HomeEnvironment & Climate NewsThe Case for Electric Vehicles Is Losing Its Charge

The Case for Electric Vehicles Is Losing Its Charge

By Kenneth Green

I’m not a climate skeptic. As an environmental scientist/engineer by training, I think climate change is real. But it’s like every other environmental issue: a more-or-less routine engineering challenge, rather than a world-altering disaster justifying the fever-dreams of the radical greens.

Electric Vehicle Skeptic

I am, however, an electric vehicle skeptic. Or, more broadly, I’m skeptical that electric vehicles, adopted either voluntarily or via government mandates (increasingly the norm), will do much of anything to address the risk of climate change or to significantly reduce any other environmental problem that one might point out.

I’m solidly convinced that shifting away from the internal combustion of hydrocarbons to battery-stored electricity (generated from pretty much any source) will likely make environmental problems worse, not better.

Along the way, the push to force EVs onto the public will come with a bunch of social injustices that will only compound the environmental challenges society faces.

Emissions Increase

A blog post by natural resource investment firm Goehring & Rozencwajg Associates breaks the story down (from some proprietary research not available to your humble correspondent).

Without getting into the weeds, the question they answer is simple: In a head-to-head comparison, are electric cars likely to produce fewer greenhouse gases per kilometre travelled than a comparable hydrocarbon-powered vehicle?

The short answer is: No.

Why not?

As my doctor explains when I ask why my feet don’t work as well as other people’s feet: “It’s about the mass, dude. The mass around your waist, and the extra work your feet have to do to move it around with you.”

With electric cars, the problem is also about the mass: it’s about the added mass of greenhouse-gas-intensive steel and battery components that electric cars need, versus the mass of greenhouse-gas-intensive materials that regular internal combustion-powered cars need to do the same thing.

G&R observes that electric vehicle power systems are “50 per cent heavier than a similar internal combustion engine, requiring more steel and aluminum in the frame.” That means that more greenhouse gases are used to make that EV than your comparable Honda Civic – up to 20 to 50 per cent more than an internal combustion engine.

Battery Issues

The batteries in electric cars lose efficiency pretty much from the minute they’re manufactured, as all batteries do.

G&R points out that an extended-range Tesla Model 3 “has an 82 kWh battery and consumes approximately 29 kWh per 100 miles. Assuming each charge cycle has an approximately 95 per cent round-trip efficiency and a battery can achieve 500 cycles before starting to degrade, we conclude a Model 3 can drive 134,310 miles before dramatically losing range.”

And that’s a problem because it isn’t until the Tesla has hit that distance that it has “worked off” the extra greenhouse gas debt used to build it in the first place.

Based on real-world performance data developed in real-world application in recent years, with the best our technology has to offer, even if every passenger car were switched to an EV tomorrow, there would be no reduction in CO2 output.

Government Mandate Lacks Justification

What remains behind is not the technical question. It’s the big-picture, net-benefit question of whether forcing the replacement of internal combustion cars with electric cars really matters.

And given that it’s taking the massive application of government coercion and subsidization to make that change happen, I would conclude that the answer to that big-picture question is a resounding: No.

The verdict is in: switching to electric vehicles won’t avert climate change, which is really the only legitimate rationale that governments would have to offer for trying to force them into the transportation sector in the first place.

Regular old internal combustion engine technology has already abated the conventional air pollution problems of the past, so that excuse is dead.

It’s time to get government fingers off the steering wheels of our automotive sector and let people choose the transportation pathway they feel is best for their lives, not for the lives of would-be green crusaders living in electric dreams.

The raison d’être of vehicle electrification has lost its charge.

Kenneth Green is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

This article was originally published by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and is reprinted with the permission of its author.

Kenneth Green
Kenneth Green is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Unlike you, apparently, I’m not a radical environmentalist because I completely disavow any world-changing issues because of AGW. So I’m opposed to all the wacky proposals the “greenies” come up with to save the planet. I know, you believe you’re not “radical”. Of course no radical environmentalist believes they’re radical. But it’s like being pregnant, you either are or you’re not. You can’t just be “a little bit” of either.

    That being said, let me say that I’m also very much for EVs, as opposed to internal combustion engines. And I am for many reasons, none of which have anything to do with AGW. Yes, they’re in their infant stages of development, so we’re seeing a lot of drawbacks and negatives today. But all that will improve.

    But, unfortunately, what radical environmentalists like you won’t even mention is nuclear energy. The only possible reason you can oppose it (otherwise you would have mentioned it) is because of your “environmental concerns”. So the way I see it is that not only is nuclear energy possible, it would be extremely likely if the wackos would just get out of the way. And if it did one day come about, we would have a nation/world that runs almost exclusively on nuclear energy—including EVs.

    Of course, as long as the radical environmentalists and the oil industry stand in the way of nuclear energy development, we’ll continue with the internal combustion engine ad infinitum.

  2. Every time just one large cargo ship makes its way across the ocean to deliver anything, much less batteries or precious metals, from strip mines to make them, it spews out more carbon emissions than about 50 million cars in one year. Reducing or stopping imports from overseas would do far more to reduce the carbon emission problem than just about any other alternative vehicle power supply. This is an area that needs serious changes to make a big impact.

  3. You didn’t even touch on the pollution that will occur making the vast amounts of electricity it would take to charge millions of electric cars. Electricity is the most expensive energy you can buy. Try heating your house on it.

  4. Include a study of the greenhouse gases released from ICE engines vs. EV’s caught in a traffic jam to turn the equation around. Also , the maintenance factor of ICE are far higher than EV costs. This maintenance has a C0-2 factor to be included in the phony comparison you’ve made. Why not also consider the C0-2 equivalents which occur to extract , refine and distribute oil products ?

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