Why Does The New York Times Hate EVs?

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Some of you may remember back in 2013 when a reporter for the New York Times test drove a Tesla Model S and slammed it because it didn’t get as much range on the highway as advertised. Elon Musk went ballistic and began a months-long campaign to get the Times to update its story, to no avail. Ever since, if the Grey Lady has had anything good to say about Tesla, it has been buried in Section E, right after the report on the latest meeting of the Larchmont Garden Club.

Here’s a headline from a New York Times story last week: Rural America’s Roads Might Resemble Cuba in 20 Years. The author, Mike Seely, writes at length about how Cubans have created an industry out of keeping American cars from the 50s running despite have no access to spare parts. And that part is true. There are ’55 Chevys cruising the streets of Havana that look like they just rolled off the assembly line in Detroit.

That’s what Seely thinks will happen in rural America as the EV revolution plows forward. His thesis is that people who live in the boonies will be consigned to clapped-out Ford Crown Victorias and F-150s because electric cars won’t have enough range to drive into town from rural farms and there won’t be any new gas-powered cars available.

“Experts say it’s possible that American roads could resemble Cuba for a spell, with older cars running on gasoline engines kept in circulation long after they ordinarily would have been traded in for another fuel-burning model,” Seely reports. His warning is based on a comment by Michelle Krebs, an executive analyst for Cox Automotive, who says, “We think there will be Cuba, especially in the rural areas of the U.S.,” especially if there are no advancements in batttery technology. Range is really important to people in faraway places, You have to drive long distances just to get to the grocery store,” Krebs says.

Scary Propaganda

Seely pours on the scary, scary news about electric cars. “Electric cars need to become more affordable. Battery range needs to increase sharply. Charging stations need to become as commonplace as gas stations. And the time it takes to charge an electric car needs to fall more in line with gassing up a tank.” Yeah, most of us know that.

It has taken 100 years to perfect the internal combustion engine, but the truth is, the EV revolution is proceeding much faster than that. New battery technology is making headlines weekly if not daily, EV charging infrastructure is growing rapidly and the time needed to charge an electric car is getting shorter. Perhaps Seely could learn a thing or two by reading CleanTechnica once in a while.

Instead, he trots out an assortment of EV bashers to spread more fear, uncertainty, and doubt. There is a link to another New York Times article from June of this year by Elaine Glusac describing in detail the gut wrenching dilemma of driving an electric car on Colorado’s back roads through the Rocky Mountains.

Then he turns to no less an authority on electric cars than Jason Courter, chief operating officer at Bellevue Honda in Washington and a former chair of the American International Automobile Dealers Association. “Range anxiety — that’s a real thing that has to be figured out when people go on road trips. You really have to plot out your course when you’re driving an electric vehicle. We’re going to have to have a way bigger charging infrastructure — turning rest stops into charging stations. The average gas station stop takes about 10 minutes. Just to get a trickle charge, you’re 20 minutes to a half-hour plus, with less opportunities to get them,” he warns. Be afraid, people. Be very afraid!

But Wait, There’s More!

Jorge Salazar-Carrillo is a Cuban native and the director of Florida International University’s Economic Research Center. He regales Seely with a horror story about driving an electric car with a fellow professor from the University of Vermont. “He had to calculate because there weren’t many electric stations,” he said before adding that a stop to charge took close to an hour. Oh, the horror! “I think combustion engine cars are going to disappear more slowly than people believe. There will still be some families and businesses who will return to gasoline-powered cars. The regular cars might go the way of how you see things in Cuba,” he says.

Salazar-Carrillo and Courter question how green electric vehicles really are. “A lot of people have concerns about how that will tax the grid, especially with rolling brownouts in California,” Courter says. “Some of the messaging behind electric is that it’s clean. But what did it take to build that battery? It still took factories, and it still took the mining, which, from everything I’ve read, is not the cleanest process.”

Same Old, Same Old

So far, Seely has just repeated the same old load of bollocks we have been hearing from electric car detractors for the past decade. But there’s a sub-text to Seely article that is truly evil. Say “Cuba” to someone and you raise the specter of communism, Fidel Castro, the Bay of Pigs, Guantanamo Bay, the Cuban missile crisis, and Elian Gonzalez. There is a lot of emotional and historical baggage wrapped up in that one word.

What Seely is doing is engaging in dog whistle journalism. Driving an electric car marks a person as a possible communist sympathizer who is probably not a patriot. The modern perspective is that socialism and communism are one and the same. Communism leads directly to crimes against humanity like those perpetrated by Pol Pot in Cambodia, some people believe. The way Seely framed his article is deliberately calculated to spark fear and loathing among his readers.

The Washington Post Takes A Different Position

By coincidence, a few days after Seely’s hit piece ran in the New York Times, the Washington Post published an article entitled Five Myths About Electric Cars. It explodes the misinformation that electric cars are a fire hazard or are only for wealthy people. It also refutes the wrong-headed notion that the EV revolution is a liberal plot designed to “cancel” the culture that has grown up around cars with internal combustion engines. Finally, it gives the lie to the hackneyed load of codswallop we have been hearing for a decade about how electric cars are bad for the environment because some electricity comes from burning coal.

The Takeaway

How does a piece of anti-EV propaganda wind up in the New York Times? Simple. Fossil fuel interests pay it to publish such tripe. It is misinformation masquerading as journalism and it tarnishes everything the Times writes with the taint of bias.

Battery and charging technology are improving rapidly. Charging infrastructure is expanding. EV prices are declining and world manufacturers like Volkswagen and Tesla have their sights firmly set on bringing lower priced cars to market. Geely has just announced an electric SUV with decent range for less than $10,000.

But for detractors, it’s never going to be enough. Our precious way of life is threatened by the changeover to electric transportation. The sky is falling! Quick! We must run and tell the king! In my grandfather’s generation, lots of people liked to make fun of people broken down on the side of the road in their automobiles. “Get a horse!” they would shout at them. What a shame if humans become extinct because charging electric cars is just too inconvenient. Who will buy the New York Times then?

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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