Perhaps like you, I have read and watched all the hoopla about the supposed wonderfulness of electric vehicles and how they can revolutionize the way we travel. Common sense leaves me wondering just how much of this is based in reality.
So far, I'll stick with what has worked very well for the world's most successful nation.
Nowadays, when we are stuck in a major evacuation from urban areas, those who run out of carbon-based fuels while idling bumper-to-bumper for 100 miles or more can keep going if they've had the foresight to pack an extra "just-in-case" container of fuel. Either that, or have a simple siphon hose to borrow enough from a fellow evacuee.
That wouldn't be an option if my battery gave out 20 miles from the nearest charging station, would it? How and where do you recharge an electric vehicle on the road?
Has anyone realistically explored how much more electricity will have to be generated to accommodate millions of vehicles every day? Is such an enormous amount going to be generated by dams, windmills and solar cells, or carbon-based sources as things now stand? I've seen golf carts, but no electric semi-trailers, airplanes or boats, for that matter. But then, my eyesight isn't what it once was.
I did read the other day on kbb.com that the task of continually charging electric automobiles may well hinder their popularity.
"Charging times may vary due to several factors," the story reads. "What is your power source? How much power can your electric car handle? How can drivers charge their vehicles and get back on the road more quickly? Depending on an electric vehicle power source and battery capacity, drivers can charge their cars in as little as 30 minutes."
Sounds almost enticing, doesn't it? Until I read 30 minutes is far from usual. "Most drivers will need about a couple of days (roughly 40 hours) to charge a fully depleted electric car battery if they use the standard three-prong plugs found in mobile devices, laptops, and the walls of most homes."
There are other factors that affect an electric vehicle's charging time, according to kbb.com:
• Battery size: Level 1 battery outlets (like those at home) "charge at 120 volts, which typically provide up to 50 miles of driving range in about 10 hours." If you have more battery capacity, you'll need more time to fully charge the battery.
• Whether the battery is empty or full. Drivers rarely charge from an empty battery, instead "topping up" their batteries to lengthen the amount of time they can drive on a single charge, which generally saves drivers significant charging time.
• Vehicle's maximum charging rate. "How much of a charge can your vehicle accept at once? Your vehicle's maximum charge rate is static, so you won't save time by charging your battery at a more powerful charging station."
• Power of charging station. "Even if your car can charge at a higher rate, it will only charge at your charge point's maximum power rate, which can adversely affect charging time."
• Weather. "Colder temperatures can affect vehicle efficiency, which can lengthen charging times, especially when using rapid chargers. ... Hot conditions can also test an electric vehicle's internal resistance, rising as battery charges increase."
All this and considerably more make me leery of purchasing a potentially unreliable vehicle. And don't forget those expensive batteries will have to be replaced.
I noticed Bruce Plopper's letter to the editor the other day in which he took to task the state's Department of Finance and Administration for failing to advise him his license renewal was due.
As Plopper explained, he didn't receive this year's heads up until the day after his renewal was due, which made him late too, costing him a $3 late fee.
His problem seemed to be that although the agency apparently had prepared his due-date notification on Oct. 22, it wasn't postmarked until Nov. 30 and arrived the next day when he was already tardy.
Perhaps the delay was an oversight. Such things do happen.
Yet the experience left Plopper pondering what was up at the motor vehicles division of the agency.
His experience was enough to leave him wondering if other Arkansans have had the same experience, causing them to also be late in renewing their plates and having to pay the extra $3.
How often were the license-renewal notifications (done as a courtesy, by the way) arriving on or after the renewal date? Has this late fee become common across Arkansas? If so, he added, the practice could represent a "fairly large pot of gold" for the department.
Oh, surely not. Except, well, it is the bureaucracy.
Now I'm also wondering if anyone else has enjoyed Plopper's experience with renewing their license tags. If so, email me with details. Perhaps you might have a Plopper topper to share.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.