Tag Archives: Electric Cars

Dealerships (and Electric Cars) Suck: Part 2

This is an impromptu continuation of this post and is a post I didn’t think a continuation was necessary for. But, life happens, you’re aware of that. Shit happens, plans change, things go to hell, etc. And I don’t know why I ever expect anything to work out as planned. A friend of mine likes to expect the worst because then you’ll either be prepared or pleasantly surprised; I think she might be onto something. Damn me for being optimistic…

The plan today was to drive the twenty miles to nearby Belvidere, Illinois (a shithole I despise going to for any reason) to pick my shitty Ford Focus EV up from the dealership. It was fixed, or more precisely as they said, “We’ve fixed everything that could be wrong with it, *implied shrug over the phone*, so you can pick it up tomorrow.” We drove there, I paid the $427 for the repairs, and walk to car in the parking lot. I start it and everything looks alright beside the twenty-one mile range left on the car; they didn’t even bother to charge the thing! It’s about fifteen miles to our house so to be safe I planned to charge it on the way home. “Looks like I’m stopping at the park on the way,” I texted my wife. (A park five miles from out house sports two EV chargers.) Whatever. I’d make it work.

About halfway home on East State Street (the busiest damn street in Rockford: a big three lane road in both directions) the car popped the infamous”Stop Safely Now” warning. I was stopped at a traffic light — in the middle lane nonetheless — so there wasn’t much choice of where to stop safely. The car wouldn’t let me drive it anywhere else so I sat there in heavy traffic stranded in the middle of the tree lanes.

THIS IS GOING TO BE MY MOST USED IMAGE

Luckily, I trained for emergencies while learning to fly and feel confident in my ability to not panic and deal with the situation, so frustratedly turned on the emergency flashers and sighed. Here I am, I am safe, and what do I do now? Kinda checked the right and left lanes of traffic and wondered what the hell my options were. Call a tow truck? Push the car to the side when traffic cleared? Who the hell knew. Either way I was pissed and stuck in the middle of the road with a dead car.

Another high-quality image from r/THE_PACK, my most favoritest subreddit. AROOO MFER LET’S CRANK THE HOGS

I tried the typical “shut-if-off-and-turn-it-back-on” trick that is standard for troubleshooting anything and luckily IT worked. I waited until traffic was clear to the right and zipped into a parking lot. Old Chicago if you’re really curious. I probably should’ve went in and had a few beers to really think about this issues.

I pulled out my phone and called the dealership and one of the ladies at the desk answered. “How can I help you?” she asked.

“Yeah, can I talk to someone in the maintenance department?”

“Sure, is this involving an appointment or an issue with your vehicle?”

“Well, I picked my car up twenty minutes ago and it died on me halfway home…”

“Oh…I’ll transfer you then.”

“Thaaaaaaanks.”

Luckily Mike, the guy who gave me my keys twenty minutes earlier, answered the transfer. This was also a fun conversation.

“Hello, this is Mike, how can I help you?”

“Hey, this is Jeremy, the guy who just picked up the Ford Focus like twenty minutes ago. Uh, I made it about halfway home and it popped another “Stop Safely Now” warning in the middle of State Street and I couldn’t move the car at all. Luckily, I shut the car off and turned it on and it allowed me to drive but I mean I don’t want it to happen again where I need to have it towed. Should I just drop it back off to you guys?”

“Hmm…so it wouldn’t let you drive it at all?”

“No, not until I restarted it.”

“…”

“…”

“Yeah, it could do that again, huh?”

“Yeah, I have no idea what caused it. It seemed really random.”

“Well, that’s not normal. I’d say bring it back in and I’ll have a technician look at in on Monday.”

Since range wasn’t an issue anymore (because who gives a fuck if they get an EV with a dead battery) I drove like a maniac back to the dealership. I parked the car, sulked into the place, and handed my key back to them. Chris, the guy who fixed my car a few other times, seemed genuinely upset that I hauled it back twenty minutes after I had picked it up. That dude knew what he was doing; how about he fixes my car this time? Andy, the guy who handled my shit this time, apparently didn’t know what the fuck he was doing.

On the ride home with my wife, I received a call from the dealership. Already? I thought. It was one of the desk girls again asking how the service was that I received. Was everything okay with the car? So it was very satisfying to just monotone-plop out a reply of “Yeah, actually the car just died like thirty minutes ago and I dropped it back off. So, yeah…” Her reply went something like, “Oh! Well…we’ll get in touch with the service department and talk with them.” Yeah. Fuck you guys.

So now it’s a wait until Monday to hear anything about it, at the very least. It could take longer, who knows. Obviously, my entire weekend is shot now because this was the singular positive thing I was looking forward to to jumpstart my life. I’d get my car back, it’d be fixed, and I could get on with the other issues in my life, move onto bigger and more difficult things if you will. Maybe start flying again. Nope! Fuck you, Jeremy: life fucks you again. Que The Big Lebowski: “You see what happens?! You see what happens, Larry?! See what happens? This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass, Larry!”

That rant wasn’t very much called for, but, still. I don’t even know. I keep thinking this entire car purchase years ago was a mistake. Some flawed thought of me trying to move into the future and be part of the leading wave of brave electric car owners. Those who walk the path before others comfortably take it up. I envision us as the covered-wagon folks traveling to California in search of gold in the 1800s. Pioneers and such leading all others. Taking risks. Being brave. Etc. I remember as a kid in like 1996 telling my grandmother that I’d own an electric car because they didn’t pollute as much, and when I bought the car I kinda remembered that moment. Yeah, I actually accomplished one of those wild childhood dreams somehow. I did it: I was an electric car owner for real! Wow!

But now? Mistake. The damn thing was a mistake. I bought the cheapest piece of shit EV — a compliance car by Ford, let’s recall the popular acronym Found On Road Dead — and I was paying out of the ass in repairs. But don’t EVs not have any moving parts? What wears out? What can wear out? Why is it so hard to repair them? That was my initial thought but this thing has been repaired more than the damn 1998 Cavalier I owned for more than a decade. Why? How? Wasn’t I doing the right thing? Wasn’t I saving so much money in gas? Wasn’t I cutting down on carbon emissions? Maybe, but at what cost to my own bank account and well-being? Maybe it’s just easier and cheaper to drive a shitty gas car and deal with the problems and upkeep with that.

So I’m feeling pretty beaten down again and heavily drinking because I really don’t care anymore. Give me some chemicals to futilely pick me up. It’s going to be another one of those weekends I can already tell…

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Dealerships (and Electric Cars) Suck: Part 1

I have about two hours until I leave for work and I’m basically sitting next to my phone waiting and hoping for a phone call from the Ford dealership. They’ve had my car for over three weeks now, and as far as I know, they’re only changing the regular 12 Volt battery in it. That’s it. Three weeks to change a 12 Volt car battery. How much will this cost me? About $310 they said. For a 12 Volt car battery. Some readers might not know much about cars, but this is one of the easiest and cheapest repairs someone can do on a car. It’s also something that routinely wears out over the years, so any long-term owner of a car should be familiar with changing a dead battery.

Sadly, I didn’t have much of a choice here. I own a 2013 Ford Focus Electric which is a fully electric vehicle. I had a dedicated blog for it to enlighten anyone curious about vehicle electric ownership to the pros and cons of the things although I have slacked off and haven’t written anything over there for over a year. But if you’re curious, please check it out. Despite loving the car for its endless list of perks over a gas car, it does have one glaring flaw for me: I can’t really fix anything on it.

The car has much commonality between the stock Focuses (Foci?), mostly the mechanical bits like breaks, shocks, tie rod ends, etc, but everything else is unique to it being an electric vehicle (EV). If anything goes wrong here, I’m pretty fucked and a tow to the dealership is required. Making this even worse for me is the fact that the car doesn’t really tell you what is wrong with it. Given a severe enough problem the computer in the car won’t let it drive and only flashes a “Stop Safely Now” warning. Here’s a picture of the damn thing.

It’d be nice if the “Stop Safely Now” warning only appeared in dire situations (which it did last time when the main drive battery had a cooling issues and a voltage leak) but this time, after having it towed 20 miles away to the nearest Ford Electric Certified Repair Dealership…) the only thing they could find wrong with it was the damn 12 Volt battery. The battery I could’ve replaced by literally walking down to Farm and Fleet and buying an $80 replacement. And the labor cost for me? Nothing. I work for free if it’s something I’m doing. So when they called and quoted me $310 for a battery I was pretty pissed — that’s all that’s wrong with my car? — but didn’t have much choice. I suppose I could have it towed back home (and probably have to pay for that), replaced the battery, and hoped it worked with the finicky Ford Focus EV computer, but it was already there, so fuck it, sure. Change the battery.

To tie this back to the rant two paragraphs ago: the Focus Electric also shares the basic 12 Volt based system with the rest of the Foci meaning I could’ve totally pulled of this repair on my own had I known this was the issue at hand.

I wish the car would tell me more. I like to compare them to airplanes where the plane loves to tell you exactly what’s wrong with it. There’s all sorts of gauges and information at your fingertips — oil pressure, oil temperature, manifold pressure, RPMs, fuel flow, amperage to the battery, resettable circuit breakers, a battery switch, an alternator switch, fuel valves and cutoff switches — all sorts of shit you need to troubleshoot any issues. And in a car? Speed, RPMs, coolant temperature, a “battery light,” and a “check engine light,” that’s it. The “check engine” and “battery light” especially can mean issues with literally a hundred problems the car could have.

And the EV is even worse than a gas car. A gas car will still let you drive it if something is wrong and doesn’t have a computer to tell you “Nope, car is broken. Fix it please. Oh, what’s actually wrong with it? Naw, I can’t tell you that. You don’t work for Ford.” I’m sure newer gas cars have shit like this as well, but for now the clunkers I drive (the 1997 Saturn and the 2006 Civic) are champs and let you drive them no matter what. This lets you troubleshoot and isolate the real issue, key for a DIYer such as myself.

Obviously, this all comes down to money hidden under the guise of “safety.” Maybe I’m cynical, but doesn’t it make sense for Ford (or any other massive car company) to basically force you to go to a dealership to get your car fixed? DIYers don’t make them money, and only the schmucks who have no choice but to haul their cars to them feed the capitalistic monster. I imagine if you really got a Ford executive into a room and forced him to answer why they don’t make the cars easier for the DIYer to troubleshoot he’d probably say something like, “Well, we don’t want people to repair their cars in an unsafe way! They and their families and kids and mothers need to ride around in a vehicle that has been safely repaired by our Certified Ford Technicians using all their fancy tools and procedures to properly fix the car.” But, I’d then ask him, “Motherfucker, how do you install a 12 Volt battery unsafely? How can you possibly fuck up installing brake pads? Oil changes? I need a certified repair technician to unscrew a bolt and an oil filter?” To which he’d simply send me to the Ford PR department for any further questions/comments.

I hate inefficiency. I hate bloat. I hate things that don’t make any sense. I like to have a central authority that I can call for information. Ford (and every other car company) is so damn detached from their dealerships that there seems to be no accountability to anything. I can’t call Ford, the company that actually built my car, and really bitch about anything because they’d just say the dealership is in charge of any repairs and to call them. The car’s manual simply says for every issue to “contact your Ford Dealership.” If one dealership fucks you over, you have to go to another one, and that seems to be the only choice you have. And if that one fucks you over? Hell if I know. Like Ford builds the cars and if something goes wrong you have to wrangle warranty information with the dealership and it’s so damn inefficient, a hassle, and expensive, let’s not forget expensive! It reminds me of the medical system: people not calling you back; people not emailing or faxing shit; just expense and costs everywhere because you the consumer have to support some bloated system above everything; no one you can really talk to without being referred to another department or given another phone number to call; legal words tossed at you in every piece of paperwork you see; total bureaucracy and that’s about it I guess.

So I suppose that rants over. I figured I might as well make a blog post about it.

Note: APPARENTLY THERE IS A SECOND PART TO THIS POST. Check it out if you’re interested.

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The Tesla Cybertruck…Sucks?

Elon Musk is a strange and unique individual, at least as far as billionaires go. We always seem to view most billionaires as kinda old, stuffy, and reserved people. I’m talking the Bill Gates, the Warren Buffetts, and the Jeff Bezos of the world. You never get a sense of them as a person unless you happen to read a biography about them. I know Bill Gates is a nice enough guy with how much him and his wife donate to causes that benefit society, and I know that Buffett is notoriously cheap and humble, and I get the impression that Bezos is a shrewd businessman who likes to hide in the shadows. Bezos seems like a James Bond villain if anything. These are just impressions though and I don’t know if I’m correct or not. But Elon? Elon seems to be cut from a different mold, for better or for worse even if he himself seems like a perfect Bond villain.

To get a feel for this fact all you need to do is check Elon Musk’s Twitter feed. He is a notorious shitposter that can hold his own with the best of shitposters. He seems like a normal enough person — eccentric perhaps — despite his multiple companies and his north-of-a-billion-dollar net worth. Elon also plays the meme game as well as anyone else. Does anyone remember the famous “$420, funding secured” debacle that led him into trouble with the SEC? Or the multitude of anime cat girls that Elon posts for whatever reason? He launched his Roadster into space because why not? I vaguely recall something about the WallStreetBets subreddit and Elon posting the “stonks” meme. And let’s not forget the whole Joe Rogan podcast pot smoking thing either; this incident alone seemed to solidify Elon’s presence in a sort of meme hall of fame. Hell, I even have a few pictures using this to hilarious degree.

HOTBOXIN’

Elon seems like a typical person who somehow, perhaps even due to sheer luck, was successful. One thing you have to give Elon credit for is his ability to mostly follow through with what he says, at least in the grand scheme of things. His idea with Tesla was to make electric cars popular, cool, and desirable, and to change the image of the EV for the better; this has been a success. Elon is literally trying to save the world with Tesla despite also trying to make a shit ton of money in the process. With SpaceX he is trying to revolutionize space travel by making rockets reusable, with the end goal being the colonization of Mars. In the nearly 60+ years of space travel no one has seriously attempted to make a reusable launch vehicle or land people on Mars but Musky Boi seems to be pulling off. While he over promises here and there, has notoriously unrealistic deadlines, he generally seems to do whatever crazy shit he sets out to do when he is serious about doing so. When Elon says something (or Tweets something) he is either being dead serious, joking, memeing, shitposting, daydreaming, thinking aloud, or overpromising. This is perfectly illustrated by the Tesla Cybertruck.

He had been hinting about the truck for awhile now, and while I wasn’t following the details of it, he seemed to hint that it would be a “unique” design. He called it, obviously, the Cybertruck, but everyone thought, “How ‘Cyber’ could it be? And what does that even mean?” Surely Elon was just being a bit over the top with the description to stir up hype for the new model. He also said the design was “futuristic” but once again what exactly did that mean? Everyone was well aware of Tesla’s design philosophy and seeing the model S, 3, X, and Y (yes, it does spell out S3XY, because that’s the kinda jokester Musk is) leaves you with a general idea of what to expect from the Tesla Truck. People waiting in anticipation to see what the famed Tesla Truck would look like, and it looks like this:

Stolen with love from the Tesla website.

Yeehaw.

I didn’t watch the event live and only heard about it from the multitude of memes and jokes made about the design in the following hours/days on social media, especially Reddit. It was one of those moments where I thought, “Wait, really? That is the actual truck? It has to be joke, right?” And I still feel that way actually. A part of my mind is thinking that, yes, maybe this is a joke, a cheap way to make news and for Elon to catch more headlines. Making this even more “obvious” is the fact that when demonstrating the “unbreakable windows” of the truck, the windows shattered. Twice. You can’t make this shit up even if you were trying to write a fictional comedic story. This couldn’t be the actual Tesla Cybertruck, right? In my mind, I saw this as a “joke” presentation, and after popular consumer outrage over the next few months Tesla would “redesign” the truck into some BOMBASS design where everyone sighs and says, “Whew. That’s better. Okay.”

But this is Elon we’re talking about, so who the hell knows what is going on. You have to give Elon credit for pulling off something so blatantly hideous and counterintuitive that you both question his sanity and question your own sanity. “If Elon thought this was a good idea, who is wrong here? Does he know something about what people want that even people don’t? Or is he just fucking insane?” I’m actually leaning towards the former: this is the actual Cybertruck — seriously — and Elon is betting hard on such a radical design. I’m almost certain now that Musk sees this as a way forward to differentiate the truck from other trucks. It is unabashedly utilitarian contrasting with the current truck culture that sometimes uses trucks as as much of a fashion and status symbol more so than an actual mode of transportation that has utility. The truck is also very minimalist and lacks any identifying features, besides the wonderfully hideous and angular design of the thing. It isn’t stylish at all, and this separates it from the purposefully stylish models of every other vehicle manufacturer. I find it stylish in a sort of anti-stylish way. So terribly ugly that it begins to look cool after a while.

I don’t know if I’ve drank the Elon Kool-aid too much over the past years in regards to what Tesla and SpaceX has accomplished, but I’m actually starting to come around the Cybertruck’s, uh, “unconventional” design. I mean I still find the thing hideous and atrocious, but something about it, something, is growing on me. I can’t really explain it. I picture these trucks roaming my city in a few years and just being blown away by how off the thing would appear. Most vehicles are designed in the same basic way and the only differences between brands is slight styling changes here and there. The front of a Dodge Ram. The Kia’s angled and jagged grill. I can’t even give examples because I can’t think of them really. Everything is so samey that seeing a fucking Tesla Cybertruck at all will be a shocker. If you own a Cybertruck everyone will notice.

So Elon Musk and his Tesla Cybertruck. Is it simply and example of Elon knowing what the future wants even though everyone else isn’t even aware of it? Is this terribly hideious design of the Cybertruck the best choice Tesla has ever made or will it be seen in a few years as a terrible mistake from the automaker? Is Elon just plain fucking crazy or is there something concrete behind his apparently craziness? i don’t know, but I do know that while I do find the design disgusting, even after less than a week something about it attracts me. It’s awful and angular design is starting to grown on me for some reason or another. What will the truth be in 2025 when the Cybertruck has been around for a few year. Will it be a success or a resounding failure. I don’t know, but I’m curious to find out.