On Being Ever-So-Slightly Ahead of the Curve, Infrastructure-Wise

A picture of the upcoming Ford F-150 Lightning, with the words "Let's Talk About Infrastructure" above the truck.
John Scalzi

A couple of months ago I noted that we had put down a reservation for a Ford F-150 Lightning, Ford’s first fully-electric truck. It’ll be primarily for Krissy’s use, as she’s the one of us who, you know, leaves the house and goes out in the world, and also does various things that would make having a truck actually practical for her to have. Krissy hauls things and moves things and sees humans on a daily basis. She’s a truck gal. I stay at home and wrangle cats and yell at the Internet. I’m a truck gal’s deeply-introverted spouse.

Inasmuch as getting the truck will fulfill a long-standing commitment I have to gift her a really cool vehicle, and because I am a supernerd who enjoys bells and whistles, I’m encouraging (read: pretty much begging) her to get the fully-specced Platinum trim, which among other things will come with ventilated massaging seats that lie all the way flat, a bunch of supercool towing abilities, the whole suite of driver assist functions that mean once it’s on the highway you can pretty much let it drive itself, and the ability, with some extra equipment which we absolutely will get, to power our house for three days in case of blackouts. It’s less like we’re buying a vehicle as it is we’re buying a small apartment that you can drive around. In many ways it’s nicer than the first apartment I lived in. It’s arguably more expensive than my first apartment.

As you may tell, I’m really excited about getting this truck, possibly more so than Krissy herself. But I will tell you what I’m not particularly excited about: the fact that we’re still in the early stages of electric vehicle infrastructure. I’m enough unenthused about it that, while I’m excited about the possibilities the Ford F-150 Lightning represents both for us as vehicle owners and for the grand switchover of our country and world into a more carbon-sensible place, I’m glad we’ll still have my gas-burning MINI Countryman, because the idea of using an electric vehicle for anything other than local trips still fills me with apprehension and possibly terror.

Let me tell you why. On its page promoting the Ford F-150 Lightning, Ford includes a map function that lets you enter a starting point and an ending point, and then plots out a route which includes various charging stations you will find along the way. You can select for any public chargers, or the ones on Ford’s “Blue Oval” network, and between any chargers of any sort, and ones that are “fast charging” (50kw and above). When you enter the information, you are then presented with the charging locations that fit your criteria; clicking on the icons representing the locations will then tell you how many charging outlets there are, if they are currently occupied, and what amenities are available. This is, of course, all hugely sensible on Ford’s part, to make the point that you can take your electric car almost anywhere you can take your gas-powered car.

Except… when I was checking out the various places to charge cars, I noticed that many of them have only one or two available chargers, and those chargers were often occupied or out of service (or under construction). Charging an electric car takes longer and is a more drawn-out experience than putting gas into your car; even a “fast charger” will take 30 minutes or so to add 100 extra miles of range to your car. If the charging station along your route is currently occupied and not a fast charging station, you either commit to waiting a long time (now we know why the Lightning has such awesome seats) or you try for the next charging station and hope it’s unoccupied, and reasonably fast charging, and that you’re not down to your final electrons.

Beyond that, charging station infrastructure is still… spotty. For example, you want to know how many public charging stations currently exist in Darke County, Ohio, where I live? Zero. In the whole county! I checked on the Ford site as well as the ABetterRoutePlanner.com site. There is a charging station at the Midmark Corporation in Versailles, but it’s specifically for the use of the company’s employees and visitors. Maybe you can use it outside of business hours. Otherwise it’s off to Miami County or Indiana with you. Don’t get caught in Darke if you’ve got 20 miles on your electric vehicle, is what I’m saying. You’ll be here a spell.

If I were to visit my pals at Subterranean Press in Michigan, the number of fast-charging “Blue Oval” charger locations in Ohio is: One! With two connections! Neither of which is free when I checked! Wheee!

Now, how big of a problem is this, really? On a day-to-day basis, almost none at all. The average person drives a few dozen miles a day at most, so if you are able to charge from home, you will possibly never feel any sort of range anxiety whatsoever. In five years there were likely be exponentially more charging stations than there are today (if gas station locations are at all sensible, they’ll be adding them to their parking spots right now), and in ten years there will be even more than that. Charging times are likely to shrink as we go along because we’ll get better at pushing electrons into batteries with newer designs that will be able to go further.

(And in the case of the F-150 Lightning in particular, the stated range of the vehicle (300 miles with the extended battery, which we will get) is allegedly predicated on the idea that one is hauling half a ton of stuff in the truckbed; empty, the range is likely to be somewhat larger. Day-to-day, not a big deal in 90% of use cases. Which is why Krissy will use it as a daily driver: Every daily mile she’s driving the truck is a day she’s not burning gas. The gas burning car (mine) will largely stay at home, since on a day-to-day basis I go nowhere; I work from home and leave the house maybe once a week. Hi! I’m a hermit!)

But that still doesn’t mean that today I would necessarily want to take the F-150 Lightning on a long journey, particularly if I were going from one rural midwest destination to another, and especially if I wanted a fast-charging station. Krissy, who works in insurance, currently takes a car out to do inspections for her job, which takes her all around Ohio and Indiana, and into a bunch of rural places. If she were to use the truck to do that and hadn’t charged up fully the night before, there’s a non-trivial chance she’d be stuck on some country byway, especially when the weather gets colder. Is range an issue in California or in the Acela corridor? Maybe not! But in the great US interior, a bit away from a major population area? Yup, still something you very much have to think about.

Which is why, for now, any trip outside a radius of about 100 miles, we’ll still be more likely to use the Countryman. A full tank of gas in the Countryman gives it a similar range to the F-150 Lightning, but there are never not gas stations in just about any direction one chooses to go, and it takes five minutes to gas up. How often do we take trips like that? Not often in the last couple of years thanks to the pandemic, but in normal times, every couple of months as we went to conventions or visited friends.

Again: This is a problem I am confident will be solved in time. That fact, plus the reality of day-to-day vehicle use, plus the fact that it really does makes sense for us not to explode refined dinosaurs to get around when we can avoid it, is why I’m ready to get that F-150 Lightning now (or, well, next year, which is when we would take delivery). But for where I live, getting this truck will still have us out slightly ahead of the curve, in terms of infrastructure. I’ll be interested to see how long it will actually take for the infrastructure to catch up.

— JS

112 Comments on “On Being Ever-So-Slightly Ahead of the Curve, Infrastructure-Wise”

  1. If you’ve already heard this, feel free to delete it: If you plan is to use the car to power the house in case of a short blackout (and that’s not a bad plan in itself): please get an electrician to install a cutout for the power coming into your house.

    Too many people where I’m at (Texas) have generators but forget about the linemen “upstream” who can be hurt by the power going out of your house back “up” the line in an outage.

  2. Would you consider sponsoring a Scalzi Family Honorary Charger at someplace like Jay & Mary’s?

  3. IF I was to buy an electric vehicle, I’d be more inclined to get a hybrid. I live on the Olympic Peninsula (WA), and stores/etc are at least 20 minutes away. And I take long trips to CA and UT to visit the kids/grand-kids. That is a 12-14 hour trip by car that would take twice as long with an EV…even if there were charging stations available.

    Plus, there would need to be a major electrical upgrade here at home to get an adequate charger.

    Then there is the issue of infrastructure. Where are the new generating places for all of this new electrical demand? Wind/solar isn’t going to do it – wind/solar doesn’t work 24/7, not to mention unavailability during very cold/hot days (ask the folks in Texas about that). Not until we get storage batteries that are more efficient.

    Where’s the high-voltage lines to get all this new power demand from the ‘source’ to ‘target’? High voltage lines cost $1 million of more, as I recall. If you can get the land to run it. (Not to mention high power lines through flammable forests…ask CA’s PG&E.)

    And then there’s those that want to eliminate natural gas electricity generation. (Plus those that don’t even want natural gas in the home for heating/cooking.)

    There’s not enough infrastructure in place for all of the EV that everyone wants. Maybe in the future. Not ready for prime time yet, IMHO. And not for everyone.

    It will be an interesting experiment for your family, though. But many, I think, are looking at EV through rose-colored glasses….

  4. Mark Brown:

    I promise you that I would not be attempting any electrical work myself. We’ll get people who know what they’re doing. That’s one of the nice things about having a bit of money — one may hire experts.

  5. Laura Pino:

    I mean… yes. I’m curious why you think I would not, especially when I mention also having an inverter installed into the house so we could power the house with the truck in a blackout.

    More generally, folks, please assume that if I am going to spend a ridiculous amount of money on an electric vehicle, that I will also in fact take care of the basics of being able to power the thing safely and responsibly.

  6. One major caveat with all electric vehicles. They’re not zero-pollution vehicles. I mean, yes, at their non-existent tailpipe, they are. But, not in the grander scheme of things. You have to factor in what generated the electricity that is actually ultimately charging them. For instance, in northern California, where I live, where your local electric generation capability is likely to consist mostly of big hydro-electric dams upstream, it is safe to call your “all-electric” vehicle a remote-generated, minimal-pollution vehicle. In the Midwest, where the local utilities’ power generation breakdown by fuel type are still mostly fossil-powered, not so much.

  7. Love how you write about the promise and the (near future) peril of electric vehicles. If the infrastructure bill can make it through Congress, more charging stations are on the way. As far as gas stations having them, it’s a thought, but who would want to hang out at a gas station for 30 minutes? The places that really could use them are truck stops, where you could grab a bite or a cup of coffee while you wait — which might also lead to a revolution in the quality of truck stop cuisine.

  8. I only have one car and so having one that I can do everything with is important. I bought a hybrid because it worked financially and seems better (higher mileage even with the added weight as long as I don’t drive more to make up, which has happened a little because I had to).

    In general, I think the expected changeover is supposed to be slow enough that increases in renewable generation can make up for it. In the long run, there’s a lot of nuclear capacity that will eventually go off line that has no replacement, and we don’t fix things (because that requires money we can pay ourselves or stockholders instead), so, but that’s a problem with everything.

  9. I know that once BMW started selling electrics all their dealerships magically sprouted fast chargers. Ford dealerships tend to be relatively thick on the ground even in the sparse empty lands of southeast Ohio. Wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Ford followed BMW’s lead in this regard.

  10. In April of 2019, after doing a LOT of research, I bought a Tesla Model 3. It’s the best vehicle I’ve ever owned. None come even close. When trying to decide which EV to go with, it was an easy decision because none of the other manufacturers come close to Tesla in many key factors. That is starting to change, but they still reign supreme in battery tech and charging network.

    Trucks are a different story for me because I think the Cybertruck is about as fugly as you can get. I wouldn’t own one. I really like the F-150 Lightning. I like the design, who it is made for (work truck crowd) and features (like powering your house). I’ll be curious to see how their infrastructure develops. Tesla has opened up their superchargers. If Ford is smart, they will make an adapter and get on it quickly.

    Regarding being nervous about running out of electrons, that is normal. It happened to me too. You will get over this quickly however as you learn how to adapt and that this really isn’t a problem the vast majority of the time. With a little planning, you can make it work for you almost anywhere. It is important to install a 220W charger in your home so you can charge more quickly. Get that done by a competent professional and you’ll be set.

    You’re going to love the new EV! Happy torquing!

  11. This is but one reason (combined with the shallow pockets of a retired librarian) that I chose to buy a (used) hybrid last week, when I had occasion to replace my 2011 Accord. I live in Delaware County, just north of Columbus, and while I’ve seen two plug in charging stations at a public parking lot in town (and there may well be more in other lots) I just didn’t feel the infrastructure was There Yet fir plug in electrics.

    After all, the only reason Tom Swift, genius boy inventor, could get away with “TOM SWIFT AND HIS ELECTRIC RUNABOUT” back in 1910 was that he could tap into the power for trolley lines, if I remember the details correctly over sixty years.

  12. [Deleted because saying “are you trolling” to someone on their own site is rude. Also, Tesla-fetishization is annoying and also there are no Tesla stations in my county either, and generally assume that if I wanted a Tesla I would get one — JS]

  13. Next EV step. Solar panels for the house, Tesla power wall for your garage and your own charging station. This is a big rabbit hole you’re about to leap down. I think it’s a great idea. Eco-warrior Scalzi.

  14. Congratulations on the Souped-Up All-Electric F150! You’re right, it’ll help the environment a lot that her daily short trips will be all-electric rather than gas-powered.

    Despite what UK petrol-head and climate change denier Jeremy Clarkson alleges, the cumulative effect of driving gas-powered vehicles puts a great deal more strain on the environment than the one-time effort of gathering and transporting what’s needed for the manufacture of her all-electric vehicle. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be working harder on far less environmentally- and personal safety-hostile methods of creating EVs….

    That said, it really sucks that you don’t have much in the way of charging facilities in Red State ‘Murika! Even deep in Blue State New York the chargers are awful thin on the ground, compared to people wanting EVs – half the ones near us are “under construction”, sometimes over a year after being initially started! (I assume that you’re spending the extra money to put a high-speed charger in your garage.)

    For yourself and a long-distance vehicle, have you looked at the Plug-In Hybrids, which run on electricity until they’re nearly out, then switch to the gas-powered engine and recharge the battery while driving?

  15. This is, I think, the main thing that makes me nervous when companies talk about switching over entirely to electric vehicles. I (and many other people) live in places where home charging is not possible, and likely will not be possible for some time (in my case, condo parking without reserved spots, and where the condo association is responsible for electricity costs, and so has very little incentive to spend a lot of money putting in charging locations that will increase the bills they’re paying, in the case of many of my friends, urban street parking). And I can’t help but notice that poorer people are more likely to live in places where they can’t charge at home, and also more likely to live in places where there aren’t any charging stations nearby. So the move towards electric vehicles seems like something that’s working to make the existing economic divides even wider than they already are.

  16. I would be very cautious of driver assist technologies. They haven’t reached the point where you can safely let them drive the car, but they have reached the point where they can encourage you to let them try, and if you let them try and they screw it up, it can be pretty horrible.

  17. You are a science fiction writer, dammit!! Mount ultra-high efficiency solar pan Ed Los on the truck. Then move to Arizona.

  18. Ken:

    I think I’ll stay where there’s likely to be water in 20 years.


    I am appropriately cautious with driver-assist tech, never fear.

  19. If you’re already getting a bunch of cool accessories, could you also get an over-bed rack to which you could affix a set of rigid solar panels? While I presume converting that DC power to “charging vehicle battery” is nontrivial, it could also be a pretty sweet way to extend the vehicle’s range, mitigate dead infrastructure regions, get out of the middle of nowhere (at least during the day) and play real-life Desert Bus.

  20. I am so conflicted about electric vehicles. On the one hand I’d love to have one to avoid burning fossil fuels.

    On the other, I live way outback and to get anywhere that might have a commercial charging station is a 30 mile drive at minimum, with much longer drives depending on which direction I’m going.

    And on the third hand, just a few miles from my property the formerly pristine and breath-taking view of wildlands is now ruined by square miles of wind turbine, roads pushed through virgin grasslands and woodlands, and a huge industrial power complex that looks like it should be next to a launch pad for SpaceX.

    More electric vehicles = more electric demand = more uglification. As if untouched land is only something to be used, not valued in and of itself. As if the New Jersey skyline with its towers and wires is something we all aspire to.

    No, I have no answers. Fossil fuels must be phased out. But I have doubts about the consequences as we rush to cover the planet with alternative energy sources..

  21. FWIW, my father in law lives rurally in British Columbia, and is at minimum an hour from downtown Vancouver, which is at the limits of his Kia Soul EV. (Given, the Greater Vancouver area has a plethora of electric car infrastructure, but it also has a significant electric car population, so perhaps the balance would be similar to what you’re seeing. I don’t have the math handy…)

    Before we bought our electric car (a VW eGolf) we had a long conversation with him about use, range, recharging (and the cost thereof), how to plan a day when a fast charge isn’t available, etc. The TL;DR version is: “You don’t know, yet. But you will learn. And every expectation and plan you have needs to be flexible. If there’s any sense of urgency around time, take the gasoline car.”

    He’s found that needing to tack a few hours onto a journey because only the slow charge is available has turned into a calming side effect, where he gets to relax more often. Which, when you think about it, isn’t a bad idea — don’t we rush about too much already?

  22. Unfortunately this is why I ordered a new Rav4 prime instead of a full EV. There are some routes I travel often enough where the range of an electric is not practical. But the 42 mile range will work daily.

  23. Jeff Linder:

    If and when I move on from the Countryman, it will like be to a PHEV, for similar reasons: My own day-to-day driving use would be handled by the electric motor, but there would be the gas engine as a safety net for longer trips here in rural America.

  24. We bought a Chevy Volt (plug-in hybrid) a few years back. I love the thing.

    We get 50-60 miles out of the battery before the gas engine kicks in. This pretty much never happens in-town, only when we drive up to visit relatives.

    So we wind up buying gas maybe every 3 or 4 months.

  25. As the owner of a Model 3 who has done more than a few road trips in it, the Tesla Supercharger network is a huge part of the secret sauce because it completely eliminates range anxiety.

    But given that they’re going to open up their network to non-Tesla vehicles (with an adapter plug) and all the other charging networks being built out, by the time you get the truck it should largely be a non-issue. For daily use, you’ll just recharge at home overnight.

    https://abetterrouteplanner.com/ is a great tool for exploring routes for EVs, and it already has presets for the Lightning. I’m sure that as soon as Tesla opens up their network it’ll be updated to include them.

  26. Good move! Esp the idea of powering the house from the truck if there is a power failure. I also agree with the person above who said to be on a 220. I assume you will need to be for powering the house.
    A couple of thoughts:
    1- seriously consider solar panels on the house if you don’t have them And be sure to buy and not lease. Lease costs zero but the benefits are marginal. Buying is pricey but the tax and other benefits offset some of that. Get a couple of quotes. I have solar panels and a Chevy Volt and love it. EV until the battery is 0, then the engine starts and I can go anywhere! I am about 80% EV on the Volt, so only 20% of the trips are gas. And my MPG over the years is 40 MPG. Not bad.
    2- Sadly, and stupidly, GM canceled the Volt! Toyota makes a pricey RAV4 plug-in EV (RAV4 Prime). Fewer EV miles than the Volt :-(, but still decent. It’s on my next-car-list.

  27. My next vehicle will like be a hybrid or plug-in electrical vehicle. I, too, am severely introverted, so I basically limit my trips out to the stores I frequent; the Amos Memorial public library in Sidney, Ohio; and back and forth to work. My office, where I edit a weekly news magazine, is a 90-second drive from my house or a quick walk. I rarely take trips of more than 30 miles round trip. A plug-in car would probably work well for me for most trips.

  28. I just put in my order in the Mustang Mach-E, and the charging situation in Southern Ohio is why I went for the extended range as well. I want to be able to make it the 90 miles to my parents and back through Amish and Appalachian countryside without worries.

  29. Hopefully you got the thick shag interior rug; in case you run out of juice you can rub a balloon on it to generate some extra electrons.

  30. So, I went out the Ford site you linked to and set up a trip from my home in Saint Augustine to my sister’s place outside of Ohio. I clicked on a few of the charging sites. On the issue of the chargers being available, is that really what it’s saying there? I’m wondering if “free” in the little popup means the electric is free – like when you go to Ikea and the chargers there are free to plug into. It just seems unlikely to me that all 6 charging stations at the Walmart Supercenter in Pooter Georgia are occupied 100% of the time. Could be Pooter’s just the place to be though…

  31. @James Kiley,

    Well, if they’re selling electric vehicles, they at least need to be able to charge them for demos and such. Whether they’d be willing/able to set up a charging station that is available for the general public…

  32. this is one of the good features of Teslas: their supercharger is really ~5 years ahead of anybody else.

    Too bad Elon Musk is so… Elon Musk.

  33. I was complaining to the Mini dealer that I wouldn’t replace my Mini Countryman until they got an electric version as the electric Mini has just limited range (100 miles). So imagine my delight in hearing one will be available in 2024…..

  34. Love it that you both are getting an F-150 Lightning. I really like what Ford is doing, both with it and the Mustang Mach-E. Both are fantastic cars in their own right, without even considering that they are electric. I think Ford (and the country) is in the early days of going fully into electrification and like Tesla they’re running into the same issues with lack of charging infrastructure. This will change and probably in a different way to just replacing gas stations (even though I expect those to move to supplying electric charging too). There’s a lot of FUD about it out there, but also some very real issues as you point out. Congrats and I hope that being on the cutting edge doesn’t make life more difficult for you.

  35. First off, let me just say that I am very jealous of Krissy’s new truck. There is literally nothing about my lifestyle and living location that could justify me owning a Lightning, yet I still find it an incredibly appealing vehicle.

    I live in an urban center, in a part of the country with extensive charging infrastructure in place, and I’m in the market for a new car. But in large part because of the concerns you raise, my next car probably won’t be a BEV (though it may be a PHEV). Charging infrastructure may be good here, but we do like to go on road trips occasionally, and as a one-car family we’re not going to keep a gas-chugger in reserve for those trips.

    Also, even though we’re lucky enough to have a garage in a city where many people do not have that amenity, (a) our wiring is ancient, and upgrading that to support fast charging would add a significant cost to buying a BEV, and (b) living in a 125-year-old building means the garage entrance is too small for most of the BEV options that actually make sense for our family.

    My working plan is to hold out for a few more years on a BEV until more infrastructure is in place, and get an ICE or PHEV to replace our slowly dying car in the interim.

  36. That’s a very healthy perspective. I bought a 2019 Kia Niro EV 2 years ago. I also have a Level 2 charger set up at home. After about the first 2 months of having and driving the car (pre-pandemic, of course), the range anxiety pretty much went away. I charge it every few days and set it to charge between 10pm and 6am. I rarely leave the house with estimated range <50% of full, but when i do it's no big deal.
    As with most things, there is a big difference between how you "think" you'll use the truck/car and how you "actually" use it. At least, that's how it worked with me. I love my Kia Niro!

  37. This is great for both you and Krissy. Having more than 300 miles of range is more than enough for daily use, and every time you leave your house, you will have a full battery.

    The public charging infrastructure is rapidly improving, so long road trips will be less of an issue over time. In the meantime RV parks are a good resource in a pinch. Apps like RV Parky show them.

    If anyone gives you the “long tailpipe” argument about EVs being powered by coal plants, you can tell them about how the public grid in Ohio relies less on coal as time goes by.


    Plus, you can always get a solar PV system at home.

    I’m on my second Tesla, and I would never willingly go back to an ICE vehicle.

    It is amazing how so many commenters did not seem to actually read your post!

  38. John D. Holsinger:

    A counter to your argument ‘that not all EV miles are clean miles’. An EV you buy today will get cleaner as the grid it is powered by gets cleaner. An IC Car is probably cleanest mileage wise when it leaves the lot and only has the potential to get worse.

  39. I think (hope?) the Lightning will be a huge smash hit for Ford, it looks like it should be. Appears to be an extremely well thought out vehicle.

    I’m over here in SoCal, and am having a similar debate – but about hydrogen fuel cell. I live in a condo building and it is basically impossible to get a decent charging supply to the parking space (coring through reinforced concrete floors, distance to the space etc) so that’s an approx $20k non-starter. I do work near a mall with 24 Tesla superchagers, but that’s basically full all the time. Plus the useable max range is about 75-80% of advertised due to fast chargers not filling 100%

    So a very similar debate – the hydrogen station is about 15 miles away, 3 are in the permitting process within 2 miles. But there’s literally one station on the I-5 between LA and SF, if that one is out of gas or broken, you’re stuffed.

    To be honest, the thought of hanging around for half an hour every 200 miles and the stress of wondering if a charge point would be open would drive me bonkers.

    Plus although it is a fuel cell vehicle, it runs mostly on cash incentives – $24k from the manufacturer, $8k from the Feds, $4.5k from the state, $15k fuel card. We wouldn’t get the CA battery car incentive tax break. Not entirely sure I should be getting subsidized, but if the money is there I may take it.

    (Yes I know hydrogen production isn’t great at the moment, but 33% of the power is from renewables in CA and it should get better over time – still a better emissions profile than petrol, even with steam reformation)

  40. So i went ahead and got the Chevy Bolt (full-electric) earlier this year. 230-290 mile range, and it’s awesome (with a lot of the bells and whistles you identified, such as backup cameras, lane assist, those magic cameras that make parallel parking more like a video game) – in short, i love it for my intown driving.

    For the charger networks, “Free” (I think) means literally free, as in no cost. Which some are (usually the slow chargers) Chargepoint is the vendor for the ones down here, and it shows whether someone is USING the charger, as well as what the cost is. ($1/hr is a good example of the Level 2 chargers around here – which will give you a hundred miles or so.)

    Agree with minor range anxiety – we’ll see if it’s still an issue in a few years.

  41. From what I’ve heard from people who own BEV cars, they spend a lot less time worrying about range than they thought they would.

    There are going to be hard to serve people because of range, or because they use street parking, but there are a lot of people who can just plug in in their garage.

    We are going to need more chargers, but electricity is everywhere. Apartments will have chargers for the same reason they have Coke machines or laundromats: a vendor will put one in and charge to use it, paying the apartment owner a commission.

    The ultimate goal is to be able to charge whereever you park.

    A few other topics: If most cars charge at night, there’s actually very little that needs to change for our power grid. It just will level out the demand peaks.

    Solar panels aren’t really practical on cars. If they’re flush with the roof, there’s only a few square feet and it’s not aimed at the sun. If they’re on a rig, the weight and drag from the rig will use more power than it generates.

    Unless your electricity is 100% coal generated, any BEV will be cleaner than burning gasoline. And it will get cleaner as coal plants are retired.

  42. I think things are going to move very quickly on the charging end of things.

    I have had a Tesla model 3 for a year and a half, and the number of available Tesla and outside company chargers has grown quickly. With the Big 3 finally getting serious about EVs, charger options are going to continue to grow.

    On this topic at least , the future is bright.

  43. I wonder if one of those bed covers would improve range when the bed’s empty or only partially full? An open bed with a tailgate seems like it’s hauling around a giant parachute.

    (And yes, I know Ford’s engineers have probably looked that this.)

  44. There is no one “magic” solution to the climate damage caused by a century of all-in investment in fossil-fueled individual vehicles.

    But a combination of several solutions, implemented where each one is appropriate, as quickly as both individuals and governments can afford them, might save our asses.

    The biggest problem is the huge megalopoli, clotted with millions of individual vehicles for individual travelers, because we opted out of the idea of useful public transit when we decided everyone should have their own internal combustion engine.

    Public transit powered by non-fossil means will begin solving some (though not all) of the problem on the largest possible scale. (Check out the number of quite affluent people who live in European cities with good public transit who choose not to own a personal/family vehicle, because– why would they need one?) Make sure people can get to work and/or school on inexpensive, safe, readily available transit.

    Networks of not-that-much-more-expensive-than-transit taxi and rental vehicles (also not powered by fossil fuel) takes up the slack for occasional trips with a lot of baggage or stuff to carry. Additional networks of also not-fossil-fuel-powered delivery trucks bring stuff to your door.

    Implement that system in every substantial American city (yes, of course it will take time and probably involve blood in the gutters at some point, but isn’t it better than dying of thirst and heat?) and a gigantic increment of climate change problems will shrink and blow away.

    Connect all those cities to their outlying towns with non-fossil-fuel powered rail. Provide economic incentives and infrastructure for local electric transit and delivery services on the appropriate scale. Another substantial increment of climate change trouble vanishes.

    Add in a grid of rural hub-and-spokes hybrid rail that connects further-out destinations to the cities AND allows freight to move freely with minimal fossil-fueled climate change cost. Build out infrastructure and provide local rural county and township governments with incentives to support electric-powered transit and delivery. (You could even piggyback on an all-electric U.S. Postal delivery system there.) By then, you turn the corner.

    Get businesses and employers who need employees to be independently mobile to invest in electric (maybe hybrid at first to jump-start the process) fleets and maintenance, and stop requiring employees to have their own vehicles.

    And finally, get the remaining relatively small fraction of rural, self-employed, etc., people with an economic (rather than psychological) need for day-to-day individual transport to invest in what Our Gracious Host has invested in. By then, infrastructure for individual electric vehicles will no longer be an issue.

    John is just ahead of the curve, as his title for this post notes… but probably a bit more than “slightly”.

    Natheless, we need those early adopters to point the way, so thanks, John!

  45. A friend of mine in the midwest has an EV and solar panels on her house. I am envious.

    Right now, I would love to get a plug-in hybrid. I had a 2003 hybrid that finally died and I really regret replacing it with a non-hybrid. Personally, full electric doesn’t make sense for me since I rent and there’s nowhere close by I can charge a car. There are several charging stations where I work but they are always occupied. My most frequent long-distance trip (pre-pandemic) was about 450 miles each way, and I’ve run into long lines at rest stops for gasoline (20+ minute wait). I can’t even imagine how long the wait would be if there were a line for charging up. I hope and expect EV infrastructure is really going to take off over the next few years. I plan on getting an EV for my next car.

  46. We bought a Tesla in March and have taken it on several road trips this summer. It’s surprisingly easy. We were very stressed before our trip from WI to CO, and it ended up being a breeze. The car does all the work for you in finding charging stations. It does add some time to the trip, but not too much more, and it makes the trip a bit more relaxing. My husband also loved how it broke it into 2.5 chunks instead of viewing the full 16 hours at once.

  47. We leased a Nissan Leaf two years ago and it’s been wonderful. We still have our Subaru for long trips, and when we had two jobs outside the home it was my commuter car. But my husband’s been work-from-home since March 2020, which means we’ve filled the Subaru maaaaaaybe once a month, on average. And it does not take much to charge, either. We’ve definitely decreased our share of emissions this way, and all the emissions are at a single point instead of being spread out everywhere I have to drive.

  48. I don’t know about the massaging seats, but ventilated are great. Even if you are an air-conditioning fiend, the seat ventilation cools off the seat (and your sweaty back) even if the car has been sitting in the sun all day.

    If you’re not an air-conditioning fiend, the ventilated seats plus some open windows/sunroof will keep you nice and comfortable on the days when the heat and humidity are not unbearable.

  49. That’s a cool purchase and if you add solar panels someday you’re nearly grid independent. Sadly grid stability is going to suffer during transition away from fossil fuels over the next 3 decades and best to be prepared. Can’t wait to read your writeup on how the truck is working for you.

  50. John, have you talked to any local electrician yet? About scheduling, parts availability etc.?

  51. I see where Joe D gets 50-60 miles before the gas engine kicks in. The way my Prius hybrid works is that both engines go at once, with the tractor motor sharing the horsepower so there is less gas used.

    Also, two engines up front means more weight in the front so I get better traction on icy alleyways.

    I’m sorry to think of alternative energy uglifying the landscape, as Lif S notes, but then again, children who grow up with it may see it as beautiful, like the anime children around rustic wind turbines.

    I see more alternative energy coming on-line, not less, since we will need energy for cars, and for the blockchains that allow bit coins and NFT’s.

    Speaking of children, the Greens aren’t about to allow European-style atomic electricity plants. I fear that, besides uglifyingt more, we will use up tons of irreplaceable coal, robbing our poor grandchildren.

  52. Comment about 100% electric cars: being able to trigger cabin climate control from your smartphone is a TOTALY GAME CHANGER.

  53. I just bought a used Leaf, and am having a ball with it.

    I was determined to get an all-electric car, even if it means making sacrifices (which it hasn’t, yet). North America, and our habits, are structured the way they are because of a century of car culture. We’re not going to get out of the climate change mess unless we change our expectations and habits, and stop using fossil fuels.

    The push has to come from somewhere, and it ain’t going to come from Exxon and Shell.

    Sorry if this comes across as preachy.

  54. As a new Chevy Bolt owner I have some suggestions. First get the app plugshare (another good option is a better route planner) this will show you plugs that you can use that our not in the Ford Blue Network. This should improve things for you quite a bit.

    Also, probably by the time you get the truck Tesla will have opened their supercharger network. This will help immensely. Finally, there are a lot of new chargers in the infrastructure bill.

    Have fun being on the cutting edge.

  55. Dana:

    I’m going to wait until I actually have my order in so I can have a better idea of what we will actually need to do and install. There’s likely to be a significant delay between the order and the delivery so I think that waiting until then will not be too much of a problem.

  56. We have a Mach-E and love it. Ford’s software is not great though. You get one key fob and can use your phone as a key instead.

    After a couple of days we went back to the dealer and bought a second key fob for a couple hundred bucks! Get a second fob when you pick it up; it’s definitely worth it.

  57. I think if you get the extended battery Ford will provide a home charger.

    Sorry for recommending the a better route planner which you actually used in my previous comment.

  58. Put in a level 2 charger at your house and you’ll suddenly realize you have a full tank of gas every morning. That alone is pretty empowering. I have no qualms about planning trips that will consume 80% of a full charge. That’s 240 miles for you. 240 miles is a long way to drive in one day. The number of days in a year that a normal person does that can likely be counted on a single thumb.

  59. When I saw Laura Pino’s comment that you should get a garage charging port, MY thought was that you should make it “Blue Oval” so that you’ve got one in your county. And then, if you make it available to others and “charge” them for the charge, you’ll have a fallback position in case this whole “writing” thing doesn’t work out. ;-)

  60. @Cecil H: There’s an episode of Mythbusters about tailgate up vs down for gas mileage.

    @Rick: My folks took a roadtrip out to the Olympic Peninsula from Portland in their Tesla and didn’t have any issues with finding places to charge.

    My husband and I still haven’t decided which plug-in EV we’re going to get, and we dithered so long we ended up with a new gas Subaru in the meantime. Between the chip shortage and the new EVs coming out in the winter it just made sense to wait.

  61. Congratulations on your new investment John, as a science fiction author do you think all electric vehicles alone are the future or will there be a VHS/Betamax battle with electric and hydrogen fuel cells cars?

    As side note due to now working from home I’m celebrating the fact that I’ve only filled up my car four times this year (tank is currently full)

  62. including a 240 V outlet

    Hm, so it would be possible to load up a washer and dryer and go door to door.

    Reminds me that when my mother was a little girl, in the early days of the last century of the previous millenim, her family’s laundry was done regularly by a door to door service — a family with a mule hauling a wagon, and a great big boiling pan. They’d show up, build a fire in the yard under the pan, and do the laundry.

    There hasn’t been anything quite like that since.

  63. Personally I’d love to see EV manufacturers go towards a system like the propane tank swaps you see at your grocery store; drive up to a service station and do some sort of quick battery swap. Would obviously require a rethinking of placement of those components in the cars, but would remove the long charge times of current vehicles.

  64. I very much wish for an electric vehicle, as I would feel better about my carbon footprint and such, but cannot remotely afford one.

    Kudos to y’all.

  65. @DHMCarver

    I live in New England where electric/hybrid penetration is getting pretty significant and restaurants are starting to install charging stations in their parking lots to capture the electric traveler market.

  66. The problem with battery swaps is putting them in a carrier strong enough to be swapped. For a Tesla, the battery housing doubles as the frame of the car. If you double that up, it adds a lot of weight to an already heavy battery.

    Hydrogen sounds nice, but there are a lot of problems. Most hydrogen produced now is made by splitting natural gas. It’s a lot cheaper and no more polluting to just use the natural gas directly. A lot of fleet vehicles run on compressed natural gas.

    You can use electricity to split water into H2, but it’s very inefficient. Electricity -> hydrogen -> electricity per kWh is vastly more costly than electricity -> battery -> electricity. There are some niche uses where H2 might make sense, but it’s never going to catch on for personal vehicles.

  67. We got our 2004 Prius at the end of 2003. The Prius was named Car of the Year shortly thereafter and they became almost impossible to get hold of, for a short while.

    We’re still driving that same car and it shows no sign of stopping. In the meantime we have gotten a good system of solar panels and a Powerwall so we generate almost all our own electricity (snowstorms excluded). So if we ever get a new car we’ll definitely go electric.

    We’re still happy with this car, so we can wait a while for the tech to mature. I really do love being part of the renewables future, though. It makes me really happy.

  68. You just hit our concern on the head. We both have significant commutes and so have to drive more than the average. Traffic jams are unpredictable and can lead to delays of hours. Even in our pretty advanced urban/suburban area, charging is hit and miss.

    We’ve been driving hybrids for years, and are likely to continue to do so until the kinks are worked out.

  69. We are thinking very hard about an EV for our next car. DH has driven our Civic almost to the Moon @200k miles, and wants an electric car. It needs to have at least a 250 mile range, because of business needs (house calls to fix computers). The Tesla 3 is looking enticing, not least of which is because we already have solar panels on our roof, best upgrade to the house evar. All we need is the fast charger.

  70. Lack of infrastructure is one of the major reasons I opted for a hybrid earlier this summer, that and range anxiety for longer trips.

    I look covetously at your F-150 Lightning and maybe I’ll have one someday, but for my use case I’m pretty happy with a ’21 Honda Insight, especially now that gas prices are on their way back up.

  71. Biden wants 50% by 2030, yet the U.N. says the shit has already hit the fan. Rather than working on infrastructure, the federal government should be replacing every federally owned vehicle with electrically powered vehicles.

    Do you ever worry about the shit Athena is going to have to deal with? I have 18 year old twins that I’m scared sick for. The entire western third of the country could be uninhabitable in 20 years.

  72. The rural perspective was fascinating. Thanks. Our 2014 Tesla 3 has been utterly fabulous – as others have noted, the forced breaks every ~3.5 hours on long trips I expected to be annoying but turn out to be a feature, not a bug: we arrive after long trips much more refreshed. I was concerned about battery range diminishing, but no significant change at 7 years and counting.

    The difference in infrastructure is stark, though. Here in suburban NY (Albany), we have two superchargers within 20 min and there are 6 Teslas among the 7 houses on our cul-de-sac. Driving down to DC last week we had a choice of maybe 100 (?guess?) superchargers and many more slower; when we went to a B&B in VT last month, it came with a destination tesla charger. I wonder which comes first: the tipping point on ownership or the tipping point on charger infrastructure? [And yeah, as others have noted: range anxiety was true before purchase and has literally never been an issue even on trips to Canada or Virginia or wherever. Heck, we even got the 220V charger free b/c we talked others into buying Teslas, but have never bothered to install it because it’s just not needed – between charging at work, trickle-charging at home, and a rare mall supercharge, we’re all set.].

    More than most, I hope to get follow-up posts from you as you live with the truck for a bit. Really useful insights – thanks.

  73. While your county does only have one charging station, I put in your address and I-75 (not that far from you according to the maps) already has a bunch of them.

    Mostly, they are J1772 chargers (not DCFC chargers), but a J1772 will still give you about 25 miles of range per hour. The J1772 is what you will have installed at your house, mostly likely a 32A charger (at 240V) on its own 50A circuit.

    Where I live, “only one in my county” means a bunch, as counties here in Arizona can be on the large side (Phoenix’s Maricopa county is larger than 4 US states, for example).

    As an EV owner since 2017, my experience is also that something like 98% of weekday charging is at home or work (for those who have the option to work in offices).

    Put simply: range anxiety is something that non EV owners think EV owners suffer with. We dont.

    I wish the signage for EV stations was better, though: you dont realize where they are unless you have an app. Gas stations have highly visible signage, and the EV providers should figure that one out, too.

  74. Noice! I feel a bit dumb here, as this is the first I’ve heard of an electric F-150 (though if they’re doing an electric Mustang, this makes at least as much sense). “F-150 Lightning” means, to me, the ICE performance version of the F-150 they used to make. Alas, times change.

  75. I live in Oklahoma (totally in the pockets of the gas and oil companies) in a small town. I was stunned to see that the local branch of a credit union has installed charging stations. My husband works for an electric power company in the next small town down the road, and they’ve also installed charging stations. Change is coming! (Also noting that we both drive plug-in hybrid Fords. The difference in our electric bills is negligible, but the difference in our gas bills is astounding.)

  76. Someone should make a charge-station sharing map app where all-electric vehicle owners rent out their garage charge stations plus cost of electricity. AirBnB or Bird for person-to-person charge sharing.

    I require no acknowledgement, credit, or currency if this idea becomes a thing (nor do I know if it is a thing) because I am motivated to try never owning a car again in my life.

  77. I have been slightly ahead of the curve for a while, since I bought a Honda Insight hybrid in 2000. I’ve owned three Priuses, and since 2018 I have driven a Tesla Model 3. My housemate also has an M3, but hers is a 23 year old BMW convertible. She has her eye on a used Model X, since our big road-trip vehicle (an Expedition) was recently totaled. We have four kids, and the EV market isn’t yet serving large families who travel with luggage. We also have solar, to keep our vehicles charged, and to run our house, and we have Tesla batteries to keep our house powered when the electricity grid goes out. We also have two Cybertruck reservations, though it’s extremely unlikely that we’ll get both.

    Anyway, congratulations on your intent to buy a Lightning! I think you’re going to be pleased with your purchase, and I also think that the infrastructure that will ease your range anxiety will arrive faster than you expect.

    I’m looking forward to owning a truck. I’m not constitutionally a pickup truck driver. If I were, living in Texas, I’d certainly already own a pickup truck. But I think how convenient it would be if I could just pick up a 70″ television, or a yard of dirt, or a concrete sea serpent any time I had a whim.

  78. I think the F150 Lightning is going to be the huge Trojan horse for EVs in America. It’s a solid choice for your use case.

    For anyone who’s interested in EVs, green tech and associated stuff, I recommend Fully Charged with Robert Llewellyn: https://fullycharged.show/

  79. I’ve thought for a while that electric vehicles would be perfect in a two-car family, with the other car being a regular internal combustion or hybrid vehicle. That way you can still bug out without worrying too much about refueling. An electric-only vehicle is most useful in an environment where the civilizational infrastructure is intact.

    And while the idea of powering your house with the Ford is appealing, if I were really used to electricity, I’d install a 22 KW backup generator fueled by natural gas or propane. (Yeah, I can spend your money, too)

  80. Conga-rats on the new Ford! Our next car will be a plug-in hybrid as we live in a small city, and getting anywhere takes a bit of driving, usually on I-15. We already have solar with batteries, so charging won’t cost us much. Despite being in inland SoCal, the charging infrastructure isn’t ideal. It will improve by the time we’re ready to go full electric.

  81. I owned an electric car for a year before I ever used a public charging station. Because I charge my EV like I charge my phone – plug it in at night at home.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with public chargers. They’re a good thing we should have more. But I think people living in the petrol-based cars-need-public-places-to-refuel paradigm can get overly focussed on that approach.

    The real infrastructure that’s missing from a general public point of view is lots and lots and a few tens of millions more lots of rental accommodation with good ways for tenants to charge their EVs. I love my electric car, but I’d have trouble recommending an EV to anyone who doesn’t own their own home.

  82. Aaron Dow: There is an app-driven system for doing this up and running in the UK.

    It would be interesting to see a historical analysis of the way infrastructure grew up around internal combustion engines. How long did it take to build up an adequate provision of gas stations?

    To address the point several people made about being unable to recharge at home. It must be annoying not to be able to do this, but consider that it simply leaves you in the same position you are currently in (unless you happen to live above a gas station). You were never able to refuel at home; you had to plan to get fuel somewhere else. Now it’s easier for some people, and infrastructure has to develop to make it easier for more.

  83. Chris Walsh: I remember road trips with my parents in the late 70s and early 80s. Gas stations were already ubiquitous, and in Texas the switch to self-fueling was underway (many stations had a lane for full service at a higher price per gallon). Pay at the pump wasn’t available. Most gas stations used a device to transfer a credit card’s raised imprint onto a paper receipt using carbon paper. Or you paid cash.

    Driving at night might require better planning. On highways that weren’t major travel or trucking routes, you couldn’t count on gas stations being open 24 hours. My mother and I spent a cold night huddled under blankets in her car, waiting for a small town gas station to open at 6 am.

  84. @Chris Walsh, if I’m heading to work and decide my car’s gas tank is running lower than I like, it takes me maybe 5 minutes to fill up. Charging stations have a very long way to go before someone can stop on their way to work for an electron refill.

    Just for fun, I pulled up the Better Routeplanner site and entered start-stop points for a family trip we’re taking next month. If we tried doing this trip in an electric vehicle, travel time would jump from 10 hours to over 17. Most of that is charging time, but there’s also a leg where there’s no chargers available and we’d have to drive no faster than 45 MPH to stretch the charge as much as possible.

  85. For road trips fast chargers aren’t the real issue. What you need is a level 2 charger where you stop for the night.

    If you are talking there and back in 1 day I think your 100 miles is a decent limit. For a road trip you would want to go 250-280 miles hit a fast charger for 30 minutes and go 100 more. You could do that more, but realistically you probably don’t want to drive more than that in a day. What you need then is a hotel with a level 2 charger, so you can plug in while your sleeping and wake up with a full battery ready to do it again.

  86. Given Ford’s struggles to produced their regular F-150s complete with all chips, and their parallel struggles to source enough batteries, it could be a long time before the Lightnings actually start shipping in large numbers.

    It might be worth thinking about a short-term Tesla, new, used, leased, whatever, just to put a toe in the electrified water and scratch the 4-wheeled gadget itch. Sell it when your Lightning is ready. Teslas have excellent resale value, so it probably wouldn’t be a huge cost overall.

    Something to think about. Or at least to scheme and machinate about while waiting for the Lightning.

  87. Jake Errs:

    I’m really not in that much of a rush, although if I were going to lease anything, it would probably be a Mach-E. Those things are sweet.

  88. I think one of the interesting features of the Lightning is its ability to power multiple electrical devices when parked, coupled with that large locking front trunk. It seems very handy for tradesmen to power tools remotely. I think owners will find all sorts of uses for that capability…

  89. First, I think it is great that you are thinking all of this through. It sounds like you are making a great decision for Krissy truck wise. Although we will be choosing a Dodge Ram in the future for our RVing adventures.

    I’m more of a solar powered person. I know that sounds weird but there are solar powered vehicles out there. I aim to get panels on top of our RV.

    While I’m the subject, please allow me to float my whole we should be using the Hemp engine conspiracy theory. Using hemp oil would put big oil out of business and it is a renewable source. But Big oil, Big Pharma, Big Alcohol, Big insert here doesn’t want petroleum to go away because it it’s a great way to hold the world hostage.

    Sorry, John. One of my pet peeves that really annoys me. I’ll go back to my corner and be quiet now.

  90. I’m a Tesla owner so I may be a bit biased, but this is where Tesla has the advantage over every other electric car manufacturer. Tesla owns its supercharger network; non-Tesla EVs can’t use it and Tesla maintains the chargers (and does a pretty good job of it. There are typically 8-10 chargers at each site and it’s rare that more than one isn’t working). Because it’s restricted we’ve never seen one completely full, though as uptake of the Tesla EVs continues that might be an issue. Tesla has committed to vastly increasing the number of superchargers in the network.

    And these superchargers are the real deal! We drive from NC to PA and Maryland in our Model 3 a couple of times a year. We usually have about 30% capacity remaining when we arrive at the charger and by the time we throw out our travel trash and walk across the parking lot we’re at 50-60%. Pee, get something to eat and drink, and we’re above 80%. (For those who don’t know, the “fill rate” of the charger slows above 80% as it’s bad for the battery to “overfill.” Think of it as you pouring milk into a glass. As you get closer to the top you slow down). In a 20-minute stop we’re usually around 90%.

    Of course, this is all in and around the Acela corridor. We’ve taken it on a few trips to more rural locations. There aren’t many superchargers in those places so we usually check with our destination to see if we can use their outlet to charge the car. Now THAT is painfully slow, but if we’re there overnight we’re OK.

    Scalzi, currently we have the same situation as you. I work from home and rarely go anywhere while my wife drives about 12 miles each day to work. She takes the Tesla and I have a gas minivan at home. We love the car so much we’ve decided to buy another Tesla (the Model Y, which has more storage space than our Model 3) at the end of the year and will keep the van for our daughter to learn to drive.

  91. Add me to the list of people interested in knowing more about the process of choosing and installing a garage charger when you get to that point.

    We’re currently just using the regular outlet, but I’d like to know more about fast charging.

  92. I have a non plug in, and so at this time I don’t need a charger at home because my Prius hybrid recharges slightly every time I brake, and even faintly from resistance as I cruise up to a stop.

    When driving to the next prairie town, if no one is around, I amuse myself by driving slowly enough, under 37 mph, (60kph) that the gas engine never kicks in. But normally I use both engines at once.

    Last week at 50 mph (80 kph) on that highway I was easily able to swerve around a line of ducklings and their mother. The Prius rates excellent in handling and all other categories in Consumer Reports magazine.

  93. For those interested in installing a level 2 charger at home some cars have deals where you can get a charger with the car. There’s a federal tax credit that covers a third of the cost. Also, check with your utility. Some of them have rebates for using specific chargers (usually ones that can delay charging if needed). Aside from that search for a discussion group for your vehicle which will have lots of recommendations.

    In general though you will need an electrician to install unless you already have a 240 outlet where you want it to go. The big names in chargers are Chargepoint, Flo, Clipper Creek, GrizzlE, juicebox, and some others. You really can’t go wrong with any of them.

  94. Around this time next year I will be replacing my ICE car for a BEV. Where I like public chargers are also as rare as bigfoot, but I will install a charger in my garage. I do no more than 60 miles in a day so range will not be an issue and I will also have an ICE that belongs to my wife who does far more driving than I do. I can hope that the new infrastructure bills follow through on expanding the charger networks in the US. It is time we started moving away from ICE vehicles.

  95. My wife and I are remodeling her mother’s older home in central Arizona and we’re planning on adding solar PV to power both the home and an EV that I plan to get in early 2023. Phoenix will be close enough for us to be able to do a round trip without charging, but there are plenty of charging stations in the Phoenix metro available even now. I’m hoping that Volkswagen will finally have their EV microbus van on the market by then and will be looking to reserve one when I can. Arizona is the best state in the U.S. for solar power and it will be nice to take advantage of it to power both the home and the van.

  96. A curmudgeonly thought and a modest proposal:

    Wonderful though they are, electric vehicles (cars, aircraft, whatever) are only as zero- or low-emission as whatever kind of powerplant is at the other end of the plug that recharges them.

    My modest proposal addresses both tax inequality and urban air pollution from vehicles:

    Part 1: A flat tax for individuals and corporations. Your whole tax return would fit on a postcard: line 1, how much did you make? Line 2, this year’s tax rate (typically >10%). Line three, send it in. Half of your tax goes to the general fund; for the other half, the back of the postcard has a pie chart you can mark up as to how you want your money spent. Each tax-using agency gets, say, 10 hours of prime-time advertising during the year, and a 30-second spot during the Superbowl.

    This puts thousands of tax attorneys out of work, leading to…

    Part 2: All urban vehicles will now be run by clockwork, with standardized shafts to allow them to be wound up at “filling stations.” Prime mover for these filling stations will be giant hamster wheels out back, operated by former tax attorneys.

  97. Adding to what Peter said, here’s a link to the government’s website about where each state’s electricity comes from:
    (Ohio is mostly natural gas, which is considered to be cleaner than gasoline.) There are some states where coal is majority, which is worse than gasoline. (We were hiring an environmental economist a few years back and I think 3 people we interviewed had their dissertations on this topic.)

  98. —Is it just me, or is it hard to believe that “Darke County” doesn’t have a long-running supernatural/weird tales series associated with it??

  99. One little mental flip that I had to make when I got my electric car was to remember that it’s like my phone: I don’t have to go to some other place to fuel my phone up, I can simply charge at home and always be fully charged. I had an electrician install a 240v 50A circuit, and with that I can charge at a rate of 28 miles per hour. There’s almost no time where I wouldn’t or couldn’t be at full charge in the morning, and with 300 miles of range there’s almost never any concern for me about charging during my daily travels. (Unless I’m driving 4+ hours during a day at highway speeds, in which case that’s a trip, probably by a freeway, which have plenty/more fast-charging options.) :)

  100. While I like the idea of EVs, unfortunately they currently only really make sense if you own a home. A friend of mine got an EV but he also installed solar panels on his home, so his commute costs are zero for about 6 months out of the year. Unfortunately, if you rent, your options are rather more limited. Even on the east coast, in areas that are extremely blue, there aren’t really enough charging stations, especially since so many of them are the slow chargers. It was a major factor in my deciding to get a hybrid rather than an EV. I got my first taste of hybrid driving about 15 years ago when a date asked me out for dinner… in Boston. From downstate NY. We went to Boston & halfway back on one tank of gas, in the Honda Insight and my immediate thought was “I HAVE TO HAVE THIS.” I love my Honda Accord hybrid, which averages about 50 mpg city. My average gas bill went from $120-130/month (at $2.25-2.50/gal) to $25-30/month. My real concern about EVs, other than the source of the electricity, is the battery. Especially with the fast chargers, there is a real possibility of a battery fire, which are extremely difficult to put out.

    It kind of makes me wonder how long it will take for detached garages to become a thing. And how long it will take for fire departments to come up with ways to douse EV and hybrid fires.

    That said, congrats!–the new Ford truck does look really cool & I hope you & Krissy enjoy it.

  101. One more advantage of an EV: While you’re charging at a public charger (assuming there are facilities nearby) you can go inside and use the restroom or buy yourself a super big gulp and a double cheeseburger. You don’t have to, but the option is there. With a gasoline powered vehicle, you’re supposed to wait at the vehicle while the fuel is pumped. Then any other use you make of the stop is time added on at the end.

    When the weather is bad, you may not want to leave your vehicle at all, but with the EV, you can get out to connect the cable, then get back into the dry, warm (or cool) car and wait in climate controlled comfort for the charge to complete.

    It definitely takes longer to charge an EV’s battery than it does to fill an ICE vehicle’s fuel tank, but if you’re charging at home every night, you start each day with a “full tank”. You don’t have to worry about stopping for a 30-minute charge on the way to work. You don’t even have to stop for a 5-minute fueling.

  102. As for staying in your car when gas refuelling, that is right for full service.

    Meanwhile, if it is self serve, then don’t get back in while the gas is flowing, especially if the bench seats are plastic and you slide to get in. Why? There are one or more cases of a seat static charge igniting gasoline fumes and resulting in the total loss of the car.

    In the armed forces they advise keeping the steel handle in touch with the gas port, lest the flowing gas in the line creates an static build up.

    I suppose people get impatient with the boring signs advising folks not to smoke or light a match around gas pumps, but let’s face it: There are new babies being born every day who don’t know about the danger of sparks. And they don’t know to properly put out their camp fires either… as smoke causes a haze in the sky.

  103. Dear John,

    If you’ve answered this before, just provide a pointer if you would, please…

    Many people here are telling you what you should and shouldn’t do, like you haven’t thought this out [snerk].

    Me, I’d rather know your “why’s.”

    I’m sure you’ve considered solar — why haven’t you gotten it? I’m asking for a friend.


    Having had solar installed five years back, I get LOTS of questions from people asking me to advise them on whether they should or not, like I’m some sort of know-it-all.

    (I’m not– I only play one on TV.)

    I’d be very interested in knowing what went into your considerations, because I expect you did a serious and technically knowledgeable dive. Whatever you have to say would, I’m sure, help me give them more appropriate advice.


    pax / Ctein

  104. Dear Rick,

    IF you were to buy an EV, I expect you’d investigate all this stuff for yourself first ‘cuz youz a shmaht guy! But as an intellectual exercise…

    Trip times: I don’t recall where you live exactly, so I used Olympia Washington, and I don’t know where you go in California or Utah, so I used my address (Daly City) and Salt Lake City. I plugged those into Google maps (for your ICE) and ABRP (for my Tesla Model X). I don’t know how you drive, for the sake of getting a number I plugged in 10% over the speed limit on the freeways. According to Google maps, your drive to my house should take 12 hours and your drive to Salt Lake City should take 13 hours and 20 minutes.

    If you were driving my Model X (no, you CAN’T have it!) the drive time from your house to mine would be 13 hours, 20 minutes and the drive time to Salt Lake City would be 15 hours, 20 minutes, including charging times.

    Not even close to twice as long!

    If you stop to eat on your drive down to California, even that time differential pretty much goes away — there’s a one hour recharge in Medford, a convenient halfway point, where you can get something to eat. If you eat more often, it’s easy to adjust the charge points to accommodate that.

    On the issue of local grid/home support: One can trickle-charge off of 120 at home at a kilowatt — puts 1-2% per hour onto an EV. Might well not be enough for your driving habits, but the average driver does 40 miles a day. So, sufficient.

    When I bought the Model X 20 months ago, we thought we’d need to get a 240 line put in the garage so that we could semi-fast charge. Still haven’t done so. Trickle charging is plenty except when I take a long weekend (or back-to-back long drives), then I hit a charging station.

    If the entire country were to go all-electric overnight, it would consume 25% of the generating capacity of the US. It’s going to take 20 years to do a complete conversion. We can manage that rate of growth. Distributed solar on residences, in fact, would handle it, for 80% of drivers.

    There are huge issues of inequality, both geographic and demographic, that John has addressed. I’m not saying we have a magic fix. I’m saying that, in terms of the pure time and energy analysis you did, the situation is entirely manageable.

    As for the irregularity of solar, keep in mind that the cars ARE batteries. Also, as we’ve had modest (4 kW) solar for five years, I can tell you that it’s far less weather and time-of-year dependent than I thought it would be. I now understand why, but the physics isn’t half so simple as I guessed.

    One last thought. When we bought the Model X, we thought there’d be a couple of times a year when we’d need something that exceeded the comfortable range of the X. We decided that the cost of renting a car for those very occasional trips was the most sensible thing. Turns out it hasn’t happened at all… but it still would be.

    For a lot of people, thinking they need to own an ICE is like people who think they need to own a pickup truck because 2-3 times a year they need to haul a big load of whatever. it’s not always the most cost-effective answer.

    Of course, your mileage may (and WILL) differ!

    pax, Ctein
    (Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training!)

    -- Ctein's Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
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  105. Chris Walsh said : “It would be interesting to see a historical analysis of the way infrastructure grew up around internal combustion engines. How long did it take to build up an adequate provision of gas stations?”

    Touring the country by car pre-dated gas stations. Because gas cars don’t need gas stations.

    You could buy gasoline at a general store, or apothecary (aka drug store). It was sold as a solvent. The driver of the first gas car to pass through your town could buy fuel, pour into their car, and drive on.

    So there was never really a severely inadequate provision of gas stations. They just slowly popped up as cars became more common.

  106. Confirming what Audrey said– for people looking for car-sized hybrids (about the size of a civic but much nicer!), the Honda Insight is wonderful. I love mine so much!

  107. Pity I missed this earlier…

    A friend has a Mach-E, which has convinced him to never buy another Ford. (Mainly because of atrocious customer service, but…)

    Apparently the Mach-E is prone to throwing faults for transient sensor readings, which encourages drivers to ignore warning messages. This is Not Good. The big one, though, was the fault in the battery pack. Turns out that Ford can’t make battery packs fast enough (thanks to covid-19 supply chain disruptions) to keep up with demand. Oh, and while pulling the battery pack out to check the fault was covered by warranty, putting it back in unrepaired (when it’s still usable, just slightly degraded) was not. Took him a month to convince Ford to give him his car back.

    The battery problems may have eased by the time Krissy gets her truck.

    Oh, and the latest guidance from NHTSA is that you should NOT charge your EV overnight in the garage as that’s a fire hazard. Several houses have apparently burned down.

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