396 Comments

I am surprised one of the main selling point of EVs is totally omitted in this article: pollution. PM10 particles that enter lungs and cause cancer come most from ICE cars. Living near a road or in cities with extreme traffic can give you lung cancer even if you never smoked a single cigarette in your life. And this is worse for kids. Our cities are gas chambers and it's mainly due to combustion engine cars. The sooner we get rid of them, the better for our health.

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True, but do remember that road and wheel tear is also a great source of pollutants, and they are actually worse with EVs in general, due to their increased weight

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But how much worse? And how will it compare with the current state of things? This feels like another variant of the "mining materials for EVs will be bad for the environment"; i.e., comparing against the ideal rather than the alternative.

Does the amount of road and wheel wear scale somewhat linearly with the weight of the vehicles (I suspect so, but I don't know for sure)? And how does the health impact of those particulates compare to the health impact of fossil fuel emissions particulates?

If all ICE cars are replaced with EVs and we have, say, 5-15% more pollutants from road and wheel wear due to the increased weight of those vehicles, how will that compare with the 100% reduction in fossil-fuel pollutants? My guess is that it will be a significant improvement, but we need some actual data before using this as a talking point either way.

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Road wear (and likely particulate emissions from road wear) is approximately the axle load raised to the fourth power.

This means that EVs are significantly worse than comparably sized ICE vehicles. However, all of this is likely lost in the noise compared to heavy trucks and buses.

Also worth pointing out that EVs virtually eliminate brake dust, which is another major source of particulates from vehicles.

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Regenerative breaking do not use mechanical breaks that are the worst particle pollutant of all. So EV is a winner here. And yes, the friction is linearly proportional to weight.

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My Leaf is not heavier than my neighbor's Nissan Titan XD.

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And quietness - spent 2 months selling asparagus from a street stand and it was very noticeable when an EV came by - whisper quietness - cities will be far less noisy (pedestrian issues aside)!

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True, but sadly the main noise on faster roads are wheels on asphalt, so the EV world is not as utopian as it might seem at first

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Agree - thought of this as a large truck drove buy gearing up the hill - obviously highways will be just as noisey

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Did you know Merkel and VW and IG Metal convinced the EU to promote diesel passenger cars in Europe?? Is the pollution in the cities getting better?? Did you ever drive a diesel on the Autobahn? Apparently modern diesel sedans are great on the Autobahn.

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I lived in what is now an over million dollar condo in a booming urban area…and our second floor patio would get hit by disgusting diesel exhaust because we were next to a bus route stop. Cars are like cigarettes and we should never have allowed them in urban areas just as should never have allowed smoking indoors or on busy sidewalks.

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May 14, 2023·edited May 14, 2023

The majority of people buy cheap used cars and fix them cheap. Average car in US (similar in europe) is 12 years old - not because the cars age that well, but because most of society can't pay more than 5-10 K for it.

The ONLY way for a meaningful EV adoption is putting poor people on the bus and train. This is a massive drop in their quality of life - I live in a densely populated European country with ample public transport. Having a car still beats it hands down, and only the poorest people and juveniles use affordable public transport. In sprawled USA, it's a no-contest. Life without a car is horrible.

Now if you are fine with a feudal society where only 20-30% can afford to own their own car and be independently mobile, that's fine. Owning a car will be a true status symbol again, like in the 40's and perhaps 50's outsids US. Just remember the remaining 70% much prefer having a cheap old rusty petrol car than using a bus. They will rightfully say so in elections.

Problem of cheap old used EV's for the general public is 2 - 4 K for a new battery when car is 12 years old. This is petrol for 2-3 years of driving for most of them.

If we somehow subsidise/organize this cost, we are left with the issue of home-charging through electricity production. Go to a car-dense area on Sunday evening - when most people are at home. Either a parking lot under a block of flats, or streets with on-road or driveway parking. I am well aware you probably don't live in such place... But most people do. Imagine every car running a cable to the house/block with a power outlet. This is all doable - we need a powerful network, enough power plants runing in the night, and password protected connection to car to prevent theft of energy from household outlets.

But this is a HUGE investment into state-wide power generation and network ability for every house and every street. We would need to roughly double or triple our power generation (and network ability) if all current petrol transport moves to EV (depending on how much industrial transport with trucks would also move to EV).

Who will pay taxes for this investment? Who (and how fast) will build all the nuclear power plants so we don't fuel our EV's with coal? Tesla and other car makers? The rich? The masses? My guess would be nobody. EV's will be there for the rich, and running them will be expensive enough that demand for national energy overhaul won't happen at all.

If you start taxing ICE mobility out of existence, you will either have median income people humbled on a bus with much lower quality of life, or you will have voter rebellion. Which is more likely - and which do you prefer?

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I don’t understand what the first criticism is supposed to be. Currently poor people buy used cars instead of new. Why wouldn’t that still be the solution when you have EVs? Is the new battery at age 12 a bigger maintenance cost than the maintenance costs owners of old ICE vehicles pay for all the parts they have that grow old, that EVs lack?

The second worry seems to be that charging infrastructure can’t be built out in dense residential neighborhoods. Again I don’t understand why this is supposed to be impossible. It’s a hurdle for the transition, but it’s just a hurdle, not anything that actually prevents people from ever making the transition.

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May 14, 2023·edited May 14, 2023

I'm sorry for not being clear enough. All this is easily possible.

All I am saying is nobody will actually do it, because it costs much more than just continue the use of fossil fuels. IF such country would spring up and have most of it's personal transport electrified (and electricity derived from non-fossil sources) I suspect their urban air quality would improve considerably.

But all extractable reserves of oil, gas and coal would still be used by Asia, South America and Africa, and societies using it would leap ahead of our noble example as cheap energy improves quality of life much, much more than cleaner air in urban areas.

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I still don't understand. Where do you think used ICE cars come from and why won't used EVs come from the same place?

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Average people RIGHT NOW own 12 year old car. If in say, 20 years, all of those cars would be EV, we would need a gigantic infrastructure investment - the powerplants and grids and chargers should be built on unprecedented scale already, whole urban road and parking architecture would need changing and upgrading - already.

The plan is for average people to take the bus. I THINK they will never allow it as long as they can vote. I could be wrong of course :-)

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So it seems your critique is about electrical infrastructure, not the price of or age of cars.

I mean if you're right about EV costs then most people won't be able to afford EVs and there's no need to upgrade infrastructure...and then you're back to being wrong with your overall point.

The way the infrastructure becomes a problem is if you're wrong and most people will be able to afford EVs.

I still don't understand why you don't think people won't be driving old, used EVs in the future. I mean, if I wanted a cheap EV I could go buy a cheap used EV right now...

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Cheap, used EVs suffer from battery degradation, causing a significant decrease of their range (bringing back the range anxiety issue). Also repairing EV batteries is very difficult (if possible - automakers don't care how easy it is for third parties to repair their used products...) and costly.

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Why won’t the infrastructure investment be cheaper than continuing to use a technology that no longer has support?

*Your* plan may be for people to take the bus, but presumably the people who live in relevant areas will get their local utilities to invest in electricity (which the buses will need too - I don’t know why you think that transition will happen without bringing cars along).

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"All I am saying is nobody will actually do it, because it costs much more than just continue the use of fossil fuels"

I don't think you read the article, the whole point of which is that EVs will, over time, get cheaper than ICE-based cars. The current trendiness of EVs is not, in fact, because everyone wants to save the earth, but because EVs are now about the same cost as ICE cars, while being superior in some key ways (that the article points out).

This trend will continue. In ten years, gas cars will 100% be more expensive than EVs, for a variety of reasons:

- fewer produced ICE cars (supply goes down)

- gas will get crazy expensive (think also about how much worse this will get as gas subsidies shift to EV subsidies. And this will happen, not because the government loves EVs, but because EV lobbies will get huge, and increasing EV ownership will mean more voters that want this)

- many, many, many more EVs (supply goes up)

- economies of scale: right now most carmakers have 2-3 EV models. As it gets to be more like 10-15, they will share more assembly manufacturing efficiencies, and the cars will get cheaper.

Your third point also ignores the reality of recent trends. Solar power isn't on a huge upswing in places like Asia because Asia is full of green earth lovers. It is on an upswing because it is in many ways already cheaper than oil, coal, or natural gas. This trend will continue. Fossil fuels are often not, in fact, the "cheap energy" that you seem to think they are.

Basically, the rebuttal to your argument is that the facts have changed since the 90s, and you should catch up.

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Others have already made the (unrefuted) point that used EVs are going to enter the used-car market the same as used ICE vehicles, so I'll pick you up on your last paragraph instead: what's your basis for assuming that "oil, gas and coal" are "cheap energy"?

Best as I can tell, "the levelised costs of electricity generation of low- carbon generation technologies are falling and are increasingly below the costs of conventional fossil fuel generation" (https://www.iea.org/reports/projected-costs-of-generating-electricity-2020).

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"the levelised costs of electricity generation of low- carbon generation technologies are falling and are increasingly below the costs of conventional fossil fuel generation"

Quoting from the full report:

"plant level costs imply that for the LCOE calculation the overall system effects are not taken into account, i.e. the impact of a power plant on the electricity system as a whole. The system effects, however, can potentially have a significant impact. In the case of variable renewable energies for example, they might negatively impact expected revenues at higher shares of penetration." (p. 35) This is significant because large volumes of renewable generation may require expensive system costs to accommodate the renewables' variability.

"The EGC includes a harmonised carbon price of USD 30 per tonne of CO2" (p. 39) "Carbon pricing internalises the negative externality of climate change inducing greenhouse gas emissions by making carbon-intensive generation less competitive." (p. 119) In other words, this study adds a "carbon price" to fossil fuel generation when calculating Levelized Cost of Electricity.

Also, construction times for renewable facilities are assumed to be 1 year; while construction times for gas turbines are assumed to be 2-3 years (p. 38) This is significant because the renewable projects are "assumed" to get into operation quicker, and thus begin paying returns on investment sooner. No data is presented to substantiate this assumption.

The conclusion is highly dependent on some non-obvious assumptions.

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And that assumption dependence likewise militates against Neofeudal's sneakily slipped-in premise that coal/oil/gas are cheaper.

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I just replaced 2 17 year old cars. I had some maintenance costs, but never got to over $1000 per year. EV battery replacement cost depends on the car model (mainly the size of the battery), but is several thousand dollars at a minimum; $16,000 for a Tesla Model 3. And this isn't at 12 years, but probably more like 5-7 years, depending on how much the battery is used. So, the issue isn't that used cars wouldn't exist, but that they'd be much more expensive to operate than current used cars.

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EVs generally come with an 8+ year battery warranty. There are some outliers but overall it is very rare to have get a new battery at 5-7 years.

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Fair enough - I think many of the early plug-in hybrids had shorter battery life, but current EVs have bigger batteries, so longer life. Still, replacing a $16,000 battery every 8 years is a pretty significant maintenance cost for a used car buyer.

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You don't need to replace old batteries. The capacity loss of all modern batteries levels off as they age, like a fine wine that can cellar for 20, 30, 50 years.

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Do you have a source for this claim? Everything I've seen before says that battery deterioration accelerates with age.

Or was this a facetious post?

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They can be recycled. Iirc Musk believes you will want to replace them because they will get so cheap and range will greatly increase.

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Don’t judge all EVs based on the Toyota Prius or Nissan Leaf battery replacement costs/frequency (which is what I’m assuming you’re doing based on the 2-4k cost you cited).

For modern EVs you’re very unlikely to see a catastrophic failure of the battery - rather you’ll see a slow degradation over time. A used car with a 250mi range instead of the 300mi it came with is still very useful, and it even if it lost a full 50% of its capacity (which is extremely unlikely based on the degradation numbers reported from newer EVs), that’s still plenty enough to be useful without needing to replace the battery.

The main differences with modern EVs that make this possible:

1) liquid cooling/heating to keep the battery within a certain temperature when in use

2) simply much larger batteries that can handle losing some capacity - the battery on the Prius is *very* small in comparison to a full EV and losing even a small number of cells represents a significant chunk of the total

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Low range cheap EVs will come.

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When? Chevy just discontinued their bolt. Majority of Americans are purchasing Trucks/SUVs with manufacturing focusing on this group. Even a brand new, the cheapest ICE car is still out of the affordability range for most Americans. If EV cars are expected to reduce in pricing over the years, it’ll be another 10-20 years because only a small percentage of the population can afford to purchase them brand new.

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I own a 80mile-range 2012 Renault Zoe EV which I bought at 5800$ a few years ago. Note that this was one of the first EVs on the market ever, so one would expect a ton of problems. In fact, the car is at 90k miles, its battery is at 90% health and we use it for 80% of our household miles and all of our commutes. The car has not had any repairs, just a break pad replacement. While it's old and not as efficient as today's cars, with the light, old battery and its low cost and zero maintenance, it's way cheaper to run than our gas powered car. This is not unusual, there are a ton of used Zoes on the market and they sell well and needed few repairs. EVs actually work BETTER as used cars, because they need so little maintenance. So if anything, the used-car market argument really favors EVs.

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The death of the Bolt is a bit of a canard. The new EV Equinox is basically the next Bolt.

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May 14, 2023·edited May 15, 2023

These things cost $4k new:

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

If you take into account the cost difference between electricity and petrol, and the cost of a cheap EV, an ICE is not worth it if you got paid to own one for anyone who drives regularly.

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I literally just did a search for cheap electric cars and came up with cars.com pointing out that the Nissan Leaf's only 6% more expensive than the Chevy Bolt (https://www.cars.com/articles/here-are-the-11-cheapest-electric-vehicles-you-can-buy-439849/), $29,135 new. Meanwhile the average price an American pays for a new car is > $48k.

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'The ONLY way for a meaningful EV adoption is putting poor people on the bus and train.... Having a car still beats it hands down, and only the poorest people and juveniles use affordable public transport.'

Odd characterisation, perfectly well off people here in London will often still use public transport to get to work and many of them will also own cars which they will use for other journeys. This has also been encouraged via congestion charging.

In fact only 27% of people travel to work by car, I've been perfectly fine without one my whole life but could certainly get one if I wanted, also UBER's have brought down the cost of individual journeys by car.

Lastly your claim that EV's will never have a cheap 2nd hand market because batteries will always be expensive assumes there will be no significant reduction in costs.

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May 14, 2023·edited May 14, 2023

Yes, London is almost the only large rich urban area in UK. Parts of Bristol and perhaps Oxford which is a town really. Even in London ICE cars were TAXED out of ownership - it wasn't volountary.

I acknowledge cost of batteries can (and will) be mitigated, but cost of individual transportation for millions of poor people on electricity would mean gigantic investment in energy production and grid.

EV future as designed right now is meant to keep poor people carless, regardless if they live in city or country, and if they like it or not.

All of us here are more or less loaded so we're fine with it, right? And next time Trump or some similar populist knee-jerk reactionary wins, we will be so surprised again... While 5 billion (!!!) people outside 'the West' happilly burn away all extractable oil, gas and coal, and give zero fooks about our moral high ground.

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You make good arguments for investment in public transport and energy, and bad arguments against EV's.

The UK's current commitment is for all new cars to be EV's or hybrid by 2030, a lot can change in terms of efficiency gains and prices (batteries and the cars themselves) over the next 7 years and that will still leave 2nd hand ICE cars on the market with an average of 12 years life.

It's reasonable to point out the challenges, but to then gloomily conclude we should revert to inertia because we're incapable of anything better doesn't seem like any kind of answer at all.

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Oh yeah, a "feudal society where only 20-30% can afford to own their own cars". Singapore is close to that benchmark and I wouldn't call them feudal. In some regards parts of Norway is also quite close to this and while they do have a lot of farming, I would hardly call them feudal

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Most people don’t fix their cars. Modern cars can’t be fixed up anyway. Most people do buy second hand cars. Eventually EVs will be the majority of second hand cars.

There’s no European country with “ample public transport” where the only people using the public transport are juveniles and the poor. That would be pointless.

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What do you mean "can't be fixed up"?

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I literally bought a 8 year old EV a few months back for $14k, and that was a BMW. GMs and Nissians of that age are far cheaper then that.

So why would they not just buy used electric cars? If anything they are better used vehicles since they are mechanically simpler and more reliable.

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I wonder where the revenue will come from to fix the roads. I may be wrong but doesn’t it currently come from gas taxes?

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Even current gas taxes don't support all the road infrastructure we built.

Politically, this would be a non-starter, but in a zero-emission vehicle world drivers would be billed by the miles/kilometers driven.

There was one experiment by California researchers where they asked this question and surveyed drivers. If vehicle registration and gasoline taxes would be replaced by a per-mile charge, and the price were set to basically make a per-mile charge revenue neutral (i.e., the tax part of a car's operating cost would be equivalent to what is being collected today), the per-mile charge would come out to something pretty low.

Pose a general question without a price, most drivers oppose a per-mile charge. Offer them the price, and drivers become more supportive. Offer them the options of paying other than annually, like monthly or weekly, and support grows as well.

The other interesting thing that emerged: Even if the increment price were set for the state to make the equivalent money under either the current or distance-driven regimes, drivers said they would drive less if they were charged by distance driven. Scaled up to a place like California, it would reduce vehicle miles traveled by 10%.

That does reduce pressure on road and highway building.

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Obviously, there will soon be a tax on electrical recharging to fund road infrastructure. Fuel is fuel whether it is hydrocarbons or electrons.

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How would you accomplish that when most people mostly charge at home?

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More and more states are putting an annual fee on EV users to pay for roads--the ones I've heard of are $150-250/year, don't know if that is representative.

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Not all EV ‘cars’ need be what we see today. Micro cars that cost 8-9k and carry two people will suffice for a lot of commuters.

Form factors are limited now because we are only imagining replacing the currently huge inefficient ICE vehicles with equivalently large EVs. The space is evolving - Micromobility will change how many of us drive.

I do recognize your point about keeping older (10+ years) ICE vehicles as valid. I own one myself. Many people will run those til they rust apart. Batteries will become cheaper and likely be something you can finance as well.

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EVs will trickle down just like any other car: battery wear has been exaggerated beyond what the evidence suggests and an ecosystem for servicing high mileage EVs for the cost conscious will absolutely emerge. People with under $5k to spend will have to make do with worse range, but the fundamental reliability and efficiency of EVs will save them money. There's a reason these things hold their value on the used market well.

I agree that charging for street parking is a bit of an issue logistically but as long as it's trickle charging, it's not going to exceed the delivery capacity already in place for peak load. Generation is a separate issue but obviously we need tons more electricity anyway.

The basic advantages of EVs already come close to making them a better deal for the above-median American with the income for a car loan, which is why they're selling so well. We won't need to tax ICE cars out of existence, and quality of life will improve for everyone as they move down the depreciation curve.

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I also think you really don't understand status quo power usage. In most places in the US your largest sustained electric draw today is Air Conditioning, and even if we were 100% EV, AC would still be a lot larger then cars since it is sustained, not transient. This is why you can get cheaper power rates at night, since you use far less power to cool things off. So if anything overnight charging is complimentary.

Also home EV charging doesn't even need to be that intensive. You can charge most cars fully overnight on a nema 6-20 plug (20 amp @ 240v nominal), which uses normal 12 awg wiring. If you want to worry about electrification and system load, get worried about all the home heating loads we are going to have to try to replace, the cars are no where near your big issue.

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One of the key elements to an electrified future is designing buildings that are less electricity-dependent. So it's a matter of rediscovering old building techniques.

Houses should have enclosed front and back porches and openable windows. Multifamily buildings should have balconies or interior courtyards. Alternatively, the Texas doughnut can economize parking space by using the less desirable interior apartment spaces and turn those into parking spaces with living spaces facing the street.

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Solar cells on your roof produce enough power for an EV. They pay for themselves in a few years, with a vastly better return than other grid power.

EVs solve the renewable electricity grid problem because they have vastly more storage than we need, and only use it some of the time.

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Solar cells on your roof will only charge your EV if you work from home: if you commute then the solar cells will need to be near your workplace parking, as most of the time when the car is parked at home will be night-time (when solar power is of course useless).

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Powering an EV is simpler and cheaper than an ICE.

If you work 7 days a week your car can not be charged at home.

Someone who lives, or owns a business in an area where people want their cars charged during the day could buy solar cells, and or grid power, and offer to charge people's cars.

The cost of charging an EV is substantially lower than the real cost of land to park a car in any major city.

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I think the issue of charging is insufficiently considered. Even if most people in the suburbs can home-charge they still leaves a lot of people in living in dense areas with shared infrastructure. They will need to use public chargers, realistically at a much higher cost (backcharged). On the road, cycle time is critical. You can talk about numbers of chargers all you want but what matters is availability at the point of need. A lot of chargers will be lightly used but those just off the highway will see steep demand peaks. Realistically the option will be to wait for potentially hours for a slot at a charger, or drive farther hoping that there isn’t a line at your destination by the time you get there. Time is money.

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Have you ever checked out the national auto parts chain stores’ stock prices??? Wtf??

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May 14, 2023·edited May 14, 2023

Just end free parking as well, and the convenience of private cars disappears for all but the wealthiest. Add making bicycling easier than driving and safe, will help too.

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Some states tax EV owners based on mileage driven to compensate for the loss of gasoline tax revenue, but I believe the federal government has yet to do so.

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Great post, but the point that EV owners won’t have range anxiety because theg can just plug in their cars every day overnight is a little dismissive and ignorant of the fact that many Americans - young people without families, poorer folks, inhabitants of urban centers - don’t have private garages with electric outlets or may not have spare garage spaces after taking into account other folks with cars living with them.

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The car has to be parked somewhere right? Put a charger there.

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One issue is that there's a mismatch between the timing of government mandates re: EV sales, and power utility predictions of EV adoption. In North America, we need to increase generating capacity between 2 and 3 times that of today. That doesn't get built in 10 or 15 years, but it might be possible in 20 to 30 years.

We are heading towards several walls on EV adoption. The good news is that they're pretty easy to solve, because they were all created by government. Some dates are going to slip.

Of course, if EVs were really so compelling a product, we wouldn't need any future government bans on ICEV sales.

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"A tiny handful of long distance road trippers." We are all long distance road trippers, at thanksgiving or Christmas or Chinese New year. UK full of anecdotes about 2 hour waits for a charging station on motorways last Christmas.

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Where were those people driving in the UK that would take them more than 200 miles to reach?

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My Christmas trip is 188 miles Kenny (and quicker by car than rail), so if I lived a few miles further north...

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If you lived a few miles farther north, I would recommend specifically checking the range on your car, and trying to make sure you are fully charged before setting out on this particular trip on this particular time of year. 99% of your travel would be totally fine, and there's no reason why it would be advantageous for you to continue burning fossil fuels on every other day of the year just to ease worries about whether you might get a few hour delay on the busiest travel day of the year.

This is exactly the same thing we tell people who travel by plane around the holidays - yes, it'll be a bit inconvenient, so you should plan ahead for that. But we're not going to spend a huge amount of money and burn a lot more fossil fuels the rest of the year just so there is excess capacity for this once-a-year activity that you are capable of planning for.

If you *really* don't like the inconvenience of traveling around the holidays, then do your Christmas visit a week early or a week late.

My guess is that this was just the first Christmas season that there were a significant number of EV drivers doing the trip, so they hadn't yet learned what sort of planning would be valuable.

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This was prompted by your response expressing incredulity about 200 mile trips in UK! That didn’t square with my experience. When you say 99% of trips would be fine, well: I don’t use car for commuting or daily travel hardly at all. I get a train and I bike. My car is 90% used for leisure (often long distance travel to remote areas, and back within a day) and long distance holiday/travel. So 90% of my miles probably are at the level where 150 mile effective range would make them infeasible (my friends EVs can’t currently be confidently used for them, so we give lifts). It’s totally right that one could simply change one’s life patterns or use a completely different transport mode, or replan day trips into two day trips near a charger. In fact, I kinda thought ex ante this is where we would be. But it does involve sacrifices and lifestyle changes which weren’t really acknowledged in Noah’s OP. I do think a 450 mile effective range to an EV, mentioned as possible, would really be a game changer, though.

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There are a lot of people who live and work in London who travel long distances to the suburb of some other city where their parents live at Christmas. London to Manchester is under 200 miles if you're measuring city-centre to city-centre, but if you're measuring from living in, say, Bromley to a Manchester suburb like Rochdale, you can easily hit 250 miles.

The same for most of the suburbs of Liverpool and Leeds, and all of the suburbs of anywhere further north - Middlesbrough, Newcastle or either of the Central Belt cities of Scotland.

300 miles is a very different story, but most of the North of England is over 200 miles from London if you're doing a suburb-to-suburb journey (if you're city centre to city centre, you'd get a train anyway).

This isn't actually a problem most of the time; one charge in a motorway service station is fine (most drivers would take one stop on that sort of journey; if nothing else, your kids probably will need the toilet). But when a large fraction of the population are on the move at the same time because they all want to visit their parents for Christmas, then you need much more charging capacity - charging capacity that will go unused for the rest of the year.

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Plymouth to Inverness (688 miles) is an example.

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Right, but there can’t be much more than 10% of the population that lives more than 200 miles from London, and the vast majority of trips won’t be longer than that.

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To give Rob his due, Scotland plus Northern Ireland are 11% of the population and > 200 miles away (though surely a Northern Irish driver's greatest impediment in reaching London would be not their battery but the obscure geographical feature known as "the Irish Sea").

I admit, however, that I don't really believe most of Scotland empties out every Chinese New Year or Thanksgiving or indeed Christmas to drive to London/Plymouth.

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The UK is much bigger than you may think. I once attended a wedding in South Wales, and planned to spend a week driving through Wales, up to Edinburgh, and back to London. After 4 days, I had gotten to North Wales.

Pembroke to Birmingham is 200 miles.

Southampton to Nottingham is 180 miles.

London to Manchester is 200 miles.

London to York is 210 miles.

One charging station on a motorway can serve perhaps 3 drivers per hour.

One gas pump can serve at least 10.

With either technology, if demand exceeds capacity, lines grow fast.

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Population of the UK: 67,026,000.

Population of Plymouth: 264,700 (0.4% of the UK's population).

Population of Inverness: 63,730 (0.1% of the UK's population).

You are going to need quite a few examples like this to rebut Noah's "tiny handful" claim!

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Look at a map.

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Maps do not conventionally include population numbers.

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No but you have just demonstrated that you have independent access to that information. Are you always like this?

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But once or twice per year. So not a barrier to all the rest of the driving. Surely that's not a reason to not adopt - it's a problem to solve...

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Well yes and no. Call me selfish and intolerant but it would only take one four hour fuel stop at Christmas esp if young family involved to spoil my whole year.

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Seems like building enough chargers to satisfy peak demand is a no-brainer.

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Or variable pricing, either time of day or when there's overload. You just don't want to do what Uber does and call it surge pricing. :)

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I liked the post! A question I didn’t see addressed was the very local technology for charging at home. If you have off-road parking, I see it. But many many especially in cities park cars on public roads, and it’s not clear how they will physically be able to drip charge their EVs.

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I own a Nissan leaf. Effective range is 150 miles per charge. It does me for a week's commuting to work. I live in an apartment (UK) with no off-road parking so no ability to charge at home. I charge car every Sunday afternoon at a public charger. It takes 4 and a half hours and I have a full charge for the next week. Yes, it's a faff but I am now in a routine of doing this. I drop car off and set a timer so I remember to go and get car :) My point is that people adapt and do what they need to do.

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Now imagine every apartment in your neighbourhood having a nissan leaf. What kind of change in infrastructure would be required... While we are struggling to persuade voters for HS2, or any other major infrastructure project... Or regularly fix potholes and communal buildings actually.

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It's not really a great leap of imagination. The number of EVs around where I live is growing steadily. And so is the infrastructure. Local councils are putting in chargers in street lamps. The apartment complex I live in has a plan to put in 6 charging bays as they upgrade a carpark. My employer has plans to replace their fleet of 6 vans with EVs and install charging stations to charge them over night. Staff can use them during the day. So, I am not waiting for central government to do anything. Local government and private enterprise are quietly doing it. As consumers invest in EVs the demand for chargers will incentivise EV charger suppliers to supply. It will be uneven, messy and often irritating. But it will happen.

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So, a follow up, if anybody is still interested, this afternoon I got an email about the latest charging stations and an outline of how they are going to be introduced throughout the country. And, yes, I know not all cars can access them, but future models will be able to.

"Dear EV Driver,

ESB Energy is delighted to announce the launch of its first Ultra-Rapid Charging Hub in Great Britain, located at Freemans Parc, Cardiff. This brand-new hub has 3 x 300kW ultra rapid chargers and 6 x charging bays.

We know quick and easy charging is essential and that is why we are locating Ultra-Rapid Charging Hubs along major motorway routes to allow for even more efficient in-trip charging. 

The new ultra-rapid chargers can deliver up to 300kW, enabling super-fast charging of your EV. For example, an EV with a higher voltage charging capability can re-charge from 20% to 80% in as little as 15 minutes."

And that is only 5 minutes more than someone mention filling your car with petrol. Not bad.

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What was the impact of removing horses from public streets? Lost jobs from street sweepers, hay farmers, buggy whip makers, carriage makers, farriers, tack makers. Imagine every apartment in the UK had a government mandated horse. Would young men buy extravagant Percherons or Clydesdales to show off, and feed them extra fiber so they might exhaust more dramatically in public?

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4 hours every weekend versus 10 minutes at a petrol station sounds like a nightmare

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Haha, I think you have a low standard for nightmares! Let me describe today. I parked car as usual. But this time in a parking spot with a charger. I plugged in. I walked home. Zero stress. In two hours I will go for a walk and move car to another carpark. I walk home. Again, zero stress, and I get a walk.

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In cities, it is possible to build slow chargers into the streetlights, which already have electric infrastructure. Fast chargers would need major infrastructure upgrades, but the switch of most streetlights to LED has left the infrastructure over specified in most places, meaning there is spare capacity.

In rural areas with unlit streets this is more of a problem, but street parking is quite rare there.

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This is clever! I’d also point out, there was a time when street lights, parking spaces, and parking meters didn’t exist. And yet, we were able to build all of those things from scratch. We can do it again if we want to.

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I’ve heard of this, but find it difficult to imagine in detail. Suppose you have nose-to-nose parking on a residential street in London. Are there enough lampposts for this without having cables trailing everywhere? Are there diagrams out there of how it’d actually work to give coverage for like for like parking arrangements? (FWIW, I tend to assume that this issue does make personal EVs less attractive on the margins than rental EV or light E powered transport (E-bikes etc) so I’d be interested if people do see ways of getting it fully like for like).

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I think that if you charge two EVs per lamppost (one in front, one behind) then you get about 50% coverage of parking spots with nose to tail parking.

In a lot of areas, people could mostly manage by charging alternate nights (commuters generally will need a full charge once or twice a week).

Installing additional charging points may eventually be necessary to reach 100% adoption, but I suspect you can get well into the seventies. And most of these are places where used cars predominate, and the used market is going to have a lot of ICEs for a long time.

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Solutions will presumably emerge. Running a cable in the pavement within curbside parking with frequent contact points, for example.

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I’d note that in urban areas the average trip is 5 miles or less so you wouldn’t need to charge ‘every day’ to use your car. This will reduce the need for so many chargers.

Also, there are now small EVs being tested that reach over 450 miles on one charge. We can expect that technology to mature and reduce the need for everyday charging too.

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This already exists! Flo and Shell, to name two, have chargers that affix to streetlamps.

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Absolutely. It just needs rolling out more widely.

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Some cold climate countries, such as the Nordics, have block heaters in their cars, which require an electrical outlet next to the parking spot. The outlet is definitely not powerful enough for prolonged charging but I can imagine that it doesn’t require a massive overhaul to make them pump out more juice.

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Some parts of Canada as well - I have family living in Calgary who definitely use these in winter.

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Yep! This is more of an infrastructure question than materials question.

I see people claiming that smart charging will fix many of the charging worries, such as people generally coming home around the same time and thus charging at the same time too, but I am not seeing those being actually put in place. That would need a network-wide system with a single standardized system and no one seems to be working on that.

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I'm surprised at how lazy this defense is. The biggest criticism of EVs is that just simply might not be that much better at reducing CO2 emissions. No one knows how much widespread adoption of EVs could reduce emissions, or whether they might even increase them While grid realities will indeed matter more than most realize (certainly this author with his assumptions of wind and solar – each with their own valid criticisms), the relevant and surprising emissions wildcard comes from gargantuan, energy-hungry processes needed to make batteries.

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I'm surprised at how lazy your attack is. Noah LITERALLY WROTE A WHOLE SECTION CALLED "Don’t EVs release a lot of carbon?" that pre-empted your rebuttal, and you have the sack to call HIS postletter "lazy"?

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Challenging something is not an "attack".

More important, that point is not addressing the point *I* am making. I am talking about the upstream mining and processing long before assembly of an EV battery, let alone having the the vehicle being on the road. For example, to match the energy stored in one pound of oil requires 15 pounds of lithium battery Which in turn entails digging up about 7000 lbs of rock and dirt to get the minerals needed Lithium, graphite, copper, nickel, aluminum, zinc, neodymium, manganese, and so on. Thus, fabricating a typical, single half-ton EV battery requires mining and processing about 250 tons of materials.

Noah is usually smart and thoughtful, but this article is relying on lots of assumptions or sourced studies built on overly optimistic assumptions. The reality is a lot more complex, and solutions would be a lot more productive with honest attempts at understanding.

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Your challenge is not a PERSONAL attack but it is certainly an attack in the sense of being a riposte to a defense.

More important, the section I cited really did anticipate your point that EVs "simply might not be that much better at reducing CO2 emissions", most likely due to the "wildcard" of "processes needed to make batteries"; Noah wrote that "EVs currently cut carbon emissions in half relative to gas cars, and over their lifetime this number goes up and up", linking a tweet (https://twitter.com/siddharth3/status/1625840818211758081) citing LIFECYCLE greenhouse-gas emission estimates from the IEA of, among other technologies, electric vehicles. Those estimates EXPLICITLY INCLUDED emissions incurred from both manufacturing and materials.

Your generic last paragraph is not really relevant to me. I am just irritated that you criticized the article as lazy while regurgitating a supposed "biggest criticism" that it already addressed. If you want to dispute Noah's sources or criticize the arguments he makes, go for it, but you'll first have to acknowledge them!

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Sure, my response came across glibly. It's the internet.

But my point stands – I do not think Noah, in good faith, takes on the main criticisms of EVs, and this article comes across less as an interrogation of a pretty complex issue with a load of uncertainties and more like a partisan and absolutist endorsement of what might turn out to be a lateral (or even worse) technology.

And for what it's worth (probably not much), I work in the auto industry. I fully understand the kool-aid being sold.

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It's fine that you find Noah's article "a partisan and absolutist endorsement" — I haven't objected, and do not object, to that judgment of yours. And I'm not objecting to your glibness but your wrongness; I am simply objecting to you making stuff up about the article. If an article's terrible, one can criticize it for what it actually gets wrong, without selectively ignoring pieces of it.

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I don't know what you think I am ignoring. I am only asserting that I don't think Noah took on what is fundamentally the biggest criticism and uncertainty surrounding EVs. For example, the IEA has flagged plenty of these realities around upstream CO2 emissions. You can usually find a disclaimer like CO2 emissions from fabricating EVs can "vary considerably across companies and regions." Changing source of copper or nickel, for example, can lead to doubling or tripling those metals' emissions intensities. Assumptions about aluminum matter too because EVs also require several hundred pounds more of that material. And two-thirds of global aluminum production comes from coal-fired grids in China, Russia, and India. I don't think cherry picking a few resources is a convincing persuasive or investigative technique (or worthy of an absolute statement like "all criticisms are wrong"). Alas, my POV is very explicitly that there are a lot of uncertainties around the question on if EVs will radically reduce CO2 emissions. The burden of proof is on the writer who is asserting otherwise. I think Noah – whom I obviously respect enough to subscribe to this Substack – fails here.

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Noah doesn't seem to take into account upstream emissions at all, which someone would do if they were serious about making a case for EVs that took into account the best good faith arguments against them. I also think he's wildly wrong on his assumptions about the grid – and borderline ignorant of energy requirements that are needed to maintain current standard of living. OF COURSE the tech will get better – eventually. But that's not the case he's making.

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Your new remarks about the grid and energy requirements are not relevant — I am objecting to your ignoring of what Noah wrote and linked about the supposed "[b]iggest criticism" of EVs, that they "might not be that much better at reducing CO2 emissions". Your notion that he "doesn't seem to take into account upstream emissions at all" is FALSE; the section of Noah's post I cited linked multiple sources about the lifecycle (i.e. INCLUSIVE OF upstream emissions) emissions of EVs.

Noah's post may well be wrong in 100 ways! Fine! If he's wrong he's wrong! I am not a Noah partisan, I've criticized and rebutted Noah's writing plenty in the past, I have no objection to that! But the idea that he ignored upstream emissions of EVs is contradicted by his sources!

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That's what the analysis looks at - lifecycle emissions!

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Just put those energy hungry processes in locations with good access to zero carbon power. Problem solved.

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Those energy hungry processes (large open pit mines and other large installations) are not typically located near zero carbon power sources. The power has to come to them, which is why most of them are heavily reliant on diesel-powered prime movers, and sometimes on local diesel-fired generation. This is the biggest reason that upstream CO2 emissions are going to be stubbornly high for a long time to come.

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The big issues that I see and you have omitted it resale value.

After 10 years a petrol car will run just as long as the day you bought it (assuming it's maintained).

But an electric car's battery will be cactus after 10 years of use, meaning resale value is also much lower, making the cost of electric cars over several ownership cycles much higher.

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There are already electric cars that are 10 years old, and the cars are working great. Their batteries show anywhere from 6-20% battery degradation meaning they have many years of life left in them.

https://www.autoevolution.com/news/how-is-the-battery-degradation-of-the-tesla-model-s-after-10-years-on-the-roads-204254.html

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although mechanical strain on rest of car will be much less. I could see how EVs would last much longer in total lifespan, with a couple battery replacement in middle, and overall give ICE cars a run for the money in terms of total value.

The other thing article doesn't mention is how maintenance is cheaper for EVs. No oil changes, no mechanical engine parts that need to be inspected / replaced etc.

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Every EV manufacturer in the country offers a 10 year, 80% capacity warranty on their battery.

80% of 300mi range is… still quite a lot! I don’t know why you’d call that “cactus” unless you’re just making shit up

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Did you check this out? AFAICT, the range of a ten year old battery isn't much lower. Max 20%, but I haven't looked into it much. But also I'm not making strong claims so I don't feel the need to look into it.

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> But an electric car's battery will be cactus after 10 years of use,

Source?

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I wrote a book review of “Cobalt Red” about the Congolese (including children) who are leading horrible lives as they mine the cobalt that goes into our EVs.

This “industry” was always bad but working conditions have been made much worse since the demand for cobalt skyrocketed due to EVs.

EVs are literally built on the back of something that is nearly indistinguishable from slavery. Just saying that maybe we should factor this into our considerations before we declare that electric vehicles are “winning”

https://theunhedgedcapitalist.substack.com/p/book-review-cobalt-red

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He actually addressed that in the article

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actually no he didn't. not "This “industry” was always bad but working conditions have been made much worse". I don't know whether this statement is true or not, but Noah didn't address this. He postulated that without mining these countries would be worse off because bad economy, but if these countries did ok (ok bad that is) before and now it's worse, then Noah is wrong.

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Since you quoted me, I feel obligated to respond:

I actually agree with your point that "if anything, [EVs] probably leaves [suburbia] unchanged." The problem is that we need to address suburbia-our current land use patterns are unsustainable as evidenced by increasing road deaths, traffic congestion and rents. My criticism is less about EVs on their own and more that many center-left politicians (and people who are not on urbanist twitter) view EVs as a panacea (as evidenced by the IRA only including funding for EVs rather than any form of mass transit).

I view EVs as a tool - a valuable one - but not enough. They're great in Europe where they already have more sustainable transit/development. But in the US, we need a more holistic change.

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Plus, taking a more holistic approach alleviates all the strains mentioned in the article regarding lithium and electric system buildout: https://www.climateandcommunity.org/more-mobility-less-mining— these researchers compared a range of scenarios in which the US eliminates gasoline cars by 2050 spanning an order of magnitude in lithium requirements. There’s no need to collapse to a dichotomy of EVs vs. degrowth— a third option is nudging the US towards rightsized cities and vehicles while helping the rapidly urbanizing Global South to learn from US mistakes and follow a more European or East Asian urban development pathway.

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Artificially pushing EVs before their time has been foolish and wasteful. Activist’s pipe dreams that have attracted huge subsidies and have essentially been forced by regulators MPG standards (forcing manufacturers to pay Danegeld to Tesla to meet benchmarks).

The US SHOULD fall behind because the population density in the US is a fraction of say, Wales, one of the less populated parts of Western Europe. The US is simply not the ideal marketplace for EVs.

EVs do make good sense in large urban areas, particularly those beset by pollution problems (LA). Buses, taxis/Ubers, and delivery vehicles in cities are wise solutions. Private passenger EVs also make sense in LA or in the NY- DC sprawl but less sense in Denver, Salt Lake, Phoenix, Vegas- areas where cities are surrounded by hundreds of miles of nothing.

All of the mis-investment into EVs for rich people would have had much bigger payoffs if instead put into the grid (and into storage solutions for the grid- bigger batteries) as well as into nuclear power and also into electrified freight rail lines and new port and rail infrastructure (for freight not passenger).

Gasoline is energy dense and is a good fuel for transportation with an existing infrastructure- remaking our personal transport infrastructure should not have been a top priority, IMO, in addition to the task being infeasible from a resource point of view.

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Do you know where in Europe has a lower population density than both the US and Wales? (Honestly why did you pick Wales of all places?) Norway and Sweden, where new vehicle sales are respectively 90% and 50% electric. Besides long driving distances those countries also have freezing cold winters with adverse effects on battery performance. If it can work in the Nordics, it can work in the US.

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That isn’t by choice because of the high tax penalty on ICE vehicles there. They are sparsely populated but also have high levels of cheap hydropower and astronomical gasoline taxes

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Exactly! It's not something about America's geography that makes it uniquely unsuitable to EVs, more it's down to policy and financial incentives. Moreover I think probably political and cultural factors make a big difference. In Sweden (where I live) people definitely buy EVs by choice because it's desirable. Maybe there was more of a forcing factor in Norway where the tax advantage was huge

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Funny how we jump first to European taxes on ICE vehicles as choice-invalidating, and not, say, American parking mandates or fossil-fuel subsidies.

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Are you aware of any reasons that Norway and Sweden might have high EV sales? There were many financial incentives for EVs, starting in 1990. They currently have a requirement for 100% EVs starting 2025. So, you have established that the Norwegian government has committed to EVs, but you haven't established that EVs make much sense on any particular criteria.

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May 14, 2023·edited May 14, 2023

Norway has some scattered cities. Sweden’s population is very concentrated around Stockholm and Goteborg (87 pct of Sweden’s population lives in urban areas) so makes a lot of sense there. Neither place really has major cities in the middle of nowhere like Kansas City, Salt Lake, even St Louis (4 hrs drive to KC, 6 to Chicago or Memphis and cornfields in between)

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To compare all 3 countries on comparable terms, the World Bank puts the urban population share of

• Sweden at 88%,

• Norway at 83%, and

• the US all the way down at...83%.

(https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.URB.TOTL.IN.ZS?locations=NO-SE-US) The US is not some gross outlier here.

As for those cities in the middle of nowhere...KCMO has 1.674 million people, KCK has 0.157 million, Salt Lake City has 1.179 million, and St. Louis has 2.156 million (from Wikipedia's infoboxes, using urban-area populations where multiple numbers are available). I make that 5.166 million people, which is a lot...but only 1.6% of the US's 331.9 million people. If that worst-case scenario represents only 1 in 64 Americans, there is not much stopping electric cars from taking over the market.

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Treeamigo, you know very well you can't average out density across a nation -- or even a smaller geographic area like a city -- because density is spiky.

In any given geographic area, you will have natural features (mountains, lakes, forests, etc.) that have an effective density of zero or greatly inhibit density of land use. Food production is land-intensive yet also low-value relative to its land density; it cannot be made more dense.

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Great article, Noah! I am not an EV believer yet, but agree that the writing is on the wall long term.

Peak lithium is as overhyped as peak oil. Capitalism is amazingly efficient at finding resources if you allow prices to adjust.

I'm reading a book called Concrete Economics right now. Do you know it? It has lots of historical examples of exactly the process you're describing here: government takes the lead to promote a given technology and lets the private sector figure it out.

My only caveat is that EVs only reduce GHG if they're charged on non carbon generated electricity. I know you like solar panels and windmills, but that the reality is that means nuke plants. Anyone serious about decarbonization needs to get on board. Canada is the Iran of uranium (Australia is the Saudi Arabia). We are foolish not to take advantage of this.

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Concrete Economics is great.

And given that one of the authors is his podcasting partner, I'd guess that he's familiar with it.

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Seriously! I don't do podcasts so I didn't realize that. :-)

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Holding back on progress on EVs would be a mistake, but not pushing for driving less cars because EVs would be a mistake too. Electric cars still come with most of the caveats of cars, like driving (still) using a lot of energy, having lots of dead people on the road, loud and polluted streets, etc.

There are other things benefiting from cheaper batteries too. An electric bike or electric Vespa is always going to be cheaper than an electric car, and these can cover a lot of current use cases for cars, for less cost and less nuisance and other negative effects on other people.

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As long as you're deciding on appropriate choices for other people, why not "push for" bicycles and walking? Even less capital cost, even less parking problem, even less energy use.

What's not to like?

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May 14, 2023·edited May 14, 2023

Yes and that is what a lot of cities are actually doing.

And yeah it sounds bad if you phrase it this way, but any society has some duty of “deciding on appropriate choices for other people”. Eg. don’t have a loud party at 4am that keeps all neighbours awake. Don’t burn trash in your backyard.

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Pretty sure riding a bike or Vespa is more dangerous than driving a car.

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Yes it is, and in the US much more so than in many other similarly rich countries.

Pay attention to why this is dangerous: riding a Vespa is not inherently dangerous. It is dangerous because car traffic is in general dangerous to people who are not in a car. That is one of the negative effects I was talking about.

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In a fantasy land where no one needs to transport goods a bike may be safer, but trucks and buses are not going away and neither are disabled people who need cars to get around.

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That is a straw man argument — nobody is seriously arguing to completely get rid of cars. It is more about picking the right tool for the job. A car is the right tool in some situations, but not always.

And the idea that disabled people in general need cars is a myth. Many disabilities make it impossible to drive (eg. impaired eyesight), or hard to get in and out of a car (eg. people in a wheelchair).

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What about everyone who doesn’t have a designated parking space? When you park on the street I don’t know how you’ll conveniently charge up

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A question I have is whether new multi-family apartment buildings going up now are being fitted for future high rates of EV ownership, and if they aren't being pre-installed, how expensive will it be to retrofit them with chargers.

I've attended some Los Angeles public comment meetings on proposed complexes that makes it clear that this is not an idle concern. We probably do need regulation on this to avoid a downstream problem.

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Running some conduit from the electrical panel to each parking spot is relatively cheap if done during construction, and then spots can be electrified piecemeal afterwards relatively affordably.

Much more expensive if never accounted for during initial construction.

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That's exactly what concerns me.

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The result of the proposed EV transformation would be to leave society as it is. society is overcrowded with cars and people and too dependent on extraction of wealth from land and people. We need a larger perspective within which the car Discussion can take place. Cars are part of a larger problem

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Seems like the only thing really holding back EVs is cost, IMO. Batteries have already won or mostly won many other transitions. Does anyone buy gas lawn mowers or weed eaters anymore? Chainsaws? Heck, ANY home gardening and building tools?

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bit of a personal soap box story here, but I've owned 5 (yeah five) different Dyson battery powered vacuum cleaners now, and bought (or gotten for free through warranty program) another 4-5 replacement batteries, over a span of ~10 years. Wife loves how easy they are to use, but these things are incredibly expensive on a total cost of ownership basis because after a while the batteries invariably go dead. If I was using a cord powered vacuum probably would only have owned a single appliance throughout that period.

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While I hear you, this isn’t really relevant to the question of converting from gas to electric. No one uses a gas powered vacuum

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That's Dyson being assholes. Car batteries show irs completely possible to have batteries lasting for ten years with hardly any degradation.

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I’m not sure what planet you live one exactly, but yes…

An electric chainsaw goes dead after a while, a gas one you can refuel all day long.

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This comment feels like it was written 10 years ago. We live in a swappable battery world now. The chainsaw doesn’t die. It’s battery does. Take the battery off and replace it with a charged one. My dewalt can run pretty much all day. And if you’re doing light work, you can keep using the same battery while switching between tools. Just yesterday I mowed, weedeated, and blew off the driveway with the same Milwaukee battery

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Two batteries and an electric outlet gives you infinite runtime.

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Only with infinite batteries. Electricity isn't everywhere, and it isn't working precisely when you need your chainsaw the most.

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May 14, 2023·edited May 14, 2023

Yes, you're correct, when you're not near an electric outlet, you can't use an electric outlet.

Just like with a ICE chainsaw, if you're not near a gas pump, you can't use a gas pump.

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They are not equal though. The energy density of gas is much greater, which makes it lighter to carry into the bush, where there is neither electrical or gas supply.

The bigger issue is capacity when away from electrical and gas supply, or when supply fails. Having 10-100L of gas on hand is cheap, you have it on hand for other purposes anyway, and during outages, it will let you saw for days until power returns. On my battery saws, just one full day's work of sawing requires about $1, 500 in batteries up front, and most people don't have or want that.

That's not everyone's use-case, but it's one reason why gas saws will continue to exist.

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Yes, I wasn't claiming that ICE saws will cease to exist soon. Just that battery saws are more capable than they were being given credit for.

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You can recharge an electric chainsaw all day long as well. Personal anecdotal evidence, but we had 4 chainsaws taking down a few trees, and the one that worked the best, and the most reliably was the electric one. The two gas models kept fouling and had carburetor issues.

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The maintenance is the key area where battery chainsaws blow away the competition. There's basically nothing that ever needs done to my Dewalt battery chainsaw other than adding chain oil. I've had various gas chainsaws over the years. Currently two Stilh's. They're great! But they definitely always need some kind of work done to them unless you baby them constantly.

The battery chainsaw is always ready to go as soon as you pick it up and slap the battery in.

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The main maintenance concern on a chain saw is the chain. Chains take time to sharpen, regardless of the chain drive.

I don't find my modern saws need babying. My first Stihl in 1990 needed babying after year 1, absolutely. My 2020 Stihl ICE has needed as much maintenance as my 2020 Ryobi EM - zero.

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I live on the planet where chainsaws are used:

a) far away from electrical sources, where carrying gas makes more sense.

and/or

b) when the grid is down. The storm that knocks out your power for days is the same storm that caused you to do all the chainsawing.

Electric will continue to push gas into progressively smaller niches. But let's not pretend that liquid fuels don't have advantages.

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I don't and certainly find battery powered lawn tools more enjoyable to use and easier to maintain, but the issue of recharging, generally lower power and cost of batteries means they are rarely viable for professional lawn services which represent a lot of the demand for such tools.

I think electric is on course to dominate the lower DIY-oriented end of the market if it doesn't already, but the technology/cost isn't there yet for many professionals.

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I’d love to know the breakdown of lawn care between pro lawn services and non-pro. I’d honestly be astonished to find out pros make up even a significant percentage of people running lawnmowers. Everyone I know owns a lawn. And everyone of them also owns a lawnmower. There is an occasional pro who is doing something besides businesses and city work, they are truly rare.

Of course, anecdotes aren’t data, so maybe my experience isn’t telling.

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Haha, you don't live in Texas, the home of the gas ride-on mowers.

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I could see massive riding mowers being the last bastion of gas, for the same reason cars are. Replacing them is expensive. I guess I should be limiting this ideal more to “personal” tools that you mainly use with your hands, which would include push mowers but not riding mowers.

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I haven't seen a chainsaw yet that doesn't use oil.

Do some chainsaws now use some other lubricant?

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Riding lawnmowers are still mostly gas, as are the garden tractors. The larger electrics approach the price of a subcompact sedan.

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May 14, 2023·edited May 14, 2023

Yes, I addressed this in literally the comment directly above yours.

"I could see massive riding mowers being the last bastion of gas, for the same reason cars are. Replacing them is expensive. I guess I should be limiting this ideal more to “personal” tools that you mainly use with your hands, which would include push mowers but not riding mowers."

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The comments don't sort that way for me. The comment you quoted is reached by drilling down one more level on a sister comment. I've suspected before that we're not all seeing the board the same, and that seems to be true.

Also, your comment is not quite right. The issue isn't that replacing a working gas riding mower with an electric is expensive. Although that no doubt slows adoption. The issue is that when an old mower reaches the point of replacement, the electric riding mowers in the marketplace aren't remotely competitive with gas models yet.

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