values drop off a cliff. A lot of people buy used SUVs and crossovers because it is what they can afford the intial purchase price thereof, being that their values don’t hold up as well and they are otherwise priced out of the more desirable/efficient options, or sometimes they even have a legitimate need/use for a larger vehicle.

          If you ant a good read on auto industry corruption that goes into far more detail than I could on a comments section of a website, read “Taken for a Ride” by Jack Doyle.

    2. Sure, the whole brown wagon phenomenon exists in comments to a degree, but there’s a difference between lamenting how automaker profit seeking and lobbying and marketing works very hard to shape specific consumer preferences as well as game regulations in an openly antisocial way and just calling people dumb for liking what they like. For example, for at least as the last thirty years, people have been sold vehicles premised on big = safe and AWD = safe, irrespective of how specific vehicles actually perform. There are complicated factors at play here, but it is untrue to say consumer preferences are pure and fully formed from birth.

      There is also a lot of fatalism and sunk cost fallacy thinking that crops up in comments, which I can’t help but read as “EVs aren’t a panacea and the built environment exists in its current form so we shouldn’t bother trying to change anything for anyone ever.” It’s not going to be easy or quick, but we can’t just do nothing.

  7. Why can’t we get EVs that aren’t tuned to go 0-60 in 4 seconds? Are the profit margins so messed up that no one can build a Model 3 equivalent that’s cheaper but is detuned to have way less performance in favor of long range? Why do all EVs have to start at hot hatch baseline performance?

    1. The difference in cost to make an EV drive system capable of 50 horsepower versus the cost to make one capable of 500 horsepower is in the 3-figures(a few hundred dollars). Most of the cost for said drive system is in the power electronics, and a low-powered drive system vs a high-powered drive system will share most of their components. Then it comes down to selection of batteries. Adding more performance to an EV generally doesn’t negatively impact range, unless that performance is used during the drive where the range is measured.

      1. Makes sense. I wonder if we’ll start to see things get cheaper when the current gen tech becomes last gen and there’s a bunch of bargain bin motors and shittier tier batteries to make something more in the Leaf performance category with better range.

  8. I think people are putting too much hope in mitigating climate change in the EV. It has the potential to make an impact, but it also has a lot of potential to keep things the same, but different. Honestly, the biggest problem for people for who the EV transition can’t come fast enough is that they want to keep the same consumption, but do it with less guilt. If we apply that same honest assessment (hell, I know it’s my motivation) then we could apply it to other areas of our lives and make impacts right now instead of waiting for governments and manufacturing to catch up. The truth is that the road to full EV is going to be longer, more difficult, and more expensive (in dollars and environmentally) than most people want to believe and we need to do what we can now in the meantime.

    Yes, I know that EV sales keep growing, but we are only just starting to make a transition and already running into hurdles that point to the current growth curve being unsustainable.

    I like Dacia’s pragmatism – They will make what we have work as we figure out the problems on the road to electrification. In the meantime, telework, public transit if practical, and reduced energy use at home are all easy changes that make a real impact.

  9. “And what about developing nations that experience constant electric grid issues like India or Texas?”

    Or Michigan. Or Ohio. Or West Virginia. Or …
    … yeah.

    “Sure, Dacia isn’t jumping into the EV market with both feet, but pretty much everyone else is. This is making the price of lithium, an essential part of the most popular battery chemistries, go way way way up.”

    I’ll take ‘No Fucking Shit, Sherlock’ for $800, Alex. Oh look, it’s today’s Daily Double!

    Oh, and let’s not forget that lithium is an essential part of EVs, phones, computers, televisions, ceramics, glass, processors, lubricants, welding, soldering, aluminum production, copper production, air purification, optics, medicines and other medical uses…

    But yeah. Increasing the demand by thousands of percent overnight totally isn’t going to cause any problems. None at all.

    “Surprising absolutely no one, jurors in a trail for Nikola Founder Trevor Milton found out via texts between employees of the company that the Badger EV the company was touting was partially a Ford Raptor, borring heavily from parts on that vehicle”

    Well, I mean, that’s absolutely normal. Using existing parts – even entire existing cars – to test things is totally normal. I mean, hell, why develop your whole own platform when someone else is willing to sell you theirs? You can save a lot of money that way! (/snark)

    “former Nikola employee Brendan Babiarz told the jurors Thursday in federal court in Manhattan. Babiarz, who led design and created renderings for the Badger, said it was done to meet a deadline Milton had imposed for unveiling the pickup
    Milton’s on trial for a variety of alleged abuses of the truth that lead to, almost, a deal with GM that fell apart as soon as GM caught wind of what was allegedly happening..”

    … uh-huh. Yeah.
    And I was just some hater when I called the whole thing a complete fraud waaaaaaaaay back before they even said they had a deal with GM and then immediately blew it the fuck up.
    But go on. Tell us how Lordstown totally isn’t a scam this time.

    “It’s Friday, the Detroit Auto Show is over, did anything get you excited about the show? Anything you’re looking forward to?”

    Honestly?
    No. Nothing.

    The things I do want, at best I get lazy refreshes, mostly I got ‘oh we’re de-contenting it.’ Making the ‘temporary’ supply issues permanent unavailability.
    The things I don’t want, I got… lazy refreshes and terrible design. And making ‘temporary’ supply issues permanent unavailability.
    Honestly I’m pretty damn pissed about the shit FCAtlantis pulled. The updates to the Jeep WL consist of a 4xe (which I’m all for,) and a shitload of de-contenting to increase already absurd margins. An absolute shitload.
    You want the 10.1 inch screen? You can no longer option it in anything but Overland or Summit. You want the nicer stereo? Same deal. You want the 5.7L V8 because you tow? Ha ha ha, you guessed it.

  10. “Detroit Auto Show is over, did anything get you excited about the show? Anything you’re looking forward to?”

    The Mustang remote throttle-blip feature excited me the same way witnessing a car crash does. That same morbid curiosity has me looking forward to how many ways that now gets used in other cars.

  11. Dacia need to be sold in the US. Nissan should bring over the Renault Kwid. We need more cars that are affordable.

    Besides, EV technology is not mature yet, and the infrastructure is not there yet, plus the lithium problem.

    Nikola is a scam. By this point, only companies that actually have production vehicles on the road should actually get any help. The rest need to go away.

      1. My 1987 Subaru 4WD wagon made all of 82 carbureted hp. It was admittedly really slow, but I had lots of fun working the 5 speed to keep the rpm up as it took me through ski country. It was by no means a tiny car. If America would tolerate a 13s 0-60 mph vehicle (as I seem to recall for my Suby) what kind of mileage would they deliver. Do they make these real size cars, with 90 – 100 hp in other markets, and what kind of gas mileage do they deliver? It seems that everything in the US nowadays is flirting with twice the horespower as we lived with in the 1980s.

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