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Opinion: How electric vehicles can turn fun family trips into charging nightmares


Finally, after much dreaming, planning and saving, you depart on your last family trip before the final warmth of summer fades away. You’ve purchased a brand-new electric vehicle boasting a 300-mile range and are excited to try it out. Everything seems promising. What you don’t realize, however, is that your weekend family getaway in your “eco-friendly” electric vehicle is about to become a nightmare.

Your soon-to-be-foiled vacation, the result of being stuck in perpetual recharge purgatory, is the result of policy wonks pushing an all-EV future. It’s also exactly what President Joe Biden is championing under his recent executive order, mandating automakers to make EVs, hydrogen fuel-cell or hybrid electric vehicles account for 50% of U.S. auto sales by 2030.

Hydrogen isn’t a serious alternative at this time. Hybrids are complicated, expensive to manufacture and aren’t nearly edgy enough for “green new deal” environmentalists seeking to keep anything deemed a “hydrocarbon” from coming in contact with anything deemed “transportation.”

Thus, EVs are all the rage in the automotive industry these days whether you, the consumer, like it or not.

Frankly, it’s shocking that few, if any, government employees dare to speak out against this ridiculous notion. Indeed, the Michigan House Energy Committee recently held testimony for a five-bill bipartisan package seeking to introduce the possibility of electrical vehicle charging stations “at selected sites on limited access highway rest areas or travel information centers.”

While some accommodation for the small percentage of vehicles that require a charging station is reasonable, mandating that an increasing percentage of our vehicular transportation be powered exclusively by electricity is sheer lunacy.

And yet, this all-electric craze is embedded in our federal regulations and the government’s desire to pick winners and losers. Ultimately, this EV push threatens nothing short of a dramatic upheaval to the American way of life and a death knell for the U.S. auto industry as we know it.

The consequences of continuing to acquiesce to EV domination will affect everyone, not just those who work in the industry or those who choose to buy an electric vehicle. It’s time someone pointed out the unspoken — but quite real — gap between the idealistic vision and genuine reality of EVs. As a former automotive executive, allow me to be that person.

While EVS may seem like a viable, and even attractive, alternative to combustion engines and the fuels that they use, this is far from reality. When the rubber meets the road, EVs fall far short of the mark in real-life scenarios.

Consider a hypothetical 290 mile one-way drive from lower Michigan to the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. You, your spouse, children and the family golden retriever pile in the car, along with camping gear and suitcases. Hitch on a trailer and the combined weight and drag become a comically heavy load strain for an all-electric vehicle. Indeed, many electric SUVs don’t aren't recommended for towing anything at all!

Still, there’s another serious problem. The electric vehicle’s advertised range doesn’t account for the additional weight, steep hills, trailer aerodynamics or ancillaries. Should you need to run your vehicle’s air conditioner, heater and/or windshield wipers, the true range of the electric battery plummets even further.

Long gone is the advertised 300+ mile range; a heavily loaded truck and trailer encountering steep hills might have a range more along the lines of 75 miles — good for a little more than an hour’s worth of driving. If you can find a rapid charger, you’ll need to stop for a 45-minute charge to go roughly another 75 miles.

Ultimately, 3.5 hours on the road results in just two hours of actual driving.

Next, you find out that not all charging stations are equipped with rapid charging. Instead, the other charging stations offer more like 25 miles of range charge per hour. With such a limited mileage charge range, family trips in an electric vehicle have been transformed from fun and adventurous to burdensome.

For electric vehicles to successfully undertake road trips of the length consumers are accustomed to with a fully-loaded vehicle, EVs would need even larger batteries than they currently have. This would add even more weight that needs to be moved by the battery and electric motor.

Thus, we find ourselves trapped in an expensive catch-22, illustrating the failure of our policymakers to understand — and then warn — the American people of the very real possibilities of the future we are heading toward.

Unfortunately, you won’t hear any vehicle companies admit to the stark reality of electric vehicle travel — their hands are tied by government bureaucracy and the pressure of promoting a rose-colored narrative that ignores the stark truth.

Robert E. Norton II is vice president and general counsel for Hillsdale College. He was assistant general counsel at Chrysler, as well as in-house counsel for various automotive suppliers. His work has also been published in the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, The Hill and National Review Online.