Today, a few cautionary words about the proposed shift to electric vehicles (EVs). Let’s not kid ourselves: without massive government (taxpayer) intervention and market manipulation, EVs will never become mainstream.

Source: Wood Mackenzie

As for the auto industry charged with providing EVs on a mass scale, well, in its nearly 130-year history, it has never attempted anything quite like this.

So says David Haugen, who as director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Fuel and Vehicles Emissions Laboratory, is a key player setting rules central to the U.S. Government’s efforts to kill the internal combustion engine (ICE) in favor of EVs.

I want the car business and governments to be successful here, but the odds are against them.

For starters, I enjoy driving EVs for many reasons, not least of which is they are fast, responsive, clean and quiet. More importantly, if batteries replace the internal combustion engine, tailpipe emissions will head to the dumpster.

Good. The International Energy Agency warns that sales of gasoline-powered cars must end by 2035 to keep average global temperatures from increasing 1.5 degrees compared with preindustrial levels.

Source: NYT

Thus, the goal of new EPA greenhouse gas emissions standards is to juice sales of EVs and crater the sale of gasoline-powered cars by 2035. To successfully manipulate the marketplace, the EPA must set an EV standard that is technically achievable and economically viable for carmakers.

But even if the EPA tiptoes a tightrope to the regulatory sweet spot, The Times and others point to other challenges facing EVs:

  • EVs are too expensive for most consumers;
  • Snarled global supply chains create production bottlenecks;
  • Sourcing the raw materials  required for EVs, from battery materials to wire harnesses, will remain a challenge for years to come;
  • EVs require an effective network of easy-to-use charging stations;
  • Behind those charging stations, other questions remain about the energy grid from power generation at the source, to the delivery of clean electricity at the pump.

Haugen tells The Times that any one of the above barriers to EV adoption has the potential to drive the entire EV transition into the ditch.

Source: Jalopnik

One bit of good news, however: I believe technological hurdles in vehicles themselves can be overcome. Having tested many EVs, it’s clear to me that the auto industry is capable of producing useful, reliable, very driveable EVs.

Alas, the EVs for sale now are beyond the budget of middle-class buyers. The auto industry needs to reduce the cost of an average EV by somewhere between 30%-50% to be competitive with an average gas-powered car.

We also need to unsnarl global supply chains and juice the production of the raw materials required to build EVs. So, we need more copper, lithium and nickel mines, right?

Not so fast.

As the Massachusetts Institute of Technology notes, “Opening a new mine is an expensive, time-intensive process.” The University of Arizona reports that it can take up to 12 years to bring a new mine into production, at a cost of $1 billion or more.

Source: University of Arizona

I challenge you to find two politicians willing to stare down environmental zealots by championing new mines. And where will the money come from? Mining is a risky business, subject to technical challenges, jumpy commodity prices and geopolitical whims.

As for the charging network, we are years away from an effective, affordable, convenient one — here in Canada, or anywhere else.

The nagging grid problem also includes antiquated equipment, duelling governance structures, over-loaded transmission lines and a chronic lack of investment.

There’s more. We haven’t even begun to address the sources of power running through the grid, though we know that a lot of it is “dirty” energy. While 60% of the power in Canada comes from clean-ish hydro sources, in the U.S., petroleum, natural gas and coal provided 79% of energy consumed in 2021.

So, will we make the shift to all-EV sales by 2035? Unlikely, not impossible.

Source: North Shore News

But if I were to buy a new car today, I’d skip past the e-trons and get a gasoline-electric hybrid. Why hybrids?

Consumer Reports argues that hybrids “emit fewer greenhouse gases and cost less to run than gas-only autos. They also recharge as they drive, so there’s no need to plug in, and there’s none of the range anxiety that can come with EVs.” And the gas/diesel fueling infrastructure will be here for decades, to support the 1.5 billion gas/diesel cars on the road now.

Among the many hybrids for sale today, Toyota is touting a sexy new 2023 Prius. I am looking forward to driving it. As Road & Track recently noted, “the best EV might not be an EV.”


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