The Platform


Electric vehicles, regardless of whether it is a Tesla, Ford, or Nissan, are far from ready to completely replace the millions of gas-powered vehicles on the road today.

I have been preaching this for a couple of years now to those who think it will be an easy or smooth transition. Why? A fuel-efficient new car should have no problems for quite a while. Electric vehicles, regardless of the manufacturer, which have been out on the street for several years and are now “traded in” are nothing more than a hot potato, ready to be turned into a two-ton, boat anchor.

Here is the lesson to be learned when buying into any new complex technology, not just cars. You can buy anything new, but what happens during the period of ownership when you go to service it, or trade it in?

Say a young consumer bought a used electric vehicle to use at college and thought they would be doing a lot for the environment. They did not buy anything exotic. It was a 2014 model made by a major manufacturer. The only problem was this car’s battery went out after six months. The consumer went back and found out a new battery would cost thousands of dollars after they paid $11,000 for the car. The consumer then found out they could not find a replacement battery because it was no longer manufactured. The consumer bought a hot potato, that turned into a two-ton boat anchor.

No dealer will take in a hot potato like that. I have already talked to my Nissan dealer and the sales manager said they tell customers to sell them outright because they do not want them as part of a trade and if they do use them, they give them next to nothing. The reason? How good is the car’s battery?

He mentioned they took in a Lexus hybrid and gave the owner next to nothing because the dealer didn’t want it on the lot. Hardly anyone comes in for a used electric vehicle and even now, they do not want to take the risk.

If there is no real support infrastructure within the industry including adequate parts, supply chain, and qualified technicians, where will you go?

Not everyone services their car back at the dealer. They go to other chains as well as independent garages. This is only one problem.

Some industry experts believe we are trying to switch over to electric vehicles too quickly. Another component that is a significant hurdle is the power grid.

No one in Congress, and not even the Secretary of Energy, or Transportation, has a good background in the understanding of the power grid. There are a lot of lawyers from prestigious schools, but no one is an electrical engineer, and it is very safe to say, none of them ever worked as an installer or field engineer in the power industry. The power grid is not ready now, and it will not be ready for a market segment of 10% of the vehicles on the street switching to electric, let alone 20%, in probably the next 15-30 years.

You just can’t proclaim “we will be all-electric” by 2025, 2030, or even 2040. Nothing of this magnitude evolves that quickly and maybe if they had just left the energy policy in place from the last administration, instead of replacing it with more restrictions and bureaucratic red tape, we would have a longer amount of time and a better transition period to make the power grid more resilient and robust to handle this new surge of demand from a whole new generation of vehicles.

Another problem is the failure of charging stations to be operable for electric vehicle owners to use.

A Berkeley study earlier this year found that many charging stations had problems from having too short a cable to reach the car, to the cable itself being stolen. Why would someone do something like this? The cable has copper. Copper can be sold for scrap. Easy money to those who need $10 or $20 in these economic times.

Some electric vehicle proponents want to downplay the Berkeley study, but they do not want to face the reality. In fact, this has already been seen as a real problem and in a different survey of electric vehicle owners, they want wireless charging where there is no need for a physical charging cable connection.

Electric vehicle proponents and manufacturers need to wake up because when you have 96% of the people who “bought into your sales pitch” telling you they want wireless charging because the current way to charge is not working for them, you need to respond quickly if you are going to win anyone else over.

These are real issues that get glossed over by proponents and manufacturers. Wireless charging was surveyed as being much more important as a feature, than self-driving capabilities.

There is no such thing as a 5-gallon can of electricity, you need a working charging station – preferably wireless.

James Carlini is a strategist for mission critical networks, technology, and intelligent infrastructure. Since 1986, he has been president of Carlini and Associates. Besides being an author, keynote speaker, and strategic consultant on large mission critical networks including the planning and design for the Chicago 911 center, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading floor networks, and the international network for GLOBEX, he has served as an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University.