Sunday, May 23, 2021

Is AP Biased Against Electric Vehicles?

Today, I found out that "AP" stands for "Amalgamated Petroleum"

AP NEWS, May 23, 1901 - PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich.  - On the outside, the gasoline powered Ford wagon looks much like its wildly popular horse-drawn version. Yet the resemblance is deceiving. With its new gasoline-powered wagon, Ford is making a costly bet that buyers will embrace a vehicle that would help transform how the world drives.

Branded the F-100, the wagon will be able to travel up to 300 miles per tank of gasoline, thanks to a frame designed to safely hold a huge gas tank. Going from zero to 30 mph will take just 14.5 seconds.

With a starting price near $4,000 (before options), Ford has calculated that a gasoline version of America’s top-selling wagon will appeal to the sorts of buyers who favor rugged wagons prized for strength and durability. If it succeeds, it could speed the nation’s transition away from horse-drawn wagons— a cornerstone of President McKinley's broad effort to solve the manure problem on the nation's streets.

“It’s a watershed moment to me,” Ford CEO Henry Ford said of the gasoline-powered wagon, which was formally unveiled Wednesday night. “It’s a very important transition for our industry.”

For the McKinley administration to prevail in its push for horseless-driven manufacturing, it will need to overcome resistance as well as skepticism. Critics fear the loss of jobs in a shift away from horse-drawn vehicles. Because gasoline-powered vehicles do not require horses, scores of buggy-whip makers, as well as manufacturers of saddles and other tack - not to mention the proprietors of stables and farms, may be put out of business.

For its part, Ford is taking a significant risk by sinking so much capital into an horseless version of a wagon that commands a huge and loyal following. In a typical year, Ford sells about 100,000 horse-drawn wagons nationally. It has been America’s top-selling vehicle for nearly four decades.

Horse-drawn wagons are staples on job sites across the nation, where workers haul equipment and materials and often don’t see a need for change. So it could be years before Ford realizes a return on its investment in a gasoline-powered wagon. This year, through April, the company has sold only 1,000 of its new gas-gasoline-powered wagons - just over 6% of the Ford's total sales.

Ford said 2,000 people had put down $10 deposits to order the new gasoline-powered wagons as of Thursday morning.

Still, introducing a capable horseless wagon at a fairly reasonable price could potentially produce the breakthrough that draws many more people to gasoline-powered vehicles of all sizes, said Ivan Drury, a senior manager at Edmunds.com.

“If you’re going to choose one vehicle in the industry that’s going to do it, this is going to be the one,” Drury said. “I expect this to be a home run, and I expect it to really convert a lot of consumers’ minds.”

At the same time, the gasoline-powered wagon, due in showrooms by the middle of next year, comes at a time when American drivers remain reluctant to jettison horse-drawn vehicles. Through April, automakers sold about 8,000 gasoline-powered vehicles in the U.S. Though that’s nearly twice the number from the same period last year, horseless carriages still account for only 2% of U.S. vehicle sales, according to Edmunds.

In addition to the F100, though, the growing number of horseless offerings will help raise sales numbers. Automakers now sell 18 horseless carriage models in the U.S.; Drury expects 30 by year’s end.

To be sure, Ford won’t stop building horse-drawn wagons for years. They remain an enormous cash cow. A study by the Boston Consulting Group found that the horse-drawn Ford wagon generates $2 million in annual U.S. revenue for the automaker — more than such entire companies as Automat, Brown Shoe, or Bell Telephone do.

Initially, Ford expects F100 customers to be mainly higher-income urban and suburban residents who seldom go off road or use wagon beds to haul anything heavy. But the company plans a commercial version designed to make work more efficient. Ultimately, Farley expects sales to be evenly balanced between work and personal buyers.

But Ford may have a hard time selling it to people who build houses, maintain lawns or haul cargo.

“It sounds good, but it’s not good for the type of business I’m in,” said Jimmie Williams, owner of a landscaping firm on Chicago’s South Side. He doesn’t think the gas tank will have enough range to last the 12-14-hour days his crews sometimes work maintaining about 700 properties.

He’ll stick with his three horse-drawn wagons, in part because he hauls cargo in the winter, when cold weather can make gasoline engines hard to start.

Others aren’t ready now but might be convinced to switch in the future.

“Maybe when I’m retired,” quipped Steven Realy, a foreman for a subcontractor at a housing development in Pittsfield Township, Michigan.

Realy, 28, whose company uses Ox-drawn wagons to carry equipment and building materials, doesn’t think a gasoline-powered wagon will do the job now but maybe in the future.

“When gasoline takes off more than what it is right now,” he said, “I could see myself owning one, definitely.”

Yet it may be difficult to persuade some people to give up the big horse-drawn wagons they’re used to.

“I like my four-horse team,” Anthony Lane, a 26-year-old plumber in the same development, said from the driver’s seat of his gleaming Studebaker wagon.

Even the base version of the horseless F100, with two rows of seats and a 230-mile estimated range per tank of gasoline, can haul up to a ton in its bed. A high-end model equipped with a larger gas tank can tow an estimated 10,000 pounds, matching many Ox wagons, though falling about 3,000 pounds shy of them.

Competition for the F100 is looming. Studebaker says it’s working on a gasoline-powered wagon, and the Dodge Brothers claim to be working on one as well.

All will face an inevitable obstacle in seeking buyers: brand loyalty. Wagon drivers often stick with one company for life. Sometimes, they choose a brand because it’s been in the family for years, if not generations.

“I’m not a Ford guy,” said Lane, the plumber. “I've driven Studebaker Wagons my whole life.”

Once Studebaker comes out with a gasoline-powered wagon, though, Lane might consider a change.

“I’ll probably stick with the horses,” he said. “But if they ever fully switch over to a gasoline-powered wagon, I’ll probably get the Studebaker one.”

(c) 2021 Fun with cut-and-paste, inc.

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The article above is word-for-word from a recent AP "News" article, with a few words changed, such as "electric" to "gas" and "truck" to "wagon".   Other than that, it reads like the naysayers of the gasoline engine at the turn of the previous century.  Gas-powered buggies!  Who would bother when horses are so reliable and there is a stable on every corner!   And where would you get this "gasoline" anyway?  The only place who carries it is the local pharmacy!  Dagnabbit!

What I liked about the article was how the "reporter" decided that the right person to interview was a couple of yahoos who own a landscaping business or  worked as a plumber.  And yes, a 300-mile range certainly isn't enough for a landscaping business, right?  I mean, after all, you drive at least 400-500 miles a day for that!

Oh, wait.  300 miles a day alone would take about five hours of driving - leaving little time left over for landscaping.  I suspect that the typical landscaper probably drives less than a 100 miles a day, if that.  And oh boy, wait until he finds out that the future of lawn equipment doesn't involve gasoline, either.  Lithium-Ion powered lawn mowers, weed-wackers, edgers, and blowers are the wave of the future.  And no, recharging isn't an issue, as the battery packs can be removed and swapped out.

In construction, this already is the case.  Time was, people hammered nails into sheetrock, but that was replaced by the sheetrocking screw and the electric screwgun.   That was 40 years ago.  Today, they use battery-powered screwguns, because it is so much easier to deal with than all those extension cords.  All sort of battery-powered tools abound today, often replacing their plug-in or air-powered counterparts.  When something is cheaper and easier to use, well, it takes over.  You can't fight progress.  It is pointless.

Electric tools for yardwork are making real inroads for homeowners right now.  I've gone through maybe two or three gasoline-powered chainsaws in my life - most given to me by friends.  As a homeowner, I rarely use them, and when I want to use them, well, the gasoline has turned to mud and the spark plug is fouled.   An electric chainsaw, on the other hand, works great for occasional use.  Eventually, they may supplant the gasoline kind, but it will take years.

Similarly, gasoline-powered weed-eaters were a pain-in-the-ass to start, and the electric kind so much cheaper and easier to deal with - for homeowners.   A commercial version, however, can't be far away.  My neighbor uses an electric lawnmower, and my next (and last) lawnmower will likely be electric as well.  Another neighbor uses a robotic lawnmower.  Hmmmm..... the job of "landscaper" might go away, or morph into real landscaping and not just running over your grass with a zero-radius machine.

But electric cars?  Trucks?  Already on the scene.  And the skepticism of them might have been a "story" five or ten years ago, but today it is just a tired old trope.  Range anxiety?   Running out of charge is really no different than running out of gas.  If you remember to put gas in your car - or charge your EV - it isn't an issue.  Yet the media hypes this out of proportion - which becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy as people then become anxious after reading these stories.

A friend bought a Lithium-Ion powered golf cart.  A nice piece of equipment!  But they were worried, from the get-go that it would "run out" of power.  I told them it would easily go around the island on one charge (which it will) and so long as they plug it in when they get home, they will never have a problem.  It took them a while to overcome this media-induced fear, but they realize now, it was overblown.

Sadly, stories abound, from the days of lead-acid batteries, of electric vehicles going bust.  A friend of mine refused to replace the five-year-old lead-acid batteries in his golf cart with predictable results - it left him stranded.  A new set (about $500) and you can buzz around the island all day long.  People remember things like that, and don't bother to learn about other possibilities.

Lithium-Ion batteries last a long time (the life of the vehicle) and yet I have had people tell me knowingly that "you have to replace them after five years and they are expensive!"  Yet when a ten-year-old Prius was compared to its brand-new sibling, it was found the batteries were degraded by only 5% or so.   A lot of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) is being spread around, concerning electric vehicles, and it is hard for the average person to discern what is real and what is made-up.  The Associated Press isn't helping with click-bait crapola like this.

Do electric vehicles make sense?  That depends on your application and situation, not politics or Joe Biden. Another thing that irks me about this article is that it pitches electric vehicles as a "green" initiative and not just technology whose time is rapidly coming.  If Ford didn't introduce this truck, a competitor would.  And no, EV sales are not a big part of the market right now, but every manufacturer on the planet is convinced they will be, and not in the too-distant future.

If the USA decides that EVs are no good and opts out, it makes no difference.  It would only mean that we would fall behind the rest of the world, as our European and Asian competitors in the global marketplace are going "all in" on this technology.  And playing catch-up will be hard to do, down the road.  We got lucky with Jets - letting the British take the lead there, while we dicked around for a decade with old WWII piston designs.  Fortunately, first to market is often last in the marketplace, which reminds me, what ever happened to Elon Musk's weird-shaped pickup truck?  And what happens when Ford and GM don't need Musk's carbon credits anymore?  Hmmmm.....

Until recently, the cost of EVs was such that they made no economic sense for most people.  Even a hybrid was sort of a money-losing proposition, with payback periods measured in decades.  But of course, the hybrid was a costly short-term solution to the problem.  Hybrids cost more than EVs in part because they incorporate two drivetrains - gasoline and electric - and when you ditch one or the other, costs drop dramatically.

The new Ford "Lightning" costs less (base price) than I paid for my five-year-old used F150 "Ecoboost" which itself is a technological tour-de-force, but incredibly complicated, in order to squeeze the last bit of horsepower out of an IC engine. As electric vehicles become more and more popular, and volumes increase, prices will come down, just as they did with early horseless carriages and early computers.

Gas-buggies in the early days were staggeringly expensive - costing more in dollar amount that a luxury car would cost today.  Factor in inflation, and they cost more than a house, today.   By the early 1900's, Henry Ford had dropped the price to under $365. Gas stations and repair outlets were few and far between, early on.  With in a few years, Standard Oil put an end to that problem.  Once a critical mass of users was created, the whole system took off.

This will take some time for electric vehicles.  Wiring your house to charge an electric car (preferably with a 220V outlet) costs a little money, but over time, more and more houses will have it - just as my great-grandfather ran electric wires through the gas pipes in his house to "electrify" it in the early 1900s.  Newer houses will be built with charging stations built-in.

Will gasoline-powered vehicles go away entirely?  Probably not, but there will reach a knee-bend in the curve where they become more and more impractical except for specific needs. Gas stations across the country changed their service bays to convenience marts as cars became more reliable (and the number of gas stations decreased).  Similarly, there will reach a point where gasoline sales decrease to the point there gasoline becomes more expensive to make, due to limited demand, and the number of gas stations becomes fewer and fewer. It will simply be less economical and practical to own a gasoline-powered car at that point.  If you doubt this, take a look at what is happening to diesel - the diesel car is rapidly going by the wayside, a victim of high-efficiency gasoline engines and expensive diesel fuel.

Of course, all of this isn't happening next year, or even the year after.  But change is coming, and many folks are uneasy about change - which they say is what drove Brexit and lead to the worldwide movement toward conservative leadership.  Others decry the government as "picking winners" in the marketplace by promoting electric vehicles, through tax incentives and other inducements.  That sounds wholly unfair until you look at how the horseless carriage was subsidized over the years by our government.

We lease out government lands (and offshore rights) to oil companies for cheap, in order to satiate our need for fuels.  We build highways, roads, and bridges to handle all this automobile traffic.  We allow for enormous pipelines across government lands to pump these fuels.  We got into bed with the auto and petroleum industries a long time ago, so decrying EVs on the grounds that they are being "favored" by the government is the ultimate in hypocrisy.  It is like Amund Bundy whining about losing his "right" to graze cattle on government land, free of charge.  I mean, we subsidize his business enough as it is, if he can't make it work, maybe the problem isn't the "Gub-ment."

I switched to the AP app from the MSN News app, but quite frankly, I am not sure one is much better than the other.  The problem, I think, is the quality of reporting today.  Too many "Newhouse Fags" out there who believe that reporting consists of barfing up social media posts, and then peppering it with "quotes" from "sources" - to promote an "angle" that you had before you even started writing the piece.  It isn't news, it is just drivel.