I have come to realise that in order for me to consider something as “cool”, it has to be niche. Like when owning a PC and getting online via dialup was cool, before the masses started using the internet. Having an MP3 player before the iPod was a thing…
For a while I thought electric cars were cool, and certain aspects of them are, but not the mass-produced nonsense it feels the masses are being “told” they need to buy, especially when the logic no longer seems to stack up. This is the standpoint I begin here with.
The carbon footprint of an electric car
The carbon footprint of an electric car is vastly different to that of a fossil-fuelled counterpart, and perhaps not in the direction you might be thinking of. I’ve heard two figures banded about: A new electric car has to do 90K+ miles, or be owned for 10+years before its carbon footprint from being manufactured is comparable to that of an petrol/diesel equivalent. Obviously that “10+” year figure is going to depend on just how much your drive; surely it’s based on an average mileage, so if you do half the average, then the car needs to last 20 years, and not every car lasts this long. Given that a new small electric car costs in the region of £30,000, when a petrol equivalent could have been had for £8,000, this perhaps reflects the cost of all that battery. This leads me on to my next point…
How long will the batteries last?
Many of us have experienced a failing battery in a mobile phone, tablet or laptop computer. In earlier versions of phones and laptops these may have only lasted a few years but the remedy was simple: buy another battery and swap it, but with current iterations of these things this process is not user-friendly, with cars this is even more of a technical challenge, not to mention what to do with those worn out batteries. This leads me on to my next point…
What to do with all of those batteries once they reach their end of life?
Already those early versions of electric cars are experiencing diminished battery capacity or they have failed to the point of un-unseability; one can only hope that the modern batteries being used will last longer, but from my understanding, at best they’re going to start seeing diminishing returns within 10 years (about the same time that the car breaks even on the carbon footprint of its original manufacturing). Typical “car batteries” are relatively simple things and can be stripped down to their few constituent parts and recycled, or even refurbished (where it’s cost effective to do so). Batteries in the latest electric cars are different from your typical “lead acid” battery and will not be cheap to rebuild, replace or recycle – again there is a carbon footprint associated with all of this.
Day-to-day running costs
The main attraction seems to be the day-to-day running costs of an electric car – they’re cheaper to “refuel” compared to using petrol or diesel, but I have some concerns about this.
Here in the UK it is widely reported that are energy grid is under more demand than our own power stations can cater for. A portion of our electricity therefore comes from abroad. Just like other fuels, the prices are out of our control and can be manipulated through incentives and taxation. Furthermore, prices are influenced by demand and energy companies know how much we are “addicted” to their product (there vast profits during this present energy crisis are, I believe, proof of this). This means that should/once everyone switch(s) to electric vehicles there will be a far greater demand on electricity and prices will increase accordingly. Anyone on a low income who can’t afford/justify the cost of owning/running a car (or simply aren’t following the masses who are being directed to own electric cars) will see their home’s electricity prices sky-rocketing, pretty much as we are seeing already.
Typically electric cars (indeed all modern cars) are larger and heavier. Larger vehicles have bigger wheels and tyres, and bigger brakes (brakes produce bake dust which is carcinogenic and contributes to air pollution, even if there are “no tailpipe emissions” – granted, electric cars can be equipped with “regen-braking” but then a reported side-effect of this is bakes becoming seized due to a lack of use, resulting in maintenance costs). Larger tyres and brakes typically cost more. In addition to this, larger vehicles will naturally cause more wear and tear to our roads which cost money (and cause pollution) to repair.
Parking and manoeuvring
Parking an over-sized vehicle, especially here in the UK where parking spaces are at a premium, is an often-times comical affair – I have often either been sat in my small car or stood with my bicycle while I watched someone manoeuvring or trying to park a stupidly large vehicle in a small parking space on a small street in a small village somewhere. It makes me wonder if they considered these factors when they bought the thing, because it would put me off – granted, an electric car could possibly park itself, but then you still need to be able to open the doors! Numerous times I’ve seen a stupidly large family wagon have to mount a pavement in order to get anywhere; it appears people in the UK are being lured into buying what they have seen Americans driving.
Often it’s “lower maintenance costs” that are provided as an incentive for switching to electric cars, but bar the annual oil and filter change (which is hardly a great expense given the cost of owning a vehicle), what other maintenance costs does an electric car lack? Surely they’re still going to be prone to various faults, from sensors to electrical gremlins and warning lights as any modern car can be plagued with (in all the decades of motorcar manufacture you’d think they’d have these things perfected by now). If anything, I foresee that electric car faults will be one average more expensive to diagnose and solve compared to others, requiring specialist equipment and expertise.
Smart Meters and control
A further concern is the control which will be levied against all once the switch to “fully electric” has taken place.
Already we are/have being/been pressured into using Smart Meters in our homes, but these have yet to be utilised to their full intent. Sure, they have their convenience factor in that you can “easily see how much electricity you are using” and “you no longer need to send a meter reading”. We’re always sold on the convenience-factor. But the intent is that the appliances in our homes can be controlled by the “Smart Grid” in order to, say, limit demand at peak times. Already we are seeing some incentives to follow suit in the form of cheaper rates of electricity when using our power-hungry appliances at times dictated by our energy providers.
Stipulating when we should do our laundry is one thing, but once our modes of transport are tied to the Grid, we will be told when we can charge our vehicles and for how far we can drive them. When we appreciate that these vehicles are not only operable by the electricity provided to the Grid, but also the communications network they are tied to, we’ll realise just how much freedom we will lose – a self-driving car might sounds great doesn’t it? Until you can’t get to anywhere beyond where you’re told you can go. That sounds more like a prison to me.
They lead us in to where they want with one small step at a time with changes that hardly make a blip on most of our radars; before we know it all control will be handed over to our energy-supplying overlords.
A solution to all of this is to actually drive less. This has been suggested since before electric cars became a thing, and electric cars clearly aren’t a solution, they’re just a cop-out in my opinion for the time being (for the masses to once again be made to believe they are doing the right thing) until it is decided they too are too “polluting” (or the energy grid can’t cope with them or the battery cost/waste is too detriment) – a similar thing happened here with a vehicle scrappage scheme, which later found the science to be wrong. Admittedly many of us simply justify car ownership, or driving one when it’s not actually necessary, or when a bicycle is more than adequate (I ride mine most days).
If you’re convinced by the global warming/climate change argument then you should perhaps consider what impact the rich have each time they use their private jet while the rest of us squabble over the so-called “cost of living crisis”. For a while I’ve started to feel some offence whenever I see one of the middle-rich drive an overly expensive (and oversized) vehicle down a rural street. There has been an increase in them here where I am since people have been touristing here rather than abroad, all the while an increasing number of people are relying on food-banks and/or expecting they aren’t going to be able to heat their homes this winter.
P.S. Teslas remind me of this:
We can’t go on expecting more than our share of the earth’s resources. We’re going to have to get used to driving less and having less, and possibly even sharing more. “Holidays at home” will mean exactly that – not touring Scotland or somewhere, but staying at home. It has been obvious for a long time, but I don’t think I’m alone in thinking we have now reached the tipping point.