404 - BEVs revisited | Scoins.net | DJS

404 - BEVs revisited

BEV= Battery Electric car

I have two relevant articles, both from the Guardian, which I read most days first thing on an iPad. These were published in the order I present them and I suggest you read both first.

i have some small hope that there this becomes a longer series which explores where the believable truth actually lies. Both articles read as if well supported and disagree to such an extent that what I write here attempts to see where either or both authors have misled, however accidentally. I suppose I could write that any misleading may itself be accidental as much as an y expression of belief triumphing over actually gathered fact. I also wonder quite when we can decide that any source has actually grasped a fact rather than an interpretation of evidence. Thus we continue to function on perceptions rather than truth; I find this disturbing.

1. It seems to me that an EV is great for short journeys, which we might describe as those where we can return home without needing to 'fill up', where we have an assumption that home-served recharging must be the cheapest way to do that, however it is achieved and largely on the basis that (i) this is the fewest parties expecting to make profits from the need to recharge and (ii) that the slower forms of recharge are going to be the least expensive.

2. If we are to reduce our fossil fuel demand then the campaign for active transport—walking and cycling—needs support. I've written before that this fails for me as soon as I have load (basically, shopping). The short journeys that the previous point refers to include those which could be swapped for active travel but is only some of those. Given excellent public transport we might combine systems to good effect; my study of these says that the time cost is going to remain sufficiently large that few of us will opt to use public transport instead of private transport until such time as the cost difference is so large that we will accept the discomfort in place of the cost, which also means many of us forgo having a car at all.

3. I can see that, in the absence of public transport we collectively find useful and acceptable, the distance travel is either curtailed (largely displaced by video-conferencing) or we keep relatively expensive private vehicles (and I'll include hire of vehicles here). Thinking of sci-fi suggestions, autonomous taxi services (no driving skill required) would provide the expected privacy (not public) but would have to be remarkably cheap compared to current taxi services. But I note (again, I suspect)  that an e-bike would be hugely cheaper than a car; for myself the arguments against bikes are those of load, security and speed; it remains true for me that up to around 15 minutes of walking a bike of any form is not a gain, while at twice that I find I'll take the car, even though (if there were a safe way to leave the bike) a bike would be a 'better' solution. Poor weather works against all forms of active travel.

There are arguments about the recycling of batteries and the life of batteries. For example, we've been told that EV batteries can be used in power walls (i.e. as domestic, household, wall-mounted batteries that one charges from one's solar panels); that implies that the extraction of that battery makes economic sense and that the total life of a battery is as long as the life of the remainder of a car. This situation would change if EV batteries were easily removed, allowing replacement.

We might take issue with the use of the term rare earths. I've explored elsewhere the relatively rare and therefore expensive components used in making an EV (and BEV); .....

We continue to argue over where the electricity we charge our batteries comes from, by which I mean the generating source. I remain remarkably pissed off with how we are charged for renewable electricity (largely as if it comes from fossil fuel sources). It is not true that a car has zero emissions if the energy used has come from a fossil fuel source and that statement itself makes assumptions about how we measure emissions.

There is clear confusion over what we mean by costing the life cycle of an object such as a car. We are unclear whether the critical measure is CO₂ or a wider count of materials that we might succeed in keeping in circulation (the general term here is sustainability). Just on CO₂, we're not very clear what we mean. For example, it apparently takes around 20 tonnes of CO₂ to make an EV (Tesla 18.5, Polestar 23.2) so one might sensibly ask how far one should have travelled to 'better' an ICE alternative, petrol of diesel. If you allow for some of your electricity being from fossil fuel sources you get numbers such as shown at [3] – basically it doesn't make much difference until you've kept the car in use for 20 years and even then the difference is slight in CO₂ terms. that conclusion would change if instead one decided that something else was what is important, such as simply not having burned the fossil fuel because it is more valuable unused or used for something quite different, and I'd think in terms of having used the fossil fuel to convert it to things like plastics, though there we need to be hunting for alternatives already. I see arguments for leaving as much as possible as unused resource, i.e., still in the ground, persuading ourselves that this is uneconomic rather as we have done with mineral extractions (e.g. tin and gold in the UK). We can do that very easily with regulatory decisions (e.g. a significant charge for a licence, a tax on extraction, other levies on such industries).

Rare earths can be minerals, metals or elements. The elements are easily listed {Y, Ce, Sc, Gd, Ho, Yb, La, Tb, Dy, Lu, Er Pm} and defined, [4]. The elements are all metals and they're remarkably similar [a set of 17 nearly indistinguishable lustrous silvery-white soft heavy metals, [4]]. We do not mean rare in the scarce sense and this is therefore a distraction. What we should instead be looking at is that scarcity, which, in terms of constructing EVs in their various forms, can translate directly into cost. I wrote a piece about Tesla's changed attitude to battery design [.....]

[.... from Essay §361Are EV batteries not Green?

There is more to consider about what is expensive to include in manufacture that could be substituted for some other material. Particularly, I should find where I wrote the earlier material on the recent change in Tesla battery design.

EV batteries require rare earth elements (REE); lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite (these are rare earth elements? If I find that they are not, what does that do for my(or your) trust in all other statements made in this piece?) For instance, to produce 1 ton of REE, 75 tons of acid waste (that isn’t always handled in the right way) and 1 tone of radioactive residues are also made, according to the Chinese Society of Rare Earths. In spite of these pollution issues, research tells us not to worry about the availability of these rare earth elements and when it comes to lithium, there is data estimating enough worldwide reserves for the next 185 years, even if the EC market triples, according to the Deutsche Bank. As for cobalt, graphite, and nickel, they also seem to be in a comfortable situation, since the demand for the years to come is expected to stay far away from the reserves Earth has to offer. Although it looks like everything will work out just fine, let’s not forget the negative environmental impact of extracting REEs.   Apart from the weight of the REE, the energy used to produce the batteries themselves is also responsible for nearly half of their environmental impact since most of this energy doesn’t come from low carbon sources. Nevertheless, forecasts show that the electricity generation is improving and there are more renewable sources entering the grid, which would help decrease the ecological footprint of building up these batteries.     On the other hand, developing renewable energy systems has its impact as well, again using energy and REE. In the end, we should be reasonable about this and despite their initial footprint, the impact of lithium-ion batteries, when compared to conventional cars, is offset within 6 to 16 months of average driving (using clean energy) in the US or 2 years in the EU. From this moment on, EC keep being a better eco-alternative to conventional cars until their battery gets to the end of its life cycle. 

I add myself that the ability and effort to recycle the parts of any used battery needs to be included. If lithium becomes rare, then a major source of lithium (rapidly) is available in old batteries. Or, as my fingers correctly typed, betteries.


[1]  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/jun/03/electric-vehicles-early-adopter-petrol-car-ev-environment-rowan-atkinson

[2]  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jun/08/fact-check-why-rowan-atkinson-is-wrong-about-electric-vehicles

[3] Copied comment from [1]

[4]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare-earth_element

from page 395

Suppose we've moved to almost all of us having EVs? Suppose range is 250 for cars and 500 miles for trucks. How many supply sites do we need? If one site is intended to serve as much as a current service station, how much power does it need to have available, and, assuming energy is delivered more slowly than oils, how much bigger does it need to be? 

Early estimates say we're already behind the curve (and the US is worse than the UK) in provision of supply. The problem, quite rapidly, moves from those who move locally to those who move at distance, so perhaps we might restrict one part of the problem to studying heavy transport. So postulate that the Tesla Truck works well enough and that it (and its competitors) are set to replace the existing heavy transport, without moving the load to other mediums (rail, air, water).

Number of lorries in Britain; 131,000 over 41 tonnes, 105,000 between 8 and 18 tonnes. 16.2 billion vehicle kilometres. Source, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1006792/domestic-road-freight-statistics-2020.pdf

Assume a workable range of 500 miles, 800 km between charges (which currently implies that the advertised range is 1000km). Assume 300 working days, each 8 hours of driving long. we need  at least 20.25 million charging sessions, at least 67,500 per day. The current supply of service stations is deemed adequate; there are 2150 petrol stations in the UK, declining by perhaps 5% a year; not all of these can take lorries.  Suppose the business is distributed normally around the mean of 1000 lorry-suitable stations, so that each of these needs to cater for 67 visits, say between 50 and 100. A typical lorry battery requires a 420kWh size for a 250 mile range, so for a nominal 1000km needs a battery of about 1050kWh so let's say the lorry target is 1000kWh. The Tesla semi is expected to have half of this, which implies twice as many charging sessions.   A super-fast charger on the megawatt-hour battery works at 150kW (rapid) or 175kW (ultra-rapid), implying something like six hours charging per megawatt. That suggests that eight hours of driving includes some of these six hours and a reduced range implies more vehicles or more staggered hours. 

You can see why the future is seen to belong to robots doing the driving or the driving being done remotely, or in trains. Even with extremely fast charging, the working day for long-distance haulage is going to be broken into range-sized chunks with dedicated charging stations booked in advance or sufficiently numerous that queuing is not a problem. But, working from the Tesla truck's 500kWh for 250 miles (400km) then for each 200 miles of likely range there is a 2-hour delay of ultra-rapid charge time. If the long-distance driver maintained 50mph, that's four hours on and two hours off. I say that this model of working is too expensive and that different working models are required, such as driving between charge points and swapping vehicles, or swapping tractors or swapping battery units at speed. 

Without more information about costs of those alternatives, one cannot make much further progress on this topic. Suffice it to say that it looks at the momennt as if having electrically powered lorries is not going to succeed for long-distance haulage. Yet it is the distance haulage that we want to succeed, as that is the most likely haulage that can be pedestrian free and so the most likely to be declared safe enough to be doable. in turn that means that, in effect, we're looking at an equiavalebnt to trains and barges; long-distance movement of largely imperishable goods with large-scale interchanges. Which in turn will lend itself to modular handling, much as we do already for shipping.

Idle thought: if that last is true, how close are we to having automated shipping? If not, why?

DJS 20230608. And 0614.

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