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Electric vehicle realities

Electric vehicle realities

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I’ve just published two videos on electric vehicles after driving one for ten days, and doing a lot of research in the process. And I’ve found there’s a lot of misconceptions, with many people predisposed to take a negative view of EVs based on Old Mate Research.

Conversely, the pro-EV people will take any fact even slightly against EVs and try and argue it away whilst claiming if only we all drove EVs the world’s problems would be solved, and any problems with a move to EVs are trivial.

So now I’ve upset both sides of the argument, there’s a middle ground, and that’s what I’m trying to address in my videos below. Here’s some things I’ve learned, and most are explored in the two videos below:

  • Realistically, if you just do daytrips and around-town errands or commutes, you can do all your charging at home off your standard 240v. Many owners never use anything else.
  • If you do need to go further afield, DC fast chargers are becoming ever more plentiful. But, interstate trips in an EV are simply not as quick and easy as an ICE trip. EV enthusiasts would beg to differ, but they’d have plenty of time to think about it during their trips. The longer the trip, the more remote and the heavier the load, the greater the difference between EV and ICE. So a Tesla that stops once for a supercharger on a freeway isn’t really any slower than an ICE, but towing up the Birdsville track is a different story. And yes, I have towed with a Tesla, went very well…briefly. However, Rivian and Atlis among others plan to offer EVs that can tow long distances. Many of my readers/followers/viewers own 4X4s and drive long distances, as do I, so this is important to us.
  • Charging an EV at home for the long-term may well, and should for safety, involve installation of dedicated charging equipment (EVSE).
  • EVs are great as around-town cars!
  • But they’re still not cost effective compared to ICE cars. The price difference is too high, and the lower run costs don’t make up the difference unless you go crazy with pro-EV assumptions such as hugely better resale for EVs than ICE. But, it’s getting closer and closer.
  • It doesn’t matter how ‘dirty’ the electricity is, the modern EV is still better for the environment. In short, petrol/diesel requires a lot of effort to extract, then transport, refine, transport again and ICE cars don’t convert much of energy in a given quantity of fuel to propulsion – an EV converts around 85% of its energy to propulsion, an ICE only around 25%, and a lot of that is lost in heat, and most of the rest in friction due to all the moving parts. An EV also recovers energy through re-gen when slowing which greatly helps its energy efficiency. So, even in coal-fired China EVs come out ahead. I might do more on this later.
  • Tech changes…you can’t compare a first-gen Nissan Leaf of 2010 (117km range) with a 2021 Hyundai Kona EV (484km range) any more than it’s fair to compare a 60 Series with a 300 Series. But wait…the time between the two is different! Yes, that’s because EVs are changing more rapidly than ICE, so we’re at the point where every new release is a big improvement on the previous.
  • Batteries are getting better; Tesla and others are looking at lifetime batteries, no replacement, and ‘lifetime’ means up to 1.6m km. And then, recycling. This is one area the EVs haven’t been great, but that’s improving quickly too. There is also tech like battery management systems which ensure the battery is operating in the right temperature zone and that prolongs it life. The Kona battery (see videos below) is warranted for 8 years.
  • We won’t “brown out” the grid if “everyone suddenly switches to an EV”. Firstly, EV adoption won’t happen overnight, secondly it’s easy to charge EVs, well, overnight, when it’s off-peak and there’s surplus capacity. And, Australia’s total electricity consumption is reducing over the last few years.
  • Half of the world’s lithium is mined in Australia, not overseas. Historically, the process hasn’t been very environmentally friendly but that’s changing. If you were wondering about slave/child labour, that’s cobalt in Africa…and things are changing there too.
  • Copper production is critical to EVs as copper is one of the best conductors – an EV uses more than double the copper of an ICE, according to Reuters, or three times according to other sources. EV charging infrastructure also relies on copper, so there’s got to be enough supply to meet demand. I’m not clear on whether that’s possible or not.
  • Many people say EVs are complex. No, they’re not…they’re simpler and have fewer computers than any ICE vehicle. Much less to go wrong. Modern cars generally are complex, not specifically EVs.
  • Australia has a lot of off-street parking which is ideal for charging EVs as the cable doesn’t get in the way of the public, as compared to European city or even suburb dwellers. However, for inner-city residents at-home charging is a challenge. I would find it a major pain to own an EV if I couldn’t charge it at home whilst I slept.
  • EV enthusiasts claim EVs are fun to drive. I’ve been thinking about this and there will be a video on the subject shortly. Won’t say what I think now 🙂
  • “But transport is only 24% of the world emissions, and cars are only 13%” or similar. Sure, it’s wrong to claim that if we switched to EVs overnight the world’s problems would be solved, far from it, despite what the EVangelists claim. But every little bit helps, and cars tend to pollute where humans live, with consequent effects on health. So the effect of reducing car emissions is, from a health perspective, greater than the percentage of emissions would suggest.
  • What about hyrodgen? That’s got a lot of advantages relative to electric, namely lower weight, greater range and quicker refuelling so is arguably the future. But, chicken-and-egg…there’s no hydrogen infrastructure, so few cars. I think that we’ll start to see hydrogen used in trucks which work from a night base, and that’ll expand to interstate trucks, and then beyond to cars.
  • Did you know? Around 1% of the new cars sold in Australia are electric, but in Norway it’s more like 75%.

And think about this. We’re switching from petrol chainsaws and mowers to electric, and from cord power tools to cordless. All that is driven off improved battery technology, and cars are no different.

Here’s a look at EV vs ICE using the Kona as an example, complete with cost comparison:

And this one takes a look at EV charging.

Robert Pepper Automotive journalist specialising in 4X4s, sportscars, camping and future tech.

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