by Will Wainwright

ELECTRIC CARS and the DRAIN on OUR SYSTEMS


Many companies are doing more than just talking about electric cars. VW has committed to going all electric, and just recently so has GM by 2035. So have many others. This has got me to thinking, and prompted these questions.


1) Imagine at some point, half our cars are electric. The drain on our power grid will be tremendous and in no way will solar or wind energy make up the difference, plus wherever the extra power comes from, it still has to travel over the same grid. So where will that extra power come from and will the grid handle it? 


2) What about the batteries - Billions of them will be needed. Yes, that is Billions. 


In an electric car, the “battery” is actually made up of hundreds or thousands of smaller batteries, usually the cylindrical type that look like oversized AA cells. The Tesla for example uses a 85 kWh battery pack weighs 1,200 lb and contains 7,104 lithium-ion battery cells with optional higher capacity battery packs available. Multiply those numbers for just the half of the 280+ million vehicles on the road. That’s a hell of a lot of batteries!


3) Where will all the batteries come from? Will we be able to fill our domestic needs?  And the minerals needed to make them? And what will happen to all those used batteries? Will the chemicals used in them become the evil fossil fuels of the future. Will depleted batteries be buried or will there be recycling plants set up? How efficient and what percentage of the chemicals be recycled? And most importantly, Can the U.S. be free of dependency on others for our battery raw materials, like the element of choice which is at the moment Lithium, the bulk of which is imported from Chile.


On the subject of environment. Carrying this out to where the combustion engine’s negative impact is nil, will the U.S. still depend on others for our battery chemicals as we do China for rare earth elements?  Will new massive mining operations be needed for our domestic battery needs? I see a new world order in this formula, if this ever comes to fruition.


3) What will replace the road use tax in Gasoline? You know the answer to that.  You’ll be assessed a milage tax using some as of yet arbitrary formula accounting for of course, distance and allowing for type of travel - recreation, commercial, long haul etc etc.


4) On the grand scale there is our National security - have you thought about that? Say a Chinese hacker or even a recluse in a basement in Brooklyn shuts off a regional grid. Add to the list of awful, unimaginable things that would happen during a blackout. You better hope you car has enough charge to escape your area, an issue not generally encountered by the internal combustion engine.


5) The recent winter black out in Texas was an example.  There’d be no way to charge your car. Surprise 1; nobody expected the windmills to freeze up. And I for one, never new that Texas of all states, depended so much on unreliable green energy. Surprise 2; the impacted cities that lost their electricity  also lost their water too! (They didn’t talk about the sewer lift stations). The point being, we need better energy management. We also need new areas of reliable and dependable generation and distribution.  See my story on our eventual loss of power and how easily this could come about.


In summery, as you can see there are lots of questions to be answered. Remember also the electric car is just one more thing we add to our dependance on those volts, amps and watts. Electricity is now no less important to our lives as the air we breathe, which wasn’t the case that long ago. Think about this, Abraham Lincoln, Ben Franklin, Robert Fulton , Cornelius Vanderbilt and your great grandparents all lived and achieved greatness without electricity. We’ll be lucky to make it through a week -  but that is another story.


In the meantime you might want to buy a truck like this, It could come in handy one day.


Ford Hybrid pickup - best of both worlds when power is down. Here Texas gentleman shows powering selected appliances in his house.