Monthly Archives: January 2024

Electric vehicle (EV) misinformation corrected

Lately I’ve seen a lot of bad publicity about electric vehicles (EVs). I want to give you straight scoop based on the thirteen years of experience I’ve had driving EVs. There are advantages and disadvantages to EVs just as there are to internal combustion engine (ICE) cars. EVs are not a good choice for many people, but they are great choices for most.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage is that they cost more initially to purchase. But you make that up and more over the life of the vehicle in fuel and repair costs. If you have your own charging station at home (or a subsidized one at work), your energy costs will be less than a third of gas costs. Over time that alone will more than make up for the purchase cost differential. This is especially true if you have solar panels. Many utilities are no longer paying people for the extra power from roof panels, but you may be able to charge your EV with it, in which case it’s free.

Consumer Reports recently reported that EVs have “more problems” than ICE cars based on owners reports. I have no way to review or dispute that, but it hasn’t been true in my experience. I bought a 2001 Nissan Leaf and in the 10 years I owned it, I never had any actual repairs or servicing other than two or three minor ones that any car could have (e.g., minor body repair, wiper blades). I now drive a 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge. In the three years I’ve had it, the same is true. I just had my first actual repair (as distinguished from a regular service check, which found no issues): replacement of the hoses that carry windshield washer fluid. A rodent chewed through them. Clearly, that has nothing to do with it being an EV. I’m not sure if “problems” means repairs (cost) or inconvenience. I believe that if you compare repair and servicing costs of the two, EVs would be much cheaper than ICE cars. They certainly have been for me.

The cars that scored the worst according to Consumer Reports were other models than my cars, especially Jeep, Rivian, Chrysler, and Mercedes, all of which are very new to electric vehicles, not even having much prior experience with hybrids.Tesla was mostly reliable except for the Model S. But from what I read many EV problems cure themselves through rebooting or retrying whatever it is since it’s often a software problem. That’s happened to me, but hasn’t required a trip to the dealer and hasn’t cost anything. There are regular free software updates delivered over the air (OTA) to fix such little things.

So those “problems” are an inconvenience, true, but think about the inconveniences you get from ICE cars. The biggest one, of course, is you have to keep going to a gas station. With an EV, you don’t need to go anywhere, at least if you have charging at home or work. If you don’t, an EV probably isn’t for you. ICE cars also require regular oil changes and emissions checks. EVs don’t. ICE cars have catalytic converters stolen. EVs don’t. Thieves steal ICE cars, not EVs. ICE cars need brake jobs; EV’s don’t since they slow mostly with the motor (regenerative braking). In many places you can drive EVs in HOV lanes solo but not ICE cars. I think of all of those as ICE “problems” that EVs don’t have. Consumer Reports failed to weigh those things, probably because ICE car owners don’t think of them as problems and don’t report them as such.

Another EV problem in the news is how hard and slow it is to charge an EV in sub-freezing temperatures. I’m sure the individual reports are accurate, but answer me this: why don’t drivers in Norway and Canada have this problem with their EV’s (virtually all new cars in Norway now are EVs)? The answer: people there keep EV’s in a garage in their house and charge there where it’s well above freezing. And when they do charge outside at a public station, they precondition the battery like it says to do in the manual. Most people in those countries live close to where they work and rarely take long road trips. It’s easy to charge at home there. Americans, with their selfish entitlement attitude, are unique in thinking it normal to drive hundreds or thousands of miles. If you’re a road tripper, or live in a cold climate and park outside then an EV isn’t for you; or else if you’re a 2-car family, make one of them an ICE car. I took a road trip in my Volvo (~1800 miles R/T) and it was a pain stopping and charging, but it’s doable.

The public infrastructure for EVs is still being worked out. It’s not there yet, but it is improving every day. New technologies are emerging making charging simpler, faster, easier. Everyone I know who has owned an EV says the same thing I do: I’ll never go back to ICE. Driving an EV is so much more fun and convenient. There’s a lot of misinformation about the environmental benefit of EVs but the reality is that they do help greatly toward the greenhouse gas problem. In California about 80% of the electricity is produced from renewable, non-polluting sources (solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, etc.) That’s not true in other states, and some oil-producing states have been hostile toward EVs. So they aren’t for everyone there, but even if you’re not a tree-hugger, you’ll enjoy driving an EV unless you are one of those exceptions I’ve identified.

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

The Lost City of the Monkey GodThe Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an account of a true life Indiana Jones type of adventure. Specifically, it details the search for the “White City,” also known by the name in the title, in Honduras. The city’s very existence was something of a dubious legend for decades. There have been many accounts and debunked claims by various explorers and con men that they found or visited the ancient city deep in the jungle. But in 2012 a lidar aerial survey revealed that there was a vast city buried under the jungle canopy in a remote valley. A team of scientists, historians, filmmakers and the author, sponsored by National Geographic and various others, eventually got permission from the Honduran government to develop “ground truth” at the site.

The trip in and out was extremely hazardous for many reasons: e.g. political instability, narcotraffickers, deadly snakes and tropical diseases, and rickety aircraft. Before the author’s expedition is detailed he goes into the history of the legends and previous attempts to find it and gives some biographical background of those involved. That’s not fascinating, but still very interesting. The book is a nail-biter and page-turner once the author’s expedition is detailed. What they found and how they found it is astounding, but is not the end of it. The subsequent fallout from the discovery is mind-blowing and includes academic jealousy or controversy, political fighting, racial/ethnic tensions, medical issues and security concerns. The fight to preserve the site and its treasures has been as difficult as the effort to find it. I highly recommend this book.

View all my reviews

None of This Is True by Lisa Jewell

None of This Is TrueNone of This Is True by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I only read the first 80 pages of this book, so take my review for what that’s worth. The author clearly doesn’t want men to read this book. All the significant characters so far are women. There are seven promo blurbs on the back cover from other authors and one on the front cover. All are from women. When I finally got to the umpteenth fashion description on the characters’ outfits, both men’s and women’s, I gave up. The only interesting thing I learned was the difference between chambray and denim, and that I had to look up. The author obviously thought her readers would already know that. I thought I was reading a mystery novel, not a jumbo edition of Vogue.

View all my reviews

The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton

The Light PirateThe Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book begins with a terrific 5-star hurricane survival story set in near future Florida. This life and death struggle (note I wrote life and death, not or) fills almost the first third of the book. The story continues with the survivors’ subsequent lives, but takes on a different feel, focusing on one person in particular. It drifts into a quasi-post apocalyptic sci-fi story, although only barely. It’s more of a prepper saga mixed with a coming-of-age and relationship tale. As the ending nears, it loses a star, becoming less plausible and more politically correct as it also makes large leaps of time. It’s still a very engaging novel that will keep you turning pages with enthusiasm.

View all my reviews

Mother-Daughter Murder Night by Nina Simon

Mother-Daughter Murder NightMother-Daughter Murder Night by Nina Simon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This debut novel takes places in and around Elkhorn Slough, a beautiful eco-spot worth visiting in Monterey Bay. The title might better be called called Mother-Daughter-Granddaughter Murder Night since it features that combination of women. Lana is a pushy, hard-driven real estate lady obsessed with expensive power trappings; her daughter Beth is a nurse living at Elkhorn in a rustic (or shabby in Lana’s view) cabin with Jacqueline (Jack), a teenager who works part-time at the local kayak rental business. Lana must leave her L.A. business to get cancer treatments at Stanford, so is forced into living with Beth, although their relationship is strained. On one of Jack’s tours, a client comes across a dead body, a murder victim. Jack becomes a suspect. Of course, Lana must protect her granddaughter by catching the real killer.

This is one of the better crime novels I’ve read in recent months. The author does a good job of populating it with potential suspects and feeding clues in small doses all the way to the end. I’m not a big fan of cozy mysteries, which this one is, but the investigative work in this one is more believable than most. In novels written by women, I’m also normally put off by constant descriptions of women’s outfits and named designers. Those sorts of descriptions are a regular feature of this book wherever Lana appears. But this one makes Lana’s concern with fashion and extravagance seem vain and ridiculous, which I think it is, so I mostly approve. Beth and Jack are down-to-earth with more solid values and thus more likeable, but Lana still takes the lead in the homegrown detecting. While I find it unrealistic that so much of the legwork is done by amateurs instead of the police, at least the work done by the sheriff’s detectives is described in a plausible manner. The explanation at the end makes them come off as having done a reasonable job. The ending, with most of the suspects all together, is a bit too formulaic and contrived, but at least things are wrapped up neatly. I did suss out the killer before it was revealed, but not much before. I had my eye on another one for a long time. The critical clues were not revealed earlier. In short, the suspense was maintained almost to the end. The added local ambience of the slough was an added bonus.

View all my reviews

What3Words – U.S. states edition

Here we go again: more interesting sites with ironic or oddly suitable word combos. This time it’s centered on various states in the United States.

First.state.ever is assigned to a point near Philadelphia, which sounds appropriate, but Delaware is actually the first state of the union. Pennsylvania is 2nd. The spot is less than 4 miles from Delaware.

nickname.sunflowers.state is another near miss. This one is in Nebraska even though Kansas is the Sunflower State. Of course this is plural and the same combo with just sunflower in the middle is in Alaska.

Then there are those that appear to be other states stealing the moniker of the correct state like sunshine.state.also in Texas encroaching Florida’s territory and Michigan doing the same to Maine with pine.tree.state.

There are several that are appropriate to the state even if the word combination is not the exact nickname. Pelicans.state.flag is found in Louisiana, The Pelican State; treasures.state.cave lands in Montana, The Treasure State; garden.state.exit falls on Watchung, New Jersey. Not only is New Jersey The Garden State, but the W3W spot is only one mile from the Watchung exit sign on U.S. 22.

These spots may not be pinpoint accurate, so you may wonder how much of a coincidence are these, really. Even a large state like Montana comprises only about seven hundredths of one percent of the earth’s surface area which translates to about one chance in 1,340 a random word combo could land there. New Jersey is about 1/20 the size of Montana, so the odds for that Watchung one are about one in 27,000. If you look up some of my earlier W3W posts, you’ll see that some are specific down to a city or a building, where the odds becomes astronomically high.