Animal Tracks: Plugging in

There’s an interesting post going around on social media warning about the “hidden costs” of electric cars. The post “warns” that we simply are not ready to make the move from traditional gas powered vehicles to electric. The main reason cited is that our electrical infrastructure simply isn’t up to it yet.

Most homes, points out the post, do not have enough electrical capacity to handle the extra load of charging an electric car. It would take major upgrades to make chargers safe and practical for most homes.

And, of course, our grid and our electrical generation capacity isn’t up to the task, either.

The post doesn’t cite any hard facts or evidence to back up these claims, it simply states them as accepted facts...but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Actually, you could have made very similar arguments back in 1908 when Henry Ford set up the first assembly line and plant to mass produce cars for the American public.

If you were silly enough to buy one of those Ford Model T’s, how were you going to run it?

Back then, there were no gas stations or convenience stores on every street corner. There weren’t even a lot of street corners because there were not a lot of roads.

If you lived inside of a reasonably sized town there might be a few brick roads, maybe a handful of hard surfaced roads but once you got to the town limits, you were out of luck. The “roads” of the day were designed for horse and mules, buggies, carriages and wagons filled with ruts and holes. During the spring, these roads were as often as not turned into vast oceans of mud. In the winter, they were packed with snow and ice.

Of course, before you could get your shiny new Model T on the road you had to get gas into the tank. And gas wasn’t as easy to find in 1908.

A few hardware stores sold gas in two or five gallons cans and others sold it in buckets from barrels. As cars began to become more popular, more hardware stores began selling gas as did many blacksmith shops. You still, however, had to buy enough gas to take with you on longer trips or risk running out and being left stranded by the side of the road. It was probably a lot easier to just stick with your horse and buggy. After all, who in their right mind would buy an automobile with all those obstacles.

Of course, those problems didn’t last. Some bright folks decided that it would be a good business move to open gas stations where people could simply pull up, fill their tanks and drive off.

Citizens started complaining to their elected officials about the condition and lack or roads and by 1930, decent roads were nearly everywhere and the gas station was a common sight everywhere.

Now, there is some truth to the complaints raised in that Facebook post. Some existing homes will need to update their electrical service to add a fast car charging system. On the other hand, the cost of operating an electric vehicle is considerably less than the cost of a traditional car. It all evens out.

We will need to expand our generation capacity in this country but that isn’t all due to electric cars.

Our demands for more energy have been growing for decades. That was true before electric vehicles became such an issue. I don’t know of any projections that call for that to end in the near future...with or without electric vehicles.

Thankfully, we’re in a much better position today than we were in 1908. Back then our great grandparents had to start from scratch and build an entirely new infrastructure and industries. All we have to do is improve and expand industries and infrastructures we already have and we already know how to do it.

One fact that isn’t up for debate is that it’s coming.

A week or so back, Ford announced that it plans to switch over to almost all electric vehicles and they are not alone. GM and Chrysler are also moving toward electric. In fact, all of the major car companies around the world are on board.

Ford’s announcement was interesting in the fact that they are not only going to be producing electric vehicles but the tools and technology to easily recycle the batteries used in electric vehicles.

Now, the switch will certainly cost of some jobs in some sectors. The flip side of the coin is that it will create new jobs in new sectors.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In some parts of the world it’s called progress.