EVs force technology on drivers

Mass adoption of the EV will create a world more hostile to cash

The first time I drove a car, I didn’t own a cellphone, and I paid cash for the gas. Neither is possible with an electric vehicle.

The EV revolution will create a world more hostile to cash and make us all more reliant on the smartphone. Someday drivers won’t have a choice to opt out from technology they might rather avoid.

Sometimes you need to leave town fast. With a gas vehicle you can fill up in minutes and be elsewhere in hours. With a flip phone — or no phone — and a handful of cash you can travel on a whim.

Using an electric vehicle, that same journey requires the use of smartphones and credit cards. Access to both can be controlled — or cut off.

In an electric vehicle, range anxiety would become real as you watch the mileage tick down and search out charging options. For that, you'll need a phone connected to the internet.

Once you do find a charger, powering up is not a zip-in, zip-out experience. Now you must download an app, and load in a credit card for payment. Two more hurdles.

Then you have to actually charge the vehicle.

Most chargers in public use take four to 10 hours to fill an empty battery just 80%, says the U.S. Department of Transportation. That’s a lot of time to be stationary during a road trip.

Some chargers, if you can imagine it, are even slower than that.

Due to high costs the fastest charging option, direct current, is also the rarest. Direct current can fill an empty battery to 80% in an hour. (Also: Who fills their tank 80%?)

Assuming Michigan builds enough chargers to accommodate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's goal of having 2 million EVs on state roads by 2030, only 5,000 of the 1.57 million planned charging stations would be fast chargers, says a U.S. Department of Energy estimate. Slow charging makes EVs less attractive for long trips.

The electric vehicle demands a great leap forward in the technology and know-how demanded of a driver. Yet the industry is a slow adopter of the fast chargers that would relieve people’s range worries. Odd choice.

We are told that the loss of Detroit’s native advantage in building cars, in favor of an uncertain EV future, is creative destruction. We are told this is the way of the world.

But it feels more like a choice, prodded on by governments and assented to by automakers regulated by governments.

You should get a choice, too. Assuming mass adoption, and regulations that push the gasoline engine to extinction, the driving experience will be less free and less mobile in 20 years than it is today.

Because Elon Musk solved the puzzle Thomas Edison could not, the electric vehicle is here to stay. But the EV is not for everybody. Consider the unintended consequences of forcing these vehicles on the public.

James David Dickson is a Detroit News columnist and managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email him at This column ran first in the Detroit News on Feb. 14, 2024.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.