The case against electric cars

Guest Post:

The case for the electric car is fraught with problems, mostly from the combination of; false assumptions of clean renewable hydroelectric grid supply, lack of infrastructure, battery limitations and misinformation as to range and charging times resultant from operation on hills or at load.

Irrespective of the car type, the problems with the type of charging or origin of the power supply is the same and I come back to the argument that the grid has to viewed “overall”. If the numbers of electric cars increase in Auckland or Dunedin they collectively add a load to the grid, which is adjusted centrally to supply, diverting power supply across the whole grid to that area of demand.

Currently, renewables are unable to meet total supply and certainly unable to meet full winter demand, so gas-powered additional capacity is in operation and is rapidly and strongly ramped up to meet peak demand. Additional electric vehicles and new electric trains only add to that demand that requires fossil fuel-based gas operation. This means grid supply for electric cars and their extensive grid distribution losses are all a demand of (fossil-based )gas generation, not clean at all, never will be.

At this time there is absolute political resistance to coal mining of any sort. New coal field extraction is just about impossible to obtain the consents for and will remain so as long as the Greenies hold any office and voting powers in govt.

The hydro supply is near its absolute limit as evidenced by the low lake levels that are over the last several years of management. This resource cannot be expanded easily as it requires more managed catchment and that requires more dam building which the greenies vigorously oppose through the RMA.

Greens are absolutely opposed to new dams, increased artificial lakes and raised lake levels. Any change would take years of Consent appeals and political posturing. Geothermal is likewise limited in its rapid growth as a renewable resource because to manufacture the thermal steam, water is pumped down into the geothermal field and the resultant steam is captured. However, there is a limit to how much water can be introduced before the heat of the field deteriorates, so an expansion of the resource requires widening of the field or the development of new geothermal fields. Again expansion of the renewable geothermal field requires RMA consents and that is a slow process taking years since the fields are generally located on Maori land.

Onshore Wind generation has stalled in New Zealand with the NZ Windflow company holding patents on excellent designs suited to the rugged terrain and the violent Tasman weather, but consents are strangled by opposition from the Greens who whilst agreeing that wind is renewable nevertheless oppose wind generation based on visual and noise pollution. Opposition is also noted by power companies, as it adds cost and complication to introduce the very volatile supply input into the grid in an orderly manner and it dilutes their traditional source control. Not least of all, there is opposition by landowners through the RMA most often on a not in my backyard basis having little regard for the national interest.

The last West Coast North Island Wind generation field took over ten years to obtain RMA consents for about a third the field size as was originally planned for. The setup and holding costs are so significant for such a delay as to preclude most smaller private investment. Since there are very few larger investors wishing to take the financial risk involved in such delay, the progress is in effect strangled at birth.

Offshore natural gas to supply natural gas for gas turbine (fossil fuel ) generation is already used and is the only source available for significant rapid expansion in the short term, but apart from it being a fossil fuel source, the gas field as identified in the case of the Maui field, is noted to be a depleting resource, and gas fields when exhausted deplete very rapidly. There is strong political opposition to establishing expansion of gas-based generation anywhere near the cities due to the exhaust pollution and there is the issue of carbon taxes and carbon credits to consider on a global treaty basis.

Solar is not an issue, it would require a solar panel field about the size of a house section in constant sun, to supply a larger Tesla or similar car or equal engined ute or van vehicle and more for a bus or truck. Apart from the huge cost and the average very limiting 17% efficiency of solar panel technology, the problem is the intermittency of generation. If the grid is used as a storage medium, then input voltage control is a major grid issue and requires some expensive inverter equipment as a grid tie at each input location. This is especially expensive (per watt delivered) to provide, for the value of power consumed by a Tesla type vehicle.

Then there are the limitations of the vehicle in operation. So far there is no standardized charging regime for cars and delivery trucks. There are about three different commonly known charge outputs and charge plug arrangements are competing for a slice of the market. This is a bit like the battle between VHS and Beta of apple firewire and micvro usb. Until one type is declared the standard like we have the 3 pin electric plug, problems will arise with connection and delivery voltage.

Different battery types and sizes cannot accept charge rates at the same amount. We are still seeing charge stations that only suit one type of battery or car. Charge stations are (like CNG used to be) are far too infrequent and far too far apart especially in the rural areas and off the main highway, to be useful. The few Charge stations available are oversubscribed and cause waiting delays.

Charging stations are not located where you need to park for your own needs, causing you to park in one place for your needs and park elsewhere to charge up which is a time-wasting delay. The charge up turnaround time is exceedingly slow which generally is no fault of the charger but a technical limitation of the battery which cannot be designed away (or they would have done it already).

There is NO convenient or quick recharge possible on the roadside and you cannot carry an additional supply in a can. Electric cars are not currently suited to long country, hilly, rough, 4×4 operation nor towing for any distance. These types of operation along with prolonged slow travel equivalent to first gear will drain the battery and reduce range very rapidly. The full range cannot be obtained if the lights, airconditioning, heating, wipers, large wattage radio, multiple auxiliary add-ons using the 12v dash charging have all sucked range off the main battery. Unlike a hybrid, they have no recharge compensation between charge-ups. Also operation across water fords or floods as can short out the electrics and sensors.

And of course the problem of battery disposal. This toxic waste product could be regulated. At this time there is not any nationwide organized disposal or recycling arrangement for complex and toxic lithium, cadmium or nickel oxide battery substances. Battery disposal could easily be a taxed item by the time the end life of about 8 or so years is reached.

Lastly, road taxes relief makes the electric car appear economic. However, the demand on electric power which would see demands on added electric grid production, (most of that demand met in the immediate term by high-cost gas generation), over time would require considerable infrastructure development which would inevitably push electric charges higher.

The nature of high current charging supply would inevitably result in “Creditcard prepay” at stations which could lead to a higher charging tariff for the use of franchised charging stations and it would be easy for the government to regulate charging stations and require road tax collection at them.

This current untaxed situation can be considered no more than a temporary reprieve, and that brings us to the last hurdle. Does not the reliance on a centralized grid for power not put the user entirely in the grip of centralized regulation, registration, fuel taxing, carbon tax (on grid fuel), charging permission, wof/road operation permission, driver licensing permission, gps vehicle control?The potential for control over transport and business/private use restriction takes on an Orwellian potential, dare I suggest a fearful potential under a greens/socialist government.

I would rather stick for the time being with trusted and somewhat free-ranging diesel or even petrol options. Appart from diesel being cost-effective in purchase price, cost-effective in maintenance and cost-effective in current fuel cost, the limitations of electric severely curtail its versatility and usefulness. The technology is simply not yet developed enough for the wise investor or persons requiring only a very short range delivery of commuter vehicle with prearranged charging points and even business subsidy of the fuel cost. They may find sufficient cost effectiveness to select electric, but possibly only if they have another vehicle to offset the severe limitations of realistic range.


Dont be overwhelmed by the apparent look of the shiny new Tesla, just be aware that certain International financial newsheets are tipping Tesla as a short sell. Apparently, Tesla has committed to a vast battery factory without locking in a long-term guaranteed supply of adequate Lithium to manufacture the batteries and without securing a reliable supply of an essential battery management ingredient namely Boron.

The other problem yet to arise is that adding 100,000 car units all charging daily will create its own peak demands and demand periods for heavy current supply. At present, the grid wiring and distribution infrastructure is NOT designed for this type of demand. So locations such as suburbs that have only low capacity domestic supply infrastructure will have to be entirely reconstructed or a suitable high amperage grid constructed in parallel. Imagine the cost of that upgrade when it has taken a decade to simply install light and flexible fiberoptic, and will it be vehicle owners or householders who foot the cost of that changeover?

Neither do we want increases in immigration (of people who have no experience and little understanding of nuclear-free) coupled with Electric car demand, to raise the voice for instant electric supply. To override our decades’ old nuclear power ban, that would be a real tragedy, but not beyond possibility as some neuvo green politicians are now declaring nuclear power to be green and nuclear certainly fits the socialist manifesto of controlling strategic supply, not only of transport but also of power distribution. This new leftish love of electric trains and electric cars is nothing more than propaganda for the controlling socialist manifesto. Be wise.

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