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Sep 11, 2023

A sea change for electric cars?

Keep your powder wet and your Tesla dry

By Ed Goldman

Item: “Two electric vehicles caught fire after being submerged in saltwater churned up by the storm (Hurricane Idalia),” reports CBS News. “Firefighters in Palm Harbor, Florida, cited the incidents, both of which involved Teslas, in warning owners that their rechargeable car batteries could combust if exposed to saltwater.

“The warning also applies to electric golf carts, scooters and bicycles,” the report helpfully adds.

Edgy Cartoon

Surf city, here we come

Got it. But what if you drive a car that’s not all-electric, like a Tesla? What if it’s a hybrid—part electric, part gas? Will flooding cause it to become saltwater taffy?

Also: If your unfortunate tendency to slice ends up propelling your golf ball into a water trap and you drive your cart into the pond to play the ball where it lies, will the greens manager be able to credibly explain why he made a 911 call to the fire department? 

These are but two of the highly technical and, in our view, genius-level questions we put to this column’s incendiaries consultant, Bern D. Bridges.

THE GOLDMAN STATE: Thanks for sitting down with us, Bern.

BERN: Mind if I smoke? (Laughs) I’m being droll.

TGS: Cute. What we want to know is—

BERN: —why Elon Musk never road-tested Teslas in the ocean?

TGS: Well, yes, that—

BERN: Because that wouldn’t have been a road test, my scholarly friend. That would have been a test of the cars’ sea-worthiness. Unless you’re manufacturing an all-electric four-wheel-drive amphibian, why would it even cross your mind?

TGS: Point taken, Berne. Say, I have some questions our readers sent in as we started speaking a moment ago.

BERN: Wow! You have some amazing technology here! We’re not even broadcasting this and yet your readers are following along. I mean, that’s faster than Real Time.

TGS: Yes, we call it Surreal Time. A little something cooked up by H.G. Wells and Salvador Dali back when they were dating. In any event—

BERN: Wait a second. The writer of “The Time Machine” and the painter of that melting clock ‘were dating’ ?!

TGS: Oh, not each other. But they were young bachelors once. We’re confident that included some dating.

BERN (Looking off into the middle distance, wondering if he’s being punk’d by a hidden camera): Um…what are some of your readers’ questions?

TGS: Here’s one. Marv “Not My Real Name” from Ann Arbor Michigan asks, “Did the motorcyclists played by Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda who were killed at the end of film classic ‘Easy Rider’ die in the fiery inferno caused by the rednecks who ambushed them—or were they riding all-electric bikes that were ignited by the saltiness of their perspiration, itself caused by the anxiety they suffered while awaiting ambush by rednecks ? I’ll take my answer off-line, thanks.”

BERN: That’s a good question, Marv, and I think you should use your real name. According to ridereview.com, “The first electric start Motorcycle was the Harley-Davidson Duo-Glide, introduced in 1965. This innovative bike featured an electric starter motor that eliminated the need for kick-starting, making it easier and more convenient for riders to start their motorcycles.” Now, Marv, since “Easy Rider” came out four years later, it’s certainly plausible that Dennis and Peter could have been riding all-electric Harleys. And since the two actors were largely financing the film themselves, I also buy the theory that they were sweating like “hogs,” if I may utilize the common nickname for motorcycles. But I have doubts that the sweat beads dripping down from under their headbands would have had enough cumulative power to blow up the boys. Even so, extra points to you for knowing the fellas perished while astride Harley-Davidson bikes. Are you free for lunch?

TGS: Hey! You can’t use this column as an online dating service.

BERN: Well, pardon me all to hell, Musk lover. I guess if I were someone really important like H.G. Wells or Salvador Dali, I’d be allowed to date. I think I’ll drive my Tesla to the beach.

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).