Are we Binary? And, the Chicken or the Egg?


Are we Binary? And, the Chicken or the Egg?

Let’s start with a quick note – take the time to read Jeff Pinyot’s column on page 14 in this issue. It is perhaps the best thing he has ever written. 

Sometimes, I think about right and wrong, yes and no, up and down, on and off, in and out. We live in a binary world. But does it have to be so?

We have moved to a ‘my way or the highway’ world. Does it have to be that way?

My neighbor down the street has a sign in his front yard that says “LA is for Everyone.” Fair enough. The issue is that a few years ago he was leading the charge against a zoning change that would allow multi-family dwellings in our neighborhood. Those duplexes and apartments would make housing more affordable in the city. His concern was that it would also lower the value of his property. Plus, you would have all those “kids and old people” running around. I have been thinking about having a conversation with him about his lack of self-reflection and hypocrisy. “LA is for Everyone” as long as they live somewhere else.

I had the opportunity to have this discussion with him the other day. I opted not to do so. After all, the probable outcome of the conversation would be an enemy for life. My neighbor and his wife are nice people. They like my dog. They chat when I see them on the street. I don’t agree with their approach to certain things, but so what? Must I live in a binary world, where things are right and wrong, and if someone is ‘wrong’ then by golly I have to tell them so and then create a schism that will be uncrossable?

We seem to have moved to that binary dynamic. Either you agree with me or you are bad and I don’t want to associate with you. This has gone so far as to split families, destroy marriages, and create cultural splits that serve no purpose except to generate hate and division.

The mainstream media and social media live in this binary world. You are either for us or agin us. The conversation is strident. It will allow no discussion. It is right vs. wrong, yes vs. no. If you don’t believe the way I believe, you can go pound sand.

Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia were polar opposites in their judicial philosophies, yet they were the best of friends. They both loved opera and often attended opera and shared a dinner from time to time, discussing their respect for that art. They opted out of the binary world of politics and preferred to enjoy each other’s friendship.

Would that we could follow the lead of these two great minds, forgo the binary world around us and enjoy our commonality. But then what would the media have to talk about? It would be wonderful to find out.

Which came first? The question has puzzled folks since time immemorial. The same question could be asked of the current EV push. Which comes first, the car or the charger?

The government of New Jersey, for instance, is attempting to get EVs on the road. The governor has called for 330,000 on the road by 2025, but there are only about 41,000 registered now. The problem seems two-fold: first the cost of the EV, and second, how does the new owner get it charged?

This is a particular problem for those living in apartment buildings where no chargers exist (read that: most of them.) They are left to the vagaries of public charging stations, and in New Jersey, that means scrambling for the fewer than 600 public chargers in the state.

Let’s apply a little critical thinking to this problem. The state can barely support the number of EVs on the road now (with charging stations) and it wants to increase the number of EVs by a factor of eight in four years. It appears that the state is mandating that each town and city in the garden state have at least one charging station. There are 565 towns in the state. So, this plan will double the number of charging stations to support eight times the number of EVs.

My guess is that the EVs owned in New Jersey are owned by people living in private homes with garages where they can be charged overnight. The state is going to have to tap into those living in apartments if it hopes to reach the 330,000 goal in four years. Note: there are over 2,600,000 cars registered in New Jersey. The gov wants to jump from around 1.5 percent EV to 12 percent EV in four years. Good luck with that.

Is it possible that it isn’t really the price of EVs that keep folks considering ICE vehicles, but the charging problem and related range anxiety? Therefore, is it possible that we need to have the infrastructure in place before we expect car sales to explode?

Elon Musk understood this problem and began a program of installing high speed charging stations in strategic locations around the country for his Tesla super car. Rather than have the government invest billions in charging stations, shouldn’t the private sector begin jumping on board this problem? If Toyota, Audi, BMW, Volkswagen, GM, Ford and the rest were to put their money into charging programs, think how many eggs might appear across the fruited plain.

But my guess is that those facilities would charge the EV owner the true cost of the electrons and their delivery and new EV owners would find that charging their clean air vehicles would approach the cost of filling a tank with gasoline. After all, when the numbers begin to approach 10, 15, 20 or 40 percent of the fleet, electricity suppliers will, if they haven’t already, begin to understand that the delivery of those electrons will require major infrastructure cost increases including transmission lines, generating stations, and the like. And someone is going to have to pay for them. (By the way, I understand that wind and solar, for some reason, don’t work well generating electricity at night, the exact time most EVs will be charged.)

When you are filling your tank with gas, you are paying for exploring, drilling, extraction, refining, delivery, and all the machines required to do same. It only makes sense that those driving EVs would have to pay all those similar costs. Today, they are piggybacking on the infrastructure that runs our homes, cities and factories. Perhaps when our betters (yes, our betters, Tony) in government realize that simply passing laws and wishing doesn’t make it so.

So, what is first, the EV chicken or the charging station egg? My suggestion is that we allow the free marketplace to work. If manufacturers see that supplying electricity to EV owners is a profitable business, you will have charging stations on every corner, in every apartment garage, in every parking facility.

Yes, electricity for EVs shouldn’t be cheap. It must pay the cost of generation, transmission, and loading onto the vehicle. The egg will appear quickly if the money is there. Then the chickens will come running.


Article contributed by:
John Van Horn
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