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What If 10% of Vehicles Become Electric?

Updated on October 24, 2017
jackclee lm profile image

Jack is currently a volunteer at the Westchester County Archives. Jack has worked at IBM for over 28 years.

Introduction

Electric vehicles are becoming more popular. Elon Musk and Tesla has proven it is a viable alternative to gas powered or hybrid vehicles. However, viability in the long term is not clear as yet. There are many hurdles to cross. Let me do some basic math and see.

- Oct. 2017

Background

There are currently 250 million cars in the US. If just 10 percent are converted over to electric cars, that is 25 million. What are the challenges?

  • auto manufactures must convert to making them, how many can be built per year? At what cost? And without subsidies. Can they be competitive with conventional vehicles?
  • gas stations must accommodate electric cars, typical recharge of a vehicle takes approx. 30 minutes as compared to 5 minutes to gas up. Imagine how many more recharging stations would be needed and distributed across the country. There are currently 115000 gas stations in the US. That is a ratio of 2100 cars per station.
  • Electric power requirements will be increased many fold as more cars switch from gasoline to electric. The utilities company would need to increase their capacity to generate power. Currently, most of these power plants are using natural gas and coal to produce electric power. Renewable power source such as solar and wind has not generated enough power to carry the load.
  • the cost factor needs to be addressed. An electric car compared to a gasoline car costs the consumer 3-5 thousand dollars more even with some government subsidies and rebates. This is no small change.
  • batteries and rare elements are a major component of electric vehicles. The natural resources will be eroded when more of these elements and lead are required to build these vehicles.

Macro Economics

Whenever there is a major shift in technology, there will be macro economic effects. In this case, assuming the auto industry switch from gasoline to electric in a major way over the next 10-20 years, what will be the result?

The oil refinery business will be impacted negatively. So will the oil transport business of pipelines and trucks and rails. The shift from a distributed energy source as gasoline pumping stations to a centralized power utility model will mean major infrastructure changes. Our power grid was not designed to handle this scenario.

Time is money. When a large portion of the population is spending time waiting for their cars to be recharged, this will effect our overall productivity.

The convenience factor. The simple fact that a person can pull up to a pump and refill in a few minutes and then be able to drive 300 miles is a huge plus. It will be hard pressed for the electric car to match in convenience for quite a while.

Summary

I read a book recently called "A beautiful Question". It talks about how innovations and inventions came about because people asked the right questions and thereby solved a problem and improved our lives. In this article, I try to ask the questions of what if? In 2017, we are not there yet. We cannot replace 10% of our vehicles with electric cars. Some companies and technologists are pushing hard in that direction. They think it is the solution to our climate change emissions problem. I wonder? Are we asking the right questions?

© 2017 Jack Lee

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    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 6 months ago from Camden, South Carolina

      "I am not convinced in 2017, that renewable energy is the only way to go with our energy usage."

      Just to be clear, I'm not saying that we will have 100% renewables soon (or maybe ever). There will certainly be nuclear power, and we will have some fossil capacity for quite some time, though I think coal and oil use may well decrease much more rapidly than many think. There is value to dispatchable power, which wind and solar are not.

      "The only reliable energy source in many applications are fossil fuel based."

      I think you are inadvertently over-interpreting the term 'reliability.' 'Intermittent' is not the same as 'unreliable.' And while battery power is still too expensive, it is not by any means 'unreliable' (or even, in any meaningful way, 'intermittent.')

      "The other issue is reality. In a few years, when the whole world finds out they've been lied to and climate change exaggerated the dire consequences..."

      The only folks lying in this debate are denialists. Climate change is real, it's here, and it is going to keep getting worse, just as it has been doing for the last 45 years or so.

      "In fact, there are signs that the earth is cooling. Especially due to an inactive sun spot. This has happened before in history."

      And physics says that it will not be close to being enough to offsetting the change in the atmosphere that we have imposed--not unless solar cooling is way beyond anything we've observed 'in history.'

      "That is not to say if a new invention, such as fuel cells, become viable or some other form of energy source come along that are cheap and reliable and portable...I will reconsider."

      No doubt there will be new inventions, such as the new lithium battery chemistry I posted about the other day here:

      https://soapboxie.com/social-issues/Climate-Change...

      (Most recent comment, as of this writing.)

      However, we don't need a drastic 'silver bullet' sort of innovation. It's very likely that it'll be incremental improvements on many fronts--faster charge times, higher energy densities, production efficiencies lowering costs, innovative business models and adaptive practices, etc. Keep watching: I can pretty much guarantee you'll get to see it happen.

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 6 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Yes, we have been here before...

      I am not convinced in 2017, that renewable energy is the only way to go with our energy usage.

      It is a small portion and will remain so... not because of price or efficiency but because of reliability. The only reliable energy source in many applications are fossil fuel based.

      The other issue is reality. In a few years, when the whole world finds out they've been lied to and climate change exaggerated the dire consequences...what do you think will happen to human behavior?

      In fact, there are signs that the earth is cooling. Especially due to an inactive sun spot. This has happened before in history. No need to speculate.

      For all these reasons, I cannot jump on board of renewable energy at this time.

      That is not to say if a new invention, such as fuel cells, become viable or some other form of energy source come along that are cheap and reliable and portable...I will reconsider.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 6 months ago from Camden, South Carolina

      "When our whole government and science funding revolves around climate change and EPA..."

      But I don't think it does. There is a lot of funding--or at least, there *has* been--for all sorts of research topics. You may remember that we had a discussion about this a while ago, which prompted me to take a look at the NSF site. There are 7 'directorates', only a couple of which relate directly to climate change. And while I didn't find a comprehensive breakdown of funding summarizing the percentages each directorate receives, I did find lots of examples of research unrelated to climate change which received significant funding. Here's the directorate listing, just in case you want to take a look for yourself:

      https://www.nsf.gov/about/research_areas.jsp

      And here's a random 15-second search example of such research:

      https://nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?org=NSF&cnt...

      "I hope it is clear to you by now, I have no emotional connection to fossil fuel.

      "I am pragmatic to the core.

      "If a new energy source can be competive to fossil fuel, I will jump on board in a heartbeat."

      Forgive me, but this is not at all clear to me. If it had been, I never would have asked the question that I did.

      We're now fast approaching the 2-year anniversary of this conversation. During that time:

      1) "...renewable energy employed 7.7 million people, directly or indirectly, around the world in 2014 (excluding large hydropower)... but "...renewable energy employed 9.8 million people around the world in 2016 – a 1.1% increase over 2015." That's a 27% increase.

      http://www.irena.org/publications/2015/May/Renewab...

      http://www.irena.org/publications/2017/May/Renewab...

      2) In 2015 it was noted that: "Solar PV module prices in 2014 were around 75% lower than their levels at the end of 2009. Between 2010 and 2014 the total installed costs of utility-scale PV systems have fallen by 29% to 65%, depending on the region. The LCOE of utility-scale solar PV has fallen by half in four years. The most competitive utility-scale solar PV projects are now regularly delivering electricity for just USD 0.08 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) without financial support, compared to a range of USD 0.045 to USD 0.14/kWh for fossil fuel power plants. Even lower costs for utility-scale solar PV, down to USD 0.06/kWh, are possible where excellent resources and low-cost finance are available."

      http://www.irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Pu...

      3) Looking at perhaps the ultimate 'bottom line big picture' number, global renewable capacity grew from 1,690,177 MW in 2014 to 2,006,202 MW in 2016. That's approximately 19% growth.

      http://www.irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Pu...

      There are of course many other metrics that we could look at; I'm not claiming that the above instances tell the whole tale. But what we see happening is a remarkable change in the global energy economy. Wind and solar have gone from very expensive to competitive with fossil fuel technologies in terms of LCOE ('levelized cost')--increasingly, *without* subsidies. And at the same time, those technologies have experienced very rapid expansion in multiple dimensions, including employment, capacity and actual generation. And in many places--notably the US--RE additions to generating capacity are outpacing fossil fuel additions.

      So I would have to conclude from all of this that RE *is* "competitive to fossil fuel." In fact, for electric generation in the US, of the fossil fuels only natural gas remains competitive with RE. Yet you are still not 'jumping on board'--even with reasonable reservations (like 'this is only power generation, not the whole economy.') Hence my differing perception of your attitude on this.

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 6 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc,

      I hope it is clear to you by now, I have no emotional connection to fossil fuel.

      I am pragmatic to the core.

      If a new energy source can be competive to fossil fuel, I will jump on board in a heartbeat.

      I just don't believe in government subsidies trying to pick and choose winners. They have a horible record of picking losers.

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 6 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc,

      Not everything is about fossil fuel or renewable energy.

      Relating all kinds of stories to climate change has been a big problem in this field. I see this first hand when I attend these colloquiums at the Lamont Dogherty Observatory. Many talks and research topics are artifically tied to climate change in order to get the funding to do the research...

      I hope you see the problem. When our whole government and science funding revolves around climate change and EPA...guess what, that is what scientists will focus on. It is like the old saying: why do you rob banks? That's where the money is...

      On another topic, I wonder what is your take on the latest Tesla news? The stock has tanked today because they have lagged in their model 3 production and the fact that they may loose the tax incentive having cross the production level set by government.

      The making of a bubble -

      https://toughnickel.com/personal-finance/The-Makin...

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 6 months ago from Camden, South Carolina

      Not surprisingly, I disagree.

      1) I think that we do indeed know, to a very good approximation, the effect of CO2 on climate. And since as I've shown repeatedly, we *do* see "a corresponding pairing of cause and effect," in the forms I've discussed many times, notably on our paired 'challenge Hubs', I think that there is abundant evidence to support that contention.

      2) No, I don't think that scientists can't be biased. However, the scientific process is designed precisely to overcome human biases with evidence. I've seen no good case to think that it is failing in any discipline except biomedical research, where Big Pharma money has pretty clearly had a corrupting effect on some researchers. (Hence the record of retracted papers in that area.)

      3) Nobody attributes 100% of climate change to CO2. Again, that's a point I've made repeatedly. The business of teasing out the numerous factors that *do* affect climate over various time scales has been carried out over decades now, and has involved many thousands of researchers all around the world. It has included the work of skeptics such as Richard Lindzen and Roy Spencer, among others, and they have gotten a hearing in the professional literature.

      You are certainly entitled to your feeling that the mainstream view is "biased to the high side", but I don't see much scientific support for that point of view. As I've said, the argumentation of that perspective has generally seemed to me to be quite inconsistent and weak upon examination.

      Emotionally, my passion for this comes from concern for the consequences if the mainstream is correct. I value people and our culture (especially its most congenial aspects) and I do not want our most lasting legacy to be a ruined planet. That seems to be a real possibility.

      I hear you say that you are concerned for the quality of life that we enjoy today in the US and other advanced nations, and that you want other nations to be able to continue to develop, too. Of course, I understand those concerns and share them to a degree (no pun intended, there.)

      I wonder, though: what would it take to begin to be able to separate those goals from reliance on fossil fuels? We've talked about that quite a bit, and I understand that you are less optimistic than I am about the potential. But I get the feeling that there is an emotional component to this, not just on your part, but on that of many people who question what our future energy economy could, or should, look like.

      To take a third-party example, yesterday there were several reports that Rick Perry had commented that 'fossil fuels prevent sexual assault'--which sounds silly on the face of it. For example, here:

      http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/358386-...

      But his basic point isn't silly; he'd met several people on an African trip he made who had pointed out the positive effects that power--especially electric light--has had on their lives, and that includes greater security for women and girls (well, men, too, technically, but women have more worries on the score than men). Perry was suitably impressed.

      The strange part was connecting it solely to fossil fuels. As best as I can tell from the reporting, that wasn't a connection made by his African interlocutors; and it's not a necessary one. For instance, there are numerous charities providing solar-powered lights for just this sort of situation. Here's a random example:

      http://araha.org/programproject/solar-light/?gclid...

      (Sorry for the funky URL.)

      So what emotional driver pushed Perry to conflate electrical power with fossil fuel? It's easy to point to the financial contributions he's received from oil executives, and to the personal connections he maintains. For example:

      https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/perry-oil-in...

      But is that the whole story? I don't know.

      And that can't be *your* emotional connection to fossil fuel, based on what you've told me about yourself. I would say that you must have one, based upon the observation that you attach considerable value to fossil fuels.

      (And what's mine? I ask myself, too. But that's another story.)

      Decisions, however much rational analysis shapes them, still intersect with our emotional makeup, because decisions always reflect what we *really* value.

      These thoughts may seem impolite or intrusive. I hope not. No offense is intended; as usual, I am seeking to understand, as much as to persuade.

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 6 months ago from Yorktown NY

      We don't really know the effect of increased co2 on our climate... yes, the model predicts a green house effect. Yet, we don't seem to see a corresponding pairing of cause and effect.

      There is something more complex going on here and these scientists don't seem want to admit it. I think your mistake of relying on these scientists is based on the false notion that scientists can't be biased. Yet, we know they are because they are human and all humans have emotions and vested interests that at times can cloud their judgement.

      The question is not how co2 affect our climate but how much is its influence. If 100% is attributed to co2, then you get one conclusion. However, if only 50 per cent is attributed to co2, then we can reach a totally different conclusion. The current thinking of climate science is biased to the high side. That is all I am saying.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 6 months ago from Camden, South Carolina

      "You need to ask the right questions of all these experts that you so believe in. Why not put them on the defensive?"

      That's essentially what I'm suggesting you do WRT the article cited. I learned climate science by taking 'skeptical' points seriously and looking into them; perhaps the most illuminating thing about doing so was how easily many of the answers were found--and how long they had been known.

      "We don't even know what's going to happen next month let alone 10 years from now."

      This is a common misconception about forecasting--and not just weather; *all* kinds of forecasting. For example, it's one thing to call the timing of a turn in the stock-market--a very difficult thing, as many disappointed investors can attest. But take a long view of, say, the entire DJIA, like this:

      https://www.google.com/search?q=dow+jones+industri...

      You could fit a curve to that, and have a pretty good idea of where the market would be at some arbitrary point in the future--even if you had no idea what was driving that curve at a fundamental level. But it still works, because you are relying on the 'law of large numbers.' There are many firms in the index, they tend to have certain rates of return over time, and the index itself evolves according to its membership rules. Over time, they tend to behave in a consistent fashion (which looks kind of like an exponential curve, to my eye anyway.)

      In the case of climate change science science, we're actually in a much better position, because we *do* have a good understanding of the underlying physics. There are many unanswered questions of detail, of course, and we're still up against the fact that the mathematics are chaotic, and we can never have perfect data. So it remains difficult to forecast weather very far in advance (though improvements in skill have been steady all through the numerical modeling era.)

      But we do have the law of large numbers on our side when we forecast climate, in the sense that we don't need to predict the weather 10 (or 2o, or 50) years in advance. We just need to predict the *average* weather. Much easier--especially when, as I say, we've got a good handle on the basic physics and meteorology.

      "...these experts that you so believe in..."

      That's the crux of it, isn't it? Why we believe what we believe? I 'believe' in 'these experts' because I've known a fair number of scientists in my life and I know how they think, and how they work. Scientific culture is designed, and has evolved, to rigorously assess evidence, and looking at the large picture, it is tremendously successful. It has enlarged our understanding of ourselves, our world, and indeed our universe. It's answered questions that had been deemed forever unknowable, such as the chemical makeup of distant stars. And it's made us--many of us, anyway--wealthy beyond the dreams of ancient kings.

      I've looked, as deeply as I reasonably can, into the science of climate change, and it seems to be proceeding in the best tradition of scientific inquiry.

      On the other hand, its credibility is questioned by some--and it certainly is true that given the stakes, it's well to be reasonably sure. But my experience of those doing the questioning has been overwhelmingly that, like the author of the WUWT piece you linked, they are not really seeking the truth. They are opposing changes that they do not like.

      Of course, one can't deny people the right to like or dislike whatever they please. But those who wish to convince need to look to the truth; need to look at evidence on both sides of the question; and need to use their best judgement. That's not what I see on WUWT (usually). I see a dozen mutually exclusive narratives, agreeing only that 'the alarmists' must be wrong, somehow. I see constant cherry-picking and straw-manning. I see misleading phrasing. I see rhetorical flourishes, and I see conspiracy theory. Once in a while, someone makes a good point, and I learn something new. But that happens less and less, partly, I suppose, because as my knowledge has grown (and that of the average denialist encountered hasn't) the opportunities for surprise diminish, and partly, I think, because the quality of denialist discourse has actually fallen over time.

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 6 months ago from Yorktown NY

      That train is only in your imagination.

      The climate change science is still in its infancy. We don't even know what's going to happen next month let alone 10 years from now. You need to ask the right questions of all these experts that you so believe in. Why not put them on the defensive?

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 6 months ago from Camden, South Carolina

      Well, me, too, because thanks to decades of foot-dragging and denial, we now have very little time left for sufficiently effective action. That means that there is a very real possibility that we'll try some of these geo-engineering gambits, even if they are desperate, only partially effective, and dangerous.

      Not so that we can continue with 'business as usual'--that train has left. So that we can continue to survive as a technologically advanced global society.

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 6 months ago from Yorktown NY

      I am just glad there are some people exploring other options to deal with climate change.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 6 months ago from Camden, South Carolina

      Thanks. That's--interesting. But it kind of reinforces some of the concerns I mentioned.

      For example, here's the 'budget:'

      " The cost of this project would be surprisingly low. Since the very very vast majority of material would come from the Moon, that part will be FREE. All we need to pay for is the startup facilities. The startup facilities would consist of a large electromagnetic projectile launcher (EMPL) built on Earth and configured to throw its payloads to the Moon - as in Jules Vern's Moon gun (cost about $5 billion). We would require just one robotic mission to the Moon to put in place the initial manufacturing capability (cost about $1 billion). Other costs include sending additional materials to the Moon via the EMPL. These would include robots, computers, and other parts which could not be built easily on the Moon from materials found there (cost about $2 billion). We will also require one mission to the orbital site of the shield which would put the initial assembly equipment in place (cost about $1 billion). Finally, there would be the cost of supervising the construction of the shield over 22 years (cost about $1 billion). Thus the total cost of the Sun shield which would solve the global warming problem would be about $10 billion."

      I can't see that as very realistic. I don't even see any provision for getting the 'free' materials from the Lunar surface to the orbital site of the shield. And the costing for everything else seems--arbitrary. Plus, the whole idea of an EMPL gun has fundamental issues associated with it. First, it needs to be someplace orbitally appropriate, which has no problem with noise pollution (since the projectiles will be hypersonic, but which also has lots of electric power available. Second, it needs to be safe--it would be lofting heavy payloads, with at best limited capacity for course correction (which needs to be pretty robust to withstand the required G-forces, by the way), so anything in the nature of a misfire could potentially pose serious hazards to essentially random places on Earth's surface. Not saying it couldn't be done--but I doubt that $5 billion is very reliable as an estimate. Or as your author puts in WRT other points: "Of course, there are some hurdles..."

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 6 months ago from Yorktown NY

      This may be old but same idea -

      http://www.androidworld.com/prod60.htm

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 6 months ago from Camden, South Carolina

      These are both versions of 'solar radiation management'. Here's a more mainstream version:

      http://theconversation.com/blocking-out-the-sun-to...

      Most commentators who've assessed SRM proposals see serious risks. (See discussion in linked article for some of them.)

      I haven't heard of the 'solar shutter' idea, and I don't immediately find a discussion online. I don't think it's very practical, since while a solar eclipse does indeed lower the temperature perceptibly--an effect I experienced during totality earlier this year!--it only does so for a tiny portion of the Earth's surface. So you'd need a LOT of area 'shuttered'--which I think would translate to really enormous expense. Straight mitigation would be much, much cheaper.

      The 'artificial ash' idea is closer to the version most often discussed (again, as linked above). Again, there are issues--the expense would be considerable at best, and would need to be maintained indefinitely or we'd see a rapid, devastating warming. So that would multiply the danger of technical or economic crises in the future. And the effects would very likely be non-uniform on regional climates. The danger there is that there would likely be international 'winners' and 'losers'. 'Loser' nations would oppose action--perhaps even militarily.

      "The cost of these projects and technology involved is great but no greater than some other proposals."

      I think that is pretty hard to know in advance. We have little idea, as yet, of what the actual engineering difficulties would be.

      Here's a scholarly paper on that:

      http://www.pnas.org/content/113/21/5886.full

      (NB.: haven't had a chance to do more than scan the abstract yet.)

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 6 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc, thanks for the long detailed post. I was busy with family matters and did not have a chance to reply. I am on a trip to the west coast and had a stop at Houston. Two months after the record hurricane rain fall and it looks good for the most part. Most of the area I saw from the plane is back to normal. I am sure the recovery will take some time but life is back to normal for most.

      As for ideas to reduce climate change or global warming that does not involve hurting our standard of living and fosssil fuel, I have two possible suggestions. These are not my ideas but some people have proposed them.

      1. A solar shutter - an artificial satellite that can orbit the earth and put up a giant shutter that can deflect or rediect a small portion of the sun's rays away from our planet. This same satellite can use solar cells to convert to electric power...

      The size and number of satellites can be determined as the need arises.

      2. An artificial ash generator, very similar to what current volcanos produce when they errupt periodically. These harmless dust particles shoots up into the upper atomosphere and spread around the globe causing a dimming effect on the sun. It is temporary over a few years until the dust settles down.

      Both of these proposals are harmless to humans and are adjustible. It can be turned on and off or variable as the needs arise. It is a proven methods that definitely works, mimic natural phenomenon. During eclipse of the moon, temperature drops slightly...shutter effect. During large vocanic erruptions, the earth cools for a few years.

      The cost of these projects and technology involved is great but no greater than some other proposals. Sending a manned mission to mars is much more challenging and costly.

      What do you think?

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 6 months ago from Camden, South Carolina

      Lots of 'mockery,' as the subhead correctly calls it, but not much analysis. They cite the 60% growth rate for EVs, but don't take it seriously, preferring instead to substitute the much lower IEA projection. Just a 50% growth rate would give us 2 billion EVs in 2034.

      Is that realistic? Candidly, I don't know. In reality, exponential trends don't continue indefinitely because limiting factors always kick in somewhere along the line. But it's often not so obvious just where that point is.

      But I do know that with large investments being made in electric vehicle tech, and with very rapid growth in market share, there are going to be economies of scale kicking in. No, strike that--economies of scale are kicking in now; that's one of the factors driving battery costs down. And I'm pretty sure that that is going to take EV costs below the ICE costs. Further, I suspect that that inflection point is much closer than many people think.

      (I don't have an answer for the 'cobalt cliff' argument, but I'm certain that Tesla does, if it's correct in the first place. If they didn't, they wouldn't have been able to plan well enough to get this far.)

      Per your questions:

      "Is converting autos from gas powered to electric power the answer to climate change?"

      No; the problem is systemic, so solutions in one facet of the economy can't be 'the answer', no matter how helpful or necessary they may be for that particular sector. In most advanced economies, transportation accounts for something like 20-25% of emissions.

      "Are there bigger fish to fry? Get more bang for the bucks?"

      Decarbonizing energy production is the 'biggest fish', so in that sense, yes. But obviously the two are intertwined, as are other facets of the economy. For instance, agricultural emissions are part transportation-related (cultivation, production and distribution), part industrial-related (production of fertilizers and pesticides), and part land-use related (practices affecting carbon flows into and out of the landscape, especially soil). Ultimately, all of these fish need to be 'fried.'

      "Alternative ways to mitigate climate change that is less disrupptive and get better results?"

      If you've got ideas, there are a lot of very smart people who would be interested. Most of the Paris signatories have submitted their INDCs. I don't know if you've looked at any of them--I had a look at the French plan just the other day, and was struck by how comprehensive it is, in the sense that it requires change all across society--but each one is the result of some of that nation's best minds trying to find the best path forward for their nation (subject, of course, to the policy choices made by that government--for good or for ill.)

      I suspect that you want to find a path that means minimal change to the status quo. And I think that, unfortunately, that path does not exist. I don't advocate change for the fun of it, or lightly. I know very well that doing what needs to be done is a big 'ask' for society. But the alternative is worse.

      Here's a bare hint of why--I say that given that this only deals with direct losses, so the true costs are much, much higher:

      http://www.businessinsider.com/climate-change-cost...

      $35 billion a year for the last decade.

      Up to $70 billion a year by mid-century.

      Up to $135 billion by 2100.

      And that doesn't consider human or ecological costs, or even cost borne at other levels of government.

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 7 months ago from Yorktown NY

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 7 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc, getting back to the bigger issue of my article...are we asking the right questions?

      Is converting autos from gas powered to electric power the answer to climate change?

      Are there bigger fish to fry? Get more bang for the bucks?

      Alternative ways to mitigate climate change that is less disrupptive and get better results?

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 7 months ago from Camden, South Carolina

      Yes, they have incentivized EVs heavily. But the main thing as I understand it isn't HOV access; it's the waiver of a steep surtax on car purchases. So the problem for Norway as EV penetration climbs is that a long-standing source of tax revenue erodes. (Of course, that's one way to implement a tax cut!) It's discussed in the second of the two links just below, the one from 'petroleum-economist.com.'

      And yes, Norway is special in regard to having the topographical good fortune to be able to essentially power their economy with hydro. Not absolutely unique--Canada's mix is about 60% hydro, and I think Uruguay is almost entirely RE. Costa Rica, too, IRRC. But of course not every nation has the resource to go that route.

      Still, that doesn't affect the practicality of EVs--just the degree to which they reduce emissions *absent other actions*--and there are fewer and fewer places where you can actually find that 'absence of other actions' these days.

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 7 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc, very interesting. I think Norway is special due to their water power dominance. Also, I read in the article they have a very steep vat tax as incentive... also the various other benefits such as free tolls and HOV lane use...very similar to US. What happens when more than 50% of the people are all electric? Those incentives will be less valuable or non existant. Will have to track them over the next few years to see how it is working out. Thanks for the info.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 7 months ago from Camden, South Carolina

      Neither; I was referring to your 10% target. (Though Norway *does* have well above 90% renewable power, as I'll discuss below.)

      Norway's vehicle stock now stands at 29% EV, according to the IEA article I linked earlier. And as of June, EV sales accounted for 42% of all Norwegian light-duty vehicle sales:

      https://electrek.co/2017/09/08/norway-electric-car...

      Here's an interesting interview from Norway. The official addresses some of the same points we've been talking about:

      http://www.petroleum-economist.com/articles/midstr...

      She states that Norway will soon be at 100% renewable energy. That seems plausible, in that hydropower has long been the mainstay of the grid--about 98%. (Norway participates in energy trading with Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands, and plans to export to England in the future, too.)

      This article is a bit confusing, I'm afraid, but enough to get the idea:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_sector_i...

    • jackclee lm profile image
      Author

      Jack Lee 7 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Are you telling me Norway has 90 percent electric cars or 90% renewable energy consumption. That is news to me. I would like to know more. How are they doing it without fossil fuel?

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 7 months ago from Camden, South Carolina

      I'm not saying that there are no difficulties. Certainly, in some apartment situations, it may be difficult to provide charging points for everybody. But that is not going to be a huge proportion of the population, or even close to it.

      And as the transition proceeds, there will be tremendous economic incentives to find a way to get that difficulty addressed. If it means rewiring the parking garage, well, then the parking garage will just have to get rewired. If the owners can't afford to do so, then they simply won't be able to rent to people who want to drive. Think of all the technological retrofits that have gone into old buildings: plumbing, wiring, telephone cable, TV cable, ethernet cable, HVAC. Formidable tasks, every one. But they happened. (Or else the building was replaced.)

      Also, note that if the "Transportation as a Service" paradigm comes about, car ownership will decline dramatically in favor of Uber-like services. In that case, the typical apartment issue may become more what to do with underused parking spaces, not how to provide charging points. Again, that's not a prediction of what *will* happen--just a scenario that has been proposed for good reasons, and which I have yet to see good reasons rule out.

      So I do think that the difficulties can be successfully addressed. Again, going with historic precedent, when Ford began to produce the Model T, there were only 18,000 miles of paved roadway in the US. One might well, back then, have seen that as a serious obstacle, too.

      Can I imagine 90% electric vehicles? I sure can--if I couldn't, would I have argued that I think the transition is probable? In fact, I can imagine near 100% levels. So can the governments of 4 rather disparate nations, to the point where they are confident to make it a policy goal, and they presumably have competent technical advisors.

      You can't? Well, duly noted, but that doesn't mean you are necessarily correct. After all, if it can't be done, then how did Norway already do it?

    • jackclee lm profile image
      Author

      Jack Lee 7 months ago from Yorktown NY

      You stated most of the electric cars will be charged at home. However, many people live in apartments and condos that may not have garages or easy access to outlets.

      I pose the question of only 10% and already see many obsticles. Can you image 90% of autos going electric?

      I just can't. As an engineer who knows something about practical solutions, I am afraid in the current configuration with current technologies, we are not able to replace a large number of gas cars with electric cars. IMHO

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 7 months ago from Camden, South Carolina

      "...you think it is perfectly doable for us to convert to electric cars over the next 20 years. 1 million cars a year."

      Certainly. Current global car production is something like 72 million vehicles a year, so reaching the million vehicle per year mark would only mean converting about one and a half per cent of production.

      https://www.statista.com/statistics/262747/worldwi...

      And actually, according to the IEA, in 2016 there were already 750,000 registrations of electric vehicles:

      https://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/...

      So we are already 3/4s of the way toward the mark you mention. We obviously need much more than that, though, if we are to really 'convert': true 'conversion', such as is envisioned by the governments I mentioned previously, would mean 100% electric production.

      Doing the math, that would mean something close on the order of 72 million vehicles/20 years = 3.6 million more EVs produced each successive year. (I.e., a presumed linear growth rate rate, not accounting for future growth in vehicle stocks.) Sounds much more daunting than your million vehicles a year, doesn't it?

      Yet I think it is doable. It usually takes about 3 years to get from drawing board (or CAD suite, these days) to showroom, and all manufacturers are already producing EVs (though a number of them are only doing so for regulatory compliance.) So 20 years represents the equivalent of 6 consecutive design cycles.

      (It's interesting in this regard to note that Ford's Model T was in production for 20 years--1908-1927--during which time the start-up firm was able to build 15 million of them.)

      I think that we are going to see costs per mile increasingly favoring EVs over ICE vehicles, and that therefore the market will drive a disruptive non-linear switch from the latter to the former. So we won't see EVs literally increasing by 3 million units per year; rather we'll see growth by some roughly consistent percentage (ie., exponential growth.) For example, according to the same IEA report, from 2010 to 2016, EV sales increased by at least 50% each year. Should that continue, we'd hit 72 million vehicles in just 11.2 years. I don't necessarily think that we'll actually see persistent 50% growth over 20 years, but the case is illustrative.

      "In light of recent disasters like hurricanes where the power plants are knocked out for extended periods, you want to put more burden on them."

      Again, you're ignoring one side of the equation. For one thing, a more robust grid might well be more resilient, too--the PR grid illustrating the inverse case. Moreover, without power, stations can't pump gas--again, something seen in PR. So you'd better fill that as can in advance--which raises the question, seriously just how far does that can go?

      On the other hand, if a grid more centered on renewable energy implies more distributed generation (especially commercial and residential solar), then this, too, may mean a more resilient grid in the event of natural disaster.

    • jackclee lm profile image
      Author

      Jack Lee 7 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Doc, thanks for your thoughtful response. So, if I get your argument, you think it is perfectly doable for us to convert to electric cars over the next 20 years. 1 million cars a year. In spite of all the challenges, you think we can over come them? In light of recent disasters like hurricanes where the power plants are knocked out for extended periods, you want to put more burden on them. A can of gas can go a long way in dire situations...don't you agree?

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 7 months ago from Camden, South Carolina

      Answers to some of the questions:

      1) Question: gas stations must accommodate electric cars...

      Don't forget, most charging occurs at home. EV owners can often go long periods of time without needing to recharge at a charging station. So what you lose in time at said station, you get back--quite possibly more so--in many fewer times at a station.

      (Of course, this would be very disruptive of filling station economics, especially at penetrations much higher than 10%.)

      2) "Electric power requirements will be increased many fold as more cars switch from gasoline to electric."

      Actually, they won't. Estimates I've seen of the additional power demand posed by an all-electric car fleet range from 18% down to just 3%. Again, what you lose on the 'front end' you regain on the 'back'--the back end being all the power you don't need to use to pump oil, transport it to a refinery, refine it into gasoline, pipeline it to a distribution hub, pump it into a truck, drive it to the filling station, transfer it to their holding tank, and finally dispense it to the consumer. Then there's the greater efficiency of EV drivetrains.

      Overall, researchers have concluded that there is a problem with demand, but it's not that burdensome at the system level. The main issue they identified was a need for more robust power supplies for some neighborhoods.

      3) "...the cost factor needs to be addressed. An electric car compared to a gasoline car costs the consumer 3-5 thousand dollars more..."

      Yes, that's one factor holding me back from buying an electric right now. (The other is that I don't see quite the right vehicle type for our needs yet; I'd like to see something like an EV version of my Forester.)

      I strongly suspect that economies of scale will largely take care of this naturally as the EV market grows. Certainly the main cost issue is the battery, and equally certainly the cost trends there have been very encouraging to date.

      4) "...batteries and rare elements are a major component of electric vehicles."

      Projections don't suggest that there will be real bottlenecks any time soon. Lithium is actually not rare; it just hasn't been all that valuable to support a large mining capacity. As demand has grown, so has supply. 'Rare earths' are used in some battery chemistries (not all), but a shortage there isn't forecast, either. And battery chemistry is going to keep on changing as the technology improves, so I don't think we're going to see a situation where prolonged use depletes the needed resources any time soon. (And it's expected that these batteries will be recycled, anyway--certainly, if the materials become relatively scarce there will be strong incentive to do so.)

      In sum, nothing I've seen suggests that EVs pose any remarkable problems for either pollution or resource depletion. Of course, regulators need to hold EV supply chain manufacturers to the same sorts of standards to which they hold other manufacturers. There have been a couple of instances already where battery manufacturers have been caught discharging toxic material to the environment, and that clearly can't be allowed. But that's an ordinary problem, not a remarkable one.

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