Some people might call me a dinosaur. Others would say I am a “seasoned” enthusiast. Regardless of your perspective, I am an old-school muscle car guy. I like to hear a screaming V8 at full song. I like the fact that driving a classic is an experience, not just something that has to be done to get to work. In short, I like old cars. That said, I am not a fan of what the automakers feel the auto industry should become — battery-powered. Before you say, “get with the times old man,” remember, this is my opinion, and I am entitled to it. That said, I do feel there is a need to protect our planet for future generations, I am just not sure forcing electric vehicles (EVs) under our throttle foot is the answer.
Unless you have been marooned on an island, you have certainly heard that General Motors plans to phase out vehicles using internal combustion engines by the year 2035. Apparently, doing so is a big deal. But if that happens, can GM survive? Personally, I am not sure it can. Chevrolet was built on the premise of building cars the majority of American’s wanted to drive. The Chevelle, Camaro, Impala, and even pickups were not only great vehicles, they are still great classics! I fully understand there is a growing interest in electric vehicles and that they are here to stay, but I am not certain that can be the only source of transportation for the masses.
Keeping It Clean
I get it, the point of EVs is to help the environment. We need to curb automotive emissions to secure the planet with a clean and human-friendly environment. What we need is a comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. You know, a law that authorizes a regulatory commission to establish air quality standards to protect public health and public welfare by regulating emissions of hazardous air pollutants. What we need is a Clean Air Act…wait, don’t we have one of those already?
It’s no secret that gasoline-powered vehicles built today emit fewer pollutants (estimates vary from between 60- and 80-percent) than those built in the 1960s and ’70s, and that is thanks to the latest version of the Clean Air Act (1990). This federal mandate established tighter pollution standards for emissions from automobiles and trucks. These standards were enacted to reduce tailpipe emissions of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides on a phased-in basis beginning with 1994 model-year cars and trucks.
Now, before you complain about how controlling exhaust emissions can hamper performance, look up “1,000-horsepower Camaro” on the internet. You’ll likely not find a first- or second-gen model that can drive in everyday traffic, go to a cruise night, or blast low 10-second e.t.’s — reliably. The emissions added to late-model cars were simply a hurdle that carmakers and enthusiasts needed to work with. The aftermarket has proven performance and pollution containment can be achieved. What I want to know is, who is sitting in their ivory tower deciding we need to be limited to cars with several-hundred-volt batteries placed under our butts. Why can’t we keep gas-fired engines and work with them? I understand that electric cars are probably here to stay. I am also sure that battery-powered cars have their place in society, just not with me.
In The Real World
If you watch TV or read one of the few print publications still in existence, every ad for a car that gets plugged in at night is showing how wonderful that car is on a smooth asphalt road with the sun shining and two young people sipping a Starbucks or eating organic kale. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like Starbucks or kale — organic or otherwise. What I would like to see is how well — and for how long — that modern marvel operates on a dirt road in rural America or even on an interstate covered with snow. The rolling resistance of each will surely degrade battery voltage in a hurry. How long do you think the batteries will last if you’re stranded along the highway with the heater running to keep you alive after sliding on ice? I know that sounds extreme, but it is something to think about. Remember, not everyone is smart(?) enough to live in Los Angeles.
Here’s another scenario to think about, if the entire world is forced to go EVs, what happens to the power grid when all those people plug their cars in for the evening. I keep hearing “the grid” is already antiquated and strained, and if you don’t believe me, look up rolling blackouts in California. I know, it’s California, the land of fruits and nuts, but I am betting that is the single largest market for electric vehicles.
I read somewhere that if all vehicles were plugged in overnight, we would not have the capacity to charge them. One train of thought claims there is plenty of time for electric companies to plan and prepare for the taxing of our electricity infrastructure. And sure, electric car owners will eventually pay for the electricity they consume, and that revenue will help to maintain the grid. However, does anyone really believe the electric service to their homes will not exponentially go up beforehand just to start the grid upgrades? Even if you’re not planning to use more electricity than you ever did, you’ll still be paying for more of it.
While we’re discussing the negatives, let’s not forget that an electric car’s performance degrades a lot quicker than a gasoline-powered car. What I mean is, how many times can you be involved in a test of acceleration before the batteries really start to drain? I know, it’s an electric car, who will actually race them. Henry Ford probably thought the same thing about his Model T.
The Big Drain
Let’s take for instance you’re a pretentious owner of a Tesla and decide to try what the company calls Ludicrous Mode. This actual setting debuted in 2016 on the Model S sedan and Model X SUV. What it is, is a high-performance mode that involves software enhancements working in concert with some of the car’s hardware. Whether your Model S or Model X features Ludicrous Mode, the battery array is the same. When in Ludicrous Mode, an extra burst of power is achieved when the current drawn from the battery is increased and fed to the electric motors. More juice flowing to the engine equals more energy, and this refers to explosions of acceleration rather than sustained speed.
I have no doubt this “explosion” can be fun, but for how long? While enjoying the feel and absence of any sound experienced while in Ludicrous Mode, how long until the battery pack becomes so drained you might not be able to get home? I don’t know about you, but when my fuel gauge gets low, I can find a place to “fuel-up” almost anywhere — the guy saving the environment while driving a Tesla can’t. In fact, he must locate a Tesla-specific charging station, plug in his car, and then wait for his batteries to charge. I hope his Android tablet is already charged while he is looking for a charging station for his car.
I have also heard the Tesla will lock you out of the performance mode if the computer deems the battery level is too low or components overheat due to the massive supply of electrical current flowing through the systems during Ludicrous acceleration. Think about that sentence. If the components overheat?!?! Just what I want, my car melting or unexpectedly bursting into flames because I wanted to enjoy my car.
Plug My What Into Where?
Finally, why should I need to plan my trips around where I can plug in my car. I can currently drive until I need fuel and then fill ‘er up. With an electric-powered car, I might need to look around for a place to plug in my car and wait 45 minutes to an hour for it to get charged — if I find a charger. Currently, the driving range of an electric car is roughly 250 to 300 miles. I am sure that might improve as technology does, but when will that occur. I also know most classic cars also have a range of around 300 miles, but finding a fuel station is much easier when that station does not require using an extension cord… Speaking of needing an extension cord, I also hear there are different connections depending on the manufacturer. Good luck finding the one you need.
I guess what my ramblings are getting at, is, I don’t see fossil fuels going away anytime soon. While automakers are stating they will phase out gasoline-powered cars in the future, I don’t believe that is a feasible move. The best we can do for now is to make sure the fuel-fired rides we have are running at their best and work with the emissions on our newer cars to get the performance we want without causing Greta Thunberg to have another meltdown.