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Reality - What a Concept

Robyn Williams released his classic comedy album "Reality - What a Concept" way back in 1979 (on vinyl). It seems that today's Electric Vehicle policymakers could use a reintroduction to the concept of reality.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers recently published an extensive study delving into the complexities of the global transition to electric vehicles. What they found is sobering.

Here are some of the key highlights from their study.

The Staggering Scale of the EV Transition Push

Synopsis of the study's findings:

To have a ‘measurable’ impact on climate change by midcentury, humans will need to vastly change two foundational sectors of modern civilization—energy and transportation. These simultaneous global overhauls will involve trillions of dollars in investments. (Most of which will inevitably accrue to China's benefit.) When all is said and done, there is no certainty that this effort will have any meaningful impact on global temperatures.

Objectively speaking, policymakers are too optimistic about the ability to achieve their EV goals. Aside from significant technical challenges, it is unlikely that the public will quietly acquiesce to the considerable disruptions.

The transition to EVs is going to be messier, more expensive, and take far longer than the policymakers believe.

Policymakers view EVs as the tip of the spear for a vast program of government-directed economic nationalism— the economic, environmental, and societal change aimed at completely reshaping the nation’s $26 trillion economy away from fossil fuels.

Many things need to go exactly right, and very little can go wrong for the EV transition to transpire as planned.

The EV Transition Is Harder Than Anyone Thinks

— the tech isn’t ready

Major issues: EV-related job displacement, battery issues, massive EV charging infrastructure is needed, and affordability.

Needed Minerals: Given the sheer tonnage of lithium, cobalt, and other raw materials needed for EV batteries, nearly 300 new mines and mineral refineries are needed to achieve the Administration’s expectations by 2030.

It can take five or more years to get a lithium mine up and going, but operations can start only after it has secured the required permits, a process that itself can take many years.

Contradictory statements: EV owners are urged to charge at night, but researchers at Stanford University, report that charging EVs during the day is actually cheaper, better for the grid, and healthier for the environment. The conflict shows how little we know about the actual challenge.

Power-grid transformers. These essential voltage-converting components are designed to cool down at night when power consumption is typically low. But with more people charging their EVs at home at night, the 30-year design life of a transformer will drop—to perhaps no more than three years. Transformers are already in short supply, and their costs have skyrocketed from a range of $3,000-$4,000 to $20,000 each. Millions of new transformers will be needed.

Supporting EVs may require larger, heavier transformers, which means many of the 180 million power poles on which these sit will need to be replaced to support the additional weight.

Roadblocks: pole transformers are inadequately sized, and there is already a failure to issue permits for new electricity transmission lines.

Needed improvements and replacements to the grid’s 8,000 power-generation units and 600,000 circuit miles of AC transmission lines (240,000 circuit miles being high-voltage lines), and 70,000 substations to support increased renewable energy and battery storage are estimated to cost more than $2.5 trillion.

EVs require automakers and their suppliers to reinvent their supply chains, hire employees with new software, battery, and mechatronic skill sets, and retrain or else lay off workers. Each of these will take time and cause large business disruptions.

There is an insufficient supply of software and systems engineers with the mechatronics and robotics expertise needed for EVs.

EVs alone aren’t sufficient to meet carbon-reduction targets, which means enormous lifestyle changes will also be needed. (

The U.S. must have 90 percent of its vehicles, or some 350 million EVs, on the road by 2050 in order to hit its emission targets. As a reality check, current estimates for the number of ICE (Internal Combustion) vehicles still on the road worldwide in 2050 range from a low of 1.25 billion to more than 2 billion vehicles. (Gas stations aren’t going away anytime soon.)

Volvo’s CEO Jim Rowan says: “Increasing the computing power in EVs will be harder and more altering of the automotive industry than the manufacturing and supply chain retooling itself.”

Ford CEO Jim Farley told The New York Times that software bugs worry him most.

Today's EVs have over 150 million lines of computer code.

The risk to EV systems of being hacked is not being sufficiently addressed.

EV’s are able to be controlled remotely or autonomously, increasing the safety risk of compromised systems.

Having enough EV batteries requires concurrent changes in the energy, telecom, mining, recycling, and transportation INDUSTRIES. (Wait... what?!)

The mineral requirements for an EV’s batteries and electric motors are six times those of an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle.

Battery production is very expensive.

Elon Musk calls EV factories “gigantic money furnaces.”

“Today, the data shows a looming mismatch between the world’s strengthened climate ambitions and the availability of critical minerals that are essential to realizing those ambitions.” Says IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.

Manufacturers of other renewable energy equipment and military systems are competing for the same materials.

The Wall Street Journal: “90 to 95 percent of the [needed battery] supply chain does not exist.”

Disposal concerns: Lithium-ion battery-pack recycling is very time-consuming and expensive, making mining lithium often cheaper than recycling it. “There is no recycling, and no EV-recycling industry, if there is no economic basis for one.” Howard Nusbaum, the Vice-Chairperson of the National Salvage Vehicle Reporting Program (NSVRP)

Level 1, 2, and 3 Chargers

Level 1 (L1) chargers plug directly into a standard residential 120-volt AC outlet and supply an average of 1.3 to 2.4 kilowatts. This provides somewhere between 3 and 5 miles of EV range per hour. An empty battery electric vehicle (BEV) battery may take up to 40 to 50 hours to charge,

Level 2 (L2) chargers operate at 208 V (in commercial applications) or 240 V (in residential applications) and deliver from 3 to 19 kW of AC power, with most delivering about 7.6 kW. This provides somewhere between 18 and 28 miles of EV range per hour. An empty BEV battery may take 4 to 10 hours to charge.

Level 3 (L3) or direct current fast chargers (DCFCs) supply between 50 and 350 kW of power and can charge a BEV to 80 percent in 20 to 40 minutes, and to 100 percent in 60 to 90 minutes. Most PHEVs (Hybrids) cannot use L3 chargers.

Fast chargers can cost upward of $470,000 to $725,000 per fast-charging station with four ports.

(Typical highway EV charging sites will need more than 20 fast chargers each by 2030)

“While charger installation can be completed in a matter of months, larger transmission interconnections and upgrades can take as long as eight years to construct.”

California is next-to-last in time to get a permit (only New Jersey is slower).

All of this assumes that sufficient power-generating capacity will be available by 2030 (in 7 years). It could take longer than that for the powerplant construction permits alone.


As negative as these findings may appear, the IEEE* study is an objective scientific look at the issues. The Study's authors are actually proponents of the move to EVs. To their credit, they are also realists with a healthy respect for the actual size of the challenge.

It's ironic that those who question popular climate change dogma are the ones who are often called deniers.

Denying reality is a common human failing. What better example than the current EV debate?

People have been in denial about crucial eternal truths ever since the Garden of Eden. Denial can obscure important realities of all kinds. It's a symptom of our larger human problem. We want what we want, often regardless of the facts. We want to command our own world -- we want to be our own god.

This was true in the first century too...

"For it has been written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the intelligence of the intelligent I will bring to nothing.”  
"For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe." 
"For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength."
1 Corinthians 1:19,21,25

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