Opinion: Someone Needs to Teach Joe Manchin How EVs Work

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

Senator Joe Manchin (D, West Virginia) said something this week that makes me think he needs to sit down with a guide to how electrification in vehicles works.

Apparently, Manchin said the following at a recent energy conference: “I’m very reluctant to go down the path of electric vehicles. I’m old enough to remember standing in line in 1974 trying to buy gas.”

He also said he’s not willing to wait in line “for a battery for my vehicle, because we’re now dependent on a foreign supply chain. I’ve read history, and I remember Henry Ford inventing the Model-T but I sure as hell don’t remember the U.S. government building filling stations — the market did that.”

The Washington Post has more on this, including in an op-ed in which the author argues that Manchin’s stance both bodes poorly for attempts to fix the climate — since his support might be necessary to help the federal government encourage EV adoption — and is ignorant of history. The Post points out that the government actually did take an active role in helping gas stations proliferate.

Though I largely agree with author Greg Sargent’s take, I don’t want to regurgitate his opinion here. What bothers me about Manchin’s quote, aside from his unwillingness to get behind the transition to EVs (perhaps not shocking from a guy who’s been connected to coal interests) and his lack of awareness of basic history is that he also doesn’t even seem to know how EVs work.

For starters, though battery swapping is a tech solution that has been discussed, I’m not aware of it being used at scale. We typically don’t swap EV batteries when they’re drained. We recharge them. To my knowledge, the only battery swapping being done with most EVs (and hybrids, if applicable) is the battery being replaced, if necessary, years after purchase.

Perhaps Manchin is thinking of waiting for an EV to charge. Which, to be fair, can take a long time if a fast charger isn’t being used. This is a legit obstacle to EV adoption on a larger scale. That said, no one is stuck in a long line to charge because some country has put an embargo on electrons.

This speaks to a larger problem I’ve seen when it comes to Congress critters who are on the older side of 65 — Manchin is 74 — dealing with newer tech. They often get things way wrong. Remember how poorly some Senators misunderstood how social media works when they grilled Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and other key Silicon Valley players during various hearings involving Big Tech?

It’s a bipartisan problem, and the only solution short of voting younger people who are also tech-savvy (to be clear, it’s not a given that a young person knows tech well) into office is to have our representatives in Congress take the time to actually learn about these things before opening their mouths.

Sadly, given the state of the legislative bodies, I’m not optimistic. But it sure would be nice if the folks in Washington actually knew what they were talking about.

[Image: Shutterstock user Rachael Warriner]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

More by Tim Healey

Join the conversation
3 of 103 comments
  • BEPLA BEPLA on Mar 16, 2022

    Joe Manchin doesn't understand a lot of things. He doesn't need to because he has a constituency of one: Himself. He literally is in Congress to represent himself and his own coal interests - Nobody else. Not you, not me, not the people of West Virginia. If it's good for the WV, voters it's probably not good for Joe. Talk about cutting out the Middle Man, he saves money by cutting out unnecessary lobbyists!

    • 285exp 285exp on Mar 16, 2022

      If the very Republican voters of West Virginia don’t vote out a Democrat, they must not disagree with his positions very much. He’s no more beholden to his political benefactors than any other politician.

  • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Mar 19, 2022

    "aside from his unwillingness to get behind the transition to EVs" That's because THERE ISN'T ONE. Cannot happen. Will not happen. Ever. A small percentage will be produced annually and acquired by Party bosses, apparatchiks, collaborators, and the those in the "big club" who oversee it all. See: Trabant, Lada, KdF-Wagen. This is what's coming and its far more complicated than EVs nobody wants or asked for: https://ttmygh.podbean.com/e/gwp0029_luke_gromen_free/ Disclosure: I have a personal beef with Manchin over the Zohydro affair and all of the unethical and likely illegal actions thereof, but he is the sole voice of reason in an insane asylum. I still think he is angling for the Executive branch when Brandon's Admin is finally removed, he must want something I can't see this POS all of the sudden discovering patriotism.

  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.