No, EVs Won’t Make American Roads Look like Cuba’s in 20 Years

The New York Times thinks EVs will cause gasoline-powered cars to become carefully preserved rural rarities, like 1950s American cars in Cuba. Join us as we eviscerate this profoundly idiotic premise.

oldtimer taxi cars parking in front of capitol in havanna

Let me begin by saying that I generally respect the New York Times and still subscribe, even though they eviscerated their automotive section years ago—and with it the reviews I used to write there. But I harbor no ill will toward the Times, despite the fact that they no longer run Dodge Journey reviews that include ten Journey song references. So it brings me no joy to point out that the Times periodically embraces a premise that could only make sense in Manhattan, and even then only on certain blocks. Case in point: last week’s piece entitled “Rural America’s Roads Might Resemble Cuba’s in 20 Years.”

If you’re thinking that means more palm trees, rum, and cigars for the back roads and byways of Kentucky, the subhead reads, “As the nation shifts to electric vehicles, picture well-kept but long-discontinued gas-powered pickups, especially in areas where charging stations may be sparse.” What’s this, you say? Well-kept pickup trucks that are 20 years old? Tell me more about how this could possibly come to pass.

a dark red 2003 dodge ram

How a well-kept but long-discontinued gas-powered pickup might look, in the future. Car and Driver

Between the headline and a final paragraph that references Chumbawumba—a classic rhetorical technique—author Mike Seely lays out his argument. In 2018, Seely visited Cuba, where 1950s American cars were preserved out of necessity, thanks to embargoes imposed during the half-century regime of a Communist dictator. You can probably see where this is going, since gradual adoption of new powertrain technology is very similar to the Cuban Revolution. Anyway, Seely caught a ride in some old American car and the transmission crapped out, but two hours later it was fixed. And that, he says, would never happen in the U.S.A.:

“In the States, a fix this quick would be possible only if a fully compatible transmission were lying around a given garage, ready to be installed at the drop of a hat (or transmission). Here, such a scenario would be highly uncommon—but it’s a different story in Cuba.” So . . . the rest of the world should punish us with intense embargoes for a few decades because then we’d get really good at fixing our cars in a timely fashion?

No! That would be stupid. He’s just saying that we don’t have readily available parts or expertise to fix gas-powered cars right now. But we will, once nobody drives gas-powered cars. Just like Cuba, see? I know, it’s a real logic pretzel, and when you’re making that kind of case you’d better have solid sources to back you up. By which I mean, a bunch of randos.

a blue xj jeep cherokee

What is this, Cuba? Car and Driver

a 1996 ford bronco

Spotted on the same day, down the street from that blue XJ. Is this Havana or something? Car and Driver

For instance, I’m not going to buy into this argument unless I find out that the COO of a Honda dealership in Washington State harbors the vague idea that electric cars are bad for the environment, probably. Thankfully, Seely talked to Jason Courter, the COO of a Honda dealership in Washington State, who told him, “Some of the messaging behind electric is that it’s clean. But what did it take to build that battery? It still took factories, and it still took the mining, which, from everything I’ve read, is not the cleanest process.” People, he’s read about this, okay? He also informs us that charging an electric car takes longer than filling up a gas tank. Whoa—this guy knows a lot about electric cars. Honda must sell a lot of them! Advertisement –

We also hear from Jorge Salazar-Carrillo, who is qualified to talk about electric cars because he is “a Cuban native and the director of Florida International University’s Economic Research Center.” He once took a “cumbersome” trip with a college professor (nerd alert!) in an unspecified electric car. ” ‘He had to calculate because there weren’t many electric stations,’ Mr. Salazar-Carrillo said, adding that a stop to charge took close to an hour.” Then we learn, from a scientist at the Department of Energy, that electric cars might not be that clean because electricity can be generated by coal-fired power plants. Just kidding! Not about the coal; about the scientist. That insight came from a guy who owns a scrap yard.

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