Category Archives: Transportation

Transportation: Tesla deletes car features via software update, after cars are sold, used

Should Tesla be allowed to remove features from a vehicle that’s bought secondhand?

Source: Tesla yanks Autopilot features from used car because ‘they weren’t paid for’ | ZDNet

This is a troubling issue where we rely on software for every feature of consumer products. Software that can be updated to add features can also be downgraded to remove features.

Years ago, Amazon deleted e-book copies of George Orwell’s novel, 1984. Apparently Amazon did not have the distribution rights signed up correctly and customers who had bought the e-book addition discovered Amazon remotely deleted their copy of the book. (Amazon did refund the purchase price). That this was a giant corporation removing, of all things, 1984, was a bit of a shock to many.

Meanwhile, the FAA has proposed a massive, Rube Goldberg-like regulatory scheme for small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS), also known as remote control model aircraft. The FAA envisions a world where all model aircraft regulations are enforced by software, logging their position with government designated Internet databases, once every second during flight – rather than the traditional trust and enforcement mechanisms of all other laws. There are multiple issues with the FAA’s proposal, but one side effect of their attempt to enforce the law via software is they’ve managed to eliminate essentially all indoor flight by model airplanes and quadcopter – because a one-size fits all rule does not work. They’ve also created a monster that would enable automated  drone fleets – and consumer drones – to be enlisted by foreign adversaries in international espionage, permitting – indeed, encouraging – all drones to collect aerial imagery and other data as they fly over our homes and cities.

Transportation: Congress proposing an annual Federal tax on electric vehicles

Source: Congress could make EV drivers pay – POLITICO

My state, Oregon, introduced state fees for fuel efficient vehicles, beginning January 1, 2020. These fees are added to existing annual license fees. Oregon issues vehicle licenses for a 2 year period, not one, so the fee paid when renewing is twice the value shown:

a) For vehicles that have a rating of 0-19 MPG, $18.

(b) For vehicles that have a rating of 20-39 MPG, $23.

(c) For vehicles that have a rating of 40 MPG or greater, $33.

(d) For electric vehicles, $110.

The reason they charge for 2 years is it enables the state to increase the effective rate. On average, people will sell their car with one year of their license remaining. However, when sold, there is no refund. And presumably you buy a new vehicle and pay a new license fee. Same thing if you move out of state – you lose the unused portion of the fee. Now they offer a 4-year pre-paid option – don’t go there!

Oregon has also introduced a “pay per mile” license tax and says that some people may pay less fees under this scheme. When I checked the numbers for my Honda Fit, I would pay more under their pay-per-mile scheme – and I only drive about 7,000 miles per year. Sure, that pay–per-mile fee makes sense – not!

The state increased the regular vehicle license fee by 30% in 2017, and increased the state’s gasoline sales tax, which will increase every other year through 2024. The State also increased the title records fee and added a per-vehicle-sold tax on car dealers, and added a $15 tax on new bicycle purchases.

The proposed Federal tax – amount unknown – would be in addition to State license fees.

Transportation: Congress members introduce bill to establish a government run EV charging network

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Andy Levin (D-Mich.) on Thursday outlined a bill that seeks to establish a nationwide electric vehicle charging network within five years.

Source: Ocasio-Cortez, Levin eye national EV network in five years | TheHill

They admit they have no idea what it would cost taxpayers, where charging stations would be located, and would have the government establish charging standards (versus industry standards) … they have no details on anything because details don’t matter.  They do not even have a reason as to why the government needs to run this – apparently they have not heard of PlugShare.

How did we get by without a government run network of gas stations and restaurants along the Interstates? Boggles the mind. Worse, when the government runs the EV network and decides where EV charging stations will be located – watch out  for graft and corruption as politically favored communities get this infrastructure and less favored communities are cut off.

This bill will go nowhere (pun intended).

Transportation: How EVs are more efficient than ICE vehicles – power on demand and regeneration

ICE vehicle engines, except in hybrids and PHEVs, run all the time.

In an EV, you only consume power when you need power. This makes an EV ideal for city driving. When you stop at a traffic signal, your engine stops.

When you brake in an ICE vehicle, your engine keeps running as your forward momentum is converted into heat by the brakes. This means you consume fuel all the time and the kinetic energy is basically thrown away (by turning it into heat instead of future forward motion).

In an EV, when you brake, you are generating electricity. Essentially all EVs have regenerative braking capabilities. Your kinetic energy is stored for future use.

When you climb a hill or mountain pass in an ICE vehicle, once you get to the top, you can coast downhill, but the engine is still running at idle, at a minimum. Your potential energy is translated, partially (not 100% efficient of course), into kinetic energy of forward motion – but chances are that you’ll either use braking (converting kinetic energy into wasted heat) or engine braking (similar).

In an EV, once you have climbed to the top, your vehicle generates electricity on the downhill side, adding miles back into the battery pack. This converts your potential energy back into future forward miles.

As we note below, EVs weigh much more than ICE vehicles. Consequently it takes more energy to lift them up mountain passes, but with the ability to recover some of that energy on the way back down.

Transportation: The large dead weight of EV batteries

The 2020 Honda Fit (using ICE) and the 2020 Chevy Bolt (EV) are nearly identical in capacity and general specifications – except for one very notable item:

2020 Honda Fit – image from Honda web site

2020 Chevy Bolt EV – image from Chevrolet web site:

The two cars are amazing similar with nearly identical cargo space, with or without the back seats up or down. The Fit includes a spare tire, the Chevy Bolt does not.

The biggest difference – the price and weight of the vehicles.

  • The 2020 Honda Fit starts at about $16,000 and weighs 2,522 to 2,648 pounds depending on options and version.
  • The 2020 Chevy Bolt EV starts at $37,000 and weights 3,563 pounds.
  • A Tesla Model 3 weighs over 4,000 pounds.

The Bolt EV weights almost 1,000 pounds or 38% more than the Honda Fit.

Why? The battery. The energy density of EV batteries is very low relative to gasoline. EV makers have to use large batteries to achieve a range of 200 to 300 or more miles.

When we consider the overall energy efficiency and emissions of the two vehicles, we should note the inefficiency of carrying nearly 40% more weight for a small reduction in lifetime emissions:

Update: I wonder what impact the heavier weight of EVs has on roadway surfaces? Weight has long been considered a major factor in the degradation of roadway surfaces. If we transitioned the entire automotive fleet to vehicles weighing 30-40% more, what effect does that have on roadways and what are the costs associated with those effects?

Continue reading Transportation: The large dead weight of EV batteries

Transportation: Electric vehicle depreciation

Electric vehicles are said to depreciate in value 10% more than internal combustion engine vehicles over 3 years. When I looked at used EV listings recently, I was surprised to see 1 year old EVs had decreased by 25% or more in value from  their original purchase price.

Electric vehicles depreciate in value by approximately 60% after three years! 10% more than their fuel guzzling counterparts.

On the plus side, purchasing a 1 year old used EV  might be a  good value!

Virtue signaling may play a role:

Firstly, those tech nerds who want to have new technology before anyone else are a big chunk of the market. Honestly, if you don’t own a brand new Tesla, are you even worth knowing?

Improvements in the tech in new cars may cause older vehicles to lose value more quickly:

Electric vehicles are evolving year on year, so technology from last year has already been improved on. If you’re only interested in cutting edge innovation, last year’s model is suddenly not good enough.

Source: Electric vehicle depreciation | Lightfoot

Each new model of EV tends to increase its range over the prior model. It might only be 10% more range but since “range anxiety” is a big deal for many, every little bit makes the newer car more attractive, lessening the demand for last year’s model.

The range issue popped up as I investigated the used market – would I want a 1 to 2 year old EV with less range than the newer model? Another concern is buyers may not have a good way to evaluate the remaining life time capacity of the EV’s battery. Do you want to start with a used EV that’s already lost 10% of its battery capacity? (Watched a Youtube video last night of someone who had bought, and knew when he bought it, that the battery capacity was running 10% less than a new version of the vehicle with a new battery.)

Anyway, the overall effect seems to be reducing demand, and hence prices, for used EVs.

Transportation: Self-Driving cars do not work in snow, ice and bad weather scenarios

Probably because most techies live in sunny and warm California, this has not yet been a priority:

“The complexity of winter weather is going to take an incredible amount of work for automation technology to tackle,” says Bryan Reimer, a research scientist at MIT specializing in autonomous driving. “Ice-weather conditions are incredibly difficult.”

Source: Snow and Ice Pose a Vexing Obstacle for Self-Driving Cars | WIRED

There has been a “sunny and warm” bias in much of the “techie” part of the auto industry. Most EVs – so far – are not designed for winter snow driving (versus, say, AWD SUVs). All EVs have no spare tire, which is sort of okay when you live in populated areas, but not good when living in areas without cell service and dozens of miles – even 100 miles – to the nearest service station. Part of the bias, of course, is solving the easier problems first. The last 20% is hard.

Transportation: LA Times suggests EV sales are primarily due to “coolness” factor

This is reminiscent of the Volvo study:

Some analysts think buyers don’t necessarily want an electric car when they buy a Tesla — they primarily want a Tesla, which has replaced the latest iPhone as the coolest accoutrement in Silicon Valley and similar cultural enclaves around the world.

Source: The only electric vehicles that have had success are Teslas – Los Angeles

Most EVs are not selling well – only Tesla has appreciable market share and sees year over year growth. Sales, they suggest, are due to the “coolness” factor and that Tesla sells a “lifestyle” image – versus people buying an EV for other reasons. Tesla is just cool to own.

A survey by Volvo,   found that about 75% of buyers said virtue signaling plays a large role in purchasing an EV.   Paradoxically they said that owning an EV “helps them to feel better about making less environmentally conscious decisions in “other areas of life. Oops.

Transportation: One-third of cars sold in U.S. no longer carry a spare tire

One third of cars sold in the U.S. no longer include a spare tire. Instead, they provide a limited puncture/sealant kit and a 12 volt air compressor. “Sealants” are convenient but extremely expensive to replace. Third party puncture kits are good for fixing a nail or screw puncture and the tire can be sequently repaired properly in a tire shop.

AAA notes that these kits only work for selected situations, and won’t work for big punctures, side wall problems, blow outs, or failed air valves. For that the manufacturers expect you to call for roadside assistance.

Which is great for AAA and insurance companies to sell you roadside assistance solutions.

Where you have cell phone service.

If you do not have cell phone service, you are stuck in the middle of no where until someone happens to come by and help you out. I’ve had 2 tire blow outs and one valve stem failure – but I had actual spare tires. I’ve driven in off road locations where it is even recommended that you carry two spare tires.

Continue reading Transportation: One-third of cars sold in U.S. no longer carry a spare tire

Transportation: Other than Tesla, EV sales not doing well

EV sales have actually gone down year over year. And sales have gone well primarily where government offer deep discounts through subsidies.

Source: EV Sales Fizzle

The article blames cost, range anxiety, style and gas prices are low. A related issue, that I do not understand, is that auto makers, especially in the U.S. have abandoned the small vehicle market – they only make trucks and SUVs. Supposedly, few people in the U.S. want to buy small, fuel efficient, less expensive vehicles.

Not surprisingly, US auto manufacturers are planning a lot of very expensive, very big, SUV-type EVs in 2020.

Continue reading Transportation: Other than Tesla, EV sales not doing well