The electric car and when the wheels of progress become stuck

1917 Ford and Telsa electric car

For now, a 100 percent electric car is incredibly expensive and, if distributed in great numbers, would result in substantial pollution from coal generators. And many more coal generating plants would need to be constructed to meet the vast electricity needs of the 10 million electric cars that make up the dreams of the Greens.

“Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.” – Stewart Brand, American writer.

My father, Vernon, made his money as an investment writer focusing primarily on the resource sector. Months before his death he published his autobiography Fifty Years in the Furnace. The stories he told in those memoirs showed snapshots of a world that changed more in his lifetime than it had changed during the previous millennium.

As a young boy, a 30-mile trip for him by horse would consume most of his day. Yet, before he died, he flew across the Atlantic at twice the speed of sound and more than a mile above the earth aboard the Concorde.

This summer marks an anniversary of sorts in the Myers family. It was 100 years ago that my paternal grandfather bought the newest technology in the world, a 1917 Ford Model T. It cost him less than $400.

Incredible strides were made with the Model T. It was priced to be affordable to the workers who built it and it had a blistering top speed of 45 miles/hour.

But what made the Model T exceptional was the car’s electrical system. It’s ignition system used an unusual trembler coil system to drive the spark plugs — as was used for stationary gas engines at the time — rather than the expensive magnetos that were being used on other cars. The need for a starting battery and also Ford’s use of an unusual AC alternator encouraged the adoption of electric lighting (standard fitment as of 1915) to replace oil or acetylene lamps in use at the time.

Even then, engineers were battling to make a lighter, more efficient battery. They’re still battling. And while strides have been made, it seems they are still quite a ways away from perfecting it.

The discovery of a revolutionary battery design today would be equivalent to what Henry Ford did with the Model T 100 years ago. That would finally make it feasible for millions to own an electric car.

For now, a 100 percent electric car is incredibly expensive and, if distributed in great numbers, would result in substantial pollution from coal generators. And many more coal generating plants would need to be constructed to meet the vast electricity needs of the 10 million electric cars that make up the dreams of the Greens.

Apparently the environmentalists never read Anthony J. D’Angelo who wrote: “Don’t reinvent the wheel, just realign it.”

The road to red tape

Despite great advances in the automobile, happiness seems to have been left behind. I don’t doubt it began when the government clamped down with all its rules. Cars have become so automated that they parallel park for the driver, make emergency stops and backseat drive with their “two cents” on how you should best reach your destination.

There are even plans to build cities with driverless cars to transport passengers around like chickens on a conveyer belt.

To be feasible, these electric cars need to emit little or no carbon. And if you believe that is possible you must think you can have your cake and eat it too. After all, there has to be a fuel source to generate electricity.

Solar cars are impractical because the absorbing panels would have to be so massive to collect enough energy to power the vehicle. Ethanol is as costly as gasoline when you factor in the seeding, spraying, harvesting, fermentation and distillation of the corn. It’s only viable as an alternative thanks to massive government subsidies.

Most of the processing of ethanol is still done with petroleum-powered machinery and it has a major impact on the price of farmland.

Yet intelligent people like the presumptive-Democratic candidate for president, Hillary Clinton, can be incredibly stupid or incredibly greedy when it comes to the electric car. It is almost as if they think that dark energy can be proven to exist and can be tapped as a source. A far better way to lower carbon emissions with existing technology is to improve the gasoline efficiency of the 1 billion cars in the world.

Clinton is unabashed in her support of the electric car and hasn’t comprehended — or more likely, outright dismisses — that in the United States the majority of power generation for millions of electric vehicles would come from coal.

On more than one occasion Clinton has talked about how, if elected, her administration will shut down coal mining in the United States. At a roundtable discussion at the beginning of May when she was in West Virginia, unemployed coal worker Bo Copley asked Clinton, “How you can say you’re going to put a lot of coal miners out of jobs and then come in here and tell us how you’re going to be our friend, because those people out there don’t see you as a friend?”

Clinton only thinks she is anti-coal because she is hungry for the Green’s green. The Clinton Global Initiative is known to have close associates invested in green technology, even if that technology is overpriced, unattainable and unrealistic. Clearly there is more at stake than reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

The technology already exists to greatly increase fuel efficiency. But that is not what buyers are looking for. They don’t want a 60-mile-per-gallon car. They are interested in the resurrected American muscle car. Consider the the popular Dodge Charger which generates 707 horsepower! That is seven times more horsepower than my first car, a 1972 Ford Pinto. Yet the speed limit is still the same today as it was in 1972.

If you are looking for muscle and speed, along with the ability to brag about your wealth and a way to show how much you care about the planet, the Tesla is for you. It’s the electric supercar.

It made more sense to drive a “bug”

The original Volkswagen Beetle of the 1950s and 1960s has been called the most utilitarian automobile ever made. The Tesla is without a doubt the least utilitarian automobile ever built. It is a completely electric car with more than 700 horsepower and a computer-restricted top speed of 155 miles per hour. And it can cost upwards of $132,000.

For an additional $3,000, Tesla owners can buy an extended battery pack that allows them to travel up to 300 miles before needing to charge up.

A $10,000 upgrade to the high-performance P85D motor lets drivers accelerate to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds instead of 3.1.

And suddenly we are right back to Henry Ford’s problem; building a revolutionary battery. If driven hard, the life expectancy of the gigantic block of batteries that power the Tesla is more accurately measured in months rather than in years at a cost of more than $12,000.

Finally, there is the problem of charging a Tesla — or any electric car. There are approximately 12,000 electric charging stations for automobiles in the U.S. as opposed to nearly 125,000 gasoline stations. And if you don’t live along the Eastern seaboard or in California, you will use your navigation system more to locate a charging system to charge your car than you use it for getting you to your destination. Bring something to read. It can take up to half an hour to fully charge the battery once you find a charging station.

My father saw great progress in his lifetime. What we are witnessing this century is an exorbitant waste of money on impractical engineering like the electric car. If this trend continues unabated there will be millions more Americans that long for the old days.

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