Guest Commentary: Does Delaware’s electric vehicle proposal make sense?


Reid K. Beveridge has covered politics in Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Delaware and Washington, D.C. He now resides near Georgetown.

It appears Delaware has become California’s poodle. Thanks to Gov. John Carney, we snuffle around in California’s shadow, doing just like they do out on the left coast.

Are we ready for this? Are we ready for the governor’s mandate that only new electric cars be sold 12 years from now?

Now we’ve found out what the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is up to. He is getting ready to promulgate a regulation stating that no new gasoline- or diesel-fired automobiles and pickup trucks can be sold or registered in Delaware after 2035. And you can’t bring one in from out of state, either, because the Division of Motor Vehicles will be prohibited from registering it.

Let’s be clear. Electric cars are good if you want one. If you swing that way, go for it, with our blessing. We have a friend from upstate who owns one. He/they think it’s great. But note: They also own an internal combustion car. Since an electric car will only go 450 miles on a good day without recharging, they need the gasoline car for longer trips.

Drive from Wilmington to Lewes and back, no problem. Try driving to Boston? Big problem. Or even a round trip to New York. Or, on the other hand, maybe a bigger problem. That’s because that mileage limit of 450 miles is deceiving. It is because, if you run the electric heater or the air conditioner, it’s less. Or if you use the headlights, lots less in some cases. But we digress.

No, the problem with electric cars isn’t the mileage, although that is a problem on longer trips. Rather, the problem is the fact that the infrastructure to support them mostly doesn’t exist and won’t on DNREC’s timeline. And maybe never will.

One way to understand this problem is to remember that blizzard a year or two ago that tied up traffic on I-95 between Richmond, Virginia, and Washington. I don’t remember the exact cause, but the problem was that there was a miles-long tie-up for many hours during the snowstorm. Many were trapped in their cars for all those hours. That, in and of itself, is a big problem. But, as was pointed out at the time, all those cars had heat at least.

If many of them had been electric, when the battery emptied, they would have been both cold and immobile. A gasoline car can be rescued in this situation with a can of gas. No such rescue for electric. It would have to be towed to the nearest charging station, which, if all of them had been electric, would have tied up I-95 for days.

This illustrates the issue. Today, no more than 1% or 2% of all vehicles are pure electric (as contrasted with hybrid). So far as I know, there are only one or two commercial charging stations in eastern Sussex County. Further, charging an electric car isn’t like filling up the gas tank. Rather, charging takes 45 minutes to an hour, while you simply sit there and twiddle your thumbs. Filling your tank takes five to 10 minutes, right?

So where are all the charging stations where we can sit for an hour while we fill up our batteries? Answer: They don’t exist. Perhaps they can and will exist someday. But how do they become commercially profitable? Good question.

But it gets both better and worse. Some electric car owners have their residences wired, so they can recharge their cars overnight. This is good. But it presupposes a home with a garage or a carport. Or at least a driveway. It also presupposes you have the money to pay for the electrician. But what if you live in a high-rise or an apartment complex?

Say you live in a building with 20-plus apartments. Where do you recharge overnight? Will your landlord be required by the state to install chargers? We’re not talking free here. We’re talking about any chargers. We haven’t heard California’s answer to that yet.

Or suppose you decide to drive to New York or Washington and stay in a hotel. Where do you go to get recharged?

Worse, all this supposes that the electricity to do all this is or will be available in 12 years. The last couple years, its owners have been in the process of closing down the Indian River power plant in Millsboro. Only one of its four coal-fired units remains in operation, and it is scheduled for closure in 2026. One presumes it can be fired up again.

But that’s coal. Does it make sense to outlaw gasoline engines in a nation with ample reserves of petroleum that can be burned cleanly and substitute that with coal-fired electric plants?

Yup, we’re poodles all right.

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