EVs Aren't All They're Cracked Up To Be

Anyone who’s been reading this blog knows I am not a fan of Electric Vehicles. From both an engineering and environmental viewpoint they don’t make any sense. That goes double once we start looking at them from an energy, safety, and performance viewpoint, too.

The last thing that really makes me dislike EVs even more is that SloJoe and WRBA have made the decision for everyone that we must abandon the internal combustion engine in favor of a technology that isn’t better, is more expensive, doesn’t perform nearly as well, is not good for long distance trips, and is awful for hauling freight (even electric pickup trucks perform abysmally). Then to add insult to injury, the nation’s electric grid won’t be capable of charging all those mandated electric vehicles. (It’s barely capable of meeting present day electrical demand. Adding terawatts of more demand without increasing the generation and transmission capacity is suicidal for our nation’s economy as it will bring the grid to its knees.)

The always elusive “They” are trying to sell EVs on the basis that they’re good for the environment, that they don’t contribute any of that evil CO2 into the atmosphere, and that everything will be sunshine and roses if everyone uses them.

Too bad it’s total B.S.

It’s true EVs don’t emit CO2 directly. Instead, it’s all indirect, between what is generated when the various exotic materials that make up vehicles are collected, processed, and used to manufacture the parts and components that go into building them. There is the CO2 generated by the power plants that make the electricity used to charge them. There’s also the CO2 generated when the the battery packs are manufactured and recycled.

Then there’s the environmental issues starting with the mining and extraction of the minerals used manufacture the lithium-ion batteries and electric motors. Then add in the use of child and slave labor to mine the cobalt needed for the batteries and EVs aren’t looking as good as the proponents keep painting them to be.

There’s also environmental issues when the EV batteries are recycled. While the processes for lithium-ion battery recycling are slowly getting better, they are still nowhere near where they need to be in order to be cost effective and environmentally friendly.

Another issue that should make those considering buying an EV is the cost of repairs, particularly after an accident. Too many are considered a total loss for damage that normally be repaired if the vehicle wasn’t an EV. Many times it is the battery pack that is the reason why the EV is totaled, it being the weak point of most EVs. (It’s also why insurance companies are raising insurance rates for EVs.) All it takes is one damaged cell in the pack to make the pack a possible incendiary bomb. Considering many battery packs are also an integral part of the EV’s structure, and ‘tweaks’ to the pack’s frame due to an accident can damage one or more cells. All it takes is one to go into thermal runaway and the pack will ignite and the EV will burn. (We’ve seen that more than a few times on the news, haven’t we?) We know from such fires that there is no putting them out using the usual firefighting methods. In many cases fire departments will protect surrounding cars and trucks, homes, and vegetation from catching fire and let the EV burn.

I can also get into the problems EVs have with immersion in water, particularly salt water, which causes the packs to short-circuit, something that has happened again and again in areas prone to flooding.

Yet another downside to EVs, again dealing with the battery pack, is their poor performance once the temperatures fall below freezing. Cold temperatures cause the battery packs to ‘lose’ capacity. The chart below shows the loss of battery capacity for a number of EVs at 32ºF as compared to the capacity at 70ºF.

Click on image to embiggen.

However, as one commenter to this post mentioned, “The chart above shows performance at 32ºF, not 52º or 72º colder (-20ºF to -40ºF). Knowing Li-Ion batteries as I do (part of my job), batteries will at best have 1/3rd the capacity at temps that low...if they will operate at all.”

That means in places like here in New Hampshire, or upstate New York, or Minnesota, or Wyoming, or Montana, or Alaska, or in Canada, EVs will be all but useless during winter. That isn’t generally a problem with internal combustion engined vehicles. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to entrust my life to something that won’t work when I need it to.

EVs as they stand now don’t make sense. Hybrids do, but not EVs.