Electric Vehicles Continue The Same Wasteful Mistakes That Limit Longevity

A while back, I sat in the newish electric car that was the pride and joy of a friend of mine, and had what was at the time an odd experience. Instead of getting in, turning the key, and driving off, the car instead had to boot up.

The feeling was of a piece of software rather than a piece of hardware, and there was a tangible wait before the start button could be pressed. It was a miracle of technology that could travel smoothly and quietly for all but the longest journeys I could possibly throw at it on relative pennies-worth of electricity, but I hated it. As a technologist and car enthusiast, I should be all over these types of motor vehicles. I live for new technology and I lust after its latest incarnations in many fields including automobiles.

I want my next car to have an electric motor, I want it to push the boundaries of what is capable with a battery and I want it to be an automotive tour de force. The switch to electric cars represents an opportunity like no other to deliver a new type of car that doesn’t carry the baggage of what has gone before, but in that car I saw a future in which they were going badly astray.

I don’t want my next vehicle to be a car like my friend’s one, and to understand why that is the case it’s worth going back a few decades to the cars my parents drove back when when jumpers were goalposts, and the home computer was just a gleam in the eye of a few long-haired outsiders in California.

When Rust Buckets Ruled the Open Road

The FIAT 127 is better known for rusting than for modernity, but under the skin it's the precursor of your car today.
The FIAT 127 is better known nowadays for rusting than for modernity, but under the skin it’s the precursor of your front-wheel-drive car today. Thomas doerfer / CC BY-SA 3.0

By the 1970s, the basic design and layout of a car had begun to reach its zenith. Lift the hood on a VW Golf Mk1 from 1974 or a FIAT 127 from 1971 and you’ll find the same transverse engine with a front-wheel-drive transmission stuck on the end (Pay attention, in-sump-gearbox Mini enthusiasts!) of it that most of you will see in the car on your driveway today. In the rest of their construction you’ll see earlier iterations of the safety and comfort innovations you’re used to.

Throughout the world, the vast majority of cars on the road today use this configuration, with rear-wheel-drive, longitudinal engines, and rear engines having become something of an oddity.  While the designers had nailed the basic format though, the materials hadn’t quite caught up with the demands of the product. The better 1970s cars were on the whole pretty reliable and easy to fix when they went wrong, but as any older car enthusiast will tell you today, the quality of their metallurgy and paintwork left something to be desired.

They rusted, and they did so with frightening rapidity. Scrapyards were full of rusted-out models less than ten years old that were otherwise fine mechanically, and running a car over that age meant becoming familiar with the art of using the welder and plenty of fibreglass body filler. These were the vehicles my generation had as our first proper transport, and some of them were good cars, but at the same time truly awful good cars.

An Audi 80 heads for a watery but ultimately rust-free grave.
An Audi 80 heads for a watery but ultimately rust-free grave.

Making cars that didn’t last a decade was good business for the automakers who hoped to sell more cars, but ultimately damaging for their reputations and their bottom lines. Thus one of the biggest selling points for a car in the 1980s was its rust resistance, as can be seen in Audi’s commercial for their new Audi 80 near the end of that decade in which they dropped the car in the sea to highlight its galvanised body. By the 1990s most cars simply didn’t rust, or at least if they did it was relatively minor and cosmetic compared to the serial disingtegration of their 1970s stablemates.

Outside my window I see a descendant of those Golf Mk1s made in 1998 that has just received its first piece of structural welding, a patch on a perforation the size of a nickel. That would have been unheard of in a 22-year-old car that had spent its life driving through British winters when it was made, yet now it is quite normal. Cars still end up in scrapyards, but by and large they no longer do so due to bodywork rust.

From Rust Rot to Bit Rot

Most of these cars probably had surprisingly little wrong with them when scrapped. Carolyn Williams / CC BY 2.0
Most of these cars probably had surprisingly little wrong with them when scrapped. Carolyn Williams / CC BY 2.0

So why do cars get scrapped in 2020, if modern rust proofing has made their bodies near-immortal and a combination of good metallurgy and synthetic oil has left their engines bulletproof? Aside from legislatory changes such as for example those surrounding diesel emissions,  a modern car is significantly more complex than its equivalent of a few decades ago. It has a whole variety of subsystems devoted to achieving lower emissions, better safety, and increased fuel economy, and its interior is festooned with gadgets unknown in times past.

Headlights no longer turn on with a switch and a wire, instead the car’s computer sends a CAN bus instruction to a microcontroller behind its bulb which turns it on. All this extra complexity has made modern cars significantly more reliable than their predecessors, but at a price. When those headlights fail the replacement part is no longer a $5 switch but a $1000 electronic module behind the dashboard, probably more than the car is worth so it heads for the crusher. I’ve more than once been offered just such rather nice cars for pennies; sensing money pits I have so far wisely declined. There is no motivation yet for the manufacturers to improve this situation because the shortcomings of their cars are not as obvious to the owners as the bubbling rust was in the 1970s, but they’ve achieved the same feat of making cars that only last ten years or so.

Complexity is the Enemy of Longevity

You wouldn't believe how much this box of electronics from a VW cost me to replace.
You wouldn’t believe how much this box of electronics from a 2001 VW cost me to replace back in 2009? I did it because I liked the car, but many people wouldn’t.

Electric cars offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something about all this. Instead of an engine with hundreds of moving parts and a brace of computers to keep it running within its emission and fuel economy parameters, you have an electric motor with one moving part. There are still electronics, but a motor controller is now a simple enough unit to have become genericised.

As a demonstration of that versatility New Electric Ireland for example put a Lexus electric drivetrain with a Nissan Leaf motor controller in a BMW estate car. It would be difficult to imagine a corresponding situation in which the brains of a Nissan internal combustion engine drove the lump from a Lexus. An electric car can at its very minimum have electronics only in its motor controller, battery charger, and safety systems such as anti-lock brakes, making it at a stroke infinitely simpler than the internal combustion vehicle it replaces.

Unfortunately though, the manufacturers seem intent on taking electric cars in the opposite direction, bringing me back to the car I sat in at the start of this article. Right now electric cars are technology showcases in which complexity and unnecessary features are viewed as desirable, and the very environmental benefit of having the electric car is negated by their inevitable demise after a few years when the feature overload starts to bite the dust. Instead we need to see longevity become a selling point, and unnecessary complexity merely for the purpose of limiting vehicle life come to be regarded as environmentally detrimental as rolling coal from a big diesel V8. There should be no greenwash afforded to a manufacturer whose so-called environmentally sound offering doesn’t have a likely service life almost into its third decade even if that requires a replacement battery, because if we are serious about CO2 emissions our aim should be to make fewer, better cars rather than simply make more cars. Anything else is mere hypocrisy.

Header image: A 1914 experimental electric car. Unknown author / Public domain

372 thoughts on “Electric Vehicles Continue The Same Wasteful Mistakes That Limit Longevity

  1. “The feeling was of a piece of software rather than a piece of hardware, ”
    Similar to the boot delay of a Digital camera as opposed to point and shoot film cameras.
    (How many memorable photos of my daughter were never made, because by the time the camera was ready, the “moment” was gone.)

      1. My DSLR asks for a second but can be ready in something like 0.3 seconds by skipping its sensor cleaning step. If only it would be small and light enough to move that fast!

        1. This is written from the customer point of view. Evolution of car selling model is driven by the economy or distribution of goods in the most efficient way accepted by all parts involved. If you think there is a better way of making cars try to build company this way. I think in current situation if you would like to keep company running building cars that last decades you will need to charge substantial price for them to stay afloat. Which would make your vehicles not attractive to most of customers. One of the reasons behind car manufacturing being so problematic is amount of safety legislation which makes them very dependant on the economy of scale. And this is what makes your parts so expensive, simply there is no business in selling highly complex parts in low volume.

          1. “One of the reasons behind car manufacturing being so problematic is amount of safety legislation which makes them very dependant on the economy of scale.”

            Looks similar to the attempts to make open source ventilators.

          2. This is almost never true, safety measures save money and increase productivity.

            It is very commonly believed by the workers in a factory that the safety rules are just dead weight, but they don’t even realize that it is the big manufacturing companies that help write the rules.

            People forget from one issue to the next that Congress most often listens to the industry being regulated when writing regulations. This is criticized in other contexts. But then when people’s politics want the rules to have been written, somehow, both by hippies and “people carrying clipboards,” they fail to realize that the “hippies” are insurance actuaries and the “people with clipboards” and their own company’s bean counters.

          3. So, essentially, because cars are becoming more common (demand increases), the production scale (which also increases) reaches a point where quality needs to be lower so that it is cost effective?

            One could also imagine having lots of companies making low volumes to keep good quality, right?

            Companies do not need to change models and parts every year.
            They do, but it is not necessary. People will not change cars every year anyway.

            They could build new models sharing parts, like they used to do, which was cost effective (just as for Nokia it was cost effective to share the same battery and charger across multiple phone models). They just don’t want to. Why? Because cars would last longer.

            The goal is planned obsolescence, as simple as that.

            And the problem is that people trade quality and longevity for trash that will have to be dumped and pollute due to planned obsolescence. Once that enough people do (which is the case), there’s no way to have buy quality goods. It all becomes a race to the bottom.

            For instance, there are some old cars/motorbikes for which you can still get parts, like old BMW motorbikes from the 50s/60s, but if you want the parts to last, you need to get the old “Made in Germany” ones. Parts manufactured recently, even if in Germany, are made of a different steel which is lower grade and breaks more easily.

          4. >People forget from one issue to the next that Congress most often listens to the industry being regulated when writing regulations.

            People forget that the industry often recommends regulations solely on the point that it harms their competitors. If corporation A has a process that is different from corporation B that is making similar products, A will suggest regulations that affect B’s processes and B will suggest regulations that affect A’s processes – just for the sake of throwing a crowbar in their gears. There isn’t necessarily any real environmental or safety reason behind it.

            Even in the case where A and B have the exact same process, A might be more established and wealthier than their competitor B, so they suggest a regulation that harms both A and B in the knowledge that B will go under because of it and leave the market to A.

            “This hurts you more than it hurts me.”

          1. It has to boot up the DRM to make sure you’ve been a good consumerbot.

            I have a Mr Coffee that with all the programmable stuff and it turns on faster than I can focus my eyes on the screen.

          2. “I have a Mr Coffee that with all the programmable stuff and it turns on faster than I can focus my eyes on the screen.”

            Don’t know about the rest of you, but if we’re talking coffee… On a normal morning (read: pre-covid,) I’m dressed, coffee in hand, and half way through my drive to work faster than I can focus on a screen!

        1. If you have a filter type coffee machine it most likely needs descaling. I use a filter macine and when I was younger I found you could pick one up cheaply at a car boot sale “because it was alright when it was new but now it takes too long”. I would take it home, descale it and it then would only take a few minutes to produce a jug full.

        1. You’re fast dude! My dslr turns on and I can use faster than I can get the viewfinder to my eye.. even with that said, I just leave it on, it does not mind being on “stand by” for hours, takes next to no battery, and then there’s no delay between trigger pressing and photo shooting.

          But yes, film is interesting for many reasons.

          1. For me its always been it’s booted before I manage to put the lens cap somewhere safe… Not used a super modern DSLR though which could be much worse to boot I suppose. (why bother upgrading when ones from the Cannon 550D sort of era and say 5 years newer are relatively cheap and take better photos than just about anything that isn’t a newer SLR or an older Film camera – I’d love a better one but I think I’d run into my lack of skill far before really seeing much improvement in the photos.)

    1. The first digital cameras were worse than film but I can’t get on board with this analogy. So many more moments are captures because more people have cameras on their phones and they specifically have quick picture UI action with autofocus and autoexposure.

      DSLR’s can sit in standby for hours. When I travel I never turn it off while walking around incase I want to get something quick. The camera will be ready by the time I can bring it to my eye. You also don’t have flash charge, film advance, roll limits, and fixed iso.

      On an aggregate there is a ridiculously higher percentage of moments captured because of digital cameras.

      1. I agree, but I can’t tell any time difference between letting my (Pentax) DSLR sleep in standby and turning it off; either way it takes much less than a second. I can’t even detect a delay. It takes much longer to take off the lens cap.

        I have a point and shoot that takes a bit longer, maybe a second and a half, but it doesn’t have a lens cap. So it comes out close.

        I really doubt that my old Cannon AE-1 Program SLR would have booted it’s auto modes any faster. Maybe slower.

        IME if it takes 3 seconds to take out a phone and open an app, and 1.5 seconds to pick up a dedicated tool and wait for it to turn on, most people will experience the app as being faster, because they were never waiting very long. As long as they’re hunting with their eyes for the button and pressing it, that time is counted as “free,” not part of the wait.

        Same with software; and traffic. People drive a route that takes 15% longer, because even though they stop a lot and their average speed is low, the wait time for each stop is low. They’ll perceive stop-and-go to get past and all-way stopsign as not being much of a wait, because they’re constantly switching tasks; stop, go, stop, go, they always feel like they’re doing something. If they drive the other route on main streets, their average speed is higher and they’ll get there quicker, but the whole time they’re driving below the speed limit, staring at the bumper in front of them and feeling like they’re waiting. So the whole drive is a long wait, and it “took forever.” It takes mental discipline to measure the actual times and then use the measured time instead of the perceived time in your own thoughts; most people would never attempt it and assume choosing your thoughts in this way would somehow take the mystical humanity out of living.

    2. If you missed the moment, it’s unlikely that a film camera would have been able to capture it, at least in a way that you’d want. I’ve been using digital cameras for 20+ years, and film cameras for a long time before that, and the act of pulling out the camera and getting ready for the shot, and getting it in focus, is the vast majority of the time. The only times I’ve missed a shot with digital is where it couldn’t focus properly, usually due to low light. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve been frustrated and missed many a shot due to that – but that’s not due to the nature of it being digital, or a “boot delay”, that’s just an inability for the optics to figure out how to capture the shot. In a film camera, sure, I could have grabbed the photo, but it would have been blurry or too dark. Lower priced film cameras that had autofocus also had this same problem. More expensive film cameras were better, as are more expensive digital cameras. I don’t think the problem here is digital-vs-film.

      1. I currently have two cameras that I use, a Nikon FX DLSR and Fuji X-Pro1. The Nikon turns on almost instantly and reacts super-fast, including the autofocus action. The Fuji, while it’s a nicely built, small camera with great optics, boots in around 2 seconds and focuses much slower than the Nikon. It also eats the battery like crazy and you can’t really keep it always on like i can with the Nikon. I have indeed lost shots due to the boot delay of the Fuji.

        1. but is it the boot delay, or the focus? That’s my point. How often, realistically, is there a shot lost because that camera takes 2 seconds and a different camera takes 1 second? That’s only a second difference.

          But if it takes 2-3 seconds to find the focus and take the bloody picture, that’s the problem. Because then even with the camera on, you still can’t capture those moments.

      2. With an old manual film camera used in daylight, set the focus at the hyperfocal distance and expose at f/16 and 1/film_speed. From the time an opportunity is noticed until the shutter activates all that has to be done is raise the camera to the eye, compose, and press the shutter. No time spent focusing or calculating the exposure; no turning the camera on or booting, the camera’s always ready to go.

        1. I can’t believe I’m standing up for digital cameras, but:

          Set a dSLR to manual exposure, manual focus and keep it turned on – it’s still a camera.

          Now go inside and “race” a dSLR in dim, ever-changing light levels and color temperatures.

        1. I don’t know what you mean. If your dslr has any boot time beyond milisecondsyou must have one of the beginner cameras. My D70s, D80 and D7000 Nikons haven’t ever had a noticeable boot time. You flip the switch and it is on.

    3. Good opinion piece. What everyone is missing is that it’s the fault of poor engineering. Case in point my Buick Rendezvous SUV need you simply to slide open a door in the glove box to change the cabin air filter. My Nissan Altima requires 14 screws to take off the glove box case and then you have to use a pair of pliers to pull out the cabin filter so either it’s a 10-minute charge at the dealer or 1-hour charge from Nissan for a $5 paper filter change interesting lie enough the engine air filters are just the opposite the Buick is very hard to do but the Nissan just pops off by the way do you know that Nissan Altima has an integrated yes filter under the engine that has never changed that’s kind of stupid

        1. You assume malice. The reality is the high-labor filter will simply never get changed. There’s no maintenance revenue to be had.

          Instead they realized 14 screws was a few dozen cents cheaper to produce than an access panel. So they shifted $75 of maintenance labor costs to the consumer to save (probably) less than a buck up front.

          That’s the kind of thing that makes good sense on the quarterly report. Until a decade down the line when your brand is in the trash.

          1. Nah in 70ties Mercedes almost went bancrupt because their cars didn’t broke down and there was no money to be made in parts and service. Imagine company produces car that doesn’t break down for 15 years it means in few years they saturate the market and then there will be thin years before them because customers that wanted and could buy their car did that and they now don’t need new one. Theres limited number of customers for everything if things dont break then they dont buy it and factories bancrupt.

          2. Peter is exactly right – but if the factories are working properly that should be a good thing. There is still a need for new ones – ever growing population, crashes, that odd failed part that best will in the world, with proper repairable design will still be too much effort to fix. You need to make less in each year, but that also means you can be making more other useful things with the factory tools, and the fairly skilled workforce.

            In this current crazyness just imagine if factories were used to rejigging more than they do now (which would make shifting production cheaper) you could have many spaces building the machines to churn out masks/gowns, to sterilize, or just making PPE themselves. Being able to create good stuff to meet new demands more dynamically using your existing workforce just has to be profitable. Its a diferent way to mass produce with less effort spent on making each one pennies cheaper because you intend to sell billions of them each year to making it cheaper to switch production to whatever there is a demand for (ideally in the local area).

            Also I can’t see why it can’t be made very economically viable if you have the will to do so. But as it stands parts are too cheap to really make much profit making old style parts (ones that still fit your normal products should be pretty profitable as there is no retooling rejigging costs involved to make a new run) and normal cars are not expensive enough even nearly new to incentivize repairs.

      1. How about the Ford Focus that requires to pull out the engine to change a starter? The battery compartment on a Dodge/Chrysler LH series in the front wheel well. A lot of engineers attend to follow orders from the bean counters that state “here is the budget, just make it fit”.

        Kinda wish we can ditch EFI and go back to a 4 barrel carb. Now we have to worry about e-waste from electric cars.

        1. I’m still driving a carburetted car. It’s sure hard to start, I have to adjust the “automatic” choke every four months to account for temperature, and the garage smells like gas every time I start. In contrast, my EFI car starts immediately every time without a problem. I like the old car, but I’ve cast a bunch of intake manifold parts for converting it to EFI.

          1. My EFI car starts immediately every time as well – rarely do you need to turn the engine more than two seconds even in 0 F temperatures – but the garage still smells like gasoline while the ECU keeps a rich mixture and the catalytic converter heats up.

      2. It isn’t always this simple, though. Sometimes they have make a tradeoff between different repairs being easier.

        Like my Nissan Quest was engineered to worked on in a Japanese auto shop that likely has very little space, but has a vehicle lift. So in this shop environment, taking off the hood and working on the engine in place is a normal practice in situations where an American shop would likely lift the engine out. So the tradeoffs are different.

        When I hired an experienced mechanic to help me fix it, he kept trying to do things in a generic way instead of checking with the factory service manual, and it almost cost me a lot of money on things like redoing the alignment. Luckily I kept a close enough eye on him to stop him in time. He thought it was just poorly engineered, but really you’re expected to replace a $7 specially placed bolt that means you don’t have to screw up the alignment when replacing the CV joints. Most Nissans are like that; the factory alignment never has to be redone. It has little details like that all through the system; careful engineering tweaks that are only useful if you know about them, or just follow the service manual.

        A Nissan Altima is not that big; some models have the same 3.5L V6 as the much bigger Quest. It may be that they had to balance between having changing the air filter require a bit more labor, and being able to do some major repair (recommended after 120k miles) for $1200 instead of $3600.

        Like in my Quest they sacrificed being able to replace the front bumper to have enough room to make radiator repairs easy. But if you want a new front bumper you have to take out the engine and remove everything. If you don’t crash and only do maintenance, that’s a good trade-off. If you crash you might be a bit sad if the only damage was to the bumper.

    4. I am very thankful for the info on Electrical cars because I was thinking about buying one..
      I had my doubts and the article on this has confirmed my doubts..thank you.

      1. I don’t know what electric car the author was talking about. Maybe it was a Tesla and the author’s friend had to they had to wait while his or her phone woke it up, but it’s not actually necessary to use the app to either start the car or drive it. I test drove a few EVs last year and in none of them did I have to wait for the vehicle to “boot” before I could drive it. You should test drive one or more EVs. I drove the Kia Niro EV and the Hyundai Kona EV (essentially the same vehicle) and found them to both be great cars. The Tesla Model 3 however, completely won me over — I have never test driven a car and felt bummed that I had to return it to the lot.

        1. It’s not so much bootup time. It’s the complexity and cost of maintaining an old car. Check out Rich rebuild who professionally repairs Teslas on youtube about his blog on what it costs to maintain a Tesla out of warranty. Literally an arm and a leg. And where do you get spare parts for your old Tesla even if you try DIY repairs? Nowhere! And don’t even talk about the uber complex computer brains running in Tesla’s heart. As the author pointed out EVs need to be ulta simple vehicles consisting of little more than motor, battery and motor controller for ultimate longevity. Teslas are DEFINITLY not that, and most old Teslas will wind up in junkyard/ scrapped for parts as soon as some expensive parts fail out of warranty.

      2. It makes me very sad that this misleading article would discourage anyone from buying an electric car. I’ve had one for over a year and never once had to “boot it up.” I get in, shift into drive, and off I go in less than a second. No key to insert, no waiting for an engine to crank, not even a “start” button to push. I don’t know what’s wrong with the author’s friend’s car, but that’s not typical.

        1. Agreed. Gosh, what a silly article. Maybe some homebrew car someone hacks together does, but no modern factory-produced electric car needs to “boot up”. What does that even mean? At least quantify the nature and duration of this alleged delay so we can evaluate it.

      3. I agree with JimTheFrog. I have no idea what car this person was in, but a Tesla never requires a boot up. In fact, you don’t even have to push a button to start it. Just get in and drive away. I definitely encourage you to research a bit more with factual articles and maybe go for some test drives!

    5. Doggone it I can’t tell the joke anymore:

      “Four engineers are riding down the road in a car. A computer engineer, a mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer and a chemical engineer.
      The car goes sput sput and quits running.
      They pull over to the side of the road and get out to reckonoiter.
      The electrical engineer says I know it is probably either the connection to the fuel pump motor or most likely the ignition wiring.
      The mechanical engineer says probably something loose, broken or worn beyond specifications.
      The chemical engineer says probably the air to fuel mixture is off.
      The computer engineer says it is so simple: all you have to do is power it completely off, wait about 20 seconds and power it back up and it will run just fine. ”
      Nope. Joke isn’t funny anymore.

      1. Nowadays it’s likely the computer engineer is right! Nobody seems able to produce computer software that actually works, so that’s gonna be the bit that goes wrong most often on electric cars.

        1. Working in software development as my main job, it’s not that no one can produce software that works, it’s that Management wants to keep the time and cost associated with development of said software as low as possible. As a result corners get cut, features get removed or delayed, testing and QA slip or are not done at all.

          1. Stupid changes get made and despite many thousands of user complaints, the company flat out refuses to change it back, or even restore the original thing as an option.

            One of the most stupid things I’ve ever encountered in a program was in Firefox 4.0. For some reason they decided to work like it was the days of MS-DOS when every program had to do almost everything on its own. What they did was ignore the operating system provided HID API for ‘advanced’ features, specifically scrolling. Firefox 4.0 *did not support scrolling at all*. It ignored mousewheels, scroll zones on trackpads, button or key combos that turned on auto-scrolling. Zip, zero, nada, no scrolling. The quickly released next revision had scrolling, but only for mouse wheels and only vertical scrolling.

            I forget how long it took Firefox to get back what it could have easily had simply by doing what *all other software does* by using the Human Interface Device Application Programming Interface.

            Operating Systems provide APIs and standard dialogs *to make application programmers’ lives easier* yet so many of them choose to make more work for themselves by coding their own versions.

            Then there was when Netscape eliminated the option to have text only buttons in the toolbar. The choices became icons only or icons with text – but only in the Windows version. The Macintosh version had the text only option to the end. So did Internet Explorer for Macintosh, which was essentially a straight up clone of Netscape.

            Do you remember the Document Contains No Data bug with Netscape and early Firefox? That was when you’d fill out a form then click Submit and Netscape would sit and spin forever before returning a BS error message “Document Contains No Data” while at the same time, same computer, same connection, the same form would submit just fine with all other browsers.

            DCND persisted in Netscape and Firefox through several “complete restarts” that were supposedly all new. Eventually whomever was responsible for it tried to hide it by changing the error message and some other tricks. IIRC at some point it’d just silently give up without popping the DCND message. Seems to have finally been cured at some point. Or perhaps the person(s) responsible for perpetuating DCND retired and someone else took a look at that and said “Holy crap! This is bad. I’ll fix this error with how it handles form data. Why wasn’t this fixed 10 years ago?”

            How something like that can persist through a “total rewrite” is if the person(s) responsible for the portion of the code causing the problem do a mental copy and paste. Even if they’re really redoing the code from scratch, without having the prior source code at hand, they’ll still repeat the way they wrote it before, from memory. And they’ll still deny their software has any such problem despite it being so simple to demonstrate that it does. Yes, I did get such denials from people at Netscape, even when I’d send them links to sites with forms that flat out would not work at all with Netscape but were fine with every other browser. One of their faves was “It’s the form that’s coded wrong.” Uh, when your software is the only one that doesn’t work…

    6. As a photographer weaned on film and manual focus I can assure you that as many shots (if not more) were missed in those days. My digital camera is ready instantly and with AF I am far more confident of getting a transitory event.

    7. Every Canon digital camera I’ve had, and even the ones at work, boot in a second. I don’t remember how fast my first digital camera, a HP, booted up. It was still faster than the Kodak I had after that. (It took as much as 5 seconds)

      1. Canon PowerShot SX620 HS, about 2 years old. About 1.3 seconds to boot, and then it’s always at the shortest focal length. Since I usually shoot at the longest focal length, add another 2 seconds to that. Since I’m often shooting through a window at a bird feeder about 15 feet away, the focus is wrong — window frame or distant trees — more often than it is right. It’s not unusual to take 20 seconds to fool the camera into focusing correctly. It takes wonderful shots, but I miss 1 opportunity in 3 because of the camera’s design. I don’t expect any other point-and-shoot with similar capabilities would be better.

    8. Electric milk floats are built on a chassis and the body rebuilt and batteries changed just like Trigger’s Broom.
      They deliver door to door silently, vegetables and milk in recyclable milk bottles.
      We don’t have to look far for inspiration and direction.

  2. Its not complexity directly but cost of labor. When it takes hours to diagnose and replace parts at a cost of $50-$100 per hour its not worth it for many people to have their car repaired.
    I’ve love to have an electric motor powered vehicle but I’m not going to buy a front wheel drive to get one due to the added time/cost to maintain/repair.

          1. Not for certain – FWD needs sufficient traction for steering and acceleration on the same tiny patches of rubber which in some situations just isn’t there, add in computers trying to fix it and it can even be made worse. So a certain type of road condition can really show up FWD. One possible situation being up a slippery gradient – more weight is off really important wheels so they have less traction, add in some odd camber or a pot hole and suddenly you really could loose steering and struggle to slow with one front wheel now useless.

            RWD has a different issue which is you need enough traction front and back to have any control, but spread over more contact spots, and again if the computers decide wrong in shifting the power and ABS around it just makes it worse. On the whole RWD is probably harder to put in a situation with no control possible but easier for the driver/computer to fuck up and spin.

          2. In reality RWD has the greater trouble in steering through slippery conditions because the car has to push forwards in order for the front wheels to turn it sideways. You’re always steering by plowing against the side of the wheel, while in a FWD car the force pulling the car along is always pointing in the same direction as the wheels, so you actually need slightly less grip to keep your steering.

            And in the situation where you’re going -up- a gradient, the car wants to slow down anyhow. When you happen to lose grip at the front, the car just wants to go straight because the sliding friction at front is less than the static rolling friction at the rear, so the center of drag is always behind the center of mass and the car won’t spin out. When one front wheel loses grip, the other front wheel still has lateral grip and nothing special will happen – it’s only when you lose two wheels front or back, or side-to-side, that things start to go seriously wrong.

            RWD is easier to put into a situation with no control, because you can lose traction at the front by trying to steer a little bit too hard, and then try to “correct” by throttle, which spins out your rear wheels, and now you’re slipping on all four. It’s harder to predict what the car will do, and panicking in the situation gets you in the ditch very fast.

            FWD cars tend to consistently under-steer every time, and you can recover by pressing the clutch and steering into the direction you’re actually going to catch your grip back – if you’re not going too fast or too late. Catch the front wheels from plowing sideways and take the turn slightly wider. Of course, if you’re in an automatic or a DSG… good luck – no clutch pedal – you’re at the mercy of the traction control system.

          1. >the weight transfers to rear

            Sure. A ton of engine just magically jumps into the trunk.

            Let’s calculate. Your car weighs 2,000 kg, is 5 meters long with a 50/50 weight ratio and a center of gravity 0.6 meters off the ground. If you accelerate at 4.5 m/s^2 (0-60 mph 5.6 seconds), you’re lifting the front up by approximately 220 kg worth. It cancels the weight of the engine on the front axle and adds it to the rear.

            Any reasonable and modest acceleration out of stoplights won’t be one tenth of that. If your tires are slipping because the front end of the car is 20 kg lighter, your tires have gone bald.

          2. It appears we have some physics nerds pulling numbers out of thin air, that don’t know anything about cars, telling us that FWD cars have as good of acceleration traction as RWD. LOL.

            Reality check; FWD absolutely suffers with traction on acceleration. Check your math.

          3. >Reality check; FWD absolutely suffers with traction on acceleration. Check your math.

            That’s not the point, and the math is right. If you’re making a turn from traffic lights, you aren’t gunning the engine – you are not accelerating hard, so there should be no trouble because of the weight shifting.

            Also, FWD cars tend to be built front heavy for exactly this reason. Meanwhile, RWD cars absolutely suck in the winter because they have no slip steer. Once your front wheels lose traction, you’re in a sled without steering. Trying to get off from an icy intersection, you have only one way: forwards. In a FWD car you can still power the front wheels and scrape along with the winter tires. Same thing with an icy hill start: RWD car spins the back wheels, slips down. Nothing you can do. FWD car can pull itself sideways so you can snake up the hill.

          4. So while the math is ok, you downplay the effect of even the 20kg unloading from the front wheels. If we are comparing to RWD, that’s a difference of 40kg between front and rear. You make it sound insignificant, but it’s not. Let’s also realize that your acceleration assumption is not accurate because the initial jump from 0kph is greater than the average a car would see during a 0-60, This is why you visibly see the car’s front lift up initially, while it settles down even as you continue accelerating. In addition, snaking a FWD car uphill as if that’s an advantage over RWD uphill is about the funniest thing I’ve heard today, but it’s still early. Your understanding of vehicle dynamics is way off. A FWD car under power in a corner prefers to go straight. To get a FWD to turn you need to release gas pedal, and if it’s still understeering, you step on the brake lightly to add a little weight to the front tires. This is exactly the opposite of what you would do in a RWD. There is no argument here. But what do I know… I only race cars regularly.

          5. >you downplay the effect of even the 20kg unloading from the front wheels

            No I don’t. If your wheels skid from the equivalent of removing the battery from the front of the car, you should invest in new rubber, or there’s something horribly wrong with your car otherwise.

            > the initial jump from 0kph is greater than the average a car would see during a 0-60

            No it isn’t. You’re not traction limited when taking off normally from stoplights. If you are, invest in new tires or learn to drive.

          6. > A FWD car under power in a corner prefers to go straight.

            You’re not comparing the same situations. As long as you are not skidding, a FWD car goes the same as a RWD car.

            When you do lose traction of the front wheels, due to ice, gravel, etc. a RWD car goes straight like a sled while the FWD car can still scrape along and steer to some extent. That’s why FWD dominates in rallying (if not for 4WD), and why it’s easier to drive in the winter when you are traction limited in normal driving.

            Obviously when I say ‘normal driving’, I don’t mean trying to power through corners at 45 mph because that would just end up in the ditch (in a RWD car you’d spin out). Rather I mean the normal day-to-day driving when you have to turn the car tight in the parking lot or around the street corner. In a RWD car you have to push the car forwards to steer, so when you are traction limited as on ice, you can only turn the wheels so far before they start to skid.

            The more the wheels are being pushed sideways, the more easily you lose grip. In a FWD car you can still make the turn, because the wheels pointing to the side are also pulling themselves that way. You also don’t get over-steering because the rear wheels aren’t powered and the front is usually a bit heavier than the rear, so you almost never find yourself fish-tailing in a FWD car. That’s what makes driving a RWD car in the winter really annoying: it flip-flops between under- and over-steer, and it’s very easy to put it in an all-wheel-slide because you can always push too much gas and lose both the front and the rear.

            The superiority of RWD is just a myth by the arm-chair ninja types who think they can powerslide through everything, but have never actually driven day-to-day in places where it gets icy for 6 months in a year. Go to the Nordics and look around: FWD cars everywhere – almost nothing but FWD and AWD.

          7. >This is why you visibly see the car’s front lift up initially

            If you see that under normal driving, your shock absorbers have gone, or you’re dumping the clutch too fast and causing the car to jerk.

      1. Its not really the CV joint, front wheel drive are just not maintainable, to do any work takes hours due to everything packed tightly between the front wheels. Even an ameture like me can drop a transmission our of a rear wheel drive in an hour or two, they are repairable instead of disposable.

        1. I thought the same reading this – I’ve been buying cars since the 70’s and have never bought a FWD one (though a couple of AWD ones). RWD is simply a better way to go, and the only reason all cars don’t use it is cost – it’s not just the shaft to the back, it’s making the whole back of the car stronger.. So it might cost a $k or so to do, and if your profit margin IS only a couple of $k they don’t want to do it.

          With electric cars, all of them should be rwd or awd…

          On to the main point of the article – yes, they aren’t making ‘simple’ electric cars as all that extra stuff is mainly software and low cost hardware – so they include to give more ‘bling’.. If they didn’t they would be yelled at my the motoring press..

          However, I think your central point is good – I have driven several cars more than 300,000Km each, and owned more than one for more than 20 years (including one I own now). The trouble with electrics is that it isn’t going to be cost effective to do that – as the battery is worth about half the value of the car. Do I want to pay half the value of a new car every 5 or 8 years? Nope.. So either the batter needs to last longer, or drop a lot in cost. The I might get an electric car for the city drives…

          Which needs to another problem with them – in Aus they simply aren’t going to be functional for country driving. I do 1000km a day quite a few days each year (through some pretty empty parts of Aus), I’ve got no chance doing that anytime soon in an electric car.

          1. I will also point out that Teslas are either RWD or AWD. They can also charge in about the same amount of time you will usually spend at a gas station on a road trip. I’m not sure about v3 superchargers in Aus tho

          2. The misconception that EV batteries will have to be replaced after 5-8 years is a difficult one to get past. There are old Nissan Leafs with seriously degraded batteries that old. But new EV batteries are built with drastically different chemistry and temp control that it’s not comparing apples to Apples.

            Range is a fair concern at 1000+ kms. But thats certainly not the average driver in most countries

          3. The only reason you won’t be able to do that anytime soon is because there are no superchargers out there. It has nothing to do with the car, and everything to do with the infrastructure.

            I live in Brisvegas but have driven through parts of outback Qld as well as other states and there is almost always enough towns that a supercharger or equivalent at each town would be easily enough to cover that distance in a modern electric car like a Tesla or Hyundai Kona. It wouldn’t even take that much longer, when you’re talking about a 10hr drive anyway and need to stop for food/breaks.

            As for the batteries needing changing, welcome to 2020, it’s been a while since your scenario has been the case. There are Tesla’s out there that have done a million km, for a company that only started mass production 8 years ago… they’re not even designed with the latest kit. 300k KMs is basically the service interval of the rear diff fluid, and perhaps a change of tyres or two. Your first brake pads might be up for changing too.

          4. > But new EV batteries are built with drastically different chemistry

            Not really. Tesla projected 12-15 year calendar life for NMC chemistry batteries with some dubious assumptions like linear wear instead of exponential, but they couldn’t get the production costs down because it uses too much Cobalt, so they’re sticking with NCA which has a shorter shelf life. It doesn’t matter how much you drive, it’s still going to degrade on you just sitting there.

          1. Heh really, but I had a FWD that had got 300,000 on it’s original auto, and it was slipping super bad, so I changed that out myself, 2 hours to get it out, 1 hour to get the “new” one back in (60k unit from wrecker) 1.5 hours of getting it out was getting it hung/stuck funny on the locator pegs, and freeing the torque converter, wriggling and jiggling.. 0.75 hour of getting it back in was quintuple checking everything because it went straight on and I couldn’t believe it went so right.

            It was a bit of a “cheat” because I’d replaced the balljoints only 6 months prior so those slid out real nice and I just knock kneed the front suspension to pop the axles out.

            But from experience, if you don’t have time to work on your car yourself, and you take a FWD to a mechanic that sucks his teeth and winces at FWD, TAKE IT ANYWHERE ELSE the old fossil is gonna torque your bearings at only 30ftlb and blame it on it being “FWD, they’re built like crap, what can you do” when you bring it back with wrecked bearings. Damn idiots those are, won’t look up torque specs.

          2. Saab were FWD, had the engine in backwards so you could access the clutch from the front.

            Downside: the water pump and belts were against the firewall, so doing them required taking the engine out.

          3. Most FWD you just drop the subframe on the side the trans is on and drop it out the bottom. Just as easy as a rwd once the subframe is out. Of course you got 2 CV joints to remove, versus one drive shaft to remove.
            Working on tight FWD motors you are often better off using 2 ft of extensions on your ratchet and maybe a universal joint, than trying to get your hand in there with just ratchet and socket. Saves a lot of busted knuckles!
            My car was designed for 4 cyl motor, but Ford decided to stuff a 3.0 V6 in for a few years. It has an inch between the radiator shroud and exhaust manifold in front and about 4 inch between firewall and exhaust manifold. They redesigned the oil filter that fits it to make it shorter, which ended up being a blessing and a half. The oil filter had about 1/4″ between ex manifold and filter when starting to thread it on and could only turn quarter turn at a time because of starter and ex manifold always felt like it was stripped thread waiting to happen.

        2. I own both a RWD Triumph Herald and a FWD VW Polo. Both are easy to work on, both have their annoying bits. I don’t get the issues people seem to have with FWD cars.

    1. Just saying, all Teslas are either RWD or AWD and the maintenance required on them is next to nothing. Just windshield wiper fluid and rotating/changing the tires. The service people drive to you and fix your car on the spot if anything is necessary.

      1. It’s amazing how much stuff you take out when you make an EV. Not just the engine, but water pumps, fuel pumps, exhaust, intake, and so on. Even the diff is no longer needed in some designs. Brakes are still needed, but with regenerative braking, they can be smaller and last longer. It all adds up to crap you no longer have to maintain.

        1. It’s a misunderstanding that EVs don’t have the same mechanics. You still need the brake assist pump, the AC pump, the water pump because the batteries are liquid cooled… except if it’s a Nissan because it hasn’t got battery thermal management, which means the batteries die of hot/cold…

      2. Wait until something breaks out of warranty. Check out youtube video by Tesla driver “The True cost of owning a Tesla out of warranty”. From Tesla drivers’ own words, the costs are mind boggling. Teslas are cars most people can’t afford to own out of warranty.

    1. Illegal? What the heck are you talking about? I shoot film pretty often and can readily get film, process the film myself or send it out.

      Perhaps you mean “made obsolete”?

      1. While I’m enjoying the aptness of the content of this debate, considering the “Old Guy” and “Robot” people having it, I am also not following along with what “Old Guy” is getting at, and, if anything, he’s the one “not making [himself] look good here”…

        1. @Robot – I think “Old Guy” hat a stroke, not you.
          Or its the other way around and “Old Guy” is the only one who didn’t have a stroke and we don’t understand him because we all had one(!).

      2. You were trying to be clever by saying point and shoots are illegal. (they aren’t, so why don’t you just use one?)

        Except, as evidenced by the fact that no one got you, your comment fell flat. Too clever for your own good I guess.

      3. I see. You are saying the salt on the roads makes cameras illegal. And that same salt means you need a toggle switch for the headlights. Anyone can see the logic!

      1. Underseal…
        We have it nice and thick in the uk.
        Not sure the yanks do.
        I know jap imports all have to be treated to a nice thick coat when they arrive or they will be rusted out in a few years.
        I bet a lot of us cars must be the same.

    2. I miss the days of stamp sand on the roads with much less, if any salt. Then again, I invest in two snow blowers for the garden tractors that I’ll never use. Maybe one for a cement mixer project. I don’t think I had cerebral vascular accident. I’m just coming in king of random style. I like fixing things… especially if they cost pennies in gas to deliver.

      1. With a warming climate, it’s actually snowing a lot more when it does because of more moisture blowing in with the winds. This means roads get packed with ice and they have to be either scraped clean (damages the road) or melted with salt.

        Sand also has the issue of dust in the spring, which basically sandblasts every car and causes people to die of respiratory complications.

    3. I’m sorry but i would not use a film camera if you paid me what a pain in the ass with all the getting film developed bad prints and having to pay every step of the way

  3. I loathe the iPad at the center of every electric vehicle I’ve been in. I’m not particularly fond of the array of buttons and touchscreens that fill the dash of every modern ICE car, either, but at least their haptic controls don’t feel like a video game.

    I’m sure much of it comes from the idea that every electric vehicle driver I’ve ever talked to will go into endless detail about how they manage battery life. I don’t want to manage anything in my car — I want to drive it. An E-F needle is all the interface the battery should display on the dash. Battery nerds can still use their phone apps to “manage” them.

    1. I’ve not experienced any electric vehicles or their iPads. My parents’ car has a lousy touchscreen interface though, and on either side of the touchscreen built into the dash some rubbish inputs that don’t move, but you have to press quite firmly and offer no haptic feedback. You really shouldn’t have to touch a screen in order to clear your windscreen when it starts to fog up.

        1. OTOH you then only have one thing to fail rather than a whole bunch of switches. On most of the stuff I’ve worked on, the mechanical switches are the first thing to fail (after the incandescent lightbulbs that light up the instruments.)

      1. I went from a 2010 Corsa with a push button radio and a one line digital display telling me the outside temperature, to a 2013 Seat with an awful proprietary touch screen interface that messes with my phone’s Bluetooth and tells me the TPMS is going off but doesn’t tell me which tyre.

        I want a car with about the level of cleverness we reached in the 90/2000s where it will turn off the headlights when you switch off the ignition so you don’t drain your battery. Any user interface more complex than that and scrolling through radio stations should belong in a computing device

    2. Touchscreens in cars are the devil. Even if mine wasn’t a dodgy resistive screen and broken, the ergonomics are insane. Let’s just force the driver to take their eyes off the road for every interaction! That won’t cause any increase in accidents or anything…

    3. I understand your displeasure with the touchscreen interfaces of many cars. Although Teslas have a very intuitive and simplistic design for their touch screens where all crucial information is displayed and crucial buttons are right where you need them. You can also use voice controls which work surprisingly well.

  4. The thing that has really stirred me away from electric vehicles is the same thing that keeps me using my old small engine lawn equipment and limits me from buying many cordless tools, battery replacement costs. At least with my cordless drill, the tool itself works fine but due to cost of replacing the dying battery, it made more sense just to buy a new cordless drill. My 20+ year old mowers would likely be buried in a landfill long ago if they were battery powered.

    I would love if more products used more standard parts. What I love about a particular digital camera that I own is that unlike many other cameras today, it takes standard AA batteries! No having to pay for a pricey OEM pack or having to purchase a clone made by someone else that you have to question the quality of. The less propitiatory crap, the better for the consumer.

    I also hate the trend of making devices such as laptops with fewer easier to replace parts (such as the battery) in an effort to push people into buying replacement devices every few years. I throw a fit when I see laptops that have at least a portion of the RAM soldered on the motherboard. My somewhat old Dell laptop(that I got from someone about to bin it) sitting on my desk was designed to be very easily serviced (easy access to the wifi card, RAM,HDD) by removing a few screws on the back. I don’t mind that it’s a bit on the thick side. My newer laptop, while a bit better in serviceability than many other laptops out there, would require me to considerably disassemble just to access the battery.

    1. Double thumbs up on the cameras that take AA batteries! And you can always get rechargeable AAs. Once in the workplace Boss asked me if I was comfortable putting additional memory in the work laptop or should he call in the Network Administrator. And I was in the IT department ! In the end I did have to call the Network guy. To borrow a screwdriver.

      1. AA batteries are pretty crap. Capacity is small, recharge is slow. Rechargeable AAs are rubbish – I use them for kit that still uses AAs, but they’re unreliable compared to lipos.
        LiPos are much better.
        Yes, cameras tend to have their own shape by brand – would be nice if they all took 18650 or something – but they’re readily available as clones, and are very standard – some particularly so – I’ve got off-brand “sony video” batteries in non-Sony kit. Don’t have a Sony device.

        1. I completely agree. It’s a shame that we didn’t standardize on rechargeable LiIon cells – but again, it’s about making profit. If everyone uses a different format, the prices are higher and you stay locked in.

          1. That is the one redeeming quality to those revolting nicotine-delivery pods I see people walking around with while trailing clouds of vapor… it is now easy to get my hands on cheap 18650 LiPo batteries and their chargers. I just have to navigate the skeezy crowd at the local vape shop.

      2. Thing is, rechargeable AA’s have crap for capacity. At least for Canon, the lithium cells last forever and ever. I still have one from 2009, one OEM and a generic spare. They still work adequately, although both are showing their age.

        Sony’s lithium batteries are tiny and expensive. Their cameras are crappier as well. Avoid.

    2. Looking at the holiday sales on cordless tool combos at big box stores, it’s immediately obvious that Ryobi and Rigid are selling everything but the batteries at a loss.

      1. If you fill out the paperwork, Ridgid batteries are guaranteed for life. I like the feel of my DeWalt and Makita tools better, but after one cycle of factory batteries and two cycles of ill fitting after market batteries I broke down and went with Ridgid. What would be interesting would be to 3D print an adapter to let me use those batteries with my other old tools. I have the RIdgid driver and impact, but not the circular saw nor sawzall. Both of which are handy on occasion and both of which are hard on batteries.

      1. I used both of those when I was a kid! I can’t recall the proper name of the first one, but the sceond one is a “brace”. The first was good for small holes and the brace was good for drilling big holes in wood.

          1. I believe the tool is a brace and the bit is the auger. The first pick I always thought was officially a “drill” :-) got one around here looks a lot like the pick, mine’s a “Millers Falls”

      2. I went through 3 or 4 cheaper cordless drills, and yeah, the batteries were crap, they died within a few weeks of being stored, and within a year or two they were useless. I finally bought a good DeWalt set, and 10 years later I’m still using it on the original battery packs, and they can still go months between charges.

        1. I’m for the Dewalt 18V & 20V tools and the 18V’s also with the 18V to 20V adapter. The yellow faster chargers are nice. Dewalts been great with customer service and replacing if needed also. You can find parts sellers online also, last I needed, who buy new tools to take apart and sell sections of the tool cheaper than Dewalt sells the individual parts.

          I did break down and invest in the Ryobi P737 inflator though and hacked together an adapter from an old Ryobi 18V NiCad One+. I did a little three video series to remind me what I did with some shameless promotion in the HaD article linked below. Plus reminds me how I need to practice making videos and documenting what I do.


          1. I don’t use the NiCd other than the two older 18V Dewalt batteries that are still operating OK. They are nice I guess in that they just don’t all the sudden stop operating.

            For the adapter Ryobi tool interface, I used the “top section of the Ryobi 18V NiCd One+ battery” basically for the plug profile and connectors…
            …and then the bottom section of the broken 18V to 20V Dewalt adapter since I didn’t feel like depotting the magic plastic rectifier fuse or something I don’t recall at the moment.


            Was thinking when the next Dewalt battery fails… I’ll make a 120V mains adapter. I have thought about investing in a broken parts only 20V dewalt older style without the meter battery… though haven’t found the need really.

    3. I don’t think this is really true. You can get replacement batteries for your cordless drill for far cheaper than the cost of a new one – and this has been true for a long time. A DeWalt 2 drill set is $240, and the batteries are $150 for a 2 pack, or I can get a knock-off pair for $80. These batteries are cross functional, and I can use them in a variety of other DeWalt power tools as well, making them extremely convenient and worth the price. So I can have 10 tools with only 2 batteries.

      The same thing goes with electric vehicles.

      The total cost of ownership has already been proven to be less than an ICE vehicle, and has been for 3-5 years. The upfront cost of ownership is about 2-3 years away (maybe 5 for some manufacturers) of being on parity too.

      So what does it matter if it costs $5k to replace the battery pack, or even $10k, if I would have spent at least $10k over that time period in other maintenance anyway? It’s not like ICE cars are maintenance free.

      Also, as per Tesla and the Bolt, it looks like car batteries are going to be good for about 15-20 years anyway, and even after that they will be good for grid storage. We have Bolt owners who have passed 100k miles and their only maintenance was a cabin air filter, windshield wiper fluid, and a new set of tires. There’s $600 in oil changes saved alone, and depending on the owner, up to $5000 less in fuel costs. After 200k miles even if they had to replace the battery, they’re still saving money over an ICE.

        1. Anyone who buys new vehicles with the intent of keeping them until they are dead will expect at least that over the lifetime of the vehicle.

          If you have a tendency to buy used vehicles, then it’ll really depend on the type of vehicle that you get. If you want to get a cheap used Spark, for example, you can get them for $6-8k with still great range, and by the time the battery will be unusable, it’ll be a few grand to replace the battery. Probably less than the cost of another used vehicle. In 10-20 years, this will become a lot cheaper as well. Refurbished or repairing batteries will allow fixes in the few hundred dollar range.

          I do agree, however, that if your vehicle purchasing tends to be “buy something really cheap, drive it for a couple of years until it dies, then get another one” then yes, right now electric vehicles are way out of that market.

          1. “buy something really cheap and drive it for couple of years”? No, I bought something really cheap – 1990’s Japanese econobox some 20 years ago for less than $2K, and still driving it. Very cheap to run, nothing major ever broke. I replaced brake pads, engine oil, transmission oil, spark plugs, etc all by myself. I estimate yearly maintenance cost is less than $300, including replacing tires. So no contest – simple ICE is still way way cheaper than any EV out there.

      1. >, it looks like car batteries are going to be good for about 15-20 years anyway, and even after that they will be good for grid storage

        Nope. Shelf life for li-ion is 8-9 years for the common garden variety and 10-12 years for the better chemistries. There’s no battery on the market that would last 20 or even 15 if you baby it.

        The battery takes a nosedive in capacity when it reaches either the cycle life or the shelf life limit, and when both apply at the same time you can expect it to break down couple years earlier, around year 10. Tesla has only been on the market since 2009 so the vast majority of them are simply too young to display any age related capacity fade – but they’ll get there soon enough.

        The handful of people who bought the original Roadster are finding their batteries dying right about now – or rather: they who bought the car off of the first owners are now finding out that they got a very expensive lemon.

        1. This is btw. why Toyota and Honda used NiMH batteries in the hybrids up until recently. Nickel batteries can last 20 years if you handle them right, so Toyota could afford to give them 10 year warranties. The new li-ion warranty is only for 8 years.

    4. while i completely agree about the pain of new laptops being basically bricks with no serviceable parts i disagree on the tools. this is hackaday on the top of my head i can think of 3 ways to remedy that problem without investing hundreds of dollars in replacement packs. first of with tools your really get what you paid for so cheaper tools will have cheaper packs. but still if the electronic is OK you can switch out the lion cells and have basically a new pack. you could also roll your own pack from the ground up or buy an off-brand one for cheap. if you don’t want to do either of those you can still install a transformer and make those traditional wired tools.

    5. I have a 16 year old electric mower. It was $99 dollars new. It has a cord. I might have run over the cord once. Just spliced it back together. Zero maintenance except for running a file over the blade. I have an electric car. Spark ev. I’m more worried about electronics going bad than the battery going bad. I do wish someone would make a car that is more simple. But for many reasons, that will never happen. I will just try to buy my next car based on it demonstrate low operating cost over the decades. That’s about all the average person can realistically do.

      1. My friend has an electric mower and just to try one out I did his lawn, which is tiny. OHG, what a royal PITA. Honest to god, go down one side, snag on something, have the plug pop out, have to run back, get it plugged in again, re-do the safety interlock, get it going again, have to move the damn cord out of the way so not to go over it. It took at least 3X longer than with a rip cord start gas mower. And I tend to get them for free, roadside. There is a small learning curve to repairing them, but once you are over that, you have a skill you can transfer to just about anything that needs a small engine. From weed whackers to ag pumps. After one outing with a plug in mower I never wanna deal with one again.

    6. This just isn’t true for modern electric vehicles, although your error is common.

      Electric vehicle batteries are a completely different realm of engineering from consumer battery laptops. They have sophisticated liquid cooling systems that keep the batteries at the optimum temperature, conservative chemistries, and most importantly the batteries themselves are so large that they’ll last literally hundreds of thousands of miles before significant degradation. With a cellphone, you may cycle the battery (which has no active thermal control, etc) once a day or two. So after 3-5 years of that, you’ll have cycled it over 1000 times. With a 300 mile range battery, you’re rarely hitting it that hard. You’ll effectively never run to empty, will be strongly encouraged not to even charge to 100%, and so your cycle life will be potentially much higher for the same chemistry (keep it within the 20 to 80% range, and your battery will last like 3 times as many cycles). But even those 1000 effective cycles will net you 300,000 miles. The main battery will probably outlast the engine of a typical ICE car.

      1. All that -should- be true, but just isn’t.

        See Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen eGolf, and others that lack(ed) thermal management. See Tesla that pushes the last bit of energy out of NCA cells even at the expense of safety (battery fires, limited calendar life).

        Everyone makes compromises because batteries are just too heavy/expensive still.

    7. Whilst batteries might need replacing more often than an diesel needs a reconditioned engine, by the time I come to replace the battery in my LEAF I think it will have paid for the cost of the battery in fuel savings four times over. Not so the diesel

      1. Yes, compared to another car of the same price – but the LEAF is about $12k more expensive than its ICE sister model Nissan Tiida / Pulsar (depending on the market area) based on the same chassis. If you were to compare apples to apples, you lost the price of the battery to begin with. $12k buys about 160k miles worth of gasoline.

    8. I’ve been using battery lawnmowers for over 20 years now, mostly with used mowers accumulated from thrift stores. The main thing is that the lead acid batteries (lithium are too new when I already have multiple working mowers) have a life of about 5 years, and while there are quite a few form factors, they are usually standard UPS batteries. A new set of SLA batteries costs about $100-$150. The exception to the 5 year life is one mower I had which didn’t have a thermal breaker in it like all the others I’ve used, and I killed a replacement battery in six months. It was also the heaviest electric I’ve used, so I didn’t care much.

      Also, don’t fall for the “mulching” meme. That just drains your battery faster. I have no idea why anybody thought that was a good idea. Get a side-exit, or better yet a bagging mower.

    9. Surely the answer is to force car manufacturers to give a 200k, 20 year guarantee. They could do it if they had to, rather than presenting new offering as sports cars,

    10. AA batteries? No! My first Digi Cam (Olympus) needed that crappy NiMH batteries. Although it only 3 Mpixel it had quite good big optics, but it’s batteries were normally empty at the most unsuitable time. Awful self discharge and no capacity indication. It’s batteries – the impossibility to use LiIon batteries – was the main reason I replaced it.
      So for the successor it was one main must-have criterion to use lithium based batteries.

  5. Ain’t gonna happen. Planned obselescence is the linchpin of a growth economy. And an economy has gotta grow or die. Ask how you replace a battery in a new smartphone. You don’t.

    1. The growth economy needs to be replaced. Firstly because they always fail to supply the basic needs to a considerable amount of people, secondly because it is extremely pollution and resource intensive, destroying the planet.

        1. Obviously we don’t fix it. The growth economy will be replaced with a hunter-gatherer and/or feudal warlord economy, right after World War IV is fought with sticks and stones.

      1. Good grief. Productivity is the key, not planned obsolescence. What Hollywood tripe. And high productivity needs long lasting efficient tools. If you are thinking about computers and phones, they go “obsolete” due to the high rate of improvement in the tech. I’m running Ubuntu on a $190 12 core server from ages ago. Everything lasts longer and is cheaper today from microwave oven to car tires and car engines, airliners, boat motors, radios, electric motors, and that supercomputer/walkie-talkie/Library of Congress in your pocket.

        1. … you have a 12 core server from ages ago that only cost you $190?

          I would argue that the opposite is true, as per your exact point. A 10 year old computer still does everything that you need to be productive, so people aren’t upgrading. That’s exactly WHY planned obsolescence is becoming the norm – so that you are forced to upgrade. What’s the #1 reason that most non-bleeding-edge people upgrade their phone? The battery life is unusable. Yes, we love our modern toys and buy brand new so that WE can get the best features, but 90%+ of people don’t care.

          1. The server cost me that much this year. 2.6GHz pair of Xeons. 64G RAM, 10,000 RPM drives (replace with an SSD to be practical and save power.) Actually two of them. One runs the latest Ubuntu and the other Debian Server. It won’t take graphics cards for any modern video production, which is fine. One is a Git and build server used remotely and the other is a KiCAD and design setup.

            You WILL find planned obsolescence when government is involved. For example, small 2 cycle engines are regulated in terms of lifetime emissions so garden tools and chainsaws and similar are meant to last around 50 hours or 75 hours. The commercial versions are much more expensive because they will run more than 300 hours. But just about everything else is better than in the past. Even in the phone/pad area, you are renting IP. Being unable to support new software on previous generations is not a planned obsolescence.

            The only place I see real junk these days is Android “laptops” and tablets. They are truly throw-away designs. And android changes so wildly and quickly that I can see why.

          2. > What’s the #1 reason that most non-bleeding-edge people upgrade their phone? The battery life is unusable.

            Actually, that’s the #1 reason I’m hanging on to my 5-year-old phone (I do not consider this old). The battery on it is fine. Every successor I’ve seen for my mobile phone has had dreadful battery life.

            Its immediate successor also had dreadful reception, particularly in rural areas with only 3G cells. The fancy 4GX phone would sit there saying “No network coverage” whilst my older 4G phone went, “Hmmm, no 4G… Ohh, you talk 3G? Cool, I’ll talk 3G with you then. Ohh, nice signal!” No I wasn’t getting blistering speeds or wideband audio on voice calls, but at least I could make/receive calls reliably and Internet browsing was still quite usable.

            In terms of “features”, it has _just_ what I need. A newer OS would be nice, but I value having a phone that _works_ over one whose stand-by battery life is measured in 10s of minutes or whose network connectivity reliability decreases exponentially the moment you step outside a major town.

            Now, getting back to vehicles, the dangerous thing about all this wizz-bang gimmickery in cars is when they break down, who can fix them? Spoiler: not your rural workshop. You’re looking at 4 figures to get your vehicle towed thousands of kilometres back to the nearest capital city.

            I believe parts of the US have this problem too!

      2. For that to happen, you need to fix democracy. Lobbyists from large corporations always have privileged access to nuke any meaningful legislative reform. The right to repair in Europe is the posterchild of that, at the end of day it is so limited that it’s barely useful.

        What is needed is aggressive legislation to force 20 years (or even more) spare parts from any manufacturer, including a third party to stock them in case of bankruptcy, open schematics, abolition of patents so that competitors can manufacture spares, schematics published in a public storage, tests that guarantees can be remanufactured at any time, and last but not least, open tooling with the same level of documentation for the tools that we used to produce the goods.

        Even the OSHW license does not guarantee that the big black chip in the middle of the board is entirely “open”, documented, not patented, etc…

        When you know that some parts have only one manufacturer on planet earth, we are very far from ‘resilience’.

      1. It’s not difficult to drive a Tesla a million km. Consider that a 100 kWh battery last 2000 cycles – and the car consumes 0.22 kWh/km. Therefore, the design cycle life of the battery is around a million kilometers.

        The problem is the calendar life, which hits at 10 years. If you’re driving 25,000 km a year or less like the average driver, you’ll only manage 240,000 km which is half than what many regular cars will do because they can easily survive two decades in use.

        1. I agree with the first part, but not the second. There isn’t a calendar life limit to batteries. They age by cycles and they age by time – but both are the same kind of aging – degradation. They will be useful for 10-20 years no problem, just with reduced range. You won’t get to 10 years and suddenly it’ll just die.

          1. Yes there is.

            The shelf-life of a li-ion battery is a factor of its average temperature and state of charge – there are chemical reactions going on constantly inside the battery that degrade the electrolyte and electrodes with the energy stored in the battery.

            There are very few li-ion chemistries on the market that make it past 10 years even if you don’t cycle them at all.

          2. >You won’t get to 10 years and suddenly it’ll just die.

            The damage caused by cycling effects through plating the electrodes with inactive material which impedes ion transfer. Aging causes the loss of active electrode material and accelerates the cycling damage. The combination causes the battery to undergo an exponentially accelerating capacity fade at the end of life. To add injury to injury, with any loss of capacity you’ll need to cycle it more to keep driving the same number of miles.

            It won’t die at once, but from 70-80% of the original capacity, you’ll go to 50%, then 20% in a year or two.

          3. Incidentally, the very first Teslas sold are just now reaching their battery EOL – if they haven’t swapped their batteries already. There’s only a handful of them though, so it won’t make big news. Next 2-3 years will see the first Model S cars getting to battery EOL.

      2. Tesla is even designing there next battery tech for 1.600.000 km lifespan, with the rest of the car also having that design goal. It’s not just a gimmick, lorries and (robot) taxi’s actually make those distances. The lack of hot parts and vibration, minimized need for direct cooling with (wet) outside air, electric braking and use of aluminum / stainless steel make it possible to design cars with a very long lifespan. Over such long lifespans the savings in fuel cost very significant too.

        1. Over such lifespans, the company Tesloop has saved so much on fuel and maintenance vs the ICE equivalent they could buy a whole new Tesla with the difference.

        2. The difference is that lorries and taxis are constantly on the road. For personally owned vehicles, you won’t drive that much until the battery dies of old age.

        3. 1.6 million Km cars are fine but how long will
          It take you get there.

          It’s the rest of they system that will let it down before it wears out.

          I don’t think I have traveled that far by car in my driving life (I drive nearly every day ) ( 30years)

          A brand new car when I started driving now is now just a POS – most likely wouldn’t have ABS airbags might have AC. No CD let alone blue tooth or hands free phone package.

      1. I agree with you it doesn’t but I don’t understand the relation to the BWF? Or is it a different one from the broken windows in the neighborhood cause it to go bad thing?

      2. Productivity produces growth and high productivity demands good tools. I really wonder where these 100 year old Wobblie ideas come from among HaD readers – total mystery.

      3. This is a terrible article, imagine judging ICE cars bad because you rode in a Yugo once! Tesla’s are very simple, do not even have a start button, are on when you open the door and have electronics that are doubly redundant for safety. If you don’t like the touch screen, use the voice commands. Tesla’s have software that is a joy to use and does not get in your way.

        Stop judging Ezvs by the worst and look at the number one selling EV of all time..,

        A Tesla Model 3

        1. Can you leave a Tesla sitting for a month in an airport car park, or do you have to keep it plugged in so the battery won’t self-destruct like in the early Model S?

          There’s a point for a hard on/off switch…

      1. https://1063word.radio.com/media/audio-channel/hot-rods-and-happy-hour-100817-hour-2

        Search Hackaday for “electric vehicle” lots of interesting articles.



        Now you know why it took three days to get back to you. I found the podcast amazingly fast considering I have thousands of podcasts saved. But when I searched Hackaday to find the article with your comment I discovered half a dozen more interesting articles. I have what is called “Information Anxiety”. Today they might call it FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out of learning some bit of information.


  6. I completely agree. I love electric vehicles for their potential to be simple. My current car is a VW e-Golf because it’s one of the simplest EVs I could find, somewhat ironic considering it was made by VW. Analog gauges, perfectly sized infotainment screen, and the seat controls are only partially motorized. No giant iPad in the middle with all of the touch controls for every imaginable function of the car, no lane assist or adaptive cruise control to break, no over the air updates that can remove features that I paid for at the whim of the automaker, none of it.

    Now if I could just find an EV with manual windows and side mirrors, I’d be set.

    1. A Tesla is a simpler driving experience than an eGolf. There are way more buttons and knobs on an eGolf than a Tesla. So do you have a blackberry or a smart phone? Your arguments sound like blackberry arguments to me.

      1. Buttons are way better than ipad which you can’t navigate by touch. Keeping eyes on the road is priority for some people. BTW when the giant ipad fails (as Teslas are prone to do), how much does it cost to replace vs simple button?

  7. Even though everybody wishes for it, modern product design is not optimized for longevity. The constant pursuit of novelty by humans is the culprit I think. Gone are the days when people think about long term repercussions of everyday actions.

    1. Exactly. If the smartphone isn’t going to be viable, that is, have a decently powerful cpu and enough ram to run the latest apps 10 years from now, there is no point in designing it to cope with ten years of wear and tear.

      Cars ought to be made modular, with standard modules swappable and backwards-compatible with previous models, kind of like the desktop pc is today. When a module fails or a new updated one with new features comes along, you just swap it out and send the old one to be recycled.

        1. Question: where are you going to find a crash test subject Bel Air that isn’t a twice crashed bondo job?

          50 years of patchwork repairs does that to every car. You think a chassis that is sandblasted and welded up from bits multiple times is up to original standards?

  8. Battery tech still has a ways to go, but if you want to talk simplicity,
    you can’t beat a bicycle. 2 tires mounted on 2 wheels with ball bearing axles
    powered by a chain which mates with 2 sheets of round metal with teeth in them
    so the chain can be rotated. That was my bike as a kid. No gears, or fancy electric
    hydraulic brakes etc. that you find on some higher end bikes today. To brake, you
    put pressure on the pedals in reverse instead of pedaling forward.
    If you look at tv commercials of kids in the 60’s and 70’s they were thin because they
    got outside in the the fresh air and actually played and rode bikes.
    Nowadays, you have kids who sit in front of a screen for most of the day, who have
    enough fat reserves on them to power a standard pedal bike across the state of Montana.
    I picked Montana because it takes Amtrak a whole day to go across it.
    My have times changed. As a kid I rode my bike all over the place, never knowing the
    exercise benefits I was giving myself back then but I still enjoy a good bike ride.
    Seriously, how many people will drive a mile to work/shop etc.?
    I can understand if you’re grocery shopping and need to get the perishables home in a
    timely manner, but it seems walking a block or two is too much effort.
    We as a society have become dependent on our cars for every little thing, and we tend
    to overlook other modes of transportation like the bus. Nowadays with the COVID19
    pandemic, a bus might not be such a good idea, but in this new normal of social
    distancing a good walk or bike ride seems like a great idea.

    1. I don’t know about your area, but in mine the problems often start at the town or city planning stage with extremely fast roads with no pavement (sidewalk) available for pedestrians and cyclists connecting the areas of the town. Where I live now is reasonably well served with safe pedestrian routes, but from my previous home I’d have to walk along the side of a 50mph road for a mile or more on my way to the shops.

      1. Seconding that. I cycle all over the place but use an ebike these days because 30mph is mandatory to be safe on the roads near me and I can’t maintain it as I’m pretty heavy. Travelling to work pre-covid was lovely as I’d have a few miles of canal tow path to follow and no cars to dodge. I’d slow to 3-6mph when approaching pedestrians, getting along much better with them than with cars.

      2. To get your share you would have to pay your share. Pedestrian taxes equivalent to the road taxes on fuel and licensing of cars maybe? But then the number of peds who pass a point per hour would have to be pretty high.

        1. That’s called council tax. All the tax money goes into the same pot that pays for road maintenance etc., but cars pay more because they wreck the surface faster.

          1. 2/3 of the taxes collected from car owners go to anything but road maintenance, seeing how cities and counties are neglecting to actually spend the money there. It’s just a cash cow, because cars are “inflexible demand”, people can’t not drive, so they’ll just have to pay whatever.

          2. I wish more people understood this. There is not a “road tax” like it’s a ticket to get into the circus. Roads are public, and cars are destructive and pay extra for emissions and road damage. People without cars also pay taxes that go into PUBLIC roads. They are not car roads. Let me get the point across a different way; roads are for people, not cars. People happen to drive cars, but it’s not the only way to get around.

          1. Its a Libertarian way of thinking perhaps. Everyone is responsible for their obligations and there is no rule against helping someone who can’t manage. In fact, form a club .You could call it Community Chest.

        2. Yeah, that’s not how it works. In most places what you pay in ‘road tax’ barely covers maintenance and the cost of cleaning up accidents. Roads and a lot of their maintenance are paid by general taxes that we all pay, regardless of whether we use them.

  9. We should also mention, that everyone is expecting the hundreds of features a modern car has for the same price than a decade ago (plus inflation). With this, automotive engineers are under huge cost pressure, each generation of a control unit needs to be cheaper than the predecessor and has to perform better, be safer and more secure. No surprise that serviceability and lifetime is often sacrificed in the process.
    On the other hand, new ICE cars will indeed keep you safer, and consume less gas than the old ones…

      1. No, they aren’t.

        According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for new cars were 18.18% higher in 2020 versus 1990. Meanwhile, inflation has halved the worth of money, so a new car today costs 60% as much in real purchasing power than it did in 1990.

          1. That’s not what I’m doing.

            Car prices went up 18.18% while inflation ran up 96.2%.

            Basically, an “car” with a price of $1 in 1990 has a price of $1.1818 today. Meanwhile, a dollar then is $1.96 today. Therefore the price in terms of the purchasing power of the dollar is 60.3% of what it was in 1990.

            Your income may have not grown as much, but dollar for dollar, cars cost -40% today.

  10. I have a VW e-UP! which is close to my level of techless in a car (still has a GPS remote thing I can’t find). Proberly more stuff underneath that is computery but at lest the ‘feel’ is simpler, you start it by turning a key! Plus more of the standard up spares will fit. My biggest hope is the battery from the new one will fit my older one then I get more range too plus more service life. Could be a good buisness model to reduce car waste but keep manafacture sales up? The battery is a good chunch of the cost.

    I think the warenty runs out next year that will be the moment of truth for fixability.

  11. Don’t forget that modern cars deliberately hinder repair and the use of aftermarket or rebuilt/refurbished parts by requiring matching VIN numbers in the control units belonging to each component. A few years ago I had a job at a pretty large automotive parts rebuilding company that rebuilds and refurbishes parts that are used by repair shops all over the world. They have a pretty large engineering team mainly focused on reverse engineering the CAN communications going on in every model of car.

    They had a line refurbishing power steering racks from GM SUV’s. After 2013 GM made it such that if the VIN didn’t match between the control module in the rack and the test of the car, power steering would be disabled. So as a part of the order process, customers would specify their VIN number. Then, they would remove the SMD EEPROM from the control module, dump the flash, find the VIN code in the dump (not encrypted surprisingly) and edit it, flash the chip, solder it back in and it would be good to go.

    If GM ever decides to encrypt that or switch to an embedded system design with more security, bye bye aftermarket refurbished steering racks.

      1. Could be, but European laws, especially the taxes and regulations, get increasingly hard on older cars. The car companies have actually lobbied for stricter laws to drop the older models out of circulation, so they’re increasingly sold second-hand towards the ex eastern bloc countries.

        It becomes a moot point to fix old cars when people can’t afford to drive them.

  12. “unnecessary features are viewed as desirable”
    I think this is the center of the discussion, and use of the word ‘unnecessary’ does a lot of framing. Many people buy cars to impress. Real estate agents are the most obvious example, but IBM’s old unwritten but enforced rule that you couldn’t buy a more expensive car than your manager had was part of the same thing: your car is a presentation of your place in society, and for a lot of people that’s much more important than simply getting to work. (There’s a whole class of people who don’t even drive their cars: they have someone else do it for them while they sit in the back and in theory Make Deals, and that, too, is a presentation of social position.)
    The people most willing to buy new cars are also the people most enthusiastic about a car that senses the RFID tag on their key as they approach, and lights up some lights or pops the door handles out for them. For them, all those extra gadgets are the reason they bought that car, so from the car manufacturer’s point of view, those are necessary features.
    There is almost no market for a stripped down just-transportation car, because the majority of people who want that functionality buy used cars instead.
    I work in IC design for automotive LED drivers. We thought we would be making stuff that saved energy by replacing incandescents with LED’s. What we’re actually selling is stuff that does fancy sequential turn signals and animated flashy light sequences, because that’s what people want to buy. If you’re in the business of making money off selling cars, the stuff people pay for is necessary.

    1. It was only a decade and a half back that I was expecting to have to replace filament bulbs every 2 or 3 years, but I think they stopped making them so disposable, since I have not changed that many since. They probably figured that the second time you had to replace one you’d go LED, bye bye lunch and supper. So have probably stretched lifetimes out a bit so they still get another sale if they wait another couple of years.

    2. I fear this is right: what is necessary is what people want, and what they want when shopping for a car is probably either flashy features or creature comforts, depending on the market segment.

      There was a great academic analysis of a big US car dataset done around 2000. The conclusion was that for almost all cars, even those with horrible mileage or underpowered engines, adding cupholders was the characteristic that would result in the highest sales price increase.

      (I think it was a linear regression, so there’s no idea of conditioning on how many cupholders the car already has.)

      The other problem, of course, was that “longevity” wasn’t even in the dataset. I’m sure the suits at car companies are smart enough to ask, but when you look at how much extra longevity costs to add in vs how much extra revenue it brings: don’t be surprised to see cars full of touch screens, bassy stereos, and multiple cupholders.

      1. That effect has lot more to do with all the options being so similar that the cupholder becomes the deciding character. When people don’t care about things like gas mileage, they start to consider things like how fast the electric windows wind up.

        1. Yup, the standard of what is entry level changes a lot over time. My mother once told me of someone she knew back in the Sixties getting excited when telling anyone about the latest state-of-the-art gadget in his newest car. Heating. “I’ll never buy a car without a heater again.”

          1. The car I learned to drive in, my dad wanted me to use because he’d ordered it with seat belts. My next car, my grandfather had bolted ropes in, that we could tie in front of us to use as seat belts. That car had been ordered with no heater. My current fun car has no power steering or brakes, which really scares people who haven’t ever driven a car without.
            My grandfather told me about his childhood friend who was killed trying to start a car with a hand crank, that backfired, hit him in the face, and broke his jaw, and he died of an infection from the injury.
            Cars used to suck so much.

          2. >Cars used to suck so much.

            Even after they got better, they sometimes got worse.

            VW built heaters by wrapping a shroud around the exhaust pipe. Guess what happens when the exhaust leaks? German gas chamber.

    3. ““unnecessary features are viewed as desirable””

      But think of how the microprocessor has changed so much of the technology we use.

      We used to have a switch to turn something on. And if we needed a timer (such as to turn it off) that was additional circuitry (and cost). As modest microprocessors began to find their way into everyday items, the designers realized that the uproc could do much more with very little addition circuitry, add a diode, and it could be used as a thermometer, add a few LEDs and it could display status (on, heating, power level) add a few switches and it could react to changing conditions (water level, presence of absence of input) add a couple of up/down switches and the user could adjust levels, add a buzzer/speaker, and the uproc can communicate more information to the user.

      The “unnecessary features” were in many cases, just bells and whistles that the end user found useful, and expected to find on more of future purchases.

      Just think what the uproc did to engine management, sensing temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure to fine tune the fuel and spark, another sensor to detect the O2 present in the exhaust gases. Cruise control was just a couple more switches (in addition to odo/tacho inputs) an LED to notify you the oil has not been changed in X miles.
      Sure I love simple machines, but I also love the conveniences uprocs have provided in the past 30-40 years.

    4. ” your car is a presentation of your place in society”

      I dunno. But at my three previous employers, the only thing identifying status was your parking spot. The CEO and the two exec VPs drove a 12-year old F150 and 4-6 year old Volvo, and Tundra, respectively.

      Two employers ago, the director of engineering (high 6 figures) drove a 3-5 year old avalon Avalon (later a PT cruiser); while the CEO rode a bicycle to work (rain or sun – he was a crazy jarhead).

      The owners or CEOs of my current clients drive 5 to 15 year-old trucks, a CJ7, and a 10 year old Lexus (model unknown). These people are all obscenely wealthy.

      The people driven by status symbols seem to be the drones – mostly factory workers. And we will continue have societies driven by the consumption of complexity and a ‘throw-away’ economic system because most people are mindless and easily manipulated drones. Just ask my wife how easy it is for her to manipulate me…

  13. designing electric cars could lead us to cars that are less than 1000kg, that give a lot more room for stuff to haul around, but only if we are willing to say goodbye to the iconic carshape. One could build en space and cost effective ‘box’ on a slab-like drivetrain. Much to be gained
    btw most fault i’ve encountered [and fixed] in modern cars are connector corrosion related ie ‘green plugs’

    1. “One could build en space and cost effective ‘box’ on a slab-like drivetrain. ”

      Some article I read maybe a decade ago, posited that people could buy the “slab” in the future, and drop what ever body they wanted on it, and be able to change the body if they desired
      Two seat convertible,
      and so on…

      1. Figures from recent Tesla patents are more like 430 Wh/kg. Until now,Tesla has handled the battery weight by making everything else in the car very light weight. If they can also reduce the battery weight while increasing its capacity, we can look forward to a very nice range on a single charge.

        1. Patents are patents – the 430 Wh/kg doesn’t apply to real batteries that have to last time and use, and need protective casing and cooling and heating, and fire retardant foams…

          One of the big problems that Tesla has with getting more capacity in the battery is the fact that they tend to turn into roman candles when you do that…

  14. There’s a lot to unpack in this article.

    What’s best for the consumer is rarely what companies do, especially not in capitalist societies. Why do we not have removable batteries anymore in our cellphones so that we have to buy another $1000+ one in 2 years? Planned obsolescence. Why is John Deer famous for software locking their *tractors* to prevent repairs? To force you to buy new ones, and to hire them for service. Could they make cars easier to repair and keep them on the road longer? Of course they could, and they could have done this decades ago. But instead, they make service manuals limited access and sue companies making cheaper replacement parts. It’s not in their best financial interest to do any of what you’re proposing, so they haven’t, and they won’t. Stating that they have an opportunity now because of electric is somewhat irrelevant, as the factors in play for that haven’t changed.

    Also, I have no idea what electric vehicle you drove in which had to “boot up”, but even so, when has ICE ever been instantaneous? There’s also a “boot up” which is starting the engine. You’ve never been able to just get in a car and drive away immediately, and electric vehicles for the past 10 years have been quicker to get ready than their ICE counterparts.

    The impression also seems to be that there is significantly less complexity with an electric engine – but that’s only a small part of your car. EV or ICE, there are still hundreds of other systems in the car which have nothing to do with the drivetrain. There’s still a huge amount of complexity there, and things that can go wrong. An electric engine also has a few dozen moving parts in total, and yes, compared to a gas engine with somewhere between several hundred and a couple thousand depending on who you ask, that’s a lot simpler and will last longer. But how often does a car get scrapped these days due to the engine? To your point, it’s usually a headlight module or other repairs that drive up the cost past the value of the vehicle. This isn’t due to “electric vs gas” this is due to computerization of cars, which has been happening for decades. Isn’t really relevant to the EV-vs-ICE debate.

    Rust is still very much a thing, as vehicles still rust and need work. A lot of the body panels have been replaced, but other components still rust.

    In other words, the reasons for replacing vehicles isn’t because of the engine – this isn’t new, and won’t change with EVs.

    Also, ironically, in the next few years as electric vehicles hit their stride and get up front price parity, the resale value of gas vehicles is going to plummet, exacerbating the cost of repairs exceeding the value of the vehicle problem – and that’ll send a lot more of them to scrap than before.

    But, lastly – we are at the end of personal vehicle ownership. This debate won’t even really be relevant in 10 or so years. Autonomous driving is going to be the end of vehicle ownership as it simply won’t be financially worth owning a car anymore. Insurance rates will skyrocket for human drivers, in part due to risk and also because less drivers means higher rates for the remaining drivers. We’re already seeing a third of millenials not getting their license by the age of 18. Also, cities will enact autonomous only lanes and times due to traffic and safety concerns, and I’ll be able to get a flat-rate uber pass for cheaper than I would otherwise pay in insurance – and not have to worry about the ownership part, or actually driving. I can relax and work or watch TV or nap or whatever else while in personal transit. I love driving, don’t get me wrong, but it just won’t be financially feasible for very long. Rural areas will take longer, but they won’t be immune. Tesla is going to have more than a million robotaxis on the road within 5 years, and Uber’s plan has always been to go this route (the drivers were just temporary evils to get their business established). Just like Netflix and DVDs – their plan was always to get everything online. The big auto manufacturers like GM and VW already have plans for this as well.

    We’re on the eve of personal transport revolutions. Autonomous fleet taxi services are only the beginning. Hyperloop and other technologies will also exacerbate that, COVID has forced the world to rethink travelling to the office for work, moving more businesses online will also reduce the need to go out. So it’s too late to argue about how to best create an electric vehicle for personal ownership purposes.

    1. IDK about you, but having a waterproof phone is pretty cool. That means non-user serviceable phones.
      That said, my old iPhone got a batter replacement courtesy of Apple for a very reasonable price, in under an hour. So your point is pretty much empty.
      But also, apps continue to improve and require more resources to run – sure you could try to browse the web on a 386, but good luck with videos, SSL and the rest.

      You can lament that you don’t need all the fancy new stuff like web video, AR, etc, but Many of these issues aren’t cosmetic, but are down to security. Try doing 10k rounds of Passcode Hashing on an older device. That’s a minimum for modern security.

    2. >What’s best for the consumer is rarely what companies do, especially not in capitalist societies. Why do we not have removable batteries anymore in our cellphones so that we have to buy another $1000+ one in 2 years?

      Talk about yourself. Mine cost $200, is waterproof, and has a removable battery. The free market works when people are making rational choices – the better the more people mind what they’re paying for. If you have the money and you don’t care, you can buy the $1000 phone and replace it after 2 years – there’s a customer for every price.

      People who blame “capitalism” are unwilling to take responsibility, or they’re arguing that -other- people are incapable of making informed choices relative to their own situations, and therefore the society should regulate the market and force the suppliers to some arbitrary standards. The point behind that sort of thinking is that the person making the argument is already imagining themselves as being in control of said “society”.

      In other words, you’re already assuming yourself the dictator. The “people are ignorant or irrational” attitude already means that you can’t tolerate free democratic choice, because obviously the people would vote to do the wrong thing again. The other side of the anti-capitalism coin is tyranny by those who think they know better – just like the communists who defined themselves as rational, and then continued to run the society to the ground by all their rational planning.

      1. Oh, wow, that gave me a great belly laugh. Thanks. Since you went well outside of what I said, and assumed a lot of things, allow me to do the same.

        Yup, you’re right. There are only 2 options – free market capitalism where the rich get lobbyists and control the government, or communist dictatorship! And we can absolutely trust people to always make the right decisions.

        Have you, um, taken a look at the world in the past 5 years?

        Rising anti vaxxers, anti intellectualism, flat earthers (a third of millennials in the US aren’t sure the earth is round), racist nationalism, and a hundred plus million people who believe that someone with 15,000+ provable lies in 3 years can do no wrong. He literally asks for blanket immunity under the premise that he believes that it is impossible for him to commit a crime, since he’s the leader of the country with unrestricted power (he has literally said this). I’m sorry, what sort of governmental system are you claiming exists again? Yes, the free market democratic system is absolutely intact. We have social media blatantly manipulating the world, actual Russians manipulating the system (as proven and agreed to by both parties!), but yes, everything is fine. Oh, also, with this free market capitalism – I guess we shouldn’t be bailing them out, right? I mean if the system is so perfect, then they should fail, and take the economy down with them. But no, we can’t have that – so they know that they can give huge bonuses to their executives, take massive risks, and the government will always be there to catch them because they are “too big to fail”. I mean it’s not like this has happened recently and we’ve learned our lessons. Oh, wait, that was 10 years ago. There is a continual willful ignorance of expert opinions in favour of what people selfishly want. That’s not even getting into drastically increased wealth disparity (26 people in the world literally have as much wealth as the bottom 50% – 3.7 billion), the vanishing middle class, and a continual destruction of our environment. Medical bankruptcy is the number one reason as people have to choose between paying bills and staying alive. We have case after case of corporate greed, proving that they will do whatever they can in order to make money, and rarely suffering consequences of any important amount. But anything other than free market capitalism is a dirty word!

        But, yes, free market economy all the way. That’s the only way. Because since it’s a black and white situation, and the only other option is complete communist dictatorship, we have to stick with what we have.

        1. > There are only 2 options – free market capitalism where the rich get lobbyists and control the government, or communist dictatorship!

          You’re the one who went “especially not in capitalist societies”.

          What is your “third way” that is not capitalism, nor outright socialism? Social democracy? Oh, but that we already have: it’s characterized by crony capitalism where the same corporations sit on top of the law and write it for themselves in order to exploit the market better, abusing the power of the state that was expanded to regulate the market away from the capitalists…

          1. Sorry for the relative necro post but had to reply.

            The biggest problem with America IS and will continue to be..a failure by the elected to enforce the Law as Written…

            Assholes With Money (AWM) buying the votes of elected officials IS what’s wrong with the system.

            Both Parties are COMPLETELY Corrupt. This IS on purpose. A warped and bastardized version of yin and yang, designed to ensure the masses are ALWAYS “agin each other” as Paps used to put it.

            I refer to it as the “2 party monopoly system”.

            As long as voters are entrenched by party ( signified by ” well he/she/it is an asshole, but they are better than…x”)
            We will continue to get the same sell out, self serving fucktards that have been putting us in debt and ducking off our good will for the last 30 years.


            That and start a recall campaigns if permitted for the Gov in your state and local.

            What it means is we have to trust each other over THEM..

  15. Ok, where to begin:

    Your vehicles produce somewhere on the order or two orders of magnitude more environment destroying chemicals than modern vehicles, have less performance, require a lot more gas (are less efficient), and are a lot more dangerous to operate and ride in.

    The fact that people can get into head on collisions at 60mph and walk away in a modern vehicle is a testament to just how far we’ve come.

    1. So true… But what are the overall environmental affects of the new car electronics, etc when they are no longer working?… Landfills anyone… What about the environmental conditions to produce the electronics and batteries. Have you reviewed the the impacts of lithium mining? What about the disposal of Lithium batteries? What about the impacts of the additional electricity generation?
      I am not saying that the gas engine is better, etc but simply that electric cars are not without their own environmental impacts and like most things one has to look at the whole picture.

      As for safety… yup new cars are safer, but as in life there are risks. Just walking across the street there is a risk… driving your bicycle, motorcycle, etc… Everyone needs to make their own risk level assessment, as opposed to being told what is best for me.

      1. Not to mention the energy and resources it takes to make a new car as opposed to what the old one spews out. I suspect keeping an old car going is really quite a bit greener.

        You also with new cars often wind up with that digital all or nothing. In an old car, if the points were dirty or the car might not run great but it would get you home and to the mechanic if necessary. Now the car runs fine until the spark module dies and that you are calling roadside assistance.

        1. Part of the “it’ll get you home” is a type of confirmation bias: old cars fall apart so often you repeatedly have to bandage them long enough to get to the mechanic. I can’t remember how many times I pulled the distributor cap off and stuck a bit of sandpaper in to polish the points to get home, at 2 AM under a streetlight. And, sure, I could make it work again. On the other hand, I went like 140,000 km on my new car without ever doing a thing with the entire ignition system. Sure if it breaks I’ll be stranded, but it doesn’t break because it has no moving parts and the better combustion quality of the EFI means I very rarely have to change the spark plugs either. Which is better overall: twenty times of having to stop and spend time fixing the car to nurse it home, or one time of having to call a tow truck?

        2. Yeah, the digital all or nothing mentality bothers me the most as well. I have an old Fiat Panda which has basically no electronics besides the radio and the EFI. I have it stored at a farmer until I have some time to restore it. I put a battery in it after almost 5 years and it started up after some ignitions.
          I also enjoy connecting my smartphone with my spotify playlist to my car radio. The solution was to invest in a new car stereo to “update” my car. With the integrated entertainment consoles it is simply not possible anymore.

      2. The number one environmental impact of lithium mining is water. If you want to save up enough water to make an EV battery pack, eat a couple less steaks. Why? Because it takes more water to get a couple pounds of beef than it does to make a lithium battery pack for a car.

        Think about that the next time you are eating steak.

        1. ask in congos oil and gas fiels how many liters of water you have to push under the soil to get one liter of oil, in some mature fields the ratio has gone to 16 liters of water for one liter of oil… and youhave to imagine the power sucked by the pumps pushing the water, from hundreds of kilowatts to megawatts

        2. Check out the ESOEI of lithium batteries.

          In the ideal case, manufacturing a li-ion battery consumes less than 10% of the energy it can store in its lifespan. In the actual case, when batteries are not used to their full capacity before they age out, the energy invested on energy stored goes up to 1/3 of the total, which means the lithium battery itself uses up huge amounts of energy and produces CO2 and the other things.

          If you calculate that in terms of efficiency, and mind that the chargers and the grid together are only 85% efficient to start with, you’re wasting about half the energy you put through the car.

      3. Even when you factor in manufacturing, newer is greener. EVs are always greener than ICEs (lots written on that subject). The whole “battery negates EV green advantage” meme has been thoroughly disproven. And consider this, that EV on day 1 is the least green it will ever be while an ICE on day 1 is at it’s greenest. That’s because the electric grid is getting greener and an ICE car gets worse over time – rings wear, leaks oil, cat converter degrades, …

        And by the way, most cars don’t wind up in landfills – they get recycled.

        1. >The whole “battery negates EV green advantage” meme has been thoroughly disproven.

          Untrue. See the point about ESOEI above.

          In short: if you drove the battery to the ground with all the miles it has to offer, you would have a point. Most people never drive the distance within the calendar life of the battery, thus the portion of the energy to manufacture the battery to the energy put through the battery grows larger. The people who claim to “debunk” the energy costs of EVs never take this into account – they simply assume the batteries are used to their full capability.

          Secondly, the cost both in terms of energy and money to recycle li-ion is presently greater than the cost to make new batteries. Only a tiny portion of lithium batteries are actually recycled.

    2. Plus everything in them lasts much longer. Hours between oil changes and other lube, tires, brakes, engine, drive train. 250,000+ miles versus 80,000 (Except BMW. Don’t buy a BMW with over 60,000.) before worn out. There is practically no comparison. And from the air, major cities all looked like a brown dome in the 1960’s. Now? Noting.

        1. Terrible compared to what? Draft animals once consumed 1/3 of all farm production and the streets flowed with 30,000 gallons of horse urine a day (NYC). That is the source of “Don’t play in the street!” and the myriad ways used to eliminate or mask odors. Absolutely nothing carried people faster than 13 mph except trains and animals on a short sprint. (On level ground, no ice boats. Unladen African horse, etc. etc.)

    3. head on collisions at 60mph
      Assuming 5 feet from the driver’s head to the front bumper, and 60 mph is 88 fps… the deceleration is in excess of 20 gravities even it’s perfectly controlled. This is not walk away territory, it’s mandatory brain damage territory.

  16. I can’t prove this, but I suspect that electric cars use about half of the blue LED’s produced on the planet.

    I’ve always felt that modern cars have too many bells and whistles and general bling for my taste, and electric cars lead the pack. But I also suspect this probably has more to do with their market segment than their electric nature.

    At the moment, electric vehicles tend to be a premium price product. Even “commuter” cars like the Nissan Leaf and eGolf sell for a $8K premium over their comparable gas and diesel brethren. I didn’t even look up MSRP’s on Tesla.

    When people drop big coin on a car they _expect_ a huge, integrated infotainment system and enough graphics power to render Toy Story.

    Someday, with a little luck, electric cars will get ‘downmarket’ enough that it will make economic sense for manufacturers to offer different trim levels, and hopefully, get rid of some of those blue LED’s.

    I know I’m swimming against the tide, but hopefully, someday, electric cars can just be cars.

  17. Car manufacturers cram their products with stupid, unnecessary electronic gadgets. They should just keep it simple. Or so some would say.

    Meanwhile, my wife got rid of a car because it didn’t have Bluetooth. So there’s that.

  18. Let’s talk pianos, little changes here. Now players. I have rebuilt many from the model-T Zeppelin era. No problem. In 1906 the player makers standardized on the rolls and the industry took off. Will your digital media be readable in a century? In the 80’s the electronic ones arrived. First cassettes then floppy discs then CD’s then flash memory now IOT. All play proprietary software not MIDI. Well MIDI if you use the DIN socket on the box of goodies, if it works. They added soundtracks too. I just had one 1998 player die right before my eyes, upon opening the goody box I wrote the postmortem. Thru each of those five media generations the solenoid rail which is a lot of hardware and physical work to carve out the keybed and install is rendered null. The rail could use MIDI but we have to have the box of trouble with it’s timed life.

    1. I just wanted to add, since you mentioned pianos, check out “keybird instruments”! They are re-implementing the piano as a low-cost (?) light-weight instrument…I think the action and materials are fairly traditional (wooden parts with felt interfaces, a metal frame to handle the string tension), but they’re using only 1 string instead of 3, and they’ve done some CAD sort of tricks to try to reduce the weight and bulk. Kind of an interesting compromise but the weight target they claim to have hit is impressive! And anyways, I love to see someone innovating something that hadn’t seen innovation in forever. Especially since they aren’t just adding electronics.

  19. I keep seeing ads for companies who are converting older (classic) cars into electrics. That’s great.
    I see kits for doing the same to your own older car.
    You know, someone’s making a motor-controller package that looks vaguely like a V-8.

    The Holy Grail would probably be a semi-universal adapter that would connect the donor vehicle’s wiring harness to the motor’s controller (probably CAN bus) so that the car wouldn’t know that there wasn’t an ICE under the hood.
    Make this, and the potential exists to keep a lot of cars out of the scrap yards.

  20. I wanted to weigh in with a “stupidity of modern cars” story of my own.

    I have a touchscreen in my car that controls the infotainment and climate system. There are also some buttons to control the stereo source, tuning, volume, and volume controls on the steering wheel. The thing is, none of these are actually connected to the stereo. The receiver is a CANbus device that accepts commands from those remote devices.

    This is actually pretty clever, as I enjoy having volume buttons on the steering wheel. What’s not clever is that every month or two the stereo will stop accepting commands on the CANbus. It just keeps playing whatever it was playing at whatever volume it was playing it. This even keeps playing after you shut the car off and open the door, even though normal behavior will shut it off when you open the door. When you turn the car on again it continues this broken behavior.

    The only was I’ve found to fix this is to pull the fuse to the stereo (it’s #79 on the Ford Cmax for anyone else suffering from this). So now my high-tech car requires a needle-nose pliars to be stored in the glove box to fix this problem. Shouldn’t there be a watchdog timer or a power-on self test for this type of thing.

    1. First I’m surprised your Ford didn’t have a fuse puller on the back of the cover panel, since a lot of mid 90s up Fords did. Second, you can loop a cable tie, or tape around a frequently pulled fuse to make it easier. Third, I believe you can buy plug into fuse holder switches for anything you wanna turn on an off at will, a lot.

  21. exactly.

    >”By the 1990s most cars simply didn’t rust”

    ahahahahaha Only someone living in California could believe this.

    Most manufacturers started galvanizing around 2000 (Opel in 1998 etc).
    Then there are the likes of Mazda. Why galvanize when you can use trace amounts of Zinc in the paint and claim ‘protective layer’ :-)

    1. Gosh. Audi galvanised in the 1980s. FIAT, early ’90s FIAT Tipo? VW? ’90s. Not sure when European Fords did it. No idea when American cars did it, but yes. Cars in Europe don’t rust like they used to. And we salt our roads.

      1. The Minnesota Iron Range has fallen on tough times.
        I suspect they throw extra salt on the roads, to get more rusting and therefore an incentive to re-open the mines.

      2. VAG only galvanized parts of the body shell or subframe. That’s why you often see the fenders, trunk lid or the doors rusting first while the bottom or the car is still solid.
        Just come to any area that gets a bit of snow and things start getting funny. That’s where washing your car makes a big difference.

    2. Mid-90’s Toyotas are all rustproofed. After around 2002 they started using thinner steel and less galvanizing to save weight for all the fuel economy requirements and extra gadgets, which basically negates the effort. Using high strength alloys allows the use of thinner sheets for the box sections, but in consequence when they start to rust they lose strength much faster and become unsafe.

  22. I installed the factory fog light package on my 2018 Chevy Cruze. When I was done, the button did turn the panel indicator on and off, but the lights themselves would not work until I took the car to the dealer to have them enable them in the Body Control Module.

    Which takes 3 hours, at $165 per.

    I called around, and got the same answer everywhere. I even contacted the seller, who was an OEM wholesaler. Three hours, because the entire BCM program had to be read out and re-written, and by the way, the computer at the stealership has to phone home in order to validate that it was OK to do the update. I had to have the specific serial number and an unlock code, both which I had thankfully saved from the original box.

    I was already too committed, but should have just written some PIC assembly and hacked the circuit into the fuse block.

    Technology in modern cars. Next car’s going to be something from the 60’s or 70’s.

    1. Had a similar incident with my Golf V when I wanted to add a tow bar – the electrics package cost more than the towbar- made my own opto isolated current protected solid state trailer lights driver – Worked a treat

  23. > on relative pennies-worth of electricity

    The electricity isn’t the greatest cost. A Tesla NCA battery costs around $150 per kWh and lasts for 2000 cycles, so 7.5 c/kWh to produce. Double that to the selling price. Let’s assume 15 c/kWh plus the cost of electricity, let’s say the average 11 cents. That makes 26 cents. Control for drivetrain efficiency at 85% and you have 30 c/kWh usable energy.

    Meanwhile, gasoline costs around 9 cents a kWh.Assume 25% efficiency and you get 36 c/kWh.

    It’s not actually much cheaper than driving gasoline. Diesel is much much cheaper.

    1. I didn’t follow any of that logic. When talking about the cost to drive, why are you pulling in the battery cost, but not for anything for gasoline engine cost? What do the efficiencies have to do with it, when all you need to know is how much you can drive?

      EV “standard” is about 4 miles per kWh. A large number of areas in the country have time-of-use rates, with cheap electricity at night. If you pay $0.06/kWh at night, that’s 1.5c/mi. I know people who pay 2 cents at night. I also know people who pay 25 (California). So it’ll greatly depend on where you live and drive. I know people who have solar setups, so they basically drive for free.

      So look at averages instead – average nighttime electricity rate is about 8 cents – so that’s 2c/mi. 10% loss wall to wheels if you want to get technical, so 2.2c.

      Last year, the average gas price was about 2.60/gal. With 25mpg average, that’s about 10c/mi – 5x the price. Even with a great hybrid at 50mph, that’s still 2.5x more expensive, and now you have as massively complex vehicle.

      That’s also before taking into consideration maintenance and wear and tear, which drives up the difference.

      So, yes, it’s a lot cheaper than driving on gasoline or even diesel.

      1. There’s also another way of estimating EV driving costs:

        Consider that the maximum calendar life of the battery is 10 years. You pay let’s say $15k for a 75 kWh battery, since the manufacturer wants some profit off of it too^, and you drive 15k a year, therefore you pay 10 cents a mile for the battery. This is already on par with the fleet average gasoline cost.

        Your “standard” is 250 Wh/mi, adjust by the 90% charging efficiency, and the average US electricity price at 11 c/kWh, you pay an additional 3 cents per mile, which ends you up at 13 cents. For the average person, driving an EV is about 30% more expensive.

        This is a pointless comparison, however, since the EV will also cost more than the average car sold on the market in its size class, and has a lower resale value on the second hand market because of the expired battery, so it costs more per mile through the total cost of ownership anyways. You can make points about efficiency all day long, but as long as the average mid-sized non-luxury car that the average person actually buys costs $20k and your EV costs $40k+ it’s simply not a relevant comparison.

        ^(You can’t just count the manufacturing cost as your cost. A third of the price of a typical EV is the battery, so for a $46k Tesla Model 3 it would be around $15k.)

        1. There’s an often quoted number that in the US the average car costs around $36k and people are using this figure to argue that EVs are affordable.

          But the real truth is that 70% of the car market is second hand vehicles, at much lower prices in the $10k – 20k range, and even the new car market is not normally distributed around a $36k mean, but it’s a bimodall distribution with two peaks, one around $20k and another around $50k representing economy vehicles and luxury vehicles. The “average” priced car falls in between these two peaks, representing high-end regular cars or low-end luxury cars.

          So it really doesn’t matter if the average person pays 10 cents a mile for gasoline, because they’re saving the price of an entire car by not driving the EV, and that money buys a lot of oil changes and engine repairs – or indeed another car.

          And let’s stop pretending that EVs don’t need brake jobs, air conditioning fill-ups, getting the shocks replaced every 100k miles, rust repairs (especially with Tesla’s shoddy paintwork), fixing electrical problems, replacing lights, switches, sensors, etc. that have nothing to do with the engine itself, that are the majority of maintenance cost in any car.

        2. I think that you didn’t pay much attention to my post, and rehashed the same points.

          To summarize:
          – The average isn’t 11c/kWh – that’s overall average. People charge at night when the power is cheaper. In many locations, it’s 2-6c/kWh at night. If you use 8 cents, which I believe to be the accurate at-night price, even your calculations then have it on par.
          – There isn’t a 10 year calendar life on batteries, They’ll be good 15-20 years in the car, and another 15-20 years as grid storage.
          – The entire cost of the battery is not lost. See above.
          – Also, at this point, it’s likely that the battery will outlast the car.
          – There is a large depreciation cost of a gas car to add into the calculations as well
          – The higher up front cost won’t be the case for long
          – As EVs hit mainstream, resale values of gas vehicles will plummet
          – We don’t even need to calculate battery cost replacement, but if we want to, prices will not remain constant as they’ve been falling by 5-10% per year. If a battery replacement is needed, it’ll be about a third of the price, and you’ll get money back by selling the old pack for grid storage.

          Any one of those individually will tip your calculations in favour of EVs, and all of them together make it clear that the TCO of EVs is lower.

          Right now we are at the tipping point. There are many studies showing that, with the current incentives, driving an EV has a lower TCO than a gas car when comparing *like* vehicles. Most of the studies proving otherwise compare a cheap $25k gas car with a $35k EV, even though the EV has much higher performance and features than the $25k gas car. With the price drops that are coming in the next few years, the subsidies won’t be needed anymore. Even without the subsidies, the EVs are very close as of 2018, and better as of 2020.




          No subsidies in California, and comparing the Leaf (which has terrible depreciation) is almost as good as a hybrid in TCO – but with subsidies, even the Leaf wins out. With newer EVs like the Teslas, Bolt, etc – they currently win out even without subsidies:


          Without any subsidies at all, by 2022 TCO of EVs will have completely beaten gas:


          1. >There isn’t a 10 year calendar life on batteries, They’ll be good 15-20 years in the car, and another 15-20 years as grid storage.

            That’s pure fantasy. There are no batteries on the market that last even 15 years.

            >In many locations, it’s 2-6c/kWh at night.

            Until people start to use it to charge electric cars, at which point the price normalizes. You can’t argue for the general case using special case figures.

            >Most of the studies proving otherwise compare a cheap $25k gas car

            It should be even lower. The “average car price” illusion comes from the fact that new car prices are bimodal: the average cheap car comes in a range from $18-25k which is balanced by SUVs and luxury cars in the $30-50k range, and when you take the mean price it looks like $25k is “cheap”. When you count in the second hand market, which is around 70% of all cars sold, the true median price drops to $20k and below. A “cheap” car would be more like $10-15k compared to that. EVs are simply so expensive that they’re out of reach for the vast majority of people for years and years to come.

            >There are many studies showing that…

            …the principle of GIGO still applies, and most of those aren’t even studies but opinion pieces and blog articles. Most of these make the same unwarranted assumptions about the lifespan of batteries and the capacity of the market to produce them when the demand goes up. You too assume battery prices will fall to 1/3 when in reality the mining industry can’t expand fast enough to supply the minerals for hundreds of millions of EVs in a short decade. Recycling doesn’t help you in an expanding market because you can’t make two batteries out of one.

            You’re just too far off into la-la land to see what’s going on.

          2. >Any one of those individually will tip your calculations in favour of EVs

            Let’s see.

            The first one is a fallacy of argumentation – it will only hold true if there are a sufficiently small number of EVs that the night rates stay low. In reality, an EV in a household roughly doubles its electricity demand, and showing this demand at night-time is particularly problematic since it doesn’t align with cheap renewable power such as solar energy.

            The next three are not independent claims but based on the same misconception about battery lifespan. Batteries have a shelf-life that is independent of use, caused by the chemical decomposition of the electrodes and the electrolyte. The speed of the decay is a function of time, average state of charge, and temperature, and the damage done to the battery this way causes the cycling damage to speed up towards the end of the battery’s life, which results in an accelerating loss of capacity with every recharge. Once you start losing capacity, but you still drive the same number of miles a year, you end up cycling the battery more often and damaging it even faster – this results in a nosedive towards zero capacity, and the same applies to any further use of the battery which will not have many cycles left.

            EVs have greater depreciation costs than IC vehicles because they cost more to begin with, and the price isn’t coming down because battery prices aren’t coming down as fast as you hope. The minerals producing industry has to expand production by hundreds of times to meet the potential demand if EVs would become mainstream, but the only way they can expand is if they raise the prices to pay for the expansion. This is called the marginal cost of production: it is not necessarily so that making more of the same thing makes it cheaper.

            “As EV’s hit mainstream” is jumping ahead of the game, which is another false argument and irrelevant at this point in time, and finally: yes we do need to calculate the cost of replacing the battery because they do not last the life of the car.

            But nice try at gish-galloping.

    2. I think you missed something, because even in CA, land of expensive electricity (unless you install your own solar panels), all the Tesla owners I know pay a lot less per year for cost of driving (or total cost of ownership) than they did with their previous vehicles, even Priuses. The rub is just the higher initial cost, which, for drivers who put a lot of miles on their car (say, >15,000 miles/year), seems to get paid back in under three years for a mid-range Model 3.

      If you commute on Norcal freeways, you’ll find that a large percentage of the cars are electric, and I think those are the people who rack up 20K miles in a year. On weekends, the ICE cars come out for their Sunday drives.

      1. Well, it depends entirely on what your “previous vehicle” is.

        Mine was around $2000. If I were to buy a $46k Tesla, I would have to drive it for a century to match the total cost of ownership of my previous vehicle. Of course in California, among rich people who can afford to buy Teslas, the comparison is some $50k BMW or a Lexus…

        1. Indeed, my present car is $2000 Japanes econobox which I bought 20 years ago. No EV can ever touch my car for total running cost. I’ve done all the repairs and nothing major ever broke in the car. As long as Engine and transmission is sound, simple reliable ICE is extremely inexpensive to operate and maintain.

          1. Even new ones like Dacia can be bought for around $7000-8000, or at least you used to be able to before Renault bought the brand and jacked the prices up.

            It was too cheap.

      2. I would call CA land of cheap electricity. I’ts almost half of consumer electricity prices in the Netherlands. If I would choose day/night tariff, the price in very early morning and on weekends would be a 1 or 2 cent lower, bit it would raise may day-time price by a similar amount.

        Solar, and especially the installation cost, is cheaper in Europe. With the high electricity prices stationary batteries become an interesting subject vert soon. We also have an approx. 400 euro yearly connection fee. This is partially subsidized but that is phased out costs are rising since grid companies need to to cover there big losses on removing natural gas infrastructure. I don’t know if CA has fixed electricity connection fees, but in the Netherlands I can see situations where going off-grid could become an interesting option for already connected houses. This will need some battery storage and very large amount of solar to deal with shorter winter days (and unused access electricty in summer) but that can all be priced in.

  24. So… author rode in a Chevy Volt. Betcha a DOLLAR, or a pound, or pick your currency. I had one for 6yrs and 125K mi., Ugggg GM software had a friggin compatible-with-Vista logo on the ‘about’ page..

    Author is making an argument FOR Teslas. Simply because they are planning ahead and building cars meant to last for 500K mi today, and 1M miles next gen. I have a 2yr old Model 3 and can tell you.. he would love it despite all it’s modern conveniences.

    My prediction is that it will become the modern era’s Beetle with a plethora of aftermarket mods to either tech up, or tech down, the ride. The drivetrain is just too damn good to only get 200K miles out of it.

    1. You won’t drive a Tesla for a million miles. You don’t have the time in a day to drive that much in the 10 years it takes for the battery to die of old age rather than the amount of use.

      1. While your point is generally right, let’s fix the part that’s wrong: the math.
        A million miles in 10 years is 100,000 miles a year.
        A hundred thousand miles a year is doable.

        1. Doable, but unusual. It’s 274 miles every single day for 10 years. If you average 40 mph, you’ll be sitting 7 hours a day behind the wheel – which pretty much assumes you’re some form of professional driver.

          A taxi driver in NYC will do about 70,000 miles a year. A busy taxi driver then.

        1. The EROEI of corn ethanol is 1.37 where the 1 comes from fossil fuels (fertilizers, fuels, equipment…) and the .37 is the energy value of the ethanol.

          By burning ethanol, you’re basically burning 3/4 petroleum – indirectly.

  25. Short of government regulation or open-source systems replacement, I don’t think manufacturers are going to have motivation to make things compatible. OBD and CAN are results of regulation, and were better than the previous situation, but there are so many manufacturer-specific loopholes that the original intent is somewhat neutered. It’s still better than separate diagnostics for every different kind of vehicle, though!

    I’d like to see generic open-source systems that can replace failed systems from manufacturers. For example, auto lights. In the worst case, you’d replace the entire system to get the new functionality. Bulbs, wires, switches, main controller. In better cases, you could use at least the existing power wiring and add a separate CAN bus, tap into existing switches, etc. Fuel injection/ignition systems have something like this with Megasquirt, SECU-3, and no doubt others.

    Then at least the generic replacements would put some pressure on the proprietary systems and repairs to be reasonably priced.

    To help keep this legal, be sure to support right-to-repair legislation!

  26. Coming down from Mt. Rainier with a station wagon full of Boy Scouts and the drums heat up – and braking quits. Hang on boys! We are going to coast to let them cool and drift the corner at the far end of the Nisqually Glacier bridge! Then do it again till the first switchback!

    Never again. Discs all the way around or no sale.

  27. I feel like I’m on the wrong website, we are barely 10 years into electric that people actually want to buy and because the cars live an breath CANBUS the sky is falling and there is no hope for our electric future. Most of these cars aren’t even fully out of warranty yet

    This is the same crap we got when cars switched from carburetion to injected. You can’t tune them, they are stuck the manufacturer’s will keep us down, rip out the injection and bolt back a good old carb. Fast forward 10 years and people started to disassemble the assembly on the eprom and burn replacements. 10 years after that they had standalone ECUs, 10 more years and we started to be able to download the flash memory and reload it without even turning a screwdriver.

    Guess what EVs are running down the same course. People are tweaking BMS controllers in the Leaf, upgrading battery packs in early Tesla Model S cars and the list goes on. Right now for under 5000 I can replace the entire drive line in a gas car and seamlessly integrate It into the CANBUS with a Teensy. The only thing holding us back is Time and cost.

    Buckle up it’s going to be an amazing ride!

  28. When friends and co-workers have talked about their new car, one of the first things they mention is how large their touch screen is, among other gadgets irrelevant to driveability or safety. Many people want these “features”. Maintenance concerns aren’t even on their radar, and even if it was, many of these people don’t intend to keep their car for more than a decade.

    Jump to electric cars, and you won’t find them in the price range of the cheapest, featureless (not a knock on that) economy cars available, mainly due to battery costs AFAIK. That means electric cars compete price-wise with their gadget-filled ICE counterparts, so they must be similarly equipped in order to stand the best chance of selling.

    Of course, as is mentioned in the article, many of the sophisticated electronic systems aren’t even obvious to the typical owner. All those modules that do one thing or another and communicate over shared digital buses permeate damn near every function with hardly a switch in the car that directly powers a light bulb or relay. From a practical business perspective, it makes sense. No one is going to produce a car with gas-fired headlights and only spark ignition as the sole electrical component. So here we are, bound to have at least a few electronic modules. Since we’re already producing them, and electronics are cheap, it makes sense to add functionality to them which in some way saves the company money, be it through reduced labor during assembly, or eliminating a different system which would be required to accomplish the same thing, or maybe aiding in achieving some regulatory requirement.

    I definitely don’t like it, but I do understand why it is the way it is.

    That said, staring at a loading screen before you can “start” your vehicle will no doubt be a common trope in horror movies of the future.

    1. Having to adjust the valve backlash. Having to adjust the drum brake mechanical takeup to adjust for brake shoe wear. Having to grease the u-joints on the drive shaft and rear half shafts. Having to replace spark plugs all the time because the carb ran rich because the auto choke wasn’t doing its job and the plugs gunked up yet again.

      1. PLUS grease tie rod ends, ball joints, repack wheel bearings. adjust points, change points, clean or replace distributor cap, replace cracked HV ignition wires, clean/gap plugs every 20k miles worn out vacuum advance, free rusted-stuck auto choke(oh you mentioned that) adjust idle mixture, check accel. pump, rebuild carb, auto trans needing rebuild after 130k miles, replace bias ply tires after 15k miles, replace exhaust system every 50-75k, drum brake pad lasted 10-35k miles depending on quality, adjust steering box backlash…….and these are just the jobs I can remember having to do!

  29. Sucks is when it’s a pain to remove you exhaust manifold bolts… like you have to plan to attack the situation like a millright with a torch and cutting wheel… right from the start. Even the auto repair shops don’t want to mess with those generations makes and models engines. That’s when fabricating patches with custom metal on the exhaust pipe clamp comes in handy. Ghetto effective.

  30. im no fan of so called “smart” technology. i like my machines dumb, and if were being honest, its all just running code and not actually thinking. code that can be full of errors, bugs, vulnerabilities, and the worst of them, self crippling drm. now i dont own an electric vehicle. closest thing is mom’s mobility scooter. and on that you cant do some maintenance task like swap a motor or convert the battery system over to lithium ion without replacing it entirely. to tweak the settings requires you buy software and adapters from the controller manufacturer, at absurd prices, which is of course all proprietary and locked down.

    even your typical smart phone is locked down and effectively dies when the software stops being updated, long before the hardware is actually dead. we have a smart washing machine that everyone hates. it simply overthinks the problem in the name of “environmentally friendliness”. but it will drain the tank on you if you want your laundry to soak in bleach for awhile, or if you simply forget to close the lid. and dumping an unused tank of hot water due to a software timeout wastes tons of energy. it also has a lid lock presumably more to keep people from watching it operate than to actually provide any safety. we fixed that with a 3d printed false latch that replaces the one bolted to the lid. turns out the machine doesn’t even rinse the clothes very well in most cycles. give me a dumb mechanical sequencer any day.

    if people want to protect the environment they should stop designing products to fail prematurely. they can always figure out the weakest link and weaken it further to boost the bottom line. what they should be doing is strengthening those links or make them serviceable. apple can pretty much get away with murder, with their market composed of so called environmentally friendly hipsters, yet their products cannot be repaired or repurposed beyond the point where apple deems it obsolete. i bought a 5th gen ipod, and i accredit their longevity (and this thing is not know for its longevity) to installing rockbox after only 6 months of ownership. that and some after-market replacement parts, battery and screen, this is easily my oldest still working piece of technology. of course it was no surprise that apple really cracked down on jailbreaks around this time. i guess they dont like that i got 15 years out of one of their products.

    1. I was in an old repair shop and heard them talk about never buy a lg or Samsung washer because the $146 modules keep going out every 6 months. “They weigh the load, fill a little water, weigh again…And that makes a load of laundry take 1.5hr to finish”

      Yeah, no thanks.

      Im be keeping our 26 year old refrigerator.

  31. My Lady and I have a 2006 Saturn. The gas door has a little out-dent that you stick your finger behind to open the door. We got a rental car while ours was being serviced. The lady at the gas station had to show us how to open the gas door. No little out-dent, no button,
    no indication on how to open it at all. And this stupid so-called “modern” car beeped
    and bopped and lit up all sorts of indicators for every little thing. Someone coming
    up on your left, DING! The engine would shut off at a red light, we thought the thing
    had died. We were never so happy to get our Saturn back. Yes, it’s an older car, and
    yes, it has an ICE. I like simple, put in gas, keep it maintained, turn the key, put it
    in gear and it works. You can keep all the techno-electronic nonsense.
    My Lady knows how to drive, she doesn’t need a ding, or beep, or light to tell her that
    someone is coming up in the left lane.

  32. I wish I could find the original article but never the less, one of the OEM detailed out in a peice about what it would take to build a car to last a lifetime.
    Its was 80/90’s time frame.
    Short version was average car was like £10k and the last a lifetime one was £250k but it would never pay its self off so it was pointless.
    You have an optimal price point.
    You have a choice of cars.
    Don’t moan about choice or someone will come a long and take your choices away.. 😂

    1. The good news is Tesla is pushing the trend in the right direction. The major cost for maintenance is tires. Since Tesla sees itself as making autonomous taxi service, the longer their cars last the better. With aluminum bodies,drive trains and batteries that last a million miles, Tesla’s are as close as you can get to million mile cars. Electronics do not suffer mechanical wear.

      1. I woudn’t say that Electronics dont suffer mechanical wear – put electronics in a car it gets shaken around heated and cooled (expands and contracts) until it fails – wires from body to doors break from doors opening and closing.
        My daughters Golf V is mechanically fine after 140000km and 15years but electrically its a basket case the dash is lit up like a Christmas tree the doors dont lock properly windows dont wind interior lights dont work properly and it is ALL electrical faults. The motor is in great shape the gear box is good, even the stearing and suspension is fine. when she comes to visit on breaks from uni I spend the whole time fixing electrical faults – usually resorting to hacks to keep it functioning.

        My daily driver is a 20year old SAAB – It still goes like a rocket but the paint is peeling, the seats have sagged, the radio doesnt have bluetooth, the boot struts have failed.

        I love electric cars but am not convinced they are the wonder car they are sold as. they still have a transmission, wheel bearings steering/suspension bushes km’s of wireing, switches, sensors, the paint will fade the seat foam will deteriorate the seams will split just like any other car.

        Most cars arn’t retired because the engine has failed but because its not nice and shiny any more..

      2. >With aluminum bodies

        Steel can be engineered for infinite fatigue life, aluminum cannot. It will form stress cracks from cyclic loads. Welding aluminum makes it worse – the body cannot be repaired, only replaced. See how jet liner air frames are maintained: they monitor the crack growth and simply replace entire riveted sections.

        >drive trains and batteries that last a million miles

        Batteries have a shelf-life of a decade. Whether you manage to drive a million miles in that time is up to you.

        >Electronics do not suffer mechanical wear.

        Wires and contact suffer from corrosion and mechanical stresses, insulation degrades chemically, capacitors dry out, semiconductors diffuse and flash memories stop retaining their data… then there’s the pumps and hoses for the battery coolant, the 8,000 little tab welds in the battery…

  33. Jenny, I am going to set Robert Llewellyn onto you! But seriously, the best source of info about electric transportation in general is his YT channel Fully Charged. Here is a sample, a 20,000 mile review of his Hyundai Kona: https://youtu.be/cgjJ8yREvg8 The channel has the best mix of presenters. Apart from Robert, who is now in his 60s) they have Dr Helen Czerski (BBC Horizon), Rory Reid (Top Gear) and Chelsea Sexton (General Motors Sales Manager for the original EV1). It is good fun and informative.

    However I do agree with you about the way cars have become computers on wheels. My sister recently replaced her 20 year old turbo diesel Golf with a 4 year old turbo petrol version. The “infotainment” system is the big difference. I don’t think that is going to change anytime soon. Once you put a capable computer in anything, then the tendency to add “features” will be irresistible. In my lifetime we have gone from no TV, to B&W, to Colour, to Digital, to HD and now 8K. Despite being a retired Video Editor (mainly broadcast docs) I still have a non-Smart TV, but it is 1920 by 1080 HD. I have added Smart-ness with a Fire TV Box, and it is amazing how much that adds. Now in my 70th year, with various health issues restricting my abilities, I have begun to rely on having access to the internet and to catch-up TV. This situation has arisen because the analogue TV has morphed into a computer display with a “TV tuner” of some sort. The same has happened to the car.

    I no longer drive due to failing eyesight, but I used to drive a lot, and must have been a real petrol head by Clarkson’s definition because I once owned an Alpha Romeo! Now I watch car reviews, mostly of EV’s, but also Jay Leno, mainly for his restorations. I would love to drive around London in a 1906 Baker Electric with a modern motor and batteries! Most cars now, EV or not, come with as much tech as the manufacturer can cram in, but there are some manufacturers who are going back to physical knobs and switches, which I think is a good thing. I think part of that is that older drivers are a larger proportion of EV buyers than non-EV’s and they mostly don’t want all the “nonsense”. For my part, if I had a car which could pair with my phone, like my sister’s, and had voice activation for than, then that is a safety thing which I welcome. On the other hand, my Fire TV box has Alexa and I have never used it.

    The really interesting thing about EV’s is the number of new manufacturers who come from outside the industry. Tesla are a tech company not a car company. The problem is the traditional manufacturers who think they have to keep up. Instead of building an electric Morris Minor, they are struggling to build a Citroen DS19!

  34. Great observations there Jenny, as much as bling is nice – gotta agree.

    Car anecdote?
    I have had two 4WD Suzuki Sierras over the years.
    Rock solid cars, and neither did rust except the one which copped metallic sodium dropped into warm water which fire worked over the bonnet. Less than a dime in size!

    Rock solid – why? No nonsense engine, yada, yada.
    I carried the mech manual which I had the factory one for and a basic tool kit.
    As a buddy suggested, if I couldn’t fix it – outback a passer-by probably could.

  35. Unpopular opinion compared to the general masses that I know will ruffle plenty of feathers:

    Electric cars are not (in the fun definition) cars, but rather self-driving appliances.
    Same can be said for modern cars in general, but EV’s take the “completely boring and no end-user fiddling” to 11 and break off the knob.
    They’re just so sterile, unengaging and pampering that you don’t feel like you’re driving, but rather like you’re keeping an eye on your washing machine for when it’s done.

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