Saturday, August 7, 2021

The Green Dream of Electrified Vehicles

The Biden administration wants to replace fuel guzzling automobiles by electric cars. As might be expected, this is more aspirational than realistic. 

The Washington Post has the story:

President Biden on Thursday unveiled a far-reaching, multipronged plan to make U.S. cars and light trucks more fuel-efficient and to begin a shift to electric vehicles over the coming decade. The move marks one of the administration’s most consequential pushes so far to combat climate change and tackle the nation’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The suite of new goals and mandates, forged after months of talks with car manufacturers, autoworkers and environmental groups, is meant to transform the kind of vehicles Americans drive and to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels. The move comes with political risks for Biden, who has faced pressure from activists and industry representatives alike. But it represents a key part of his promise to try to slow rising global temperatures and propel the country toward a future in which the vehicles on roads and highways rely on little or no gasoline.

Of course, there was no legislation involved. It was all via executive order:

The president signed an executive order calling for half of new passenger car sales to be of electric vehicles powered by batteries and fuel cells or plug-in electric hybrids by the end of the decade. It’s a long road ahead: Electric cars made up only 3.8 percent of sales in June, though that’s up from 1.5 percent a year ago, according to the Alliance For Automotive Innovation, a trade group.

Just to bring us all back down to earth, Bryan Preston reports some comments from Toyota. You know Toyota; it is the largest automobile manufacturer in the world. It largely surpasses General Motors, the leading American manufacturer.

GM, America’s largest automaker, is about half Toyota’s size thanks to its 2009 bankruptcy and restructuring. Toyota is actually a major car manufacturer in the United States; in 2016 it made about 81% of the cars it sold in the U.S. right here in its nearly half a dozen American plants. If you’re driving a Tundra, RAV4, Camry, or Corolla it was probably American-made in a red state. Toyota was among the first to introduce gas-electric hybrid cars into the market, with the Prius twenty years ago. It hasn’t been afraid to change the car game.

Nice to know that Made in America means made in red states, by non-unionized factories. As you know, a leading manufacturer of electric vehicles, Tesla, was excluded from the White House ceremony because it is not unionized. 

As for Toyota’s opinion of the push for all electric vehicles, Preston reports:

This week, Toyota reiterated an opinion it has offered before. That opinion is straightforward: The world is not yet ready to support a fully electric auto fleet.

Toyota’s head of energy and environmental research Robert Wimmer testified before the Senate this week, and said:

“If we are to make dramatic progress in electrification, it will require overcoming tremendous challenges, including refueling infrastructure, battery availability, consumer acceptance, and affordability.”

General Motors has now promised to phase out all gas powered cars by 2035. Toyota and Honda have not joined the bandwagon.

As of now, 2% of the world’s cars are electric. That is a very small number. As for the infrastructure needed to produce and distribute the electricity needed to run large numbers of electric cars, we are not even close:

Toyota warns that the grid and infrastructure simply aren’t there to support the electrification of the private car fleet. A 2017 U.S. government study found that we would need about 8,500 strategically-placed charge stations to support a fleet of just 7 million electric cars. That’s about six times the current number of electric cars but no one is talking about supporting just 7 million cars. We should be talking about powering about 300 million within the next 20 years, if all manufacturers follow GM and stop making ICE cars.

For the record, ICE is short for internal combustion engines, not immigration and customs enforcement.

Unsurprisingly, for a non-serious country we are coupling the push toward electric vehicles with an effort to shut down power production-- as in nuclear and coal-- that is, to become more dependent on inefficient and unreliable renewables:

But instead of building a bigger boat, we may be shrinking the boat we have now. The power outages in California and Texas — the largest U.S. states by population and by car ownership — exposed issues with powering needs even at current usage levels. Increasing usage of wind and solar, neither of which can be throttled to meet demand, and both of which prove unreliable in crisis, has driven some coal and natural gas generators offline. Wind simply runs counter to needs — it generates too much power when we tend not to need it, and generates too little when we need more. The storage capacity to account for this doesn’t exist yet.

How realistic is it to imagine that we can build enough distribution facilities to power all of those electric cars? And how much time will we be spending at electric charging stations? Not a minor detail that.

We will need much more generation capacity to power about 300 million cars if we’re all going to be forced to drive electric cars. Whether we’re charging them at home or charging them on the road, we will be charging them frequently. Every gas station you see on the roadside today will have to be wired to charge electric cars, and charge speeds will have to be greatly increased. Current technology enables charges in “as little as 30 minutes,” according to Kelly Blue Book. That best-case-scenario fast charging cannot be done on home power. It uses direct current and specialized systems. Charging at home on alternative current can take a few hours to overnight to fill the battery, and will increase the home power bill. That power, like all electricity in the United States, comes from generators using natural gas, petroleum, coal, nuclear, wind, solar, or hydroelectric power according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. I left out biomass because, despite Austin, Texas’ experiment with purchasing a biomass plant to help power the city, biomass is proving to be irrelevant in the grand energy scheme thus far. Austin didn’t even turn on its biomass plant during the recent freeze.

Imagine the mess at the new electronic pumping stations?

Half an hour is an unacceptably long time to spend at an electron pump. It’s about 5 to 10 times longer than a current trip to the gas pump tends to take when pumps can push 4 to 5 gallons into your tank per minute. That’s for consumer cars, not big rigs that have much larger tanks. Imagine the lines that would form at the pump, every day, all the time, if a single charge time isn’t reduced by 70 to 80 percent. We can expect improvements, but those won’t come without cost. Nothing does. There is no free lunch. Electrifying the auto fleet will require a massive overhaul of the power grid and an enormous increase in power generation. Elon Musk recently said we might need double the amount of power we’re currently generating if we go electric. He’s not saying this from a position of opposing electric cars. His Tesla dominates that market and he presumably wants to sell even more of them.

So, Toyota has not jumped on this bandwagon. GM has. As Preston says, GM is virtue signaling-- which is no way to run an auto company:

Toyota has publicly warned about this twice, while its smaller rival GM is pushing to go electric. GM may be virtue signaling to win favor with those in power in California and Washington and in the media. Toyota’s addressing reality and its record is evidence that it deserves to be heard.

Toyota isn’t saying none of this can be done, by the way. It’s just saying that so far, the conversation isn’t anywhere near serious enough to get things done.

But it is a serious matter when the leader of GM sets about to sabotage her company. The greening of America, an idiot notion embraced by some powerful corporate honchos is self-sabotage.


David Foster said...

(It's **alternating current**, not "alternative current", and if Preston is going to write about electrification then he should learn a little bit about electricity.)

A key constraint in vehicle electrification, perhaps *the* key constraint, is materials availability. If you want to make electric cars, you are going to need the materials for batteries and motors. These include things like lithium, cobalt, and various rare earths. If you want to generate the electricity from wind and solar, you will also need specific materials. As an IEA report stated, these 'green' projects are materials-intensive. See my post here:

jmod46 said...

Magical thinking and virtue signaling are a potent combination. How long will it take for people to realize that reality rules?

Webutante said...

All this silliness in the face of recent climate calls we're heading into a 20-30 year cooling cycle

Also, have you read about the difficulty in putting out electric vehicles battery fires? Really scary.

Sam L. said...

1: I do not trust the WaPo, which I refer to as WaPoo, nor the NYT.

2: If electric cars are wanted, or are forced upon us, then there'd better be a lot of Nuclear power plants built around the nation to charge them up. Can't have all that smoke from hydrocarbon fuels.

3: If I make it to 2035 I will be 92. I won't be driving.

4: "Half an hour is an unacceptably long time to spend at an electron pump. It’s about 5 to 10 times longer than a current trip to the gas pump tends to take when pumps can push 4 to 5 gallons into your tank per minute." Yesterday, we gassed up at a 12-pump station. There were 4 and 5 vehicles in lines...

5: "Toyota has publicly warned about this twice, while its smaller rival GM is pushing to go electric. GM may be virtue signaling to win favor with those in power in California and Washington and in the media. Toyota’s addressing reality and its record is evidence that it deserves to be heard." That would be Washington, D.C., not Washington State, where I live.

370H55V said...

The Girl Party strikes again. The truth is whatever I believe it to be.

Needless to say, this is what happens when a girl runs GM too.

Anonymous said...

Elephant's Child:There are a lot of places in the United States where it is a long distance between formal plug-in places. Who rescues you when you cannot get plugged in, and with what? This whole clap-trap came out of Davos, and as Cristiana Figueres, who was general secretary of the IPCC at the time said in a news conference--it was their best chance of getting rid of hated Capitalism. CO2,Carbon Dioxide, is not a pollutant. It is a natural plant food, makes crops grow, greens the planet and helps to feed a hungry world.
The Autistic Swedish child was very passionate, but very ignorant. But is enriching her parents immensely. Our climate is controlled by the action of our sun, not by our automobile exhausts. It would really help if people would study up a bit, including our government officials. Faint hope.

HMS Defiant said...

All of the above and what happens when you’re on the road in a snowstorm and are forced to spend the night in your freezing car? I think you die a lot and your family and friends. OTOH, GM is just as capable of lying about things that will never be as any politician. One of the things about a lot of red states, they’re mostly in the south and won’t buy electric outside Austin city limits anyway.

IamDevo said...

The entire philosophy of the left, if you can stand to debase the language to call it that, is found in the lyrics of Lennon's "Imagine." They truly believe ("If you can dream it..") that if you wish hard enough, what you wish for must come true! Never mind all that icky stuff about hard work (as attributed to Edison, "1% inspiration and 99% perspiration"). Like Dorothy, all that is needed is a thrice-effected click of the heels, and away you go to your chosen destination. Say what you will about Elon Musk, he knows that monumental effort is required to accomplish what he has set out to do. No wonder he and Tesla weren't invited to the Biden White House!

David Foster said...

A lot of companies are very concerned that they will lose millennials and younger. both as potential employees and as potential customers, if they aren't perceived as properly virtuous.

It may be rational, from a strictly financial point of view, to talk big about your pure-electric plans but to push that glorious day further and further into the future.

This strategy may be constrained, though, by immoveable government edicts.

John henry said...

Back of the envelope calculation is the we'll need 300 additional gigawatt of generation to power all cars.

A large nuclear plant is @1gw (1,000mw or 1,000,000kw)

So we need 300 nukes. Is your backyard available for one?

Or 40,000 square miles if solar panels are used. Plus auxiliary equipment. About the size of ohio

Or, figuring really huge windmills in the windiest locations at about 2mw effective, 150 to 250 thousand windmills.

Add trucks buses, trains boats etc and double or triple it.

All those charging stations will have no electricity