As the resident sourpuss, I make it my business to complain about every industrial hypocrisy that crosses my path and the automotive sector has kept me so busy that there’s hardly any time left to address my own failings. Though I do have to confess that I sometimes feel guilty about how frequently I’m compelled to gripe about electric vehicles. Provided that you’re willing to work with their charging limitations and less-than-impressive ranges, EVs have a lot to offer even in their current state. But the way they’ve been marketed has been so consistently disingenuous that I often end my days on the cusp of a frustration-induced aneurysm.
The winds appear to be changing, however.
After years of watching the industry bang its head against the wall, the media seems prepared to shift its position. Accelerated adoption of pure electrics doesn’t seem to be happening and too many EV startups have ended up being little more than an opportunity for investors to throw away money. Increasingly fewer people ask me about battery-powered cars in a way that suggests true enthusiasm. Excitement has given way to dubiousness as more people have begun to ponder if electrics are really all they’re cracked up to be.
At the start of the year, the city of Chicago announced that it would be changing rules pertaining to traffic enforcement as part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s updated 2021 budget package. But the one that was causing the most concern among motorists was a provision to have speed cameras issue tickets to anybody traveling 6 miles an hour over the posted limit, rather than the previous cutoff of 10 MPH. While just a singular aspect of the city’s plan to resolve a $1.2-billion deficit, it turned out to be one of the most controversial items and appears to have resulted in a tenfold increase in fines.
According to local affiliate CBS Chicago, data from a public records request indicated that during the 36-day period before and after the change took effect on March 1st, citywide ticketing went up from 35,784 citations in the weeks before to a massive 398,233 in the proceeding weeks.
Apologies for all the semiconductor news. But it’s the topic of the day, with the United States Senate recently approving $52 billion in emergency spending to help bolster domestic chip production and another $190 billion for R&D programs.
Passing the vote (68-32) under the premise that boosting localized chip production would help prevent domestic automakers from having to cut corners, the Senate is also suggesting the funding could give the U.S. a competitive advantage against China. The Communist Party of China (CCP) has opposed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (formerly the Endless Frontier Act), with statements released from the National People’s Congress (NPC) demanding the legislation be halted immediately.
Having covered the White House’s incredibly expansive and costly infrastructure plan, specifically as it pertains to transitioning the entire nation toward alternative energy vehicles, we’ve often found ourselves asking questions. Puzzlers include wondering whether or not consumers actually want this change and how can we possibly expect to pay for this when we’ve already starting conjuring money out of thin air for other government programs. We don’t even know where we’re supposed to get the rare-earth minerals necessary for production when mining them is heavily regulated in the United States and hardly an endeavor that would be considered kind to the natural landscape.
Last week proved that we weren’t entirely alone in pondering how all of this greenification is supposed to work.
On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced it would be suspending oil and gas leases issued in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge during the last days of the Trump administration. Bent on maintaining the United State’s energy independence, Donald Trump had moved to expand fossil fuel development in ways that would have been at odds with predecessor Barack Obama. But today’s White House represents a return to form, with an interest in supplanting traditional energy concerns with what it believes will be greener alternatives.
It’s bad news for the Alaskan state government, which had hoped to devote a subset of the region to rebuilding its oil industry by taking advantage of its vast reserves. But environmentalists and a subset of tribal representatives have praised the decision to prohibit development on protected lands. We expect consumers will have conflicting opinions, based largely upon how much they’re willing to pay at the pump.
On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee advanced the Clean Energy for America Act making a few tweaks from earlier proposals. Changes include raising the federal EV tax rebate ceiling to $12,500 and opening the door for automakers who already exhausted their production quotas.
It’s good news for General Motors, which recently begged the government for just such a handout. But any manufacturer participating in the sale of electric vehicles will find themselves similarly blessed by the updated rules — assuming they make it through the halls of Capitol Hill with the necessary support.
Let’s take a peek behind the curtain to see what the updated proposal entails.
Now that it’s effectively too late to avoid a crisis, the United States has begun asking itself whether or not now is the time to put into motion a plan that will eventually lead to the nation manufacturing its own semiconductor chips. As you’re undoubtedly aware, the automotive sector has taken a beating as Asian-based supply chains are experiencing what can only be described as unprecedented demand. But they aren’t building enough to satisfy everyone and the local markets are taking precedent.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo proposed a $52-billion solution on Monday that would cram fresh government funds into production and research that could result in seven to 10 new U.S. factories. But that’s just to get the ball rolling on an industry that will take several years to mature, leaving some to wonder whether the country should even bother.
Texas lawmakers have presented Senate Bill 1728 as a way to nail electric vehicles for circumventing fuel taxes, sending everyone into a tizzy. Electrification has become about more than simply developing new powertrains under the auspices of environmentalism and it’s observable in this week’s headlines. But let’s discuss what SB 1728 hopes to achieve so that you might make up your own mind without this author’s forthcoming influence.
If passed, the bill would raise fees on EVs as a way to make up for the gas tax they’re not paying. The proposed legislation stipulates an annual fee of between $190 and $240, an additional fee of at least $150 for anyone who drives their car more than 9,000 miles a year, and then 10 bucks per year for the local charging advisory council. The rules would come into effect this September and raise an estimated $37.8 million for the State Highway Fund in 2022. While we cannot say whether that money will be used responsibly, the pretense is that the funds will be used to “[equalize funding for] road use consumption for alternatively fueled vehicles.”
A recent report from The Intercept has confirmed some of our biggest fears about connected vehicles. Apparently, U.S. Customs And Border Protection (CBP) has struck a deal with Swedish mobile forensics and data extraction firm MSAB for hardware that allows the government to not only siphon up vehicle data but also use it as a backdoor to access the information on your phone.
While this shouldn’t be all that surprising in an America that’s seen the Patriot Act pave the way for all sorts of government spying, the arrangement represents another item in a toolbox that’s frequently used against regular citizens. CBP is alleged to have spent $456,073 on a series of vehicle forensic kits manufactured inside the United States by Berla. Internal documents suggest that the system was unique and of great interest to the U.S. government, with a multitude of potential applications pertaining to automotive data. But what surprised us was just how much information carmakers thought their products needed to keep tabs on and how that plays into this.
The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) has informed a Senate Commerce subcommittee on transportation that the Biden Administration’s penchant for electric vehicles is starting to get under its skin. The union is recommending that the United States avoid setting any timeline for the proposed banning of internal combustion vehicles because it might cost a staggering number of jobs.
Ann Wilson, MEMA’s senior vice president of government affairs, said vehicle restrictions were unrealistic before 2040 and would obliterate entire segments of the auto industry without providing concrete assurances that the environment would be improved. While the latter claim can be argued endlessly, the former is pretty difficult to refute.
With Ontario embracing some of the strictest lockdown restrictions in the West and giving the police force carte blanche when it comes to enforcing public health, many Canadians have told us they’re not exactly enthralled with the idea of notifying their government that they’ve been out of the country. This is doubly true if they’ve just flown in by plane because the nation now requires a few days’ stay in a hotel as part of its mandatory 14-day quarantine for those traveling by air.
Due to the added time, cost, and general hassle of booking yourself into a hotel for 3 nights — awaiting the results of a mandatory COVID test before you’re technically allowed to go home to continue self-isolation — some travelers have opted to utilize ground transportation for the explicit purpose of avoiding restrictions. Rather than flying all the way into the Great White North, Canadians are flying into neighboring American airports and then hailing a taxi that will take them across the border.
Having noticed that Washington got a bit of publicity for vowing to ban all vehicles reliant on internal combustion after 2030, a dozen other American states decided it would be a good idea to reaffirm their own religious-like commitment to the environment by saying they too will be restricting your choice of automobiles by 2035.
The coalition of states — most of which don’t have a populace that’s dependent on automotive manufacturing for work — also formally asked the Biden administration to introduce standards that would obligate the United States to ban everything that emits smoke within the next fifteen years. Many activist groups are calling it a heroic act, though it’s difficult to recall any parables where the hero went around banning things and also represented an institutional power structure.
France is offering 2,500 euros (about $2,993 USD) to individuals interested in purchasing electrically driven bicycles. But it’s pursuing the Cash for Clunkers mentality that often leaves us questioning whether the people instituting these environmental plans are familiar with the concept of conservation. Because the current proposal requires participants to throw away their automobiles before they’re granted access to the funds.
The Biden administration expanded on its $174 billion proposal to boost electric vehicle sales on Thursday, suggesting that the United States government make it rain money on those purchasing EVs.
Technically a part of the $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, which has been expanded to include jobs and numerous environmental projects, the proposal makes a lot of special exemptions for alternative energy vehicles backed by large financial commitments. $100 billion will be set aside for new consumer rebates, potentially opening up the door for manufacturers that have already exhausted their quota of federal tax credits linked to zero-emission cars.
With environmental regulations being a cornerstone of the Biden-Harris platform, the administration’s newly installed Environmental Protection Agency head has signaled that changes are coming over the summer. However, before that can take place, Administrator Michael Regan said wants to make some big changes within the agency that he believes will bring it back to the way it operated before being restructured by the Trump administration.
In the meantime, the EPA will be actively revising the previous president’s relaxed fuel economy standard designed to give the industry some flexibility in terms of keeping larger vehicles and traditional powertrains on sale — something we’ve covered repeatedly as it ended up being the proverbial football in the highly political American gas war. Considering Mr. Regan’s history of praising California’s climate response and energy protocols, his allegiances in the conflict should be obvious. However, he has also suggested that the EPA needs to make decisions on what’s feasible, indicating he may not push for extreme measures. Though he has not drawn any lines in the sand when it comes to potential bans of internal combustion vehicles or stringent penalties for power plants and oil refineries.
Latest Car ReviewsRead more
Latest Product ReviewsRead more
- Jeffro As I sit here this morning with my 2 day old TRD OFF ROAD 4RUNNER tucked safely away in the garage, my head spins with this weird desire to locate a 85 LTD equipped with the epic 😵💫2.3 and the FOUR ON THE FLOOR. THE HOLY GRAIL. Ying and yang baby!The search begins.
- ToolGuy 404 error on the product link. Which probably isn't terrific marketing on TTAC's part. https://thinkwarestore.com/product/f200-pro-ca
- ToolGuy Second picture: Do you like pegboard storage? (I don't.)
- ToolGuy "WHAT???"(old 'I was in the artillery' joke)
- ToolGuy Oh and this.