Reading this morning’s thread I got caught up in the memories of pickups (vehicles, not attempts). In between thinking about the alternate history of the decline of the United States that can be read in the emergence of “luxury” light trucks and the pseuds who buy up to and more than six figures of rolling signifiers, I began to wonder about what the next few years will bring as we mover nearer to electric-vehicle transition.
From that same thread, inspired by Quinerly’s travels (and search for a new chariot), I returned to one of my favorite fantasies–how to do what many here enjoy: traveling in a house on wheels around all the extraordinary landscape this country has to offer. One of my oldest friends is a pretty hard core RV-er, pulling a humongous fifth wheel rig behind his truck; that’s not for me. When I procrastinate, I go to the classifieds for class B motorhomes: vans turned into microhomes for two.
Purely as vehicle porn, it’s fun to look at the Mercedes Benz-Winnebago confections and similar rolling palaces that run upwards of $180K. Back in the real world, we make good use of our Golden Pass to the NPS, (in non pandemic years) but our habit is to rent a car at our port-of-entry and let someone else change the sheets before we arrive at the motel. But I’d be really curious about how y’all would configure your on-the-road vehicle for less than the cost of a house to make it easy to enjoy weeks to months of peripatetic existence.
Back to the more systemic changes to come: I’m thinking that electric cars as mass-market vehicles are much closer than many anticipate. That guess (worth what you paid for it) turns on the fact that much of the technology for electric cars and light trucks has come along much faster than it might have seemed a few years ago–especially in battery development, but not only there–and on the recognition that the politics of electrification will shift dramatically at noon on Jan. 20th.
This is personal. My family’s next car will be an EV. Our main ride right now is a last-general plug-in Toyota Prius, which is a nod in that direction. But with only 10 miles of electric range (8 in winter), and an electric-hybrid algorithm that doesn’t prioritize all electric drive for those first 1o miles, we aren’t getting the results we hoped from a daily driving pattern that is mostly short trips. (Our second car isn’t so virtuous. It’s a 1998 BMW 3 series convertible that is, alas, falling apart. But since I began commuting by bicycle eight years ago, it does less than 3,000 miles a year even in non-pandemic seasons. One could reasonably see the Prius as a form of penance*…)
Our slightly electric car is running fine (it’s a 2013, and should roll on for a while), so the matter isn’t urgent. But I’m starting to look, and I’m trying to guess what the landscape for new, and especially used EVs is going to look like over the next year, or three, or five. Thoughts?
And re van-life. That really is a fantasy.
Finally: one of the interesting things about EVs right now is that just about every one besides Teslas depreciate really fast. So some quite recent vehicles are available cheap. Jonathan Gitlin, the cars editor over at Ars Technica has repeatedly said on Twitter and elsewhere that the biggest bargain in electric cars right now is the BMW i3–which sells for $50K new (definitely not worth it) but can be had in the mid teens in good shape (low miles and all that) if you’re willing to buy used. The key is a use case that truly doesn’t need the long range (~250 miles and up) that the most recent vehicles offer. That would actually work for my family and I wonder if the pandemic will expand that use case (more work at home, less high-mileage commutes) as another boost to the shift from gas to electrons.
Anyway–here’s an thread that’s open, especially for anything and everything gear-headed.
*The Prius is a perfect penitential vehicle for anyone who’s had too much fun driving serious iron. It’s a fine appliance. It does everything it says it will without fuss. It ambles 0-60, but it gets there, and will cruise the highway just fine. It’s easy on gas, and reliable as hell. And it is more boring than my 7th grade French class. Which is fine. And penance.
Image: Jean-Léon Gérôme, Chariot Race 1876.