There are three publicly stated reasons for developing electric vehicles.
- Achieving energy independence to stop the use of foreign oil
- Cutting CO2 emissions
- Saving money by buying less gasoline or diesel fuel
At this point, the cost of the battery has made the electric vehicle that relies solely on battery power (EV) or the plug-in electric vehicle that relies partially on battery power (PHEV), too expensive for most people.
This has led the government to spend large sums of tax payer dollars on battery research.
ARPA-E has just announced $36 million in awards to 32 recipients under the agency’s new Robust Affordable Next Generation Energy Storage Systems, or RANGE, program.
ARPA-E had previously funded the Batteries for Electrical Energy Storage in Transportation (BEEST) program, that didn’t accomplish very much.
Other agencies, such as the Department of Energy with its Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, are pursuing the same objectives.
This chart from the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows the huge disparity between government targets and those of manufacturers, for worldwide sales of EVs. Based on actual sales, even the manufacturer’s targets seem optimistic.
Before we run out of acronyms, it may be wise to ask whether there is a need for EVs and PHEVs, or for the money being spent on battery research.
Let’s examine the stated reasons for EVs and PHEVs.
1. Energy Independence
Ten years ago this was a credible reason.
But, the advent of fracking with horizontal drilling has unleashed huge supplies of domestic oil, which, in conjunction with oil from Canada, is allowing the United States to become virtually independent from using foreign oil.
There is no longer a justification for EVs and PHEVs based on achieving independence from foreign oil.
2. Cutting CO2 emissions
Regardless of a person’s stance on whether CO2 is causing climate change, EVs and PHEVs can’t cut CO2 emissions by very much because the electricity used for recharging batteries comes from sources that emit CO2.
Today, most of the electricity for recharging batteries comes from coal-fired and natural gas-fired power plants — only 30% comes from nuclear and renewable sources, including hydro.
There’s little doubt that nuclear power is shrinking as a source of electricity for charging batteries, while hydro, because of opposition from environmental groups, wind and solar can’t replace the nuclear that’s being shut down.
Ironically, nuclear is the only source that could result in significantly cutting CO2 emissions.
Relying on EVs and PHEVs to significantly cut CO2 emissions is not a valid reason for their use1.
3. Saving money by using less gasoline or diesel fuel
Everyone can make individual calculations, but generally, it requires seven or eight years to recover the premium paid for EVs and PHEVs – and this is with subsidies to encourage people to buy these vehicles2.
Long paybacks aren’t popular because most people don’t know whether they will keep the vehicle for more than four years.
Corporations find it difficult to justify the premium, because they typically look for paybacks of two years or less.
With huge supplies of natural gas, more savings can be achieved by using natural gas than by using EVs or PHEVs.
These don’t address other EV and PHEV limitations, such as their range or the tremendous investment required by taxpayers to build recharging stations, which should also be taken into consideration when evaluating their worth.
Basically, there no longer are any valid reasons for pursuing EVs and PHEVs.
1. The UN and the EPA have said that CO2 emissions must be cut 80% by 2050 if the climate catastrophe is to be avoided. Gasoline accounts for 20% of U.S. CO2 emissions. Even if EVs and PHEVs were 100% of our fleet of vehicles and they cut CO2 emissions by 25%, it would only reduce U.S. CO2 emissions by 5%, a far cry from the 80% demanded by the UN and EPA.
Obviously, EVs and PHEVs will only comprise, at best, a very small percentage of all vehicles so their impact on CO2 emissions will be minimal and can’t justify their use.
2. Using data from the EIA web site, it requires, on average, 9 years to recover a $10,000 premium for a car driven 12,000 miles per year.
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