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Monday, June 14, 2021

Bryan Leyland: “Things you know that ain't so” - electric cars


As the American humorist Will Rogers said: “It’s not what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.”


"Government policies on electric cars is a winner on all counts."

The reality is that it is nonsense on stilts. No matter which way you look at it, it is madness.

Poor people will be worse off because the policies will increase the cost of second-hand cars. People who live in the country or run a business that needs pickups or minivans will have to pay more even though an electric vehicle is not an option.

The chances are that subsidised electric cars won’t make much difference to emissions because the extra electricity needed can only come from burning more coal at Huntly power station. When the CO2 emitted during battery production is taken into account, worldwide emissions may well increase.

When it comes to emissions of particulates, the extra weight of electric cars means that particulates from tire and brake wear are about 20% greater.[1] As they are now a major source of transport particulates, this is not a trivial matter.

The government seems to be ignorant of the problems surrounding batteries. 60% of the cost of batteries is raw materials and, due to increasing demand, prices are going up. To provide all the batteries needed to fulfil the government policies in the Western world, many new mines will be needed. Experience tells us that it takes 16 years to develop a new mine so, at the best, it could be 20 years before the price of raw materials drops substantially – or a brand-new battery technology is developed and implemented. Alternatively, there could be a collapse in the international demand for electric vehicles so New Zealand could import cheap vehicles that nobody else wants.

The underlying problem is the electric car industry only exists because governments have provided direct and indirect subsidies for electric cars in the mistaken belief that it is a cheap and effective way of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide. It is not.

The government has ignored the potential for conventional cars to become much more efficient. New engines that are 50% more efficient and have 70% of the emissions of current technology our now being trialed. Compared with them, an electric car has no advantages.[2]

According to the American Economic Association,[3] the cost of reducing carbon dioxide by promoting electric cars is between $400/tonne and $1000 per tonne.[4] There are many better and cheaper ways of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide such as more efficient internal combustion engines, switching to reliable and safe nuclear power and reducing coal consumption at Huntly by developing our gas resources.

Everyone seems to assume that people will want to buy electric cars when the reality is that an electric car resembles a conventional car with a tiny fuel tank that takes more than half an hour to fill. Why would anyone want to buy a vehicle that is substantially more inconvenient and expensive? Perhaps this is why 18% to 20% of US electric car owners revert to conventional cars.[5]

Every way you look at it, the electric car policy is a disaster for poor people, the nation and the environment.

References:

[1] https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2017/03/particle-pollution-from-electric-cars-could-be-worse-than-from-diesel-ones/
[2] https://achatespower.com
[3] https://www.aeaweb.org/research/greenhouse-gas-reduction-long-run-costs
[4] Supported by https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/stock/files/gillingham_stock_cost_080218_posted.pdf
[5] https://thehill.com/changing-america/sustainability/energy/551207-new-study-explains-why-nearly-20-percent-of-electric

Bryan Leyland is a Consulting Engineer with wide interests in modern technology. "Things you know that ain’t so" is a column in which he exposes the truth behind popular misconceptions. 

7 comments:

DeeM said...

Our government excels in following policies that have been adopted in Europe, the US and the UK at least 5-10 years ago. That's sensible, I hear you say, to allow the policy to prove itself.
The trouble is that these policies have failed and yet our government still thinks they're a good idea! They are devoid of any original ideas themselves which should not come as a surprise these days. When you blindly follow an ideological agenda your ability to think rationally and logically is the first thing to be cast aside.
The NZ public, if they were engaged and well informed, would realise this but most remain blissfully ignorant and unconcerned.

Anonymous said...

The assertion that brake use in EVs would produce more particulates is highly questionable. I own an EV and brake wear is less, due to most braking being regenerative.

Geoff. said...

While Brian touched on the environmental cost of producing batteries for electric vehicles he missed out what follows afterwards. While the world has nearly a hundred years experience in dismantling I/C engined vehicles what is to happen to all of the scrap Lithium -Iron batteries. We are told that they will be taken to purpose built facilities where they can be safely recycled and the components re-used. We are producing the scrap batteries Now, where are the facilities to recycle them? How will they be safely transported when, if accidentally shorted out they present such a fire hazard? Assuming that the cost of transport and recycling will be more than the value of the recovered materials, what will all of this cost? I wont bother to pose the question of who will pay.
Does anyone know what will happen to a scrap battery which is replaced today? Where will it be stored until it can be recycled, are there designated areas which will keep it safe from the environment, is the environment safe from it?
Our supposedly Environmentally Conscious Govt is quick to claim that if we don't go electric we will become a dumping ground for dirty petrol and diesel
engines, if we do, perhaps we will have dumps full of highly toxic used batteries. What a legacy!

Anonymous said...

Literally nothing in this blog is correct.
The fee only applies to brand new imports. Poor people don't buy brand new diesels. It makes smaller more efficient cars CHEAPER.

You're forgetting that even if a EV is charged from 100% coal power it's still 3x cleaner than burning petrol because EVs are very energy efficient and the math proves it. If you're going down the rabbit hole of battery production then you need to factor in the emissions from drilling the oil, refining the oil, transportation too.

90% of braking happens from the motor NOT the brake pads so no there isn't more particulates.

Battery prices have dropped 80% in the last 10 years and is still dropping. it used to cost $1000 per kwh and today its around $120. breaking $100 soon.

The oil industry only exists today as well because of their 40 BILLION dollar subsidies they receive each year.

New engines are not 50% more efficient. If the pioneers of car engineering (Volkswagen) has to CHEAT to reach emissions standards then we know we have reached peak efficiency.

Evs aren't inconvenient. waking up every morning with a full charge paying only $5 in electricity and never having to queue up at a gas station in the cold after work during rush hour and never having to pay for oil changes, cambelt changes, filters, no transmission rebuilds, gaskets, spark plugs, clutch, coils, etc barely any maintenance at all, sounds more convenient to me.

This policy has been used to nearly all of Europe and America for 10 years now and has been very successful.

witwot said...

Y'know we had low-emission cars after the oil shocks, Muldoon gave all sort of incentives to convert to CNG/LPG, which I did . Then they realized all that fuel tax was disappearing, so He taxed the gas, & killed the industry overnight.
This is history repeating, when say, 30% or whatever of vehicles are electric, they will slam a fairly high RUC on. This will wipe the green shine off.
Successive Govts have regarded fuel levy/tax/excise income as a golden goose, & they ain't gonna let go anytime soon.

Peter said...

Great to see someone broach the subject Bryan. All the promotion of electric vehicles has so far failed to mention that they need electricity to run them. No one so far has taken that into consideration.

The other point you mention is also important. Serviceable alternatives for the service vehicle industry. What happened to the electric milk vans the U.K had? Like 'Open All Hours' where they featured ; seems like they have closed. Again something that could have worked in a major metropolitan area; but no good on a high country station.

'Folks say I'm a dreamer; but I am not the only one...' John Lennon

sven said...

It is an interesting debate about how wonderful this new clean green energy is and how it is going to save the planet, in the real world this is and will be the dirtiest energy man has come up with, while there is talk about what to do with the old batteries, particulates and E trash in general laptops Iphones computers ect, there has been no talk or feed back about what the real cost is to the environment or peoples living in and around those rare earth mine sites, people talk about how terrible drilling for oil and gas is and how it destroys our natural world and ruins peoples lives along with producing vast amounts of CO2 that is going to kill the planet, all totally untrue oil and gas is our sunlight compressed in our earth no more then that oil biologically degrades over time and also gets eaten by bacteria, rare earth minerals when mined are totally toxic, most if not all rare earth minerals are found in third world countries where human rights and environmental laws are weak or none-existent, children are used as free labour those who resist have their hands and feet cut, villages and small tribal groups have been killed by the thousands who try to resist or stop the mining, vast amounts of water are needed to process these minerals once used the water is either pumped into a holding dams that leach or is released straight back into the streams or rivers poisoning every thing down stream including people, in South America thousands of hectares of rain are been felled and cleared for mining, the Brazilian government is now trying to figure out who should be aloud the water rights to where farming and mining are taking place, it seems that minerals for the new western white mans new energy are more important than food, once those mines have run out whether it be in Africa China or South America what is left is thousands of hectares of toxic landscape where nothing grows, once again the third world countries pay for the western white mans indulgences, I wonder what the cost analysis would be re how many hands and feet have been cut off and people killed to the number of EVs been built, you socialist green hippies who support the so called new green clean energy should be ashamed of yourselves.