McClaughry: Is the electric vehicle for you?

By John McClaughry

For the past decade the most popular idea for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to fight the Menace of Climate Change has been subsidizing the purchase of electric vehicles so that even low income and disadvantaged people can get one. Vermont has gone even further, signing on the dictates of the California Air Resources Board that will make it impossible for dealers to buy or sell an internal combustion car or light truck by 2035.

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

From a political standpoint, the most attractive feature of boosting EVs, like the clean heat standard advanced by the House last week (H.715), is that neither involves a visible carbon tax. The EV relies on government subsidies. The clean heat standard — the crown jewel of Vermont’s climate change movement — will ingeniously tax heating oil customers to subsidize switchovers to heat pumps and pellet stoves, and more home weatherization. Heating fuel customers will blame their fuel distributor, not their legislators, for driving up prices.

EV drivers must deal with range anxiety and charging time trauma. The former is diminishing with better battery technology (over 300 miles on a charge, so long as it’s not too far below freezing). The latter is being addressed by a costly profusion of charging stations paid for by the infrastructure grants from Washington. An added EV incentive is exemption from the motor fuel taxes that bring in about 30% of the VTrans highway budget. Paying the motorists’ share of the upkeep of the state’s roads and bridges is left to the owners of disfavored internal combustion cars and trucks.

To be fair about it, EVs do offer stylish looks, jackrabbit starts, comfortable rides, juicy federal and state subsidies, and the motor fuel tax exemption. Their vulnerable point is the thousand-pound battery. Repeated discharging and recharging cycles degrade it, and operation in cold climates diminishes performance and battery life, reasonably estimated to be 15 years.

The Climate Council’s Climate Action Plan has adopted the utterly unachievable goal of increasing the present 4,360 Vermont EVs to an astounding 170,000 in the coming nine years. Perhaps with that in mind, VELCO says it will need $2.2 billion in upgraded grid capacity to service the electrification surge.

An EV owner should plan on spending $12,000 for the replacement battery, installed. If something goes wrong with the battery or its electronic control system, can you find a skilled technician readily available to get you back on the road? Would you put a new battery in an EV driven on Vermont roads for 15 — or even eight — years? Would your car and its tired old battery have any trade in value on a new one? Worth thinking about.

Also worth thinking about, especially if you are a devotee of “environmental justice,” is the provenance of the crucial components of the battery, notably lithium, cobalt and nickel.

In a widely read essay, Tom Harris, executive director of the Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition, wrote that the 1,000 pound Lithium-ion EV battery contains 25 pounds of lithium, extracted from 25,000 pounds of brines mainly in Tibet and Argentina-Chile-Bolivia. He reports that the Tibetan (China) mine “resulted in dead, toxic fish and carcasses of cows and yaks floating down the thoroughly poisoned River.”

Harris quotes a UN report that “indigenous communities that have lived in the lithium-rich Andean [desert] region of Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia for centuries must contend with miners for access to communal land and water. … Some estimates show that approximately 1.9 million liters of water is needed to produce a ton of lithium.”

Harris reports that the 30 pounds of cobalt in an EV battery requires processing 30,000 pounds of ore. Two thirds of the world’s supply comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “Congo has at least 40,000 children — some as young as four years old — working with their parents for less than $2 a day,” beset with cave-ins, toxic, radioactive water, dust, and dangerous air loaded with cobalt, lead and uranium. Much of the ore is sent to China for refining by the Chinese-owned Dongfang International Mining Company.

As for nickel, the Washington Post reports (3/16/22) that Russia supplies about 20 percent of the high-grade “Class 1” nickel used in most electric car batteries. Most of it is produced at Norilsk in Siberia, created as a slave labor camp far above the Arctic Circle, now one of the most egregiously polluted cities in the world.

So, enviros, keep enjoying your taxpayer subsidized EV that reduces CO2 from gasoline and diesel fuel emissions that may contribute to holding the increase in global average temperature to one degree C by the end of this century. It’s important to feel good about your virtuous selves.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development and John McClaughry
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17 thoughts on “McClaughry: Is the electric vehicle for you?

  1. EV Battery Systems

    Grid-scale battery systems are entirely different from the mass-produced battery packs in electric cars, which operate about 700 hours per year, are warranted to have a loss of no more than 30% of capacity, at end of year 8, in case of Tesla

    The cost of a 60-kW replacement battery is about $10,000, or $165/kWh, plus about $2000 for labor, etc.

    That replacement cost may eventually become $125/kWh, plus labor, etc., due to more mass production in future years.

    Who, of rational mind, would switch batteries, at a $12,000 total cost, in an 8-y old car?

    As the price of tungsten spiked to $100,000/ metric ton, in March 2022, prices of battery packs are likely to increase, rather than decrease; prices have settled down to about $40,000/ metric ton

    The Tesla model 3 ($55,000) and model Y ($60,000), excluding state sales taxes, had another price increase of $1000, in March 2022.

    THOSE PRICES ARE TOTALLY OUT OF REACH FOR 98% OF VERMONT HOUSEHOLDS

    EVs ARE BIG-TIME MONEY LOSERS, IF AMORTIZING AT 6%/y OVER 8 YEARS IS TAKEN INTO ACOUNT

  2. Before we set up a whole new standard for personal transportation and how we fuel it, I dont know that we have thoroughly investigated which way to go. Electric drive is a no-brainer, as it has been with diesel-electric locomotives since the end of the steam age. The question is: how do we store that energy on board the vehicle? The options are battery vs hydrogen fuel cell. NASA figured out 60 years ago that batteries were just not going to cut it for multiday missions and every spacecraft since then has carried hydrogen to “burn” in fuel cells to produce electricity.
    The advantage on Earth is that fueling with liquid hydrogen is as fast as our current liquid petrol fillup and the oxygen to complete the fuel-cell reaction is available in the air. Before we jump whole-hog into battery storage electric vehicles which require time and driving strategy to charge up, we had better answer this question. We have been spoiled for 100+ years with personal vehicles which take 5 minutes to fuel to take us 200-400 miles and going back to a system like horses which take extended time to feed/fuel will not be a good marketing feature.

  3. We can write comments as infinitum.
    Dem/Progs do not give a damn, because they have the votes.

    WE HAVE TO OUST THE B…S FOR GOOD, AND CLEAR OUT THE DEM/PROG CAREER BUREAUCRATS

    WE HAVE TO GO TO THE POLLS, EN MASSE, TO OVERWHELM ANY DEM/PROG ELECTION SHENANIGANS

  4. Buttigieg proposes spending five billion of YOUR tax dollars to build a national network of charging stations. That’s not how we got nationwide gas stations – they were built by profit seeking entrepreneurs who competed price and service wise against one another for customers. Hey, Buttigieg – isn’t that Progressive enough for you? Example: WalMarts have large parking lots, gas/Diesel service plazas, why not charging stations? At their expense, for their profit, and to attract customers who can shop (at the convenient WalMart) while they charge.
    Buttigieg is pushing a vehicle for which the technology doesn’t yet exist. When it does, they’ll take over the market – by consumer demand. There’s no reason I should be subsidizing your car.

  5. You can tell we are being ‘led’ down the rosie path of chaos by flatlanders who winter in Florida or the Islands, and that they are also well healed, lazy, pampered, and not really Vermont fiber. In fact, the opposite of Vermont fiber.
    They are corrupt fomenting corrupt policies that benefit the few (the oligarchs in charge of lithium and cobalt global markets) who give no shites about us plebs struggling to live within an utterly dysfunctional economy that excludes anyone with an income less than $80k, in Vermont.
    These policies are for the dumb and dumber, and end in disaster. Predictably, for the planet.
    Let alone the child and slave labor required to mine those minerals profitably. Without the environmental destruction because there are no regulations in foreign countries to protect it, and the child and slave labor to do the work, the mining would not be feasible for the oligarchs.

    Qui bono? Qui bono?
    Not you and I, the regular Vermonter who isn’t striving to outdo the Joneses next door with their virtue signalling b.s.

    • Thomas Edison tried to make electric cars work from about 1897 to 1915 when the idea was ended as not practical. They failed for the same reason they will fail today; not enough charging stations, not enough range, and too costly.

      • Old solid rubber tired electric fleet delivery vehicles were in use in New York City at least into the post war forties, by which they were really ancient vehicles. Short total distance travelled, a lot of stop and go, and chargers in their carbarns. They handled jobs like delivering bundled newspapers to kiosks, milk delivery (yeah, it was delivered – in glass bottles), etc. I’m pretty sure I can recall UPS delivering with them.

  6. In an age when truthful information is literally at our fingertips, it is astounding how easily the sheep can be led off a cliff in support of an idea whose time has not yet come. The left has jumped the shark on so many levels regarding their brainless support for launching us into electric vehicles long before it makes practical sense.

  7. If your into strip mining 60,000 tons of earth to make one lithium battery using toxic chemicals and
    child labor then EV’s may be for you.. and the leftist commies talk about the toxic waste of a minuscule
    fracking hole these are huge earth pits and salt brine lakes. Then in 8-10 years you have to buy another battery pac at 2x the cost as lithium and the other minerals used are not going to last with
    the projected demand. The waste will be toxic for ever unlike spent nuke fuel rods which can reburned.
    All this on top of having to remember to charge or be near a charge station which is most likely to
    be coal fired.. It sure don’t make any sense to me when we have 2000 yrs of oil in OUR ground..

  8. The entire idea of EV’s needs to be limited to local trips. With the planned taxes and fees, No one I know can afford an EV and a gas powered vehicle for longer trips too or a 4wd version for winter. I recently had to make a few day trips to New Jersey for a relative who needed help. No EV has the range to do that, and there are few to no charging stations along the trip roads, along with no charging station at the relatives home. On these trips there are 5 service areas along the NY Thruway. I saw one charging station at one and only one service area.

    The only good thing an EV in every drive can bring is to limit the distance the communists can travel. If they all live in the same area, the power for them can be…, well you can guess. lol.

  9. anyone who buys an electric car/truck has no use for the human race especially children These countries make children work in these “mines” and a lot of the children die because of it.
    Electric cars are unsafe but our biden admins don’t give a rats a$$ as long as it puts money in their pockets. They think they are saving the environment but they aren’t… People need to READ up on these mines about what is happening to the people and their country, again and to the children who are forced to work in them. I will NEVER drive a stupid unsafe electric car.!!

  10. People driving their EVs and those pushing for them really don’t care what’s taking place in those mines or the death of children or the pollution of rivers on the other side of the world. No one over there can see how virtuous they are while driving their electric car. The whole EV thing boils down to two facts, there are people with connections to the progressives who will profit because of taxpayer government subsides and the hypocrites that drive them to prove they are special people to other progressives. It’s capitalism by government decree for the wealthy and boosted egos inside the climate change religious cult of morons.
    Mother Nature will cast a big heaping of Karma on these people. She is in charge of the climate and these arrogant fools will eventually fade away under the weight of their own ignorance.

  11. The idea of everyone switching to EVs is a totally unrealistic and unworkable. Here is one of many examples why it won’t work, and any attempt to mandate it will bankrupt us: For the past several decades, environmentalists and town planners alike have been pushing the development of multi-unit housing structures. Many condos and many apartment buildings with dozens of units in each building. Where will they put the charging stations in those units? If they weren’t put in when designed and built, how much will they cost to retrofit? The cost to do so is staggering. That said, if you can afford a private home on your own lot, it may be much more feasible to install the 2 or 3 charging stations the average family with 3 or 4 vehicles might need. Haven’t we already conserved enough by adopting living in the more efficient and environmentally friendly multi-family units?

  12. And another timely reminder now that Vermont is in the throws of mudseason that the extra weight of the battery in the EV will help sink you in the mud.

    • Lester,
      I have an all wheel drive Subaru Outback.
      I have lived on my dirt road for 32 years
      It is baddddd right now.
      The only reason I did not get stuck is the road was slightly downhill.
      An EV would not have had a chance, unless all wheel drive.

    • Adding to above;
      And mud flood your hugely expensive 1000 pound battery located under the floor of your electric car.
      coroding the huge amperage cables and connectors, which need fans to carry away excessive heat.

      And since pretty people hate Nuclear power, maybe the electric can come from coal powered plants!
      Or, What other fuel???

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