Thursday, August 29, 2013

Government thumbs on the scales...

Are you one of the tiny percentage of American motorists who could actually use an electric vehicle? And by this, I mean "Do you lease? And is your daily commute less than 20 miles round trip, with garage parking at home, and a minimum of long errands or freeway driving?"

Because if so, the automakers are willing to lose money to get you to buy one of their electric cars. Substantial amounts of money. Provided you meet one more important criteria: You live in California.

Why? Government, of course.

Back in 1990 California passed pie-in-the-sky standards for future "Zero Emissions Vehicles" (because Remotely-Emitting Vehicles sounds tacky.) Never mind that the technology for practical electrics was twenty-three years farther off back than than it is today; Sacramento said "Volt fiat!" and it happened. Sorta.

So, thanks to weird cap-and-trade-esque language in the legislation, every Leaf or Spark sold is wiping away the sins of an Infiniti or Corvette. And every Tesla is like an indulgence that can be auctioned off to an automaker that wants to sell, say, a Bentley but doesn't have any ZEVs of its own to cancel out its transgressions against Gaia.

If Ayn Rand had put that mess in a book, it would have been laughed at as unrealistic.


Blackwing1 said...

"Zero Emissions Vehicles" also sounds so much better than "Coal-fired Vehicles".

Asking a Volt owner, "So, how's that coal-fired car working out for you" can usually make (what's left of) their brains run out their ears.

Same thing as "Remotely Emitting", but the concept of some Chinese-designed coal-fired power plant belching black smoke and mercury into the air is a little more satisfying to me.

Tam said...


The Volt owner is looking at you funny because their car has a gas tank and not a coal tank. ;)

Reno Sepulveda said...

Mrs Sepulveda and I are getting such a kick parking in all the special "Clean Air Vehicles Only" parking spots here in Cali. Clovis is a pickup kind of town so driving our little Korean 4banger, we pull into those clean air slots with confidence.

Then Mrs Sepulveda gets out and flips off the surveillance cameras. #I'veCreatedAMonster

Anonymous said...

And why should the auto industry be exempt from gov "help"?

"Well boys and girls, we fixed the mail system, railroads, cars, and housing, now for medical...for the children."

The bills, that is.

LCB said...

It's a 52 mile round trip for me to work. When "they" design a car that is comparable in price to my little 4 banger...and will go 60 miles in the dead of winter with the heater on full blast...I'll consider an electric. That should be in...what...10 or 15 years???

Oh...I'll be dead or retired by then, won't I...

Borepatch said...

Anyone who answers yes to all of those questions could get a motorcycle. I'm getting 65 MPG on my Honda Rebel, around town. That's 50% better than a Prius, and very nearly the true MPG equivalent of a Nissan Leaf.

Admittedly, I don't leave a trail of SWPL smug behind me, but that's a net plus to society.

Tam said...


Having spent years commuting on a motorcycle year-round, 100 miles a day in ATL traffic (and having the steel in my shin to show for it) it's not for everyone.

It has a lot more drawbacks than a fast golf cart.

Firehand said...

I used to have a Rebel! Damn good little bike, and it passed on to the son. Who rode the bleep out of it, and then sold it; far as I know it's till buzzing around out there.

Every time I hear about this idiocy from Californicated, I remember when the electrical utilities finally got the State to understand that if they suddenly sold all the electric cars they wanted, it'd blow enough transformers to make it look like Baghdad the night of the initial attack.
And that it was going to take billions in upgrades for the grid to hope to handle all that changed load.

og said...

Being codified into law in California is not a litmus test for "Realistic" in any event. EVERYTHING that happens in California is a caricature of what happens outside bizzaroland.

I would love a fuel efficient car, one that made it to market on the strengths of it's own merits, and not based on the very thick and heavy thumb of Uncle Sam. Of course the EPA has seen to it that I will never get one.

LCB said...

YESSSSSSSSSsssssss...I love riding my Honda to work. I almost cry when November rolls around...and the roads start getting icy. I've been known to bundle up and ride in to work when the temp is in the upper 30's...although my old bones can't really take it much anymore.

But...when you factor in replacing tires every 8-12,000 miles...and keeping the old bike running (mine's a '99 Honda Shadow ACE)...I'm not sure the savings in mileage is as good as I'd like to think. (Oh...I get about 50 MPG.)

SJ said...


When the weather is good, I run my 1982 Honda motorcycle into work. Only gets 40 mpg. Maybe I should upgrade into a model that is less than 20 years old.

@borepatch, @Tam,

Weird thing. Motorcycles have looser emissions requirements than cars. Cars are required to have catalytic converters to reduce Nitrogen Oxides and Carbon Monoxide in exhaust. Motorcycles don't. (Neither do lawmowers....)

Thus, while a motorcycle emits less carbon per mile driven, they have dirtier exhaust than most cars.

Stretch said...

Since the Virginia power grid includes the North Anna Nuclear Power Plant I get to torment Volt and Leaf owners with "Nice nuclear powered car you've got there."
Now THAT's entertainment.

JohninMd.(too late?!??) said...

As a native Cali prune picker, it makes me weep to watch the imminent implosian setting up. Jerry Brown is an idiot compared to his dad Pat, and he was so good he got traded for that actor fella, Reagan. (Sigh) A beautiful state, proud history, but I could never live there again. Now if my rich uncle leaves me a fortune when he dies in the poorhouse, me be I can leave S. Mordor for the American Redoubt.....

Matt said...

Hmmm, when they perfect the electric pick up truck with performance and price to match my old Nissan I will consider it.

I commute a whopping 3.5 miles each way. An electric golf cart would suit the drive just fine except 1.5 miles of the drive is a 45mph road and I can't run a golf cart on it. The org I work for uses a fleet of electric cars and trucks, the tiny kind suited for roads of 25mph or less. Hasn't saved them a dime.

Hafnhaf said...

i drive a 2000 honda insight, gen 1. my mileage is in the mid-70s. 56 miles per day commute. half freeway, half suburb. i gas up every two and a half weeks. all ten gallons. climate control, electric everything (except the seats). been driving it for eight years. dont say it cant be done, or the tech is not good enough yet.

Tam said...


"i gas up every two and a half weeks"

You what up now?

I'm sorry, but the linked article is about EVs.

Blackwing1 said...

The Chev website notes that the Volt is primarily intended to be a plug-in recharge, with the 1.4L engine as a "range-extender". So if used as marketed, it's still a "coal-fired vehicle". Just one that can also burn gas to fuel an on-board generator to recharge if you actually drive the thing for any distance.

Firehand said...

I don't know if it's required in all states, but a lot of bikes DO have cats now; my 2004 VFR does.

I've read that one thing a lot of people do it take it out to get rid of the weight, and have the ignition re-mapped to deal with the change.

Blackwing1 said...

I actually AM a perfect candidate for a pure EV, since my 8-mile (one-way) commute could be done on surface streets (and take 3 times as long), and I can garage it and plug it in when necessary. But I have yet to see a pure EV with a heating system that simultaneously WORKS in Minnesnowta temperatures while still leaving you enough energy to get back and forth. They have to use electrical resistance heating for crew comfort, and that sucks the battery down pretty darned fast when it's -10F.

My 9-month-a-year commuter vehicle is an 1800cc GoldWing that gets about 40 MPG while still providing freeway driving capabilities at approximately 7.2-times the "whee" of a cage. The downside is that 3 months of the year I'm back to my 4-WD pick-up that nets around 20 MPG.

Now if they can get the battery technology to the point where an electric bike could be practical (they're coming close) that would be a nifty compromise for me.

Fly To Your Dreams said...

I hate to admit it, but I may be in the target market for some of those cars.
I pay close to twice as much in gas in a month as I would on a lease for one of those electric Smart cars.
My tech-job employer has charging stations in the parking garage, making my 42-mile commute in stop-and-go freeway traffic viable, since I could re-charge during my work day.

Sure, I could buy a motorcycle (and would like to), but by the time I'm done with a 36-month lease on one of these electric go-carts, I could have enough saved up to buy said motorcycle.

Anonymous said...

Like Blackwing, I could be their target demographic. I have a five mile commute on country roads. Except I also live in MN. I'd flatten the battery in nothing flat during a -20F winter day, or a 95F/70F dewpoint Summer day. Throw in a trip for lunch or shopping after work, and I'd be pushing the damned thing up the driveway for sure.

Batteries work great in theory, but suck in actual practice. Sort of like communism and socialism.

Anonymous said...

Leaving alone the self-deception required for 'lectric drivers to feel smugly superior for their gaia-stroking thrift, the heart of the transportation experience is inextricably tied not to the thrift (real or imagined), but to the experience itself.

Which explains why the '12 Passat TDI which has AVERAGED 40+ MPG for the first 20K and requires stopping from time to time to drain off the excess fuel oil (and it's a BIG car), elicits acrimonious looks and comments from its primary operator (sweet wife), who still pines and reminisces for the '03 A4 Quattro, '05 325i, and '08 C300 which preceded it.

It's a lesson well-taught (by her) and well-learned (by me).


Anonymous said...

Tam said:

The Volt owner is looking at you funny because their car has a gas tank and not a coal tank. ;)

70% of all electricity in this country is produced by burning coal, so EVs are essentially powered by coal, which is why it's fun to ask them how they like their coal-powered car.

Firehand - does your VFR feed, water, and change the cat litter for it's cat, or do you have to do it?


Tim said...

One criteria, Tam? I has a disappoint.

Tam said...


"70% of all electricity in this country is produced by burning coal, so EVs are essentially powered by coal..."

Yes, I get that. I was pointing out that, having a gasoline engine capable of driving the wheels, the Volt is not an EV.

Dave in Indiana said...

I like my 408 Windsor with the Comp Cams 305H grind cam, Victor Jr. intake and Holley 850 double pumper. It's a lot of fun to pop the clutch and floor it at lights, leaving the smug Prius drivers behind in a cloud of partially unburned hydrocarbons and tire smoke. I like to think of it as a carbon offet.

Firehand said...

It's a maintenance-free cat; doesn't take much energy to sit there and weigh things down.

On mileage, around town in warm weather get 40-42; on the highway, depending on wind, anywhere from 45 to 52.