Celebrating Diminishment

  • August 8, 2023

It gets tedious having to bat away the rationalizations for the EV’s numerous shortcomings. Has there ever been a case of an inferior product being defended to the extent EVs are defended?

Try to imagine people defending Betamax against the VCR – when it had become obvious that the VCR was the superior product.

For those not old enough to remember, there was a brief battle for market between the video cassette recorder (VCR) and a rival called Betamax. The VCR cost less and performed better, so Betamax lost market. The VCR, in its turn, gave way to the compact disc – which is still around but has to vie for market with streaming.

This is how it usually goes – which is to say, it goes from worse to better – when the market is (per The Chimp) the decider.

But government often decides differently – as in the old Soviet Union, where the government decided the only car the average Russian would be allowed to have – maybe, after many years of waiting – would be a Trabant, which was an awful little car barely worthy of being called such. It was inferior in every way to the cars that were available in the West, which at that time was still very different from the old Soviet Union. The people who were stuck living in the Soviet Union understood they’d gotten the short end of the stick and didn’t try to rationalize the “virtues” of living (of being forced to live) a meaner, harder life.

As America becomes more and more like the old Soviet Union, we are witness to something truly remarkable: The ardent defense of a meaner, harder life. Trabant Worship, almost. Nothing else makes this strange phenomenon more evident than the endless apologias for the EV.

Bad enough that people are being forced into these things – assuming they can afford to be forced into them (most can’t). Much worse is that so many people are or seem to be happy about being forced into these things.

They defend diminishment.

They talk of “fast” charging as some kind of boon – when it means having to wait 30-45 minutes or longer to do what Americans have been accustomed to being able to do in less than five minutes. What’s your hurry, they say? Did Russians waiting in bread lines say the same?

They dismiss as “no big deal” a car that can maybe go 250-ish miles before it must be plugged in to a charge point and tethered there – while they wait there – for at least 30-45 minutes at a “fast” charger before it recovers a partial (80 percent) charge.

Who has to drive more than 100 miles in a day, they say?

As if that vitiated the fact that they used to be able to drive 500 (or more) miles in a day without having to stop and wait multiple times along the way.

They downplay the fact that it is not generally possible to “fast” charge an EV at home – because very few homes have the commercial-grade wiring and necessary upgrades to be capable of feeding 400-800 volts of electricity to an EV at home. Yet being able to charge at home is one of the most talked-up EV “benefits” as being able to charge at home means not having to stop at “fast” chargers or “dirty” gas stations (for less than five minutes, to get a fully fueled tank).

No worries, they say!

I’ll plug in when I get home and my EV will be ready to drive in the morning! But what if they need to go somewhere before then? What if they haven’t got time to wait overnight? Americans didn’t used to have to plan like this. That was for people who lived in countries like the old Soviet Union, where central planners planned everything.

Americans just went – whenever they liked – without any plan at all.

It is (or so it seems to be) no problem that EV’s range goes down by 20-50 percent when it’s very cold out. Or very hot. Or if you hook a trailer to one – as in the case of electric pick-ups.

If any other car imposed such a diminishment, no one would accept it – let alone make excuses for it.

But I will save money on maintenance! Sure, if you don’t count the money you’ll spend on a new battery when the one that came with it loses its ability to hold a full charge. And in the meanwhile, you’ll be paying for tires more often – because these wear out faster because EVs are much heavier and because of the high torque output of electric motors.

But that’s just it! EVs are quick! They accelerate like rocket ships! And – just like rockets – they burn through their “fuel” very quickly and then they stop accelerating at all.

These EVs – which don’t go even half as far as most other cars, that take at least five times as long to get going again than other cars – also cost tens of thousands more than other cars. People are literally paying more for less – and they are celebrating it.

The psychological implications of this are fascinating.

What appears to have happened in the West is that people have been so thoroughly shamed about not leading a mean and diminished life –  and taught that the highest virtue is to renounce a comfortable, affluent life – that they are eager to make excuses for the diminishment that is being imposed upon them.

This is what comes of a society in which meaning has been hijacked – and replaced – with a new meaning. It is not fundamentally dissimilar from the meaning the Soviets sought to impose upon Russians, but there is an important difference:

Most Russians understood they were being diminished – and didn’t pretend there was anything meaningful about it.

. . .

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