General car talk

Continuing the discussion from What's the most interesting car you saw today?:

(Splitting rather than continuing hijack.)

I think that’s about right. People either want a small, efficient commuter or a large vehicle that can carry all their stuff.

The traditional problem with smaller cars, that they had an underperforming engine, doesn’t really apply with electric motors. It’s the battery (and thus range) that’s limited by vehicle size in that case. And with current batteries, even a small car has a 200-mile range, which is sufficient for daily commuting and errands.

If you need space, an SUV has that. If you need range as well, go with an engine, otherwise an electric motor. (A lot of work trucks don’t need the range, but do need electric power, so they’ll go electric by some point.)

That leaves large sedans in an awkward position. They are not the best at cost per mile. Not the best at lugging stuff around. I’m not even seeing much a demand for them in the luxury market.

I’ve always driven small wagons or hatchbacks which I found have better laid out room than most similarly sized SUVs. It’s getting harder to find AWD wagons in my price range, the Subaru Outback is really the only one left. But my next car will probably be hybrid AWD small SUV at this point.

Don’t drive like my brother!

Somebody had to say it.

When I was buying my used Mazda3 at a dealership in, I thunk, 2019, I remarked to the sales rep about how relatively inexpensive used Mazda6s were. He pointed out that they’re considered much less desirable than the smaller 2 & 3 and larger CX-series of SUVs.

What about both? Surely it can’t be that uncommon to only need something small and efficient for most daily use, yet to occasionally need more passenger or cargo space (e.g. for road trips).

The Maxima is one of those cars that makes me go “They still make those?” when I see a newish one on the road. If I understand correctly nowadays the Maxima is more or less just a fully loaded Altima, and IIRC was one of Nissan’s slowest selling models, so it’s not that surprising that it’s on the chopping block.

The Maxima is supposed to offer a more stylish and sporty driving experience than an Altima. Plus, Altimas used to be smaller, but now they’re about the same size. Think Acura TL vs Honda Accord.

But if people don’t LOVE the Maxima, (as it appears it’s not all that popular in recent years) then the whole strategy kinda flops. I would like them to make a Maxima that is a Kia Stinger competitor. Make it RWD/AWD and give it a turbo V6 with 400hp.

Oh, yes! I didn’t intend that to be an exclusive or. My family has two electrics (Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model 3) and one gassy (Lexus RX450h), exactly for local commuting vs trips where we need all the cargo space. We don’t have any need for a full-size sedan.

New topic:

Fiat-Chrysler/Stallantis/whatever they’re called now no longer makes the 6-speed automatic transmission, which had been the standard transmission on the Ram Promaster van.
Rather than spend money to develop a new transmission for the Promaster, they just used their existing 9 speed automatic in the 2022 model.
Except in the Promaster, 8th and 9th gears are never used, because apparently in that vehicle there’s never really an appropriate situation to use them.
Now apparently some owners feel cheated, because their 9 speed transmission is effectively really a 7 speed.

One unintended consequence of electrics is that the lower per-mile cost is bringing back desire for larger vehicles. Hence the buzz around the electric F-150 Lightning, the electric Hummer, the Rivian, and the new crop of electric SUVs. People are also opting for more power/ better acceleration over optimum efficiency.

Electric didn’t really take off when manufacturers were building high efficiency, fairly low power compact EVs. It’s only when people started realizing that electric cars could let them have the equivalent of 1000hp or drive a giant truck or SUV for econo-car operating costs that the masses became interested.

I’m not sure “unintended” is the right word. The direction of electric vehicle development is that you can have everything* you have in gassy vehicles, but at a lower cost per mile. That opens up the design space for whatever else is important to you. Environmental impact is important to a lot people, so reducing that is an easy give-me. Others will go for the high torque aspect, so many vehicles will have that, from sports cars to heavy duty haulers.

*Except possibly range.

Both of those models are being discontinued. No point investing to compete in a rapidly shrinking market segment.

Well, an unintended consequence is something that happens as a result of a choice or a policy that was never part of the original design.

A good example is seat belts and airbags, both of which have done good but did have unintended consequences in that they led to more reckless driving.

In this case, the impetus for EVs was to save on CO2 and create more efficient vehicles. But if you are on a grid that uses fossil fuels, the CO2 gap isn’t as big as you’d want if people choose to buy an electric Hummer instead of a compact SUV. An electric hummer is less than half as efficient as a Tesla. Still better than a gas car, but not by as much as it would be if you swapped a gas vehicle for an electric one of the same general size and weight, not including the extra weight of hte battery.

The real impact might be that the big EVs really need level 2 or level 3 charging, whereas a small compact SUV or sedan can get by with level 1 charging when necessary. When we start hitting grid capacity for charging and neighborhoods are capped out on service upgrades until the infrastructure can be improved, it might make a big difference to EV sales if you can no longer get a level 2 charger installed in the average home.

Also, if we face electricity shortages like Europe is facing, I predict that the big electric vehicles will become frowned upon, and maybe even regulated. Having a high percentage of vehicles pulling 50-80 amps per house to charge their trucks just isn’t feasible without major upgrades to the power grid, including new generation. And they’ll be mostly charged at night, when more solar power can’t help.

We’ll talk about it in the 3rd half of the show.

Tesla, the company that has led the way in electric-vehicle production, has focused on sportscars rather than emissions. Conservationists are of course thrilled by the high efficiency, but its the purchases by sportscar enthusiasts who paid for the development. Tesla still doesn’t make an actual econobox commuter car; the Model 3 is closest but has sporty, luxury features that increase cost.

This is a car thread, so I’ll decline to comment on other topics.

We’ve got orders in for 2 EVs–the Cadillac (!) Lyric and the F150 Lightning. Based on the initial specs on the Lightning I was excited–330 miles range, 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, back up power for the house. Real world the Lighting is getting about 240 miles of highway range. That ain’t going to cut it in MT. I’d like a Rivian–my buddy’s is quite impressive–but the big battery version is $102,000 and over a year out.

One in eight vehicles sold in the US in Q2 were electric or hybrid. Not surprisingly, Tesla completely dominates the market for EVs. Toyota has over half of the hybrid market.

Unfortunately, that rate is bound to slow down as we hit resource limits. And they are severe.

Here are some numbers from the Geological Survey of Finland, regarding global reserves of metals required to convert the world’s vehicle fleet to electric:

These are similar to numbers the IEA has published. As far as I can tell, the ‘green new deal’ people are simply hand-waving this problem away, assuming we’ll just ‘figure it out’.

Well, the way we are currently figuring it out is to dramatically increase the price of electric cars. The new Mustang Mach-E just went up $8800. The Ford Lightning went up $7700. EV prices are up across the board, and waiting lists are growing. The average EV is now $66,000 in the US.

Subsidies don’t help. In fact, they just make the supply problem worse. The Ford increases came almost immediately after Biden signed the $7000 EV subsidy in his last ‘climate’ bill. In a resource-constrained environment, there’s simply nothing you can do except mine more resources, and that isn’t happening nearly fast enough.

Copper is an especially big problem, because coper is heavily in demand for grid upgrades, windmills, motor windings, and other commercial uses. Demanding more EV cars will drive up prices for wind power and grid upgrades.

Copper is usually mined in gigantic open pit mines. The biggest copper producer is Chile. To give you an idea of how long it takes to prove out and open a new copper mine, consider the Resolution Copper Mine project in Arizona. The copper was discovered in 1995. Site assessment took another decade. The permitting process was started in 2013. As far as I know, it still has not received its permit as environmental reviews are still ongoing.

Assuming it passes reviews, and the native band demanding a land-swap for use of the area can be placated, the copper mine will start construction, and first deliveries of copper should start in about 10 years - assuming no delays.

So, a copper deposit discovered in 1995 may deliver its first copper to customers in 2032, 37 years later.

Lithium is a huge problem. Biden’s rebate for EVs includes a requirement that the batteries source 50% of their lithium from America. Number of vehicles that currently qualify: 0. America produces only 1% of global lithium. China is the big producer. Lithium prices have gone up 4X in the last year. Demand for lithium is currently growing at twice the rate of supply growth.

The closest new lithium mine in America is the Thacker Pass mine, which got an expedited environmental review and was passed in 2021. There is already a bunch of legal, environmental, and ‘environmental justice’ lawsuits being filed to stop it. It is a 1,000 acre open pit mine. It has been in exploration phase since 1987, the application to build the mine started in 2013, and final review approvals were achieved this year. It has not even started construction yet, and will probably take a decade or more to produce anything.

Thacker Pass has proven reserves equal to 20% of current lithium demand, but lithium demand is expected to spike 3X by the end of the decade, and much more if we actually try for ‘net zero’ by 2040 or 2050. It’s not nearly enough. In the meantime, the U.S. will be beholden to China for lithium. That is not wise.

This is reality intruding into a plan that has been driven mostly by politicians and activists, not engineers. California will not come close to being 100% EVs for sale by 2035 no matter what laws are passed demanding it or how big the subsidies for EVs get. No one else will either. If they insist on trying they will just leave themselves without new cars, and help make the ‘green transition’ more expensive for everyone else.

We’re now into the regime of wicked problems, where trying to advance on one axis sets you back on others. This will become increasingly obvious to everyone, with people in government learning the lesson last.

Here’s another wicked problem: When all the current EVs need their batteries replaced, they may find out that a new battery costs more than the entire vehicle did new. If we keep going on the path we are on, lithium, copper, and the other required metals are going to get extremely expensive.


You might want to start a new thread to discuss the future of electric vehicles. But your posts are hijacking a general thread about “interesting cars you saw today” and similar light fare. Please don’t continue the hijack.

The thread is titled ‘general car talk’, and so far hs been about a number of car subjects. It seems to me that the thread was started precisely to expand the discussion into areas other than specifically the most interesting car you saw today, or we wouldn’t have needed this thread. So I’m confused.

My whole post was about the difficulties in producing more EVs, which is ‘car talk’, and I didn’t even start the sub-topic about EV sales.