Life in the Box: Electric Car Shopping

March, 2023

David Houle recently wrote an article about the market for electric vehicles (EV) in the U.S.  He dug up some numbers from international sales, which were interesting. China leads the way.

So, here’s what he left out. EV’s batteries are catching fire. Owners have been told to park them outdoors to avoid burning down the garage and/or attached house.

When I was considering buying a Chevy Volt in 2021, the $40,000 vehicles on the lot were selling for $20,000. I wondered why, and then the battery issue was reported. “Okay, not this year,” I decided.

Looking at the exciting new Ford 150 “Lightning” truck, an EV with mega-power, I just heard they had a battery burn up in the factory and stopped production for a while in February.

As a potential buyer of an EV, I will wait until these safety concerns are worked out. I was able to find a Honda SUV hybrid that gets about 32 MPG. I love it and will keep it a long time, I hope!

Back when I was looking at EVs, though, I did call an electrician to see if my 1960s garage would be able to support the charging needs. Luckily, my electricity comes in through the garage, so I would just have to find two breakers with nothing else on them, and wire them across the ceiling to put an outlet near the nose of the car. The outlet is basically the same as one for your clothes dryer. The cost would be approximately $1,000. Not bad when compared to car prices.

So, the next two questions as a buyer are: how long does the car take to fully charge, and how far will that charge get me? If you’re just buying the car for in-town driving, no problem at all. The Volt was an 8-to-12-hour charge from empty to full, but doing errands won’t fully empty the battery, so just a few hours on charge will fill it back up.

For longer drives, there are online maps available to show you electric car fill-up stations. Yes, to fill up “fast” you will have to pay. I found some “stations” every few hundred miles. That could work, if you time it right. At a high-speed station, you can fill up in about an hour. That means that after driving two or three hours, you’ll be stopping for a meal or a book read while your car charges. This makes trips longer than filling a gas tank, but it’s do-able if you’re not on a tight schedule.

Lastly, or maybe firstly, is the electric vehicle really going to save the environment? Emissions-wise, EV vehicle emissions are zero. But, how about other ecological issues?

  1. Battery toxicity and waste issues, including water quality when discarded batteries leach chemicals. (Which is also a problem for all car batteries including my hybrid.)
  2. Coal-fired electric plants’ emissions will increase with the increase in electrical needs.
  3. Lithium mining practices (for lithium-ion batteries) have many environmental concerns.

I wish I could figure out the scale of the EV problems. That’s so hard to compute, just like it’s hard to compute the costs of ethanol vs the environmental problems involved with growing all that corn. I’m just saying, there ARE problems that will need to be addressed. Encouraging Americans to buy EV is probably a good start for cutting back on global warming. But it’s not going to be the end-all, either.

Nancy Heather Brown is a retired, Emmy Award-winning television producer whose career has included interviewing, writing, narrating and editing for a span of four decades. Today, she enjoys learning new things and reflecting upon the creative process and life issues, both inside and outside the box. Her opinions are her own, and are not necessarily those of this web site. She’s now showing photos on Smug Mug. 

David Houle on EV markets world-wide.

Scientific discussion of issues with car batteries, and some solutions being explored.

Lawyer describes Chevy Volt battery recall August 2021.

Ford EV Battery fire, and other problems reported by CNBC

Lithium battery production and mining Volkswagen’s story. 

Aerial photos of Lithium production fields… worth a look, then worth a read.

Related article on Iowa’s dilemmas about a carbon pipeline. It’s not just about eminent domain. 

Another not-so-related side note: Environmental concern about Titanium mining in Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp. 

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