Range Anxiety

Thursday, September 15, 2011

As I recently noted (and, to set aside the validity of the goal), electric cars are a such a ridiculous way to reduce the burning of fuel that even children could figure this out. But that little detail is hardly where the risibility of the idea ends. Adults who actually drive could, with some knowledge of how electric cars work vis-a-vis their own needs, easily anticipate any number of the other difficulties Louis Woodhill of Forbes discusses. My favorite is "range anxiety:"

On Wednesday, Jan. 26 a major snowstorm hit Washington D.C.  Ten-mile homeward commutes took four hours.  If there had been a million electric cars on American roads at the time, every single one of them in the DC area would have ended up stranded on the side of the road, dead.  And, before they ran out of power, their drivers would have been forced to turn off the heat and the headlights in a desperate effort to eek out a few more miles of range.


The short and highly variable range of a BEV [(battery-electric vehicle)], coupled with its very long recharging time, creates the phenomenon of "range anxiety".  The car takes over your life.  You are forced to plan every trip carefully, and to forgo impromptu errands in order to conserve precious electrons.  And, when you are driving your BEV, you are constantly studying the readouts worrying about whether you are going to make it through the day.

Reviews of the [Nissan] Leaf are filled with accounts of drivers turning off the A/C in the summer and the heat in the winter.  Some drivers even decided that they couldn't risk charging their cell phones, using the radio, or turning on the windshield wipers.
I guess "thought experiments" are okay if you intend to scare yourself silly about how your "emissions" are dooming "the planet," but they are taboo when considering the problems you need to solve in order to live your own life.

I saw an electric car -- it might have been a Chevy Volt -- at a car show, once. For all the  wailing and gnashing of teeth about global warming I keep hearing, I expected the person showing the car to have some idea about its operating costs and capabilities, but she was unable to give me a coherent answer about how it would stack up, cost-wise, against a gas-powered car in an urban setting. Perhaps the automakers who go along with this trend realize on some level that it's all about getting government loot, and parting fools from their money. In the face of such massive stupidity, that would actually be comforting in a perverse way.

-- CAV


Dismuke said...

"I expected the person showing the car to have some idea about its operating costs and capabilities, but she was unable to give me a coherent answer about how it would stack up, cost-wise, against a gas-powered car in an urban setting. "


Only backward primates who drink the sort of coffee served in truck stops and gas stations would inquire about a subject so crude and simple minded as operating costs. Everybody knows that Good People - the demographic that such cars are marketed towards - do not worry about or concern themselves with such things. And even if one's own personal financial circumstances happened to make this an issue of practical consideration, Smart People know better than to allow others see them asking such a stupid and unenlightened question.

Besides, exhibiting an undue amount of curiosity towards any automobile is, in and of itself, suspect. Automobiles are evil. They promote climate change, congestion, sprawl and enable the wasteful, blighted, self-centered myopic lifestyle choices of the backward buffoons who live in the suburbs.

Good People, by contrast, aspire to live in walkable, bikeable and sustainable Urban Villages. If the matter of operating costs even occurs to you, it is a sign that you ought to open you mind to making positive lifestyle choices such as buying a bicycle and moving to a neighborhood that enables you to have a more sustainable lifestyle.

That is why the sales lady was unable to answer your question. Since the people who buy such cars - Good People - don't ask such stupid questions there is no reason for her to know the answer to such irrelevancies. Indeed such a question is a sign she needs to blow the person off and move on to some other customer - the same way she would if a prospective customer volunteered that he had no money and poor credit or that he shops at Wal-mart.

Regardless, you should be careful about being seen in public asking questions that Smart People and Good People are not supposed to ask. What will people think of you?

Gus Van Horn said...

"What will people think of you?"

Heh! When will I ever learn?

kelleyn said...

My local area is becoming infested with those tiny electric two-seaters that look like kids' toys. I usually see them around Trader Joe's, and I am baffled as to how people load all their groceries into them. They make me nervous because they seem so unsafe. They give me a laugh, though--whenever I see one, especially a three wheeler, I can't help but think of Mr. Bean.

Dismuke said...



Learning is for simpletons. Learning is what would-be plumbers and heating/air conditioning service technicians do when they go to trade school.

You should aspire to be Smart. And that goes beyond mere learning. Being Smart is an entire world view and lifestyle.

The thing to do is not try to "learn" but rather watch what Smart People, members of the Creative Class and other Good People do in a variety of circumstances and strive to act and think the exact same way at all times.

If you follow and take your cues from what other Good People do, you cannot go wrong. You will fit in and people will, therefore, regard you as one of the Good People. And because they do so, they will seek to follow and take their cues from you while you, at the same time, seek to follow and take your cues from them.

Just don't be caught drinking the wrong sort of coffee, shopping at Wal-mart or admitting that you voluntarily socialize with people who live in the suburbs. And don't be seen asking stupid questions about mundane issues such as operating costs of a something that is Green and, therefore, Virtuous. People might think that you are one of those boors who are so simple-minded as to think such as facts and knowledge are more important than being Smart and doing the Right Thing.

Gus Van Horn said...


I've seen those around here, too, but somehow never made that mental association.

Thanks in advance for the laughs.


Humor aside, imitation doesn't really work with such people.

That kind of "creativity" can't be faked, and all that will happen is that if you try to imitate one thing, you'll be politely bullied about something else.


Jennifer Snow said...

The last line in that article made me laugh. "Except for funding basic research . . ."

Show of hands everyone here who's seen what happens when the government funds "basic research". We get a lot of bad science delivering politically correct results, that's what. And we wind up with a nation of obese diabetics who are addicted to sugar and wheat products.

Dan said...

Hey Gus!

Still lovin' that avatar hair-do!


Won't that create the need/demand for more generation of electricity, thru the burning of coal, hydro-electric power, etc?

Next thing you know... we'll need to stop splitting wood and split some atoms... and build more of the dreaded NOOK-CLEAR power plants!

Keep up the value-added work my friend!


Gus Van Horn said...


The problem isn't confined to nutrition -- and I always ignored government nutritional guidelines, anyway. (Perhaps that is why I am neither obese nor diabetic, have arteries clear as a bell, and don't suffer any malady related to diet.)

That said, I am skeptical of any claim to the effect that the problems of the science of nutrition have been solved once and for all: The science is too young for that, regardless of government meddling. And, based on what I see offered regarding diet in the popular press and on blogs, even when science does support some finding or other in nutrition, the basis for that finding is poorly-understood by most of the government-educated audience, to its possible detriment.


Thanks. Good to hear from you again.


Inspector said...

Haha, Dismuke, you have brightened my day. Good comments!

Jennifer Snow said...

Oh, I don't think nutrition is "solved". No way. But I do think that there's enough information out there to make some gains.

Or losses, in my case. I've lost ten pounds over the past 2 weeks. :)

Gus Van Horn said...

I offer you my tentative -- because I am no expert on diet -- congratulations.

Back in the mid-nineties, when I was in Houston, a very different diet than the one I suspect you are on became popular among the local Objectivists there, and lots of people talked about the weight they'd lost after going on it. At least one woman that I know of kept it off.

That said, I do not regard myself (or anyone else of my acquaintance) as an expert on nutrition, and, although I can understand enthusiasm for your diet on your part, I do not wish to discuss diet further here, at this time.