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Today, the predominant media is filled with positive articles about all the great reasons why you should consider an electric vehicle or EV. If you are swayed by this positive input and are considering buying an EV instead of an ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle, some of the following may be helpful.


Here are five top reasons to buy and some of the questions you might want to ask yourself:

  1. Annual cost to operate – Is an EV really less expensive to operate? – a – First is the cost of electricity vs. the cost of fuel. In general, the electricity to power an EV is cheaper than the fuel to power and ICE vehicle. If or how much you save is almost entirely a product of where you live and where the vehicle will be driven. In the Northwest, fuel prices are among the highest in the country (just under $4.00/ gallon for regular gas at the end of 2021) and electricity prices are among the lowest (some places as low as $0.75 per gallon equivalent). That means for the average driver who puts 12,000 miles on a car each year and gets 20 miles per gallon, you would spend $450 for electricity to power an EV vs. $2,400 for your fuel, a savings of $1,950 a year. In the Northeast, electricity is more costly and petroleum fuel not quite as expensive so the numbers are not as good. In Connecticut there are places where fuel is about $3.00 per gallon and electricity is almost $2.00 per gallon equivalent. You could save barely $600 per year. (see this article) – b – In an EV you will not have to pay gas tax and this is often billed as an additional operating cost savings. Unfortunately the gas tax is paid at the pump and is already included in the savings calculation so don’t count it twice. – c – Also remember that most states are scrambling to replace gas taxes lost to increases in EV usage and as such have enacted or are considering annual EV road use taxes. – d – You will likely save the cost of 2 or three oil changes each year which pending the type of oil and the type of car could be as much as $200 to $300 per year saved. Very few articles that you read will tell you that this savings will likely be offset by the increased cost of brake replacement. With the EVs extra weight to stop and regenerative brakes (energy captured in braking to add to the efficiency of the EVs power system), brake pads last less than half as long as on ICE vehicles. – e – And few articles will tell you about the increased tire wear (again largely due to the increased weight of the EV). Think of driving an EV as it would be to drive an ICE vehicle that was always loaded with a full load of cargo and/or passengers.
  2. Initial cost to own an EV – Most EVs cost between 20% and 40% more than their ICE counterparts. This means you will pay between $6,000 to $25,000 more for the privilege to drive an EV. This penalty is normally believed to be repaid by lower operating costs and the offset of rising fuel costs over the life of the vehicle. There are numerous government incentives (tax credits and tax deductions) that can often help reduce this initial cost, again much of this is dependent upon where you live.
  3. Good for the Environment – The majority of the articles written about EVs highlight the ‘fact’ that EVs are good for the environment. We are told they have zero emissions (see this article). In general, it is true that the operation of an EV produces fewer emissions than the operation of most ICE vehicles. What you will see in very few articles is the environmental cost to produce the EVs which is far greater than what is required to produce ICE vehicles. To name a few: the environmental cost to mine the lithium for the batteries, mostly controlled by China which has one of the world’s worst records of protecting the environment; the environmental cost to mine the cobalt, also used in the batteries, mostly done in the Congo but the processing is done in China; the fact that EVs are, on average, more than 20% heavier than their ICE equivalents increasing energy use and pollution from producing that much more product; excessive tire wear and road wear caused by heavier vehicles, etc. If you are truly concerned with the environment, you need to ask the questions not being asked in the media to see if you are really convinced that the EVs represent an improvement over ICE vehicles. Do you wonder about recycling of lithium ion batteries? As of today, there is no available, reliable way to reclaim value from LI batteries so what will happen to them when they are replaced? Do you wonder how the electric grid, already taxed to the limit in many part of the country, will hold up to the huge increased demand for electricity to power EV batteries? What will be the environmental cost to expand the power grid to meet the new EV demand?
  4. Lifetime Cost to Own – Much is made in the media about how in spite of the fact of higher initial cost, EVs have a lower lifetime cost to own. Most reports show a lifetime of 200,000 miles of use see this article which I found was the basis of many pro-EV articles that I found) 200,000 miles is the equivalent of 16+ years of driving for the typical American driver. Make sure to ask yourself if you are likely to keep the vehicle that long. “While the average new car buyer holds onto their car for 8.4 years, there is a wide variety of cars that owners are more likely to keep longer,” said iSeeCars. If you change the lifetime cost to own calculation from 16 years to 8, the cost to own picture is not as kind to the EVs. Or, if you add the cost of a full battery replacement, $12,000 to $15,000, almost no EV sold today pencils out to save you much or anything over its lifetime. Most EV manufacturers warranty their batteries for 8 years or 100,000 miles. That is a good indication of how many years you should be able to drive before the costly replacement. EV batteries don’t understand miles, or years. They age based on cycles and how you drive and how you charge your batteries will have a big effect on whether your battery system will need replacing in five years or twelve.
  5. Lifestyle and Social Credit – If you do most of your driving in town, the current lack of convenient charging options should not be a big concern. Charging stations are being built in most highly populated areas. And you will rarely be far from you home and its charging station. However, if you live in a rural area and much of your driving is between places not served by charging options, this should be a big concern. I like to equate the geographical reasons in favor of owning an EV to those that favor using public transit. Where there is a dense enough population to support convenient public transit, there is now or will soon be enough charging option available to make EV ownership a reasonable choice. You may want an EV because in your social sphere, ownership of an EV is a symbol of an Environmentally responsible person. If that is the case, an EV may be a good choice but wouldn’t riding public transit be a better choice for the environment?

Of course there are many more important comparisons that you might want to make. aSafety, for instance may be a big plus for occupants of the much heavier EVs. In general, in accidents, the heavier vehicle comes out better than the lighter one. However, heavier vehicles, in general take longer to stop or change direction so are less likely to avoid crashes. b – Cargo, is another issue to consider. Most EVs carry less weight than their ICE equivalent vehicles and some also have far less cargo volume due to space taken up by batteries. – c – Ground Clearance and turning radius are also impacted by placement of batteries and are worth considering pending the type of driving you do. – d – Resale value is a real unknown. There is the possibility that increased demand may make for high resale value. Just as likely is the possibility of low resale value due to battery age or lower demand than projected.

Last, I think we all need to understand that electric power for a vehicle represents a very flexible fuel profile. The electricity may be generated using solar, wind, coal, hydroelectric, biomass, oil, natural gas, or nuclear. In all cases, the electricity must be moved from the point of generation to the point of use. In the transmission of electricity, most estimates are that about 6% of the energy is lost (2% in transmission and 4% in local distribution). So, the price of this flexibility is a loss of efficiency. In fact, EVs are only less polluting if the source of their energy is less polluting. China, the biggest market for EVs and the fastest growing one generates between 70 and 80% of their electricity from coal. Will China’s big change to EVs really reduce the amount of pollution that they produce? Depending where your electricity is made, you may be driving a coal fired car or a natural gas fired car or a solar powered car. No matter where you are, we still don’t know what effect 250,000 more EVs each year will have on our power grid. Nor do we know what the environmental cost (each year) will be from the recycling (or not) of 250,000 or more huge lithium ion batteries. Lots to think about and not many people asking the important questions.

Before you buy your new EV consider all of the costs, not just those that are advertised and which favor EV ownership.

This is the 7th (actually the 9th with the intro and one added issue) in a series of issues for discussion when choosing our next representatives to Congress. 20 Issues – 40 Weeks

Let’s start with where we stand today.  All data following is about the U.S.A.

We consume around 7 Billion Barrels of oil per year.  That’s 294,000,000,000 gallons.

We import about 57% of that, or a little more than 4 Billion Barrels.

We consume about One Billion Tons of coal each year.  By the way, we have the largest proven coal reserves of any nation in the world with over a quarter of the known reserves.  Russia is a distant 2nd with about 17% of the reserves.  China, the biggest user is a distant third in proven reserves with less than half what the U.S. has.

We have about 80 million kilowatts of hydroelectric power generating capability and produce anywhere from 5 – 12% of our electricity each year from hydro. We are second only to Canada in production of Hydropower.  It is interesting to note that only about 2,400 of the 80,000 dams in the U.S are used to generate hydropower.  It is also interesting to note that hydropower generates almost one quarter of the world’s electricity yet typically less than a tenth of ours.

We generate about 12 Billion kilowatt-hours of electricity using of nuclear power.  That is about 20% of our electricity.

We make about 10 Billion gallons of biofuel annually.   We are the largest producer in the world.  Brazil is second at about 60 t0-70% of our production.  The entire EU produces about 10% of what we do.

All of this powers the largest economy on the face of the earth and about the highest standard of living.

With the stated purpose of gaining energy independence, the U.S. Government formed the Department of Energy in August of 1977. Today that Department has about 15,000 employees and almost 100,000 contractors and a budget of over $26,000,000,000 ($26 Billion) dollars annually.

Are we better off for having the DOE or not?  I think that is a valid question for any candidate for national office.  I think it is important to know how every candidate would vote regarding Energy policy.  Here is the direction that I think we need to go and what I will be using to judge the candidates.  Each of these issues is covered VERY briefly.  I hope there is enough explanation to make it understandable.

1.  Ethanol Subsidies are mainly corn subsidies and have little to do with Energy.  With rare exception, if you remove the subsidies for corn, soy beans, etc., it takes as much cost and energy to produce ethanol as the energy it represents.  We need to stop subsidizing ethanol.  It is now required that we add ethanol to gasoline in most parts of the country.  If we had to pay the true cost, less the subsidies, this would be a hot political issue.  It should be anyway.

2.  Photovoltaics, Wind, Tidal and other Solar Energy.  We need to spend money on research and pilot projects.  Large scale subsidies of energy production from means that are not yet economic, must have a very valuable research objective, or they need to be curtailed.  Point of Use Solar (photovoltaic and wind and water) needs to be encouraged since it cuts out much of the cost of distribution.  It is estimated that we lose over 6% of our electrical energy just through transmission losses and that doesn’t count the cost of the transmission infrastructure.  It allows for actual economies not based on scale but based on lower cost of delivery.

3. Electric, Hybrid, Diesel and other high mileage Vehicles.  Since about 65% of our oil is used to fuel our vehicles, transportation energy is a huge part of the Energy Issue.  Electric vehicles show promise and have the advantage of having a variety of ways of producing the electricity (hydrocarbon fuel, hydro, wind, solar, nuclear).  They also have the downside of inefficient transmission and storage.  Where I think there may be hope and where I would put R & D money is in point of use solar or wind generated electricity used to power vehicles garaged at the site where the power is produced.  For example, if a homeowner had a small solar generator and used the power generated from his rooftop to power his local use and commute car, I think that would make sense to investigate.  Until battery technology advances, I think hybrid vehicles are inefficient.  They burden the gas engine with a huge weight in batteries to store the electricity for the electric portion of the drive mechanism.  They also burden the electric drive system with carrying around a spare gas engine and the fuel system to power it.

4.  To encourage use of alternatives, including walking, mass transit, non-hydrocarbon vehicles, we need incentives.  We should consider a gas tax of $2 to $5 per gallon, phased in over 5 years.  If the funds generated were placed in a separate account, the proceeds of which could be used only for Highways, Bridges, and other transportation infrastructure, it would create a few valuable incentives. Since the price of gas would be so high (close to European costs), there would be the incentive to plan and use trips more wisely. Manufacturers would have incentives to build more fuel efficient vehicles.  There would be a transfer of sales activity from face to face (transportation driven) to computer to computer or phone to phone (communication driven).  Would this be a hard sell?  Of course it would.  I don’t think 25% of the population would believe that the funds collected would be used for the designated infrastructure.
The preferred alternative, of course, would be to have the price market driven.  That means we would have to remove most of the government restrictions on the import, drilling, storing, transporting, and selling of transportation fuels.  My guess is that this would also drive the price up to much higher levels and provide the incentives for more conservation and efficiency.

5.  Nuclear. We need to revisit nuclear power and see, like Japan and France, if it does not make sense to get back into the nuclear power business.

6.  Point of Use Solar (photovoltaic, wind and water).  As stated above, there a good reasons to direct alternative production of electricity to generation at the point of use.  The cost of building and maintaining energy transmission infrastructure is huge.  I would want my representative to be serious about encouraging alternatives at the point of use.  To illustrate why I think this deserves more attention, let us look at fueling electric cars.  Today if you want to “fuel” your electric car, you must plug into the massive infrastructure that both produces and transmits the electricity to you.  Somewhere, Natural Gas or Diesel or Coal or Hydro or wind, etc. is used to generate the power.  That power is then conditioned into electricity that can be transmitted efficiently (remember the 6+% transmission loss)to a station near your point of use.  Then the electricity is again conditioned for local transmission to your location where it is again conditioned to become useable 110 or 220 volt a.c. current.  Instead you could have a windmill on your property that generates electricity and conditions and delivers it directly to the batteries in your car.  Would you buy a car that would never need fuel for $50,000?  If you could get a $25,000 electric car and couple it with a $25,000 solar system (about 5 KW), that is about what you would have.  And, as the number of units of solar systems increases, the cost per unit will fall.

7.  Hydro Electric Power. It would be nice to see a candidate who would work to encourage the conversion of some of the 97% of dams in the U.S. that are not currently producing hydropower.  As stated above, a quarter of the world’s electric energy is from hydro power and yet we only produce a a few percent of our electric needs.  I would love to see a candidate state that he would work hard to stop the Federal Government from removing hydroelectric dams based on the excuse of “saving the environment” or ” protecting fish”.  A perfect example is the Klamath Basin in Oregon and Northern California.  It is a long and difficult issue but the end result will be the removal of 4 or 5 hydroelectric dams at a cost (3 years ago’s estimate) of over $450 Million and habitat restoration of over $1 Billion.  This fails to account for how to handle the years of buildup of silt in the bottoms of the reservoirs and the environmental damage it will do when released at one time into the system.  It also means we will need to find a new source of power for about 70,000 people (current output of the dam’s hydro systems).

Most of the data is from US government websites but you should still consider this as opinion, not fact.  There is so much more to discuss in the energy area that this could get much longer.  Instead, I will stop here.  I would appreciate your comments, questions and contributions.  I am anything but an expert on this subject and would welcome both confirming and contradicting opinions.



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