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Electric Vehicles Analyzed

September 9, 2011

While my articles have focused on the bad economics surrounding plug-in electric (PHEV) and battery-only electric (BEV) vehicles, a subscriber (in comments to an article two weeks ago) brought another article to my attention that analyzed the availability of special materials used in batteries and for alternative energy applications.

Taken together, these articles solidify the view that PHEVs and BEVs are not going to succeed, and that using subsidies to encourage their adoption is probably bad for the economy.

The articles, Hidden Cost of PHEVs Parts I – III, established that:

The high purchase price of PHEVs and BEVs would deter all but early adopters and devoted environmentalists from buying the vehicles.

  • It would be decades before there would be a significant reduction in oil imports.
  • CO2 emissions could, at most, be reduced over the next forty years by a paltry 13%, versus the 80% demanded by the IPCC.
  • Infrastructure costs, for such items as battery-charging stations and additional distribution transformers, would cost billions of dollars.
  • A large number of new power plants would be required to support our 200 million light vehicles if they were PHEVs or BEVs. Existing power generation capacity could, in general, support 87 million vehicles (which is about 40% of existing light vehicles in the U.S.)  before it would be necessary to build new power plants, but a few areas and cities would need to build new power plants much sooner.

The additional article, It’s Time To Kill The Electric Car, Drive A Stake Through Its Heart And Burn The Corpse, established that the cost of special metals used in batteries was much greater than the cost of other resources used for energy, such as coal, oil and natural gas. Specifically it said:

  • “Most alternative energy and electric drive technologies can’t be implemented without large quantities of scarce metals.”
  • “The world cannot produce enough technology metals to permit a widespread transition to alternative energy or electric drive.”
  • “Using batteries as fuel tank replacements is a zero-sum game that consumes huge quantities of metals for the sole purpose of substituting electricity for oil.”

(The article is available at: )

It’s becoming increasingly clear that PHEVs and BEVs are a costly experiment.

The experiment is based on two objectives:

  • Eliminate the use of foreign oil
  • Cut CO2 emissions to stop global warming.

In the first instance, it’s clear that North America and Mexico have an abundant supply of oil and could use its indigenous resources to the virtual exclusion of oil from the Middle East or Venezuela.

In the second instance, it’s becoming very clear that CO2 emissions are not the primary cause of climate change and global warming. The recently completed CERN Cloud experiment has demonstrated that global warming could easily be caused by the sun. This adds substantially to the reasoning of those who argue that natural causes are behind global warming.

It would probably be best if we ended the experiment before spending billions of additional tax payer dollars on PHEVs and BEVs.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark permalink
    September 9, 2011 3:32 pm


    I wasn’t aware of the methods used to extract rare earth deposits. I saw this link to the process in China last week that you might find of interest

    It’s been close to 15 years since I was last in China (near Beijing). When I was there I found that the handling of hazardous materials was given a high priority by the local government and the communist party so the article may not be representative of the entire industry and/or country.

  2. September 9, 2011 6:33 pm

    Economics has to be a factor in determining the merits of using EVs. The city of Atlanta has been blessed by having three EV charging stations opened in its Atlantic Station. The stations are 240 volt and cost $3 per hour. It will cost $12 to recharge a Volt and $18 to recharge a Leaf. This pretty expensive to pay $12 to go 35 miles in a Volt or 65 miles in a Leafl

  3. Mark permalink
    September 10, 2011 1:43 pm


    I don’t know if you have read any of Steven Mosher’s work (Climategate- The Crutape Letters), but he had an interesting post about rare earth material processing recently that you might find of interest- Steven’s comment is at the bottom of the posts and was made on Sept 3 at 4:20 pm.

  4. Mark permalink
    September 16, 2011 11:38 am


    You might find it interesting that students at a university in Chico, and citizens of CA, are going to be supporting the role out of the infrastructure for EV as noted here-

    “Several energy-saving features are planned for the office and parking structure project. Up to 10 battery plug-in stations are planned for electric vehicles. The electricity for these recharging stations will be generated by photovoltaic units on the structure’s roof, so users will not incur a cost, nor will the stations increase the campus’s electrical load.”

    It certainly seems like downtown Chico and the university needs more parking- the need to subsidize EV’s I am not so sure about. I can understand why some folks might consider the design plan for the battery plug in stations as being unsustainable. An associate of mine works for the department of transportation and he would likely want the charging stations to, at a minimum, be able to allocate to the EV drivers some portion of the fees that are currently paid by fossil fuel drivers (with the gasoline and sales taxes) to maintain our roads. I am sure that my city government would be unhappy about the plan noted above as they will not be getting any sales tax revenue.

    I am sure some bright college students will figure out that if you let me charge my 24 kwh battery for free (no cost for the electricity; nor any allocation for the infrastructure costs to provide the charging stations) AND you let me sell that stored energy to the grid at peak times (say for $.30 to $.50 a kwh) at the two way charging station at the frat house, I can make enough money to keep the frat house in free beer for the weekends.

    If I was going to be in the SF area on the 19th attending the networked EV meeting would be a place to bring up “freeloading”- “Smart grids and electric vehicles intersect at The Networked EV! This one day conference provides you with an easy opportunity to check-in on the market, network with your industry colleagues, and hear from experts in the field.”


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