Are Electric Vehicles Ever Going To Replace Gas-powered Vehicles?
Just as the Covid-19 vaccination rollout is slower than we had expected, with 20 million vaccines delivered but only 4.2 million vaccinations administered so far, the infrastructure to support the electric car rollout is also happening at the pace of molasses. As a result, electric vehicles make up less than one percent of the one billion vehicles on the road today. Still, as more electric vehicles and charging stations are built, worldwide consumption of electricity is projected to rise 6.8 percent by 2040.
One main reason the electric car rollout has been so agonizingly slow is our charging infrastructure network is lacking and not ready to support those new-fangled vehicles yet, and motorists don’t want to get stuck where they’re going all because they couldn’t find a convenient charging station on the way. How many electric car charging stations have you seen across the landscape? Not many, and if you can’t find a quick-charging station between where you started and where you’re headed, your battery will become depleted and you won’t make it to your destination. Depending on the type of battery, how much energy it holds, and the type of charging equipment, charging time can vary from 20 minutes to more than 20 hours.
What’s more, without time-delay charging and low-demand charging systems in place, the U.S. electric grid would come crashing down if everyone tried to charge up their vehicles quickly all at the same time. For every hour of charging, an electric vehicle can’t go more than 20 miles without requiring more charge. The cost to install a charging station varies, depending on the type of EV charging station.
For example, Level 2 charging stations cost between $1,500 to $3,000, are installed by the city, and use a 240-volt connection, which is the most common power input connection to residential and commercial buildings. But in February 2018, Karalee Browne, a sustainability program manager for the Institute for Local Government, reported on the www.Western City.com website that “Direct-current fast chargers require much more power access and can cost up to $300,000 per installation.” On top of that, Americans With Disabilities Act compliance regulations can double the cost of the installation, not to mention annual maintenance fees private companies charge the city. The City of Santa Monica is somewhat of a lone pioneer in that it has found a way to use photovoltaic solar panels to power its electric vehicle charging stations. But no matter what kind of charging station it is, as San Diego City Council President pro Tem and League First Vice President Mark Kersey stated so succinctly, “Having the chargers available in locations where people need to use them is going to be key in the adoption of electric vehicles.”
Then there’s the problem that lithium is a scarce raw material. Lithium-ion batteries are used to power electric vehicles, yet virtually all lithium material is imported from Australia (55%), Chile (23%) , China (10%, and Argentina (8%); After working through the calculations, there’s simply not enough lithium to power new electric vehicle batteries for more than nine months, let alone enough lithium, cobalt and manganese — all scarce raw materials that are required in the production of electric batteries and that require spending huge amounts of energy on mining and processing them! Just the environmental expense alone, of mining and extracting those raw materials is enormous.
Then there’s the ugly truth that recharging a lithium battery involves a degree of dependence on oil, coal or gas-fired power stations and the glaring reality that electric cars emit carbon dioxide both in their production and while they’re charging. So, it’s a totally misguided notion to think electric cars produce no emissions. The degree of emissions in producing the battery and the electricity used to keep the electric vehicle running is hardly insignificant. In countries such as Norway and Switzerland, where most of their electricity comes from hydropower, it makes infinitely more sense to run electric cars. But everywhere else around the globe, electric cars still make no sense right now.
While trains, buses, bikes, walking or just staying home continue to be far more efficient than electric cars, the bright spot about owning an electric car is the fact that it requires no fuel and uses far fewer parts. And no gear shifts, no oil, no spark plugs, no air filters, no coolant, no transmission fluid translates into virtually no maintenance costs other than occasionally rotating the tires. Eventually equipping our highways and roads with all-electric vehicles is destined to reduce air pollution, improve our health and protect the climate. That’s why we cannot afford to lose even a nanosecond of time in replacing gas-powered vehicles with all-electric vehicles despite all the challenges we face ahead.
Though more people own electric cars than ever before — with 125 million predicted to be in use worldwide by 2030 and China being the world’s largest electric car market — the goal of driving zero-emission cars is still as distant as it’s ever been.