Where do we go from here?
In the rush to force everyone to change to battery powered “clean” vehicles, there are a lot of things to consider that are being ignored: the economic impact on individuals trying to survive in a declining economy, the increase of the load on the electrical grid, the amount of petrochemicals involved in the manufacture of both the vehicle and the mining of the battery materials, and others that I’ll touch on.
First off is the cost for a battery powered vehicle is beyond the reach of anyone from lower middle class to the actual poor. As of now the lowest price new battery powered vehicle is the Chevy Bolt with a base price of $27,495. And this model is being discontinued at the end of 2023. Lower middle class folks are NOT out buying new cars so that’s out for them. Well, what about a used one? Lets compare the maintenance cost. A replacement battery will run from 1/3 to nearly 1/2 the cost of the vehicle. and right now it’s hard to determine the average life span of a battery. There are several factors involved that determine the life span of a battery, the local climate being one. Batteries will lose their charge faster in very cold or very hot conditions. Additionally the battery loses capacity over time, in that it will not retain as much charge as when it’s new. When it gets to the point where it will not hold enough charge to be useful, is when it’s time to replace it, which is cost prohibitive at the moment.
Let me use the example of your cell phone. If your phone is 2-3 years old does it hold a charge as long as it did when new? No matter how much you do, or don’t, use it, it doesn’t. It’s fact that batteries degrade over time and there is nothing that can be done. And you might notice that around 10 years ago, manufacturers went to phones where it’s nearly impossible, or totally impossible, to change just the battery. So when it gets to the point where you have to charge it twice or three times a day, you just get a new phone. Do you want to be forced to buy a new car every 4-5 years due to the battery being worn out? I know many buy a new car in that time frame, but that’s a choice not a necessity. The waitress at the local Denny’s still has her 7-year old Samsung flip phone, which she carries in her 20-year old Honda, because she can’t afford to upgrade either of them. She can keep her Honda alive for a good while, because there are salvage yards full of parts cars that her cousin Vern can install for her cheaply.
Lets move on to the load on the electrical grid. I’m not an electrical engineer but have worked with many over the years so have learned a fair bit from from them. The grid, which starts at the generating plant and ends at your house, does not have an infinite capacity. Capacity is determined by the amperage draw on the components of the grid, mainly controlled by the size of the wires. For a comparison, look under the hood of your car. You will notice a large wire going to the starter, but a small wire going to the headlights. The reason is that even though they both carry 12 volts, the starter draws more amperage than the headlights. When you draw more amperage through a wire it generates heat because of the inherent resistance of the voltage going through the wire. If you used a smaller wire to the starter it would melt in short order, well before the car would actually start. Every electrical system has some form of fuse or circuit breaker to prevent this from happening. I’m sure everyone has experienced a power outage at some point, usually storm related. A breaker trips due to a lightning strike somewhere in the system and you have no electricity for a while. Well, the same thing happens when the total power being used exceeds the capacity of the system. A breaker trips to prevent damage to the entire system. Same thing happens in your house. If an appliance has an electrical problem, the circuit breaker trips to hopefully prevent your house from burning to the ground. In any electrical system, it’s important to find out WHY that breaker tripped. Well, if the breakers in the grid are being tripped the utility can usually determine why quickly. They have load monitors in the system which will trip the breaker if demand exceeds capacity. Usually they can shift the load around to other parts of the grid before that happens, but it does still happen. Look no further than California last summer or Texas in the winter of 2021-22. Both had systems shutdown due to heavy load on the grid. Now if you add several hundreds of thousands of vehicles that need to be charged at least daily, where is that grid capacity going to come from. Nobody wants their electric bill to go higher, but the cost to upgrade the grid will certainly be passed on the the end users, who are all of us. It doesn’t matter if you’re part of the increased load, you will pay for the upgrades of the grid. And we are not talking about small money to upgrade the grid, we are talking many billions of dollars. Not to mention the time involved in building this new capacity. Never mind where this power is going to come from. Coal and gas fired generators are bad, nuclear plants more so, solar or wind power only generates fractions of the power that is being used. Can’t build dams for hydro electric either. I guess unless every home has their own windmill and solar system to cover their basic needs, we will all be SOL. OK, moving on.
Battery manufacturing is highly dependent on mining, which depends on diesel equipment for the mining process, never mind the petrochemicals used in the construction of the batteries. One study estimated that almost 400 new mines will be needed. Where are these future mines and how long will it take for them to become operational? It takes a while to find the ore deposits, set up the operation and then be able to deliver a usable product. Another concern should be the mining itself. It’s apparently bad to strip mine for coal, but OK to strip mine for lithium and other rare earth elements. And they are called rare earth elements for a reason. You and I are highly unlikely to find a deposit of these elements in our back yard. If you do, congratulations on hitting the lottery. Meanwhile, the jungles and deserts of the world are being prospected to hopefully find these deposits, but it’s not a given that they will be found. If they aren’t found, what then? Does the price of a battery powered vehicle become unobtainable for the average person? Go back to the early 1900’s when private ownership of an automobile was only for the rich? As we are now all part of this brave new future, are you willing to give up your personal mobility? I think for those of us in suburban and rural areas, it will be a hard no. Our life is built on being able to travel at a reasonable cost, to our job, the grocery store or even to visit family.
Well, this is getting a bit long so I’ll end here. Perhaps in the future, the host here willing, I might throw out a few more of my thoughts on this subject.
Thanks to Dirty Dingus McGee for sharing his thoughts. I must add that I did hear two “analysts” comment yesterday on CNBC that cars powered by internal combustion engines will be with us for the foreseeable future. Sometimes, common sense can win.
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4 thoughts on “A Guest Post From Dirty Dingus McGee”
My brother in law who owns and runs a Nissan dealership drives a Nissan Leaf to and from work. No gas so that saves on company expenses. But the Leaf is a single digit percent of overall sales. His brother who also is an owner and runs another one of the Family dealerships always drives a Corvette. He enjoys cars a bit more. Their nine dealerships can’t survive the loss of gas powered cars and trucks.
Thanks for sharing, “BB.”
Thanks for posting this. I look forward to others’ comments, who might have a deeper knowledge of the subjects.
Many thanks for writing this, sir.