Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. An Epiphany: Cars and Purses

 

I am well on record here (and elsewhere) as saying that the electric car is dead — or at least, certain to die. And I am (and was) right, on the merits as an engineer sees things: electric cars cannot compete with normal cars using normal metrics relating to price, performance, etc.

But, as anyone who sees how people actually spend their money can tell you, people often do not make purchase decisions based on value for money. When I predicted the death of electric cars, I had not yet fully understood how incredibly wealthy we are as a society, that millions of people will happily and knowingly buy a car like a woman might buy a purse or a pair of shoes: because it tells the new owner (and their friends) something about that person. The utility value is not what drives the purchase. Instead, the car is a symbol first and foremost: the utility of the vehicle is much less important.

For me, this has been an epiphany, albeit a long time coming. And it means that Europe’s incredibly stupid regulations to ban all gasoline cars (hybrid and pure-gasoline alike) might actually come to pass. Not because such a ban is necessary, or good (for people or for the planet). No, the ban might actually come into force because we are rich enough to not need value for money. We can, as a society cripple ourselves to maximize our non-economic goods – virtue signaling, eco-worship, or whatever we want to call it.

Published in General
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 22 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Tex929rr Coolidge

    After the Prius Honda brought out hybrid versions of several models that didn’t sell well at all. Market research showed that hybrid buyers wanted cars that were immediately recognizable as hybrid. Honda’s hybrids just had small badges and otherwise looked just like conventional models.

    What good is a hair shirt if no one can see it?

    • #1
    • February 20, 2020, at 10:45 AM PST
    • 16 likes
  2. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    After the Prius Honda brought out hybrid versions of several models that didn’t sell well at all. Market research showed that hybrid buyers wanted cars that were immediately recognizable as hybrid. Honda’s hybrids just had small badges and otherwise looked just like conventional models.

    Yeah. There was a Freakanomics episode that went into some depth on this topic.

    And solar panel installations on the north side of houses. The Virtue Signaling is significant.

    That said, I have to disagree with the original post. Electric vehicles have their own advantages, and there have been some very impressive developments in this area. And the simplicity, rapid acceleration, and regenerative breaking are significant advantages.

    • #2
    • February 20, 2020, at 11:07 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  3. David Foster Member
    David Foster Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    Market research showed that hybrid buyers wanted cars that were immediately recognizable as hybrid. Honda’s hybrids just had small badges and otherwise looked just like conventional models.

    What good is a hair shirt if no one can see it?

    Someone is the geothermal heating/cooling business observed that they have a marketing problem: even though the system may greatly improve your energy efficiency (depending on where you are), it has nothing *visible* like an array of solar cells on the roof.

    • #3
    • February 20, 2020, at 12:18 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  4. Full Size Tabby Member

    Even apart from the electric car, there is lots of evidence around that we are so incredibly wealthy as a society (I’m referring mostly to North America and Western Europe) that factors other than strict practical necessity drive many purchasing decisions. Factors other than virtue signaling though often account for those decisions. We live in houses and apartments larger and more luxurious than strictly necessary for survival, or even survival in reasonable comfort. We eat food most of our ancestors would have considered luxurious if not decadent. 

    Even in the car realm, we have for years bought cars larger and more luxurious than needed simply to get us and our families from point a to point b. Twice I bought fun-to-drive Mini Coopers even though a Hyundai Accent would have just as competently gotten me to and from work for half the cost. 

    I owned an electric car (BMW i3) for 4 years. I bought it because it had a spacious interior in a very compact exterior, and it was a lot of fun to drive (so in part for one of the same reasons I had bought the Mini Coopers). For driving around town I wish I still had it, but I came to need a car that could go longer distances. 

    I agree that banning all gasoline powered cars would be a really dumb idea. But I do think there are places in the car market for electric cars. 

    • #4
    • February 20, 2020, at 12:19 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  5. Stad Thatcher

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    I agree that banning all gasoline powered cars would be a really dumb idea. But I do think there are places in the car market for electric cars. 

    I think there’s a niche market for electric cars (someone living in a big city with a short commute to work). To me, the hybrid is a great compromise (I own a 2018 Camry hybrid). The battery isn’t large enough to drive you any great distance, but it works in conjunction with the gasoline motor to aid acceleration. The result is gas mileage which can be astounding at times (I’ve gotten as high as 60 MPG, but usually it’s 40-45 around town).

    But yes, arbitrarily banning an entire type of vehicle because you don’t like how it’s powered is dumb. It’s the same thing as mandatory renewable energy sources at the supply end for commercial electricity generation . . .

    • #5
    • February 20, 2020, at 12:26 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  6. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    https://ricochet.com/705223/are-you-clamoring-for-an-electric-car/

    My car is my liberty, and I am not interested in “range anxiety”. Long car trips are essentially impossible in an electric car, so they are best in dense cities. I wouldn’t want to think either about their effective useful life. Batteries wear out and cease to hold a charge, and it’s probably half the value of an electric car.

    • #6
    • February 20, 2020, at 12:32 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  7. David Foster Member
    David Foster Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I have a post and discussion thread on the future of the auto industry, including electric cars, here:

    https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/61482.html

     

    The degree of success or non-success achieved by electric vehicles has huge implications for all kinds of things.

    • #7
    • February 20, 2020, at 1:38 PM PST
    • 1 like
  8. The Reticulator Member

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    After the Prius Honda brought out hybrid versions of several models that didn’t sell well at all. Market research showed that hybrid buyers wanted cars that were immediately recognizable as hybrid. Honda’s hybrids just had small badges and otherwise looked just like conventional models.

    What good is a hair shirt if no one can see it?

    It might have been on my Monday bicycle ride northeast from Floresville when I encountered a junky, redneck kinda place that had a little smartcar parked alongside the bigger trailers and junk. I did a double-take, but didn’t stop to take a photo. It was not the kind of place where you’d expect to see one of those. The car may have been inoperative, but it didn’t look like a junker. IIRC it was along a piece of road that was far enough from livestock that people let their dogs run loose, although all the dogs that came out to bark at me that day just seemed to want to go for a run. When there got to be too many dogs congregating around me I sped up and left them behind, something that I seem to find increasingly difficult to do when it comes to big, aggressive dogs.

    • #8
    • February 20, 2020, at 1:39 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  9. Saint Augustine Member

    iWe: But, as anyone who sees how people actually spend their money can tell you, people often do not make purchase decisions based on value for money.

    For a certain definition of “value.” Value in another sense is–in a free market system–marked by price, a function of supply and demand, and accordingly based partly on subjective preferences.

    • #9
    • February 20, 2020, at 3:09 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  10. Bruce Caward Thatcher
    Bruce Caward Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    It might have been on my Monday bicycle ride northeast from Floresville when I encountered a junky, redneck kinda place that had a little smartcar parked alongside the bigger trailers and junk. I did a double-take, but didn’t stop to take a photo. It was not the kind of place where you’d expect to see one of those. The car may have been inoperative, but it didn’t look like a junker.

    I think it was the Adam Carolla Show. He was talking about this subject with a guy from the auto industry, or from something like Car and Driver – a car insider at any rate.

    The Smart Car was mentioned. The guy thought a minute, then said that these days cars are much the same, even the cheapest ones have technology that would put to shame top-of-the-line cars from 20 years ago. They’re all pretty well made, incredible standard features. Even economy cars. So you kind of can’t go wrong.

    The only exeption he could think of, the only truly bad car still being made, is the Smart Car.

    • #10
    • February 20, 2020, at 3:51 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  11. Paul Erickson Member

    Stad (View Comment):
    But yes, arbitrarily banning an entire type of vehicle because you don’t like how it’s powered is dumb. 

    Great point. More bike lanes + more bicyclists + aging population = more knee replacements. Medicare for All regulations must prescribe the elimination of all pedal-powered conveyances by 2025.

    • #11
    • February 21, 2020, at 5:08 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  12. Stad Thatcher

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    Batteries wear out and cease to hold a charge

    And you can’t just yank the battery, throw it in the kitchen trash can, then head to the store to buy a new replacement . . .

    • #12
    • February 21, 2020, at 5:42 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  13. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    One of the docs I worked with at the LA MEPS(military recruit center) told me his wife had a Tesla. They lived in Venice (very upscale LA for you hillbillies) and virtue signaling was probably significant. She worked at something lucrative so she bought it. He liked it and he said the acceleration was great but the battery drain was terrific so no long trips.

    We live in Tucson but go to CA about every three months to visit kids. Our driving around Tucson is quite limited but the CA trips are close to a thousand miles round trip so electric is out. Hybrid would be an option but we have two Hondas and, at our age, they are probably our last cars. I don’t mind driving and we listen to audio books on the way.

    • #13
    • February 21, 2020, at 9:21 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  14. Tex929rr Coolidge

    iWe:

    millions of people will happily and knowingly buy a car like a woman might buy a purse or a pair of shoes

    To be completely fair, you could also say the way a man (or woman) might buy another handgun or motorcycle. I and my shooting friends and motorcycle friends (much overlap) will ooh and aah over a new pistol or bike as much as any group of women will admire a new Gucci purse.

     

    • #14
    • February 21, 2020, at 11:11 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  15. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Not meaning to be a Tesla ad, but Tesla has set up an awful lot of supercharging stations for long trips:

    One of the fundamental aspects of electric cars is that the battery only stores energy, it doesn’t supply it. So the energy really comes from whatever source is being used to charge the battery.

    California is in the position of getting a substantial fraction of its energy from solar and hydro. Those superchargers out in the western desert can get a lot of energy from solar.

    And many states, like West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Colorado, and others, get their energy primarily from coal. So if you’re driving there, your electric car is really coal powered.

    • #15
    • February 21, 2020, at 11:16 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  16. JustmeinAZ Member

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    iWe:

    millions of people will happily and knowingly buy a car like a woman might buy a purse or a pair of shoes

    To be completely fair, you could also say the way a man (or woman) might buy another handgun or motorcycle. I and my shooting friends and motorcycle friends (much overlap) will ooh and aah over a new pistol or bike as much as any group of women will admire a new Gucci purse.

    I think purses are a complete waste of money, but I do like jewelry and Waterford crystal, so whenever Mr AZ gets a new gun (and now he’s into Tecova boots) I start looking for my next goody. 

    Neither one of us cares a rat’s ass about electric or hybrid cars.

     

    • #16
    • February 21, 2020, at 11:36 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  17. Tex929rr Coolidge

    namlliT noD (View Comment):

    Not meaning to be a Tesla ad, but Tesla has set up an awful lot of supercharging stations for long trips:

    One of the fundamental aspects of electric cars is that the battery only stores energy, it doesn’t supply it. So the energy really comes from whatever source is being used to charge the battery.

    California is in the position of getting a substantial fraction of its energy from solar and hydro. Those superchargers out in the western desert can get a lot of energy from solar.

    And many states, like West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Colorado, and others, get their energy primarily from coal. So if you’re driving there, your electric car is really coal powered.

    Sure, but 1/2 hour to not quite get to 100%, IIRC. So from my house to El Paso on I-10 (533 miles) at the speed limit of 80, at least an hour fully stopped with another stop in NM? Maybe once we manage expectations it will seem OK, but fully electric cars still seem like a city vehicle to me.

    • #17
    • February 21, 2020, at 12:14 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  18. Phil Turmel Coolidge

    namlliT noD (View Comment):

    Not meaning to be a Tesla ad, but Tesla has set up an awful lot of supercharging stations for long trips:

    One of the fundamental aspects of electric cars is that the battery only stores energy, it doesn’t supply it. So the energy really comes from whatever source is being used to charge the battery.

    California is in the position of getting a substantial fraction of its energy from solar and hydro. Those superchargers out in the western desert can get a lot of energy from solar.

    Uh, not so much. Unless you park your EV at a charger between local 10am and local 2pm (approximately), solar energy is not charging your vehicle. Any other time of day will be fossil fuel supplied. And while CA does have a respectable amount of hydroelectric capacity, every bit of that is already committed to meeting consumer needs. Which means any additional electrical load (your EV) is supplied by fossil fuels.

    • #18
    • February 21, 2020, at 12:40 PM PST
    • 1 like
  19. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Indeed. I’m specifically talking about the possibility of setups in the western desert, where there is a ton of sunlight, and land is cheap so you can fill it up with a few football fields worth of solar panels.

    Other than that, yeah, it’s mostly the electrical grid.

    • #19
    • February 21, 2020, at 12:59 PM PST
    • 1 like
  20. Duane Oyen Member
    Duane Oyen Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I think that iWe would admit that he is making the case a bit too broadly here, since he himself has an interest in electric drives on wheels applied to special purposes. 

    Just as we are gradually entering the world of “self-driving cars” through the back door, in getting blind spot warnings, self-parking, auto-brakes, etc. included as features in cars where we still keep ultimate control, I predict that in a decade or so, most cars will be, effectively, “hybrid”- that is, electric drive motors and controllers that can be fed power via multiple means- small gasoline engines tied to generators, fuel cells, supplemental battery storage, etc. Think of a turbine that can operate and generate electricity with any source of heat, oor the fact that airplanes are all fly-by-wire these days with far less hydraulic subsystem.

    Pure plug-in electrics like Tesla will probably always be a niche product, but there are lots of very good reasons for electric drive- simplified, more reliable control systems, higher and more responsive torque, commonality of drive motors, etc. The investment payoff is at the power generation point.

    • #20
    • February 21, 2020, at 1:45 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  21. Manny Member

    I’m with you iWe. I think the electric car is dumb. But even dumber are these windmills to generate electricity. An d no matter how I point it out to environmentally minded people, they just don’t care. We’re not using fossil fuels is there only priority. It doesn’t even register how futile they are. 

    • #21
    • February 21, 2020, at 1:53 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  22. Franco Member
    Franco Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Wrong on electric cars. 
    I state upfront that EVs aren’t saving the environment and this factor is irrelevant. I also resent governments that make regulations punishing legacy auto makers. 
    But electric cars -and not hybrids- will dominate the market in less than a decade.

    How do I know this? Every major auto manufacturer is desperately implementing ramp ups to EVs and spending fortunes. 
    Batteries are becoming more efficient and the price keeps going down. 
    Range issues are diminishing rapidly and charging times are reducing rapidly. More and more charging stations are being installed everywhere. 
    Amazon contracted for 100, 000 electric trucks in the next 10 years. 
    Once the temporary problems are solved ( and even now there are plenty of people who can use an EV) what’s left is all the pros: significantly lower maintenance and repair costs, more reliability and significantly lower operating expenses.

    An electric vehicle has something like 22 moving parts. 
    Claiming electric cars are dead is like saying in 1982 home computers have no future because a Commmodore 64 doesn’t do anything much more than a calculator and ordinary people aren’t programmers. 

    • #22
    • February 22, 2020, at 9:19 AM PST
    • 3 likes