Motormouth: How will we charge all those electric cars?
Q: With all the manufacturers talking about going to electric vehicles, I wonder how my neighbors who have four SUVs in their driveway and garage full of stuff and the people in the city who park on the street nightly will charge their vehicles?
— F.M., Darien, Illinois
A: Charging in one’s driveway should not be a problem if the cable is long enough. Otherwise, the best option may be a public charging station. More businesses and shopping venues are installing them. Some apartment buildings and condos have chargers. Eventually charging stations will become more ubiquitous. London, for example, has lamppost stations.
Q: I've been told that in order to make even a small percentage of vehicles battery-powered, you need rare earth elements that are in short supply right now and impossible to extract to make this possible. If you can't make the batteries, how can you expect to meet this agenda?
— C.S., Chicago, Illinois
A: Currently, there is no shortage of lithium for batteries, but there is some talk among experts that there may be a shortage around 2025 as carmakers release more electric vehicles. OilPrice.com recently reported that Tesla’s Elon Musk “…claims that Nevada alone holds enough lithium to convert the entire U.S. vehicle fleet into electric. Tesla has rights on over 10,000 acres of a lithium clay deposit in Nevada, from which it plans to extract lithium.”
Q: My 2013 Nissan Altima SE only blows cold air when the car is moving. When the car is idling at a light or moving at low speeds in traffic, it blows warm air. Several mechanics couldn't find anything wrong, and they tell me it's most likely an electrical issue that could run into thousands of dollars! One mechanic thought it was a fuse and replaced it, but nothing changed. Have you heard of this issue before? Help! Summer is just around the corner here in South Florida!
— R.W., Boynton Beach, Florida
A: The air conditioning condenser sits in front of the car’s radiator to cool the compressed refrigerant gas into a liquid. An electric fan draws in outside air. At highway speeds, the fan is often unnecessary. If the fan does not switch on at low vehicle speed, the A/C performance suffers. It may be a wiring problem, a bad fan or something that controls the fan.
Q: I have a 2004 Toyota Solara convertible with 103,000 original miles on it. Love this car! Every time I put the top down, I feel like I am on vacation! I have had it well maintained by the Toyota dealership all these years, and they are more than happy to replace things that wear out. Seventeen years in, I plan on keeping this soon-to-be-classic vehicle. Why do they always demur when I ask about replacing the struts? The ride, after all these Chicago winters that tear up our streets, is not like it was when new. Wouldn’t new struts improve the ride?
— A.M., North Riverside, Illinois
A: New struts usually make a big difference, not only for the ride but for safer braking. There is nothing unusual about replacing the front struts, but there is for the rear struts. To gain access to the upper strut mounting bolts, the rear seat cushions and several panels must be removed. Yeah, it is a hassle. The extra labor will, of course, cost you extra money. Get a quote before you approve the job.
(Bob Weber is a writer and mechanic who became an ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician in 1976. He maintains this status by seeking certification every five years. Weber's work appears in professional trade magazines and other consumer publications. His writing also appears in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest.)
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