Electric Vehicles Are the Veggie Burger of Cars

Overcoming the impracticality of electric vehicles (EVs) appears to be as big a marketing challenge as convincing diners that plant-based burgers are tasty. Yet, those inspired by the “green” demonization of fossil fuels continue to try.

Detailing such efforts in Seattle was a recent Yale University-sourced episode of “Climate Connections” on NPR. Much of urban Seattle is old and congested. Apartments can be packed together without even offering off-street parking. Single-family homes built before the age of automobiles can lack driveways suitable for a charging station.

Therefore, a Seattle utility is proposing a pilot program to install 30 chargers on certain streets by apartment complexes and older homes to see whether the presence of a street charger encourages residents to purchase EVs. If so, the utility has volunteered to install more chargers.

A charger might work for one EV, but what if two people decide to buy EVs? What if I need the charger and my neighbor has plugged in his EV and gone to bed? What happens if the idea increases EV purchases and several owners need to connect at night for the morning commute? More chargers? Is the utility going to buy a charger for each resident? How will the electricity be billed? 

A limited-range, affordable EV, even one used only for commuting in, say,  urban Seattle, would probably need to be recharged every couple days. Is the public really going to accept the changes necessary to accommodate charging EVs in the manner the activists want just so we can reach a nebulous goal of “saving the planet from the horror of carbon dioxide”? 

A host of practical problems constrain the willingness of people to purchase EVs. Placing a charger on the street that adjoins an apartment complex is not going to resolve other challenges, such as cost and limited range.

EV adoption might follow a pattern similar to what happened with plant-based patties at Burger King. Initially, a group of enthusiastic customers chose the plant-based Whoppers over a meat version because cattle are a purported cause of climate change and eating meat is said to be “unhealthy.” Another group of customers thought it was interesting to see if a veggie burger tasted like real beef. Soon, however, demand for the plant-based version fell off drastically. McDonald’s has also experimented with a plant-based burger at some locations but recently abandoned that effort for lack of customer interest.

Some of the automakers already seem to recognize that such issues as charging, driving range, and price limit the appeal of EVs to a small fraction of consumers.

The “solution,” of course, is to force the public to buy EVs by prohibiting the sale of other vehicles by a certain date, say, 2035. This has been the strategy of the governors of California and Washington in the hope that other states will follow. A politician who says that only EVs can be sold after a certain date, however, will quickly find himself out of step with much of the public because of unanswered questions of convenience and family budgets.

I am not exactly sure how Governors Jay Inslee and Gavin Newsom can pretend their directives are suddenly state laws without specific legislative authority added to it as they approach the 2035 target. What happens in the meantime if a technology far better than troublesome EVs comes along? Do the governors’ orders mean that the two states cannot have dealers that sell any other technology on that date, regardless of what is happening in the auto industry and in the rest of the United States?

Tying the future of California and Washington to a single idea currently popular with EV activists is simply nonsense designed to appeal to special interests and unrelated to realities of technological development.

EVs deserve the fate of plant-based burgers—available in certain high-income urban areas where issues like cost, range, and charging pose less of a barrier. Or where practicality and palatability take a back seat to green-virtue signaling. For most areas, however, petroleum-fueled vehicles, along with beefy Whoppers, will dominate the market.

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