February 2023 Vol. 78 No. 2

Editor's Log

Editor’s Log: Stampede

Robert Carpenter | Editor-in-Chief

(UI) — Have you rushed out and purchased your outerspace-esque designed, super sleek, high-priced electric car/SUV that’s going to save the environment?

If you’ve seen the plethora of new car ads these days, it makes one wonder why we’re not all jumping on the electric vehicle (EV) bandwagon, joining the mad stampede being whipped up for misguided, single-minded and heavily biased political motives. The effort is geared to make the American public enthusiastically ditch carbon cars and shell out thousands of extra dollars for an electric car or SUV. Even a major pizza delivery chain has been swept up in the movement, apparently believing that electric car pizza delivery equals better pizza sales.

The President Biden Administration’s narrative has been to mercilessly shun, blame and attack “big-oil” companies, gas companies and any pipeline ever built as the root of environmental evil. The President has used his bully pulpit to supplement his unending rules and regulations against oil and gas, as the way to achieve the “carbon-free” goal of his zealous backers.

Shockingly, I’m in favor of EVs. But all in good time. I am dead-set against this rush to abandon our carbon energy programs without adequate solutions in place. This destroy-oil-and-gas scenario is taking us down a disastrous path that is dangerous, ill-conceived and, in the long-run, not practical. And to an open mind, it is also unnecessary.

Several years ago, some of us were defining natural gas as a bridge or transition fuel – an economical, plentiful source that generated up to 80-percent less emissions than other carbon fuels. Research showed that if just heavy trucks converted to compressed natural gas from diesel (a relatively cheap and easy conversion, as the technology was already available), within just a few short months, air pollution as we know it would cease to exist. The infrastructure for CNG refilling stations in the U.S. was already growing. What an awesome, effective and elegant solution to an immediate problem.

Sadly, under the Obama/Biden administration, support for progress in this direction quietly and quickly diminished. It was still considered a carbon-based solution that was unacceptable.

For our current “electric generation,” batteries are key to current EV car designs, yet still provide extreme challenges for manufacturers. Providing enough power for travel is often not possible. Further, range for electric cars costs a lot of money. An often-used example is that the Nissan Leaf with 226 miles of range costs $6,600 more than the same trim level with a 149-mile range.

EVs utilize a technology called regenerative charging, where breaking in the stop-and-go traffic of cities supplements the battery charge. However, that’s not applicable on longer distances of travel. If a car has a milage range of 300 miles, you will probably only get half that when it’s not necessary to brake frequently or you’re driving on open highways. That explains why 90 percent of people with an EV also own a conventional gasoline engine car. So much for the Progressives dreams of everyone driving only electric cars.

Also, the more range of an EV, the heavier the batteries become. Even low-range battery packs add roughly 800 pounds to the overall weight of a car; extended-range EVs can be 2,000 pounds heavier. Compare that to a gas car, with an average added weight in gasoline of 100 pounds that decreases as consumed. EVs’ weight is constant and maintains a steady drain on batteries.

With that extra weight, additional risks to highway safety, unfortunately, but predictably, emerge. Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley found that impacts from a vehicle that is 1,000 pounds heavier (due to electric battery packs) generate a 40- to 50-percent higher fatality risk. Further, the researchers suggested that factor generated a societal cost equivalent to 97-cents-per-gallon gas tax.

When these battery packs have to be replaced, there are limited options. Ultimately, they will either have to be discarded or recycled. Discarded batteries have already proven too dangerous for landfills. Cost-effective and practical methods of recycling these massive batteries don’t exist yet – the only workable recycling process is extremely expensive and impractical. Several major companies, including Argonne National Labs and former Tesla Co-Founder JB Straubel, are trying to solve this elusive problem. Straubel, most notably, has partnered with Ford.

It’s also important to note that not all EV batteries can be recycled. Virtually all experts and scientists agree that improper disposal of electric car batteries will have a major adverse effect on the world environment.

All these issues, and more, present clear evidence that any stampede to EVs should be blunted and allow reason to flourish. An EV future could be a good thing. Alternative batteries are in the conception stage that would supply better power with fewer environmental risks. But such science needs time.

The most damning obstacle for EVs is the hypocrisy of the entire movement to an electric-only environment, whether it be cars, cooking stoves, heaters, etc. All are reliant on other fuel sources and the most cost-effective, proven, established and plentiful one remains natural gas. If given the opportunity, gas is our low-carbon-impact, high-efficiency transition energy source, while the world solves the ultimate environmental and alternative fuel challenges.

Simply allowing gas to do its job will make EVs practical.

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