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I’m a big fan of Rich Benoit of Rich Rebuilds (YouTube) and Electrified Garage (his business with a mechanic friend), and it’s not just because he’s a “rebel mechanic” of sorts, always taking on unconventional challenges. Honestly, it’s because to me he represents the wave of DIY EV enthusiasm that will eventually take electric-powered personal transportation from its semi-elite status to an everyday-person commonality.
Backyard or home garage projects with various cars, classic or otherwise, has created an industry all its own with a hobby base that fuels it. While NASCAR-level performance is often out of reach financially (and practicality-wise), car enthusiasts are still inspired to invest in performance upgrades to their vehicles on a regular basis, and there’s even an entire community that spends a lot of time and money on classic car restorations. (I know I’m just rehashing the obvious here, but it’s relevant.)
These things are, of course, already starting to pop up with an electric spin via various EV conversions of other cars. EV West is one of the better known shops that pretty much does this exclusively, but it’s still a bit of an overly expensive undertaking that requires very specialized know-how. I watch videos featuring their work with about the same level of gawk as I do racing events featuring Tesla performance packages I will probably never be able to afford (or need). This is where guys like Rich come in that appeal to a very different, if more modest, crowd.
Rich’s channel is dedicated to showing you, the everyday DIYer, how EVs don’t have to remain something that only certified super mechanics and specialized shops can touch. This is particularly relevant to Tesla owners, in my opinion, and not just because Rich focuses on making Tesla mad by restoring their totaled vehicles. Sure, the company is making strides to have great service that can even come to wherever your car is, if needed. The long-long term reality though, I think, is that people will get to the point where they want to be able to have more control over the cost to maintain their cars as they age. I mean, if batteries are supposed to last a million miles soon, that means a Tesla might change ownership some five+ times before it needs a new power source. Even then, the owner might replace it with another used battery and sell it again and again, etc.
I’m not sure what Tesla’s corporate plans are for this particular kind of future, just that their leasing plans for the Tesla Network would avoid it entirely. There’s going to be a big used EV market eventually, though, and something that might really impact its viability to customers is whether or not they can work on their own vehicles. I know I worry about it vicariously, if that even makes sense.
I’ve had a mix of used and new cars over the years, but something that always worried me was having things break that I couldn’t just order online for a good price and have my local mechanic replace. Or my husband. I owned an older Mercedes very briefly once, and the first thing to go was its fancy single windshield wiper during the first storm of the year. That was a $700 fix that only a mechanic could touch! My Honda’s wipers, on the other hand, required a $70 part that had an online video to guide me through the replacement procedure.
I think these kinds of things will really matter in the long term for the average car shopper, and it takes DIYers digging into the EVs on the market to bring about that sort of availability and consumer choice. Mercedes, to reference my example again, is supposed to be a luxury vehicle that’s expensive to maintain. Tesla is trying to appeal to all consumers, as I’ve mentioned a few (dozen) times.
Here’s another angle to think about. The environmental point of all this EV stuff should be a big factor in the used market as well. Consumer trade-ins and trade-ups are pretty common, and a leasing-focused future encourages this. But if the carbon footprint of making a new vehicle is compared with that of restoring or maintaining an older one, I assume keeping older cars in good condition would be the environmental preference, no? Anyhow, I’m glad guys like Rich are around, pointing to one of the directions the industry needs to go.