F20 years ago the automotive world was gripped by a completely insane obsession. In 18 months, America's "Big Three" introduced more than a dozen new models, from the dirt-cheap Ford Escort and Plymouth Reliant K to the upscale Cadillac Cimarron, with family cars from Buick, Mercury, Oldsmobile, and others in between. They had only one thing in common, and that was important: the transverse (side) engine and front-wheel drive combination, introduced by the British Motor Corporation Mini in 1959 and popularized by the Honda Civic in 1973.
This salvo from "FWD" was widely praised by the media and various government officials, who had criticized domestic manufacturers for being slow to escort Honda, Nissan, Volkswagen and other foreign competitors into the glorious and absolutely mandatory front-wheel drive future. Those criticisms seemed valid at first—the only thing stopping Chevrolet from selling a million of its 1980 Citation front-wheel drive hatchbacks was General Motors' inability to find a fourth shift on a three-shift day.
But this seemingly hesitant transition to FWD was too hasty by half. It turned out that the Citation and its corporate siblings were hiding serious quality and safety issues that eventually forced the federal government to step in. Chrysler's K-cars and Ford's Escort/Lynx twins, while not prone to fatal brake failure, alienated customers with poor performance, reliability issues, and fuel economy that rarely lived up to advertised promises. These buyers were leaving the Big Three in droves and heading to their local Toyota dealership for the front-wheel drive car they were supposed to be buying...
... only to find that it doesn't exist. Prior to 1982, Toyota only sold one FWD car: the remarkably ugly Corolla Tercel. Almost 4 meters long and equipped with an outdated four-speed manual transmission in most models, the Tercel didn't even have the modern transverse layout of a Civic or Citation. Instead, the engine was placed in a conventional front-to-back orientation and turned the front wheels via a bevel gear, just like a late '60s Oldsmobile Toronado.
And that name! It wasn't even a Corolla - it was a CorollaTerkel.There was a reason for that. After decades of struggling to establish a solid reputation for reliable vehicles, Toyota saw no reason to risk its prized Corolla nameplate for technology considered unproven. So its first FWD car had "Tercel" appended as a sort of nomenclature warning, and Toyota watched it carefully as the company worked to build a transverse FWD powertrain that would meet the company's standards for quality and durability. The first Corolla to use this powertrain appeared alongside a similar but slightly larger sedan, badged "Camry", almost four years after the FWD craze began in Detroit.
That's not to say that Toyota isn't willing to embrace, or even develop, new technology - look at the Prius sedan, now in its fifth generation. But the company has always viewed technology as a means to an end rather than an end in itself, and it has always expected that technology to meet real-world customer needs. Example: The Prius has proven itselfmoremore reliable than conventional petrol engines, especially in taxi service, while hybrid cars from competitors often turn out to be maintenance nightmares even in benevolent private hands.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Toyota isn't exactly leading the vanguard of EV cheerleading. But on the contrary. Akio Toyoda, the CEO of the company that bears his name, recently told reporters that he is part of a "silent majority" of automakers who are skeptical about the future of electric vehicles. Quiet, that is, except for Toyoda himself, whose reputation is strong enough to make such public comments.
His skepticism is justified. It is becoming increasingly clear that the industry cannot source enough raw materials to keep up with today's production of gasoline vehicles, even at transaction prices nearly double those of comparable conventional cars. The media reaction to these revelations was depressingly predictable: a recent oneWiredArticlesuggeststhat today's electric vehicles, which already cannot match petrol cars in terms of range, could and should reduce their battery capacity by up to 80%. "In the United States," the magazine snorts, "less than 5 percent of trips are longer than 30 miles." In Manhattan, maybe.
Visa,in turn, complained that the new electric trucks from Rivian and Ford use more batteries than the average European commuter car. The companies will “market each electric vehicle as a kind of no-compromise machine, with all the convenience – or more – of a gas car but without the environmental costs. This is bad news for all electric vehicles - which arebetterfor the environment than petrol cars, but notgutTherefore."
The reader is forgiven if he briefly feels like the proverbial horse that always pulls a cart with a carrot just in front of it. It wascentralIt's good for the environment that you're getting rid of your petrol-powered car - but if you've bought something bigger than a Nissan Leaf, you're still actually a bad person and need to cut back on your consumptionright away!Once you've gritted your teeth and bought that Nissan Leaf, you'll probably hear that replacing the 81 million vehicles that are built each year with Leafs isn't feasible and that you should buy an electric scooter. At this point someone will patiently explain to you why there are not enough resources on the planet to put 8 billion people on electric scooters. Citizens, have you thought about itwalkto your grandmother's house this holiday season? Better yet, stay home and watch Netflix — the Obamas have produced a new show for you!
Toyoda's lack of the requisite almost religious enthusiasm for electric vehicles has produced the expected results among the chatty classes: Several petitions have been set up with the aim of forcing Toyota to go "all-in" on electric vehicles, one of which had 110,000 signatures at the time delivered to the company, with much fanfare, by SumOfUs, a non-governmental organization that accepts anonymous donations to "foster change." This flood of petitions is quite revealing in and of itself. You rarely have to ask a company to do something that is truly in its best interest. That's what shareholders are for.
It is believed that this is a classic "prisoner's dilemma" situation. ifeveryoneIf the automaker goes "all-in" on EVs, they will collectively be too big to fail when the EV bubble bursts due to lack of raw materials, poor vehicle performance, or simple consumer disgust. At this point, they can expect fair compensation from the governments that forced them into this strategy. If everyonebutHowever, Toyota is buying in, when 2035 arrives, Toyota will have a full line of redesigned gasoline and diesel vehicles on its showroom floor, while its competitors have their 2025 lineups, minus the tooling and production facilities they've had to destroy and/or repurpose over the past decade. It won't have escaped your notice that Toyota, and not Honda (the FWD innovator) or GM (the avid FWD devotee), makes the two best-selling passenger cars in the US. Consider what the company might do if it didn't have effective competition.
Speaking of best-selling cars, only four of the top 10 best-selling vehicles in this country are front-wheel drive. Fifty years after the feeding frenzy, FWD turned out to be neither a curiosity nor a mandatory feature. Instead, it's just one possible answer to the automotive question, and not always the best one. Chances are that the EV will eventually take a similar place in the market. Right now there is only one automaker with the intelligence to understand this and the courage to plan accordingly. Time will tell if Toyota was right - but history suggests you'd be a fool to bet against it.
Jack Baruth was born in Brooklyn, New York and lives in Ohio. He is a Pro-Am racer and former columnist forroad and railandHagertymagazines that writesAvoidable contact foreverNewsletter.
Battery issues, climate control, and in-car electronics are among the biggest problems in electric vehicles.Why is Toyota refusing to make electric cars? ›
The CEO said a lack of sufficient infrastructure will hold back EV adoption rates, which is a factor in its decision not to go all in on electricity. “Toyota is a department store of all sorts of powertrains,” he said. “It's not right for the department store to say, 'This is the product you should buy. '”Why is no one buying electric cars? ›
In addition to the myths, there are also some obvious reasons many car shoppers simply aren't yet buying into EVs, such as the high sticker price, range anxiety and the fear of battery degradation and potential fires.What is the downfall of electric vehicles? ›
Some disadvantages to buying electric cars include the fact that electric cars can travel less distance than gas-powered vehicles, being able to find EV charging stations, and higher initial costs.Why are so many people against electric cars? ›
The most common reasons drivers avoid EVs include fear the battery will run out of charge before reaching their destination, also known as “range anxiety,” fear of too few charging stations, long charge times, and initial higher upfront vehicle costs.What would happen if everyone drove electric cars? ›
Based on 2019 data, the US would need to produce 20-50% more electricity in a year if all cars were EVs. According to data from the Department of Energy (DOE), the cost of powering EVs is approximately 35-75% cheaper than the cost for gas-powered vehicles per mile.What is the future of gasoline cars? ›
Last month, California regulators passed rules banning the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035, a move hailed as a significant victory in the fight against climate change.How will poor people afford electric cars? ›
California has spent more than $400m on various incentive programs to help lower-income drivers purchase zero-emission vehicles. There is the CC4A program, which offers up to $9,500 toward a down payment for an electric vehicle if the applicant turns in a vehicle older than a 2005 model.What turned off the biggest reason people aren t buying electric vehicles? ›
When asked about the top concerns preventing them from making the jump from gas to electric, 61% cited charging logistics, followed by 55% saying the number of miles the vehicle can go per charge and 52% saying the costs of buying and maintaining an electric-only vehicle.Why electric vehicles are getting fired? ›
Hot summers and bad thermal management affect performance & life but don't cause fires. It's like using your phone on a hot day, after keeping it on the vehicle dashboard — it's slow, hot, & shortens life. But they don't affect safety! 99% of battery fires are due to short circuits leading to uncontrolled current.
Electric vehicles don't cause more pollution in the long run
Electric vehicles, often called EVs, are responsible for less global-warming pollution over their life cycle than gas-powered vehicles, despite the fact that battery manufacturing — for the moment — increases the climate impacts of EV production.
Risks for battery accidents in electric and hybrid vehicles are low. However the main potential hazard is electrocution if the vehicle accidentally turns on during repair. To address this concern, many auto manufacturers have installed a safety switch that disconnects the battery from the vehicle's electrical system.What are 3 reasons against electric cars? ›
- Their batteries need rare metals. ...
- Making electric cars creates more emissions. ...
- They are only as green as their power sources. ...
- Electric cars can be expensive to buy. ...
- You can't drive as far in an electric car. ...
- There aren't enough charging points.
The IEA estimates this shift will save nearly two million barrels per day of oil, relative to its business-as-usual projection of the world using at least 70 million barrels of oil per day for transportation by 2040. That consumption level would mark a 30 percent increase from roughly 54 million barrels now.What are the disadvantages of a 100% electric vehicle? ›
- Electric cars have a shorter range than their gas-powered counterparts. ...
- Recharging the battery takes time. ...
- Compared to gas-powered cars, electric vehicles are a much bigger investment. ...
- Difficulty in finding charging stations. ...
- Battery Replacement. ...
- Amount of pollution to manufacture an EV.
Driving an electric vehicle can help you reduce your carbon footprint because there will be zero tailpipe emissions. You can reduce the environmental impact of charging your vehicle further by choosing renewable energy options for home electricity.Will gas cars be illegal? ›
California will ban sales of new gas-powered cars by 2035, but the conversion to battery-powered vehicles poses numerous unresolved issues. California made it official last week — the state will ban sales of gasoline-powered new cars after 2035. Gov.
California's shift away from gas-powered vehicles could mean as many as 80 percent of gas stations would be unprofitable by 2035. The state has some 250,000 station owners and employees.What year will gasoline run out? ›
According to the MAHB, the world's oil reserves will run out by 2052, natural gas by 2060 and coal by 2090.What states are banning gas cars? ›
- California's New Law. Last week, California adopted rules that will ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035. ...
- Other States Often Follow California's Lead. ...
- Massachusetts, Washington Have Trigger Laws. ...
- California's Move Is Less Aggressive Than it Seems.
GM plans to ramp up EV production and sales in coming years. Tesla has the lion's share of the market for battery electric cars in the U.S. it is going to be the electric-vehicle leader through the end of the decade.Will there be gas cars in 2050? ›
Credit: EV Volumes
Unfortunately, despite projections of EVs dominating new car sales very soon, gasoline cars are expected to hold onto their lead, even in 2050.
They get to a point where their capacity/performance deteriorates below any useful case. If the battery cannot be used for alternative storage purposes, the valuable materials are separated out, such as cobalt, lithium salts, stainless steel, copper, aluminum, and plastic.Do you get money from the government for buying an electric car? ›
The plug-in car grant (PiCG), also known as the electric car grant, is available to buyers of eligible cars, vans and motorcycles, and is administered by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV).How much does it actually cost to charge an electric car at home? ›
For an EV, you will use about 353 kWh in that timeframe. Using the U.S. household average from October 2022 of about 16 cents per kWh, it would cost about $56 per month to charge an electric car at home.Will electric cars destroy the oil industry? ›
That said, the EV sector could end up hurting the oil sector in the long run, with BNEF predicting that electric and fuel cell vehicles will displace 21 million barrels per day in oil demand by 2050.How many electric cars caught fire? ›
Statistics compiled by AutoInsuranceEZ found that for every 100,000 EVs, there are about 25 fires each year. That compares to 1,530 car fires in the same number of gas-powered vehicles annually.Is lithium mining worse than oil drilling? ›
Lithium mining does have an environmental impact, but it is no worse than oil drilling. This is especially true when you consider the carbon emissions produced from petroleum products during their usage, as compared to lithium-ion batteries that have little to no GHG emissions during their use.Do electric cars damage roads more? ›
California, the state with the highest EV adoption rate, doesn't factor EVs into its rate of roadway wear because they weigh under 10,000 pounds and aren't expected to create additional maintenance costs, according to Nicole Mowers, a spokeswoman for Caltrans, the state's transportation agency. California has a road ...Do electric cars pollute the air? ›
Conventional vehicles with an internal combustion engine (ICE) produce direct emissions through the tailpipe, as well as through evaporation from the vehicle's fuel system and during the fueling process. Conversely, all-electric vehicles produce zero direct emissions.
“Today, most EV batteries have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years within the car – and a second life beyond.” It's also worth noting that EV battery technology is still evolving, so as tech develops we expect batteries' lifespan to increase – as well as becoming cheaper, smaller and even lighter.Can electric cars make you sick? ›
It seems as though the acceleration and braking in an electric car aren't quite as smooth as in conventional cars. While this may not be noticeable to the driver, it is definitely an issue for many passengers. Anyone who has had motion sickness on an extended car ride knows how miserable the feeling is.
Replacing an electric car battery will cost between $4,000-$20,000, but there are some cheaper options. Whitney Vandiver writes for NerdWallet about ways car owners can save money on ownership and maintenance.What are the top five biggest problems with electric cars? ›
EV owners have experienced chronic problems with the display screens, exterior door lights, failing temperature sensors, mismatched paint, and seals and weatherstripping. It's not just that these problems occur, but that they occur at a higher rate than with conventional vehicles.How much does it cost to replace the batteries in an electric car? ›
The good news here is that quality electric batteries can last a long time, with most electric car batteries driving 200,000-300,000 miles before needing to be replaced. The bad news is that when you do need to replace them, electric batteries can run you between $4,000 and $20,000.What is the lifespan of an electric car? ›
Likewise, Tesla reports its vehicles to have an average lifespan of around 200,000 miles in the US and 150,000 miles in the EU. This is quite a bit more than the average life expectancy of a car, which is only 12 years.Does cold weather affect electric cars? ›
Cold temperatures do affect electric vehicles and steal some of their range. The amount of range lost depends on many factors such as the car itself, its potential range in normal weather, and whether the heat is on.How toxic are the batteries in electric cars? ›
Because discarded batteries pose a threat to human health and environmental sustainability, lithium-ion batteries may overheat and fire when exposed to high temperatures or when penetrated, releasing carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide that can be very harmful to human health.Are electric cars good in snow? ›
Many EVs have front wheel drive, which is fine for most winter driving conditions in the northeast when accompanied by winter tires and modern traction control systems. A few EV models have rear wheel drive (RWD) systems, which may be less predictable in winter road conditions.Is it cheaper to refill an electric car? ›
Charging an electric vehicle battery overnight at home is likely the least expensive option. Gas prices fluctuate, and electricity rates vary regionally, but in most cases, it costs less per month to charge an EV than to buy gas for a traditional vehicle.
Tesla battery replacement cost varies depending on the labor and parts needed. Typically, the most basic battery replacement in tesla costs between $13,000 and $14,000. For the Model S premium sedan, replacing a Tesla battery costs around $13,000-$20,000.What happens to an electric car at the end of its life? ›
An electric vehicle battery pack is at the end of its service life when its capacity lowers by 20 to 30%. From this point onward, each charge-discharge-charge cycle will lower the battery capacity even further and the pack is no longer suitable for powering the vehicle.Do gas cars last longer than electric cars? ›
While battery life used to be a concern for prospective EV owners, modern technology has allowed EVs to last as long if not longer than traditional gasoline-powered vehicles.What happens to electric car batteries in a crash? ›
In a collision, EV batteries automatically disconnect from the vehicle to reduce battery damage. In addition, current EV vehicle designs boast a lower center of gravity, offer improved stability, and decrease the likelihood of a rollover accident.