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EVs’ Tough Road Ahead

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John Benson's picture
Senior Consultant, Microgrid Labs

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: Microgrid Labs, Inc. Advisor: 2014 to Present Developed product plans, conceptual and preliminary designs for projects, performed industry surveys and developed...

  • Member since 2013
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  • Jan 26, 2023

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As I started considering the IEEE Spectrum article used as a source for a future article, I found a lot to like. First of all, it described in detail the changes we (our societies) must make to implement Electric Vehicles, but also explored the risk of over-simplifying the challenges in implementing those changes.

Many parts of the Spectrum article that is referenced above that I do strongly agree with is that the whole life-cycle of EVs, including fuels, electricity, assembly, recycling and supply-chains matters mightily.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 26, 2023

First of all, it described in detail the changes we (our societies) must make to implement Electric Vehicles

This remains to be one of the more interesting elements of the EV transition-- trying to compel drivers to forget their habits and accept a new reality around driving. I think we're still more in the 'early stage' adopters than not, so I'm interested to see how this develops as some less eager adopters end up switching. 

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Jan 26, 2023

Thanks for the comment, Matt.

I agree. Also, some drivers will never move to EVs, and I can understand why. Most of us tend to anthropomorphize our cars, especially reliable ones, and treat them as members of the family. I have two elderly (1993) cars that are both still relatively reliable, One has over 300,000 miles on it (a Honda Civic). Others really like IC-powered cars, and then there are the collectors.

I would buy an EV if one my current elder 4-wheel friends had a major failure or was totaled in an accident. But many would resist this mightily. I expect several decades from now there will still be IC-vehicle owners (low single-digit percentages). There will also be markets for fuel (zero carbon) parts, repair shops, etc. to keep these people happy.


Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Jan 27, 2023

As always - great insights! 

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Jan 27, 2023

These are important points but you have to consider the many tech improvements. Tesla and many other companies no recycle the lithium batteries reusing 98% of the material. 

Tesla now makes million mile vatteries.

Tesla and other use the same battery make up for the GRID in Megabatteries. 

   There are new even better lower cost sodium batteries. New solid state batteries plus many others. 

    Tesla also uses the home Power Wall solar storage batteries as a virtual battery.this helps the GRID as needed. They did this in Southern California last summer to have zero outages. Now they licenced this in Texas to help wind power and solar. Some EV makers are doing V2G using EVs as batteries. 

    The cost of batteries will be cut by 50% before price start to stablize. Like the false promise of Nuclear being to cheap to meter is now here with Solar and wind. Plugin or get out of the way. 

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Jan 27, 2023

Hi Jim, Thanks for the comments.

I largely agree with you in the short to medium timeframe. Also, I'm planning several posts in the near future that will clarify your points for longer timeframes. As technology improves there will be alternatives for all current battery technologies within five to ten years, and Tesla (as well as other EV Manufacturers) will offer these. The development of these technologies is being driven the fastest expanding markets in our economy. Any guesses beyond ten years are "stacking imaginary bricks on top of other imaginary bricks."



Julian Silk's picture
Julian Silk on Jan 28, 2023

Dear John,


Thank you for the post.  There may also be hydrogen as an alternative.



Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jan 30, 2023

Of the motorists who don't want BEVs, which would accept Hydrogen instead?

  • not the ones who want minimum up-front cost, those platinum filled fuel cells are expensive.
  • not the ones who re-fuel in remote areas with too few customers to support grid upgrades for high powered public fast chargers.  Hydrogen pipelines cost even more.
  • not the ones with nostalgia for internal combustion engines (ICEs).

For many of the above BEV-averse groups, ammonia fueled ICE vehicles could be a more appealing option.  Liquid ammonia, which is carbon-free and can be burned in a modified ICE, has triple the volume energy density of 5000 psi hydrogen, without the problems of ultra-cold liquid hydrogen.  That means it is much cheaper to deliver to refueling stations by truck and much less difficult to make space for in a vehicle layout (both are bulkier than gasoline).

Ammonia fuel is gaining traction as a viable replacement for diesel fuel in marine applications.  I think it will start gaining attention for long-haul trucks as soon as companies start lobbying the government for the subsidies which will be required to make battery-powered heavy trucks the best option and deploy the needed infrastructure.


Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jan 30, 2023

Anhydrous ammonia is lethal as a gas. Widespread use in vehicles and storage facilities creates a whole host of safety issues when the liquid vaporizes, which it easily does.

I have managed facilities that used liquid anhydrous ammonia and extensive safety measures were employed.

The road from theory to practice is not necessarily without problems.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jan 29, 2023

"... an EV operated in Shandong or West Virginia causes about 6 percent more greenhouse gas emissions over its lifetime than does a conventional gasoline vehicle of the same size. An EV operated in Yunnan causes about 60 percent less.

Author’s comment: Any vehicle manufacturer can purchase renewable power for their operations.'''

The regional grid mix is an important factor in the emissions benefit for BEVs.  But buying renewable (or clean energy) production credits is not the same as powering a factory with renewable (clean) energy; no factory will shut down when a cloud comes between it and the sun.

While clean energy credits are one possible way to help fund clean energy that costs more than fossil fuel energy, and can make us feel better about our energy-intensive purchases and activities, there are limits.  As long as new clean energy production is getting generous government subsidies and other policy support, the clean energy credits will look a lot like "double-counting" of the clean energy.  And Tesla's attempt to take credit for clean energy production by their customers must be triple counting.

And of course clean energy credits could be bundled with fossil fuel powered cars and related fuel purchases just as easily.  Why exclude that alternative?

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Feb 1, 2023

Nathan & Michael, Thanks for the comments. 

Regarding ammonia, I spent some time in a much earlier post looking at this. See the post briefly described and linked below. 

Release the Crackers: This paper will investigate why ammonia is probably the best carrier for hydrogen, possibly can be used directly as a fuel, and the latest developments in ammonia technology including crackers.

Yes, I agree ammonia is bad stuff, but most fuels with high energy contents are, one way or another..

I'm working on a post on biofuels right now. Before that will be another post on the U.S. blueprint on transpiration decarbonization, and it seems to lean heavily on clean fuels.

I recognize energy credits have some major problems. I currently only see them as a stopgap until they are reformed.


John Benson's picture
Thank John for the Post!
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