By on June 22, 2021

As the resident sourpuss, I make it my business to complain about every industrial hypocrisy that crosses my path and the automotive sector has kept me so busy that there’s hardly any time left to address my own failings. Though I do have to confess that I sometimes feel guilty about how frequently I’m compelled to gripe about electric vehicles. Provided that you’re willing to work with their charging limitations and less-than-impressive ranges, EVs have a lot to offer even in their current state. But the way they’ve been marketed has been so consistently disingenuous that I often end my days on the cusp of a frustration-induced aneurysm.

The winds appear to be changing, however.

After years of watching the industry bang its head against the wall, the media seems prepared to shift its position. Accelerated adoption of pure electrics doesn’t seem to be happening and too many EV startups have ended up being little more than an opportunity for investors to throw away money. Increasingly fewer people ask me about battery-powered cars in a way that suggests true enthusiasm. Excitement has given way to dubiousness as more people have begun to ponder if electrics are really all they’re cracked up to be. 

The Wall Street Journal has released a couple of articles on the matter this year, with the most recent one dropping last week. Rather than running with the narrative that electrics are the obvious choice for a cleaner environment, the outlet has begun asking harder questions and even spilling some beans tech firms would prefer to remain canned. Among them was a query about how automakers are going to tamp down the price of EVs to be competitive when the materials going into them are in such high demand. Furthermore, what are the odds battery production will be done in an environmentally friendly way when the industry knows it has to make it as cost-effective as possible?

We’ve been wondering the same thing for years — and that’s just for starters. How does a national energy grid contend with an EV-dominant landscape? Can that energy be sourced reliably and in a manner that’s cleaner than what we have today? How do we ensure sufficient raw materials for battery production? Is building up an entirely new charging infrastructure for the planet more efficient than continuing with what we have? What if consumers don’t like electrics as much as internal combustion cars? What if EVs don’t reach parity with ICEs as soon as we think? What about the ethical complications of mining in third-world countries? What about the dangers of shifting over to a driving model that gives China (the world’s leading battery producer) a clear industrial advantage?

This is a corner the industry and government have painted themselves into by way of perpetually ignoring any shortcomings associated with the technology and encouraging surface-level environmentalism, rather than genuinely critical thinking into the issue. It’s reminiscent of how the European Union handled air pollution by assuming that prioritizing diesel-fueled vehicles would automatically win the day, only to have reality catch up a couple of decades later.

From WSJ:

The all-electric technology popularized by Tesla involves a kind of front-loading of environmental risk. EVs emit less carbon than a conventional car, even when recharged with electricity made by burning coal, but their powerful batteries require a lot of resources to make.

This inconvenient truth is one reason car makers are getting more involved in the EV supply chain. Investments such as the new battery factories announced by General Motors this week are mainly about securing greater control over the supply, technology and costs of the most important EV component. But a fourth factor fast rising up the priority list is control over their environmental footprint.

Buying battery cells made with renewable electricity is one focus. Faced with very strong demand, European battery startup Northvolt, which is backed by Volkswagen and BMW among others, last week raised $2.75 billion to further expand its low-carbon production facility in northern Sweden, where hydroelectric power is plentiful.

Another hot topic is the mining of battery metals, notably lithium. The industry used to worry more about cobalt, which is sourced mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo amid charges of child labor, but in recent years the metal’s role in battery chemistry has shrunk. Lithium can’t so easily be minimized in lithium batteries. The stocks of U.S. producers Albemarle and Livent are trading close to record highs.

Automakers using EVs as a tactic to wrangle more control over their product is further emphasized by the number of companies that are now reimagining the concept of vehicle ownership as their lobbying groups take on the right-t0-repair movement (which believes companies don’t have the right to dictate what customers can do to their products after they’ve been purchased). But that’s another issue we probably should dive into separately. The point is that the automotive sector has reached a point where it’s throwing away the established way of doing business so it can exert more control over products.

And we could certainly have a frank and productive discussion on the matter if anyone in the business was willing to state that bluntly. But the issue of EVs has become so bogged down in the notion that they’ll be miraculously better for the environment, provided you don’t think about it too hard, that thoughtful considerations never really get off the ground.

This isn’t a problem exclusive to tech companies, either. There’s plenty to dislike about the oil industry and stupid decisions abound — my current favorite is that it’s somehow better to ship oil around the world using super-polluting tanker ships or loaded onto smoke-spewing trucks, than simply sourcing (and refining) as much as possible domestically and moving it around via pipelines. The argument is never that it’s too risky to place so much of our energy infrastructure in one vulnerable space, or that we have complicated political interest that might discourage homestyle refineries. We’re just issued the catchall excuse that it’s probably bad for the environment, with only the most thoughtful examples including some mention of spoiling protected lands.

That’s if we’re lucky. But why have EVs been getting less love in 2021 when we could have chugged along spewing the same narratives?

Well, we’re starting to see some of their shortcomings. More importantly, so has the industry that was promising they’d be all the rage in a couple more years. This coincides with everyone realizing that global supply chains aren’t necessarily something we can perpetually count upon thanks to the semiconductor shortage that’s absolutely ravaging carmakers. EVs might not actually be sustainable from a business perspective — at least, not yet.

“The data is pointing to the battery cost curve coming down much more slowly than hyped. There are a lot of bottlenecks and challenges that people are ignoring,” Mio Kato, an analyst who publishes on research platform Smartkarma, told WSJ.

Most studies suggest that BEVs are only better for the environment if you purchase one after driving your current vehicle till the wheels fall off, buying something modest, sourcing as much energy as humanly possible from renewable sources, and driving it for at least a decade. Meanwhile, EV companies only seem to be profitable when backed by plenty of excited investors and supported by government subsidies.

At present, it seems a losing proposition when viewed critically. But that’s not to suggest electrics won’t eventually surpass gasoline-driven automobiles after some more R&D. The real problem seems to be that everyone championing that cause seems to be glossing over that fact in an effort to get us to the finish line as soon as possible. But that’s just one opinion and I’m always curious about the consumer consensus.

How green do you see electric cars today and what do you forecast from now until they’re supposed to reach financial parity with internal combustion vehicles? Are we on the right track or has the whole EV experiment been completely bungled by the associated marketing attempts and governmental influence?

[Image: Welcomia/Shutterstock]

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89 Comments on “Emerald-Colored Glasses: Just How Green Are EVs?...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “But why have EVs been getting less love in 2021”

    Maybe from you, but EV sales are actually increasing.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The people who talk about the green-ness of EVs are typically those who don’t drive one:
    – politicians and regulators who make the rules
    – critics who will never own one.

    Maybe I’m an aberration, but I hardly give a thought to the green-ness of my EV. I just like the driving experience, the near-zero maintenance, and the economy of ownership. I’m a gearhead who likes EVs and Hellcats at the same time.

    I could go on about economies of scale for electric production (which is why people don’t have personal power plants at their homes), but someone will counter with an argument about mining or recycling. It never ends.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      I think more people are like you and that is why they are increasing in sales. People know what they are getting now. I think what Matt is saying, and i hate to put words in his mouth, is like that new dream job. The first year is awesome but after a while the honeymoon wears off and it is another job. People still like EVs but they are more realistic about them. There is also far more choice now for people to choose from.

      Were I in the market today I would consider an EV. Not a Tesla though because I think the Model 3 is clunky on the outside and the interior is certainly not for me. Too minimalist in looks and to gadgety in function. The Model S is a sharp car on the outside and the interior would be livable. Pricey though and nothing on the Monroney is guaranteed to transfer to the second owner. I would lease an S if I went that route. We still have the minivan for road trips and can go 500 miles easy on the 18 gallon tank so an EV would be a DD for me.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      “The people who talk about the green-ness of EVs”

      I agree with you there 100%. I’m into EVs for their performance characteristics. I can’t argue for greenness as long as most of my income is still from Permian Basin oil and gas production and my other work is building technology that requires computers that suck down enormous amounts of power. In addition to the EV, I have a gas-guzzling ICE and I spend some of my spare time helping to keep vintage 1960’s cars on the road. My main reason for getting solar is to just have independence from my power company. I like airplanes too. I probably have almost enough carbon emissions to qualify as a chinese province.

      So, let both sides waste their time arguing. I’m just going to enjoy my cars and spend both my EV and oil subsidies. Someone at the IRS must have had a good laugh when they saw my return.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Michael Moore – Film maker.
    Not a republican.

    Free movie on Youtube.
    “Planet of the Humans”

  • avatar
    andyinsdca

    There’s the whole issue of range in bad/cold weather to sort out.

    And that little issue (like in California) of the grid not being capable enough to deliver electricity to all of these vehicles charging (especially at night). There’s a hydropower dam that’s going to go offline because of a drought and CAL-ISO is always telling people to “conserve” electricity between 4-10pm because the “green” generation doesn’t generate any electricity at night.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      As more EVs gain heat pumps the range decrease in cold weather will become less extreme. But it will remain a factor. My guess is that manufacturers will eventually need to quote a range at 20ºF or some such temperature, in addition to the normal-weather range.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        @dal20402: It’s more than just heat pumps. The Leaf has a heat pump and it’s one of the worst. What’s improving it is the thermal management of the battery and drivetrain. Liquid heating and cooling of the powertrain doing things like motor heat being used to help heat the battery. Tesla is also starting to add thermal pane windows. As far as testing goes, I like to follow youtube EV testers like Bjorn Nyland. He does tests like driving the EV to the artic circle in Norway. Tests it overnight camped out, then drives back. It’s an EV cold weather acid test that includes charging performance.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    The lack of critical thinking surrounding EVs mirrors the lack of critical thinking across society these days. But at least questions are finally being asked.

    On the matter of climate change, I have evolved. I have always believed that climate change was taking place and that human activity had a lot of do with it. And I have always done my part to minimize my carbon footprint. My home uses less than a quarter of the electricity used by the average residential household every month. And, before the lockdown, I used always mass transit to get to work. I could go on.

    But now, I am beginning to suspect that, whatever society does, it is already too late to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

    Decades ago, scientists warned us. But we dithered and squabbled. Those warnings got louder as time went by. And we continued to dither and squabble. Then, we were told that climate change is now well underway and that we can’t stop it. But that if we took measures quickly – as in the next decade – we could mitigate the very worst effects of climate change. And that was more than a decade ago. Again, we have spent most of that time dithering and squabbling.

    Every time scientists do readings and calculations, we are much worse off in terms of global warming, polar ice melt and rising sea levels than we think we should be. We recalculate based on the new information and project again – only to learn after a few years that, again, we are much worse off than we thought we would be. All this, as most goals for carbon neutrality are still several decades away.

    None of this means that humans are going extinct anytime soon, of course. But life is going to get harder. Many people will die and much wealth and property will be lost to higher temperatures, failed harvests, rising sea levels and weather disasters. And we can expect endless wars as nations fight over natural resources and land that will grow food.

    We have really outsmarted ourselves. And the sad part is, so many of us haven’t even realized it yet. EVs or no, I’m not sure it’ll make a difference.

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      “But now, I am beginning to suspect that, whatever society does, it is already too late to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.”

      The problem with this line of thinking is that there is not a toggle between “Climate change” and “Not climate change,” and once we get to the “Climate change” side of the line, everything stops. The more greenhouse gases we pump into the atmosphere, the worse it will be: +2C becomes +4C, 10 feet of sea level rise becomes 30 feet, etc. And at a certain stage, we simply don’t know what the effects will be.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve Biro

        I’m not telling the world to stop trying. But, regardless of the actual level of greenhouses gases, at some point along the way it’ll be enough to trigger the worst-case scenario as far as humans are concerned. I think, by the time we can reach carbon neutrality decades from now, we will be there and that the scientific evidence is already pointing to that. But, for the record, I would be delighted to be wrong about this.

        • 0 avatar
          tomLU86

          @Steve Biro

          I appreciate your thoughtful comments, even if I do not totally agree.

          The industrial revolution has made life longer and easier for much of humanity, certainly for Americans.

          At the same time, logically speaking, breath smoke and CO is not healthy. The wonderful materials and innovations often leave carcinogenic substances somewhere. So yes, all this human activity is probably impacting climate change.

          Perhaps a better balance would be desirable. I know there is a better balance. Perhaps the Europeans and Japanese have a better balance–not because they are better, but because their ENVIRONMENT and resource constraints preclude the level of suburbanization and mobility afforded by America’s vast spaces.

          Also, scientists tell us the earth’s climate has changed before–when mankind’s activity was but a tiny fraction of what it is today. So the climate would probably change anyway. Mankind may be exacerbating (or restraining) it at the margins. Our increased populuation and development (building in areas that were not built on 50-100 years ago) exaggerates the impact of any natural disaster–the 1994 St Louis area flood comes to mind. A repeat would submerge shopping centers and home that were not there 25 years ago.

          Aristotle said moderation in all things. I like cars. That said, compared to the rest of the world, except Australia and Canada, America is the land of wretched excess–because we can (or more correctly COULD) be, and because government and business encouraged Americans to spend more and acquire more.

          Prudent use of hydrocarbons might, for example, include higher fuel taxes–to fix the roads, and then other infrastructure, and also to make people consider how badly do I need a 6,000 pound F-150, when maybe a 4400 lb Colorado will do, or perhaps skip the truck and get a car like a Subaru–or maybe a small Kia…. each level is more efficient

          I could be wrong, but IMO, the electric car hoopla is misallocation of resources–compounding our previous ones. EVs will suck up a lot of resources, that could be better spent.

          EVs are attractive (to the elite) because they are the gateways to AVs. AVs will not be privately owned due to cost. They will be like driverless Ubers. They will permit those who are more intelligent and mature (the elite) to modulate our travel habits to significant degree, and in the process, they will allow big tech to profit from transporting us in what promises to be a smartphone on wheels. It’s win/win–for the planet and tech.

          If you lower the use of transportation, you lower the energy use, and pollution, regardless of where the energy comes from. EVs will enable AVs, which will enable that.

          At least that is what I believe the vision is. Already, motorists are harassed with speed cameras, asinine laws (see NYC) and other forms of petty harassment (bike lanes for virtually non-existent cyclists that muck up traffic).

          I don’t have the answer. The ‘free market’, which is not really free, is not it.

          Perhaps if we had more thoughtful people as yourself. Perhaps people already are to some extent and I just don’t give them credit. Or even if they did, it wouldn’t be enough (look at Europe–small cars driven less, and still that’s not enough for the elite).

          • 0 avatar
            NigelShiftright

            “They will be like driverless Ubers.”

            An Uber with driver (or my car with me) can pick up my legally-blind aunt, who has no drivers’ license or insurance, and take her to my house for dinner. This involves a 25+ mile mix of interstates, twisty rural roads with a 20 foot dropoff on one side, and her 400 foot gravel driveway.

            I do not expect to see an AV which can do that, not in my lifetime.

    • 0 avatar
      NigelShiftright

      We’ve been told “there are only ten years left to save the planet!!!!” since, about when, 1980 or so?

      So I guess you are either completely right, or completely wrong.

      And if we have done nothing about it, it’s because we have in front of us the examples of the politicians and celebrities who keep telling us it’s an existential crisis but who each personally have carbon footprints the size of a small town.

      Mind you, I am all for lots and lots of 24/7 clean green electricity for everyone, all over the world. With next-gen nukes (my dream would be a mini-thorium unit in my garden shed. Off-the-grid, ample power for the rest of my life), offshore hydropower, orbiting solar arrays, geothermal, carbon capture.

      But what our betters keep trying to force upon us is hair-shirt, rolling-blackouts, compost-toilet, queue-for-the-trolley environmental austerity. Do not want. Will not accept. Am I making myself clear.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        “We’ve been told “there are only ten years left to save the planet!!!!” since, about when, 1980 or so?”

        Poodles always yap. It’s all they know. And its how they get their master’s attention.

        A good test for whether the planet is getting “too hot” in any meaningful way, is populations of humans, and other living things, clustering around the coldest parts, the poles.

        Comparing population densities; of almost every living thing whatsoever, from animals to plants; between the South Pole and the Equatorial regions… We’re some ways away. Even without a Trudeau Wall on our northern border.

        • 0 avatar
          Astigmatism

          Funny you should say that, seeing as “other living things” – the ones without air conditioning – have actually been steadily moving toward the poles over the last few decades.

          https://www.sciencealert.com/as-the-world-gets-hotter-thousands-of-species-are-fleeing-to-earth-s-poles

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            The beauty of life is, it adopts.

            The beauty of places where life evolves, is they have plenty of buffers. Without them, no process as time consuming as evolution of world covering life would be possible, unless all aspects of the environment was completely unchangeable over time, no matter what. The earth somehow had enough buffers to even get across an ocean boiling meteor strike…

            Once/if those (rather sizable) hockey playing buffers become the new Africas and Amazons as far as biodiversity and density goes, the race will be on for adaptions facilitating making use of the then vacated spaces further towards the equator…. Making the dessert rats the new Polar Bears, as far as the first ones to take a hit from any temperature movement in the opposite direction.

            Important takeaway being: Life always adapt to fill every possible niche. No matter how corner case, there will always be some species optimized for just that. And those species will always, invariably, act as canaries in the coalmine of any change, in any direction.

    • 0 avatar
      Master Baiter

      “Every time scientists do readings and calculations, we are much worse off in terms of global warming, polar ice melt and rising sea levels than we think we should be.”

      Everything you know about climate change has been filtered through journalists, politicians and NGOs that have every reason to want you to panic about the situation.

      Relax, some of us have been around long enough to have seen this all before, and we’re not concerned.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve Biro

        All I can tell you is that I speak directly to scientists and read scientific journals. I’m glad you’re not concerned and I hope you are right.

        Now, having said all that – I must point out (for those who don’t recall my many other posts on thes site) I remain unconvinced by the prospect of EVs. Just like I loathe “driver assistance” technology.” I used to race Formula Fords and i am a life-long car guy.

        But there are so many things society could have and should have been doing for decades to protect the environment and now the chickens are coming home to roost. Again, I would be delighted to be wrong but both my mind and gut tell me I’m not. We’re going to find out over the next decade or two.

        • 0 avatar
          Dartdude

          Steve it is too bad that the scientists are mostly for sale to the higher bidder these days. Pay them and they can make it come true. Climate change is natural and only God controls nature. It amazes me that Governments are profiting off the global warming scam and people are buying it.

        • 0 avatar
          NigelShiftright

          The Obamas just bought a waterfront pad on Martha’s Vineyard for something like $14M. They don’t seem to be losing any sleep about rising sea levels.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Steve,

      Unfortunately the scientists that you’re talking to always forget to say that climate ALWAYS changes. And it will do so no matter what. The continents are shifting and change how earth wobbles on its axis. Recently detectable axis shift was noticed. We can invest all our lifetimes into “saving the earth” but it will do no difference because we’re dealing with forces much greater – nature.

      And the climate-activists had discredited themselves with fake data, etc.

      Not a reference but a good read
      https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2018/10/4_reasons_why_climate_change_is_a_flatout_hoax.html

    • 0 avatar
      DAC17

      Steve Biro: Amen, brother. Unfortunately, very true.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        American Thinker

        “Overall, we rate the American Thinker, Questionable based on extreme right-wing bias, promotion of conspiracy theories/pseudoscience, use of poor sources, and several failed fact checks.”

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Lou,
          “we” – WHO? world health organization? Or same people who gave us hoaxes of Pangolin/Bat/wet market theories?

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @slavuto – there are several neutral websites that fact check and rate the bias of every media outlet. I refer to those sites any time someone posts a site that I havenot previously checked.

            Here is the site that rated your propaganda….

            https:// mediabias fact check.c om/

          • 0 avatar
            Old_WRX

            slavuta,

            “Pangolin/Bat/wet market theories?”

            That was the source then. Now the source has changed. He who controls the present controls the past. Our place is not to question, but to believe. (No matter how ludicrous the stuff they try to feed us is.)

            This message will go down the memory hole in 30 seconds, and will have never existed.

            Unless I’m confused (always a possibility) the exalted mayor of chicago is now calling for federal help. She seems to think we need a federal police force. That would eliminate that pesky local police problem that gets in the way of a good totalitarian takeover. What do you think?

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          I don’t even touch this.. ALL “fact” checks are just bunch of activists. I’ve caught them spread lies many times.
          Back to the climate change – this is a known fact that activists “scientists” made up the data. Everybody loves to hear “blah blah”
          But nobody cares about things like
          “Some prominent voices at NASA are fed up with the agency’s activist stance toward climate change. The following letter asking the agency to move away from climate models and to limit its stance to what can be empirically proven, was sent by 49 former NASA scientists and astronauts.”

          Do you understand what this says? It says that models can be tuned to show the desired result, not real result.

          I tell you what, in India there are a lot of rivers. But you can hardly swim in any of them without getting seriously ill. Because Indians fulfill holly deeds – they throw bodies of the people and cows into these rivers, besides other things. And all this crap is washing into the ocean. This you can stop or minimize if you wanted to, or UN or US gov wanted to. But no, the “climate change”. Brainwash.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @slavuto – LOL.

            49 former staff out of 16,000 staff.

            ROTFLMFAO

            “Letter to NASA is Common Ploy in Climate Change Denial”

            “NASA sponsors research into many areas of cutting-edge scientific inquiry, including the relationship between carbon dioxide and climate,” wrote Waleed Abdalati, NASA Chief Scientist. “As an agency, NASA does not draw conclusions and issue ‘claims’ about research findings. We support open scientific inquiry and discussion.”

            “If the authors of this letter disagree with specific scientific conclusions made public by NASA scientists, we encourage them to join the debate in the scientific literature or public forums rather than restrict any discourse,” Abdalati concluded.

            As several different people have noted — including former astronaut Rusty Schweickart who was quoted in the New York Times — most of those who signed the letter are not active research scientists and do not hold degrees in atmospheric sciences or fields related to climate change.”

            UNIVERSE TODAY

            Space and astronomy news

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            “ALL “fact” checks are just bunch of activists.”

            LOL

            So, anything that counters the masculine bovine effluvia you disseminate is an activist…

            You sound like your topless ponyboy… Putin.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            This is the Trumpist approach: there can be no real facts, because if there were, they might contract something the Dear Leader says.

          • 0 avatar
            Old_WRX

            slavuta,

            Fact checkers are nothing but activists’ shills. Their business is to help the people who don’t want to see what is obviously happening stay asleep. It’s kind of funny how as soon as they say “independent” fact checkers you know they’re lying. “Climate Change” is a scam used to justify crappy policy changes that otherwise wouldn’t be accepted. Anymore in the US there is one alarmist lie after the other. Gotta keep the people hysterical or they might think.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Lou

          there is no hope for you. You are immersed into brainwash and you live in the virtual reality created for you. Keep your sect going

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @slavuta – from your point of view, yup, I’m your worst nightmare, a person who validates sources and searches for corroborating evidence.

            Go polish your autographed Putin action figure collection.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Oh my God! what a nightmare!!! I can’t breathe!! Oh boy. If you’re are a nightmare – only to your spouse.
          Putin will be fine. Today he nearly sunk a British ship. hahaha. They barely made their way into the neutral waters.

    • 0 avatar

      “None of this means that humans are going extinct anytime soon”

      Humans are going extinct soon! That is the whole idea behind the new wave of pandemic in the end of this year.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “Many people will die and much wealth and property will be lost to higher temperatures, failed harvests, rising sea levels and weather disasters. And we can expect endless wars as nations fight over natural resources and land that will grow food.”

      Some including myself believe this is in part what the plandemic was really about: Peak Oil, Grand Solar Minimum, or some combination thereof. If I had any faith in D.C. I’d say its going to suck but the US will somewhat pull through. But I have zero faith in D.C. and the Pentagon, if anything they will do the opposite of our best interest and/or simply sell us out while they argue over precious bodily fluids and fight in the War Room’s underground bunker.

      • 0 avatar
        Old_WRX

        28,

        Don’t forget how they are using the plandemic (accidental release??) to usher in the “Great Reset.” The GR smells like something many years in the planning.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Poppycock, just an extremely convenient series of events. /s

          • 0 avatar
            Old_WRX

            28-Cars-Later,

            Phew, what a relief. The fact checkers have determined that a video about the dangers of the CV19 mRNA vaccine (Bret Weinstein, Darkhorse) is “misinformation.” It sure is swell of them to protect us — they removed it from u-toob because it violates their “community guidelines.” Doesn’t it make you feel safer knowing these people are looking out for us? /s

          • 0 avatar
            Old_WRX

            I did find the video after all. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Du2wm5nhTXY Have you seen this? Comments?

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            This youtube video proves everything you ever wanted to know about everything. Just watch it.

            youtube.com/watch?v=QH2-TGUlwu4

            Oh, and this one proves everything you ever knew about anything is wrong, and I’m right:

            youtube.com/watch?v=q6EoRBvdVPQ

  • avatar

    IMO this is the most thoughtful post I’ve seen on the subject of EVs and the environment. VERY well done and addresses the herd of elephants in the room.

    I believe no matter what we’re told about the environmental benefits, the REAL reasons for automakers to press on with EVs are primarily ECONOMIC. It’s simply easier and less expensive to develop an electric drivetrain than it is an ICE one that delivers a pleasing driving experience while meeting all the federal/state regulations.

    Obviously, my thesis factors out the battery technology.

    That’s the stumbling block…until there’s a breakthrough that adequately addresses cost/range/cold weather issues.

    So the real question may be if the possible cost savings of engineering electric drivetrains is worth the cost of pursuing a breakthrough that may be at hand…or decades away. If ever.

    • 0 avatar
      Jim Ketchel

      Not to mention the fact that *if* the battery technology watershed moment ever happens, it still won’t EVER have the energy density advantage that ICE. It simply cannot (not enough room to explain here, but thermodynamic laws are laws).

      And it can’t just be me that thinks if the whole world were held to the environmental and workplace rules we have here in the US that the cost would be higher by a factor of ten. Making a future break-even point dubious at best, and probably not attainable.

      Unless, of course, the “watershed moment” is what the administration insists we wait for, in which case cue the Mao 2.0 “Great Leap Forward” slides in your PowerPoint

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      The holy grail of a breakthrough in battery technology somewhat reminds me of the articles from 50 years ago for the “150 mpg carburetor!” which was surely just around the corner. Are we at a “Let’s spin this straw into gold” moment that defies the laws of physics and chemistry?

    • 0 avatar
      phreshone

      So not ECONOMIC… but REGULATORY… false regulations creating an inefficient result…

  • avatar
    Dan

    “It’s reminiscent of how the European Union handled air pollution by assuming that prioritizing diesel-fueled vehicles would automatically win the day, only to have reality catch up a couple of decades later.”

    That wasn’t ever about air pollution. It was about not having (yeah yeah North Sea asterisk) oil of their own or the global reserve currency to print other countries into sending over their oil for what amounts to free.

    MPG, or whatever their retarded metric analog is, matters when you’re buying it with hard currency from people who hate you.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    You can ramble on about how EV’s are taking over the world and ICE vehicles are on their way out but the problems with EV’s really haven’t changed much.
    1. Range. Because charging, practical charging, is still slow and inconvenient.
    2. Cost. A typical EV at the low end of the price spectrum has an approximate $10,000 premium over an ICE vehicle. Overcoming this problem is not even on the horizon.
    If you need basic transportation with a little bit of utility and versatility, and EV is not for you.
    And by the way, average battery degradation amounts to about 2% annually. Eventually the internal balance between cells will become so bad that overall battery life will steeply decline after a certain point. The second owner may get stuck, affecting resale. EV’s are second or third vehicles for most owners, they’re toys.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Basic transportation is exactly what an EV is for, you don’t need 300 miles to get to the grocery and work. You don’t need 100 miles being honest about it.

      And all of the economic trends going on right now, from unlimited unskilled immigration to the regulatory war on small business to actively dismantling the energy industry to funneling 100% of economic growth to the investor class lead directly towards basic transportation becoming the default for most people.

      Personal interstate travel on a whim for pocket money isn’t any less of an incredible luxury for our being used to it. Just because you’re used to it doesn’t mean it’s going to stick around forever.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        “Personal interstate travel on a whim for pocket money isn’t any less of an incredible luxury for our being used to it. Just because you’re used to it doesn’t mean it’s going to stick around forever.”

        It will still be perfectly possible with EVs, just a bit slower.

        Tesla’s already built out its Supercharger network to the point that you can drive anywhere served by the Interstate system. It’s now building out secondary routes. Other fast charging networks will follow in short order. (And you can already drive an EV pretty much anywhere if you’re willing to wait for L2 charging, but that really is too slow.)

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          “Tesla’s already built out its Supercharger network to the point that you can drive anywhere served by the Interstate system.”

          Too bad enthusiast car sites exists specifically because some people don’t particularly fancy rotting away on an interstate system just to get somewhere…..

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      “1. Range. Because charging, practical charging, is still slow and inconvenient.”

      300 miles range isn’t an issue. 15 to 30 minute charging isn’t an issue either on a long trip. The benefit is that the other 90% of the time it’s far easier to charge overnight and have a full tank every morning than dealing with the hassles of finding gas stations and dealing with fueling.

      “Overcoming this problem is not even on the horizon.” Absolutley not true. Battery prices are now targeted at $60/kWh. New lower cost technologies like lithium-iron are off the drawing boards and going into cars. Super cheap Sodium-ion is even in production. While currently at the energy density of the original Leaf, it could be improved and we may see it at the density level of the first Model 3’s. A solid-state sodium-ion battery would blow right through cost barriers big-time. It’s on the horizon too.

      “but the problems with EV’s really haven’t changed much.”
      Actually, they’ve been going away at a fairly good pace. You just choose to ignore those facts. There are hard numbers on battery density then and now and durability then and now. Battery density has been increasing and durability cycles have been going up. Cost has been coming down. More powerful chargers are being deployed every day.

      “And by the way, average battery degradation amounts to about 2% annually. ”

      There is no one battery formulation that you can make any sort of comparison with. Degradation depends on the formulation and electrode composition and varies. It’s like saying average tire wear is x% a year.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Everything mcs said.

        I’ve owned a Bolt for two years. I treat the battery well (no charge over 90% or discharge under 30% except for long trips). It reports the same range it did when new, not 4% less.

    • 0 avatar
      SoCalMikester

      i see 1st gen priuses a lot more than i thought i would. talked to one owner, on their 3rd battery pack. loves that little car!

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Matt, it has been interesting watching you mentally work through the issues around EV’s (for the past several years).

    General statements (not directed at Matt):
    a) There is no Utopia
    b) Magical Thinking is not an effective way to get through life [Corollary: The My Little Pony School of Problem Solving (where you huddle together and whistle) is not ideal (but IS becoming more popular)]

    Back to Matt. You seem to reach a point of frustration and then throw any number of things onto the Pile of Argument (cf. your paragraphs 11 and 13 above [tangents into ownership model, right to repair, oil transport] if I were your Editor, which I am not). For more effective writing [and argumentation], focus on one at a time.*

    *But if you decide to ignore this and if you -really- want something to worry about, worry about plastics (get past the headline; read the whole thing):
    https://news.sky.com/story/human-penises-are-shrinking-because-of-pollution-warns-scientist-12255106

    Back to everyone. On the topic of lithium in EV batteries:
    0) The usage changes over time as technology advances – similar to cobalt usage in EV batteries and mercury in disposable batteries and compact fluorescent light bulbs
    1) Once the lithium is mined and refined, there will likely be strong incentives to recycle it and keep it in circulation [something like 90% of lead-acid batteries are currently recycled]

    Back to Matt. This is for you – just because:
    https://youtu.be/azq0S0DKS50

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      I did cast a fairly wide net but I mainly wanted to explore the broader issue and kind of take everyone’s pulse on where we’re at and what we’re thinking about. EVs have been something that both excited and annoyed me but I haven’t liked the general trajectory of the industry since they’ve become more than just cars to a lot of people and the regulatory response has been… interesting.

      While I don’t always have time to respond to (or even read) the comments. I always appreciate feedback, especially contributions toward the larger discussion. I’ll give those links a peek.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Digging stuff out of the ground to build batteries means at some point the pit will be empty. However I admit I don’t know how much of these materials can be recycled. I believe the power grid can be solved with solar, wind, improvements in nukes or other future tech. While EVs might not be perfect in terms of their environmental impact their overall scorecard is superior to concept of burning oil.

    For the record I own two V8 vehicles as current EVs just don’t fit my lifestyle or budget.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Part of the problem is that people do not yet understand how life with EVs works. Very few people have actually owned and lived with an EV. That has a couple negative effects: (1) people think they need more battery than they do, because they think they always need the same range that a gas car has; and (2) people don’t grasp fully the advantages of EVs that are not about carbon emissions.

    On range… Most households of more than one person have two or more cars. There are vanishingly few households where the second or third car needs to have more than about 150 miles of range. People need more range than that for occasional road trips, which are nearly always done by one car in a household. Very few need more range than that for commuting or daily life. People will learn this eventually, especially because with upcoming battery technologies 150-mile cars will become quite cheap. You’ll see the average household have one 300+ mile car and one or more shorter-range cars.

    As an example from as close to the mainstream of the market as possible, today’s CR-V EX, including a turbo four gas engine and a CVT, retails for $28K. At today’s battery prices, I don’t think Honda could sell a 300-mile EV equivalent for less than about $35K at similar margins. (And that’s way down from three years ago.) With foreseeable drops in battery prices, that might be reduced to about $30K, which would be cheaper to own than the gas car after lower maintenance costs. But a 150-mile version could be as little as $26K, with the lower maintenance costs as a cherry on top. Once people understand that they can use their second car just as they do today with 150-mile range, they’ll be happy to have such cheap cars to own as their second cars.

    The issue of carbon-intensive manufacturing will be ameliorated over time, partly by technological improvements, but to a greater degree by a shift in the product mix to include more lower-range cars with smaller batteries.

    On other EV advantages… let me list the non-green reasons I love our Bolt:

    (1) No stinky exhaust, ever. Even modern gas cars are quite stinky on cold start, until the cats kick in, and you can smell fumes at other times too. (Commute in the morning on a bicycle, with many freshly started cars passing you, and you learn this intimately.) Air quality in neighborhoods will improve substantially, especially in the morning commute, with more EVs in the mix.

    (2) Run the climate control with no environmental hazard and no guilt when you’re idling. In our neck of the woods we take a lot of ferries. You can’t idle a gas car in the ferry line (at the penalty of a ticket from the state patrol). With an EV, you can run climate control to your heart’s content.

    (3) Cheap maintenance and no downtime. The Bolt has literally three maintenance items: (1) tires, (2) air filters, and (3) battery coolant. Brake pads will last the life of the vehicle because regen does most of the braking work. I’ve owned the car for over two years and all I’ve had to do was a single tire rotation and cabin filter replacement.

    (4) No more fitting gas stops in, or realizing that you’re nearly out of gas when you’re already running late. You charge at home, which consists of plugging the cable in (and the Bolt has the jack in the sensible place, right next to the driver’s door). You have a full “tank” every time you leave the house.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Number 4 on your list isn’t going to be available to everyone though.

    • 0 avatar
      NigelShiftright

      “You have a full “tank” every time you leave the house.”

      Just wait a couple of decades until all the coal, natgas and nuclear plants are shut down. Hope there’s lots of sunshine and wind 24/7.

      It’ll be great though, for Mother Gaia ‘n the polar bears ‘n stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      “There are vanishingly few households where the second or third car needs to have more than about 150 miles of range.”

      That’s BEVs sweet spot. Or, more like, the upper reaches of their sweet spot. In practice, the smaller the car, and the lower the range requirement, the further the deck is stacked in favor of battery power (Why ICE Birds were never a thing). At those ranges, they’re no heavier, nor necessarily any more expensive, than a comparable ICE. And since the short/medium range car is rarely the big one in the household, the greater packaging flexibility of electric drivelines are a useful bonus.

      But, of course, the short rage car, is also rarely the one which get splurged on. Hence, this solves exactly not at all the real “problem” those pushing BEVs the hardest “need solved”: They, themselves are so far short of the competence required to produce competitive cars at competitive prices, that only by replacing voluntarily paying customers as a source of funds, with money transferred by central banks and government enforced de facto mandates-to-buy, do the self promoting clowns even have the remotest shot at attaining the sort of status and life styles central bank welfare is busy awarding others of their incompetent kind.

      So.. Flash Gordon it is (Though, as you point out, not because BEVs are in and of themselves entirely useless in all their forms). And will remain, for as long as those who are assigned the role of designated dupes, can be suckered into underwriting the clown show without catching on.

  • avatar
    random1

    (4) No more fitting gas stops in, or realizing that you’re nearly out of gas when you’re already running late.

    So your claim is roughly that range anxiety is more of an issue for ICE than for EV? A gas stop is what, five minutes? My next car is most likely an EV, but man, goofball claims by EV enthusiasts always make me reconsider.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      This is one I never understand either.

      I don’t live in rural Wyoming 100 miles from a town. There’s a gas station along my route or worst case within 5 minutes of any conceivable trip I ever take. The aggregate time to stop and fill my tank once a week would hardly be any different than grabbing the plug in my garage and plugging in the car every time I get home.

      Even skeptics like me admit that EVs have some merits; there’s no need to exaggerate in this way.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I tend to agree. The “avoid gas stations!” isn’t a big BEV selling point to me either. There are multiple fuel stations within a few miles of my house and I’ve never found refuelling to be particularly onerous. Mild spectrum disorder also ensures that I’m never late and I always know how much fuel I have in my tank at basically all times.

        That said, I don’t have any great affinity for gas stations either so having to plug in at home won’t be a loss.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      You may have gas stations along every route. I don’t. Land in the city is too valuable for gas stations and there aren’t that many of them.

      There is one that’s along a route I frequently use between my house and the freeway, but it’s also the only one serving a very rich neighborhood, and the prices are inflated by 30c/gal or more. The one I use most often is about 7-8 minutes from home but in a direction I’m not usually driving, so I have to go out of my way or make a separate trip.

      And I’m also surprised that you don’t have the experience of always being nearly out of gas when you are running the latest. That happened to me all the time when my primary car was a gas car. Bundle the kid in when you’re already late to a swim lesson or whatever, turn the car on, and realize that you’re out of gas. Now you’re ten minutes later than you already were. That just never happens with an EV.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      New ICE cars, assuming powertrains properly sized for their size and use, need filling up so seldom from 15mile/way commutes, that I doubt almost anyone cares much.

      Those Tesla Girls whose last car car of choice, for running down the street to the Botox clinic, was a supercharged Range Rover, may not feel that way, though…..

  • avatar

    I rather wish electric and ICE cars could be allowed to live in harmony.

    I’d absolutely love an electric car, something like a Honda E, in which I could cover the vast majority of my regular journeys.

    Those few trips that can’t easily be covered in an electric car, such as a week-long camping holiday in the west of England; 300 miles from here and with scant fast charging opportunities when I get there, can be covered by my petrol car, which is almost purpose designed for that kind of thing. And, being that its fuel consumption around town is lousy, I’d much rather run EV on urban missions anyway.

    You see, just like a 787 versus a 737, I don’t see that an ICE and an electric car’s missions need to directly overlap. Not in the short term, anyway.

    If we can accept that, for the time being, a range of 150 miles is more than acceptable on the basis that short-haul work is the EV’s stock in trade, we can concentrate on making that kind of machine more affordable, rather than pursuing ever-longer ranges.

    Meanwhile, all those ICE vehicles, which are so abundant that perfectly good ones are being thrown away every day on a whim, such is fashion and indifference, are just the job for those few trips that’s outside an EV’s comfort zone. ICE cars can actually be very efficient ways to travel, it’s just that they’re used to make the wrong trips. They should be kept for the right ones, rather than being demonised.

    It’s a bit like the sugar tax that was imposed in the UK to ‘combat obesity’. At a stroke, all of my favourite soft drinks were poisoned with Aspartame just because a percentage of the population didn’t know how to drink them in moderation. I’m still furious.

    If the 2030 ban on ICE cars comes into effect as planned, and EVs haven’t reached parity with them with regards cost, range and refuelling convenience, good used petrol cars will become rather more sought after than they are now. That’s alright by me, ‘cos my stockpile of old late ’90s snotters, which I keep going on the basis that to throw them away seems wasteful, is here at my disposal.

    And an occasional 600 mile holiday round trip is the kind of annual workout that does my old Rover a power of good.

  • avatar
    JD-Shifty

    I’m sure some right wing goober on a car forum who posts AN American Thinker article knows more than the world’s scientists.

    • 0 avatar
      NigelShiftright

      I may not know as much as the world’s scientists, but I believe I know a darn sight more than the world’s politicians.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      None of whom have jobs without government largesse.

      “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

      -Upton Sinclair

      Oh and on “scientists”, how’s that COVID crisis been going? That good huh?

  • avatar
    DAC17

    I think this article is quite well thought out. I’ve been wondering for a long time how shoving EV’s down peoples’ throats is going to work out. There is a segment of the country (mostly second or third car buyers) who will buy electric. And they are the early adopters buying now. Think, for instance, about the big rush to get Covid vaccines a few months ago. Now you can’t give them away without lotteries.

    But for the average person who only has one car, I don’t see big sales happening anytime soon. There is very low availability of public chargers, and the range anxiety issue is huge. Same concept. Big rush at the beginning, then very difficult market.

    Full disclosure: I have a 2020 Bolt as a second car.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Great post, and your draw an interesting parallel.

      Karen and the defectives on COV!D injections to skeptics:

      OMG you are literally worse than Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot if you don’t immediately get an injection! You are a danger to yourself and others! Everyone who matters has one! Let me stare at my phone for a while to figure out what I’m supposed to think next.

      Karen and the defectives on EVs to skeptics:

      OMG you are literally worse than Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot if you don’t immediately get an EV! You are a danger to yourself and the environment! Everyone who matters has one! Let me stare at my phone for a while to figure out what I’m supposed to think next… oh wait its on 12% need to charge it.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I’m not sure if this is strictly relevant to the topic at hand, but I’ve been more and more interested in a plug-in hybrid with the ~40 mile electric only range. The 40 miles would more than cover my daily driving and I’d have the gas/electric engine for my monthly 200 mile round trip to the boonies to visity brother and his kids.

    I’ve test driven a Tesla Model S, but that’s been years ago. I’m not sure how comparable that car would be to the cheaper options available such as the eGolf, Leaf or any of the others I can’t think of off the top of my head (I’m more aware of the plethora of hybrids available).

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    A day late and a dollar short . . .
    One thing never mentioned (probably because most writers are too young to have experienced this) is that, in the US at least. That is, the effect of deregulation (and resulting reduction) of airfares in the late 1970s. Prior to that, air travel was a luxury good. Most families took vacations in the family car . . . hence the monstrous trunks on late 1950s, 1960s and 1970s cars. After deregulation, the economics of long distance travel changed: not only was air travel much faster than driving but, even for a family, it became relatively less costly when you include the cost of hotels and food on the road.

    So, I think, the car became relatively less important for long distance (more than 500 miles) travel than it had been. Add that to the decrease in family size, and the economics of air travel become even more favorable.

    The use of mass transit in the US also has declined, with the rise of “suburban” cities like Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas-Ft.Worth and Washington DC.

    So the car is much more important as a commuter vehicle than it was 50 years ago. All these trends argue in favor of EVs, where their range limitations and relatively long “refueling” times become less of a problem.

    That said, the regulatory push for EVs does not make much sense to me. A plug-in hybrid (like the Chrysler Pacifica) makes more sense as a dual-purpose vehicle that will operate mostly on electricity in daily use, yet be perfectly fine as the family vacation vehicle. Likewise, the small EV (like a Nissan Leaf) makes sense as a commuter vehicle, assuming its owner has access to nightly charging. On its merits (and without a pile of regulatory incentives) it ought to do well in competition with similar ICE vehicles (although its advantages over a hybrid like a Prius may not be great enough to support much of a price premium).

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