Skip to main content

Davis Journal

Is a gas-free future realistic for automobiles?

Jun 16, 2022 09:15AM ● By Bryan Gray

Like many of my readers, I am at a complete loss when it comes to repairing appliances and machinery.  This extends to routine car maintenance.  My idea of a dipstick is a toothpick designed to spear an item on an hors d’oeuvres platter.  I have no more idea of how many quarts of oil are required for my car than I know how many bones are contained in my body.  To me, a piston is a basketball player in Detroit.

So when I hear reports that American and Asian automakers are planning on eliminating gasoline engines, I question their accuracy.  In my experience, Cadillacs are meant to run on petroleum, not a charge from Ready-Kilowatt! It’s the American way; it might even be in the Constitution!

So I ask my friend Kevin. He is a conservative Republican who operates a gas station.  His concept of climate change is turning up the air conditioning in his repair shop.  He’s also a “car guy” who is a darn good mechanic.  

I tell him I am skeptical of a future in which we drive all-electric or even hybrid cars. He agrees.

“I’ve been hearing this type of nonsense since the 1980s,” he laughs.  “Granted, it’s cool to say you drive a Tesla. But that doesn’t mean being cool is the same as reality.”

First, he says, is the cost. “The vehicle is expensive, plus you have to install a battery charger in your garage.  Spend a few hundred dollars on the charger and you still have to charge your car overnight.”  Most people, I respond, forget to charge their cell phones overnight.  “Right,” he says, “so you need to buy a special 440/480-volt charger capable of charging your car in an hour or so. Be prepared to pay $10,000 for something like that.”

The biggest challenge, he notes, is the maximum number of miles electric cars get on one charge. “Most have ranges under 100 miles,” he says, “so you can only hope you find battery charging stations for trips to Wendover, Las Vegas, or even Evanston – and imagine the challenge on even longer trips. And where do we get the electricity for the chargers?  Generally, it's coal-powered; so much for cleaner air.” 

I also think that Americans love convenience.  I notice drivers circling a grocery store parking lot four times in an attempt to find a space five feet closer to the store doors.  Gee, Maverik has become a one-stop breakfast, lunch, and dinner destination.  

Kevin chuckles, “My brother owns a Tesla, but he also drives a 1955 Belaire which gobbles up gasoline.  My daughter bought an all-electric Audi. She loves it. But at the same time, she and her husband have a gasoline-powered Ford Bronco.  That could be the future for those who can afford it.  You have the luxury of a cool looking electric car, but the dependability of a second car that runs on gas.”

A Salt Lake car dealer specializing in electric vehicles reported last week that he had the highest sales for any year in business.  Of course, electric car registrations in Utah are still less than 1% of all vehicles. 

I ask Kevin what percentage he sees in 20 years. “Maybe 25%,” he says.  “The gas station will not be eliminated unless mileage ranges can triple and quadruple.  It’s nice to be cool and say you’re helping to stop global warming. But it’s also important to be realistic, and we’re a long, long way from an all-electric future.”  Odds are we are never freeing ourselves from the gas pump. l