GM to CA Volt drivers: “Oops, we did it again.”

....or is it?

For the second time, General Motors has sponsored a California bill that creates more problems than it solves and doesn’t support current Volt drivers (given the problems created, I’d still argue that, but…see update below). And without some eleventh-hour intervention, AB475 is going to pass. As other states often follow California’s lead, the perils of this trend are hardly restricted to the left coast.

Some background: public charging has existed in California since 1996, much of it funded by General Motors. Because federal law requires ADA access, they are often located in prime parking spaces. Signage restricts parking to electric vehicles, but “ICEing”- a gas car parking in a charger space- has been an ongoing nuisance issue.  It’s also been a manageable one, via local parking ordinances that allow offending vehicles to be ticketed or towed.

But in 2002, with EV population arguably in decline, the California legislature passed a law restricting public charger use to “zero-emission vehicles”. It also requires a DMV sticker so parking enforcement can easily tell which vehicles are eligible. Without clear evidence that local ordinances were insufficient, the 2002 law has been “a solution looking for a problem”, adding complexity and administrative costs. But its use by only a few charging sites limited the inconvenience, with just over 800 parking stickers issued to date.

That is, until plug-in hybrids hit the market and Chevrolet Volt drivers were excluded from those chargers. GM stepped in when asked, turning to Assemblymember Betsy Butler, whose district includes the company’s Torrance facility (and my house), and AB475 was born. Originally, it simply expanded eligible vehicles to include PHEVs. But in June, the sticker scheme and complex definitions were scrapped in favor of verbiage stating that any plug-in is legally parked “while connected” to a charger. The change appears to greatly simplify things, but it’s surprisingly problematic.

We’ve learned through years of trial and error that infrastructure use is maximized and cost minimized by installing chargers between two or four parking spaces where feasible. Drivers then share chargers by unplugging a fully-charged vehicle and plugging the next one in, without having to wait for someone to move his car. It also helps with ICEing, the very issue this law is meant to address. Rather than waiting for that vehicle to be moved or towed, the plug-in simply takes the next space.

While popular now, there’s no guarantee that charger sharing will continue as the plug-in vehicle population grows. Even if it doesn’t, it will remain financially prudent to install chargers between spaces. The current verbiage prevents sharing and guarantees that site owners will bear increased hardware and installation costs by having to install 2-4 times as many chargers to serve the same number of spaces.

Additionally, it leaves plug-in drivers vulnerable; any passerby who disconnects the car out of curiosity and fails to get it re-connected properly- or anyone who does it maliciously- could get that vehicle ticketed or towed. “Vandalism” has been a relatively uncommon problem so far, but this practice would take only seconds and require no property damage or breaking of laws, making it attractive to those that resent the support of plug-in vehicles.

When plug-in advocates raised these concerns with General Motors, its policy staff seemed to share them. Alternatives were collaboratively drafted (one as simple as reverting back to the original bill, another eliminating the previous bill entirely), and presented to Butler’s staff. Weeks followed with no movement on the language- odd with stakeholders and the bill’s sponsor seemingly in alignment.

A nuance that affects the fewest drivers- language referring to CARB’s definition of “PHEV”- is the most inexcusable. “PHEV” is not a regulatory term used by CARB; the agency classifies vehicles by tailpipe emissions. Typically, it defines PHEVs as “Enhanced-ATPZEVs” or e-ATPZEV, a criteria that none of the current Volts meet. Any obvious indication of e-ATPZEV status on the car is unlikely, so Volt drivers probably won’t be penalized for using chargers unless someone checks the VIN. Nevertheless, at the request of current Volt drivers, General Motors is creating a law that doesn’t legally protect…current Volt drivers. Any future PHEVs that don’t meet the e-ATPZEV standard would also be left out.

By refusing to change a few words, Butler herself is either condoning “illegal” charger use, or making a value judgement on which PHEVs are worthy of public charging. Ironically, the cars that are “dirtiest” when running on gas are the ones that won’t receive the extra electrons. allowing gasoline and other non-plug-in vehicles to have legal access to the parking and charging spaces meant for plug-in cars, potentially blocking the cleanest cars with the dirtiest ones. (I know, strange twist- see the update.)

Basing consumer incentives on regulatory classifications is generally problematic; the broad application of CARB’s “Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV)” label is an example. Using e-ATPZEV as the only criteria for incentives has more harmful implications, as it encourages automakers to charge a premium for that status, knowing consumers will pay to get the incentives. Since General Motors has yet to announce availability or pricing of the Volt’s e-ATPZEV option due next year, that might’ve been the point. Absurdly, the State is helping by using this criteria for both HOV lane and public charging eligibility- forcing buyers to choose the “clean” version of a vehicle already assumed to be and potentially paying more for it.

Butler’s final response came yesterday: the bill won’t be changed, as contrary to all indications, “General Motors did not share your concerns”. Not the first time interests of a corporate constituent outweigh those affected by the proposed law, nor the first time GM has prioritized its own needs above those of their customers- but neither get any easier to swallow with experience. Even Plug In America jumped in, switching its position from supporting the bill to opposing it.

Plug-in vehicle charging should be made as simple and consistent as possible, by revoking the 2002 law and starting over. Now is the time to assess the need for and best implementation of a state law as more vehicles are deployed, while relying on effective local ordinances in the meantime. Even reverting to the original version of AB475 would be better than what’s about to happen.

Instead, we will soon have a law that seeks to address one problem by creating several others, while forcing current plug-in drivers to use more gas.

Photo credit: chevrolet.com

Update: GM’s position is that the non-e-ATPZEV compliant 2011 and 2012 Chevrolet Volts are allowed to use public charging under AB475, as are any future non-e-ATPZEV compliant PHEVs. Copying Shad Balch’s comment from below, expressing the gist of their position:

The digest has erroneously continued to reference a CARB definition, but a Digest is nothing more than a quick explanation of the bill. It is immaterial to the proposed statute and is not used for legislative intent (albeit sloppy work by the legislative analyst). The statute does not allow for discretion in defining eligible vehicles other than “connected for electric charging purposes.”

If there’s no way the definitions could be used for interpreting eligibility, that sounds like good news for current Volt, and potentially other PHEV owners. I’d asked for clarification about this concern several times last week, but I’m glad to have it now. The other issues created by AB475 are not alleviated by this re-interpretation.

Worse, the remaining verbiage in the statute allows parking spaces to be designated “for the exclusive purpose of charging and parking a vehicle that is connected for electric charging purposes”, with no language that excludes gasoline-only vehicles, or alternative fuel vehicles that are not battery electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids. There is nothing that refers to being connected to the EVSE, charger, or electric fueling infrastructure in the space, nor what type of electric charging is permitted. If the vehicles are not defined, the charging should be: e.g., a reference to charging an onboard high-voltage propulsion battery or similar verbiage that’s common to all of the plug-in vehicles we’re trying to accommodate (but not other gasoline or alt fuel vehicles). Someone could put a battery tender on the 12v aux battery in a Suburban, and claim that he is “charging and parking a vehicle that is connected for electric charging purposes.”  The language is fuzzy enough that anything on a car that one could argue is being “charged” would technically be in compliance.

The required signage associated with this statute invites an even looser interpretation: “Unauthorized vehicles not connected for electric charging purposes will be towed away at owner’s expense.” If the gasoline-only vehicle is connected to the cell phone inside of it, it is “connected for electric charging purposes”…of the phone.

I think we’re going in the wrong direction in terms of alleviating concerns about AB475…but the suggested options are looking better by the minute. 

(The remainder of the e-ATPZEV explanation and problems with using it for consumer incentives has been left in the post, because it all still applies to CA’s HOV lane eligibility for PHEVs. This was established last year via SB535, also sponsored by General Motors.)

 

 

 

The devil I know…

Thanks to the TED conference last week, the internet has been effervescent with reports declaring one presentation or another life changing, or game changing, or world changing. That’s the mission; TED is an intellectual orgy, where the big ideas go to procreate, and where industry and thought leaders go to connect and be re-energized. Videos of the best speakers are passed around for months afterward, allowing anyone to get a hit of the potential that’s shared there. It’s voyeuristically clear, however, that nothing compares to the immersion of seeing it live.

Those who attend are already at the top of their game. They leave charged up and wanting to do more, taking with them an ever more expanded sense of what’s possible. I’d love to be a fly on that wall someday, yet I can’t help but wonder if we ought not also enable such experiences a bit lower on the food chain. What if that conviction of “possible” were instilled in those who’ve never had it to begin with?

Far away from the rarefied air of TED, the most significant speaking “event” I have ever done was also the smallest. In 2007, a Virginia high school teacher wrote to tell me that she’d shown Who Killed the Electric Car? in her summer class, then assigned her students to design a plan to improve the world in some small way. They’d been fired up after the movie, but were immediately daunted by the assignment, their enthusiasm deflated by the belief that one teenager can’t make a difference. I was their age when I started working for General Motors, so she’d wanted to know if I had any words of encouragement to pass along.

I had to be in Washington, DC the following week for a conference, so I visited the school with a colleague. Meanwhile, I learned the rest: the class was comprised entirely of kids who’d flunked during the spring, and it was already slated to be cancelled because only a small handful were enrolled this time. The few who remained likely wouldn’t graduate at all. More painfully, administrators were amazed that we were willing to come talk to “kids like them”, but they decided to keep the class going until we did.

We spent the afternoon there, answering questions from the film, showing them the RAV4 EV that we’d brought and letting them tool around the parking lot in it.  A simple presentation that we’d done dozens of times. Only after we left did my colleague share the brief but passionate thoughts a student named Phillip quietly shared with him:

You know, I used to just sit at home, watch television and clench my fists. I’d watch the people in our government lie and cheat and do whatever they wanted just because no one would stop them. They think that they’re above the rules. I’d just sit and get madder and madder. But mostly I was sad because I knew that I could never do anything to stop them. I used to believe that no one can….

Then I watched your movie and I said to myself – Hey, wait a minute! If that little white girl can stand up to a huge company like GM and win, then man, I can do the same. If she can do it, then I can too! Now I’m full of energy. I am going down to [Capitol Hill], and I’m going to take my country back. People vote. I vote. That’s how we’re going to do it. I’m going to make everyone see what’s going on just like she did and then they’ll vote for a better way. You watch and see.

Wow. At that point we didn’t care if Phillip ever wanted an electric car. But what could happen if just one kid (or one teacher) in every high school became that passionate about any issue? Where might we be as a country? If our little movie could help, we wanted to get it into any school that wanted it.  When Sony responded to our request that they donate DVDs with their own suggestion that we pound sand, we started a small foundation so that along with the nuts and bolts work of getting cars on the road and teaching consumers about them, we could do projects like this as we saw fit. Nearly four years later, we’re still sending copies of the film to teachers hoping lightning strikes elsewhere.

I don’t know what happened to Phillip, though I imagine he rather enjoyed the last election. That day in Virginia was meaningful not only for what he may have gone on to do, but for how he has inspired me. His story moves me as much today as it did back then.

I’m motivated by something darker too, and rarely shared. This year, TED week coincided with the tenth anniversary of the day a kid named Andy decided that the best way to retaliate for being picked on was to bring a gun to his high school. Using a bathroom for cover, he randomly shot fifteen people in the courtyard as they passed between classes, killing two students. One of them was my oldest stepson- a quiet, intensely thoughtful young man and his littlest brother’s idol. The same age as Phillip, he’d already plotted his dream career with the FBI and enlisted in the Navy. I still ache bone-deep for the life he missed out on and for how he left this one, and I suspect I always will. That shooting wasn’t the first, or last, or highest-profile of its kind- but it’s the devil I know.

Many things went wrong in the lead-up, red flags that were unobserved or outright ignored by dozens of people who later admitted they knew what was coming. There is plenty of pain and anger and blame to go around, and I have at times indulged in each as I’ve watched loved ones struggle in the aftermath. Mostly I am shocked that so quickly, incidents like these have ceased to surprise us- which in my more judgmental moments I find as repulsive as the original crime.

Even after a decade to process, I am certain of little more than that we must somehow convince our kids and each other that such actions are not acceptable or effective paths to attention, help, and relevance. That not all press is good press, and public self-destruction is not entertainment. That it gets better. That being marginalized is not the same as being marginal, and that “regular” people can indeed take their country back. We need more Wael Ghonims and fewer Charlie Sheens. A deeper sense of both personal potential and responsibility, and less entitlement to a particular experience. A broader definition of “possible”- yes, for the current group of leaders and innovators, but even more so for those who come next. More Phillips, and fewer Andys.

Because we have an unfathomable amount of work to do. Economically. Geopolitically. Environmentally. Pick your issue, and there is more work to be done than there are people lining up to do it. Even in my tiny industry, this is true.

There’s a lot of talk about “legacy”- mostly in reference to the condition of the planet we’ll leave to future generations. But for all of our good intentions, it’s delusional to think we’re going to solve the world’s biggest problems before our kids inherit them from us. Yes, we should do what we can, but the most important legacy we can leave our children is the ability, compassion, and compulsion to continue what we’ve started- or, frankly, to start where we have failed to do so. To teach them that it’s both possible and worth the work, because it’s going to take a more of it than we or they can imagine.

I’ll settle for reaching one at a time at a random high school if I have to- but it’s not nearly enough. We need thousands of kids (and adults) to feel as inspired and empowered as Phillip, to believe without doubt that they can move their world, and to go forth and try. Our legacy – and their future – is riding on it.

And the consequences if we don’t are hell.

Wonk, wonk, wonk…

I continue to be on a policy peeve…over at ABG this week, I stirred the HOV lane pot by illustrating the inevitable consequences of SB 535. The worst part about this one is that with 18 mo til it took effect, there’s no good excuse not to have done it right. Settling is occasionally required, but this wasn’t one of those times.

If you can be a good example, you’ll just have to settle for being a horrible warning. Really hope other states heed ours.

Quietly making noise…

Last fall, I posted about the fact that the National Federation of the Blind wants Congress to require added noise to all hybrids and plug-in vehicles. I frankly didn’t think we’d still be talking about it months later, but the issue has only gathered momentum and is now pending inclusion in this year’s Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

Writing another piece on the subject for Autoblog Green only confirmed an abundance of public frustration around it. The main issue is not whether adding sound is good or bad, but that there’s insufficient data on which to mandate it- and even less analysis of the various technological solutions beyond simply making cars louder all the time. Exacerbating the problem is that so few people (including the affected car companies and EV consumer groups) want to talk about it, lest they be painted as insensitive. Given that consumers prefer their cars not make extra noise, there’s a concerning marketability issue, but no organized voice to address it- pretty much a mission with my name on it in neon lights.

I’ve since been joined by a few other folks, namely a fellow EV cohort with a talent for culling and analyzing what little data there is, and a couple of respected journalists who have been watching this all unfold and writing about it here, here, and here. But I’ve mostly encountered brick walls with automakers and various other stakeholders, the consensus being that with a disabled group fronting the initiative, legislators won’t reconsider and anyone asking them to will be seen as politically incorrect. In response to my prodding, one longtime colleague said in exasperation, “the deal with you is that you approach everything with the same intensity, whether you can win or not.”

The observation caught me off guard, but I have to concede he’s right- and not just about my ability to be exasperating. Once I decide to do something, the intensity is about the same, regardless of the expected end result. But that outcome is actually a counterintuitive factor in the decision. Anyone can sign up for something that’s a known win- that venture merely needs warm bodies, and usually isn’t lacking for them. The “unwinnable” is quite often that merely because there are fewer people in its sandbox- what seems impossible often isn’t, if only someone (or enough people) would take it on. If a million people believe in a dumb idea, it’s still a dumb idea- but an idea isn’t inherently bad just because it’s lonely.

Taking those chances has become the core challenge for my colleagues on more and more issues: if it isn’t clearly winnable, it’s harder to muster the effort to take it up. Many who used to brazenly stand on what they deemed right even in the face of reason have diluted their positions to include only what’s popular. The irony of such skittishness is that this generation of the EV movement- and industry- was born out of the unwinnable and politically disfavored. When we started trying to save different EVs some years back, we didn’t at all think we’d succeed. Indeed, we were fairly certain that we’d lose the cars completely- but persisted anyway and proved ourselves wrong in all cases but one. Getting new plug-ins built was for years the very definition of a losing proposition. There are many who think it still is, even with the support of a President and focus of a nation. The first automakers to jump back in did so at a time when other alternative fuels were getting much more political and economic favor. We did it anyway, in part on principle and in some cases with an altered definition of “win”- sometimes merely getting the story told was a feat in itself. In the case of the noise issue, getting a proper study would be a success at this point, and I don’t think that’s too much (or too insensitive) to ask. It’s nothing compared to the effort of rebuilding an industry- and I sometimes wonder if the human cost of having done so isn’t revealed through a newer, more stubborn grip on an easier path. Has the temerity employed to revive this technology given way to timidity now that we have?

Tilting at windmills as a conscious choice doesn’t negate the risk involved- a fall from that height leaves a mark no matter what. And while that’s sometimes part of the excitement, there’s a difference between not running from the challenge and seeking one out for the sake of it. But in the competition for my professional time and energy, the question I consider more often than “is this winnable?” is, “will I still feel good about having worked on it (or wish I had) if we lose?” It’s a tougher question, but in the rare cases where the answer is “yes”, I know it’s exactly what I should be doing- and approach it with the same intensity as a sure thing.

But I’m totally open to an occasional crowd in my sandbox.

Blind leading the blind?

 

 

Fisker Karma's artificial sound-emitting bumper speakers
Fisker Karma's artificial sound-emitting bumper speakers

For the most part, the electric vehicle world is palpably buzzing with excitement of cars to come- and after some seriously dark years, there is much to look forward to. The collective conversation has finally shifted from “if” to “how”, but even on easier “how” points, we can’t seem to get out of our own way- which really doesn’t bode well for the hard stuff.

Case in point is a newly-emerging issue over the silence of hybrids and electric cars. In the EV generation of the 1990’s, their comparative lack of noise was a selling point. Now, according to some, it’s a threat to life itself. Advocacy organizations and hyper news reports are forming a chorus with a fairly shrill tune: “Electric cars are going to kill blind people!” Policymakers are now considering a minimum noise requirement for vehicles; worse, automakers are doing it voluntarily. In due time, plug-ins stand to be a favorite domain of the SEMA crowd, so I’m not referring to the folks who want to trick out their EV as Kitt to their David Hasselhoff. It’s in the proposed custom to add constant noise to all hybrids and plug-in vehicles that we’ve collectively lost the plot.

Pedestrian safety is obviously not an unfair consideration, though the amount of spontaneous momentum it’s received lately raises eyebrows. Having experienced a generation of petroleum industry funded “grassroots” organizations who would ploy senior citizens with a boxed lunch and a bus ride in exchange for voicing scripted “objections” to EVs at regulatory hearings in the 1990’s, even I, not a conspiracy theorist, wonder if the blind community has become the new mechanism for similar interests. Realistically, they would likely be the least affected group, compared to the number of sighted pedestrians who run around with iPods connected to noise-blocking earphones or on cell phones (often all but screaming into them to be heard over traffic noise, adding to the communal din), or who simply aren’t paying as much attention as we should. And, there is experience to draw upon…in addition to the EVs deployed to date, we have a decade of experience with hybrids, also electrically driven at low speeds. Are Prii littering crosswalks and parking lots with fallen bi-peds and I’m just out of touch?

Either way, we’ve taken a question that was asked and answered years ago and are turning it into an industry imperative. Except when at a dead stop- when pedestrians of all sorts are reasonably safe, plug-in vehicles are not silent. Many are quiet (though, with today’s insulation and sound-deadening measures, so are many gas cars) but they still have some amount of motor whine, electronic humming, fans, coolant pumps, tire noise, etc. Plug-in hybrids may also have gasoline engines running. Yet even with these “features”, GM engineers thought of and addressed the issue years ago: every EV1 came equipped with a wonkily-named “pedestrian alert alarm”. At low speeds, drivers could engage an electronic chirp/headlight flash to warn pedestrians, as needed, that the car was approaching- loud enough to get attention, but not nearly as startling as the regular horn. Drivers loved it- the car made extra noise only in the moments it mattered. Those on foot were protected- the proverbial “win-win”. So why are we trying to make what was so simply solved a dozen years ago so complicated today?

Electric vehicles were once pervertedly argued to be a social justice issue based on the idea that only wealthier folks were able to afford the early ones, so their communities would have the air-quality benefits. In response, S. David Freeman has incredulously noted that “air doesn’t know a boundary between Brentwood and South LA”. However, plug-ins could in fact be a tool in the social justice box for their lower noise profile in addition to lack of tailpipe. The goal shouldn’t be to make them louder but to aim at sucking decibels from all vehicles. Yes, I know that performance vehicle enthusiasts would have me strung up (I do grok that many think thrust is as much an aural experience as a visceral one), but who would argue that mom’s minivan is deficient without a throaty internal combustion growl? Cleaner, quieter transport means higher property values in often economically depressed neighborhoods adjacent to freeways and high-traffic roadways, to say nothing of the health of the families living there and public dollars saved from not building sound walls and other noise abatement measures. Electric drive technology has attendant benefits beyond the obvious environmental and energy concerns that we haven’t begun to analyze- but should, before we go adulterating it.

But (and it’s a big one), none of this takes away from the most important- and most overlooked point:

THE PROPULSION SYSTEM IN A VEHICLE DOES NOT ABSOLVE THE DRIVER OF THE RESPONSIBILITY NOT TO HIT SOMEONE.

More simply said, if you can’t avoid hitting people you shouldn’t be driving a vehicle of any kind. In all of the angst over this issue, it bears repeating. Now can we please- pretty please, get back to the actual (and not insignificant) work of putting cars on the road?

When imitation isn’t so flattering…

 

Scootercatalog.com's version of a Tesla Roadster
Scootercatalog.com's version of a Tesla Roadster

 

Much to my delight, EVs have slowly but surely been infiltrating various forms of pop culture in the last few years- first, a Tesla Roadster appeared in the Xbox 360 game “Project Gotham Racing 4“- then it went on to appear in “Ironman“, “Leverage“, and finally (my favorite) as a $1 Hotwheels car- by far the most requested piece of merchandise among EV drivers of various sorts. The Volt has gotten in on the fun, too, with an appearance of sorts in this summer’s “Transformers 2” in a purple color that can’t be missed. 

But scootercatalog.com has added a “Tesla Dream Roadster-style” ride-on toy to the mix. Intended for kids under 6, the very obvious knock-off looks nothing like a Tesla (and interestingly, the page address notes it also as a “Corvette-style” car.) I’m sure the Tesla folks will be offended enough to have their car featured in something called “scooter catalog”, but even more so that the site’s “dream” version of the iconic zero-emissions vehicle includes not one, not two- but four TAILPIPES. I’m just waiting for someone to claim this is an oil industry-funded stunt…

UPDATE #2: As of early July, all references to Tesla on the ScooterCatalog page have been removed. Based on all the inquiries to them I was copied on, can’t say I’m surprised…turns out they weren’t so flattered, either. 

UPDATE: So I couldn’t help but write to the website and suggest that the tailpipes might be a more sensitive design deviation than most, and loved their response so much (hey, I’m easily entertained) that I had to post it below. They definitely have a creative definition of both “opinion” and “customer service”!

    

From: Sales at Scootercatalog.com (sales@scootercatalog.com)
Sent: Mon 6/15/09 3:41 AM
To: Chelsea Sexton

 

Thank You for the opinion, others have a different one though. 

Customer service
Scootercatalog.com

From: Chelsea Sexton
To: sales@scootercatalog.com
Sent: Sunday, June 14, 2009 7:34:54 PM
Subject: Tesla Roadster ride-on car

Hi, 
I was so excited to see your “Tesla Roadster-style” ride on car, but I’m thinking you might have a fundamental misunderstanding of what a Tesla is…Given that it’s fully electric, there is no exhaust, and therefore no tailpipe- let alone dual exhaust on each side! The other design differences are one thing, given that this is clearly an imitation, but anyone who actually wants a Tesla for their kid isn’t going to overlook that one. 

Best regards, 
chelsea sexton

 

   

CNBC Mini-mizes its journalism skills…

 

Peter Trepp of Pacific Palisades, CA, with his new Mini E
Peter Trepp of Pacific Palisades, CA, with his new Mini E

I’ve got plenty to say about the execution of the Mini E program- and if BMW continues to make a new poor decision seemingly by the day, it’s probably only a matter of time ‘til I’m one of several voices doing exactly that. But there’s no excuse at all for this video interview by CNBC of Peter Trepp, the first Mini E driver to take delivery of his new electrified ride. 

There have been others who have criticized various aspects of the vehicle- and while I happen to think the Mini E is a kick to drive, it’s not without its faults. But Dennis Kneale, CNBC’s “reporter” takes issue not with the car, nor the program- but the fact that an EV could meet Peter’s needs in the first place. In a 2-minute piece, he manages to work in just about every tired stereotype; the only thing this guy leaves out is a sense of objectivity and professionalism, assuming he has either. 

The piece starts with a condescending thump on the Mini E as a “toy poodle” of a car; true, it’s no SUV, but a good chunk of my generation grew up in vehicles no bigger than a Mini- and, electrification aside, the market is trending again toward smaller vehicles. Then we get the usual “if you try really hard, can you go fast enough to get a speeding ticket?” And on to the super-imaginative, “so you had to drive 20 miles to get to this interview- will you be able to get home without charging?” He finishes by informing Peter that his car runs on dirty coal, suggesting he’s not actually achieving any environmental benefit- a statement that’s long been proven false, especially in California, where Peter lives.  Not that Dennis lets Peter answer- and truly, it’s not that there aren’t a few seeds of legitimate- even common- questions in the piece. But all of it is delivered with a level of snark that is more at home on the Daily Show than the nightly news, and any ability to do a service to the viewers by providing genuine information is lost.  

The only shot I can’t fault is the price- at $850/mo for a 1-yr lease, BMW is basically hosing their retail customers while all but giving fleets away to cities. Still, those who are willing to participate in these programs, adopt new technology, and put up with all of the infant technical and process issues are paving the way for the rest of us. Yet there’s something in our collective subconscious- some mating of guilt and envy perhaps- that causes us to respond to those setting such an example not with admiration, but contempt. 

CNBC, however, is hardly qualified to dish it out and call itself a news organization.