EV reality check

EV reality check

With all the hype currently out there surrounding electric vehicles, Evanswonders if the real world implications have actually been considered.

GMC Hummer EV.

Image: GM

Recently I tuned into a press conference regarding electric vehicle (EV) adoption. It focused on the path of progress to 2035, a year that, for some reason, a number of political leaders and legislators have declared will be the moment in time when the public can no longer buy vehicles powered by internal combustion engine vehicles. Over the last two years, the EV hype machine has gone into overdrive, most of it likely stemming from Tesla and its ridiculously high market capitalisation. As a result, there seems to be this idea that if a company doesn’t have a dramatic ‘green’ strategy going forward, it’s simply not worth investing in.

Consequently, we’ve seen companies like General Motors declaring boldly that they’re ‘all in’ with this battery electric idea, while at the same time, the hype machine has zoomed in on upstarts and would-be ‘disruptors’ in the EV space like Lucid Motors and Rivian, operators which in many cases have struggled to meet their lofty goals. While this kind of stuff makes the headlines and appears to galvanise some would-be investors, there are a number of key factors to consider. Firstly, that battery technology, while advancing, still has a very long way to go to make the idea of EVs practical for most people. Secondly the charging infrastructure is nowhere near extensive enough to support mass adoption, certainly here in North America.

Furthermore, there are so many different variables to consider when charging an EV (including the battery’s state of charge at the time you plug it in) that further complicates matters. And while some claim a DC Fast Charger can juice up an EV to 80% of its capacity in just 30 minutes, climate and battery condition can significantly add to that. Last time I looked there still weren’t that many of these chargers around and very few of them seem to be utilised with any regularity.

Additionally, while overnight charging at home is feasible for some, for those that live in urban settings (read many more people) – and I’m talking about condominiums and apartment blocks, plus those that only have access to on-street charging – how are you going to ensure they all have ready access to suitable charging points? While battery electric vehicles do have their merits for certain applications, such as local commercial delivery, airport vehicles and perhaps farming, the notion of everybody plugging in their car or truck so they can go about their daily business still seems very much like a pipe dream to me. Further complicating the matter is that rising inflation, supply chain woes and global geopolitical tensions threaten to not only make EVs even more unaffordable for the masses, but the very supply of raw materials required to make them.

In fact, the situation has become so bad in recent weeks that a few vehicle manufacturers have had to completely shut down production of battery electric models. While any attempt at reducing emissions and dependence on fossil fuels is a noble cause, there needs to be a reality check in terms of how it’s done.

Further more, existing analysis of the life cycle of a modern conventional car versus a battery electric one proves that, in the vast majority of cases, the reduction in carbon footprint, energy and environmental impact is negligible, since EVs still require significant and finite resources for their manufacturing and many, when plugged in, draw power from grids that use coal or other fossil fuel-burning sources to create the power supply.

What a lot of politicians, legislators and media seem to forget is that over the last 40 years, vehicle emissions have improved 98%, plus with gasoline/ hybrid technology already well established, we currently have a practical solution that balances reduction targets with economic realities. Making incremental improvements to proven processes and technologies makes far more sense than trying to reinvent the wheel. Perhaps it’s time the powers that be started realising this instead of trying to force all of us to adopt a fundamentally flawed concept for personal transportation?

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