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EVs and Unintended Consequences

An environmental realist who spoke at PIE a few years ago commented on politicians who got all hot and bothered about the latest environmental fad and then for whatever reason allowed their excitement to go fallow when they were out of office, indicating that they were simply riding a wave, and had no real skin in the game.

Today we have states like California mandating EV only sales within 15 years and considering outlawing any new fossil fuel filling stations within 5 years. Folks aren’t lining up to buy EVs but that’s ok, we will force them to do so.

The pesky little law of unintended consequences is kicking in, and the Golden State is having brown outs due to lack of electrical generating capacity. Seems that replacing power plants with solar and wind isn’t cutting it. And that’s with less than 2 percent of our vehicle fleet EV.

There have been no plans for increasing generating capacity, rebuilding the power grid, or anything like that to deal with electrical demand when all those electron guzzling cars show up in a decade or so. We have seen no proposals, no plans, no activity in this area, zero zip.

Its easy to pass laws. But how do you deal with the consequences of those laws. Our governor here in California has signed executive orders to allow power generation (from ICE engines in mothballed ships) to help fill the void caused by lack of wind and solar power.  Hmmm If we were so smart in passing laws to curtail nuclear and gas fired power generation, where were the folks who were those voices in the wilderness talking about brown outs and the like.

California Governor Newsom has skin in this game. He is being recalled and I’m guessing he doesn’t want his supporters voting in the dark.

But back to EVs. First of all, they appear to be an environmental disaster. The minerals required to make the batteries for the suckers come from China. They are available here, but our green brothers and sisters have fought for laws to prevent the mining, which they say destroys the environment. However, forever NIMBY, these folks seem to think that destroying the environment in China is OK.  You know China,  that environmentally cogent country that is building coal fired power plants by the hundreds to keep its population in electricity.

From an article posted at Parknews.biz in autoverdict.com:

According to KPMG, there are 31,753 public EV charging facilities in the United States but only 4,325 of these have DC fast chargers with 17,409 outlets. These are compared to 168,000 gas stations, which usually have at least eight pumps per station. Estimates are that it would cost more than $2 billion just to set up homes and workplaces with enough charges to meet the needs anticipated in 2025 in the top 100 metropolitan areas; and exponentially more to match the nation’s current gasoline distribution network.

These are not simple problems. People who live in low income areas, who don’t have garages, who park on the street, or maybe in apartment buildings, won’t easily have access to EV charging stations. Since most people will charge their cars overnight, that means that those folks will be out of luck. Or at least greatly inconvenienced. Remember, at best, charging your car with the fastest charger, takes about 30 minutes, vs what, five minutes at a filling station.

As is usually the case, its our less advantaged citizens who get it in the neck.

Wouldn’t it be better to simply let the marketplace do its job? Why do we have to have a binary solution, all or nothing?  Let folks who want EVs buy them, allow the power companies to slowly fill the need for charging power as required, and get on with our lives. It seems to me that mandating an impossible solution to a problem isn’t the answer. All it does is allow my favorite law, that of unintended consequences, to kick in.

Of course, all this may just fade away, like the California Bullet Train, when reality kicks in and politicians have another pony to ride.

Just sayin.

 

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One Response to EVs and Unintended Consequences

  1. Mary smith says:

    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.
    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. https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/when-do-electric-vehicles-become-cleaner-than-gasoline-cars-2021-06-29/ 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.
    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?
    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? https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/06/business/lithium-mining-race.html
    4. 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.
    5. 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.

    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.

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