Is an Electric Vehicle a Waste of Resources? Certainly Not, Here’s Why.

It is often claimed that electric vehicles are a failed concept due to the apparent huge amount of resources their batteries consume. I bet you’ve heard it at a BBQ or dinner party from the self proclaimed experts amongst your family, friends or work colleagues. I also bet they threw in statements about Lithium shortages and rare earth metals. Here’s a tip, ask them to name the rare earth metals used in a Tesla Model S battery pack, it’s the last time they’ll ever mention EVs in front of you again.

Please note in the comparison below I am using a Model 3 as it is the most talked about EV at the moment.

To judge the resource intensity of an EV it is best to compare one to a similar size combustion engine car, not one that will only survive the 220,000kms average but a Toyota Camry that if treated with respect should make it to 500,000kms before being scrapped.

A Camry is no match for a long range Model 3 in performance or technology but that’s not the discussion at this time, if we’re going to run a comparison let’s use the best internal combustion engine competitor so there’s no claim of an unfair playing field.
To keep it simple I’ll refer to resources a Model 3 consumes that a Camry doesn’t and vice versa, both cars have seats, door handles, tyres and 12 volt electronics so each car has no disadvantage in that area.

Tesla Model 3
Without going into the finer details of the battery composition a long range Model 3 contains about 500kg of materials. None of them are currently in short supply, in fact all of them have been used in non EV products for many years, this includes the controversial mineral Cobalt that is also used in the oil refining process. Many of the materials are commonly used in the production of ICE vehicles, it’s not like the worlds miners are clearing a whole new jungle just to build electric vehicles.
The AC electric motor/motors plus ancillaries unique to an EV add another 100-150kgs, most of these resources can be recycled but that’s another discussion.

Toyota Camry
The Engine, gearbox, fuel injection system, starter motor, exhaust system, fuel tank and a vastly complicated anti pollution system add up to about 300kg of materials. These are generally very reliable parts but no doubt the exhaust system will need replacing, most importantly the exhaust contains a catalytic converter that is essential to the car reducing its emissions.
The Camry also requires resources for servicing, more than 120 litres of engine oil replaced over 500,000kms, 30+ oil filter changes, fuel filters, air filters, gearbox oil, spark plugs, spark leads, brake pads, engine coolant. Yes, a Model 3 has battery coolant but it generally survives the life of the battery, the coolant in an internal combustion engine works far harder and needs more frequent replacement. As you can see the Camry not only consumes resources in building its drivetrain it also continues to consume them throughout its serviceable life.

Fuel for the Model 3
If you live in Australia and own your home its financial insanity not to be charging from rooftop solar power, if you happen to be part of the majority who do charge from the sun that solar panel system is adding no more than 300kgs of resources to the bottom line, that’s spread over 25 years, about the same time it would take to drive 500,000kms.
For those still charging from the dreaded 100% coal generated electricity (even though the Australian grid is now less than 70% coal generation) your model 3 is going to lead to the consumption of approximately 32,000kgs of coal (22,400kgs at 70% generation), it’s cheap, abundant and locally produced, its also very handy that in Australia the coal is transported from the mine site to the generation facility by a conveyor belt or short train journey. Sadly the multiple toxic elements coal power stations release into the local communities is a major downside.

Supertankers travel up to 22,000kms to fuel Australian vehicles.

Fuel for the Camry
There is no choice for the Camry, it’s imported oil all the way, shipped across the oceans in bunker fuel burning supertankers, refined in energy hungry oil refineries and trucked to the service station. Over the lifetime of a Camry it will consume approximately 45,000 litres of fuel (34,000kgs), all of it non recyclable.

That 500kg battery pack and 300kg solar panel system doesn’t appear so bad after all.

V2G, Keeping Vehicle to Grid Simple

Vehicle to grid (V2G) has received more media attention recently due to a trial in the ACT using 51 Nissan Leaf vehicles. Without going into a discussion on whether this may be available on Tesla vehicles I’ll simplify why V2G could be a great asset to a power grid when a reasonable percentage of vehicles are electric.

Even before renewable energy started flowing in to the generation mix, the highs and lows in electricity demand over a 24 hour period added extra expense to delivering power, now in 2020 with some areas already generating over 50% of the electricity from solar and wind power this adds to the issue, having electricity storage is part of the solution.

Why Electric vehicles?
The average car in Australia travels less than 40kms per day so it’s reasonable to assume that the vast majority of passenger cars in Australia are parked for more than 22 hours per day, mostly at home but also in many locations where an electrical circuit is close to the parking spot, making use of all those mostly unused car batteries for storage is a financially smarter use of resources.

Will this shorten the battery life?
If done correctly it will have little impact on the lifespan of the battery pack, keeping in mind that most EV battery packs will outlast the remainder of the cars bodywork and interior anyway.

How will it work?
I would expect that on most occasions a vehicle battery would only feed the grid for a short time during times of peak demand, this may be less than 10% of the battery capacity stretched over a 2 hour period, it may occur 3 or 4 days in a row during times of extreme grid demand, at other times of the year it may not occur for weeks on end. It’s not adding a 60kWh battery to a household rather a case of thousands of 5kWh batteries to the grid during peak demand.

What if a car needs a full charge in the morning?
Not a problem, once a peak demand event is over the car can be topped up during periods of low demand after 10.00pm, if the car is only being driven 20kms to work it may be better to top up from cheap daytime solar, smart power pricing will determine this.

Who doesn’t like V2G?
It’s a real eye opener to see the flood of negative comments when V2G articles recently appeared in the mainstream media, there’s a good reason why, for many years there’s been a continual and well funded attack against renewable energy, now that solar and wind can produce electricity at a lower lifetime cost than fossil fuels the last attack on renewables is their intermittency, basically the argument is renewables are useless without expensive storage options. If Vehicle to Grid technology suits the Australian grid it’s a cheap and readily available storage option that also provides one massive kick in the guts to fossil fuels.

All New Vehicle Sales Electric by 2026? Of course it’s possible.

Recently Perth based futurist Professor Ray Wills updated his predictions on electric vehicles. His forecast of all new vehicle sales globally being 100% electric by 2026 is a real eye opener to many, it also draws out the negative amongst Australians, even those who already own an electric vehicle. Not possible they say, not even 2036, normally followed by poorly researched reason why they disagree. Here are a few and why this reasoning is flawed.

Electric vehicles are not popular –
If most research is showing around 50% of drivers would like an EV in the future, that doesn’t mean a proportion of the other 50% won’t change their mind in the next six years, lower price and better functionality will quickly gain the attention of potential buyers, it did with big screen TVs, Digital Cameras and Mobile phones, EVs will do the same.

Some people live in multi story apartments, they can’t charge their car –
So how do they fuel up their petrol car at the apartments? They don’t, they drive to the service station, there’s no reason why the apartment living EV owner can’t drive down to a charging station and charge up while having a Coffee. There’s dozens of possible locations to charge an EV, there’s only one way to fuel a petrol car safely, at a service station.

There are some functions an EV just can’t perform –
90% of the driving population cruise around the city and suburbs, they don’t tow 3500kg boats on 2000km journeys without stopping more than once, they don’t spend every winter driving the Canning stock route, in fact 80% of the people who own a 4×4 don’t even know where the Canning stock is.

There are owners than just won’t drive anything without an internal combustion engine (ICE) –
I don’t doubt that, although those drivers will be a small minority, I also firmly believe they’ll have no reason to buy a new ICE from a dealership when the second hand car market will be awash with perfectly good and very cheap ICE vehicles. 

The battery technology for long range 4x4s won’t be available by 2026 –
Maybe, maybe not, but as I say above the second hand vehicle market can cover that. Think about this though, in 2012 it was a wild dream that a 2200kg family sedan could travel 600kms on a charge as well as accelerate from 0-100kmh in 2.5 seconds, one  little start up company from California achieved this by 2018, imagine what the combined forces of the worlds vehicle makers could achieve in battery technology.

The worlds vehicle makers will still produce profit making internal combustion engine vehicles in 2026 – 
They’d like to but the cats now out of the bag, Tesla has seen to that, EVs are superior in nearly every area. On top of that there’s two other issues, one is the reduction in new vehicle sales world wide since 2018, and the other is the ever tightening regulations governments are placing on combustion engines, any vehicle maker that doesn’t quickly move to producing EVs is dead.

There’s not enough resources and factories to make all new vehicles electric by 2026 –
To start with new vehicle sales are on a decline and that will continue. There are  a number of reasons for this, one of them being is that vehicles are becoming more reliable and longer lasting, adding EVs to the fleet will compound this problem for vehicle dealerships. In 2018 there were approximately 90 million passenger vehicles built worldwide, this could rapidly drop to below 70 million by 2026. As for resources and battery factories, don’t ever underestimate the opportunity to make money amongst the mining and processing industries, and most of all don’t ever underestimate the desperation to survive from the dozen or so remaining vehicle makers faced with dwindling vehicle sales.


If You Want DC Fast Charging You Need to Speak Up.

If you’ve recently purchased an Electric vehicle in WA it’s probably now apparent that charging from home is a breeze, it’s also a good feeling when you’re offsetting with solar power. If you’re a bit more adventurous and have taken longer trips outside the metro area it’s also now apparent that fast DC charging is lacking in Western Australia compared to other parts of the country, in 2015 WA led the way with 11 of Australia’s 16 DC chargers, we now have 20 compared to the hundreds being rolled out across the eastern states, to make matters worse the original 11 chargers in WA are rapidly in need of some upgrading to suit the modern electric car.

The WA branch of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA) have been lobbying on behalf of owners for many years, in recent times the Tesla Owners Club of Western Australia (TOCWA) have added their voice attempting to encourage more DC fast chargers to be installed throughout WA. But let’s be clear it’s not the cheer squad that gets the team over the line in an AFL Grand Final, it’s the whole crowd, every single one of those that are passionate for their team to win. To get DC charging rolled out across Western Australia in a timely manner we need as many electric vehicle owners as possible to show their passion for the cause, we can wait and hope or we make an effort both individually and collectively.

So what can you do?
*Load up on EV ammunition.
Or to be more precise up to date information, The UWA report, the iThink results and the Tesla impact report are useful documents to have on hand.
*Email your local state MP, keep it short and polite, remember that you are dealing with a public servant that considers cost before all else, don’t tell them it’s good for you but have no hesitation in telling them it’s good for the state and its finances over the long term. Mention tourism, discuss the need to reduce imported oil, highlight the benefits of EVs soaking up excess daytime solar power. If you’re wise to the subject remind the MP of the EV battery resources available in Australia and the opportunities it can bring. Avoid discussing the environment, I know it’s a critical subject but an MP is already very aware and will not be changing course, it’s no use flogging a dead Horse.
*Arrange to take your local MP for a drive, very likely he/she has seen or heard of an EV but have never driven one, without doubt they are pleasantly surprised, 4 years ago I took my reluctant local MP for a spin, the following week he mentioned the experience in Parliament. If you have a FSD Tesla save that for last, the roll out of DC chargers and vehicle autonomy are completely different subjects.
*Get a Twitter account.
State MPs have Twitter accounts to brag about their productivity, especially Ministers, when they mention a new road, building, carpark or other publicly funded infrastructure is being built politely suggest a DC fast charger would be a great addition, you may not get a reply but remember the comments are seen by the both the MPs advisors and the opposition, don’t underestimate its reach. The best twitter accounts to follow are the Premier, the Energy Minister, the Tourism Minister and the Transport Minister (and don’t forget your local MP).
*Display your EV whenever possible
Council sustainability events and Festivals are a great way to get the message across, it’s amazing how many politicians show up to make a presentation, when they walk past your car make sure you get their full attention and their photograph with your car.

Hyde Park Festival 6th March 2017

In summary the more EV drivers that get on board the better chance a we all have of getting a useful DC charging infrastructure in Western Australia, you may only do one thing but that email you send or hand you shake may be the one that gets it across the line.


Dealing with ICEholes; Don’t Lose Your Cool!

Electric vehicle drivers soon learn the term being ICED, it refers to arriving at a parking spot set aside for EV charging only to find it blocked by an internal combustion engine vehicle, also known as an ICE. Many refer to the ICE driver responsible as an ICEhole, there’s at least one Australian based Facebook group dedicated to shaming these people, I doubt ICEholes really care, it’s more of an emotional support group for EV drivers that are regressive rather than progressive. The moment an EV driver vents their frustrations on social media the ICEholes have won, this apparent difficulty portrayed ends up being another reason to deter people buying EVs.
In reality not everyone who blocks an EV charging spot is an ICEhole so I’ll break it down into 3 categories:

1. The Arrogant EV Owner
I’ve used over 200 different charging locations in every state and territory in Australia and on the 3 occasions I’ve been completely prevented from charging my car it’s because of an Electric vehicle parked in front of the charger not plugged in or plugged in but no longer charging, it only takes a quick review of Plugshare comments and photos from that location in question to find the EV owner is a serial offender. Basically they treat it as their own personal parking spot, this is completely out of line and shows a complete disregard for other EV owners. In this category I should also include Prius drivers that take up the charging space expecting no one to notice they don’t have a charging port on their “self charging car”.

The Arrogant EV owner not plugged in.

2. The Completely Unaware
There are still many ICE drivers that park in EV Charging bays purely through misunderstanding, the ground is not painted, the signage is poorly worded and sometimes non existent or in some cases hidden behind a huge concrete pillar. For those long term EV drivers out there, think about the times you’ve seen a new charging location and said to yourself “What idiot bureaucrat decided this was a good spot for a car charger?”
Very often the completely unaware ICE driver is keen to learn more about electric vehicles, if you play it smooth no doubt their next car will be electric.

3. The Deliberate ICEhole
This last one is split into two sub categories
A. The Annoyed
Think about the local that has parked in the same area weekly for the past 20 years, then a poorly advised council engineer decides to plonk an expensive ratepayer funded EV charger in front of the Post Office.  That’s a red rag to a Bull, the local has paid rates all his adult life and can’t even get the potholes fixed in his street, give this person a break and write an email to the shire suggesting a better location for the charger.
B. The Antagonist 
This is the true definition of an ICEhole, they’ve not only parked in the EV charging spot deliberately but they’ve bypassed 50 other better parking spots just to use the one allocated to EV charging, not only that but they’re also keen for a confrontation so they can tell their mates about it on social media. Don’t give them the pleasure, do the exact opposite of what they desperately hope for and avoid a discussion. Take a photo if they’re not looking and if possible report the vehicle to the buildings management with the minimum of fuss.

Australia is only in the early stages of electric vehicle adoption, it’s critical that drivers are educated with encouragement rather than confrontation so the EV experience is good for everyone, always remember when dealing with ICEholes don’t lose your cool.


There’s Nowhere to Charge an Electric vehicle! (Hold my Beer)

This time 4 years ago we drove our electric vehicle from Perth to Broome and return. Why? Because folks said it couldn’t be done, apparently there was nowhere to charge. At that time probably 99.5% of Australia’s population had that belief. It didn’t stop Glen George during his around Australia trip in 2011, but I guess the anti EV media don’t see Glen driving a converted 1950s MG as meeting their “criteria”.
Robin and myself set off knowing that every location along the way had at the very least 10amp power points, but that’s “desperation charging”, the aim was to find something faster- 32amp 5 pin three phase outlets, 10 times faster charging than a standard wall socket, we knew three phase outlets were there but not always who authorised its use, finding an outlet was easy, persuading the custodians it could be used for EV charging not so easy.

Charging at a Marine Mechanic in Exmouth

So how did it go? The 5400km return journey (with detours) had a limited number of hurdles, any negative always opened the door to a better solution than expected, that’s how life rolls if you have an open mind. The best memory is finding such a variety of charging locations in a fairly remote region of Australia. In order we charged at a cabinet maker, a steel fabrication factory, the SES, a marine mechanic in Exmouth, a disused bore pump 100 metres off the highway, the Walkabout Hotel outside of Port Hedland, Midalia steel (Mmmate!), a Golf course, an earth moving business and finally a supermarket storeroom.
So why bother? Why not wait for a DC fast charger network to be build? If we all had that attitude we’d still be living in caves, eating raw meat and being anti science, and besides there’s nothing as satisfying as taking on the challenge and proving people wrong. When folks now tell me there’s nowhere to charge I tell them to hold my Beer.

Cable Beach Broome 4th July 2016