Electric vehicle naysayers have been really busy of late. Jeffrey Middlebrook offered up arguments designed to show that EVs owner/drivers are "clueless" and "arrogant". Between his beef with Tesla owners/drivers and legitimate concerns over world population, we thought we'd offer a few alternatives to his sometimes tortured EV logic.
Jeffrey Middlebrook ( 05.17.18 RNR ‘The EV nonsense and its buffs’) wields a really big brush, with which to tar all Tesla owner/drivers as “clueless” and arrogant, and all electrons as equally dirty. We’re not sure where the rest of EV owner/drivers such as ourselves, who might or might not own a Tesla (or a Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, Spark EV or Bolt, Honda Clarity EV, BMW i3, or any other EV) stand. Are we ‘clueless’ and arrogant by extension? I sense more than a whiff of ‘class anxiety’ opposed to the usual ‘range anxiety’ expressed by non-EV drivers.
Mr. Middlebrook is right in noting that it takes 15% more energy to produce a Tesla - or any EV - than it does an ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle. What he neglected to mention: Once an EV is driven, that calculus changes. Dramatically. This extra emissions ‘debt’ is quickly recovered by the savings accrued over the driving life of an EV ( as expressed in Total Cost of Ownership). The average new gasoline vehicle in the U.S. is rated 25 mpg. Based on where EVs have been bought to date, the average EV now produces emissions equivalent to a hypothetical gasoline car getting 73 mpg. We’re not aware of any mass-production fossil fuel car on the market today that achieves that, including the full-sized ICE Cadillac (22mpg City/30mpg Hwy) that Middlebrook references. EV drivers don’t add to the aggregate emissions debt by requiring the drilling, transport to production site, refining, transport to pump that ICE drivers do. Then, consider the EV total cost of ownership (TCO) savings of no more oil changes, timing belts, fuel/water pumps, transmission repairs on top of the zero gallons of gasoline purchased, soon you’re talking real value for your wallet and the environment.
Typical of fossil-fuel apologists, they fail to look critically at the true costs of a gallon of gasoline. According to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) the price of gasoline in the U.S. barely covers the costs of production and distribution (forgetting for the moment how heavily fossil fuel industries have been subsidized over the last century) and is estimated to be in excess of half a trillion dollars a year in direct subsidies. Some governments spend more on energy subsidies than they do on education and healthcare. The cost per gallon at the pump doesn’t reflect the costs to society of: traffic, congestion, pollution and global warming. And, the price at the pump certainly fails to capture the financial and human cost of lives lost to foreign wars in the Middle East. The IMF and other governments are now suggesting that those subsidies should be curtailed, which would reduce deficits and do something about global climate change at the same time.
Then, let’s look at the assertion that charging that rich white persons’ toy, the Tesla, will be using ‘dirty’ electrons at far-flung charging stations, even if the electons at home come from rooftop PV. And, gasp!, there were emissions produced by the very production of PV panels! First of all, this ain’t your daddy’s dirty electrical grid anymore. It’s ‘greening’ at a rate that was unexpected even a decade ago, as there are no new coal-fired power plants on the drawing boards, and many existing plants are scheduled for decommission as natural gas and renewables become ever cheaper to produce. It is now in the best interest of a utility companies bottom-line (and shareholder value) to transition to natural gas and renewables. In northern Nevada, it should be noted, the majority of our electrons come from geothermal and natural gas. As with many fundamental and disruptive technological transitions, it’s not yet a perfect solution, but light-years ahead of where we were just a few decades ago. Finally, Tesla - in their unprecedented nationwide roll-out of charging stations - are already converting their charging stations to solar. Yup. Tesla - the company which also installs rooftop PV systems. But, that’s unlikely to sway Mr. Middlebrook, as the metal in the charging stations produced emissions via mining, transport and final production. Sigh.
There’s no perfect technology. So, we might as well give up and quit striving for something better. That’s called sacrificing the perfectly good at the altar of the perfect.
We agree with Mr. Middlebrook that increasing human population is creating historically unprecedented environmental pressures on societies and the planet. But, this is an issue worthy of an op-ed all its’ own. To suggest that admittedly imperfect technologies and innovation should be jettisoned simply because the “20-ton T-Rex in the room” of over-population hasn’t been solved baffles us.
In the meanwhile, we’ll continue to enjoy the very real cost savings, knowledge that we are, indeed, reducing the aggregate C02 being released into the atmosphere, and laugh like loons each time we get to pull away from a fossil-fuel bully with smooth, quiet and amazing acceleration that only electricity can provide.
Or, as the Roadrunner might say “beep! beep!”
Cynthia S. Ryan, Co-Chair, Electric Auto Assoc of Northern Nevada. Owner/driver of a 2014 Nissan LEAF, and a 2017 Chevrolet Volt.
William Brinsmead, Co-Chair, Electric Auto Assoc of Northern Nevada. Owner/driver of a 2015 Tesla Model S, and a 2011 Nissan LEAF, and the 1973 Cadillac eHearse.