Letter: Electric cars drive future of transportation

Graphic by Lori Deaton

There are those who make it happen, those who let it happen and those who say, “What happened?” Who do you want to be?

The future of transportation is being driven by a silent group of electric-car enthusiasts who will be displaying the latest and greatest in electric vehicles on Sunday, Sept. 9, at the Asheville Outlets. This is Asheville’s fifth annual Drive Electric Show! It will start at noon and run until 4 p.m. Come out to the show and be part of the future. For more information see: [avl.mx/59g].

— Rudy Beharrysingh
Asheville

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7 thoughts on “Letter: Electric cars drive future of transportation

  1. jason

    Electric cars will not be an option for people who live in apartments or other homes where charging stations are not an option. Plus, the environmental impact associated with electrical cars is often times many times more than traditional vehicles. The environmental impact from all the heavy metals and human rights violations to obtain these resources is never accounted for…not to mention the expense when they are no longer usable as far as landfills and water quality are involved.

  2. C-Law

    Elon Musk needs to go to prison.

    All of his fanbois in the stock market are going to lose their shirts.

    Let’s face reality here — the vehicles have no future without massive government subsidies. Nor does the company. Both are ending. Ontario just cut Tesla off for subsidies for electric cars, and they’re phasing out in the United States due to the volume of sales. EV credits are what have sustained Tesla, to a large degree, and those are simply disappearing on both the consumer end and the manufacturer side.

    The real scam isn’t there however. There’s always a market for a luxury product where people will pay multiples of the utility value simply to say they have one. That’s the “cachet” of things like Cartier jewelry or various handbags that sell for insane amounts of money despite being made with material sourced through slave labor in Bangladesh and similar. The problem is that said handbag or jewelry is not sold by a company that claims everyone will have — and be able to afford — one soon, as Tesla both has and does as it’s utterly necessary for the firm — and it’s “story” — to survive.

    Oh and of course nobody ever talks about that slave labor, do they?

    Speaking of which, a mined ton of lithium (base material) costs about $4,000 — and that’s in a turd-world nation with no environmental controls. Brazil, Purtugal, Zimbabwe, Argentina and China are all primary sources. Contrary to popular belief Lithium is not a particularly-rare element but it is always present in extremely low concentrations, so you have to dig up a lot of dirt (or suck up a lot of brine), and do a lot of environmental damage, to get to it. Further, because it is an extremely active metal (Group 1 on the periodic table) reducing it from its natural forms (it is never “neat” in nature due to its reactivity) is a somewhat-intensive process (depending on the original source; brines are easier than mined ores, but slower) and can involve a fair amount of toxic chemistry (e.g. sulfuric acid) as well. All of this produces quite a lot of waste product and ecological damage — which of course is best hidden in some third-world nation and ignored in the claim of being “cleaner” than a conventional vehicle.

    Worse, there is no recycling capability for used cells at the present time that is cost-effective and produces sufficiently-pure metal for a second use in a battery, so lithium mined for batteries is “once used and literally thrown away.” This is distinct from lead-acid batteries (e.g. the starting battery in a traditional car) which are nearly-infinitely recyclable at low cost.

    But the cost of the lithium isn’t the big deal with battery technology, nor is the need for cobalt (and nickel, to a lesser degree.) It’s the mining techniques and thus the cost structure, which are intentionally placed in third-world nations so as to evade environmental and labor constraints. For example about half of all world Cobalt supply (essential in said batteries) comes from the DRC (the Congo) where child labor exploitation is rampant — at about a dollar a day of pay. The only good news with regard to cobalt is that unlike lithium it is recyclable, provided there’s a requirement to do so. Is there today? No. Will there be as long as you pay a kid $1/day to mine it in the Congo instead? Well….. No.

    The more-serious issue is one of EREOI and where you’re going to get all that power for the cars in question. As a niche, rich-man toy product nobody cares because penetration is minuscule. Mandate that everyone use them (as Musk likes to think he can pressure his sycophants into screaming loud enough to accomplish) and things change.

    Let’s assume for a minute we are going to charge 50kWh into an EV battery pack. This is not an unreasonable expectation; the “long range” pack for the “3” is 75kWh, for example, and there are losses. We shall assume that the pack is about 50% discharged (you cannot fully discharge a lithium pack or you will destroy it) and further we’ll assume two conversions in the charging — first out of the household energy supply (grid) @ 80% through the car’s charging circuitry and then again through the chemical storage of energy in the battery itself (80% efficient as well.)

    Losses are multiplicative, so we only get 64% of the power that comes out of the wall into the battery; as such we need to source 50 / 0.64 or ~78kWh out of the wall to store 50kWh of usable energy in the pack.

    We shall assume you have 240V in your house (most do); if you wish to draw 78kWh you thus would need to draw 325 Amps @ 240 V to charge that battery in an hour. That’s ridiculously unrealistic because you only have 200A service, but then again you don’t need to charge the car in an hour — you have all night. So we’ll be “more reasonable”, charge it in 8 hours, and pull 40 Amps @ 240V, or just under 10kW per hour for eight hours.

    Now let’s think about this a bit more.

    What happens if you all start charging EVs in your home every night?

    The grid collapses.

    Your A/C unit, which is the primary drain, typically pulls about half as much current as that charger — and it doesn’t run all the time, even during the hottest summer days. Nor will you stop wanting A/C during the evening while your car charges. This, of course, assumes you have a fairly large house, which many people do not — many rely on window units and similar, which pull even less power.

    To put some perspective on this that 50kWh is right around 1-1/2 gallons of gasoline. Now this isn’t a completely fair comparison for a second reason — the EV is perhaps 80% efficient while discharging, while the car is about 30% efficient on a good day while burning the fuel. So we have to re-rate there, but even so — we wind up with about 3-4 gallons of gas in said car for that same 50kWh battery charge.

    In other words the amount of energy consumed by moving the Tesla, an amount of energy sufficient to collapse the electrical grid should you and all your neighbors demand to charge their cars at night every night fits handily inside a 5 gallon lawn mower gas can with room to spare!

    What’s worse is that it would cost trillions of dollars to retrofit the grid sufficiently to allow you to all have those EV cars. Who’s going to pay those trillions of dollars, and why isn’t that reflected in the alleged cost of the car? For some perspective on this let’s assume 250 million cars in the US (roughly right and a nice round number) and $5 trillion (probably about right) to build the grid capacity.

    That’s ~$20,000 a car in imputed cost that the screamers are demanding someone else pay, and it has to be paid or nobody will be charging anything as the power grid will be unable to handle the load. Suddenly that somewhat-cheaper charge .vs. gasoline doesn’t seem so cheap, does it?

    Uhhhhhh…….

    Second, let’s assume that gets funded. Now you have to fuel that grid into the future.

    With what, may I ask?

    Let me remind you that solar cells are extraordinarily polluting in their production; you need highly toxic chemicals to make them, plus a lot of energy and when you’re done you have a big fat mess to dispose of. The “solution” to this historically is to make them in a turd-world nation and dump the crap on the ground or water, such as in China. That’s outrageously fraudulent in terms of avoided cost and not accounting for it is part of the fraud of the so-called “solar revolution.”

    Second, solar, for obvious reasons, does you no good as an energy source when you want to charge the car at night while you’re sleeping.

    So where are you going to get the power from? Coal? I thought you just got done telling me that EVs were the “future”, “green”, and didn’t produce CO2? In other words part of the “renewable” mantra is that we’re not going to burn any more coal….

    Here’s the ugly truth — on a total cost to the ecological system basis EVs, along with the infrastructure to support them, don’t make any sense at all.

    Now let’s drill down further into the intentional misrepresentation that the EV proponents always put forward.

    Everyone pumping EVs (like ****face Musk and his army of idiots in “society”) assumes that the basic model for hydrocarbon-fueled cars is to drill for oil, refine said oil, burn said oil.

    Why?

    Because that’s what fraudsters do — they push their “new tech” narrative for their model but the old and allegedly “cannot be changed” way must be used for the comparison, lest their claims go up in a puff of 420 style smoke!

    That’s a damnable lie for which they deserve to drown in a vat of crude oil — with some turds in it for good measure.

    There are alternatives that are absolutely carbon-neutral, by the way. They’re not cost-effective today but might be tomorrow. One such method doesn’t talk about a zero carbon replacement, but rather substituting coal used for electricity into the transportation fuel space and using the naturally-occurring fertile material that we currently throw away in said coal as the energy source to replace the electricity generation function. That option returns not only all the electricity we use today but somewhere between six and eight times more that we can use for other things, plus it replaces all of the oil we currently pump out of the ground. We could, quite-realistically, given the energy balance of going down this road, also replace all the natural gas we consume (there’s even more CO2 reduction), and still have plenty left over. It’s not risk-free but there is no energy source that is; you pick based on cost:benefit.

    The process can be 100% carbon-neutral. How? Fischer-Tropsch doesn’t care where the carbon comes from to synthesize the fuel. You can condense it out of the atmosphere in the form of CO2 if it ever makes economic sense to do so, which of course is a 100% carbon-cycle neutral act. Condense it out, turn it into liquid hydrocarbons, burn it, now it’s back in.

    That makes no economic sense today, but then again neither do EVs. Tomorrow, given resource depletion and an abundance of electrical energy to do the condensing with, it might.

    Then there’s the fact that it’s a lot less energy-intensive to make a “traditional” car than it is to make an EV and this gets even more-dramatic when one considers the end-of-life expenditures associated with scrapping them, which everyone ignores today. The traditional car is mostly steel, aluminum, glass and plastic, all of which are trivially recyclable into material equally good with “first run” use. No EV vehicle is as the lithium cannot be economically recovered at all and even if you don’t care about the economics it is of insufficient purity to use in a battery a second time. You can recover the cobalt, as I noted above, but as long as DRC has child labor at $1 a day to mine more nobody will. As things stand right now the entire battery pack is a “once through and throw away” item — the exact opposite of the so-called “green mantra” the EV pumpers like to claim.

    When EVs are a rich boy’s playtoy and few in number nobody gives a crap. If non-recyclable battery packs start piling up in scrapyards, on the other hand….

    The “traditional” car can travel over 400 miles on a fill and be “recharged” in under 5 minutes. There is no EV technology now known to man nor any reasonable expectation of one under development that will allow either that range or charge rate to be achieved at any time in the foreseeable future. And before you tell me “nobody” needs that sort of range please note that I’ve made four 1,000 mile straight-through drives in the last month and this week will complete two more plus a ~400 mile one in the middle which is also beyond the range of any EV on the market. **** you very little on that claim as there is no EV on the market nor any on the horizon that is capable of such a trip. Period.

    EV cell chemistry limits the safe charge rate (beyond which you are risking a fire) and pushing toward that limit or trying to evade it with active cooling is abusive to cell chemistry and severely shortens cell life. Tesla, in fact, will blackball your car from their Superchargers if you try to use them as the “primary” means of charging because those chargers are well into the abusive range in terms of impact on cell life and they don’t want the warranty expense.

    Then there’s the nasty grid problem discussed above – the EV, at scale in the general economy, is unsupportable without over $20,000 per car being expended in grid infrastructure improvement which all the screamers expect someone else to pay. The equivalent expense for the traditional vehicle is zero since it already exists.

    EVs all require high voltage systems to operate the drive motors for reasons of wire size and efficiency. In short you need watts to turn the wheel and watts = volts * amps. The more volts, the fewer amps. Wire size required is determined by amps, so as long as you can get switching electronics in a given voltage rating more is better.

    But batteries only produce a few volts — characteristically, 3.8v each for a lithium cell.

    As a result all existing EV systems use “multi-chain, small cell” very-long-strings of cells (typically close to 100 cells in a string) because one cell in a series-wired chain that fails renders that entire chain of cells unable to deliver any energy and if not disconnected the defective cell will be reverse-charged and short, catching on fire when recharging is attempted. It’s unacceptable to have a 1% cell failure rate junk a $20,000 pack. As a result the pack’s circuitry has to be able to isolate a failed string so one failed cell doesn’t disable your vehicle entirely (and result in either a $20,000 bill to you or a nasty warranty problem for the maker. ) This in turn greatly increases the cost and difficulty of construction of the pack as a whole; the Model 3, for example, is comprised of 2,976 cells in the “standard” (50kWh) configuration all of which have connections that can fail, or which can fail individually.

    BTW the claim of some “revolution” in the 3s battery pack by Musk and his sycophants is nonsense. It simply uses fewer, larger cells than the “S” and “X” — but the energy density per unit of volume is roughly comparable. They also are derating them (materially so) in an attempt to boost the cycle life; we shall see how well that works out in the real world after a few years.

    The result of all of this is that the EV has a long-cycle maintenance cost that is extreme in the form of the battery pack; the replacement pack cost in a Tesla of the cells alone, exclusive of the electronics, is roughly $20,000! Lithium chemistry batteries have a design cycle life of 500 cycles, after which they are expected to be down about 20% from their original capacity. A traditional engine in a modern vehicle will almost always go to 250,000 miles without a major malfunction or wearing out, can frequently be rebuilt when it does fail for half its replacement cost or less, and you can buy four traditional engines brand new in crates for the price of one EV battery.

    May I point out that with a ~300 mile range per “cycle” 500 cycles is 150,000 miles? You can do math, right? I have 142,000 miles on my 2015 Mazda 6 right now. In other words were that car a Tesla I would be staring down a $20,000 bill, or approximately what I paid for the entire ****ing vehicle in the form of the Mazda 6, right about now. For those who consider a car a toy this doesn’t matter. I consider a car a tool and certainly do not expect to receive a $20,000 bill every 150,000 miles or thereabouts as a consequence of owning one! Never mind the fact that Tesla’s “warranty” on that pack is ridiculously abusive to the customer; the industry-accepted point at which a Lithium-chemistry cell is considered dead is at 80% of original nameplate capacity. Tesla sets the capacity loss that is considered acceptable within the first 100,000 (or 120,000 for the extended-range pack) at 70% of their pack “stated” capacity which is obscene since at that point, given the derating they are doing in the first place (about 20% of “nameplate” on the cells) roughly half the actual capacity of the pack is gone and the cells in it are more than double the capacity loss beyond the point at which industry standards say they should have been junked.

    Oh by the way, have you ever noodled out why the Tesla battery packs are reasonably easy (or trivially easy, in the case of the “S”) to change out? Changing a traditional vehicle engine can be made easy, but isn’t — because said engine is expected to last for the entire service life of the vehicle with reasonable maintenance. An EV pack that can be dropped in a few minutes with only a handful of bolts (as in the case of the “3”) is easy to change because it is expected to fail during the service life of the car. Guess who’s going to get the $20,000 bill when it does? YOU ARE.

    The EV also comes with a near absolute lockdown on maintenance and service by the manufacturer. Traditional-engine vehicles have tried to move more in this direction but large portions of the vehicle, despite this, can still be serviced by third parties (including the owner.) Many modern vehicles can be serviced almost in their entirety by the owner and both service manuals and parts are available both from the dealer and third-party sources. This is not true for EVs on the market today and in fact Tesla has full-time encrypted data links back to their systems that can detect and remote-disable a vehicle that other than an “authorized” party performs work on. This is an outrageous practice as you effectively never actually own a Tesla car; your “purchase” is in fact a lease with an obligation to have them perform whatever work it may need at whatever price they may choose to charge in the future, whenever they get around to performing the service for you. Oh by the way, that reported price is around $400/hour. You are rich if you buy one, right?

    Now let’s talk about the so-called “Model 3 production breakthrough.” Business Insider says this:

    Of the 5,000 Model 3s that contributed to Tesla’s end-of-June manufacturing target, about 4,300 required rework, according to internal documents viewed by Business Insider.

    They didn’t make 5,000 cars.

    They made 700 cars.

    The other 4,300 were unmarketable in the condition they were in at the end of the month.

    More to the point — if you got one of the 4,300 what are the odds that you’re going to be happy with it?

    Let me tell you a little secret — anything reworked is usually not of the same quality as something that is done right the first time. Yet you’ll never know because whether your vehicle was “reworked” before delivery is never disclosed to you. The automotive world has a nasty little ditty about this that you don’t want a car built on Monday or Friday — on Monday half the guys on the line are hung over, and on Friday they don’t care. If you’ve seen any of the expose’ pieces out of Detroit’s media you can add to that you don’t want a car built after the noon lunch break because a fair number of the UAW workers go out and smoke a joint and drink a sixpack for lunch!

    This even extends to the dealership and shipping. There’s a “standard clause” in every new car sale agreement I’ve seen in my years as an adult that says the vehicle may have been worked on or repaired in the time between manufacture and sale and that this does not change the “new” status of the vehicle! I always cross that out and force the dealer to sign the change. If they balk I walk out. If the vehicle was damaged in transport, on their lot, while in their possession or a defect was detected and fixed before delivery I demand to be told about it, in detail, and to inspect specifically what happened and what they did about it. If they won’t agree to that I won’t buy the car.

    That’s not a perfect defense, by the way….. keep reading.

    GM had an infamous issue with certain 5.3L V8 engines as a result of this crap in the early 2000s; they fit them with pistons that were too loose in the bore (because the guy doing the bin selection was stoned, didn’t give a ****, or the specs were wrong — nobody ever really figured out which) and as a result if you got one of those engines it frequently self-destructed within 50,000 miles! Oh, that was usually just beyond the warranty too before it got bad enough to make the vehicle “obviously defective” although if you caught it and raised hell loudly enough (which really wasn’t all that hard if you were paying attention) you can could force GM to give you another engine in a crate, and install it, before the warranty ran out.

    I have one of the vehicles that was subject to this risk. Fortunately I got an engine assembled by guys who weren’t stoned and don’t have the problem. How would you like to have a $50,000+ Model 3 built to this sort of quality, where all but 700 during that week didn’t pass QC inspection at the end of the assembly line?

    Me neither, despite Tesla’s claim that “most” of these defects were “minor” and “easily corrected.”

    To the point of profitability, however, a vehicle that has to be reworked before it can be sold incurs additional labor (and perhaps parts) cost — which is a serious bang to that unit’s profitability.

    Go ahead folks, tell me why you want one of these soy-boy cars when you’re odds-on with June production that the one you get was not built properly and “to spec” the first time.

    I’m all good with people making rich boy toys and if you can be profitable doing that then it’s fine.

    But that’s all they are and since that’s all they are there is no path to profitability for this company as the entire premise of the firm ever being able to turn a profit on a sustainable basis requires that it be able to mass-produce vehicles for ordinary people with a price around $30,000 — not double or more that amount, and further the imputed grid upgrade cost is part of the price of such “mass adoption” that will preclude it from ever happening.

    Without the ability to become a profitable manufacturer at a price those who are not rich can afford to pay including all the imputed costs Tesla is trying to force down everyone else’s throat the negative cash flow will never cease, the debt will continue to pile up and insolvency will be the outcome. It is simply a function of how long the rope is around Musk’s neck; he’s already jumped off the cliff and although falling he seems to think it’s all fine and well — and it is, right up until that rope comes taut.

    Tesla is going to ZERO.

    • Lulz

      EV’s are only usable locally. The technology hasn’t gotten to the point someone can recharge their car in 5 minutes. And you’re right about the batteries and the impact to the environment along with the labor needed to mine them. Paying 3rd world, and in China’s case a real threat to world stability, to acquire the materials used in the batteries comes at a huge price. That many are either in denial about or simply lacking the will to learn about.

    • Jay Reese

      Wow! Thanks for that informative read. I’m looking forward to the responses.

  3. Jay Reese

    It’s still a car clogging up our streets while an electric bus would transport 25 passengers and take up a lot less space.

    • Lulz

      LOL and yet no one like say a Bothwell will lower themselves down to ride the buses currently in use. Why is that? Why doesn’t say Brownie solar panel Newman ride one? Can it be because for all their huffing and puffing that they’re nothing more than frauds and fakes?

      The only think clogging the streets around here is tourists. Yet you expect working people to ride the bus. You honestly think that people are going to add 2 hours to their already long workdays just to get back and forth? Do you? Of course not because then you’d realize how absurd your statements come across as.

      Problem with flakes and fools is they’ve never experienced anything they claim to have expertise in. But somehow manage to convince themselves they are. All one needs to do is look at the local government to see it firsthand what a bunch of pretentious autocrats can do. Or actually can’t.

  4. Keith Thomson

    On-line lobbyists for oil companies sure are long winded.

    Those of us in the coalition of the willing are taking advantage of the lower costs– fuel and maintenance– of ownership of electric vehicles, without having to argue with these ideologues.

    A Chevy Volt, with range extender gas engine, is very practical, and a wide variety of new models from different makers are coming on the market this next year.

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