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Battery-powered vehicles (BEVs) are currently the darling of the media and proponents of net-zero carbon policies.
But widespread adoption of BEVs have serious consequences, not the least of which is that BEVs require the use of rare, hard-to-mine and costly materials primarily available from China. Then there are the high costs for:
- Establishing fast charging stations costing $20,000 – $60,000 each.
- Adding new power generation and transmission to the electric grid to supply the electricity for charging BEV batteries.
Today, light vehicles, using internal combustion engines (ICEs), are the overwhelming choice for a number of good reasons. They are relatively inexpensive, last for over a dozen years without having to replace the drive train, fuel is readily available everywhere, and pollutants in the exhaust have largely been eliminated. Batteries last for around 3 years, but only cost a few hundred dollars to replace.
Adoption of any other type of vehicle should improve on the ICE.
What are the alternatives?
- Plug-in hybrids
This type of vehicle improves gasoline mileage slightly, is normally quiet, and is only slightly more costly than ICE vehicles. Fuel is available virtually everywhere and there is no need to upgrade the electric grid.
Batteries can last for ten years before needing to be replaced, but will cost, installed, around $5,000, more or less, depending on the type of battery. Either Nickel-metal-hydride or Lithium-ion batteries may be used in hybrids.
These vehicles can improve gasoline mileage significantly, and are quiet, but use a more costly battery.
For everyday use, where commuting distances are 25 miles or less, or the vehicle is primarily used for local shopping, etc., gasoline usage is substantially reduced.
The battery can be recharged using an ordinary 120 volt outlet, though recharging could take several hours. Even older homes with a 60 amp service entranceway can likely get by without having to increase the size of the entranceway.
Plug-in hybrids can be owned by adjacent homes with little danger of the utility having to replace the distribution transformer serving multiple homes. Typically, each distribution transformer serves four homes.
This picture of an iPhone displaying gasoline usage is from an actual plug-in hybrid user who recharges the vehicle using a 120 volt outlet. Most travel is local and she can travel 49 miles using the battery only. She can travel 547 miles in HV mode. The tank was just filled for the first time.
The cost of replacement batteries depends on the size of the battery pack which is discussed next. Most have 8 year warranties, using Lithium-ion batteries. However, a 16 kWh battery pack, such as might be found in a GM Plug-in hybrid VOLT, would likely cost around $5,000, including labor.
On the downside, people living in cities or apartment buildings may not have ready access to an electric outlet for charging.
BEVs are quiet and can accelerate rapidly. Some claim they reduce CO2 emissions, but that depends on how the electricity is produced.
In every other respect ICEs are superior to BEVs.
BEVs cost around 20% more than a comparable ICE vehicle, with most of the increased cost attributable to the battery.
An earlier posting (see below for the link) determined that the cost of the battery would have to fall to around $80 / kWh, from around $130 / kWh today, before BEVs would be competitive with ICEs.
The article was based on a report financed by the Institute of Automotive Technology, Munich, Germany, which provided as accurate a picture of key costs as has been available on the internet.
However, the demand for the metals used in Lithium-ion batteries has increased dramatically, so there is a strong possibility that the cost of the battery pack won’t be reduced from where it is today, in which case BEVs will continue to be more expensive than ICE vehicles.
If BEVs were to replace ICE vehicles, it would require a huge investment in the electric grid. By one estimate, it will cost over $300 billion to upgrade the grid and provide the needed new power generation using natural gas combined cycle power plants. Costs would be considerably more if wind and solar are used. (See link at end of article for report on BEV grid costs.)
It will be difficult to find light vehicles superior to internal combustion engine (ICE) powered vehicles. ICE vehicles are versatile, have great range, are low cost and require little new investment.
Hybrids and plug-in hybrids provide the same beneficial qualities as ICE vehicles, while improving gasoline mileage and lowering exhaust pollutants, but are slightly to somewhat more expensive. For local use with short trips, there is the added convenience of not having to take time to buy gasoline as frequently with plug-in vehicles. However, plug-in’s may need in-home charging, which can be a significant cost for the average homeowner.
Battery-powered vehicles are quiet and can accelerate rapidly, but come with a huge financial penalty, first for the purchase price of the vehicle and then for a huge outlay to upgrade the grid and provide charging stations. They can be a safety hazard when used to evacuate ahead of hurricanes or become stranded in lengthy traffic jams. BEVs also harm the environment, by requiring rare earths and other hard to mine and process materials, while also making the United States beholden to China for most of the materials.
The best all-around vehicle is the ICE.
Hybrids and plug-in hybrids are viable alternatives.
BEVs may be niche vehicles for the rich and famous, and car aficionados, but should never be the dominant light vehicle used in the United States.
BEVs just don’t add up.
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To read the in-depth report, Battery Powered Vehicles: Their effect on the electric grid, use this link https://bit.ly/3rvQrN3
For the article, Economics of Battery-Powered Vehicles, go to http://bit.ly/2LEOvy7
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