by Will Wainwright
their Batteries & Motors and the
DRAIN on OUR SYSTEMS and RESOURCES
Toyoda Akio, CEO of Toyota, agrees with Elon Musk of Tesla when he said, “We dont have enough electricity to electrify all the cars”.
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, the same year California is banning the sale of Gas Engines in cars. This has got me to thinking, and prompted these questions.
1) Imagine at some point, half our cars are electric. The increased 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? And at the local level?
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 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 and a hell of a lot of time needed to charge.
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 will 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.
And Speaking of raw materials, what about those rare earth metals we need for the magnets in our motors? Not only those in cars but for the wind turbines needed for clean power generation. Guess where they come from - China. For these minerals to go from a hole in the ground to an electric motor, you need vast skills and expertise, which barely exist outside of China. Today China mines over 70% of the world’s rare earths, and is responsible for 90% of the complex process of turning them into magnets. Will new massive new mining operations spring up, needed for our domestic battery and magnet needs? By the way, it takes 100 tons of rare earths needed to make magnets for 6,000 Toyota Prius vehicles and Toyota sold almost 2 million electric and hybrid vehicles in 2019. Do I see a new world order formula in this?
4) 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.
5) On the grand scale, there is the National security issue, especially when we have autonomous cars. Have you thought about that? Say a Chinese hacker or even a recluse in a basement in Hoboken shuts off a regional grid or hacks into the navigation systems - GPS and otherwise. 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. These are issues not generally talked about in our approaching the “all electric society”, most of which are not encountered with the internal combustion engine.
6) Other unexpected events; The recent winter freeze and black out in Texas that froze wind turbines was an example. Better hope you have a gas generator 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 speak about the sewer lift stations).
China Hones Control Over Manganese, the New Rising Star in Battery Metals. China’s metal industries already dominate the global processing of most raw materials for rechargeable batteries, including cobalt and nickel. Three-quarters of the world’s lithium-ion batteries and half of its electric vehicles are made in China. Recently Chinese firms have joined a cartel-like group to tighten output in key products, spurring prices and rival projects world-wide.
See story by By The Chuin-Wei Yap - WSJ- WSJ 5/21/21
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 below.
You can see the problems. Think of it this way. In our utopian all electric society, anything that moves needs a magnet. And while there will be no drilling for oil and natural gas where will be a hell of a lot of holes in the ground for those rare earth elements and a lot of smelting plants extracting those precious elements we will depend on.
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.