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By Dan Carlson
Prairie Ponderings 

Think Hard About the Electric Vehicle Push

 

April 13, 2022 | View PDF

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s getting expensive to drive.

Between soaring prices for gas and diesel fuel and the insane cost of both new and used vehicles, people are having to cut back on driving in order to save fuel costs and prolong vehicle service life. The solution, our political elites tell us, is to purchase electric vehicles.

The push for electric vehicles to replace those with combustion engines over the next 10-15 years seems like a great way to contribute to the planet’s salvation. Initiatives to make the changeover happen that quickly, however, are poorly thought out. And if the government bungles the process, which you can almost count on it doing, disaster will result.

I spent some time in an electric Toyota Prius about 10 years ago. It was a comfortable vehicle with impressive performance, even though I found its silence unnerving because I always wondered if it was on. For those who have short commutes, access to adequate charging facilities and don’t take long road trips, such a vehicle makes sense – if you can afford one.

We’re told it’s cheaper to own an electric vehicle in the long run. Initially, most electric vehicles cost more than their fossil-fuel powered rivals. They also cost more to insure, mainly because their initial value is higher.

A study released last year when fuel costs were much lower calculated the average annual cost of charging an electric vehicle at the time was around $460 while gasoline-powered cars cost about $840 to fuel for year. That gap is now likely much wider due to gas prices.

Other downsides to electric vehicles include reduced range, limited charging options, and devastating environmental consequences. I’ve mentioned the range issue before in a context of an oppressive government wanting people to stay close to home, where they can be persuaded to tow the line, or else. Long trips will involve finding out where charging stations are along the way and what kind they are (not all use the same chargers). Then will come delays of an hour or so to recharge at each and every stop.

Those who envision coming home at the end of the day and plugging the electric car into a garage wall socket need to understand charging an electric vehicle that way can take three days. If you want to charge faster, you’ll need to install a Level 2 charger what works only on never EVs but is faster, or a Level 3 charging system, which is the fastest. Level 2 chargers on Amazon run from $400 to $800 or more for a 40-amp unity. But what will the impact be on the electric grid if 10 homes on a city block are drawing that kind of power for electric vehicles every night? In some places the grid will be overwhelmed, and with a moratorium on new power plant construction, what then?

Finally, the current way EV batteries are made is a moral and environmental catastrophe. More than 800 pounds of materials such as lithium, nickel, cobalt and copper goes into each battery. I don’t know if you’ve seen the ghastly holes in the earth strip mining for these materials is leaving behind but you can see them online and they utterly destroy the areas they are in. Unlike renewable resources such as timber, which we’ve learned to harvest and replace, you just can’t fill back in a monstrous hole in the earth hundreds of yards across when you’re done with it.

And consider who’s mining these materials. Seventy percent of the world’s cobalt, a key EV battery component, is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo where child labor is used to dig it up.

Where does most of the world’s nickel come from? Indonesia, the Philippines and Russia – no worries there, right? Where does copper come from? Chile, Peru and China are the big producers. Given the challenges with the global supply chain now, can you see how outsourcing materials for EV batteries to nations, some of which have horrible human rights records, can be a moral challenge?

Should we be doing more to transition to fossil-fuel alternatives in our vehicles? Sure. But the way to do it is through economic incentives for innovation to explore other options such as hydrogen extracted from water, fuel cells and eventually fusion.

 

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