March 2023. Pulling the Plug.


Pulling the Plug.

The arguments surrounding electric vehicles continues with suspect agencies going out of their way to prove the benefits of owning one. Very rarely the lack of such an advantage, or the inconvenience that accompanies them, is given an airing. The idea of silent transport is certainly appealing – at least to an older generation brought up on raucous motorcycles like the Norton Atlas I once owned. At least you could hear them coming! That, of course, is a big problem that ratches up the danger to distracted pedestrians oblivious to a ton of metal rolling towards them. Apparently, the aficionados of these silent assassins will not be to blame!

There are many reasons why owning one of these vehicles is not such a good idea despite the spurious claims of protecting the environment which for millions of years has looked after itself whilst doing what came naturally. For a start, in the wider sense, man’s efforts do not fulfil the narrative of environmental security. There is no such thing. Turkey and Syria can certainly be classed as environmentally friendly countries – not being rich enough to pollute that region. Sadly, that did not stop the environment of mother earth recently from destroying 50,000 people. Neither did it stop the loss of c.30,000 souls when Mount Pelée erupted in 1902 – where, at the time, you could count the number of cars in Martinique on your fingertips! What, you may ask, does controlling climate matter when the ground beneath your feet is a far more obvious threat? You will have noted, I hope, that neither of these occasions had anything to do with CO2, or mankind’s pollution of the atmosphere!

A great deal is made of humans heating the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. I don’t think that this can be ignored if you were a 1950’s teen groping your way through a thick and smoky smog, but sadly no one seems to have calculated, with any exactitude, what percentage does this have in relationship to the natural heating of the earth’s surface taking place. That it’s gone up and down like a yoyo should not be overlooked. Let us take wind as an example. Long established as created by the uneven heating of the earths surface by the sun; land heats up faster than water causing the high pressure to move to the lower pressure. Gales, and its extreme form, Tornadoes, as seen in the Mississippi recently, are the result. But such events have been taking place long before the invention of mechanical transport or coal fired heating. This is a massive caveat to the doomsayers who rely solely on recorded history. Change can be noted, but is it solely the responsibility of modern man, and can that change actually be said to be dangerous to human existence? That’s debatable. For example, England once used to be a tropical place, and not an island for example.

So that’s got that out of the way. Yes, motor cars are not the cleanest means of transport in the world, nor are horses if you’ve ever followed one, but in their present mode they’re not going to destroy the planet! Electric vehicles, on the other hand, can certainly contaminate the earth. The Chinese, not noted for their moral stance in these matters, have noted that a 20-gm cell phone battery can pollute water equivalent to 3 swimming pools while, when buried in the ground, can pollute 1 sq. km of land for 50 years. As a comparison, a Tesla car battery can weigh between 1000 and 2000 lbs!  Thereby equalling a lot of land which would potentially become adulterated!

But that’s not the only reason to consider the downside of electric cars. Its utility is far from user friendly. Fine for scooting around town where if you run out of watts you can catch a bus! But I wouldn’t like my wife taking a one-hundred-mile journey after dark. In a combustion engine the ladies savvy enough to hop out and reach for the petrol can hiding in the boot. Electric cars have no such fall-back. When you run out of amps you stop, and a dark country road is no place for my other half to require the facility of a 240-volt plug!

They have other drawbacks. Today everyone’s in a hurry, and the family electric car isn’t good at getting a move on. If you drive constantly at the legal speed - say 70mph - you will very likely eventually damage the battery. Even if you don’t, the range will be considerably reduced by between 30-50%.

So, you’re running low, but lucky enough to find a petrol station with a charger unoccupied. Plugged in and with a long journey ahead you’re also in for a long wait as well! On average about thirty minutes if you don’t fast charge. Time for a coffee and a bun, but too late for that interview and a new job!

The government are way behind the curve. To run an all-electric vehicle society, they will need to find 300% more kW of capacity. Just stop and contemplate that. Three times all the electricity now being used! How long do you think that will take? The first phase of HS2 is expected to be ready by 2030, and has so far cost the taxpayer 3.5 billion with no real end in sight. So how long do you think it will take to build three more complete electrical power grids? And how much will it cost? Apparently, no one wants Fracking, or a Geothermal power station next door. The infrastructure will be a nightmare of wind turbines, solar panels, and nuclear power stations. All up and running by 2040. Or a suggested 2025 if you’re a fantasist hiding in the United Nations. Pull the other one! The “Green Agenda” in reality is a furtive, pernicious and discreditable attack on society, that is running us into the ground, not the petrol vehicle!

There has been mention that the motor manufacturers, gearing up to produce these not inexpensive vehicles, are suddenly keeping their options open and putting in new lines to continue producing petrol driven vehicles, not wishing to be left out in the cold if things don’t turn out as governments surmise. The motor traders too, are aware that there will come a point when sales will become very tricky. How much do you allow for a second-hand trade-in that no one will want, cognisant that part exchanging a car is the only way many will be able to afford the purchase price of another - c.£23,000 for a Fiat Panda? The bus companies are smiling. Petrol station attendants are not - an estimated 18,000 will be out of a job, along with the 15,000 fuel tanker drivers. Nor I suspect will car salesmen, explaining the financial facts of life to a disgruntled punter, have a grin like a Cheshire cat!

But other people are also not happy. Lithium, an essential ingredient of batteries, in its natural state is far from friendly. Mining the mineral in the Congo, beside harming the soil, also causes air and water contamination with serious effect, not only to the labouring children as young as seven, but also to women, working with no protective equipment – all with significant effect on their health. The indignation of western governments and the WHO to this scandal is as silent as an electric vehicle!

Lithium is used in all car batteries, but the scale of its use in EVs is the problem. In effect it’s the old-style battery writ large - some a few metres in size covering the whole length of the car under the floor. They are also not cheap at around £10,000 - or £20,000 if you’re lucky (perhaps unlucky) enough to be able to afford a Tesla - or c.£2,500 for a Fiat Panda, if you’re at the bottom of the heap. Indeed, as the battery has a supposed life of ten - fifteen years, the future may be to scrap the car and sell the battery! As my last car battery managed to function for two years, while the previous one managed twelve years, I’m naturally sceptical.

There is some hope of an alternative on the horizon. Hydrogen powered cars, for all the knocking on how dangerous they are, is not just an idea, but are commercially available if you live in California. The rest of us can just wish. However, the problem is not availability - Toyota, Hyundai and Honda have demonstrated that such vehicles are well in front of the curve, and if you live in California, 15000 people have made the switch. In Europe BMW have a toe in the water, if not yet a foot! But there’s the rub - hydrogen like petrol needs a pump, and even in California where many exist, they’ve nowhere near the number of outlets that supply hydrogen gas along with petrol. That of course would change if such vehicles were the major means of transport, especially as such vehicles have a much greater range than EVs and don’t suffer the serious drain of power in cold weather; the fuel is also very cheap, (70% of the earth’s surface is water) clean and provides three times as much energy as oil or petrol. What’s not to like? Two things really. Hydrogen gas as used in a vehicle, though only a five-minute exercise to refuel, is difficult to store, needing high pressure tanks, so the roll out of this fuel would need time to complete its storage by lots of digging holes in the ground. It is also very expensive to produce in small quantities. But the reality is we’re waiting for governments, and out of step manufacturers who’ve invested trillions in the wrong direction, and the available infrastructure, to catch up! After all, with hydrogen they only need to change what comes out of the pump, - along with the ability to wipe egg off their face!

As always - where government action is concerned - don’t hold your breath!