Like so many other issues, electric vehicles are an emotional one. Many people think that electric vehicles are the transportation of the future. However, as we will see this is nothing short of fantasy, an unachievable.
The first thing we will look at is the demand side, where we will examine the feasibility of recharging electric vehicles as compared to the gasoline car. In part two, we will look at the supply side to see what would be involved in recharging electric vehicles in volume and what the electric grid can handle.
In part three, we will review materials involved in both green energy and electric vehicles, and finally the physical aspects of electric vehicles in daily transportation in different climates.
How long does it take to recharge an average electric car, and what are the energy requirements? According to Motor Biscuit, it takes about 30 KW hours to travel 100 miles in an electric vehicle. (1)
That gives us a starting point for our discussion. About 3.3 million Americans have a commute of greater than 50 miles one way each day. The average commute is 30 minutes per day. (2).
We can now calculate the kilowatt hours required for an average electric vehicle. Take a 10 mile commute one way, 5 days per week. That means 20 miles per day, or 30 KW hours for a 5 day work week. So how many miles per day do Americans drive per day? According to US government statistics, about 11 billion miles per day. Now we will divide that number by 100 and multiply by 30 KW hours. The answer is an astonishing 3.3 billion KW hours per day that would be required. It can take up to 40 hours to recharge an electric car on standard house current. (4) This implies that you may have to leave your electric vehicle on charge over the weekend. New technology may reduce the wait to a relatively short 5 minutes, but until that happens it takes hours on average to recharge an electric vehicle. If we averaged 6 hours at a charging station per vehicle, just 100 vehicles would take 600 hours, or more than 3 1/2 weeks to recharge 100 vehicles. Clearly, without new technology to quickly recharge electric vehicles, this is not feasible.
Now we will look at the supply side. Using our calculated daily amount of 3.3 billion KW hours, we will multiply that number by 365 days in a year. The answer is an approximate 1.204 trillion KW hours required by electric vehicles if everyone drove electric vehicles. In 2020, approximately 4.009 trillion KW hours were generated. (6) In order to supply all these hypothetical vehicles, we would have to increase the electricity supply by more than 25%. Can solar and wind do this? It takes about 10% more land for a “green” solar farm producing 100 megawatts than it does for a thermal energy plant. (7). Then we have the problem that “green” energy is intermittent and unreliable. Even if it wasn’t, one of the greatest construction projects in history, perhaps rivaling that of the pyramids, would be necessary to switch to solar and wind, though nuclear could take up some of the slack.
One quick glance at the materials needed tells a person that mass production, which depends on international sources, will be plagued with difficulties. The batteries are the primary issue, as they require materials such as rare earths that have to be imported. (8) Electric vehicles will also substantially impact supplies of copper, used in electric motors. (9)
Finally, there is the issue of cold weather. All vehicles are affected by climate; it’s a fact. However, while the gasoline car’s range is relatively unaffected by running the heater, you can’t say the same for an electric vehicle. Either a heat pump (to remove heat from the engine) or a resistance coil heater will be required in cold climates. Either will require a convection fan which further drains the battery. (10) Of course, getting stuck somewhere and having to use extra energy to get out of a snowbank is a terrifying prospect with such a vehicle.
To wrap up, electric vehicles stand as a monument to the failure of thinking and planning. They recharge too slowly, and would require greatly increased electric capacity. Building them, and then operating them in severe climates, is simply not feasible for most people.