By Dr. Harold A. Black

The government wants you to buy an electric vehicle. Just like “I’m from the government and I am here to help you” if the government is encouraging an action, it is buyer beware. EVs won’t save the planet. They actually may be more damaging to the environment than gas vehicles – especially their batteries. Yet the government is offering a subsidy if you buy one, although the fine print limits the vehicles that qualify. There is an incentive to buy a used EV. Just hope you don’t have to replace the battery bank which may cost more than the vehicle. Also make sure that the used EV is still supported by the manufacturer. Recently a woman bought a used EV. Soon it needed new batteries. The batteries would have cost more than the vehicle but were no longer available. Caveat emptor.

But there are other issues that need to be considered. Have you ever been stuck in the traffic jam to end all traffic jams? I was caught between Knoxville and Asheville for four hours due to an accident on I-40. I’ve been in others as well. I left the Outer Banks in 2011 one day before it was ordered evacuated because of Hurricane Irene. News reports said that the delay coming on to the mainland was over 6 hours. I was riding my motorcycle years ago near Laramie, WY and noticed that there were gates at the entrances to the interstate. Seems that in the wintertime, they closed the interstates during snowstorms. Remember the storm in 1998 that closed I-40 near Monterey, TN for 18 hours? Traffic was backed up for 13 miles. Motorists were stranded. The state dropped food and blankets to help motorists survive. Over 100,000 residents lost power.

In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina was approaching New Orleans, the city was ordered to evacuate. I told my friends there that they could come stay with me but they chose to go to Houston to stay with family. A five hour trip took them 12 hours. When Hurricane Irma threatened Florida in 2017, almost the entire state was ordered to evacuate. My niece in Oregon asked if her daughter and her boyfriend who were in Tampa could stay at my farm in Gray, Ga. I happened to be at the farm and said yes. The interstates had turned into parking lots. There were no hotels available in Georgia. My niece’s daughter arrived after nearly 24 hours. The hurricane was supposed to track to the east toward South Carolina but as luck would have it, the hurricane shifted west and the eye came over the farm. As the eye approached, I was afraid that trees would fall on the house or that the roof would be torn off. Luckily none of that happened. But I was in the basement with my dogs.

In 2020, I-95 was shut down for 24 hours in northern Virginia after a crash of big rig trucks during a snowstorm. One congressman said that the trip from Richmond to DC took him 27 hours. Cars ran out of gas. There was no food or water available as people and their pets were stuck for hours.

Every year there is a hurricane season, a tornado season and cars crash. Remember the great fog crash on I-75 near Calhoun in 1990? Can you imagine if you were in an electric vehicle? Its bad enough if you an in a gas powered car, but an EV? Currently finding a charging station – especially one that works – is a challenge especially if you are planning a trip beyond the range of the batteries. What happens if you are stuck for hours and run out of juice? You are going to have to wait for a tow because AAA might be able to bring others gas, but I don’t think you can jump start a dead EV. And what do you do, if the power grid is down as often happens in hurricanes and snowstorms? Even if you can get a tow you won’t be able to charge your vehicle until the power comes back on. Let’s hope that the grid isn’t dependent upon “renewables” or else it might be a really long wait.

With all the Teslas in west Knoxville, I only hope that these cars are second vehicles and just used for commuting. It is too risky to take them on a long trip, even if the weather forecast is benign. That the government wants you to buy an EV is enough to give you pause. Buy one if you want, but one day you will remember that I told you caveat emptor.