Someone Needs to Teach Joe Manchin How EVs Work


Rachael Warriner/

Senator Joe Manchin (D, West Virginia) said something this week that makes me think he needs to sit down with a guide to how electrification in vehicles works.

Apparently, Manchin said the following at a recent energy conference: “I’m very reluctant to go down the path of electric vehicles. I’m old enough to remember standing in line in 1974 trying to buy gas.”

He also said he’s not willing to wait in line “for a battery for my vehicle, because we’re now dependent on a foreign supply chain. I’ve read history, and I remember Henry Ford inventing the Model-T but I sure as hell don’t remember the U.S. government building filling stations — the market did that.”

The Washington Post has more on this, including in an op-ed in which the author argues that Manchin’s stance both bodes poorly for attempts to fix the climate — since his support might be necessary to help the federal government encourage EV adoption — and is ignorant of history. The Post points out that the government actually did take an active role in helping gas stations proliferate.

Though I largely agree with author Greg Sargent’s take, I don’t want to regurgitate his opinion here. What bothers me about Manchin’s quote, aside from his unwillingness to get behind the transition to EVs (perhaps not shocking from a guy who’s been connected to coal interests) and his lack of awareness of basic history is that he also doesn’t even seem to know how EVs work.

For starters, though battery swapping is a tech solution that has been discussed, I’m not aware of it being used at scale. We typically don’t swap EV batteries when they’re drained. We recharge them. To my knowledge, the only battery swapping being done with most EVs (and hybrids, if applicable) is the battery being replaced, if necessary, years after purchase.

Perhaps Manchin is thinking of waiting for an EV to charge. Which, to be fair, can take a long time if a fast charger isn’t being used. This is a legit obstacle to EV adoption on a larger scale. That said, no one is stuck in a long line to charge because some country has put an embargo on electrons.

This speaks to a larger problem I’ve seen when it comes to Congress critters who are on the older side of 65 — Manchin is 74 — dealing with newer tech. They often get things way wrong. Remember how poorly some Senators misunderstood how social media works when they grilled Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and other key Silicon Valley players during various hearings involving Big Tech?

It’s a bipartisan problem, and the only solution short of voting younger people who are also tech-savvy (to be clear, it’s not a given that a young person knows tech well) into office is to have our representatives in Congress take the time to actually learn about these things before opening their mouths.

Sadly, given the state of the legislative bodies, I’m not optimistic. But it sure would be nice if the folks in Washington actually knew what they were talking about.

[Image: Shutterstock user Rachael Warriner]

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