We were intrigued by the record-holding, long-distance driver who showed up at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen plant Friday after driving 32,000-plus miles around the country in one of the company’s electric vehicles.
By all rights, the vehicle — which will be assembled here starting next year — performed “super,” the driver noted. We’re gratified to know that for drivers who are ready for electric vehicles and who want the option of a vehicle that doesn’t run on gasoline.
However, the driver, Rainer Zietlow, who no doubt knew the location of and planned ahead to use charging stations installed by VW subsidiary Electrify America, reported there had been a few anxious moments when it came to keeping a charge in the vehicle’s batteries.
The area of the country heading west from Denver, in particular, he said, lacks charging stations.
That’s not the kind of news Americans, who have had a love of cars and the wanderlust to use them at will for well over a century, want to hear. They expect to find a filling station — be it for gasoline or electricity — at the precise time they run low, then to fill up in five minutes and be on their way.
That’s not the case for electric vehicles (EVs) at the moment, but Congress is currently considering a $3.5 billion bill that would — to use the words of The Associated Press — “quickly transform energy and transportation from systems that now mostly burn gas, oil and coal to sectors that run increasingly on clean energy.”
One plan by the Biden administration would spend $174 billion on EVs, including subsidizing the price of the car for American drivers, scaling up the number of public electric vehicle charging stations and even increasing tax credits for home EV chargers.
When the federal government says it will chip in so that you buy the type of car it wants you to and when it controls how many and where the stations are to refuel that car, we’ve moved far afield from the market economy that has largely made and kept the nation strong.
We have nothing against EVs or against vehicles that run on alternate sources of energy from gasoline but believe they ought to compete and pay their way.
At present, depending on the source, the U.S. has from 42,500 to 100,000 public charging stations for EVS. The number of gas stations, again depending on the source, ranges from 115,000 to 168,000, most with multiple pumps.
Of course, with an electric vehicle, the number of stations is only part of the problem, as even the most climate change zealots acknowledge. There’s also the time it takes to recharge the vehicle.
Level 2 chargers, which are the majority of those now available, take about an hour to charge for 60 to 80 miles of range. DC fast chargers take about 20 minutes for the same 60 to 80 miles. (That is, if they’re not already in use.) In any case, our normal five-hour trip to see Grandma will take about a day’s trip, which makes us think:
1) How do we entertain the kids in this 90-degree heat while we’re charging the car at a station which may or may not be anywhere near where we’re going?
2) We would probably need to plan for an extra night for the trip, which we don’t have the funds for.
3) Maybe we ought to just stay at home.
There’s also this. Some electric car companies have their own network of chargers compatible only with their vehicles. It would be frustrating to pull your gasping-for-electricity Chevrolet Bolt into the one charging station in site and find it services only Teslas.
All things being equal, if you could recharge your car slowly in your garage each night, you would probably save money on fuel for your car versus filling it with gasoline. But electricity, like gas prices, varies across the country. If you live in a part of the country where your electricity is more expensive, it stands to reason you’ll pay more to fill your car.
The same thing is true regarding the quickness of the charge. The faster the charging station, the most expensive the charge for your car.
We wish Chattanooga’s Volkswagen well in its EV future, and with the ID.4 SUV in which Zeitlow is tooling around the U.S. By the way, the company says its vehicle can power up from 5% to 80% capacity (of its estimated 250-mile range) in 38 minutes at a public fast-charging station.
Meanwhile, Biden wants half of the vehicles sold in the U.S. by 2030 to be battery electric, fuel-cell electric or plug-in hybrid. (They were 2% of U.S. auto sales in 2020, according to one analysis.) He also wants to country to be at net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Electric cars may be the future, but until the average Joe (not President Joe) can make that extended trip in the time and with the convenience he can in his gasoline vehicle, that future may be a ways off.