Electric Vehicles Aren’t Clean or Practical
Climate Change Weekly #409
My wife and I take pleasure trips every year. Sometimes three- or four-day getaways, sometimes week-long vacations, and on rare occasions longer journeys. Many of these trips are taken by car, including our four most recent journeys since November 2020: two short trips and two longer ones. As a result, I’ve been thinking about electric cars a lot lately.
As part of the effort to fight climate change, the Biden administration is pushing programs to force vehicles powered by internal combustion engines off the road and out of peoples’ garages, to be replaced with electric vehicles powered by rechargeable batteries.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are generally more expensive than comparable passenger vehicles. They also have limited range (a point I’ll discuss in detail below), are typically smaller (and thus less able to accommodate more than a couple of people comfortably), can’t be used to haul boats or trailers, and are more difficult to fuel up, or in this case, charge, than fossil fuel-powered vehicles. EVs have been known to burst into flames spontaneously, which prompted a GM recall recently. It’s one thing for a vehicle to catch fire in an accident; it’s another thing entirely for one’s car to combust while stuck in traffic or while charging in the garage at night when not in use. Cars burning down houses is not a selling point.
As a result of these and other factors, EVs make up less than 2 percent of the cars sold in the United States each year, despite nearly two decades of government support and promotion.
President Biden aims to change that, using carrots and sticks.
To force gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles off the road, Biden is ratcheting up corporate average fuel economy standards to levels most mid-size and large cars, SUVs, and light trucks won’t be able to meet. This means people will have to pay higher prices for these vehicles; move to smaller, less-safe vehicles; keep their existing older cars on the road longer; choose other ways to get around; or replace their cars and trucks with expensive electric vehicles. In addition, Biden’s actions to limit domestic production of oil and gas have driven up fuel prices. Those are the first two sticks the president is wielding to get people out of their gas- and diesel-fueled vehicles.
Meanwhile, the government is subsidizing the purchase of relatively expensive electric vehicles (EVs) with tax credits. Ninety percent of the billions of dollars doled out by the federal government in EV tax credits have gone to the highest 20 percent of income earners. Talk about environmental injustice! The EV tax credit is one of the worst examples of welfare for the well-to-do one can imagine.
Most automakers, long under the regulatory thumb of or beholden to the federal government, are jumping on the bandwagon, going along to get along and expecting to rake in huge profits from the government’s efforts to force people to buy new, more-expensive cars and trucks.
Biden also proposes spending billions of dollars to build EV infrastructure for charging stations across the nation. It’s unclear whether this will entail grants or low-interest loans for homeowners to retrofit their dwellings so they can charge electric vehicles there, or only erecting thousands of charging ports along the nation’s highways at rest stops and at filling stations that will become obsolete if Biden and his cronies have their way.
Oil and gas retailers had to build up the extensive nationwide and local network of gas stations at their own expense—buying land, developing the stations and their storage tanks and pumps, and maintaining them. It seems EV charging stations will be built at public expense, with those profiting from the EV charging stations sticking taxpayers with the bill. The beneficiaries include the utilities who will sell the power, and those constructing and maintaining these facilities.
Numerous studies and reports, some linked below, show EVs and the supply chain and infrastructure necessary to manufacture them and keep them running cause significant environmental and human harm. The human damage includes child labor, slavery, and pollution-induced illness and premature death in developing countries. The environmental damage from the mining and refining of the minerals for the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries alone, much less the other parts, includes destruction of wildlife habitat and waterways, and land and water pollution, all for no significant decline in greenhouse gas emissions.
The latter point should be top-dead-center for the Biden administration if greenhouse gas reduction is truly their main goal. As a recent article by a research associate at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy reports,
[Goehring & Rozencwajg Associates explain] electric vehicle power systems are “50 per cent heavier than a similar internal combustion engine, requiring more steel and aluminum in the frame.” That means that more greenhouse gases are used to make that EV than your comparable Honda Civic—up to 20 to 50 per cent more than an internal combustion engine.
The batteries in electric cars lose efficiency pretty much from the minute they’re manufactured, as all batteries do. G&R points out that an extended-range Tesla Model 3 “has an 82 kWh battery and consumes approximately 29 kWh per 100 miles. Assuming each charge cycle has an approximately 95 per cent round-trip efficiency and a battery can achieve 500 cycles before starting to degrade, we conclude a Model 3 can drive 134,310 miles before dramatically losing range.”
And that’s a problem because it isn’t until the Tesla has hit that distance that it has “worked off” the extra greenhouse gas debt used to build it in the first place.
Based on real-world performance data developed in real-world application in recent years, with the best our technology has to offer, even if every passenger car were switched to an EV tomorrow, there would be no reduction in CO2 output.
The problem I’m really concerned about is practicality. Can electric vehicles really serve average people well?
One of my oldest friends retired young. He and his wife sold their home and bought a travel trailer, behind which they haul a car. They now travel the country, seeing the sights, stopping a day here or a week there as the inclination takes them. There is no electric vehicle in existence that can fit their chosen lifestyle. But then, they are an unusual case.
My wife and I, by contrast, fall well within the norm. On most days an electric vehicle, almost any electric vehicle, would serve us well. I work from home and rarely drive during the week. When I do so, most trips are local. My wife, a nanny, commutes to work every day, but it’s not far—less than 20 miles. Even with taking the child she cares for to the park, music lessons, play dates, and the gym, and shopping or errands on the way home, her daily travel is well within the range of most electric vehicles.
However, if we drove electric vehicles, we’d have to rent a storage unit or buy a large shed, because our garage is currently being used for storage. To charge our cars in the garage, we would have to make big and costly changes. Judging by my visits to family’s, friends’, and neighbors’ homes, many others would face similar costs in adapting to EVs. Storage facilities, shed manufacturers and builders, thrift shops, and garage-sale shoppers will likely benefit from an EV boom. Most of us, however, will take a serious financial hit.
Weekends are when the big change in our routine would occur. My wife and I regularly travel out of town on day trips on weekends, frequently putting more than 300 miles on one or the other of our cars in heading to state or national parks or to visit a historic downtown on a lark, or to go to a wedding or baby shower out of town as we did just last weekend. Then there are the vacations. We usually take two week-long trips and two to three shorter, three or four-day trips each year. Many of these trips are by car.
Pod Point is a really useful website for this discussion. It list all the EVs and hybrid EVs (which I’m ignoring for the purpose of this discussion) available for sale. It also shows their range per charge under optimal conditions, and how long it takes to charge them depending on the voltage of the available charging station. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture for those who like to travel.
From my home in a suburb of Dallas, even a short trip to Houston is beyond the range of most electric vehicles. This is a common trip and well within the range of my large SUV and my wife’s smaller station wagon on less than a tank of gas. I can make it to Houston in about four hours without stopping for gas, and to Austin, another common trip, in around three and a half hours in normal traffic. A more fuel-efficient vehicle than the ones we drive, such as a Toyota Camry, can make it from our home to Houston or Austin and back again without stopping for gas. No electric vehicle currently in production can make the same claim about range between “fill-ups.”
Pod Point list 75 all-electric vehicle models currently for sale, only 20 of which, under optimal conditions, will get me to Houston without stopping for a charge. (These conditions include no traffic tie-ups, no extreme cold or hot temperatures, no detours, etc.) Leaving aside, for now, the fact that charging stations are not readily available, the EVs that can make this trip or a similar one to Austin are among the most expensive on a list of expensive vehicles. More typical electric vehicles have to be charged just to make it to Houston or Austin. The charging time ranges from 19 hours to 31 hours on the charging stations most commonly found in homes or increasingly at shopping centers. This means a three-day getaway to Houston or Austin is impossible: we would be driving or charging the whole time.
The most powerful and expensive but currently least available charging stations, so-called rapid charge stations, can provide EVs between a 20 and 80 percent charge in 30 minutes to an hour. I never take 30 minutes to an hour to fill up my gas tank, of course. Even if Biden and company build thousands of these stations along the nation’s roads and highways, and they are all quick charge stations, the roads will be snarled by gridlock, not from traffic but from backups at the charging stations. There simply won’t be enough room on the roads and in parking areas for all the EVs needing a charge. It will make the gas lines during the 1970s Arab oil embargo look like paradise by comparison—in addition to the chaos that will result if and when 18-wheelers traversing the country every day go electric.
In the past year, my wife and I went to San Antonio and Belton, Texas; Estes Park, Colorado; and Lead, South Dakota. My dad joined us on the week-long trip to South Dakota. Three adults, all their luggage, and a cooler for drinks and snacks all fit comfortably in my vehicle. I could have taken my dog in its kennel with ease as well. Kennel or no, no current EV could have transported us as comfortably as my SUV. We traveled 1,111 miles in 17 hours, including three stops for gas, an extra stop for a restroom break (during which I topped off the tank), and a stop for a meal. None of the gas stops took more than 10 minutes, and three of the four took less than five, being swipe-and-go at the pump.
Leaving aside questions of comfort, the longest-range electric vehicle would have added multiple hours (using those imaginary unoccupied fast-charging stations) to multiple days (for normal charging stations) just for the travel portion of our South Dakota trip. We would have had to take extra vacation time or reduced the amount of time spent enjoying ourselves instead of travelling, charging, and waiting for charging stations.
The trip to Colorado was five hours and 350 miles shorter. We made two stops purely for gas, none for meals, and one for gas, coffee, and a bathroom break. Had we been driving an EV, the lost time would have been similar to the trip for South Dakota. For many EVs, we would have had to stop four to six times. Even the longest-range EV would have required three stops. In addition, the rapid charging stations add only a 20 to 80 percent charge for a 30-minute to one-hour charge, so we would have had to make additional stops and lose further valuable vacation time.
There may be reasons to like electric cars, and for anyone who wants one and can afford it, I say go for it. But before you applaud government efforts to force people to buy EVs instead of vehicles with internal combustion engines, think about how you like to travel. In addition to the obvious costs—dollars spent on the vehicle, the human and environmental harm, and the lifestyle change—think about how this government-induced transformation of the world will steal time from you on trips for work, personal errands, and leisure. EVs’ hidden costs are high, and they will only grow as government pushes more people into using them.
— H. Sterling Burnett.
IN THIS ISSUE …
SUN, NOT CO2 EMISSIONS, DRIVING CLIMATE CHANGE, STUDY SAYS … ANTARCTIC ICE REBOUNDING
SUN, NOT CO2 EMISSIONS, DRIVING CLIMATE CHANGE, STUDY SAYS
A new paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Research in Astronomy and Astrophysics says the Sun, not greenhouse gases, drives climate change.
The research, by 23 scientists in the fields of solar physics and climate at universities and research institutes in 14 different countries, involved a comprehensive analysis of the 16 published solar output datasets.
The researchers found the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) uses a very small number of solar irradiance data sets, data sets with uniformly “low solar variability,” to support its conclusion solar activity plays a negligible role in climate change. Using the broader, more comprehensive series of data sets, the researchers conclude “most, if not all, of the long-term temperature changes are due to natural factors.”
Solar data from NASA’s ACRIM sun-monitoring satellites matches temperature data from the most reliable data sets well, indicating almost all recent warming can be explained by solar activity with very little contribution from human greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC ignores the NASA ACRIM data and other data sets in favor of those that support the hypothesis of human responsibility for climate change.
Commenting on the IPCC’s approach to examining solar irradiance as a factor in climate change, lead author Ronan Connolly, Ph.D. of the Center for Environmental Research and Earth Sciences (CERES), said,
The IPCC is mandated to find a consensus on the causes of climate change. I understand the political usefulness of having a consensus view in that it makes things easier for politicians. However, science doesn’t work by consensus. In fact, science thrives best when scientists are allowed to disagree with each other and to investigate the various reasons for disagreement. I fear that by effectively only considering the datasets and studies that support their chosen narrative, the IPCC have seriously hampered scientific progress into genuinely understanding the causes of recent and future climate change.
ANTARCTIC ICE REBOUNDING
The German climate science site Die Kalte Sonne reports Antarctic sea ice extent has rebounded from the low numbers recorded between 2016 and 2019.
The “German national daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported in June, 2019, that Antarctic sea ice had ‘shrunk 1.8 million square kilometers,’ writing: ‘the massive disappearance of ice is astonishing,” Die Kalte Sonne notes. Now the media are largely ignoring Antarctica’s rapid sea ice recovery, the site reports.
Despite climate models indicating Antarctica should be losing sea ice, sea ice extent grew steadily from 1980 through 2015, setting modern records in 2014 and 2015 before falling sharply. Since 2019, Antarctic sea ice has recovered to levels common in the 1980s and early 1990s, during the early part of an extended growth period.
The record indicates sea ice extent is driven by ocean current oscillations and shifting wind patterns, not carbon dioxide emissions.
“Researchers are in agreement that the strong decline in Antarctic sea ice from 2016 to 2019 is mainly due to natural causes,” states Die Kalte Sonne in commenting on the sea ice record, as reported by Climate Change Dispatch. “Obviously this is not a good topic for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, who prefer not to report on the ice recovery.”
SOURCE: Climate Change Dispatch