February 12, 2013
Ford Focus
A Ford Focus guzzling delicious electrons

Electric cars and their federal subsidies take a beating in Charles Lane’s column today, which calls them a big ol’ well-intentioned waste of money. An electric car that can compete with a gasoline car sure would be nice, but 5 billion government dollars haven’t gotten us there. Arguably, though, the 5 billion did help get this column 3,500 responses, which PostScript is pretty grateful for as she attempts to make an internal combustion engine that runs on trash talk.

Because yeah, these comments are all about dropping science and/or history on one another. These comments reference both the Teapot Dome scandal

flyover22

This is what they teach you in history class – This is no different than Cattel & Company, Teapot Dome, Ike’s concerns about the Defense Industrial complex, or Freddie and Fannie. The technology may change, the product may be different, but the scam is still the same. Government funds for overpriced land, products, services, or mortgages with donors, friends and insiders.

And Moore’s Law:

zcezcest1

I’m an advocate for solar, but there is no Moore’s Law level of improvement to be had. There is plenty of improvement to come, but unlike with computer chips that can be made to do more by making smaller features in the same physical area, that isn’t the case with solar. At least, not at nearly the same rates as computer chips. There plenty of good things about solar — including the predictability it brings to electrical costs (historically, they go up about 10x over the life of a solar panel), but it doesn’t include the sorts of Moore’s Law economic efficiencies.

Not to mention flagrant use of the word asymptotic.

So let’s take a look at the nerdly trash-talking that commenced.

Mike5790 transposes the discussion onto another topic in order to make a pessimist seem a fool:

That internet thing just isn’t going work. You can’t carry a computer around with you. And even with those monster 20 MB HDs on my IBM XT, I can’t see it ever being fast enough to be anything more than a novelty. I’ve got my notebook and pen, industry rags, and my WaPo. That’s all I need.

NoVaShenandoah echoes with some figures from the history of early adopters:

I bought my first IBM PC in 1983. It had 256KB of main memory, 2 5.25″ diskette drives; 5MB of hard disk; and an Epson cps printer. It sold for the low, low price of $6600.00. For that matter I remember my first VCR: It cost $1200.00 to buy. It is truly amazing what a little time will do, isn’t it?

LNER4472 brings some culture war:

Ideally, car-sharing programs such as Zipcar should also be expanded, so you can still make a longer trip if need be. I used to know Philadelphia residents that were well-to-do, gave up the car, and rented one for weekend jaunts as they needed it.

The problem is that a solution that is brazenly obvious in inner-city Washington D.C. is completely nonsensical in rural Kansas, Nebraska, West Virginia, Arizona, and just about everywhere that liberals lampoon as “Jesusland” or “flyover country.” And those folks, the ones living among the farmers that grow your food and milk and eggs, rightfully resent being condemned as wasteful or being relegated to an “afterthought” in national transportation and energy policy by the urbanite “Left.”

mhenshaw says this is a failure to incentivize correctly, not a science fail:

There are much smarter ways the government can advance technology without trying to pick specific winners and losers in the market. The government should simply say, “We want a car that can travel 400 miles nonstop without using gasoline and can refuel/recharge in less than five minutes. The first company to do it pays no corporate income taxes for a decade. Go.” Then stand back. Properly incentivized, the car companies will figure the problem out.

Liam-still says even if electric vehicles can’t replace all cars, they’re a better option in some situations, so [PostScript extrapolates here to make her chosen theme work] deal with it, punks:

We need to have a wide range of transportation options, including battery powered cars for those who make only short commutes to work, or are retired, and only drive around to local stores.

It does not have to be an either or choice. We can have some of each, to fit the needs of the individuals. Since I am retired, and no longer do any long distance driving, I have already being considering making my next car an all electric battery powered one. Should I need to drive a long distance on some special occasion, I will simply rent a gas powered one.

And BBagginz responds to another commenter implying electric-car fans don’t understand science in just a delightful bit of smackdown:

In this household there’s one M.S. in Computer Science, a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, and a Chevy Volt. At the scientific research institute I work at, I can point to four Chevy Volts, one Ford Focus Electric, a Tesla, two or three Nissan Leafs, a couple of Prius Plug-Ins, and an all-electric RAV4 in the parking lot. At Volt meet ups, I meet plenty of scientific and technical professionals. Enough scientific training for you? You don’t know what you’re talking about.

BBagginz then dropped the mic[roscope]. Boom.