Another Missed Target

  • November 3, 2023

You may recall when GM promised the battery-powered iteration of its Equinox crossover would have a starting price “around $30,000” when it became available for the ’24 model year.

How’s around $50,000 grab you?

Once again, the “target” has been missed – as if Stevie Wonder were trying to hit a bullseye from 50 yards out. And the reason why is essentially the same. GM is blind to the fact that EV batteries are very expensive. So expensive, in fact, that a battery-powered version of a vehicle costs 30-plus percent more than the engine-powered version. In fact, it costs more than that – because the battery powered version is cheaper.

Except for the battery.

An Equinox with an engine also has a transmission. Both of these cost money. A battery-powered vehicle has neither and for that reason ought to be cheaper.

But it isn’t.

The current (2023) Equinox – with an engine and transmission and all the small parts and peripherals, including its fuel delivery and exhaust system – lists for $26,600 or just a little bit more than about half the price of the battery-powered device that’s coming for 2024. Put another way, one can infer that that actual cost of the battery in the device amounts to nearly as much as an Equinox with an engine and a transmission and all that comes with them.

And what do you get for paying almost twice as much?

Well, for openers, you’ll get about 1,500 additional pounds of deadweight to haul around. That’s how much more the battery-powered version of the Equinox (the E is italicized by Chevrolet) weighs than the engine-powered version, which weighs 3,274 lbs. Almost all of that weight is the weight of the battery, which is a lot of battery (and why the cost of the battery). It turns the Equinox into a device that weighs close to 5,000 lbs.

And that’s why this device can only go about 250 miles before it runs out of battery power to propel itself.

Electricity does not obviate physics.

The Equinox with an engine can go much farther (some 400 miles, in city/highway driving) in part because it is so much lighter. Physics, again. It takes less energy to get 3,274 lbs. rolling than it does to get close to 5,000 lbs. rolling. And those additional 1,500 pounds of battery can only carry the energy equivalent of about 10 gallons of gas – or about two-thirds the tank capacity of the engine’d Equinox. The latter’s tank – when full – only weighs about 100 pounds because a gallon of gas weighs only 6 pounds and the tank itself weighs almost nothing as it is just an empty container. A battery is always full – even when it is empty – so you’re always dragging around the full weight of the thing.

But wait! There’s good news!

Chevy is claiming people who buy this device will only have to wait about ten minutes to get 70 miles of range at a DC “fast” charger! Meanwhile, the Equinox that isn’t a battery-powered device can be fully refueled (400-plus miles) in half that time. Seventy miles of range is energy-equivalent to about two gallons of gas – which isn’t much. And it’s actually less – when we’re talking devices – because devices’ range varies. The dash display says you have 70 – but you probably have only 60.

If it’s very cold, a lot less than that.

And this 10 minutes business assumes you have access to a DC “fast” charger that is capable of providing the extremely high voltage needed to achieve the feat. Many commercial chargers are much less “fast” – because they lack such capability and even those that do have limited capability, if other battery-powered devices besides yours are plugged in at the same time. The more that are drawing, the less there is to draw. Ten minutes becomes 20.

Or an hour.

This is the primary hair in the battery powered soup. A device is only useful for its intended purpose if it can be powered up so it can be used. How useful would a vehicle with an engine be if it were uncertain whether you could reliably (and quickly) find gas for it? If not, it becomes a toy, of sorts. Kind of like a private airplane that has to have 100-plus octane leaded aviation gas, which is only readily available at a few places.

At least you can fill up the private airplane in a few minutes.

But it’s the price of the device that most people probably aren’t going to be willing to pay. Nearly $50,000 for a device that goes maybe 250 miles? That’s going to cost you time all the time? Plus the worrying (all the time) about time?

It’s a Hindenburg-esque scene, isn’t it?

And it would still be such even if Chevy hadn’t reneged on its promise of a $30,000 or so (to start)  battery-powered device. Because such a device would still weigh an obnoxiously wasteful-of-energy 1,500 pounds more, go only about half as far and take many times longer to get going again – for many thousands more.

Oh, the humanity!

. . .

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