Electric Vehicles - Challenges Ahead
Since California Governor Newsome mandated that by 2035 all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California are to be zero-emission vehicles, we are facing a few challenges.
First of all, no vehicle is “zero emissions” – the emissions just happen to occur far away from California towns and cities – in somebody else’s backyard.
Electric vehicles, as the name implies, require electricity. Most of our electric energy is generated by burning fossil fuels. There is about 30% loss (energy value of the fuel vs generated electricity) during generation of electricity in a power plant. Then electricity has to be sent across vast distances from power plants to the end users – according to the Energy Information Administration, that’s additional 9% power loss for California. And most of the electricity comes from fossil fuels.
Could California replace fossil fuels entirely with wind, solar and nuclear energy by 2035? It is not likely. We will still be burning fossil fuels to power our “zero emissions” vehicles.
And that’s assuming that the power grid holds up - just this week the same Governor Newsome asked electric car owners not to charge their vehicles to avoid blackouts – we are having a heat wave in CA that strains the power grid, and charging electric vehicles obviously has an impact on the power grid as well (and no, we did not avoid blackouts).
As of 2022 there are roughly 14 million cars in California, out of which 1 million are electric (per Newsom’s press release from Feb 2022). So if one million cars puts a strain on the power grid to the point that the governor has to ask owners not to charge their vehicles, imagine what will happen when ten times the number of cars are being charged – all year round. Unless massive power grid upgrade takes place, blackouts will become the new norm in California.
And then there is the issue of lithium mining – a particularly dirty and environmentally damaging endeavor. Currently lithium is necessary to build the high voltage batteries for the electric cars. Majority of lithium mining takes place in far-away places, on other continents – out of sight, out of mind. But “zero emissions” it is not. Will there exist more environmentally friendly batteries in the year 2035? Maybe there will, but for now we are stuck with lithium batteries and their environmental damage.
So next time you see a sleek Tesla on the road, know that it creates plenty of pollution, just not where you live. And hope that the power grid gets upgraded by 2035 - or go out and buy a portable power generator – yes, it burns fossil fuels, but it beats sitting in the dark and watching ice cream melt in your fridge.