Scotty Kilmer, currently known for his YouTube channel, can be a bit of a polarizing figure in the car world. Why? Because he’s an old school American car guy. He’s taken heat for views that used to be common among automotive enthusiasts, like recommending that people avoid luxury cars, even used ones. His mild skepticism of turbocharged 4-cylinder engines (and his not-so-mild skepticism) that have taken over much of the market has even led to funny parody videos that copy his style. There are many other parody videos on YouTube, ranging from the mild and safe for family and work to the hideous and profane.
In every enthusiast community, you’ll find these sorts of divides. For people into guns, there are the people who like the latest and the greatest guns, the people who hang back a bit and are into things that were popular 10 years ago, and people who are heavily biased toward designs and methods that are over a century old (the 1911 pistol’s popularity, despite being introduced in 1911, is one of the more common examples, with its proponents often citing its usage in two world wars as proof of superiority). The “Spandex Man” or “MAMIL” bike riders often hate the “cheaters” who ride e-bikes and go faster with less effort (while wearing normal clothes and not sweating profusely). Aging amateur radio operators complain that newer digital modes (especially FT8) are “ruining the hobby.” I could literally go on all day, but this paragraph is getting too long as it is (especially on mobile devices), and must end.
So you can probably imagine that Scotty Kilmer, being an old school kind of car guy, probably isn’t a big fan of electric vehicles. And, it turns out that you’d be right. Here’s a great example of one of his older videos about electric vehicles:
He basically spends the first 3 minutes trashing EVs, telling us that they’re a scam, largely because they’re not as cheap as they seem when you consider the cost of installing a charging station at home, expensive electricity in some states, and the possibility of future taxation (which is a reality in some states, but they’re tacking it onto registrations instead of your power bill).
But then he spends the next 7 minutes talking about things like the C8 Corvette, a potential future Toyota MR2, and then the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ. So most of the video isn’t even about EVs. Yeah, we can see why younger car guys are doing parodies now.
Scotty Surprised Me With This More Recent Video, Though
But, even traditionalists can change their minds on things.
It’s not perfect, but it’s more even-handed at least. The most glaring error (around 7:40) was stating that switching cars to coal-fired electricity is a net increase in CO2. That has been debunked, but Japan’s power mix (what he was discussing) includes just as much natural gas as coal, and has a mix of renewables and nuclear that make up about 25% of it, so he was even more wrong. His assertion that grids can’t handle EVs is also iffy and incomplete, but I’ll leave it up to Engineering Explained to explain what’s wrong with these assumptions.
But that’s only a small part of the overall video. Yes, there are a few errors treated as fact, but the whole video wasn’t a hatchet job against EVs this time.
He does a good job of going through all of the different EVs that are out now, will be out soon, and have been out in the past, going back well over a century. He didn’t just tell us everything good about EVs, but he did mostly get the strengths and weaknesses right this time. He even got into tips on how to make an EV’s battery last longer, which gets back to the original point of his channel (to help people take care of their cars).
All in all, I’d say that making a video that’s mostly fair and even informative for EV buyers is a big step for most traditionalist automotive people.
The Good News We Can Take From This
In the beginning of the modern EV era, buying an EV was kind of a socially risky move. Every older person in your family would tell you that you’re making (or have made) a mistake. You probably wouldn’t get disowned over it, but you wouldn’t get respect for it in 2010. “All those batteries are going to go bad and cost you big money! Why are you buying a new car, and not a sensible used one? It’s an unproven technology, and pioneers had a way of getting arrows in their backs. Let other people be experiments!”
Sadly, some of what they said was, in fact, true. The early Nissan LEAF vehicles were great in just about every respect but the battery, which lost range far too quickly. But, the technology improved for most other vehicles (and improved some for the LEAF). Ranges got better. Parts got more durable. The kinks started getting worked out. More charging stations have gone in.
Today, EVs are going mainstream. For everyone but people with the lowest incomes (used EVs can be had even for what semi-poors with 4 kids like me can reasonably pay now) and people living in rural areas where EV charging still sucks, EVs have become a viable alternative to common gasoline-powered vehicles. The range is sufficient for all local driving and most road trips now, unless you buy a used compliance car or a LEAF with less than the 62 kWh battery, but even those are good for local jaunts.
There has to come a point where even the most skeptical of people start to turn the corner. If you need to maintain the appearance of being an automotive expert, EVs are getting to the point where you don’t look like an expert by bashing them. Keep that up too long, and it won’t be long in the future where bashing EVs makes someone look like a senile crank or a political hack.
We’ve obviously reached the point where EVs can no longer be dismissed out of hand. That’s a good thing.
Featured photo: Columbia Electric’s (1896–99) “Victoria” electric cab on Pennsylvania Ave., Washington D.C., seen from Lafayette Square in 1905, driving in front of the White House. Photo by H.C. White (Public Domain Photo).