Mary Responds to my EV Blog


Mary Responds to my EV Blog

I thought Mary’s comments on my screed yesterday on EV’s was important enough to bring it to light. It follows:  With my comments.

1. EVs still aren’t cost effective over life cycle without huge govt subsidies. But if battery costs go down and range goes up as expected they will be within 2-5 years. Maintenance costs are much lower (far fewer moving parts) and there is plenty of power and performance. Then the market will make them preferred over ICE. So we will need EV chargers soon. Granted — However why not just let the marketplace work, as you predict it will, and forget this government intervention that will require us to drive EVs. It may take a tad longer, but then we will have time to get the infrastructure in place.

2. Whether an EV is better life cycle for the environment right now does depend on the source of the power used to recharge it as well as the particular models, but here is a good article on the topic. With100% coal, a Tesla model 3 is cleaner than an ICE sedan after year 5. With 100% hydro/clean energy it is cleaner after 6 mos. and with the average US mix of power it is cleaner after 1 year. Sounds pretty environmentally friendly right now in any place that isn’t relying heavily on coal. I have no argument that EVs are cleaner than ICE. I do have an issue with the fact that promoting EVs in China and India will most likely not help environmentally, due to the prevalence of coal fired power. The numbers seem to be that if we were 100% EV, the air would be about 30% cleaner. What about the other 70%?

3. My electric company here in Indiana is upgrading the grid as we speak. They are trimming trees in my neighborhood this week to facilitate it. Want to see the letter from my utility?  More power (pun intended) to your Hoosier utilities. You have about 7,000 EVs in Indiana. You have plenty of time to ramp up. We have over half a million in California. We are experiencing brown outs. We have reduced our generating capacity by depending on wind and solar. There are no letters from my utility on upgrading the grid. PGE is simply trying to keep up, and not doing a very good job of it. Our state has prevented them from clear cutting around power lines. Guess what. We get wildfires. Not everywhere is an enlightened at Indiana.

4. Obviously, mining the natural resources required for batteries is a big concern. Contrary to your statement, the US has the largest reserves of Lithium in the world and China is assembling them not providing the raw materials. Here is a good article about that. Can we trust our entrepreneurial spirit to figure it out?  I see your NY Times article and raise a Forbes article. Environmentalists are caught in a NIMBY quandary. The minerals used in batteries come from many places, mostly Australia. True, assembly is in China, but natural resources are located there, too. I commented that we have plenty of Lithium in the ground but getting it is messy. Our environmental betters don’t like messy.

5. Way too many people are arguing for “fast charging” all over the place so cars can be fully recharged in 30 minutes. They argue it is needed to overcome range anxiety before purchasing one. But I don’t think it really isn’t needed anywhere but on highways (for long trips) and strains the grid if all the commuter cars are charged at 8 am for 30 minutes or at an apartment complex at 6 pm when they get home. The average shopper in their home area doesn’t need a full recharge at the shopping center. The vast majority of cars at a destination only need “topping off”. We aka parking industry needs to be charging for the power and cost of installing the chargers to encourage people to fully charge at home at night and without a big investment in home infrastructure, not for free at work or the shopping center using a true fast charger that costs $50,000 each to install. The problem is all those folks who park on the street at night because they have no where else to park. Most of these are poor. So where are they supposed to get their EV power. We middle class folks can afford garages and can afford to ‘top up’ at will. But as usual, its the poor that take it in the neck. Reread your comment 4. It fits perfectly into the upper middle class scenario. What about everyone else. I guess they can walk or take a train or bus.

6. We need power management systems, again to spread out recharging across all the EV charges in a parking facility, both at multifamily residential and workplaces, so we don’t have to install enough power to recharge 30% or more of spaces simultaneously and/or make people move their car after it is recharged. Eventually a car with autonomous parking capability can be programmed to move itself, but that isn’t happening for a long time and by then the charging technology may change substantially. And many may not allow a parking garage’s smart communication system to tell their car it is time to move to or from a charging station. Yep — We need.  Agreed.

So yea EVs are not yet ready for prime time, ie, radical increases in market share of new car sales, but by 2030 they very well may be. Even OPEC admits that and all my middle east clients are desperately trying to build alternatives to an oil-based economy. And by then old fogeys like you and me John won’t be arguing over what is best for the environment and climate change. It will be a done deal except for any small pockets of stubborn climate change deniers. I pray you and I are around in nine years to see if this all comes to pass. Ten years ago we were predicting that self driving cars were going to take over the transportation system. Now we are saying ‘not so much.’ In the meantime, I stand by my prediction. No matter what the government attempts to do, market pressures will out. We will see a blend of all types of transport, all types of power generation. What I hope is that we get away from a binary, all or nothing approach. Having EVs or bullet trains, or whatever required by a central planning monolith is a non starter. At least I hope it is.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

One Response

  1. EV’s have their place, but are impractical for a large % of the populace, period. Its like the whole autonomous vehicle craze, they are a great idea in specific circumstances, but completely useless in others.

    Our grid is woefully inadequate to support widespread EV use, same as our roadway infrastructure isn’t even close to being ready for autonomous vehicles (+/-30% of our roadways are still unpaved).

    If you want to get a quick snapshot of a couple simple “real world” issues we will need to overcome, just do a google search on “hurricane evacuation”, or “power restoration after a storm”. Imagine that chaos in a world where we rely on the grid for transportation.

    Politics, the environment, $’s and simple social acceptance are all huge hurdles that we have come nowhere near to resolving. That’s not to say we shouldn’t continually strive for “better”, but you can’t dictate societal change deadlines.

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