No, Joe, Electric Cars Will Never Power America!

by | Jun 1, 2021 |

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One of the most unjustifiably hyped innovations of our lifetime is the electric vehicle (EV). The federal government and the state of California are wrong to think that the internal combustion engine is destined to end up in the dustbin of history in the next few decades. It will not happen for many obvious reasons that governments are blind to, and some reasons that are not so obvious.

The most obvious one is that EVs are so expensive that the average American cannot afford to own one. Vehicles powered by internal combustion engines will always be significantly cheaper and will transport you much farther.

Regardless, EVs can never be produced in the numbers the government wants because of a lack of necessary rare earth elements needed for EV battery production, minerals that are mostly held hostage in China. Fortunately, the situation has improved slightly in recent years, as the below figure shows, but China still has the largest know deposits of rare earths.

In addition, as The Wall Street Journal reported on May 21:

“China is tightening its grip on the global supply of processed manganese, rattling a range of companies worldwide that depend on the versatile metal—including the planet’s biggest electric-vehicle makers. China produces over 90 percent of the world’s manganese products.”

Availability of charging stations will also never be adequate. And the time required to recharge on a long trip will so frustrate most drivers that they will undoubtedly return home and, if they still have one, begin the trip anew with an internal combustion engine-driven car.

The cost of a battery replacement will certainly be a turn-off for many would-be EV owners, as well.

Here are the even less obvious deterrents. If you remain an EV fan after reading about these problems, please write to us and explain why. We commit to writing another article explaining your point of view.

TESLA

Let’s first get Elon Musk and Tesla out of the way. While he did make many cars in the $40k to $50k range in the past year, Tesla is now and will remain a car for the affluent, with his primary models checking in around $100k. Nevertheless, Musk will always be successful because he really is the smartest person in the room. He is now unbelievably wealthy with a net worth of $156 billion because so many people recognize his brilliance and so buy Tesla stock at nonsensically high values.

BIDEN AND NEWSOME

To support the president’s goal of a nation powered by EVs, on April 22, the Biden administration announced that $15 billion will be devoted to building a national network of 500,000 charging stations [by 2030], to “increase confidence for drivers that they will always have a charging option when they need it.”

Also, embedded in Biden’s proposed $1.7 trillion infrastructure plan is a whopping $174 billion to boost the domestic EV market with tax credits and grants for battery manufacturers, and other incentives.

Things are equally crazy in California, where, on September 23, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order requiring sales of all new passenger vehicles to be zero-emission by 2035.

For the reasons below, running American on EVs cannot happen. But fear not, Biden and Newsom will be long gone and replaced by more reasonable folks long before the years of their directives come to pass.

AVAILABLE ELECTRICITY

The Laurence Livermore Laboratory of the US Department of Energy states that America’s current electrical generation capacity is 11.4 trillion kilowatt-hours per year. The energy used for transportation today is equivalent to 8.5 trillion kilowatt-hours per year, of which only an infinitesimal part is already electric. Where would the additional power come from? Were all cars to be electric? The same governments in charge plan for no more energy from oil, natural gas, coal, or nuclear. The obvious answer, liberals tell us, is wind and solar power, which currently produce a mere 0.7 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. Where and how will we build enough solar and wind installations to keep us all driving EVs? We have neither the economic resources nor land area to even consider this.

RANGE

Just as golf carts may be fun and legal to run around your neighborhood if you are inclined, so are electric cars. However, few normal people would want to plan a long trip in one, but let’s try. We will go first class in a Tesla on a trip of 270 miles which only a Tesla can now do on a single charge. It will take us 4.5 hours to drive 270 miles and about 6.5 hours to recharge the battery unless you can find the rare supercharging station. If you cannot, you have brought your average trip speed, including charging time, down to under 25 mpg.

Unless you have planned adequately, you will always be driving with what is called range anxiety. But still, they are great in the neighborhood, but they definitely cost more than a golf cart.

MILES PER GALLON

The term mpg is disappearing as an advantage when buying an EV. The reason is that in order to increase the range of EVs, a great deal of extra weight in batteries has had to be added. That has largely canceled the claim to yield less carbon dioxide (CO2) than internal combustion engines. Yet, less CO2 emissions remain the primary selling point for EVs, even though the production of these batteries generates huge amounts of CO2. In fact, because of the greater manufacturing demands of EVs over normal gas-power cars, by the time an EV arrives at the showroom, it has already double the ‘carbon footprint’ of traditional vehicles (although climate campaigners will eventually be concerned about this, we are not—after all, CO2 is wonderful as it is greening our world).

On top of that, everyone seems to assume the energy that flows from the wall or recharging station is free. In fact, back at the power station, someone is burning a lot of coal or natural gas to create it. Perhaps your electric car should more accurately be called a coal or natural gas car. And, oh yes, the tax on your gasoline to keep our roads maintained will soon have to be replaced by a special tax on your electric vehicle registration, and well, it should be.

COLD CLIMATES

The nature of batteries is that they yield less energy in cold climates. EV owners will all learn this soon enough. Advertised ranges on a fully charged battery will not be achieved. The shortfall will be significant and good luck trying to charge your EV battery overnight if the temperature in your garage gets too low.

THE CALIFORNIA JOKE

California plans to have 25 million EVs in the not-too-distant future. It already has 50% of the nation’s EVs. Thus far, the utility companies have had little to say about the alarming cost projections or the certain increased power rates that will be required to charge their customers. It is not just the total amount of electricity required, but also the transmission lines and fast charging capacity that must be built at existing filling stations. Neither wind nor solar can support any of it.

To match the 2,000 cars that a typical filling station can service in a busy 12 hours, the station would require 600, 50k-watt chargers at an estimated cost of $24 million and a supply of 30 megawatts of power from the grid. That is enough to power 20,000 homes. And, it can take 30 minutes to 8 hours to recharge a vehicle between empty or just topping off. Will charging station hotels have to be built along our highways for drivers awaiting a full recharge?

By the way, the 49 states not named California have the other 50% of EVs, an average of about one percent each. It would appear that those states understand the problems California faces.

USED CAR MARKET

The average used EV will need a new battery, pricing them well above used internal combustion cars. The average age of an American car on the road is 12 years. A 12-year-old EV will be on its third battery. A Tesla battery costs $10,000, so there will not be many 12-year-old EVs on the market.

EVs PER BLOCK IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD

A home charging system for a Tesla requires a 75-amp service. The average house is equipped with 100-amp service. On most suburban streets, the electrical infrastructure would be unable to carry more than three houses, each with a single Tesla. For half the homes on your block to have electric vehicles, the system would be wildly overloaded, or massive electrical infrastructure rebuilds would be required.

BATTERIES

Although the modern lithium-ion battery is four times better than the old lead-acid battery, gasoline still holds 80 times the energy density. The great lithium battery in your cell phone weighs less than an ounce, while the Tesla battery weighs 1,000 pounds.

EMERGENCY VEHICLES MUST CONTINUE TO BE POWERED BY INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINES

The electric automobile will remain a niche market for the foreseeable future, likely never exceeding 10% of the cars on the road. Automobile manufacturers that are heavily investing in EVs will be very disappointed in their sales. Perhaps they know this and instead will soon make only what they know they can sell. And then President Biden and Governor Newsom’s plans will crumble with the inevitable return of the gasoline-powered vehicle.

In the meantime, consumers who made the leap to EVs will increasingly find themselves freezing in the dark on the side of remote highways with their EV batteries depleted. If they are lucky, they will be rescued by a tow truck operator who had the common sense to stockpile gasoline and keep their internal combustion engine-driven trucks tuned up and ready to go.

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Dr. Jay Lehr is a Senior Policy Analyst with the International Climate Science Coalition and former Science Director of The Heartland Institute. He is an internationally renowned scientist, author, and speaker who has testified before Congress on dozens of occasions on environmental issues and consulted with nearly every agency of the national government and many foreign countries. After graduating from Princeton University at the age of 20 with a degree in Geological Engineering, he received the nation’s first Ph.D. in Groundwater Hydrology from the University of Arizona. He later became executive director of the National Association of Groundwater Scientists and Engineers.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition, and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. He has 40 years experience as a mechanical engineer/project manager, science and technology communications professional, technical trainer, and S&T advisor to a former Opposition Senior Environment Critic in Canada’s Parliament.

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JD Watson
JD Watson
1 year ago

You forgot to mention one CRITICAL fact. Tesla and the other EV’s all have proprietary software and systems in their cars. You can not replace a part unless an authorized installer does it. In the case of Tesla, they have no interest in out-of-warranty vehicles. They will not let the vehicle owner replace parts. Without “Right to repair” legislation in place. All these used EV’s are destined for the landfill.

Tom Harris
Tom Harris
Reply to  JD Watson
1 year ago

Great point – thanks JD Watson!

Hal O'Brien
Hal O'Brien
Reply to  JD Watson
9 months ago

“All these used EV’s are destined for the landfill.”

And petrol cars aren’t? Don’t get me wrong… I have a 1990 Volvo 240 sedan and a 2001 Mercedes E320 wagon, myself. But I have no illusions about where they’re going to end up, eventually.

Bob Lyman
Bob Lyman
1 year ago

I live in Canada. The average daytime temperature in many Canadian cities in winter is about minus 15 C. (5 degrees F). At that temperature, a battery-powered vehicle loses 54% of its range. EV’s here will always be second vehicles only, purchased by those with higher incomes while massively subsidized by governments. In fact, EVs offer one of the best examples available of a highly regressive subsidy program that takes from average income earners and gives to the wealthy. If we ever got to the point that a high percentage of cars on the road were EVs, the coldest winter days would see hundreds of them stalled on the expressways, unable to be recharged by emergency vehicles and creating immense traffic jams.

Tom Harris
Tom Harris
Reply to  Bob Lyman
1 year ago

wow, what a nightmare that would be. Thanks Bob!

Tom

Hal O'Brien
Hal O'Brien
Reply to  Bob Lyman
9 months ago

So you’ve made the case as to why EVs are not a good idea in Canada. That’s fine.

Canada has about 40 million cars. Meanwhile, the total number of cars in the world is 1.8 billion.

So imagine there are places that *aren’t* Canada, and have 1.76 billion cars.

Just because EVs don’t work *for you* doesn’t mean they don’t work for *anybody*. You may not be representative of the total market.

Last edited 9 months ago by Hal O'Brien
Hal O'Brien
Hal O'Brien
1 year ago

A major claim here is that 270 miles is not a sufficient range for cars to have. Sounds reasonable, until you look at the data, and find out 95% of all car trips are 30 miles or less. This implies 95% of all *round* trips – getting back to the home charger – are 60 miles or less. https://nhts.ornl.gov/tables09/fatcat/2009/vt_TRPMILES.html

In regards to battery replacement costs, are the authors old enough to remember Christmas Club accounts at banks? I am. Just take the battery cost, divide it actuarially by the number of months of its expected life, and add that to the car payment. Or, offer the option to pre-pay the replacement, if you will. That doesn’t seem terribly difficult.

Last edited 1 year ago by Hal O'Brien
Tom Harris
Tom Harris
Reply to  Hal O'Brien
1 year ago

so, when you do that computation, Hal, what do EVs cost in comparison with gas powered cars?

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