As I See It: EVs? Not so fast
Columnist Pete Abler questions a solution he doesn't believe anyone has fully analyzed
When I left the Air Force, I went to work for an engineering services firm that was supporting the USAF in weapons development and testing.
The company also worked in other areas where I had some operational expertise — electronic warfare and training range instrumentation.
While working for this company I became acquainted with the concept of systems engineering.
Systems engineering is sort of the daddy while electrical, mechanical, software, structural, aeronautical and all the other disciplines could be seen as the children in the family.
When an airplane is designed and built, it relies on all those individual disciplines working together.
And often, if you needed to make a change in one area, you had to analyze and understand the impact of that change on the system — all the other components.
If you didn’t analyze and understand the impact completely, you were courting disaster.
Our current transportation system relies almost exclusively on energy produced from oil (gasoline, diesel fuel and lubricants) and natural gas.
Our electrical generation system mainly consists of hydroelectric, coal, natural gas, atomic and “green” sources (solar, wind and biofuels).
Yet, we are going to make a major change in energy production and usage to solve a problem I don’t believe we fully understand or one that is beyond our capability to fix no matter what we do. (I firmly believe the latter.)
Our current mantra is simply repeating “EV” (electric vehicle) over, and over, and over. And so many of us are buying a solution that I don’t believe anyone has fully analyzed.
Out there in academia, one study appears to have concluded that EVs will not be able to meet the net-zero climate goals.
As reported by Allysia Finley in the Wall Street Journal, there is a Climate and Community Project organization at the University of California, Davis. They have studied the issues and have concluded EVs alone will not result in the needed reductions.
Their conclusion is the overall number of EVs will have to be reduced because of the associated negative issues with EV production itself.
The first reason involves batteries that require the mining of lithium or extraction from ocean water. The predicted amount of lithium required for EVs in the United States alone is three times the total current world production.
As the demand increases across the globe, so will the cost of this critical metal.
Mining lithium itself requires huge amounts of energy and water and results in increased carbon dioxide production. Mining can cause irreversible damage to the environment and will certainly negatively impact poor countries and indigenous people.
And I haven’t seen anyone comprehensively address the problems of battery disposal and/or recycling. Heck, we can’t even recycle the large wind-turbine blades; they must be buried.
Lithium is highly reactive and flammable and must be stored in a vacuum, inert atmosphere or inert liquid.
Producing EVs, and the operation of a large number of them, will require massive amounts of electricity. Green energy may not be up to the task of creating that amount of “always-available” energy.
The Center for the American Experiment reported it takes 9 tons of copper to produce one wind turbine (probably the largest ones, some of which have recently collapsed or fallen).
The Project concluded that we need to “densify” low-density suburbs so less vehicles are required. We must create livable neighborhoods with reduced need for vehicles, and promote walking, cycling and public transportation, along with the creation of more bike lanes.
Coming to a theater near you? I don’t see that happening.
Can you foresee the unintended consequence of the unrelenting quest for more EVs may cause us to reach a point where electrical production cannot meet the demand and there aren’t enough internal combustion engine powered vehicles to transport us and our goods?
Sorry kids, we can’t go to Grandma’s house for Christmas this year. We used up our allocation of transportation electricity for the government-supplied EV and the Jones family gets it until the end of the month.
It could happen. We have a lot of knowledge; what’s lacking is wisdom — especially in our politicians.
That’s the way I see it.