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Just one thing. Some of the chinese innovatios you talk about are not great. Screen-based controls makes for worse control overall, being more distracting and less easy to manage without looking at them. There is a reason that controls have rugged surfaces, and it's so that you can feel them while you keep looking on the road. In europe car manufacturers are already trying to go back to old fashion controls because it also makes cars less safe, as you cannot use them if you run out of battery. Screens for driveless cars or for the passengers are a good add to the car, but they shouldn't replace everything and that's what many chinese carmakers are doing. It makes sense for them cause they can integrate everything in one screen, which in the end can make it cheaper and easier than having multiple different buttons, and it even looks "cool" and futuristic. But we should look a bit deeper and see they don't bring much benefit to the consumer

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May 14·edited May 14

This was my take too. A very worthwhile article overall but of all the putative ways in which Chinese EVs could be better than American ones it points to a feature that drivers uniformly *hate* and that is basically worse than haptic controls in every way? Has Noah driven a car in the past six to ten years?

It’s a nitpick in the context of the article at large, but it sticks out like a sore thumb.

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That was my thought too. Absolutely besides the point in a great article, but of all the examples to pick screen based controls are pretty divisive and going out of style, unless you like taking your eyes off the road while trying to turn on the AC

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Haptic controls sounds way too technical for me.

I'm on Team Button.

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Yeah but "haptics" covers switches and knobs too, it's a useful catchall for physical interfaces.

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This seems less like a Chinese innovation (Tesla really started this trend) and more of a customer preference. People like big screens, they think they are modern and familiar, useful for GPS. Chinese companies are just meeting what customers want, and saving money by substituting many different pieces and complications with one solution.

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I agree that the Chinese companies are hardly alone in pushing big screen (although this is the first time I've seen an ultra-wide screen in a car). But, is that really a customer preferance? People certainly like it for maps, and maybe to look cool in an ad. But for actual driving, it seems like basically everyone prefers physical buttons for obvious reasons, at least for the more common controls.

I think the current design is a sort of transitional period, where they're using "single big screen" to look cool, display map, and harvest our data, while still trying to figure out a more practical input system. Either a separate control with tactile feedback, or voice commands.

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30 years ago I worked in the engineering dept at KFBK radio in Sacramento. KFBK is a 50kW station; they're a big deal in Northern CA. Some executive decided that we would migrate our studios to touchscreens. It would cost 6 figures, but it would "take KFBK into the 90's!"

On paper this sounded great. All the spots would be stored on the computer instead of banks of cartridges in the studio. The traffic schedule (that's what radio calls advertising list) would be onscreen in front of the board op. Sound effects would be available at the touch of a button. Well, actually a "button" on the screen. And that turned into a huge problem. The board-ops (many of whom are on-air talent as well) effectively revolted after a month. They needed physical buttons because they were busy and kept a finger on the next cue in the background. The traffic people were pissed because advertisers were screaming about missed spots that they'd paid for. Bottom line, I think the whole system lasted a few months at most. There was never an acknowledgment of a screw-up (of course) but the old boards just quietly made their way back into the studios.

Moral: if the controls work, don't change them. Think of it as a corollary to Chesterton's Fence.

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Curious, but if KFBK had to give traffic reports to the public, like congestion or incidents on freeways, did it cause any confusion? Like, the traffic schedule for the road reports leading into the traffic schedule for ads? :)

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You know, I guess it didn't. It was 30 years ago, so I don't remember what they called the on-air traffic reports, but I'm guessing it had a slightly different name. It caused some confusion for me when I first started working there though.

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Co-sign on screen-based controls. When I was in the market for an EV last year, on my short list was the Volkswagen ID.4 -- built in the USA in the now-unionized Chattanooga plant.

The drive quality is excellent, the vehicle is stylish, but what turned me off was the screen-based controls with no redundant physical buttons. Also, Consumer Reports' car almanac did warn me that the biggest source of driver dissatisfaction was VWs screen-based controls that were also very unresponsive.

I think this was a Tesla thing, not a Chinese thing. Teslas are a giant TV screen, a steering wheel, pedals and a bare dash. Tesla though is very design-forward and makes the buttonless screen interface work. After complaints, VW announced earlier this year that it will redesign its ID lines (there will be .Buzz, the electric '60s bus, and .7, a Passat-sized sedan) to include buttons.

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Absolutely this! Knobs and buttons have been developed over years to have an optimum layout, touch and feel. A driver can get into most cars now, figure the controls in a few minutes, and be able to operate the main controls *by touch alone*. Having to take eyes off the road to operate the vehicle is dangerous. Having to look at a screen to find stereo or AC controls is dangerous

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RemovedMay 14
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The underlying premise is that Chinese industries also do stupid things. Secondly, that not all innovations are good for consumers. Third, is that even if they have won for now, the same way the leapfrog older carmakers it can happen again to them. The main thing is that their cars are not flawles or without any room for improvement. We focus a lot on the price, but none of the chinese carmakers have well stablished repairs in the USA or EU, which is a big issue if you want your car to last more than some years. It's not the first time that chinese products enter a market with cheaper prices and "better" specs, and in the end they loose cause they are terrible to mantain.

Either way congrats to the chinese for improving their batteries so much in such a short time. And they also won the monopoly of refinement of the raw materials for batteries. Now is time for other countries to wake up and start thinking how to win back that industry (and many others btw)

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Another lesson may be that paying people $7500 to buy an EV increases the list price of EVs and makes manufacturers less competitive

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A tax credit is not paying people $7,500 (or $3,750, like most Fords because they don't qualify for the battery half) to buy an EV. A tax credit reduces the buyer's tax liability by $7,500. If you are lucky, you might be able to wipe out your tax liability or even get a refund.

Still, the tax credit drives (no pun intended) a lot of the sales of EVs, enough that carmakers are orienting their sales strategies around them.

Hyundai is the most notable example. Because its PHEVs and EVs (and a hydrogen fuel cell that will be sold in California only) are built in South Korea, Hyundai (and Kia, as they are siblings in Korea) is locked out of the $7,500 tax credit. So for right now, it switched to a leasing strategy where they effectively slash the sticker price by $7,500 if you lease rather than buy. Hyundai has also pivoted a planned manufacturing plant near Savannah, GA, to produce Ioniqs as well as the batteries for them to be eligible for the tax credit.

TechCrunch also did a one-year-later look at what the IRA has accomplished. Notably, it's seeding a domestic EV battery manufacturing industry. https://techcrunch.com/2023/08/16/tracking-the-ev-battery-factory-construction-boom-across-north-america/

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A tax credit is a way to pay rich people to buy EVs (or to put solar on their roof)- which is exactly what happened. And recall that the credit for years was not as restrictive as it is now and a big indirect subsidy (mostly to Tesla) was forcing ICE companies to buy credits to artificially meet CAFE MPG standards. .

Sure- the IRA is a way to increase local content of foreign goods and foreign IP. The actual good or its materials and the technology may come from abroad, but we make it seem local by doing final assembly here or in NAFTA (the process Noah described for what will happen with Chinese EVs). This is the same way the Japanese and Germans evaded the extra tariff on SUVs and light trucks relative to passenger vehicles.

However, having workers (soon, just robots) assembling knock down kits and German components from BMW and Bosch in S Carolina is not the same thing as having a domestic auto industry capable of making a BMW. We don’t. Similarly, a good number of those Battery JVs will be using Chinese tech and Chinese components or will have Chinese partners behind the scenes. I’d rather we spent money on researching next gen battery tech rather than the government go into debt to pay the Chinese for their old tech and their rare earths.

Moreover, using artificial subsidies to create semi-skilled “high paying jobs” reduces the supply of those skilled workers to industries that aren’t subsidized. A great example are the recent labor actions in the auto industry (and now at some semiconductor plants) that are a way for workers to get their share of the government largesse (rather than just the company or some combo of the company and the consumer).

This, of course, makes workers more expensive (and scarce) for any company trying to manufacture anything in the US.

This is an awful lot of distortion just to make some pols and their donors happy. I’d rather provide funds to help any company train workers/apprentices/interns, starting from high school and into university. This might be a more direct way to increase the supply of “skilled” workers rather the indirect way of paying existing workers more to assemble the things politicians would like to force on consumers.

I accept that other people have different views and different priorities.

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True. It wold be much more honest to fully add the cost of atmospheric CO2 removal and air pollution deaths to gas/oil, no subsidies, just pay the freight. But.. "once you eliminate the impossible..." what you're left with is rube-goldberg tax subsidies.

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One of the reasons why much of America's EV market is California alone is because of the state-level incentive on top of the federal incentive.

California has a generous $1,500 tax credit for PHEVs, EVs and hydrogen cars. Unlike the strings attached to the federal tax credit, California will allow the tax credit to be applied to any zero-emission vehicle built anywhere. Moreover, California's credit is also more generous in that you don't have to file a tax return to claim the credit -- you get it at the point of purchase, and you have the option of signing your tax credit over to the dealer to effectively reduce your down payment or financing of the vehicle.

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RemovedMay 14·edited May 14
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We are returning to the 1600s, when China produced everything and Spain/Portugal just sent them all the silver.

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RemovedMay 15
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Probably a mistake to look at it just in terms of one particular industry, and it's hard to really compare across such a vast time gulf. But if you do:

https://www.livemint.com/Opinion/Nb7KkZ3yOVSNW3vHf9K1oM/World-history-by-per-capita-GDP.html#:~:text=By%201600%2C%20that%20share%20had,it%20went%20down%20to%2012.2%25.

"By 1600, that share had gone up to 51.4%, with China accounting for 29%"

https://www.worldeconomics.com/Share-of-Global-GDP/China.aspx

China 18.9% now

So they were even more dominant back then. Makes sense, considering their gigantic population.

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Noah, the key issue with Chinese-developed cars and cybersecurity isn’t where the chips are made, it’s who controls the software and administers the servers that store the extensive telemetry that all EVs (and modern ICE cars) send back to their manufacturers and sundry other companies.

Even if a BYD is made in America with 100% American components, if BYD control the servers that receive the telemetry and provide software updates, Chinese intelligence can mine that data, brick the cars, and a variety of other movie-plot possibilities.

I just can’t see any way in which the Chinese car manufacturers can supply complete cars to the American market in a way that mitigates the risks of the Chinese government using their access for malign purposes.

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May 14·edited May 14

This was my immediate reaction to that line … it’s the exact inverse of iPhones being made in China, while the phone is designed and programmed in the US

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Regulatory bans on car telemetry entirely seems like a maybe, although I’m not sure if the juice is worth the squeeze or not.

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I don't think a complete ban on car telemetry is feasible or desirable at this point, though it should be far better regulated than it is now.

Right To Repair is also a real issue with EVs.

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We could also pass a GDPR like law for automobile data.

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Yep. It seemed to me like the chips are not the issue. You could build in vulnerabilities that make them die or fail to work properly, but it would be much harder to turn that into an exploit of higher-level code. And when you control the higher-level code in the first place, who gives a fuck about the processor?

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One thing I want to note, and I wonder honestly if there's been analysis on this yet, is that with the decline in gas, I don't think service stations will entirely go away. Rather, I suspect we'll see the rise of higher quality service stations, i.e. Sheetz, Wawa, Buccees, etc., where there's a series of 20, 30, however many chargers are necessary for the location, and which then encourage people to go into the stores to get a drink, snack, etc. I've already seen examples of this, at a Wawa in Vienna, VA. Probably 10 or so chargers that are almost always occupied and a store that then benefits from the foot traffic.

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I think you're right. Gas stations have long been evolving from places that sell gas to places that supply a large variety of needs, even buy clothing (truck stops). Gas stations will just add one more profit center to their business model (EV charging).

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In the EV transition, we're not going to need stand-alone fueling stations for charging. Car chargers can be placed in any parking lot. They are not very large and the wiring is already there. Homeowners can (and should) have a charger at home. What should help things along is the gradual adoption of the Tesla plug as the North American Charging Standard, which takes effect next year. (Tesla built the superior charging product, as it has the fastest charge uptake as well as the most reliable charging network.)

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They also cost a non-trivial amount to install, require a non-trivial amount of specialist electrician work, cost a non-trivial amount to actually perform their function, and are easier to vandalize than a phone booth.

Once EV charging becomes less about signalling that you're the sort of facility where one might charge their electric vehicle and more about, you know, charging EVs, I think the notion of having them in common parking lots is going to slowly dissipate.

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... which is all why building out an EV infrastructure is a public policy matter. There's no doubt that costs are non-trivial for installation and labor, which is why subsidies have to be done in addition to policy deadlines. There comes a point where the critical mass is there where the hardware costs come down, the electrical work is not that complicated (most electricians can already do the installation) unless there's some site-specific issue like older wiring, and over time there will be incremental improvements by automakers and charger builders that will both reduce charge downtime and build up range in vehicles.

One tribe's signaling is the other's status anxiety. ;)

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May 14·edited May 14

Return on a charger is nothing like return on a gas pump. Low turnover. Chargers seem more likely to be placed in locations that already have a lot of useless land as a sunk cost (eg mall parking lots, office parking lots). It is possible a mall owner will lease a corner of their parking lot to a gas station or Wawa or charging company- as a way to make some cash on the parking space and generate mall foot traffic while people are waiting for the charge to complete. Most gas stations don’t have the space to accommodate more than a few chargers (though they will build up- like those parking lots with racks of cars lifted up), and those few people won’t make up for the convenience purchases lost by high turnover gasoline purchasers.

That being said- I think our whole EV policy is nonsense. Transport is a small portion of emissions and carbon-based transport is pretty efficient in terms of energy density.

Urban areas (including public transit) are great candidates for electric transport, to be sure, but that evolution could have happened naturally instead of being artificially forced - meaning people are buying low quality batteries with scare resources that barely reduce CO2 in the near term. Would rather the EV subsidy dollars were invested into the grid or to basic research in battery tech, nukes, etc.

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The net profit from a gas pump is about a nickel a gallon to the gas station franchisee. The gas station makes its money from the convenience store or the mechanic bays. Also with real estate prices what they are right now, the most valuable aspect of the gas station is the land, worth more than the enterprise on top of it.

Gas stations are usually on corners, so land fetches a premium. Gas stations are very poor performers from a land-value perspective (either revenue or taxable sales per hectare/acre). Like even if the land use remains auto-oriented, a drive-thru fast food place produces a higher land-value than a gas station.

I don't know how to calculate electric charging costs with costs per gallon. Depending on the charging network, the price is assessed either by per/kWh or by time. A quick check on the web says ~33 kWh is the equivalent of a gallon of gas of unspecified octane. When I pay to use a slow charger, the going rate is $2 an hour, with the charger delivering about 25 miles of range per hour. (I have a free pass to get up to 30 minutes of electricity from an Electrify America charger, and fill up to 80% in a few minutes. I don't know what its rates are.)

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> The net profit from a gas pump is about a nickel a gallon to the gas station franchisee. The gas station makes its money from the convenience store or the mechanic bays.

The gas is what drives the foot traffic that makes the convenience store and mechanic bays profitable. EV proponents claim that EV owners will need to visit charging stations less frequently than ICE owners visit gas stations.

The gas station owner is looking at a sizeable expense to remove pumps and add charging stations, which will then attract less foot traffic to the primary revenue generators. Less expected profit all around, ergo not a sensible proposition.

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I keep saying this, but We. Are. Not. Going. To. Need. Stand. Alone. Charging. Businesses.

The fuel is in the wires, not underground tanks. An EV charging station is space efficient. There's a Tesla wall-mounted charger that's about the size of a student backpack. The public chargers aren't much larger than a payphone and can be mounted in the spaces behind the concrete wheel blocks.

The behavior of charging up will change. Rather than filling up at a gas station, there will be plugs at your destination. Even if it doesn't get to be as quick as gassing up and going, you'll probably be parking for a while anyway at your office, the mall, the market or the movies. (With fast chargers, driver etiquette says that you need to get back to your car and move it so other drivers can have their turn. Also, the charger gives you a short grace period and will continue to charge you even if you're not drawing electricity.)

Gasoline will be around for a good 20-25 years even after the date when fossil fuel-powered vehicles will no longer go on sale. Cars are long-lived assets, and there will still be a secondary market for gas cars. But in that 20-25 year period, gas stations are going to go out of business first, then refineries will be decommissioned.

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The average price of an EV is over $60,000. I’ll keep saying this until I am blue in the face: American car companies cannot make an EV that sells for $25,000 and make a profit. Labor costs, legacy costs, the independent dealership system—there are many reasons, but the fact is they cannot.

The other bug-a-boo is that EVs do not have a robust Used car market. A robust Used car market means you can lease vehicles, and current leasing is subsidized. Why is there no Used car market for EVs? It is all about the battery pack. Like in the game of musical chairs, no one wants to get stuck having to buy a new battery pack that can cost between $10k and $20k. Currently, there is also no recycling program for car batteries. They are extremely dirty and there is no market. You have another issue. Dealer Franchisees. They depend on half their income in the back end. The Service Department. State Laws have been very protective of them. This will change the profit margins and likely slow down EV adoption. I could go into other issues. Fuel Cell is a better technology, but people with no knowledge but an insane attachment to batteries (Democrats) have won the day. The 30-minute wait to get an 80% is still a huge obstacle. Having the money to buy a $1500 to $2000 dollar supercharger for your garage is one. What are you going to do with Apartment complexes.

Finally, I have one question for Noah. The phrase I have been hearing about this transition is “the good paying jobs” in this green revolution. For example, the Biden Administration said all those pipe fitters and welders who lost their jobs on the Keystone Pipeline were supposed to transition to “those good paying green jobs.” We are not making solar cells because China makes them cheaper. Batteries? China makes them cheaper. How many good-paying jobs are there, and will it matter to those welders and pipe fitters?

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China makes batteries and solar panels cheaper because of earlier massive government subsidies. That were most likely in violation of WTO rules--but failed to garner formal US objections due to the combined political clout of Apple, Intel--and all the other major US corporations with large manufacturing presence in China.

Green power projects do create good-paying jobs. Just like fracking jobs. While panels, turbine engines, etc. are often made abroad, they need to be installed/constructed by Americans.

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Nubby, unfortunately Americans will never fully unlock the potential of the green-power economy for tribal reasons. And the tribal reasons are the salient explanation for why facts will sway no one.

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Maybe. But the economic incentives of going green continue to improve, as the cost of batteries, etc. drops. Tribalism--driven by GOP genuflection to the fossil fuel industry--will not prevent the eventual full unlocking of Green-ness. Just slow it.

Once upon a time nobody believed those smelly horseless carriage thingies would ever catch on.

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You're criticising EVs over minutiae that will almost certainly be solved over time, and comparing it to Fuel Cell technology which don't have these issues because the market for them barely exists.

Just to take a couple examples:

"30-minute wait to get an 80% is still a huge obstacle". Already being solved with higher kW charging stations and new EV models that can use them. 10 minute fast charges are not far off.

"Why is there no used car market for EVs" Maybe because about 90% of them are less than 5 years old? The biggest reason for poor resale values is that the new models are continually getting cheaper and better

"Dealer Franchisees. They depend on half their income in the back end. The Service Department. State Laws have been very protective of them" I'm not American so I don't fully understand your system, but wouldn't fuel cell vehicles have the exact same issue if they became popular?

"What are you going to do with Apartment complexes" Over time buildings will install power points at apartment complex parking spots, in response to demand from tenants. It's not like electricity is some newfangled technology, there's more than a million electricians in the USA.

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May 15·edited May 15

You could have used the current infrastructure to refuel fuel cells, meaning gas stations. That is one item. Until some of these are solved, the adoption of EVs will take a lot longer than the idiot idea that in 6 years, half the cars sold will be EVs. You wouldn’t need China to make fuel cell technology, which also will get better. There are some ideas that gasoline could be used in a fuel cell as an example. Dealerships have lots of political weight, they won’t allow themselves to go out of business without a fight. In CA, you have some complexes with a hundred apartments or more. You are smoking crack if you think the owners are going to spend a fortune building infrastructure that has zero ROI.

No cost-benefit analysis has been done on any of this.

For example, transportation fuel accounts for 15% of US CO2 emissions, and energy production accounts for 40%. Perhaps you don’t know that power plants are not mobile. You could have converted to Nat Gas while looking at nuclear to supplant those in 30 or 40 years. Instead, the climate fanatics are trying to create a new market whiteout consumer buy-in. Remake a whole industry with no plan to actually get there without gigantic dislocation. So your easy-peasy solutions are total BS......

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I've watched a bunch of videos of folks refueling their Toyota Mirais in California, and given how long it takes (5 minutes), how much it cost (over $125) and how much range it had (350 miles), I don't think fuel cell cars are the future.

Batteries have more room to improve in charging time but there is much less room for improvement in the technology of refilling compressed hydrogen gas.

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Hydrogen is not the future because it's an energy sink. It takes more energy to produce hydrogen as fuel than its return in work output. This is physically impossible to overcome, like impossible to violate the laws of thermodynamics.

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Ah. Yes that pesky thing known as consumer choice. I’ll take 5 min instead of 30. But each to their own

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This is something that's rapidly improving - 30 minutes is old news. My car charges 10% - 80% in 20 minutes, and there's a new BYD model that does it in 10.

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I get the same results. One time, I misbehaved and charged my car to 100% (you are warned not to top off because it degrades the battery more quickly) to go on a long road trip with freeway driving speeds. I got 401 miles when the car was rated for about 310.

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I'm curious about the insistence that the Chinese-made cars are "good" and "innovative". These reports come out of CCP-funded/controlled press junkets and boast about stuff like range and on-screen controls. But car reviewers *hate* the on-screen controls of every non-Chinese EV and want the cars to have buttons you can use while driving; and car companies always lie about their range (looking at you, Tesla) which is why we have independent analysis of what the actual battery range is. Certainly people have different levels of trust in the US-government agencies who do that analysis, but I don't understand why that distrust wouldn't extend to the China-government agencies who aren't really even pretending to do the job.

And these reports of the amazing-ness of Chinese EVs conveniently ignore the reports of actual cars on the road in China, where the battery pack falls out while driving, or ignites into a ball of fire. It's been my understanding that the main reason that Chinese EVs aren't for sale in the USA is simply because they cannot pass the safety regulations to enter this market. Of course these reports don't come from people who attend these fancy but tightly-controlled press events!

(Furthermore the talk of "innovation" conveniently hides the fact that the technology is taken from American and European car companies, who were convinced to hand over their technology in return for the promise of access to the Chinese market, but just like in every other case they were kicked out of that market anyway. The primary innovation is that the government pays for the manufacturing and the competitors pay for the research and development. Of course costs are lower!)

That said, it all feels like a distraction from the real issue: the USA and its friends need to be making better EVs, and more of them, faster. (I have a Model X and an Ioniq 6. I dig EVs. Everybody should get one. We don't have the cars available for that to happen, yet.)

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The way to tell whether a car is good is to read the automotive press and Consumer Reports. Granted that the automotive press is not going to be too critical of the industries they cover, and the journalists are reviewing for performance and not practicality, the journalists still do know the technical aspects that will inform some of the problems and benefits you see.

Consumer Reports does test vehicles for practical driving, and their methodology is more rigorous because it's a blend of professional in-house testing over a long period of time, research into service issues (carmakers do volunteer this even though it can make them look bad), as well as surveys of CR members. Once a year, CR puts out a magazine for about $15 that has ratings for nearly every car on the market and rating it on mechanical issues and driver satisfaction. Getting one before going into the market for a new car is highly recommended.

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Does Consumer Reports review the Chinese car brands?

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If they're not available for sale in the U.S., then no. The only Chinese EV maker being reviewed is Polestar (Volvo's EV lab, and Volvo itself is China-owned despite its cars still made in Sweden). CR requires a large sample of sales in order to review for data, and there's a 1-year time lag.

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Chinese EVs are not only tested and reported by Chinese medias, it's reported by European medias as well since it's sold here.

As for safety regulations, out of the 13 new models that got 5-stars ratings at the EuroNCAP, 10 of them are Chinese and the EuroNCAP is way more stricter than any american safety requirements.

Lastly, what kind of technology did China stole to the West?

If we were talking about ICE then fair, but EVs are a completely different branch and it's completely accepted that with all the investments that they put since the last 2 decades they were obviously ahead of us.

It seems like all your arguments are based in misconception and backward prejudices about Chinese-made stuffs rather than reading objective and peer reviewed reports from independant experts in the field.

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I am in full agreement with Noah's 4th reason for preserving American manufacturing capacity : "Protecting domestic defense manufacturing capacity"

The question is, how do we protect US manufacturing capacity without the capacity protected becoming flaccid, coddled, and far behind cutting edge capabilities? I don't have the answer to that question. The factories that the United States turned to defense production in 1942 were, in fact, cutting edge factories.

Another major issue: Unless problems created by Chinese hacking far exceed what I anticipate, I see the US winning any short conventional war with China. However, an extended war in which both sides need to use their industrial capacity to resupply, I see the US losing. I see the US winning a nuclear war but who calls that winning? Perhaps if an extended war develops, we will have a US President with the guts enough to rattle the nuclear saber and get the war wrapped up.

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Once our stock of smart munitions--Mk. 50 torpedoes, ATACMS, AMRAAM's, etc. become depleted--we're toast. Same goes for any serious attrition of combat aircraft and naval vessels. Which is where Chinese factories will badly outproduce us in any sustained conflict.

To what degree our military could degrade China's before our munition stocks run dry, is debatable. Military journals like Proceedings are quite upbeat about the massive amounts of damage we'd inflict in the first 2-3 months of a shooting war...but acknowledge the impossibility of sustaining that tempo in the face of attrition, repair and resupply challenges.

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I agree that we cannot win a sustained conflict with China. Hopefully, if necessary, we will make it clear to them that any sustained conflict is an existential threat and will be countered appropriately.

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Nuclear weapons are so powerful that paradoxically, they can almost never be used because they figuratively and literally poison the well.

War, throughout human history, had been fought for gain and glory. One side either wanted something another side had, as well as the leader of a society -- be it a monarch, emperor, chief or in most recent history a representative of the people -- being judged by the the wars they are able to win.

Because of both the enormity of destruction of the nuclear blast itself, as well as the radioactivity left in its wake, there is nothing really to be gained from nuking an enemy. It's more costly to rebuild a leveled city, and the warfare itself severed the economic and social relations that allowed a civilization to prosper pre-war (see: Lebanon, Syria, post-colonial Africa. Plus the radioactive fallout is as dangerous and chaotic as a bioweapon (see: the Chernobyl meltdown spread fallout well beyond the plant site to other nations) because it will mix into air, the ground (and in turn, the food we eat), and water.

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During the Cold War military planners were counting on nuclear weapons to defend against the Soviet Union. The Soviets had a lot more military hardware in Central Europe than us, and it was considered likely that they would break through the Fulda Gap into West Germany. Doctrine called for the use of tactical nuclear weapons to end any successful armored spearhead and “escalate to de-escalate”. Following the use of tactical nukes a ceasefire and negotiated end to the conflict was to be pursued.

We could have tried to match the Soviets tank for tank, gun for gun, man for man in Central Europe to a void relying on nuclear weapons. But that would have required conscription and a massive choice of guns over butter. In the long run the choice to choose butter over guns not only made people’s lives better, but led to better long run economic growth that won the Cold War.

It would be similarly foolish to try and match China ship for ship and missile for missile. At a certain point we are going to have to recognize that the only way to reliably prevent an invasion is the threat of using nukes in the straight or even on occupied Taiwan itself (west Germany was going to get nuked in the scenario above).

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"But most Americans ... expect to get an EV in the not-too-distant future"

I wonder how useful a stat this is. When I bought my non luxury car 8 years ago, I assumed the next one I bought 10 years from then would be an EV. But now looking 2 years out I don't see a similarly priced EV I want to get. Maybe if Chinese EVs were around I would...

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This will not end well. Noah, I urge you to connect the dots between your different posts here. The US will run out of money to subsidize industry. Locking out what is the only real source of cheap clean energy technology will cause a collapse of clean energy technologies in America and deepen our dependence on oil and gas. We currently enjoy low natural gas prices, so it would seem fine for us, but that will not last. The US will empoverish itself in the long run while China solidifies the energy transition internally, escape the fossil fuel trap, solidify alliances with countries benefiting from its cheap exports and become stronger.

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Home based charging works fine 'if' you own a home and can install a charging unit there. If you live in high density housing (apt, condo, coop), you might not have access to a charging unit or will have to share one with others. Our 70 unit condo just voted to install ONE charging unit for residents!!! I've counted five Teslas in the parking area. This is likely not enough charging capacity!! I wonder how many apartment buildings have installed charging units. the ability to charge the car in a timely manner is always going to be the rate limiting step to adoption. Tesla's abandonment of the build out of their proprietary charging units throughout the country does not augur well for EV adoption. Also important to remember is that cold weather states will require increased charging capacity in the winter as batteries don't retain their charge leading to reduced driving range.

Until the charging station problem is solved, the price of EV cars is totally irrelevant. If you can't charge your car, you cannot drive!!!

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However, just as gasoline stations were few and far between at the time of the Model-T, but are now so ubiquitous some are abandoned and morphing into pizza joints - so to will charging stations expand. And much more easily, one by one, two by two, three by three, than building gasoline stations. Our funky, DIY no-staff "yacht club" installed two.

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The absence of a deflationary force is inflationary. The arrival of Japanese vehicles in the 1970’s but really ramping in the 1980’s ushered in a huge deflationary force in a purchase that is one of the largest annual costs for most Americans. The US companies had to respond, which they did and they even got imports from Japan limited at one point by quotas not tariffs and then of course the companies came to the US South to build their own plants. The ability to buy a sub $2000 Civic as my family did enabling us to afford a second car and have vastly lower gasoline bills for my father’s long commute. It will be interesting to see if any US states will welcome a Chinese car plant or if we outright do not allow it what the Chinese response will be. This seems like an invitation to lose the ROW auto market .

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I think you got it 100% right: quotas would be a more effective tool than tariffs, and allowing Chinese carmakers to set up shop in the US would lead to more US manufacturing capacity. Unfortunately, that's not going to be an option because of SINOPHOBIA, and I don't mean racism, I mean the reflexive tendency to immediately treat anything related to China as evil, suspect and threatening. Japanese imports were problematic pollitically in the 1980s but Japan was an ally/protege nation of the US and not seen as a huge monster out to destroy us.

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As you know we are in a Cold War with China because they have done terrible things like…sell us cheap cars.

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The key to Asian import cars' success is the willingness to build affordably priced crap for a generation and go upmarket.

By the time Generation Xers were old enough to drive, the Japanese cars had gained a reputation for affordability and reliability, so we really don't have the lived memory of the stigma of low-quality Toyotas, Hondas, Datsuns/Nissans.

Xers do remember when Hyundai and Kia first came to the market. The Excel and Sephia were affordably priced crap. By the time millennials came of driving age, Hyundais and Kias caught up to the Japanese in terms of price, reliability and technology. (Well, except for the TikTok videos that show you how to steal one using just a screwdriver, though that's not an issue with 2022 or newer models).

Vietnam's Vinfast has begun shipping its EVs to the U.S. And based on early reviews, Vinfast would need a scissor lift to rise to the level of crap that the first Asian import cars were.

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On the Mexico "back door" issue, won't/can't this be addressed via Rules of Origin in the USMCA agreement? Unless the batteries are also going to be made in Mexico, I can't see how Mexico-made Chinese EVs will qualify for preferential (tariff-free) access to the US market. Anyone know what are the ROO thresholds for 'local' qualifying content in EVs?

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>And it’s reasonable to worry that without the competitive pressure from Chinese imports, stodgy old companies like GM and Ford — and even Tesla — will have far less reason to copy innovative Chinese features like screen-based controls

US automakers don't need to copy screen-based controls. Tesla pioneered them almost a decade ago, all the other US automakers copied Tesla, and they're now moving back *away* from screen-based controls because of safety/usability concerns and consumer backlash. Screens in the cockpit aren't good for anything except impressing reviewers and lowering manufacturing costs; buttons and knobs don't have the sci-fi appeal of a giant LCD, but they're better technologies for automotive controls, and the safety and usability benefit is well worth the added engineering and manufacturing cost for core control functions.

> I will say, though, that it seems like the danger here is entirely from Chinese-made computer chips. A GM or Ford car made with Chinese computer chips has the same vulnerability as a BYD car made with those same chips. So if you’re worried about cybersecurity, it seems to me that the one and only thing you need to keep out of the U.S. are Chinese-made semiconductors.

No, foreign software and servers pose as much of a security risk as foreign chips, if not more. A "backdoor" hack of a chip will generally permit only limited control and can often be countered by the chip's legitimate administrator. When the legitimate administrator is the security threat, the situation becomes far more complicated.

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I think we fear that Chinese subsidies can snuff out American innovation, including the likes of Musk and Tesla. Regarding Ford and GM, they quit innovating long ago. They are still stuck on pickup trucks and their DFI engines aren’t up to Asian and German standards. They’ve lost the plot and are going away like Sears and JCPenney. The irony during this green transition is that those two are losing market share but Toyota and Nissan are making record sales. They pivot like a barge rather than a ballerina.

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Didn't Ford and GM rely for a long time on selling gas-guzzlers to the domestic market, as well as to Middle Eastern markets where fuel is really cheap for obvious reasons?

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They still do, 54% of Fords sales are large pickups and SUVs and for GM it’s 48%.

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I drive an ancient car because I’m poor. I’d love to have an EV. If our country can’t figure out how to build affordable cars, and we aren’t allowed to purchase affordable foreign cars, people like me will keep driving our old gas cars forever.

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May 14·edited May 14

> I drink an ancient car because I’m poor.

You think you're poor? I'm so poor I can't even afford to liquify the scrap metal I eat in lieu of food!

(But in all seriousness, the price concern is absolutely real. Even a five-year-old used EV is priced nearly the same as a brand-new economy combustion car)

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Of course, the corporation known as the U.S. doesn’t give a fig about the bottom half of the population. Everything is arranged for the wellbieng of the top half.

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While I *want* to fall back on my technocratic instincts and hate on this tariff, I think Noah's missing that it's an example of a decent exception to the textbook case -- maybe it's still bad, but it's at least worth debating.

A regime of permanent tariffs is *bad*. We can all agree on that. And the principle was indeed *proven* by the old trade wars like during the Depression, where every country had tariffs on every other country, and the entire global economy was full of sluggish industrial titans hiding behind protectionism.

But what China's doing is essentially *dumping*. And that's actually how most of those old trade wars got started -- one country would dump on another in order to try getting an edge on them, and they'd go back and forth slapping retaliatory tariffs on each other trying to protect all their other industries from getting devastated.

And the way we *dealt* with that was that every country slowly repealed their tariffs on one another, but retained these systems for quickly enacting retaliatory ones against *dumping*, since that's what they were all afraid of. No one was TOO concerned with natural competition over the long run eventually resulting in each country having its share of international winners and losers; they just didn't want to ever have to deal with an entire industry getting hollowed out within the space of a couple short months.

China's using its overcapacity to make up the difference with its real estate crisis. My heart feels for the everyday Chinese who are suffering at the hands of their government's cynical mismanagement -- if the CCP hadn't pursued such an aggressive strategy of looting the world's manufacturing base over the past 30 years and dumped all that loot into real estate, this wouldn't have happened. But that's not *our* problem.

We should be doing *more* industrial policy than just this tariff. We should be standing up our mining, our battery factories, etc, and catch up to their EVs instead of pushing out more of those fugly crossovers and trucks. But I don't think we need to indulge the CCP's attempt to dump a bunch of cheap crappy cars on our market; and if they STILL really want to, then they can build the damned factories in Mexico or America.

Anyways, the TLDR of my main point is just that China is clearly dumping, it's OK to defend ourselves against dumping *temporarily* (IE until they stop), and only an idiot would imagine that defending against dumping was mutually exclusive with doing all the other things we should be doing (building better EVs and batteries here at home).

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Good for Mexico and great for Mexican pols who will get the skim from Chinese bribery in return for doing China’s bidding down the road.

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Yeah im not sure that making China super influential in Mexico is like a smart geopolitical move.

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May 15·edited May 15

Hard to avoid it happening in time, anyway. Their money buys lots of friends (and a lot of the Latam regimes are anti-American). Keep an eye on Cuba- they need a cash infusion. How much would China pay for a big naval base or missile base?

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I mean putting a huge tariff on Chinese goods but leaving a giant loophole for them to export via Mexico seems like the worst of all worlds.

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May 14·edited May 14

While this may be tangential to the primary point of the article, I really have to push back against certain bits which really seem to be written from inside an EV-owner bubble (or on the surface of a "Choose EV" pamphlet).

> ICE cars have to fill up often, unlike EVs, which charge overnight in people’s garages and so only have to visit charging stations on long trips.

That's great for people with personal garages. But lots of people - lots of drivers! - don't have personal garages, or carports, or even driveways. If you live in an apartment, or in a house downtown with curbside parking, then you're battling your neighbors for the spot next to the charger - and unlike the usual battles one fights in the world of shared parking, the price for losing this one is a bit worse than a longer walk home or spending the night parked in the "muddy mystery drip" spot.

Most ICE cars can go 300 miles combined highway/city (the current best-case range for EVs under $50,000) on a tank of gas, too, so "fill up often" is just really weird. My fifteen year old Camry gets 450 combined (575 highway) miles on a fill-up, and it's not a hybrid or even a sub-compact. Just for fun, I looked up a 2015 (nice round number) Dodge Ram (quickest truck model to type), and it gets 442 combined miles on a single tank-up.

Not to mention that those inconvenient fill-ups for ICE cars take about five minutes. Maybe ten minutes for that Dodge Ram's gigantic 26 gallon fuel tank. I don't know of any EV that charges in under twenty on a top-of-the-line 22kW station.

300 miles isn't really *that* long a trip, either. That's a single round-trip between Philly and D.C. or L.A. / San Diego. Spending thirty minutes waiting for my EV to slowly quick-charge at an off-highway gas/charging station isn't necessarily something I'd like to do on the return leg.

EVs have their niche if you have no interest in anywhere beyond work, the mall, and the next town over, but unless and until they introduce a quick-swap universal battery system (like propane tanks), EV adoption is going to hit a plateau. It's a bit disturbing that so many of the ideas EV proponents have for rising above this plateau come down on the side of immiserating non-EV owners (tax the ICEs! make them illegal! scold people about emissions! rawr!) rather than honestly and openly addressing the genuine shortcomings of EVs. Quick-swap batteries would truly pave the way for mass EV adoption, but nobody really seems to spend much time advocating for that. Maybe because they get hung up on the challenges (which basically boil down to "ensure that they won't explode no matter how badly the previous owner abused them"), or maybe because they just never really sense the gravity of the underlying issue for people who distance-drive.

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I like EVs and am in the group who plans to buy one for my next vehicle (I also have a ton of solar so it will make sense on a couple levels). That said, an underrated problem with EVs is simply forgetting to charge or other user error.

I had a friend who when on a trip, got to his location and didn't seat the charger correctly. When he came back and had to sit waiting he was (in my opinion) irrationally made about it. I think this will be more common that people realize....late for a meeting, go out to the car, and find that it did not charge (for whatever reason), miss your appointment or meeting. This will cause an irrational backlash in my opinion. I think quicker charging times, as opposed to range, is actually a big limiter.

That said, charging times have dropped dramatically, so I am hopeful it will not be a long term issue.

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