'Range Anxiety,' Battery Fires, and High Costs Cause Consumers to Hit the Brakes on Electric Vehicles
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As technology and the push to protect the environment grow, so does the plan for electric vehicles.
Sales are up more than 60 percent this year with a growing number of Americans wanting to ride the green energy wave. Given the potential long-term investment, more car buyers are considering the environmental impact by purchasing an EV.
"They're perfectly good vehicles – they have great utility features for people who are wealthy enough to have two cars," said Mark Mills, a Manhattan Institute physicist. "The second you can charge overnight in the garage. What's not to like?"
Still, Mills says many environmentally conscious drivers don't understand the amount of energy it takes to make an electric vehicle. He says the claim of zero-percent emissions in this pursuit is a myth. Not only does it take more energy to build an electric vehicle, but safety concerns and several downsides also have new car buyers adding up the costs.
"So, the supply chain that markets the manufacturing of batteries is utterly dominated by China," Mills said. "They have a market share in energy minerals to manufacture batteries – roughly double OPEC's market in oil. Put differently, three to four times our market share in oil and gas."
He went on to say, "Like any vehicle – they have to mine materials to make the car. You have to mine a lot more materials, metals, to make an electric vehicle than you do a conventional vehicle. By about 1,000 percent on average."
Mills says a single electric car battery weighs about 1,000 pounds, requiring miners to dig up about 500,000 pounds of earth to make one battery – using giant mining machines that burn diesel oil.
"All those emissions from all that energy usage to dig those materials up cause carbon dioxide to be emitted somewhere else," Mills said. "So when the electric vehicle is delivered to your driveway, it's already arriving with massive emissions of carbon dioxide that you eventually pay off. It's kind of like an inverse mortgage by driving that instead of an internal combustion engine."
Skip Bowman from Texas told CBN News he's been driving electric cars since Toyota released the Prius hybrid.
"I'll never go back to a regular car," Bowman said. "I've had Porsches in the past, Alfa Romeo, Mazda RX 7's. I love the thrill of that acceleration and there's nothing that can beat an EV."
In 2021, almost 1.5 million electric vehicles were registered to drive on the nation's highways, according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC). That's only about one percent of all vehicles on the road. For people like Skip, this is a perfect fit although he points out some challenges people need to know before buying electric.
"So, if you live in an apartment or condo, someplace you don't have a charger for you to charge overnight, that's an issue with electric cars," he said.
And knowing where to charge your car could cause some headaches given the nation's overall lack of charging stations. Of the 56,000 in North America, the majority are only found in major metropolitan areas.
"That's called 'range anxiety' and there is range anxiety, especially if you go into the smaller areas in the state," Bowman said.
Also, charging an EV has become a well-documented nightmare for drivers seeking adventure or just R&R. Some report spending more time charging than they did sleeping.
"Even the so-called superchargers take 30 to 40 minutes to refill your battery," Mills said. "That's almost ten times longer than it takes to fill a conventional gasoline tank. What that means in simple terms of equal function and utility – you need roughly five to ten times more filling stations for the electric vehicles than you have to for gasoline vehicles."
The federal Infrastructure Law seeks to change this with the goal of 500,000 new stations and plans for one every 50 miles on major highways. That will take time and money, however, to the tune of $5,000,000,000 over the next five years.
"The United States grid is not that strong, we're trying to maneuver off of coal and natural gas, and just go with renewables – which has not proven to be completely dependable," Bowman said.
Another concern along these lines will be felt with falling temperatures.
"The big downside of having an EV is wintertime, [when] the range is cut way back because the battery pack is having to run a heater," Bowman said. "And that heater really cuts down on your range."
If you're still interested in buying one, Kelly Blue Book estimates the typical EV goes for about $56,000. That means only 36 percent of the U.S. population can likely afford one.
The Biden administration hopes to sweeten the pot, promising a $7,500 tax credit if you buy a new electric vehicle.
Another problem came to light recently in Florida following Hurricane Ian. Some EV owners discovered saltwater doesn't mix well with lithium-Ion batteries as cars caught fire due to saltwater damage. Junkyards filled with water-damaged cars strategically displayed gas-powered cars squeezed together and electric cars spaced far apart – in case one spontaneously caught fire. Firefighters say it takes about 1,000 gallons to put out a normal car fire and ten times that for an electric vehicle.
"The safety implications are the fact these batteries get hot," said H. Sterling Burnett with the Heartland Institute. "They get hot when they're stored, not just when they're charging – just when they're sitting there stored. They combust. Remember, Chevy had the Volt? They had to pull them off the road. Why? Because too many of them were spontaneously catching fire."
Florida's Chief Fire Marshall is calling for action, even writing a letter to Elon Musk. So far, Musk has not responded. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did answer saying, "Lithium-ion battery fires have been observed both rapidly igniting and igniting several weeks after battery damage occurred."
As technology marches on, the government is working to ensure all drivers are safe on the road.
"Human drivers don't have a very good track record when it comes to safety," said Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg. "Now there's a lot of promises for these technologies in the long run but we are reaching a point where these policies haven't always kept up with the technology. So many regulations to keep cars safe are based on how cars used to be. We need to be focused on how cars are going to be."
The push towards electric vehicles is becoming a political red line, with some states banning the sale of gas-powered vehicles. California made it an executive order. Still, only one percent of cars on the road today are EVs. However, the plan at the government level is to switch to this technology. That's why it's important to take all sides into consideration and purchase what's best for you.
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