Electric vehicles have generated a huge amount of commitment and interest. Some would say not enough, but considering the timeframe under which they have become a reality for the driving public, the results are astonishing. However, there is a caveat, which a recent article by Drs. Jay Lehr and Tom Harris has highlighted, and it’s a very serious one. Electric vehicles present an enormous potential in the fight against climate change, but where will all that electrical energy be sourced?
Harris and Jay state that the utility companies have had little to say about the infrastructure that will be necessary to support electric vehicles. That includes the additional generating capacity needed, the additional power lines for distribution of that energy and the “filling stations” that will required to deliver that energy to the driving public: The cost of all that will be passed onto the consumer.
Harris and Jay state categorically that electricity produced by neither wind nor solar can possibly support the demand created by electric vehicles based on current, or projected, technology. They conclude that the unfortunate result will be that electric vehicles will never become the mainstream of transportation.
In order to match the 2,000 cars that a typical filling station can service in a busy 12 hours, a single EV charging station would require 600, 50-watt chargers at an estimated cost of $24 million, and an electrical supply of 30 megawatts of power from the grid. That is enough to power 20,000 homes. In addition, no one thinks about the fact that it can take 30 minutes to 8 hours to recharge a vehicle depending whether it is “empty”, or just requires topping off. What are the drivers doing during that time?
New Zealand-based consulting engineer Bryan Leyland describes why installing electric vehicle charging stations in a city is impractical:
“If you’ve got electric vehicles coming into a petrol station, they would stay for an average of five minutes. If you’ve got cars coming into an electric charging station, they would be at least 30 minutes, possibly an hour, but let’s say it’s 30 minutes. So, that’s six times the surface area to park the same number of cars while they’re being charged. So, multiply every petrol station in a city by six. Where are you going to find the place to put them?”
The government of the United Kingdom is already starting to plan for power shortages caused by the charging of thousands of electric vehicles. Starting in June 2022, the government will restrict the time of day you can charge your EV battery. To do this, they will employ smart meters that are programmed to automatically switch off EV charging in peak times to avoid potential blackouts.
In addition, the latest U.K. chargers will be pre-set to not function during the 9-hours of peak loads, from 8 am to 11 am (3-hours), and 4 pm to 10 pm (6-hours).
Unbelievably, U.K. technology will even allow electric vehicle batteries to be drained back into the U.K. grid if required. Imagine charging your car all night only to discover in the morning that your battery is flat since the state took the power back.
Better keep your gas-powered car as a reliable and immediately available backup!
Now let’s talk about used cars. The average used EV will need a new battery before an owner can sell it. The average age of an American made car on the road is 12 years. A 12-year-old EV will be on its third battery. A Tesla battery typically costs $10,000, so there will not be many 12-year-old EVs on the road. So good luck trying to sell your electric car!
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 with a single Tesla each. If half the homes on your block had electric vehicles, the system would be wildly overloaded.
Harris and Jay conclude that electric vehicles will always be around, in a niche market, but they are never likely to exceed 10% of the cars on the road.
A sobering, yet very practical, analysis of electric vehicles that counter-balances the euphoria surrounding their perceived potential in the fight against climate change. Perhaps governments should spend a bit more effort on putting limits of vehicle gas and diesel consumption, like the size of vehicle engines, particularly in the U.S. How many people really need a 6.7 liter truck that barely does 15 miles per gallon. A 2 liter high-speed diesel is not only quiet, it gets 60 miles to the gallon. Its time dreamy euphoria was modified by a little bit of harsh reality.