Let’s talk automotive electrification. Right now it’s August of 2016 and fully electric cars are just starting to get good. People are buying them and we’re seeing them on the road fairly regularly. Each night, these buyers actually plug their cars into their walls, which is crazy, rather than filling up at a gas station like the rest of us. Clearly things are changing.
I’ve been pretty up front about these cars. Electric motors, no matter how fast they are, are kind of boring, kind of, well, quiet. They’re quiet in a few ways: quiet in operation, yes, but also quiet in appearance and quiet in demeanor. They’re perhaps a little too perfect, a little too smooth. There’s simply nothing rowdy or all that fun about an electric car.
This sentiment has led my friends to assume that I’ll remain a luddite forever and I’ll never consider adding an electric car to my garage. This is not true. For a daily driver, an electric car is fine and I’ll willingly add one to my stable but that time has not yet come. Electrified cars are close to being good enough to buy. I fully believe that they’ll soon meet my requirements but they just kind of suck right now. Here’s my requirement for buying an electric car. When this happens, and it will, I will buy one.
- I have a four cylinder Mazda6 that can easily reach Las Vegas, NV from Salt Lake City, UT on one tank of gas. It’s a 420 mile trip, but there’s more to it than just range. On I-15, Utah has 80 MPH speed limits most of the way and I want to go this fast in an electric car and still make it to Las Vegas. My Mazda can do it. A current Tesla may have a 250 mile range but it doesn’t have that range at 80 MPH, and even if it did, it’s still well short of 420 miles. When electric cars have a 450 mile range at 80 MPH, this condition is met.
- When I get to Las Vegas in my gas powered Mazda6, I only need to find a gas station to get my entire range back. Filling up with gas takes about five minutes and I’m good to go. Now, I’m actually fine with recharges being slower than gas fill ups as long as I can charge the car once I’m parked at my destination, which is usually a hotel. It’s not worth it to me to convert to electric if I can’t have a recharged car waiting for me when it’s time to leave. This means I’ll need a recharging station at my parking spot, and it needs to be easy to get such a parking spot. When electric recharging stations are readily available in parking spots, this condition is met.
- I don’t just travel to Las Vegas. I go all over, and usually I travel by car because I love to drive. And when I’m traveling, I typically avoid freeways because they’re absolutely, unquestionably the worst possible way to get around because you don’t see anything or meet anyone except fellow city people jumping between metropolitan areas. Also freeways are straight and mind numbingly boring and you don’t see anything. Traveling by freeway is like taking a plane, only slower. You don’t travel, you arrive. But taking back road creates the true American road trip. When I want to actually take a road trip, I’ll have to leave my electric car behind and drive something else because I won’t be able to recharge away from the interstates. When recharging is commonly available in small towns, this condition is met.
Today, it’s hip to have an electric car. It’s like having the newest phone in your pocket; electric cars attract the techie crowd, not the car crowd. But having a hip electric car for style’s sake isn’t worth it to me unless it can realistically compete with a gas powered car. Today they can’t, and it’s that simple. If, like most of my friends, I stayed only in my home city, electrified cars are ready today. But for me they’re not.
30 years ago, cordless power tools were in their infancy. They were truly crap, especially compared to their corded counterparts, but everyone could see where things were going. Today, cordless power tools are great. They’ve taken over nearly everything but the most demanding of tasks. It’s mind blowing that today we have cordless cars. Boring as electrification is, and it really is, it’s undoubtedly the future and I won’t fight it, not with a daily driver. But they’re not ready for prime time, at least not for me, and not for a lot of the driving public. Meet these conditions and I’m on board, no question.
Now, with autonomous cars, well, that’s a topic for another day …