There's A Big Problem Buying A Used EV

Proposed rules would give consumers access to battery life info, but not before 2026.

Nissan Leaf, electronic vechiles, queue to be loaded onto a freighter at its Oppama factory in Yokosuka, some 40-kilometre south of Tokyo on April 22, 2011. AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA
Nissan Leaf, electronic vechiles, queue to be loaded onto a freighter at its Oppama factory in Yokosuka, some 40-kilometre south of Tokyo on April 22, 2011. AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA
Photo: TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP via Getty Images (Getty Images)

There’s plenty of consumer protection around any used car’s mileage, but a key part of electric cars’ life story — the condition of its battery — isn’t. All that and more in The Morning Shift for June 9, 2021.

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1st Gear: Battery Health Info Is Restricted

As anyone with an old laptop of phone knows, battery life deteriorates over time, and it can vary a lot device to device. The way this shakes out with electric cars, scaled way up in price and battery size from a humble laptop, is sketchy, as Jalopnik alum Aaron Gordon reports for Vice’s Motherboard.

First, an anecdote about a used EV buyer named George Churchill, who bought a 2016 Nissan Leaf in 2019, happy to see it had all 12 bars of battery health displayed. Things went downhill immediately:

[C]hurchill noticed something was wrong on his drive back home. When he left, the car estimated it had 80 miles of range. By the time he finished his 25-mile commute, it said it had 30 miles of range left. And in the next few days, Churchill said the battery health meter lost two bars. When he called the dealer to complain, he was shuffled between departments and ultimately ignored.

After doing some research, Churchill learned the battery health meter can be reset using a car diagnostic tool. After resetting, the meter will display all 12 bars for a short period before recalibrating after some use, just as Churchill’s did. During this time, the car is essentially lying about its battery health.

“I still feel like I was cheated,” Churchill told Motherboard. “I enjoy driving it, but the limited range has been bad enough that I often think about going back to a gas car.”

EVs are new, and consumer protection for them is still catching up. Regulations protecting people are still a long way away, as Gordon explains:

To help address this problem, the California Air Resources Board is planning to propose a set of rules. One would mandate batteries maintain at least 80 percent health for 15 years or 150,000 miles. Another would create a minimum battery warranty term of 10 years or 150,000 miles. Yet another proposal would mandate all electric vehicles have clear battery state-of-health information any consumer or prospective buyer can easily access via the car’s display, and also require that the same display discloses when a battery is eligible for a warranty repair. And McCarthy said they are considering ways to avoid what Churchill experienced with the LEAF where the meter is reset without the consumer’s knowledge. One idea is a requirement to report the mileage since it was last reset or mandating a disclosure for a certain amount of time after it has been reset. But the rulemaking process is a bit slow; McCarthy said it wouldn’t be mandated until 2026 at the earliest, but nothing is stopping automakers from doing the right thing sooner.

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This will be a fun story to keep an eye on, as EVs continue to make their way out of the realm of avid early adopters and into the hands of totally normal car buyers who expect totally normal experiences and won’t take shit about it.

2nd Gear: GM Will Be Shipping Full-Size Trucks Without Stop-Start From Chip Shortage

Buyers of the affected models will get a $50 credit for missing out on this simple but effective (and annoying) feature, as Automotive News reports:

General Motors will build some 2021 full-size pickups and SUVs without the automatic stop-start fuel-saving feature because of the global microchip shortage, the automaker said Tuesday.

[...]

Only pickups and SUVs equipped with 5.3L and 6.2L V-8 engines and 10-speed transmissions built on or after June 7 will be impacted, GM said in a statement. GM did not disclose the affected volume.

[...]

The change will lead to a minor fuel economy reduction in most of the affected vehicles, GM said, and customers will receive a $50 credit on the sticker price for those vehicles. GM Authority reported the change Monday.

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It’s hard to imagine stop start will only save a tank of gas over an owner’s time with a 6.2-liter Tahoe, but what do I know.

3rd Gear: Senate Passes Bill That Gives $52 Billion To Chip Production

Meanwhile, the government is trying to get this whole chip shortage thing under wraps, and is getting closer to throwing a ton of money at the problem. This is part of a larger effort to be competitive against China, or at least that’s how the government is framing it. From Bloomberg:

The Senate overwhelmingly passed an expansive bill to invest almost $250 billion in bolstering U.S. manufacturing and technology to meet the economic and strategic challenge from China.

[...]

The legislation authorizes $190 billion in spending, much of it aimed at increased R&D at universities and other institutions.

It also includes $52 billion in emergency outlays to help domestic manufacturers of semiconductors expand production, a provision that gained new urgency with a global shortage of chips that has idled U.S. automotive plants and disrupted the production of consumer electronics.

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It still has to make it through the House, which might be a challenge.

4th Gear: Dieselgate Boss Charged With Lying To Government

Martin Winterkorn was the king of the Volkswagen empire at the peak of Deiselgate. He was untouchable, and seeing his fall is still bizarre. From Reuters:

Prosecutors have brought charges against former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn for giving false testimony to the German parliament when he said he was unaware of the automaker’s diesel scandal before it broke.

“In his testimony, the accused falsely claimed to have been informed of the defeat devices only in September 2015,” Berlin prosecutors in a statement on Wednesday

“According to the indictment, he had since May 2015 been aware that the engine control software of some VW vehicles had been equipped with a function to manipulate the exhaust values in testing,” prosecutors added.

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5th Gear: Renault Caught Up In Its Own Deiselgate, Too

The comedy of Dieselgate, aside from it all starting from a handful of VW fans in West Virginia, is that everyone knows VW isn’t alone. Everybody cheats. The hammer is now falling on Renault, as Bloomberg explains:

rench investigators charged Renault with deceiving on emissions in ongoing fallout from the diesel scandal that erupted when Volkswagen admitted to cheating tests almost six years ago.

Renault must make a 20 million-euro ($24 million) bail payment and provide a 60 million-euro bank guarantee to cover potential damages, fines and compensation for losses, the company said in a statement Tuesday.

Renault denies any wrongdoing.

Reverse: He Was Looking For Good Poutine

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Neutral: How Are You?

A very loud storm last evening kept me profoundly entertained. Been a while since I’ve heard rolling thunder.

DISCUSSION

By
COMTNDRVR

Does anyone get the impression that maybe Diesel was just never a great option for normal passenger cars?