by Anne Beckett
This article is in response to the June 22 article in Fentress Times, “Electric Dreams and Harsh Realities.”
The article did a good job of assessing a potential benefit of electric vehicle buses for Fentress County schools. However, new studies bring to light other serious issues to consider.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are still arriving upon the scene, and the demanding conversion from gas powered vehicles imposed upon us by the current federal administration is questionable as it creates additional demand on our already overburdened, and primarily fossil-fueled, electric grid, among other reasons.
This article will address research that indicates electric vehicles are not better for the environment and have more quality issues than gas-powered ones.
The current administration is in a push to convert the U.S. to electric vehicles. However, only 20% of our energy needs are “renewable”, such as wind turbine. That means we are currently 80% dependent upon so called “fossil fuels” such as gasoline, coal, natural gas. Therefore, the comparison between electric and gas powered vehicles is really a comparison between burning gasoline or using a mix of coal and natural gas to produce electricity for an electric vehicle.
A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that EVs are worse for the environment than gas-powered ones. EVs are not emissions-free: charging an EV increases electricity demand — which is mostly provided by coal plants. (Viva la coal!) If the current administration’s plan is for EVs to reduce reliance on what is termed fossil fuels it is based on false pretenses and is going to fail miserably.
The argument over environment issues cannot be made if coal is the most used source to produce electricity. So where is the benefit?
However, there are worse and bigger issues against electric vehicles.
J.D. Powers produces an annual “U.S. Initial Quality Study,” and has for the last 36 years. In their most recent study they compared the number of quality issues among electric, hybrids and gas-powered vehicles. Per 100 vehicles (PP100), electric had 240 quality issues PP100, hybrids had 239 PP100 and gas had 175 PP100 quality issues. Some of the issues are due to technical complexity which increases the likelihood of problems. EVs are meant to “transform us in the era of the smart cars,” according to the article. So they are loaded with technologies like Bluetooth, touchscreen, and apps including remote door locks and battery charge.
While gadget lovers may have fun with new ‘toys,’ most Americans prefer to use traditional gas vehicles because of “charging logistics, driving distance and maintenance costs.” (Speaking of maintenance, owners of the 2014 Ford Focus will have inoperable vehicles if and when the battery needs replacement: the cost would be $11,000, but batteries are no longer available.)
Batteries for electric vehicles continue to be a problem. First, batteries are very expensive and not reusable. When they die, disposal in a landfill is problematic, as lithium batteries aren’t stable. They can cause fires that sometimes smolder for years. Toxic fumes are released, which not only are dangerous to breathe but can contribute to global warming. This defeats the original purpose of the EV.
Electric vehicles also contribute to the “greenhouse” effect they are supposed to be helping. This starts with the mining process. The process of mining the raw materials for the batteries releases CO2 emissions. Then these raw materials must be refined before they can be used in batteries; this causes more emissions.
The batteries for EVs require graphite. And there many problems with that. China is the biggest producer of lithium-ion batteries and their precursor materials, especially graphite. So in effect, America is supporting an industry dominated and controlled by a hostile foreign power. The “plan” to convert to EVs will enrich the Chinese Community party at the expense of the environment and U.S. Taxpayers.
A hybrid auto battery uses 22 pounds of graphite; EVs demand 110 pounds of graphite. Graphite production produces significant pollution. China had to shut down production in their city of greatest graphite output. Graphite dust is toxic whether inhaled or leached into the water supply. Worse, hydrochloric acid is used to process mined graphite into a usable form. Hydrochloric acid is highly corrosive and damaging to ALL forms of life.
In its 2022 report, the U.S. Department of the Interior U.S. Geological Survey reports that in 2021, over 70 percent of the global cobalt production came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The problem, according to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, is that dust from cobalt mines often contains toxic metals such as uranium, and these mines may contain sulfur minerals that can generate sulfuric acid. When exposed to air or water, sulfuric acid can lead to acid mine drainage, polluting rivers and drinking water for hundreds of years. And, up to 40,000 children are estimated to be working in these mines under slave labor conditions.
Further, reports around the nation about vehicles bursting into flame should bring great concerns. These are potentially due to the lithium-ion batteries. More time is needed to determine if this is going to be a regular occurrence.
Electric vehicles may be more a part of a socialistic utopian dream than scientific reality. Based on current research and experience, it may be a better idea to exercise patience as well as caution before jumping onboard with electric buses. Further, it is never good to own the first of anything new. Wait until all the bugs are known, and a track record has been established. No matter how good it looks financially for now, even with “free” grant money, the “hidden charges” could bring buyers’ remorse with no recourse.
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