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Our view: EVs drive us into the future

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They’re not, admittedly, flying cars.

And the new electric vehicles that the auto industry hopes will soon dominate the market are out of reach for many — especially during what we may soon define as a “recession.” The price — an average of $60,000 for a new EV, according to auto data company Edmunds — is too high when compared with both traditional combustion-engine vehicles and hybrids.

But the change seems, somehow, to be inevitable, especially considering that the auto industry as a whole is investing upward of $200 billion over the next five years on electric vehicles alone. For many reasons, that’s not a bad thing.

The purchase of EVs is certainly taking root, if slowly, in the Piedmont Triad, where the number of registered EVs in area counties grew by nearly 300 in the first quarter of 2022, as the Journal’s John Deem reported earlier this week. Guilford County now has a total of 1,154 fully electric vehicles registered; Forsyth County had a total of 656 by the end of March. (Per capita, Forsyth leads with one electric vehicle for every 588 residents compared with one for every 470 residents in Guilford.) Other counties have their purchasers — Alamance, 36; Davidson, 24; Randolph, 15; Surry, five; Yadkin, three; and Stokes, two.

We wonder who these moguls are, to be able to afford such luxury items.

But on the other hand, there’s a positive trade-off in fuel expenses, especially as the price of gas hovers in the $5-per-gallon range. The purchase of an EV may be a wise long-term investment — especially if it holds up over the years.

Nick Schmidt of Standish, Mich., the first purchaser of the electric version of Ford’s popular F-150 Lightning, expects his truck to perform. After ordering it in May 2021, he finally received it earlier this month.

An experienced pickup owner who lives on a farm, his initial experience is that the Lightning is just as powerful and dependable as his conventional F-150, he told NPR earlier this week. He’s already used it to haul soil and lumber and to tow his Airstream trailer.

“It’s fast,” he said. “I mean, for a big, full-sized pickup truck, it’ll do, I think, zero to 60 in 4.2 seconds or something, which is unheard of.”

“It was exactly what I wanted it to be, just a Ford pickup truck,” he said.

Ford initially intended to produce about 40,000 Lightnings — its gas-powered version is America’s best-selling vehicle — but took 200,000 reservations before calling a halt.

We doubt that will be the limit for long.

There are also, of course, savings in terms of the environment, as a substantial reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases reduces medical and environmental expenses, along with other “hidden costs.”

President Biden, a self-declared “car guy,” touted all the positive aspects of EVs when he test-drove the F-150 Lightning at Ford’s EV production facility in Dearborn, Mich., last month.

“This sucker’s quick,” he told reporters. “I think we’re going zero to 60 in four-point-three. Four-point-four?”

And he didn’t forget the environmental advantages.

“If we act to save the planet, we can create millions of good-paying jobs, generate significant economic growth and opportunity to raise the standard of living for people not only here, but around the world,” he said.

Ford is adding 6,200 hourly union jobs at three midwestern U.S. plants. Another 3,000 temp workers have become full-time union employees.

EVs have their own set of problems, some of them environmental. Emissions from EV production plants are high — especially those overseas. Lithium batteries are produced using base metals such as copper, aluminum and iron, which can be difficult and expensive to acquire — and involve energy-intensive extraction processes. Shortages of key products such as microchips continue to handicap the auto industry and delay the delivery of vehicles.

But these are challenges for America’s inventors and innovators, who have proved over decades to be the best in the world.

Ultimately, the decision will be in the hands of consumers. “There’s a lot of money at stake,” Sam Abuelsamid at Guidehouse Insights told NPR. “And if they’re going to build millions of EVs now and try to convert the entire industry to electric, they have to have products that people actually want to buy.”

And that they can afford to buy.

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