Aston Martin behind debunked anti-electic vehicle "study"
December 5, 2020 9:23 AM   Subscribe

A recent report questioning the emissions benefits of electric vehicles has been convincingly debunked, but not before several media outlets ran with it. After some extensive digging into the companies and individuals behind the study, it has become clear that Aston Martin, despite attempts to distance themselves from the report, used a sock puppet PR firm registered to the wife of the company's Director of Global Government and Corporate Affairs. Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield details some of the many flaws in the report in a video for Transport Evolved.

For the TL;DR inclined, the LinkedIn article by Michael Liebrich summarizes some of the key problems with the report's methodology:
The report compared the emissions of a petrol Volvo XC40 and a Volvo Polestar 2, the nearest pure-electric equivalent. The biggest errors Auke identified were as follows:
  1. the report used fuel consumption figures based on the WLTP test cycle, but these are well-known to under-estimate real-world figures by a wide margin;
  2. the report failed to account for upstream emissions in the production of petrol;
  3. the report failed to account for the fact that electricity in the UK (as in every single market of the world) will become cleaner over the lifetime of a car bought today;
  4. there appeared to be anomalies in the CO2 footprint associated with the manufacture of the rest of the car, excluding the drive train.
and poses many important about the funding of and motivation behind the study:
  1. Who actually wrote the Clarendon Communications report? For all its dodgy figures, it took a team of people a few months to put together. There were drafts, authors, layout people, photo rights to clear, emails to sponsors, discussions about the timing of release. How extensive was the deception?
  2. What did senior management at Aston Martin know? This was a sock puppet PR company in the name of the wife (presumably) of the company's Director of Global Government and Corporate Affairs. Aston Martin is a quoted company. There are governance rules. Were they broken?
  3. Were stock market rules broken?
  4. The MP for Warwick & Leamington, Matt Western, wrote a foreword for the Clarendon Communications report. He is the constituency MP for Gaydon, the site of Aston Martin's HQ and a largest plant, as well as Chair of the All Party Group on EVs, It is entirely appropriate for him to support his largest local employer and to fight for local jobs, so no blame should adhere to him. But will Matt Western now be issuing a statement distancing himself from the report and its dodgy figures?
  5. What did the other organisations listed in the Clarendon Communications report know? We need to hear from Bosch, Honda UK, Leaders Live (whoever they are), the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, McLaren Group, Optare (where former Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer is now Chair), and the Renewable Transport Fuel Association. Were they all in on this, or was it just Aston Martin?
  6. Were the journalists who covered the report in on this too, or were they fooled? Did they receive the report directly from Aston Martin and know that Clarendon Communications was a facade? Or was it distributed to them via Clarendon Communications and they did not undertake the basic checks that I did?
  7. Will the media outlets which carried the "50,000 miles to emissions breakeven" story now issue corrections?
  8. What will the reaction of Aston Martin's institutional investors be? Asset managers and owners want us to believe they have started paying real attention to ESG. So will this sort of behaviour by a major car company have consequences or not? Invesco, Fidelity, Vanguard - what are you going to do?
posted by tonycpsu (67 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
Welp this is gonna fuck up my Christmas plans but looks like I'll be boycotting Aston Martin for the foreseeable future.
posted by saladin at 9:28 AM on December 5, 2020 [69 favorites]


I have to admit a certain bafflement. Who in the car industry can watch an entry-model Tesla jump off the line faster than anything but the most expensive supercars out there, and still. think internal combustion is the right side of history to pick? Is this sort of nonsense going to help you put off retooling long enough to be worth getting to market five years too late? Do you just... do you just really need cars to go vroom?
posted by mhoye at 10:22 AM on December 5, 2020 [21 favorites]


Ah diddums little electric car industry - do you think the old ways would go down without a fight? As a former wind energy guy, I have to say: this is just the start. You won't be able to refute most of what they say — don't try, it's futile — because you can't dislodge a factoid with reason. Bullshit always takes more words to dispel, and no-one remembers or quotes rebuttals because they're not newsworthy.

Instead, quote realistic EROI figures. Don't just cherry-pick all-wind/solar regimes. Admit to some emissions in the fuel chain and battery manufacture. Lithium processing is no picnic. Be realistic with vehicle ranges and battery life: until there have been a couple of generations of EVs scrapped, you're just projecting. Stick to defensible figures and known benefits. Don't engage with astroturf and whataboutery. Don't expect to be liked. The value of what you're doing is not apparent to everyone.

Knowing the UK PR industry a bit, I'm amazed that the Renewable Transport Fuel Association isn't an astroturf front. The long-standing Renewable Energy Foundation is one of the UK's most virulently anti-renewables group around, and they work through sowing doubt and publishing huge tables of wind energy figures with no reference to other technologies' emissions. And no fucking surprise that The Times (Murdoch, aka Denier in Chief) and The Telegraph (everything renewable is wrong to them because it contains the word new, and it was Telegraph-adjacent folks who founded the REF) picked up the story. They're just doing their job.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it” is as true as it always was.
posted by scruss at 10:25 AM on December 5, 2020 [30 favorites]


The first day I drove a LEAF in 2012 I shoulda bought Tesla stock -- $700 then would be worth a trimotor today : (

ICE is such a baroque 19th century technology, but said observation is ironic since auto pioneers were creating viable BEV carriages in the early days and was the largest manufacture at the turn of that century, before destroying itself trying to be the Uber of the 1900s and other questionable corporate shenanigans.

But gotta say thank God for the Cybertruck or I'd be strongly tempted to get a Dodge Ram TRX for my adventure RV; 10mpg would get expensive quick but that's one heckuva compelling package of vehicular utility.

Poor Nissan had it all in 2010 but fracking resulting in historically cheap gasoline cut the legs off their business plan of creating a competitive commuter I guess.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=ymll is the real price of (West Coast) gas going back to the 1950s; if 2020 gas prices were $5-10 like it looked they were going to be in the 2000s "Peak Oil" thesis crazy times Nissan would have a lot more dealer enthusiasm for LEAFs I think.

One thing I don't see in Tesla bull valuation analyses tho is what happens to gas prices when half the fleet is BEV and Saudi Arabia's $3/bbl gasoline is the main supplier for the world and we're in total supply glut? Do gas prices collapse to the margin of what the KSA can supply, like $2?? $2 gas would add more life to ICE I would think.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 10:41 AM on December 5, 2020 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, on the other side, there are a lot of people who think that an electric car is a zero emissions vehicle, merely because there are zero *tailpipe* emissions.

EVs emit about a third as much carbon as ICE, which is a lot if you think about it. But even that is a reductive assessment, because the manufacture of cars, roads, and suburban sprawl has a massive carbon impact even before you get to the emissions of individual vehicles. Car culture is the real problem, internal combustion merely one visible facet of it.

If you want to help the planet, stop encouraging electric cars; start encouraging public transit and walkable urban development instead.
posted by splitpeasoup at 11:07 AM on December 5, 2020 [30 favorites]


Or maybe we can encourage EVs for people who don't live in areas served well by mass transit now and won't be absent a massive transformation of their communities that could be decades away while we also invest heavily in public transit and walkable urban development in communities that are so inclined.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:13 AM on December 5, 2020 [37 favorites]


It should also be said that when comparing a new electric vehicle to a gas-powered car that you already own, the gas car wins for ecology as long as you keep driving it to keep it out of the landfill. It is not required that two things must be new to compare their utility.
posted by Brian B. at 11:16 AM on December 5, 2020 [3 favorites]


It should also be said that when comparing a new electric vehicle to a gas-powered car that you already own, the gas car wins for ecology as long as you keep driving it to keep it out of the landfill. It is not required that two things must be new to compare their utility.

I'm not following this argument. Every electric car manufactured displaces the manufacture of a new gas car. When you buy an electric car you don't just send your old gas car to the landfill. You sell it to someone who doesn't want a newly manufactured gas car. It's a win for everyone, unless you mean that we just need to stop making cars.
posted by JackFlash at 11:31 AM on December 5, 2020 [9 favorites]


It should also be said that when comparing a new electric vehicle to a gas-powered car that you already own, the gas car wins for ecology as long as you keep driving it to keep it out of the landfill.

Citation needed. This is not true on most measures.
posted by ambrosen at 11:31 AM on December 5, 2020 [4 favorites]


Well, there was that poorly designed Cash for Clunkers program in the US that forced dealers to disable the engines and destroy / recycle the vehicles. But most of the time a trade in is becoming someone else's car.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:40 AM on December 5, 2020


The best car is, indeed, no car. There are way too many externalities passed off throughout the ownership and usage chain of automobiles no matter how powered. Everyone should be walking, taking transit, or riding bikes/e-bikes. Then we'd be able to get back to human-scaled built environments.

Remember when Volkswagen lied about diesel emissions to sell cars?

Good times. Hey did any cigarette executives ever do time for lying about the health risks of tobacco and killing hundreds of millions of people?
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:41 AM on December 5, 2020 [6 favorites]


Citation needed. This is not true on most measures.

It would take over ten years average to exceed the carbon from a newly made EV, plus the two extra years assumed above to break even when new, where the point would arrive to replace EV batteries and start over.
posted by Brian B. at 11:50 AM on December 5, 2020 [5 favorites]


unless you mean that we just need to stop making cars.

One less car at a time, yes.
posted by Brian B. at 11:51 AM on December 5, 2020 [4 favorites]


The best car is, indeed, no car. There are way too many externalities passed off throughout the ownership and usage chain of automobiles no matter how powered. Everyone should be walking, taking transit, or riding bikes/e-bikes.

I think it would be wise to not be so eager to lose the argument right out of the gate.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:55 AM on December 5, 2020 [6 favorites]


[public transit involves] a massive transformation of their communities that could be decades away

This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. We're content to believe that public transit and planned cities involves a lot of new time and money whereas car infrastructure comes for free. The latter is simply not true.

We constantly spend tremendous amounts of money on building new roadways and then resolving the inevitable congestion that paradoxically follows. Globally, more people are flocking to cities than ever before, and we're spending trillions of dollars a year on new roadways and new urban infrastructure in general. In India and China we are literally building new cities all the time. So as we are doing all this constant, heavy, and expensive building and rebuilding there's definitely a choice whether to prioritize cars or not. We're just handwaving that cars are the obvious choice but there's no real basis to this.
posted by splitpeasoup at 11:57 AM on December 5, 2020 [10 favorites]


> We're just handwaving that cars are the obvious choice but there's no real basis to this.

This is a false dichotomy. There is no "choice", but a question of how to prioritize many interventions, one of which is pushing EV adoption in lieu of traditional gas-powered vehicles. EVs are being made now, while the trend toward global urbanization you cite is very slow, with best estimates saying it will take 30 years just to get to the point where 2/3 of the global population lives in cities, which still leaves billions worldwide. In the mean time, the planet is dying, and we need interventions that can cut emissions now. EVs are one of those interventions, which makes an attempt to cast them as part of the problem self-defeating.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:03 PM on December 5, 2020 [4 favorites]


Surely not the same Aston Martin that produced a V12 Vanquish with such a crappy paddle shifting system that it had to offer a manual retrofit to make the car drivable? The same one that promised an entirely Aston-designed hybrid V6 drivetrain to replace the AMG Mercedes one it can't afford to keep using? Cool.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:05 PM on December 5, 2020 [4 favorites]


how much cleaner are electric pontoon boats than outboard motor-powered boats?

asking for my 30-yr future self and all coastal city dwellers
posted by lalochezia at 12:07 PM on December 5, 2020 [2 favorites]


how much cleaner are electric pontoon boats than outboard motor-powered boats?

I'd estimate a damn sight cleaner, since most boats with outboards don't have single outboards anymore - they have two or three or four, all rated at 350hp or greater. This is to get your 24 foot center console out to the reef to fish faster. And those outboards are usually a minimum of $15,000 each.

I believe your electric (probably solar powered) pontoon boat is a solid plan.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 12:30 PM on December 5, 2020 [1 favorite]


Here you are.

I happened to be on the river in the Grand Canyon when this hybrid electric commercial raft went by. The park superintendent was on the trip and yelled to us "Can you hear me now?" as they went silently by.

It was kind of a one time gimmick to demonstrate the possibility of replacing the typical 30 horsepower 4-stroke motors these commercial trips normally use. They run on electric during the day while on the river but have to run a 4-stroke Honda generator in camp all night to recharge the batteries. It hasn't been down the river since.
posted by JackFlash at 12:42 PM on December 5, 2020 [2 favorites]


I have to admit a certain bafflement. Who in the car industry can watch an entry-model Tesla jump off the line faster than anything but the most expensive supercars out there, and still. think internal combustion is the right side of history to pick?

100% of the people who have spent even 30 seconds driving (or even being driven) in an Aston Martin DB9.

It’s fine not to be car person, beyond just seeing them as a way to get from place A to B. Just like it’s fine to not be a food person, and see it as fuel to put into your body to survive. But, not all of us want to be subjected to the protein paste existence of driving a Tesla.
posted by sideshow at 1:16 PM on December 5, 2020 [2 favorites]


I get that a huge part of the appeal of an ICE is the Sturm und Drang. I'm a gearhead too; one who's modifying the suspension and brakes on his old hot hatch to keep it fun and amortize it out without buying a newer petrol-powered car, while trying to convince the family that a classic Saab convertible with a battery pack and electric motor from a wrecked Leaf isn't a horrific idea.

What’s stopping the supercar makers from engineering an electric V12? 12 seperate electric motors torquing a crank in firing order? How would that not be preferable to an ICE?
posted by MarchHare at 1:58 PM on December 5, 2020 [3 favorites]


100% of the people who have spent even 30 seconds driving (or even being driven) in an Aston Martin DB9.
Haha. 100% - 1 I guess. I mean, it was pretty cool in a James Bond kind of a way, but definitely the past.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 2:32 PM on December 5, 2020 [5 favorites]


If you want to help the planet, stop encouraging electric cars; start encouraging public transit and walkable urban development instead.

That kind of leaves the people not living in heavily urbanized cities out to hang, though. I live in Indianapolis, for instance, and there’s simply no possible way the city is ever going be able to become your walkable, mass-transit, dream. It’s simply too spread-out, and jobs are rarely within anything close to walkably nearby. People will always need cars and trucks to do almost anything here. The rest of the state is pretty much the same. We need EVs to be part of our near future.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:45 PM on December 5, 2020 [11 favorites]


DB9 is one of the better-looking "car that looks like that" models (GT Coupe, I guess), but similar to MarchHare, the first thing that comes to mind is "great, how about some hybrid muscle?" Teslas are not that, and from what I understand their wow-factor depends almost completely on a full battery. They aren't perfect on the drag strip.

I live in Indianapolis, for instance, and there’s simply no possible way the city is ever going be able to become your walkable, mass-transit, dream

"Walkable" is the far-side ideal, that's for sure, but Indy could have free PT or other strategies in certain areas like Portland OR used to have, so the walkability can be augmented by being able to just hop on a bus to the other places you want to go. There are ways of dealing with this stuff, and not all of them require solving the Traveling Salesman Problem.
posted by rhizome at 4:03 PM on December 5, 2020 [3 favorites]


But, not all of us want to be subjected to the protein paste existence of driving a Tesla.

Teslas usually have better acceleration and handling than the average ICE vehicle. You're saying "Teslas are boring" but so are 99.9% of ICE cars.

What’s stopping the supercar makers from engineering an electric V12? 12 seperate electric motors torquing a crank in firing order?

What's the benefit of doing this, other than having twelve of something?
posted by meowzilla at 4:06 PM on December 5, 2020 [4 favorites]


TIL: Aston Martin still exists.
posted by octothorpe at 4:09 PM on December 5, 2020 [5 favorites]


It strikes me as odd—not that a (ICE) car company would be casting FUD on electric cars—but that Aston Martin specifically would do so. I am not exactly their target market, but it seems to me, if you're considering the purchase of an Aston Martin, you want an Aston Martin, not some unnamed fancy fast car. Maybe I'm wrong and they're seeing a lot of people comparison-shop against Teslas or Porsche Taycans. Or maybe they're just asking uncomfortable questions like "why isn't a Vanquish faster than a Tesla?"
posted by adamrice at 4:14 PM on December 5, 2020 [3 favorites]


Even if one accepts that an EV has a greater carbon budget (which probably assumes the use of zero recycled materials, but I'm being generous here) until it reaches 50,000 miles, that doesn't actually make an ICE better. It isn't 1970 any more. 100,000 miles is considered a floor for how long any vehicle should last. The world is still better off even if serial lessees lease EVs instead, since they almost all end up on the used market once the term I is up and will be driven into the ground by someone.

Reducing the carbon emissions from personal autos by even 25% would be huge, and there simply isn't a way to get there with gas powered cars unless we start manufacturing carbon neutral gasoline at the same price as that made from oil somehow.
posted by wierdo at 4:15 PM on December 5, 2020 [3 favorites]


Reducing the carbon emissions from personal autos by even 25% would be huge

Not super huge, from what I can find it would be about a 5% reduction in the total US carbon emissions, where the military is estimated to be responsible for 3x as much. So, 25% of 25%, and that's bundling cars with factories and airlines and construction and freight. A case could be made that auto emissions are actually inconsequential.
posted by rhizome at 4:22 PM on December 5, 2020 [1 favorite]


My little college town in Ohio recently announced a new car-sharing service with Nissan Leaf EVs. There are a couple of Leafs and several Teslas privately owned here, but there are quite a few Leaf fleet vehicles owned by the city. I'll be interested to see if the car-share service pans out in practise. Indianapolis had a similar service that died of neglect.

I charge my little Tesla at home 99% of the time, and the local utility is committed to using renewable sources. They have a mix of solar, hydro, landfill gas recovery in the mix. I think they're at about 85% renewable, with a target of 100% in a few years. Charging on the road is dependent of the charging stations power source, but that's a small portion of the total for me.
posted by Surely This at 4:40 PM on December 5, 2020 [4 favorites]


To rhizome's point, years ago I compared how many BTUs of energy are used to heat a modest home in the Midwest for a year vs. driving a car with average gas mileage 12K miles a year and my conclusion was that there's a far larger environmental return on making your home energy efficient than switching to an efficient car. That might not be the case in more temperate parts of the country, but in general I think people tend to villainize cars because they're so visible, they're symbols of consumption and we are conscious of the act of filling them with fuel, whereas houses are just invisible background parts of our lives where the fuel effortlessly arrives with no action on our part other than paying a bill. (People who use fuel oil or propane tanks may be the exception to that.)
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 4:41 PM on December 5, 2020 [2 favorites]


not super huge, from what I can find it would be about a 5% reduction in the total US carbon emissions

Transportation in the US is 28% of greenhouse gas emissions of which vehicles make up 83%. After greening the grid, electrifying transport will have the biggest impact on emissions reduction, and in fact the two go hand in hand.
posted by gwint at 4:43 PM on December 5, 2020 [10 favorites]




Just like it’s fine to not be a food person, and see it as fuel to put into your body to survive. But, not all of us want to be subjected to the protein paste existence of driving a Tesla.

Counterpoint: food culture is an ancient, necessary and fundamental part of human existence, forming much of the underpinning to many of the historical, social and economic relationships that define the identities, behaviours and worldviews of over 7 billion people. Car culture is a manufacturer and marketer driven hobby almost exclusively confined to a particular subset of economically privileged men, predicated on the belief that this hobby is sufficiently important to justify gross waste of finite resources, the destruction of the ecosystem that sustains us, and the avoidable deaths of millions of people.

I mean, I like playing D&D, but if twenty sided dice turned out to be an integral part of of an existential threat to our civilisation, I guess I'd find another hobby.
posted by howfar at 5:24 PM on December 5, 2020 [27 favorites]


When you're talking about the largest or second largest emitter in the world, 5% is a lot. Lone more than the entire carbon budget of some fairly populous nations. That is not insignificant by any measure.
posted by wierdo at 5:24 PM on December 5, 2020 [2 favorites]


I mean, I like playing D&D, but if twenty sided dice turned out to be an integral part of of an existential threat to our civilisation, I guess I'd find another hobby.

Counter-counter point: if it was really just a hobby, it would be insignificant compared to just about anything. For the most part, car people collect interesting older cars and don't drive much more than the average person. As usual, it's the super-wealthy who drive demand for brand new gas guzzlers. Without them, they wouldn't still being built, though even then production numbers are usually so small as to themselves be insignificant in terms of carbon emissions. The ultra-wealthy certainly use more than their fair share of the carbon budget, but that usage isn't really driven by their car collecting habit. Flying around the country/world on a jet carrying a few people at most burns a lot more carbon than some McLaren that gets driven a couple thousand miles a year.
posted by wierdo at 5:31 PM on December 5, 2020 [2 favorites]


I guess I'd find another hobby.

Perhaps. But the over 4 million people who watched a Formula 1 race, in person, last year likely aren’t going to. Or the quarter million at Le Mans, the 100k at Daytona, the 400k at Indy, the 700k in Baja, etc, etc.

A significant portion of the human race engages, physically, in your so-called “manufacturer and marketer driven” hobby.
posted by sideshow at 6:25 PM on December 5, 2020 [1 favorite]


Cars are a true problem to solve, because they are so useful, some of the time. I live in the west, and the things I like to do would be effectively impossible without personal transportation. Beside all my bourgeois pastimes, (climbing, skiing) simply experiencing this amazing and vast place requires a car, or something very much like it that doesn't exist yet. I'm very excited that I can realistically plan on an electric vehicle the next time I buy a car.
As a semi former car guy, the reality of ICE is simply alienating now. But car people are inventive. There is a burgeoning industry of converting interesting old cars to battery electric. If you follow the bread crumbs, you'll find many very exciting things going on. I have a 1955 Citroen Traction Avant roller, and planning to convert it to electric next year.
The Aston Martin thing is deeply weird, because they are actually developing electric conversions for their own vehicles.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 6:52 PM on December 5, 2020 [8 favorites]


"What’s stopping the supercar makers from engineering an electric V12? 12 separate electric motors torquing a crank in firing order?" MarchHare

That sounds like the inverse of a Formula1 cam system which I believe are solenoid-driven, 'electo-heads' could boats about the size of their solenoids!

gvint transport in NZ is ~43%, so broadly similar which is not surprising given all societies designed around cars.

seanmpuckett eventually yes I hope so but like Carmody'sPrize I live and work in sparse-pop. region driving distance South to North ~300+km, East to West ~450km and a mean of 6 people/km².

No passenger rail, almost no buses, very variable waether - 25-30°C shifts in temp across day not uncommon, harsh fohn winds, long rain periods, many unsealed gravel roads, lot of mountains and hills. Power cuts quite frequent esp. rural areas, and electricity generation borderline corrupt whenever we get a right-wing govt.

I like to think my next car will be electric too but no one's going to walk and e-bike this kind of terrain for their daily tasks.
posted by unearthed at 8:08 PM on December 5, 2020


As usual, it's the super-wealthy who drive demand for brand new gas guzzlers. Without them, they wouldn't still being built, though even then production numbers are usually so small as to themselves be insignificant in terms of carbon emissions.

There were 2.9 million pickup trucks, and 4.8 million midsize or large SUVs sold in America last year. That's more than 35 states have residents. Talking about a few richie rich supercars is completely ignoring the real problems.

Anyways, between the discussion about how cars will all be electric so don't worry about the GHG emissions, and the discussion about how cars will all be autonomous so don't worry about the tens of thousands of deaths a year in the US alone, and the lack of discussion about how cars and car culture are making cities that are car-dependent, land-grabbing, building-emission inducing and deeply unpleasant, I just saw an interesting story on how scientists traced mass coho salmon dieoffs to a chemical found in car tires.

I'm sure there will be a not-all-cars-use-tires lobby show up soon.
posted by Superilla at 9:09 PM on December 5, 2020 [5 favorites]


If you can't appreciate that solid wall of always-in-the-right-gear torque shoving you out of the corners, and see the potential in that, are you really a car guy? The future of performance is tyres optimally balanced right on the edge of traction for every millisecond of the race, just carving grooves in the tarmac all the way round. It's a 1kw/kg street sleeper with zero maintenance. It's no Carnot limit meaning you have to dissipate >twice your drive power in heat. It's that one Nissan LEAF with the overspec inverter doing 60mph rolling burnouts, and the bicycle that does ten second quarter miles, and can be pedaled home afterwards.

I'm sure there will be a not-all-cars-use-tires lobby show up soon.
Where we're going, we don't need etc etc...
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 9:18 PM on December 5, 2020 [5 favorites]


Perhaps. But the over 4 million people who watched a Formula 1 race, in person, last year likely aren’t going to. Or the quarter million at Le Mans, the 100k at Daytona, the 400k at Indy, the 700k in Baja, etc, etc.

A significant portion of the human race engages, physically, in your so-called “manufacturer and marketer driven” hobby.


Motorsports fan here. I was super excited about the new V6 hybrid powertrains replacing the screaming V8s, and still think the current powertrains are far, far cooler. The things the teams have done with packaging and the MGU-H in particular are just some fantastic ground-breaking engineering. I look forward to a future when Formula 1 isn't burning petrol for power - maybe not even burning anything. Formula E is kinda nifty, but it doesn't have a patch on F1 for me, with its more limited development, and lower speeds and street circuits. But it's not because it's electric - you could totally have an electric F1 that I would watch, you just need stored energy density to come up a little more first. The world will get there, and F1 will have to go with it, or lose a much bigger part of what it is: the pinnacle of automotive engineering, where truly vast resources are invested in R&D by manufacturers and teams.

The most awesome car anyone has made for a while, in any category of motorsport, is to my mind the Volkswagen IDR, an all-electric that holds the current records on the Goodwood hillclimb, Pike's Peak, and is second only to the Porsche 919 Hybrid EVO (a hybrid!) on the Nurburgring.

Suspension, set-up, tyres, aero - these are the things that make a race car, not the engine.
posted by Dysk at 12:28 AM on December 6, 2020 [5 favorites]


Alongside "Transport Evolved" - youtuber Sam Alexander has been publishing a number of recent mass media debunkings about EVs: for example the idea that (heavier) EVS may emit more tyre particulates "making them potentially just a polluting as ICE cars". The cited research claims regular hatchback tyres lose particles at a rate of 5.8 grammes per KM. Alexander points out that at this rate the entire tyre would be worn away after about 1,300 miles. There seems to be quite a lot of rather murky PR at work, leading to some very credulous, biased or one sided coverage of this area.
posted by rongorongo at 12:31 AM on December 6, 2020 [3 favorites]


What's the benefit of doing this, other than having twelve of something?

...those ones go to twelve.

It does seem, though, like you could maybe have a "virtual analog" approach to electric cars (not a car guy, but a synth one, where our old tech/new tech wars are very similar but less consequential)...couldn't an electric engine try and model the acceleration/power curves of a gearboxed ICE, along with some fancy sound modelling? Sure, not the same thing, but you could get *some* of the experience, perhaps.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:35 AM on December 6, 2020 [1 favorite]


To be clear, I get it, I love to row my own gears. I love the sound and the feeling of internal combustion. Even a shit box can be fun to throw around. It feels like an event in a way that electric cars simply can't match. I even used to actively enjoy a little light wrenching, though wiring up a custom entertainment system run off a PC in the trunk was equally appealing.

However, I also I see the effect that the combustion products have on my neighbors, which are killing more people than are getting run over and are dying in crashes and I can't help but think that electrification can't come soon enough, and neither can getting (most) cars out of the damn city.
.
Happily, even when that day does come, there will still be plenty of old cars roaming the roads. There will still be ICE kit cars being made long after we're all dead. We aren't actually losing anything if the mass market goes entirely electric, but we will gain a lot. Even more if we can get people who live or work in large cities to keep them out.
posted by wierdo at 2:17 AM on December 6, 2020 [2 favorites]


I live in Indianapolis, for instance, and there’s simply no possible way the city is ever going be able to become your walkable, mass-transit, dream.

Ever is a long time, even in Indianapolis.
posted by fairmettle at 2:54 AM on December 6, 2020


I have a lot of sympathy for those who love the noise, smell and mechanics of ICE vehicles for the purpose of racing them or in preserving and restoring old models. It is hard to find one's hobby threatened by the advent of EVS. The new technology might have its own devotees, and some followers will be happier to make the jump there - but not everybody. It is like comparing steam trains with modern locomotives - and in the same way I'd expect there to be a group of people sourcing and refining small quantities of fuel for their cars, showing them off, taking them on limited road runs and racing them.

But the real source of change will come from the mass market of motorists: people more concerned with purchase costs, fuel costs, running costs, ease of driving, etc. This is the market segment that I think is about to go through an s-shaped adoption curve of EVs. The early part of an S adoption curve can easily be confused with some niche, background event - then we go through an explosion to the point where 85% or more people have adopted the new technology: see smarphones, LED lightbulbs, etc. Here is an article from Ross Teissen - discussed also here - that looks at a century of S curve adoptions and makes predictions that there will be an inflexion point around 2023 where the price of oil starts to collapse as a result of decreased demand: at the same time we will see a glut of used ICE cars and elderly ICE cars as people transfer to EVS or prepare to do so. Its going to be a bumpy ride for the auto-industry: not so much the niche players and those in the mass market with a legacy investment in ICE production.
posted by rongorongo at 3:05 AM on December 6, 2020 [2 favorites]


"Yeah, but lots of people really love it" is a terrible reason to keep cars around which we know are killing us, sorry. I have basically no sympathy for this position. The one point i'll concede is that that we'd be better off getting rid of cruises entirely, immediately, rather than cars, even though lots of people also really love cruises.

Fixing global warming is going to involve some lifestyle sacrifices for all of us. Our current world is unsustainable. I WILL eat goddammit protein paste if it gives the next few generations a future, c'mon.
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:31 AM on December 6, 2020 [7 favorites]


But, not all of us want to be subjected to the protein paste existence of driving a Tesla.

I laughed at "subjected to", as though it's a choice between Tesla and nothing. You've got options now ranging from the (adorable) Nissan Leaf, a perfectly useful little family vehicle, all the way through the new Porsche Taycan. All cars are going to be hybrid-minimum, and most likely all electric, in five years, whatever experience you happen to want.
posted by mhoye at 6:56 AM on December 6, 2020 [3 favorites]


All cars are going to be hybrid-minimum

I remember when modern EV's were on the theoretical horizon, sometimes on the road, and all the talk was about the performance symmetry of having electric for city driving and start/stop acceleration as it relates to pollution and gas waste, while having a very small engine that kicked in for cross country over 50mph that charged as you drive, all without needing the heavy transmission (and using less batteries). It seems we switched the national conversation to funding cross country charging networks, yet to be made, under threat of a lithium shortage.
posted by Brian B. at 7:21 AM on December 6, 2020


> elderly ICE cars

this reminded me that the baby boom isn't getting any younger, every year ~4M boomers turn 65 -- and over the next 10-15 years this 80-million strong demographic is going to age off the road for the most part.

Leaving the Trader Joes last week I was behind one elderly driver going about 20mph on a 45mph avenue, and I thought how a) that's going to be me someday then b) no, the way things are looking now my Cybertruck will be a perfectly capable Level 5 self-driver before I get that old and infirm.

There's also a c) Zoomers are growing up in an Uber/Lyft world not the world of ~20c gas that was the 50s and 60s.

I think Tesla's $567B market cap is a bit on the high side as a car manufacturer, but if they get their autonomous car-hire story wired and on the ground an AAPL-like $2T is in the cards for them.

The thing about TSLA that is both interesting and frightful is that Musk now has an infinite Bag of Holding stuffed with billions of dollars of cash available for any R&D/corporate infrastructure play he wants.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 7:25 AM on December 6, 2020 [1 favorite]


>we switched the national conversation to funding cross country charging networks, yet to be made,

most trips are still going to be in-town and I think owners with BEVs unsuitable for longer trips will have affordable rental options soon enough . . . Enterprise's 'we pick you up' will become 'your Model 2 will be arriving shortly, enjoy your trip'

>under threat of a lithium shortage

TMK lithium is a relatively abundant and accessible resource; spot prices are flat or declining from the earlier run-up last decade.

Tesla is working on a closed-cycle for its battery packs which I have to assume makes sense on a cost-savings basis.

I am relatively certain the transportation picture of 2030 is going to be a lot different vs. the 2020-2030 change; that's what the above S-curve does; the initial period is slow acceleration, the middle picks up the pace, then boom, there you are. (We're still in the late slow part.)
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 7:42 AM on December 6, 2020 [2 favorites]


It is the new Fisker "Emotion" that Aston Martin is worried about, and likely what precipitated the fake reports. Fisker was a designer for Aston Martin, and he also helped develop the "James Bond" BMW. Fisker is regarded as one of the top 10 automotive designers ever. The Emotion is a 755 HP super car that will go for about 155k and is flat out stunning. Honestly there is nothing else on the market like it at even twice the price. All production is sold out. It is no Tesla, this thing is a visual masterpiece.

On a separate note, Fisker is producing a very cool SUV called the Ocean. In the Fisker manner it is also gorgeous. And here is something that should strike fear into the auto world - the Ocean can be leased - 30k miles annually, all service, repair, and possibly insurance included. $370 a month. If you drive anything like 20k miles a year or more this will be a very very hard deal to beat. And even if you don't it is a gorgeous BEV which you might be able to buy for 30k with tax credits.

Fisker previously had a line of vehicles - his company failed, probably because too early. Hopefully he has learned his lessons. I really like what I am seeing. I ordered an Ocean, we will see....

I've terrible MF skills, but you can see the Ocean @ fiskerinc.com and you can search for the Fisker EMotion images if you want to see a truly beautiful supercar.
posted by jcworth at 8:53 AM on December 6, 2020 [4 favorites]


^Fisker photos
posted by Brian B. at 9:08 AM on December 6, 2020 [1 favorite]


It should also be said that when comparing a new electric vehicle to a gas-powered car that you already own, the gas car wins for ecology as long as you keep driving it to keep it out of the landfill. It is not required that two things must be new to compare their utility.

Sure, but that is not actually the choice because like almost everything else important, consumer choice plays no real role here. The important thing is the flow of cars into and out of the overall fleet, your individual emissions contribution should really just be a per capita share of the society you live in rather than a personal accounting since all those choices inter-relate.

What matters is what society as a whole decides to do and enforces upon itself through its governments. How did Norway get to 75% of new car registrations being EVs? They didn't all individually decide to do that, they collectively decided that this was desirable and required it of themselves collectively through incentive packages. Same with the UK's extremely rapid grid decarbonisation which went from 400+ g/kWh to 200 in about 15 years. We didn't just all switch to suppliers who buy renewable electricity, we required all electricity suppliers to buy a share of their electricity that way and mandated the phase-out of coal along with the rest of Europe.

Similarly, if there was no taxation difference between driving an EV and an ICE, it would take a long, long time to reach price parity if it ever did. Thanks to the duty on fuel in many places and the differences in other taxes between the two vehicle types it is already better to drive an EV if you have a long daily commute and charging at both ends. This year they changed a boring technical rule on tax treatment of company cars - making company car EVs tax free which ICE company cars have not been a long time - and that single rule change will put probably hundreds of thousands of new EVs on the road in the 24 months. Since company cars often drive a large number of miles / year (because as a benefit it makes most sense to give to people who drive a lot for work anyway) this will have a disproportionate impact.

While I also have an aesthetic distaste for car culture, I have never seen any proposal for how you assemble a political majority to counter it. Behavioural changes that have neither a groundswell of popular support will neither be adopted voluntarily nor will they realistically be imposed. Ditto the idea that part of our required savings will come from encouraging people to heat and cool their houses less aggressively, great idea, lowest possible cost, etc. etc. but also just not going to happen.
posted by atrazine at 9:38 AM on December 6, 2020 [4 favorites]


But the real source of change will come from the mass market of motorists: people more concerned with purchase costs, fuel costs, running costs, ease of driving, etc. This is the market segment that I think is about to go through an s-shaped adoption curve of EVs. The early part of an S adoption curve can easily be confused with some niche, background event - then we go through an explosion to the point where 85% or more people have adopted the new technology

My understanding is that UK government rules as they currently stand mean that either my next car, or my next car but one is likely to be hybrid or electric. I'm not in the market for a new car any time soon, but the main problem with switching to electric for me is that I park my car on the street, and there's currently no way to charge it. Nor do I drive it anywhere that is very likely to have a charging point. I think I need quite a bit more charging infrastructure, so am likely to be a later adopter.
posted by plonkee at 2:23 PM on December 6, 2020 [2 favorites]


You're not the only one and in fact, research done by some of my colleagues has shown that for people to really be happy to switch, they have to have access to quite a few charging points. Basically "charger anxiety" scales with 99th percentile wait times - i.e. people really want to almost never not have a charger available when required before they're really satisfied.

The good news is that people with no off-street parking typically drive much smaller cumulative distances so getting them out of ICE and into electric is less important from a climate POV. I actually have an ICE despite having off-street parking and it will certainly be our last one but TBH we drive <10 miles a week so it doesn't really matter.
posted by atrazine at 4:33 PM on December 6, 2020 [2 favorites]


It is the new Fisker "Emotion" that Aston Martin is worried about

Sick! Thanks for the insight!
posted by rhizome at 4:54 PM on December 6, 2020


Most people view cars as appliances to get them from point A to point B with as little hassle as possible. That's why the RAV 4 sells countless units in NA while manual transmissions, sports cars, and sedans are becoming endangered species. Electric motors are superior to ICE in almost every way for those tasks once the problems of energy storage and charging are solved. Admittedly those are difficult hurdles, but they are not as insurmountable as they appeared even 10 years ago.

Moreover, both China and the EU are in the processing of phasing out ICEs within the medium term. Even in the US, California is following the example of the EU and not the its national government. Considering the world's foremost electric car manufacturer is headquartered in Cali, the state has every incentive to continue its course.

All the above means that car companies are going to need to transition to EVs whether they like it or not, and there is nothing right wing governments such as those in the US are going to be able to do about it. These studies are part of an effort that's already failed. Right now the next step is to require landlords and employers to install level 2 charging, install on-street charing, and beef-up public charging in general for people who don't live in suburban houses with garages.

Of course, to really make a dent in carbon emissions, we'll also have to decarbonize the grid and invest in better mass transit infrastructure, but unfortunately those steps likely won't happen in the US given the current political climate. Better mass transit infrastructure also would ensure those fancy new electric cars won't spend most of their time sitting in traffic. Most US metropolitan areas have pretty much hit the limit of post WWII car-centric development.
posted by eagles123 at 6:02 PM on December 6, 2020


Agree 100%. I'm an F1 fan and even I know that we need to move to electric now, for the sake of the planet, most people should be replaced with EVs.
posted by some loser at 7:26 PM on December 6, 2020 [2 favorites]


most people should be replaced with EVs.

Like a real-life Cars sequel!
posted by Dysk at 9:36 PM on December 6, 2020 [5 favorites]


I'm not in the market for a new car any time soon, but the main problem with switching to electric for me is that I park my car on the street, and there's currently no way to charge it.

Charging infrastructure is the area where EVs need to evolve urgently. The problem of public charging has been solved by Tesla with superchargers that are fast, reliably working, very easy to use, sufficiently plentiful at each location and pretty much wherever they need to be. It would be mutually beneficial to Tesla and other manufacturers, to open up access to more cars in return for their investment in further expending the network - there have been rumours about VW in this regard. It would probably help if everybody moved to use a type 2 charger - as Tesla have done outside the US. The set of alternatives in this space is an unreliable mess of suppliers with poor reliability, inadequate availability, slow speed and terribly designed payment mechanisms. The time is probably right for a properly designed alternative to Tesla's network to emerge internationally: but they job will involve some serious investment to scale at the same rate.

On-street charging is a wider issue to be solved so as to be much more widely available. I like the idea of companies like Ubricity in the EU who (as demonstrated) install outlets in street lamps. With these kinds of solution, as with Superchargers, we need a solution where I could subscribe to the system, drive to random country elsewhere in Europe, plug in and have the system charge with no further action needed.
posted by rongorongo at 10:46 PM on December 6, 2020 [2 favorites]


That's why the RAV 4 sells countless units in NA while manual transmissions, sports cars, and sedans are becoming endangered species

Hey now, before they dropped the V6, a 4WD RAV4 was not in any sense bland except for the styling. The only crappy thing about them was that only the last couple of model years had a button to disable the occasionally stupid reaction control system that would get you stuck in the snow is you didn't know the magic incantation to disable it.

Of course, for most people it was probably for the best since it was only problematic in conditions where you shouldn't be driving without extensive experience with car control on slippery roads.
posted by wierdo at 11:03 PM on December 6, 2020 [1 favorite]


V6? I remember thinking the NiMH battery RAV4 EV from 1997 was pretty cool!
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 5:55 AM on December 7, 2020 [2 favorites]


The V6 RAV 4 returned in the form of the 300+ horsepower Prime plug-in hybrid. It's the second fastest Toyota from 0 to 60. I still feel like I'm operating a boat on stilts when I drive the gas version around the twisty roads and dense urban streets of my area.
posted by eagles123 at 6:38 AM on December 7, 2020 [1 favorite]


[Fisker's first] company failed, probably because too early

Or was it that the first Fiskers had an alarming habit of catching fire?

More on the problems of lithium extraction, this time from a Guardian long read: The curse of 'white oil': electric vehicles' dirty secret
posted by scruss at 5:45 AM on December 9, 2020 [1 favorite]


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