We Can’t Switch To Electric Cars Until We Get More Copper

Reducing emissions from human activity requires a great deal of effort in many different sectors. When it comes to land transport, the idea is generally to eliminate vehicles powered by combustion engines and replace them with electric vehicles instead. At a glance, the job is simple enough. We know how to build EVs, and the technology is getting to the point where they’re capable of replacing traditional vehicles in many applications.

Of course, the reality is not so simple. To understand the problem of converting transportation to electric drive en masse, you have to take a look at the big numbers. Focus in on the metrics of copper, and you’ll find the story is a concerning one. 

Raw Materials Are Key

Switching over to EVs isn’t just as simple as drawing up the blueprints for new models and churning them out. Unfortunately, the world’s industrial infrastructure has been built up and honed over the last century or so to build enough cars, trucks, and buses to suit the world’s demands, give or take some wobbles with supply chains in the last few years. There are sprawling factories located all over the world, dedicated solely to the tasks of churning out engines, fuel systems, and chassis for these vehicles, numbering in the millions each year.

Geely assembly line” by Siyuwj

As of yet, there aren’t enough factories to churn out motors, battery packs, and ancilliary hardware to replace all those combustion drivetrains. That’s assuming that the world’s existing body plants could build enough EV-ready chassis in the first place. Worsening the problem, we simply aren’t digging up enough raw materials to feed these non-existent factories in the first place.

Foremost amongst the materials that we lack is copper. As an excellent conductor, it’s a fundamental ingredient in everything electrical and electronic. When it comes to electric vehicles, where efficiency is paramount, it’s often not practical to replace it with other conductors like aluminium, either.

In fact, a modern EV requires approximately twice as much copper as a traditional combustion-engined vehicle. Thus, if we want to eventually have the entire car industry only building electric vehicles, that’s going to up the car industry’s copper demands by 150%.

It’s not just EVs that are increasing the demand for copper, either. EV chargers also require plenty of copper, too. Add in the demands from the renewable energy sector, for things like solar panels and wind turbines to run those chargers, and the figure gets ever larger.

Analytics firm S&P Global pegs worldwide copper demand to double by 2035. The increase will continue towards 2050, with projections suggesting a world demand of 53 million metric tons . The company’s report bases these figures on the amount of copper required for countries to achieve existing net-zero emissions targets. At best, the company predicts minor deficits in copper supplies in coming decades, assuming mining operations ramp up their efforts and recycling is pursued in earnest.

According to the US Geological Survey, the total amount of discovered copper on Earth is in the realm of 2.8 billion metric tons. Estimates suggest there’s another 3.5 billion metric tons of copper out there somewhere still waiting for us to find it. That’s plenty to serve us well into the future, but first it needs to be dug out of the ground and processed into usable material.

Chuquicamata copper mine” by Alexander Gerst. (Taken from the ISS!)

Currently, the world’s biggest producer of copper is Chile, putting out 5.7 million tons in 2020, with that number largely remaining stable over the last few years of reporting. The country hosts most of the largest copper mines in the world. Peru and China come in second and third place, producing 2.2 million tons and 1.7 million tons respectively. With 40% of copper output coming from Chile and Peru alone, sources of copper are relatively highly concentrated compared to other materials on the market.

In order to bump up production, new mines will have to be established and existing ones expanded. Of course, for mining companies to act, first these other sources of copper must look profitable on paper. As it stands, discoveries of new deposits have been few and far between, of late, and they’ve been of lower grades that are less attractive to mine, financially speaking. As per the way the world commodities market tends to work, we will likely see copper prices spike as shortages bite, before miners rush in to develop new copper deposits that are now profitable to work with.

As it stands, legislation has passed in several jurisdictions to ban combustion-engined vehicles and force a switch to EVs. Similarly, there’s huge pent-up demand for new renewable energy projects, particularly after this year’s spikes in fossil fuel prices amidst disrupted supplies. Copper demand isn’t going anywhere, so sooner or later, the world will have to get digging, and fast. If I owned a mining company, I’d want to get a head start.

205 thoughts on “We Can’t Switch To Electric Cars Until We Get More Copper

      1. Except efficiency at the power plant is not the same as effeciency of the EV. there are losses at every step of the process. In addition, the energy inputs in production aren’t the same

          1. Twice is not good enough. But an E-bike (which is an EV too) is orders of magnitude more efficient, and deals with many of the issues that prevent people from riding more often.

          2. There are more emissions involved in building an EV, but then those for running it are much less. The break even point is around 2 to 3 years.
            The big plus is in an urban environment. There are no tailpipe emissions to worry about. No diesel particles, NOx, hydrocarbons etc, in addition to CO2. There are also fewer consumables during the life of the vehicle, and better recyclability.

        1. Battery/Charging efficiency is like 90%. At the end of the day, however, if we want to fix emissions, we have to do it at the grid. EVs will just allow us to take grid improvements and shift them into transportation.

          EVs in France are more efficient than EVs in Germany because France’s grid has 20% the emissions of Germany (and this is with all of Germany’s latest renewable buildouts; it was 10% a couple years ago).

          If we quadrupled or even just doubled our nuclear fleet, our EVs would effectively be emissions-free ’cause most people charge at night and nighttime NPP electricity production is the same as daytime production with far lower demand.

          1. France should be out of any grid-emissions equation as a HUGE amount of their energy comes from nuclear. Sure, fission power plants are CO2 neutral, but mining uranium is awful for the environment and workers, the reserves are limited, you have to consider the huge energy loss in enrichment. But the worst part is where you stuff all the depleted-but-radioactive-for-millenia waste produced.

          2. @Enegmon,
            The uranium fuel can be processed much farther into depletion than is currently allowed by U.S. power plants.
            I. E. much less radioactive waste.

      2. “A modern power plant can reach an efficiency of 98 or 99%. Your car engine will never achieve that.”

        Hahahaha! You’re kidding, right? I mean, this is clearly a joke – the only kind of power plant that can hit in the 90s is a hydroelectric power plant.

        Utility-scale oil and coal plants are in the 30s% – I think there are a couple that are in the (very low) 40s%. Commercial car engines *now* hit 40%+ brake thermal efficiency.

        1. I’m with you on their comment causing a good laugh but you are also incorrect with your statement:

          Toyota has the most efficient ICE engine at right around ~40% brake thermal efficiency.

          Mitsubishi is now selling IGCC coal plants that are targeting ~48% HVV.

          GE has already deployed MANY of their H-Class combined cycle natural gas turbine plants and they operate in the 60-63% range. The newest revision, the 9HA.02 can hit 64% efficiency while putting out just north of half a gigawatt of usable output per turbine. For reference each of the 2 reactors at the Susquehanna power station spit out ~1.26 GW of usable power.

          More importantly is the pollution control systems that are in place. A catalytic converter can only do so much, it’s just not economically viable to try to really scrub the exhaust on a car. Modern power plants on the other hand operate at such scale that it economically pencils out to setup some serious air scrubbing on the output of the power plant, so watt for watt a modern ICE engine isn’t even in the same ballpark.

          1. Grid loss is anywhere from 3-13% depending on transmission distance and it’s getting worse to account for distributed renewable transmission at continental scale.

            Charging and conversion losses are 10-15%

            Battery manufacturing costs represent 10-30% of the car’s lifetime energy use because of non-optimal use of the battery in a car (low lifetime cycle count, gets worse the bigger the battery)

            The systemic inefficiencies of an EV represent a loss of between about 20-60% of the source energy depending on circumstances. If you regularly fast charge your car yet you drive mostly short distances in an EV with a big battery, and you live somewhere that has to import power from a long distance, your losses can easily become 50% and the whole thing makes no sense whatsoever.

          2. That is, 50% loss over the already poor efficiency of the generator. Even if you have a modern GCC plant providing the power, you’re hard pressed to actually top the efficiency of an ICE because of all the little details and side effects of the electric vehicle as a system.

            Meanwhile, the transmission of fuel is actually very efficient. You lose about 20% of the energy at the refinery, but the truck that carries the refined fuel to the station is consuming only a fraction of a percentage point of what fits in the tank.

            It’s the same sort of non-intuitive result as thinking about donkeys loaded with DVDs actually beating the speed of your internet in delivering data.

          3. The battery manufacturing and efficiency in use is especially insidious, because it’s totally easy to ignore the realities here:

            The cost to make the battery is around 10% of its lifetime energy storage capability (ESOEI), which for modern batteries represents around 300 charging cycles. An average car with a lifespan of 10 years driven by the average driver will go through about 160,000 miles and if it has a range of say 200 miles, the battery will go through just 800 cycles even though it could do around 3000 before it is scrapped. It simply gets old and breaks down that way instead.

            That means it stores 800 cycles worth of energy at a cost of 300 cycles, and let’s say +15% or 120 cycles for all the charging conversion losses from the wall plug, which means the actual battery, how it is being used in the EV, is only 65.6% efficient as a system.

            And that’s not even counting things like vampire power use while the car’s just sitting around, and all the rest of the transmission and generating losses. All these effects are generally not taken into account in studies that simply treat the EV as an abstract – which consequently only show that EVs are better than ICEs if people were using them perfectly.

          4. “Toyota has the most efficient ICE engine at right around ~40% brake thermal efficiency.”

            This is *existing* efficiency. There are of course concept engines and plans to push this even higher, and diesel engines exist that are past 50% brake thermal. Also this is *brake*, not thermal.

            “Mitsubishi is now selling IGCC coal plants that are targeting ~48% HVV.”

            I’m talking about plants that exist *now*. Replacing an existing coal plant with a new coal plant that’s more efficient is just about the worst thing for carbon emissions I can imagine. And I very clearly said oil and coal. Yes, natural gas is higher. Again, replacing coal/oil with natural gas is a special kind of dumb.

            “More importantly is the pollution control systems that are in place.”

            I do not consider current pollution levels as a problem remotely on the same scale as carbon emissions. You’re correct, and I don’t mean to minimize it, but current pollution levels just aren’t that bad scale-wise.

          5. “… it’s just not economically viable to try to really scrub the exhaust on a car.”

            It’s not just the exhaust. EVs have been found to emit more particles than gas powered cars, as they are heavier and the tires must work harder. And no, it’s just that “the industry need to produce tires which wear less” – we have that already, it’s the steel “tires” of trains. Which can handle inclines up to 35‰. You can’t just climb as well as with rubber tires.

            Anyway, BMW is currently researching on how to catch and “scrub” the “tire exhaust”.

            Ah, and since I’m already talking about trains…the Deutsch Bahn (German Train) has dedicated coal power plants (said to achieve “up to 45% efficiency”) to power their electric trains. Since Germany wants to stop the use of coal, it’s planned that there (pretty recently installed!) coal power plants are to be replaced with the modern “65% efficient” gas power plants you mentioned – within the next 20 years. Well, let’s see how that flies with the current gas situation Germany has with Russia…

      3. Not trying to start a fight… power plants cannot reach 98% efficiency. It’s much lower. Maybe closer to 50%, but maybe an eager engineer can verify that figure. To your point, still, car engines will never hit that mark anyways.

        Electric works, as far as I can tell, if we use solar/wind/nuclear/geothermal or some other source that isn’t fossil fuels. The gains you make by having the power plant burn the fossil fuel vs. your car engine are not enough to justify switching to all electric cars for better pollution or switching away from fossil fuels altogether.

    1. Valid concern but I believe this has been covered in the climate reports as well as independent studies on the subject. A modern fuel plant can do 55%+ thermal efficiency. Electrical losses on the grid average 5%. Battery charging loss might be 6%. So we’ll say 45% thermal efficiency to the electric vehicle. At this point, mpg and mpge can be used to compare.

      Tesla model 3 Mpge 131. Conversion factor for losses at a combustion plant, ~59 mpg. Better than my 2015 Prius on straight fuel burned by 20%.

      But this isn’t the end of it, that’s the modern worst case where we’re burning a fuel to make electricity. I saw an article that saying so far this year, the US had 25% of its power come from renewables. And while modern cars burn pretty clean, there is very limited cleanup you can do on car exhaust, while smokestacks provide an economy of scale with no concerns about weight for CO2 and other scrubbing.

      So this is improving emissions today, and will be improving emissions much further as the ratio of power production continues to switch.

      1. Thanks for the analysis. I wish EV proponents, politicians, etc. had the honesty to say something like (in rough accordance with your numbers) “EVs only produce half the CO2 of combustion engine cars!”. Instead they label them as “zero emissions”, which most people know is a lie, and just causes us to disbelieve everything else they say.

        1. But this is disingenuous isn’t it? It’s like saying “Because we’ve stalled renewable energy adoption, your EV isn’t as clean as it could be, so let’s keep driving fossil fuel cars.” The onus isn’t on EV owners and proponents to take responsibility for the fossil fuel industry, the onus is on the energy industry to clean up, given that EVs have done their bit.

          EVs themselves won’t get any cleaner: they emit nothing (apart from particulates from tyres or brakes; which are higher due to the extra weight of an EV, but lower due to region). But the energy and manufacturing industry will and should. Over time this means that EVs will get cleaner to run or build and combustion cars will too, even as they disappear. But combustion cars won’t get any cleaner to run.

          But also in different countries, different rules apply. In the UK, for example, we can pick a renewable energy supplier. This means that if I use x kWh of electricity, then I’ve paid them for the production of x kWh of renewable electricity. In that case, an EV can be clean in every sense.

          1. A handful of energy suppliers in the UK *actually* supply 100% renewable energy. Most advertise 100% renewable energy by virtue of buying REGOs, which is a fairly disingenuous way of marketing, yet allowed. TLDR; very few actually enjoy 100% renewable energy, so they can’t be really smug about driving an environmentally friendly EV.

        2. Its actually fair to say entirely fossil fuel grid powered EV is more like 1/4 of the emission per mile like for like – as the current crop of EV models are almost drop in replacements for the sort of ICE vehicle that find 5mpg acceptable, 20mpg good and getting to 30 wow!

          Though some more normal family economy/family car type EV are starting to arrive now they are far from sufficient number to shift the EV average towards the same balance of dick size compensatory, vanity and functional utility vehicles to ‘normal’ more economy focused cheap family car ICE currently enjoys.

          Then you have to consider how much renewable energy is on the grid – which in more than a few nations is getting to be reliably and often around 50%, and how good the scrubbers on a power stations exhaust are vs the tiny cat converters of the mobile car. So your mpge should be shifted to account for it if all you wish to study is greenhouse gas emissions in a real world setting anyway.

          So while I agree Zero Emissions is a misnomer really, even though strictly on greenhouse gas emission per mile its not all that far from true – and on some days in some nations with great renewable supply it is true! You still have to count all the wear items like breakpad and tyre, creation, shipping and whatever share of fossil or bio fuel dervied energy supplied to the grid do count. SO really it should be ‘Zero* Emission**’ with a heap of fine print as you get for most every other bending of the complete truth in advertisements…

          1. https://carbuzz.com/news/ev-tires-worse-for-the-environment-than-tailpipe-emissions

            Now, I know that the original report has been “debunked” by misquoting it and proving the exaggerated misquoted claims wrong, but the above article appears to sum up the facts and possibilities reasonably accurate.

            Note that wind farms also cause emissions during construction and recycling…of what can be recycled; the potentially carcinogenic fiber material of the blades is not yet recyclable. The current “solution” is to sell used wind generators for 1€ (but you must tear it down and transport it yourself).

          2. That is absolute rubbish, what about the environmental costs of building wind farms ie concrete bases for one and then the burying of all the worn out and broken blades in landfill.

      2. “A modern fuel plant can do 55%+ thermal efficiency.”

        Not if they’re oil or coal plants, which is what a huge fraction of them are. Those guys operate more in the 30s. Do the math with that thermal efficiency and you’re going to be like ‘um. Wait a second. Why are we doing this again?’

        There are places in the world where shifting to electric vehicles will help. A little. It’s still a bad return on investment (see below).

        “I saw an article that saying so far this year, the US had 25% of its power come from renewables.”

        Yes! But those power sources *can’t ramp*! If we shift transportation power generation from gasoline (at cars) to the grid, there are only 2 options: burn more fuel at oil/coal plants (so that percentage *goes down!*) or build more renewable power sources to keep the ratio the same.

        Or you could *not* waste money on expensive electric vehicles, take the *same* money and demand renewable sources on your electricity, and you’ll get more carbon reduction for the exact same money.

        1. Its a bit of a chicken and egg economic problem – as when there is lots of EV even on a largely fossil fuel grid you make some saving, but I agree its not a huge ROI. But by shifting demand to being electric you create the market forces that mean renewables become much much more profitable to build and the NIBMY crowd are less likely to kick up as much fuss because they can’t afford the higher costs of electric either… At which point you shift the ROI for the EV’s as well and can end up getting more carbon reduction and for less cost as the renewables became much more profitable when the total electric demand went up!

          And its worth pointing out EV have a great many other gains on the polution front, as the big powerstations are far far far better and cleaning their exhust gas. Also even with a tiny amount of renewable and lots more EV you won’t increase fuel consumption in the big power stations 1:1 with increasing EV energy demands as long as the charging of EV’s isn’t super fast charge 100% of the time but intelligent charging to some extent. As when the renewables spike up and/or demand rapidly drops its not unheard of for dump loads to be connected to keep the grid stable as its cheaper (and actually potentially more efficient) to ‘waste’ some fuel dumping energy than chase the load fluctuations on the big power plants – lots of EV able to regulate their charging rate instantly does that for you.

          1. It’s a terrible ROI!

            And ask yourself this: which lasts longer, a new EV or a new power plant? Not only does switching to EVs now barely reduce carbon emissions, it’s an ongoing cost. If you just tax gas, the money can be invested in decarboning the grid and it just compounds.

            And replacing enough of the fleet for it to matter will take *forever*. Grid greening is much, much faster.

            The pollution issue’s a red herring. You’re right, but the risk is just totally secondary to the carbon emissions issue. It doesn’t matter. Carbon’s everything right now.

            I don’t know why you say “1/4 the emissions.” It’s not 1/4. In parts of the US driving an EV produces *more* carbon than a small hybrid. Leafs are like 37 mpg equivalent or so in the Midwest. You have to fix the grid first. Have to. It’s fast, cheap, and can be done on its own.

            You want to help reduce carbon emissions? Buy panels for your house. Already did it and want to do more? Buy panels for your neighbor.

            This isn’t tough math. You get like 10x the carbon reduction per dollar.

          2. If your grid is that horribly dirty of course it needs fixing – but heaps of individuals throwing panels on their rooves while a good thing doesn’t fix anything grid scale on its own – might even make the grid less carbon efficient, as the big power stations can’t and cost too much to cycle and chase the supply-demand changes rapidly so are likely to overproduce more often – it needs a more complete whole grid approach with dynamic but useful loads and energy storage not just throwing panels on everything alone (at least it would take a very very very great amount of panels for that to be enough stand alone).

            And I said 1/4 because comparing like for like VEHICLE TYPE – as at the moment nearly all EV are still luxury sports car/SUV the stuff that gets really really awful mpg in ICE, and even on the dirtiest grid imaginable for a developed nation are doing mpg equivalent to an economy focused ICE car… Or put another away about 1/4 the emissions of what the same sort of model in ICE would do even in a rather worse case but sane grid scenario for a nation rich enough to afford lots of brand new cars, and it only gets better as the grids go greener – which they will entirely down to market forces if more EV are sold, so the demand for electric goes up making the FINANCIAL ROI really really good on green energy sources so its worth massive investment – something no individual can do, BUT they can if appropriate buy an EV, fit their small scale home solar, perhaps a ‘powerwall’ and help create the market where its economically viable to at least start on fixing the mess…

            I don’t much care about or keep up with US infrastructure conditions, though its clear its pretty awful for such a rich nation. But if the midwest really is that backwards I am even more disappointed in the US as a whole, and I didn’t think that was possible really…

          3. “but heaps of individuals throwing panels on their rooves while a good thing doesn’t fix anything grid scale on its own”

            Neither do heaps of individuals buying EVs right now instead of smaller, high-efficiency hybrid vehicles! Both require grid redesign except the carbon ROI on rooftop panels is far higher.

            “But if the midwest really is that backwards”

            It’s not a ‘backwards’ issue. Coal is ridiculously plentiful in the eastern US, because the Appalachians are insanely old. You do the thing that’s cheapest, not the thing that’s smartest. You know, kindof like buying all of your power/fuel from a nearby kleptocratic nation.

          1. Supercharging costs are typically around $0.25/kWh, or around $0.08/mile. At $4/gal, this equates to 50 miles/gallon, which is a totally reachable value for a plug-in hybrid. Fossil fuel and electricity prices will grossly track each other until the grid is decarbonized, at which point an EV transition makes more sense.

            Maintenance benefits are within the noise when you take into account battery depreciation.

          2. Aight, now repeat that math with solar panels on the roof generating excess power charging at home with California gas prices. Your math only works at making EVs look bad (e.g. comparable to very efficient hybrids) if the EV owners are particularly dumb (or living in the Arctic?)

          3. “Aight, now repeat that math with solar panels on the roof generating excess power charging at home with California gas prices.”

            Um. Plug-in hybrids charge at home with solar panels just as well as an EV does.

            And sure, I’ll do California: supercharging prices are $0.58/kWh during the day, and at $5.24/gal, this is 27 miles per gallon. I don’t think this is going the direction you want.

            Yes, if you regularly make trips under about 200 miles and can charge for free at both ends, you’ll save money. If most of your trips are under, say, 50 miles with occasional very long (500 mile) trips, a moderate-range plug-in hybrid is almost certainly a better option considering battery degradation.

          4. Welp you’re certainly adept at deflection and misconstruing statements. Going straight for peak supercharger prices when I was specifically talking about home solar installations is a touch ham-fisted though, innit?. You bring up plug in hybrids as an alternative to an EV, but in that use case you’re using it…as an EV. And you’re taxing the battery far more by discharging it to a far greater degree. Sure it’s cheaper to replace, but you’ll also be replacing it a lot sooner than an EV battery. So once again, your math to make EVs look bad only makes EVs look

            A) As bad as a hybrid only when
            B) Comparing *average* gas prices to *peak* power prices.

            Keep trying though, maybe you’ll convince somebody!

          5. “Going straight for peak supercharger prices when I was specifically talking about home solar installations”

            Unless you’re going to be doing long trips in the middle of the night, pretty sure peak supercharging is the right analogy. Not a lot of gas fill-ups at 2 in the morning.

            “You bring up plug in hybrids as an alternative to an EV, but in that use case you’re using it…as an EV.”

            Yes. Except for traveling long distances. Which is when you would use superchargers. Which similarly destroy the (more expensive) battery. And actually do it faster!

            I bring up plug-in hybrids because they’re the most cost-efficient long term vehicle out there. Well… they very likely will be, once they pull down in price once they’re used. Right now used hybrids are the best by far. You’ll note that TCO estimates are always from straight up new vehicles, and the dominant cost in the TCO is cost+financing.

          6. You continue to conflate “EV” with “Tesla” and you’re pretending the only way to get off-peak electricity is to go to a supercharger station at 2 am. If you buy an EV to go traveling cross country, you’re in for a bad time. If all you do is commute 10 miles, using a hybrid as an EV is an option. But for those of us who travel more than 30 but less then 200 miles in any given day, an EV charged at home with solar is by far the most cost effective game in town if you’re looking at getting a new car. EVs *can* be extremely cost effective for a large part of the country if they don’t seek out the most expensive source of power around and can afford the initial investment.

            And obviously the equation changes when comparing used vehicles, but that’s just further muddying the waters when the original subject was primarily benefits of an EV over a gas powered vehicle.

          7. Supercharger costs are rarely relevant to EV owners. You’re still thinking of charging as being like fueling, where you have to go to some location with specialized equipment to do it.

            But the only “specialized equipment” you need is a 220v outlet. Unless you work from home, in which case even 110v will give you enough juice to drive ~75 miles a day, but that’s a corner case.

            My wife and I have had an EV for almost a year and we’ve used a supercharger 3 times so far.

            But I will say that if you don’t have easy access to 220v where you park at night (e.g. your garage), then EVs are not for you. Which is why I don’t think that the laws that ban the sale of new ICE vehicles are actually going to stand. Charging while you sleep is key to the whole EV thing, and there are way too many people for whom that is not an option.

          8. “And obviously the equation changes when comparing used vehicles, but that’s just further muddying the waters when the original subject was primarily benefits of an EV over a gas powered vehicle.”

            How the heck is that muddying the waters?!? New vehicles that you only own for 5-10 years are ludicrously higher cost than either used vehicles or a vehicle owned for 20+. If you’re trying to say “new EVs can be less expensive to own for short periods than new ICE vehicles,” sure, but that’s like saying “burning $20 is less than burning $100.” I mean… don’t burn money.

            And also, to be fair, this fact (EVs have short term cost advantages) is *purely* related to the fact that the market for *used* EVs is much, much hotter than it should be because no one prices in battery degradation. So it’s a risk – you buy the vehicle, in 3 years the market could have declined significantly and you’re out literally thousands. The TCO estimates out there are utter garbage: they quote stuff like “15 years planned usage,” as if you’ll be able to sell an EV with less than 50% range with a 15-year old battery that’s no longer manufactured.

            You can’t go out there and tout the cost savings of an EV. They don’t actually save money. They’re just expensive toys with lower usage costs. Some people like owning new vehicles for whatever reason. That’s fine. But it doesn’t actually save money. You’ll pay more in the insurance difference than you would save in gas.

            “But the only “specialized equipment” you need is a 220v outlet. Unless you work from home, in which case even 110v will give you enough juice to drive ~75 miles a day, but that’s a corner case.”

            Again, if you’re only driving short distances, a PHEV gets you the same thing without the excess cost, plus the longevity since the battery’s far more practical to replace, plus no range issues.

            Plus if you believe EVs are helpful environmentally long term, PHEVs are better anyway because you’re limited by battery production right now and you get more vehicles/cell with PHEVs.

            I mean, you can see this straight off with existing hybrids. Plenty of people are still out there driving early 2000s Priuses, they still get great gas mileage, the battery costs like $1500 from the dealer. People go and buy used Leafs and the dealer’s like “it’d be 10k if we could get the battery, but we can’t.”

    2. It’s changing the profit margins :) they didn’t give a shit about emissions before and they don’t now. People buying the alibi are the kind of people who think that those who wish to rule over the world do so out of genuine concern for us and a desire to improve our lives and futures. Not the case.

      Oh, and copper isn’t the only bottleneck here. By the time this is over we will learn of maybe a dozen more absolute biosphere-killing pollutants and environmental effects, and then we will hear the drums of re-tooling industry to fix those with… you guessed it, more and more industry. It will always be the same solution considering that it’s proffered by people heavily invested in industry.

    3. The way I heard it we simply have to limit our per capita energy use. And importantly it is said that soon we won’t have a choice.
      There’s a lot of copper available to be recycled. And of course there’s always the possibility of using copper more wisely when building things.
      But the very first thing we need to do as a symbolization is to get the dirty clunkers off the road permanently. No used cop, cars, or junked out city trucks. No historical or antique plates. You can own it if you must, but you can’t take and drive it.
      Another first principle is going to be the elimination of any tax write-off for oil burners.
      You heard it here first.

      1. And if the way you heard it is wrong? Or will you need a Team World Police to monitor and confiscate? Drones sniffing for hydrocarbon fumes? Oops. People and animals make the same fumes because they burn the same thing (but much more efficiently).

      2. A reduction in per capita energy consumption would be good, great even – especially for the worst offenders out there. But the math works out that everyone on Earth right now could consume about the same energy as the average European entirely sustainably if magically all the infrastructure to do so popped into existence.

        Obviously that isn’t going to happen, and when the energy efficiency of a ‘western’ lifestyle can be vastly improved quite trivially it really should be. So a per capita reduction SHOULD happen for the vast majority if not all of the HAD readership, its absolutely the right thing to do. But I’m not convinced it really has to, for many rather depressing global human tragedy type reasons..

        I’d also argue that keeping old cars on the road isn’t a problem at all – as long as you have road legal requirements that mean it can’t be leaking oil everywhere etc. Fuel prices will help keep the mileage low for those that the old classic is just a hobby and those that can’t afford a new EV yet, its another ‘poverty’ trap that is hard to do without…

        Also the upfront energy cost of building a car is stupidly huge. For some folk the embodied energy in their new car will be more than they will ever put through the car – my grandparents for instance had to get a new car quite some time ago after theirs was written off by joyriding pillocks. Being or soon to be retired with bus pass its had almost no use in total and rapidly declining us in the recent years, so its almost as new now something like 20 years later! But a car is at least for now still of utility enough for them it would be very hard to do without, and its in good working order so really not worth a new replacement, hopefully it will last well beyond their being safe to drive.

      3. “Get the dirty clunkers off the road permanently.” Totally disagree. I’m totally biased and live in California, but anything built after 1976 is still subject to emissions and smog checks every 2 years, so you can file that one away. Pre 1976 may still fall into your category of “dirty clunkers” except they are such a tiny portion of the overall number of cars as to be relatively insignificant. If you are arguing that getting an awesomely restored sweet 1965 Mustang off the road, or a 1950’s Austin Healey into a museum for good, I guess we will just have to disagree. A quick google reveals my dad’s 1931 Model A will get about 14 MPG, driven to club meetings and every once in a while to the hamburger stand. Maybe 500 miles a year. A 1965 beetle (totally disingenuous comparison) gets 22 MPG at least. A new V8 F-150 (a car I totally cherry picked) gets like 18 MPG city, but is driven about a jillion times more by people that don’t really need it. I feel this energy could be focused in much more productive directions.

        1. The tendency in tech to want to direct people’s lives is endemic. It sneaks in all the time and we think it is objective. But what if to me being productive means earning enough to do my favorite thing, driving around sitting up high in a truck?

          But I did see that the ‘cloud’ now uses as much power as the entire country of Japan. Maybe converting the cloud to Apple M series chips is a better way to start?

      4. “The way I heard it we simply have to limit our per capita energy use.”

        Yes, if it is “per capita” Barbara Streisand will still be able to keep her mansion fully powered.
        It will be some poor proletariats who will have to cut back.

    4. Oh FFS every damn time EV’s get mentioned… no they’re not perfect but yes they’re a ton better than burning fossil fuels and will only get better as energy generation gets greener (which it’s doing at pace).

    5. Yes, definitely changing emissions. It’s complicated though. Because large scale power plants are so efficient, and electric vehicles so efficient, even in the worst case an electric car fired by a coal plant puts out less CO2 than burning gas directly. Even with all the losses accounted for. So yeah, it’s the “long tailpipe” but an internal combustion engine sucks so badly in the efficiency department that it’s pretty easy to beat.

          1. Easier and cheaper to ship the problems associated with mining to a country with less regulatory/environment concerns like usual. Of course, that price will be paid eventually, and probably in a much more expensive way, but like usual we ignore the future for profit.

        1. Ha, temporary.. It’s going to go on for so much longer than anybody currently believes. It’s amazing how this happens with nearly every single war—but every single time people buy it when their leaders say it’ll be over in a month. Twenty years later and we’ll be in the same spot and believe it AGAIN about a different warzone which just opened up. It’s nuts. The way things are now (or worse) is gonna be normal for a generation or more.

          1. Depends on the war, and the definition of when it ends. Far as I’m aware technically the Korea’s are still at war, but in practice that hasn’t really been true for a long time – its more cold war than real shooting war.

            As long as this ‘special military operation’ isn’t creating any risk of getting Putin’n’friends strung up by the mob at home they are not likely to stop. As long as the rest of the world supporting Ukraine keeps doing an overall half arsed job of helping in fear of really upsetting the Russian its going to be hard for them to win against the vastly larger if rather incompetent looking force…

            So yeah I can’t see it ending any time soon either, I figure at current rates Ukraine will start winning enough to scare the USA into not sending enough ammo to keep the assault rolling on probably by early next year if not this year… Most of the major powers of Europe are too half arsed in support already and seem to be rather owned by Putin, they would rather learn Russian and hold their positions of ‘power’ than step up on ideological grounds when not being embarrassed into it. Who knows who will be leading the UK by then – the one nation left that might just have both the resources and the balls to try and fill the void if the USA cuts back. The rest of the former Soviet states are going to give it their all, as they really know what the Orcs are like. But they are not in a position to do enough, being largely obsolete gear themselves.

            However I don’t think it can turn generational and a return to the coldwar type mentality if China doesn’t actively jump in with Russia – the Russians army has already rather crippled itself against the remarkably high quality resistance Ukraine has put up. Even in an unlikely looking victory they won’t be able to even contemplate taking further steps against anybody else for a good long while, and assuming most of the sanctions don’t get dropped quickly at the fightings conclusion they are going to be ever more desperate to find economics that work and component sources to rearm with… In which case the world economy should stablise and mostly recover quickly, as really nothing has been destroyed or damaged but trust in Russia and a patch of Ukraine – sad as it is for them to have their cities turned to rubble its globally of little significance economically, the farm production and export infrastructure that is Ukraines major global export won’t take long to get near pre-invasion levels if there is any desire to do so, which there will be…

            Also with the Ukrainian defense being so stiff despite largely inferior weaponry has also rather proved what happens when you suddenly get a wakeup call (Crimea) and put in high levels of professionalism and training – something Russia perhaps had forgotten matters at all, now forcefully reminded… So however the war ends Russia and hopefully all the other more belligerent powers are going to be a little cautious in picking further fights, which again makes more generation strife seem improbable.

      1. Well, I recycle every aluminum can I use or find. 47 cents a can is what I get paid.

        If you pay for the local trash company’s “recycling” service, they apparently just dump it in the landfil because the plastic waste has no viable market.

    1. Efficiency is a metric on a higher tier since it impacts many characteristics at once. So just a little “lower efficiency” would result in really bad weight/power/handling/cost/durability/heat/cooling/safety compromises. Model S is now a $100k Nissan Leaf.

    2. You could also get hybrid aluminum/graphene cabling instead of copper. Graphene is now getting really cheap (cost of natural gas) to make and hybrid materials like this could be a way to replace copper cables in electric vehicles.

      1. This is interesting — I remember learning that electrons travel the surface of a conductor – it would seem that having a thin layer of copper over a more common (cheap) material for the core would be a more efficient use of the copper we do have. Also — I wonder how many copper hoarders there are out there – like myself.

  1. There are numerous problems with EV:
    – Not enough on demand power generation to support everyone having an electric car. CA regularly schedules rolling blackouts during the summer, and have for almost a decade, because they don’t have enough power. That is without 100% EVs.
    – Charging Infrastructure still needs work.
    – EV range is not such that it is feasible for trucks/cargo transport.

    Even if all of this is solved, it will do next to nothing for pollution when China is pumping out tons, and container and other sea going vessels dump tons of pollutants.

    The folks clamoring to get rid of ICE cars are either virtue signaling or clueless.

        1. So because California has underinvested in energy production the rest of the world shouldn’t bother with BEVs?
          So because China produces pollution, the rest of the world shouldn’t bother trying to clean theirs up until China sorts itself out?
          So because some forms of transport aren’t suitable for BEVs, we shouldn’t bother to look at it for other forms of transport?
          So because we need to invest in charging infrastructure, we should just give up and stick with ICEs?

          Have you ever heard of the expression “Perfection is the enemy of progress”?

          There isn’t one single, magic bullet, solution to our environmental issues. Let’s try to chip away at them all at once rather than perfecting one issue before moving onto the next.

          1. its no all or nothing, and the proponents of EVs are creating policies to make it ONLY EVs going forward, with lofty targets that ignore what was talked about above. EVs are still a good idea, this isn’t disputed, but mass adoption IS a bad idea.

            we should invest in hybrids, but they are too expensive for the shells that are the OEMs and so lets all just step in line and cut off our nose not spite our face because the future.

          2. That is like saying “I need to go across the world, so I am going to run in a circle in my driveway….at least I am doing something…its progress”

            Except it does nothing.

          3. More apropos, “the perfect is the enemy of the good”. The speed of change being demanded by ill educated government officials is the enemy of quality progress through demand. This dream of the electric future and the World run by Krell Machines has towering hurdles. The structure is not there to achieve any of he goals or even partial goals. Look at Californians high speed choochoo costs and shcedule overruns.

            Right now the “cloud” uses more power than all of Japan. The electric car future being demanded by 2035 is quite literally impossible, but he laws will screw up whole sectors of the economy and progress on useful ideas.

            The all-electric fleet the enthusiasts want in the US will require more power than the entire current generating capacity of the nation. That means the infrastructure has to be more then doubled in generating capacity and quadrupled or more in distribution. High power distribution is needed for changing stations along all major highways. Rural distribution power capacity has to be increased for charging stations and home and businesses. What kind of power end-point do you have at a modern farm with trucks and tractors and harvesters? How do you charge a tractor that can pull a wide plow through the earth? Charge it overnight AND in the field. Because you can’t take them home at night.

            Is this all part of the copper calculation? I think it falls short, as do all the rosy plans and schemes. And solar and wind are not a solution. The dam removal movement is definitely not a help. Nuclear it has to be and that means uranium. There is a lot of uranium out there but getting it and refining it is not easy. This is a monumental design and might be good for a target of 2080 or 2100. Don’t let the Enviro-Industrial Complex push you around.

            I suggest relax and take it easy. Let it happen as people choose. The actions of Europe and North America are not going matter enough to warrant forcing people to change what they drive. You have to offer them something better, not restrictions and punishment.

        2. Removing the majority of ICEs would, in fact, make a difference. Deciding to do nothing rather than doing something because the possibility of doing more than something seems to hard is a ludicrous abdication of responsibility.

          The folks clamouring to not switch away from ICEs are either merely scared of change or clueless.

          1. There is not a single source that would back up your assertion that it would make a significant difference.

            Keep running in circles thinking you will make it around the world.

          2. No, we simply believe in science. EVs have numerous problems which need to be addressed before abandoning ICE vehicles: energy density, self-discharge, thermal runaway, transmission loss, charge time, materials availability, and cost.
            Put down the Richard Dawkins book, go outside and touch grass.

          3. Unless Nuclear is involved and its not, there is no effective substitute for fossil fuels using one or even all more green alternatives. That is unless you don’t mind killing millions in the first year and sending millions more into starvation in the years after.

            Do you really believe that all the electricity that will be needed to charge everything is going to be generated from Wind, Solar & Etc alone without including Nuclear?

          4. “Removing the majority of ICEs would, in fact, make a difference.”

            OK, great! Let’s figure it out. We’ll use the US right now because I know where the numbers are.

            Let’s get rid of all passenger vehicles. Everyone walks. That’d get us… around 1300 Mmt of carbon reduction a year. Leaving… 4665 Mmt left. That’s not great. Now consider that EVs *at best* cut that emission in half because our power plants suck. So… it’s more like 650 Mmt. Leaving… 5315 Mmt. Or… a 12% reduction.

            Let’s be generous and say that the price difference between an EV and a typical ICE is basically just the battery, so like $10K. We’ve now gotten a 12% reduction (not really, but OK) for what, 1.5 trillion freaking dollars?

            The US electrical grid is around 470M kilowatts (yes, mixing prefixes, shush). Replacing 12% of that with nuclear would be 56M kilowatts. Nuclear plants cost like $2500/kW, so this would cost literally *ten times less* for the same effect. And again, I’m being stupidly generous with how much EVs reduce things.

            EVs are just not a cost-efficient mechanism for reducing carbon emissions. Put a 10% tax on gas and dump it straight into non-greenhouse gas power plants and you’re almost certainly better off.

      1. No. 100% of the time, you’ll do better to make what you have more efficient than building something new. True of power plants (ignoring nuclear), true of cars. Trying to completely replace the world’s already-overproduced automobile market going back decades with completely new and untested technology is a fool’s errand. Forgive my anger.

        1. When cars were unreliable and inefficient, we only had a million of them in the UK, and driving was a pleasure.
          Now cars are more efficient and reliable, we have 30+ million. Driving is a PITA.

          Same happened with aviation, more efficient, cheaper, everyone wants to use it, it’s a pain.

        2. If we took that attitude, we’d still be riding horses, using steam engines, and vacuum tubes.

          The goal of progress is to try to make things better. However, we do tend to get it wrong. Some people think “progress” just means making more money.

          I can’t see us running out of copper. It’s easy to recycle, and valuable enough to do so. In case of shortages, aluminum is a good replacement. And automakers aren’t even trying to conserve it (have you seen how much wire is in a modern automobile)?

          Also, remember that EVs were around *before* ICEs.

      2. So do something ineffective so you can show your support for change?

        There are numerous issues with this from trying to force the markets to change from fossil to gas to lack off materials and what impact obtaining those materials will have on the planet. Switching to EV is not as simple and no where near as practical as the Green Energy movement promotes. Society is being coerced into this because a few people with the money & power to effect change are forcing it and they’ve suckered a number of the younger generation into buying into the lie that it can be done; that it is practical. Unless Nuclear is a key component in this change over, and it’s not (its being reduced in many nations), any Green Energy plan is little more than virtue signaling that is only going to lead to millions dying from a lack of cost effective & reliable energy.

        But keep acting like all we need to do is make people drive EV cars and the world will be saved.

        1. Weirdly enough,your line
          “Society is being coerced into this because a few people with the money & power to effect change are forcing it and they’ve suckered a number of the younger generation into buying into the lie that it can be done; that it is practical.”
          is precisely the line the fossil fuel industry used when it promoted (ineffective) plastic recycling as something the consumer needed to do instead of pointing out that industry itself needed to take more responsibility for the problems it was creating with plastic pollution.

          Now getting back to EV vehicles and green energy, we are already producing lots of green energy (wind and photovoltaics), and the production is only increasing as it gets cheaper to make things like solar panels and wind turbines. Maybe nuclear should be a part of the new energy infrastructure of the future, but going EV is going to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One way that it already does is last-mile transport to public transportation. Look in your city at electric scooters or electric unicycles that carry people to public transit hubs. On their own, people might have been unwilling to walk to public transit, but these cheap, portable EV’s are making it easier for people to use public transit, which might be too far to travel to otherwise.

          Other techniques that would also aid in reducing the climate crisis is carbon sequestration in agriculture (ex: ground cover with crops to absorb and store more carbon as organic matter in soil). Remember, the climate crisis needs multiple means of attack.

    1. These are addressable issues. Reinvesting in rail has always made long term economic sense over interstates & trucks for long haul, I imagine that is still true or at least a close match up against driverless electric semi’s if we’d stop pretending we don’t heavily subsidize roads.

      Infrastructure is always a bit of a chicken and egg issue. But there is the assumption in the post that existing infrastructure will be what carries this burden. We are building out renewables at an impressive pace. Additionally EV charging for a significant portion of the mileage can by the virtue of sitting in garages at night, be done off peak when extra demand could actually be helpful to grid planners by evening out base load vs peak hour demand.

      Alternatively, people have an additional incentive to install their own renewable generation to charge these vehicles leading to a more distributed and if done correctly, resilient grid. (My eventual plan)

      Why should we try when someone else isn’t? If no one starts, then the end result is nothing changes. It’s not really an argument. Just fatalism.

      Maybe it was just careless wording, but the last bit seems to be an intentional insult. It’s a pretty self righteous position to take to say people who desire a transition to a renewable transit system are clueless. Are you a multi subject expert who’s dedicated their life’s work to understanding supply chains, biology, ecology, electronics, power systems, and transit infrastructure?

      Are electric cars the best way to accomplish this? Most certainly not, but they might be the quickest, most effective, most culturally acceptable way to in countries that for better or worse were built around everyone owning a car.

      I for one think not slow cooking the planet and constantly having to breath combustion exhaust fumes are goals worth working towards. Even if we do so in an imperfect manner.

      1. U.S. railroad miles in 2022 are only 40% of what they were in 1922. The reduction is because most rail is economically infeasible. The roads have to be there anyway; I’m not going to go from house to town on a track. New rail construction is only practical in very specialized cases, much of which involves mining.

        1. They tore up/abandoned most of the second lines on double rail lines when modern signaling and switching was invented. It happened virtually overnight as the maintenance cost of rail is high and there was little benefit to the second line.

          American freight rail is better than Europe’s by any measure. Largely because the network is optimized for freight. When it works, trucks can’t compete. It’s important to know where the system stands today.

      2. ” Reinvesting in rail has always made long term economic sense over interstates & trucks for long haul, I imagine that is still true or at least a close match up against driverless electric semi’s if we’d stop pretending we don’t heavily subsidize roads.”

        If this were true, the collective ‘we’ would not have to reinvest in rail. The big investment houses would be jumping at such very long term dividends from profitable rail transport. They did in the second half of the 1800’s and railroad stock was a gold mine and something people bought for retirement. True I think until the 1950’s I think. The end of WWII and the coming of the Interstate Highway system.

        1. “The end of WWII and the coming of the Interstate Highway system.” Which was entirely gov’t subsidized. You can’t go “free markets killed rail” when the market is so _ridiculously_ distorted by a policy choice.

          There are even fewer private interstate highways than private railways, though, if that’s your benchmark. But imagine entering _that_ market. The competition is giving them away for free.

    2. The lack of electrical capacity is not limited to California. I believe there was a hackaday article several months ago that looked at the situation in a Canadian province (Quebec?). The analysis was that despite very large generation capability, neither the generation nor distribution could handle the load of off-peak recharging if half the vehicles in the jurisdiction switched from ICE to EV.

      1. That’s easy. There’s no money or power to be acquired with tackling a real environmental issue. I mean there’s some money to be made but there’s far more to be made in carbon futures markets which can only happen if society is forced into going along with Green Energy alternatives and since they (those behind this) know the majority won’t go along willingly they have to force people to do it.

        1. There is no need to appeal to Big Money or forcing people into compliance. There are bigger problems. Like a US all electric fleet requires more power than the total capacity today. This means more than doubling generation of power and all the related distribution infrastructure and much much more. What kind of power sub-station do you need at a NYC parking garage? Or an apartment complex or hotel? In neighborhoods?

          The problem is truly overwhelming and politicians who want to mandate change by 2035 are insane. This is an 80 year project.

          1. “The problem is truly overwhelming and politicians who want to mandate change by 2035 are insane. This is an 80 year project.”

            It’s not exactly a forced change by 2035: the California mandate is for *new* vehicles and plug-in hybrids still count as electric vehicles. If I had to guess, as 2035 approaches the mileage requirement for a PHEV to count (which is 50 miles, currently) will drop to reflect the fact that battery prices aren’t dropping as fast as they expected them to. Oh, and there will almost certainly be carve-outs for other types of vehicles as well.

            I wish they were advertising it as more of a ban on “non-hybrid ICE vehicles” rather than an ICE ban. But meh.

    3. Or…..

      Or. they do intend to have 100% EVs, and you will simply not be able to afford a car, or allowed to afford one. Instead you will be allowed to call up an EV driverless UBER. I think we are assuming intentions. Rather than doing that, ask direct questions. The responses may be surprising.

    4. It’s not about the environment. It’s about liquidating the kulaks again. This is the point of so many recent policy decisions. They’ve done this before and they will do it again. People who still trust them after the 20th century are absolute fools

    5. The reality of climate science means we have to stop burning fossil fuels. It’s a requirement of planet earth – or at least for our survival. It’s not like we have a choice of continuing with combustion cars and EVs are a nice-to-have, it’s a choice between no cars of any kind (because society has collapsed from global heating) or having no combustion cars. Getting rid of ICE cars is a physics question, not virtual signalling.

      Climate scientists aren’t lying about CO2 and the impact it’s having and that’s where the buck stops. Those are the choices we have: EVs, or nothing.

      So, either we make EVs work: solve the infrastructure problem (hey, Hackaday is for engineers – this is just our thing!); solve the copper problem (and a whole host of other technical issues); aim to not wreck the planet indirectly from trying to solve these problems; fix the transport problem (more local production / trains / better batteries / Tesla Semi etc); power the global with renewables and/or nuclear if we can ramp it up quickly enough; reduce energy consumption (WFH, small vehicles, public transport, walk, cycle, e-scooter where possible); improve passive aircon.

      1. There are 50 million people in the continental US who aren’t allowed to be here, consuming and emitting. Curbing their emissions by rightfully deporting them back to their countries of origin is the proper move by anyone serious about a climate cataclysm.

        1. Moving folks around doesn’t reduce their emissions.

          From what I’ve seen it’s the lifestyles of the average American that are disproportionately contributing to the demise of the planet – you guys are responsible for way more emissions per capita than almost anyone else so maybe not cast the first stone eh?

        2. Have to reply to myself because there is no reply button below JohnU. Just cut to the chase. “Climate science” is social science. The motive is purely political, and the end game is setting China up for world domination (making you a literal slave). You completely brush off an invasion of my country and go straight to blaming the middle-class because that has the most impact as far as destabilizing the country. All of the people moving out of democrat-run rat’s nests are being evicted so all of that urban real estate can be snapped up for nothing, then the super-dense living arrangements and miles of factories become the norm. You didn’t even mention China or India, but you did manage to slip in a “per-capita” so you could slither your way out of the reality we share.

    6. California’s rolling blackouts happen in the summer because sunhine leads to heat and heat leads to AC.

      EV owners charge at night, while they sleep, when the sun isn’t shining and the demand for AC is much lower. And the demand from from commercial / industrial customers is much lower as well.

      I don’t think it’s like to affect EV owners.

      Of course, there will always be areas with completely dysfunctional electrical grids, like ERCOT in Texas, but that’s a mismanagement problem, not a fundamental problem.

  2. Or we could stop replacing cars so frequently, and accept that they’re a long-term investment to be cared for, not a status accessory to be replaced as often as possible for the greatest and latest.

    1. Good point, along with simply driving less. I am still doing fine driving 20 year old vehicles.

      Also, look at lithium as well as copper. If anything, lithium is a more exotic element on good old planet earth.

      1. Make a law to abolish rust. Let’s just legislate it out of existence.

        And also let’s put a huge tax on new cars, say 50% or so, that will keep folks in their old cars.

        Do you have any other ways to achieve your goals?

          1. Does anyone have any actual evidence that spending thousands of dollars on car washes is worth the money? If you spend $5000 on car washes and it increases the value of you car by $500 then it’s clearly a bad deal.

          2. [X] wrote:
            “Does anyone have any actual evidence that spending thousands of dollars on car washes is worth the money?”

            The automated car washes that my family uses gives the underside of the car a powerful spray as we drive in. I’ve told my wife and daughter to drive real slow over that spray to get as much crud off as possible (the spray doesn’t stop until the vehicle has cleared). It might not make an increase in the final value to my car, as I doubt salvage yards give points for clean cars. B^)
            But it sure looks nicer!

            As Click and Clack said, “Drive the wheels off it, then put them back on and drive it some more!”

          3. $5000?? What the hell are you washing your car with, liquid gold or something?

            Who cares what the car’s value is? It’s a depreciating asset: the only thing that matters is how long it’s able to continue providing transportation. Can you maintain a car basically indefinitely for less than the cost of a new vehicle? Yes, absolutely.

      2. 20 year old cars do at least lack things like more modern crumple zones and part availability. Poorer gas mileage is also typical.

        The upside to getting a car in the last few years though is certain things are considered standard. Rear view cameras or GPS or airbags or so forth.

        Bigger question, aside from camera based “not actually currently legally autodrive” or electric vehicles is what material upgrades are there for passenger cars in the next decade or so? It sort of feels like the difference in digital assets for gaming or a new cell phone. They used to be huge differences.

        Now the next Lara Croft version 10.22 is pretty much the same as version 10.21.

        1. Uhhh there hasnt been any meaningful crash legislation since the 90’s with implementation in the late 90’s. My 2007 which is 15 years old, has everything you speak of when you think safety. Heck even my 1976 classic car has crumple zones.

        2. I hate to tell you, but 20 years ago was 2002, when cars very regularly came with pretty much every available safety feature they have now. Also last time I checked, the last major improvement to fuel efficiency was the hybrid engine, which was introduced commercially 25 years ago.

          You’re about 10 years too late with those comments.

        3. All the airbags on a ‘modern’ car help make any hard bumper hit a ‘total’ on a car more than 4 years old.
          That’s by design.

          The Germans in particular have perfected the ‘endless money pit’. It’s cheaper just to replace that middle aged benz then keep it up. Expensive gadgets of marginal utility from front to back. Planned obsolescence, with German precision. Low resale values actually help the cars be totaled on schedule.

          1. Stay tuned for the Tokamak fusion demonstration slated for 2024

            “In these experiments we achieved, for the first time in any fusion research facility, a burning plasma state where more fusion energy is emitted from the fuel than was required to initiate the fusion reactions, or the amount of work done on the fuel,” said Annie Kritcher, a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) where NIF is based.

            Her LLNL colleague Alex Zylstra added: “Experiments over decades have produced fusion reactions using large amounts of ‘external’ heating to get the plasma hot – now, for the first time, we have a system where the fusion itself is providing most of the heating.

            “This is a key milestone on the way to even higher levels of fusion performance.”

            Previous attempts to reach this stage have been limited by challenges in controlling the plasma shape. But researchers at NIF came up with an improved experimental design involving the use of capsules that can hold more fuel and absorb more energy while containing the plasma.

            Even when burning plasma is achieved, energy is still lost from the process. But this is one of the last remaining milestones before NIF’s bigger goal of “ignition” and self-sustaining energy production.

            During ignition, the energy released through fusion reactions exceeds that delivered to the fuel by the laser.

            In August 2021, NIF reported that they had reached about 70% of the way towards ignition.

            However– even with these advances they are still only surmising that we won’t see any real commercialization until the second half of the century. Who knows — perhaps their may be a breakthrough that will accelerate the timeline.

          2. Popular science articles just drive me nuts. They’re just incredibly poorly communicated. Yes, we are closer to fusion than we were in the 20th century but that’s because, well… people were just flat-out lying in the 20th century.

            NIF is a fusion *physics* experiment: they want to investigate hydrogen burning plasmas. They’re not trying to generate electricity because the energy output is pathetic compared to the actual electrical energy input (the lasers are super inefficient).

            Tokamaks are plasma physics experiments at this point: none of them can continuously generate fusion power because they don’t have the fuel: if they tried, the world would run out of tritium in like, a month. In order to be a proper plant, they need breeder blanket development (which, appropriate to this discussion, requires lithium). No one has demonstrated continuous tritium generation at this point.

            It’s not exactly fair of me to lump fusion into “mythical future technologies,” since it is farther along, but… it’s not that much farther along.

    2. ^ THIS!
      this is why im happy to still own my first car bought new in 2002 with now over 300Kmiles, as one of my vehicles; and my daily driver for the last couple years is a plug-in hybrid based on the 3rd generation of that same car.

    3. Passenger EVs should be like PCs of the 1990s.
      Super standardized and upgradable and repairable.
      There are so many fewer moving parts and systems required this should be do-able.

      Chassis could be sold in multiple styles and sizes but they would have standard mounts and shaft fittings for the motor, battery, HVAC unit and control boards. The dash would have standard holes where inserts for an instrument panel, entertainment/nav system and glove box would be added.

      With everything unboltable and easily removable even getting the chassis re-painted would be relatively simple and much less expensive. (might need some anti-theft locking mechanisms)

      Stainless steel chassis would be a thing, and though expensive even the non-rich would often save up and buy one because it would basically be a once in a lifetime purchase saving a lot of money over time.

      Cars that people buy once and keep for a lifetime only replacing bits along the way could be a real thing.

      This would be a lot better for the planet.

      The only reasons this can’t happen are social.

      People suck!

      1. >There are so many fewer moving parts and systems required this should be do-able.

        That’s not really true though.

        Unless you’re willing to go without vacuum assisted brakes, ABS, power steering, air conditioning… etc. Plus, you need other EV specific systems such as coolant pumps for the battery thermal management, and air-to-air heat pumps because now you now don’t have any hot water to heat the cabin with.

        And since the battery still costs as much as an entire small car to replace, the car becomes disposable anyways. That is already the case with cars being scrapped because some minor damage to the battery means you have to pay more than the entire value of the car to fix it.

        1. Yeah, I have no idea why people think a 1000+ pound battery pack filled with rare metals and complicated chemistry will ever be cheaper to replace than an engine half to a third its weight made of friggin’ steel or aluminum. People don’t think car engines are worth replacing, they’re not gonna think the batteries are.

  3. Additionally, Chile holds 54% of the world’s lithium reserves.

    Chile will soon be voting on a new constitution (Sept 4, IIRC) which has 268 articles and is chock full of environmental and climate change directives, and if it passes it will send shock waves throughout the economy.

    Setting up a constitution is not a bad thing, but that’s a lot of articles, the complexity can’t be understood by many people, and it’s written in weasel words by lawyers. It’s controversial, ambiguous in the sense that any passage can be read in either a bad light or a good light, causing many people to debate whether it will be good or bad for Chile.

    It’s expected that if the constitution passes, most mining will be nationalized, which will make the resources less available to the world economy to purchase.

    Chances are good that if the Chilean constitution passes, it will set back attempts to switch to EV by at least several years.

    (Note: I’m not opposed to Chile getting a new constitution, and it’s their business anyway. Just pointing out the current situation regarding mining in Chile.)

    1. As a Chilean, well, the new constitution had nothing to support nationalization of anything (the worst similar thing is that it would allow the “restitution” of land to indigenous people without proper compensation to the current legal owners), but anyway, on Sunday 61,9% of the population (voting was mandatory this time, previously all election’s were voluntary) decided the new constitution was the work of a bunch of clowns and we are staying, for the moment, with the current one.

      Now, as someone who works for a mining industry provider, I can say the biggest issue we are facing is the lack of water, essential for both copper and lithium mining. And in the case of copper, the article is totally right in that the ore concentrations are going reaaaally down, with the 1%+ sulfide deposits pretty much gone.

      When I was a kid (in the great 90’s) they said that with a price of $1usd/lb, the country was great (recieving funds from the “excess” of CODELCO, the state-owned mining group). Today, some of the larger mines are above $2 per lb of cost, and not very far of $3, which means the record-high pandemic price of almost $5 was not leaving a lot of income, let alone at the current price. A huge price hike will be needed for new projects to emerge, with lower ore grades, desalination plants for water, more expensive solar electricity and mixed oxide/sulfide ores.

  4. More than enough copper out there in the world. It is hanging from poles and buried under every street and yard. Most people have migrated away from traditional telephone land lines for communications yet the infrastructure is all there. Time to start pulling it down or digging it up.

    1. It’s still used for fire alarms, do you trust a fiber optic cable for this? Copper pairs don’t need amplification and are much more reliable in power outages (which often accompany fires).

      What are the economics of tearing up sidewalks and disturbing gas pipes compared to the copper in a twisted pair? Do you work for free?

      1. Having worked in telecomms – yes, I trust fibre optic way more than copper, it’s unaffected by much of the stuff that degrades or interferes with copper connections almost without exception.

        Things like alarms / backup service are an issue but they’re fairly easily resolved with minimal technology like a battery-backed modem or a single extra copper pair to inject power.

        The industry in the UK is (very belatedly) upgrading a lot of the network to fibre – FTTC usually – an operation which largely requires no disruption or digging as big fat bundles of copper cables are pulled out of ducts and new skinny fibre optic ones are pulled through in their place, and the scrap value of a few million miles of copper is pretty good last time I looked…

  5. Oof this one hits home, I live in Arizona and have been highly interested in the Oak Flats/Resolution Copper mining controversy. There’s lots of reasons it’s bad idea, including massive water use (during a drought no less), potential for ecological disaster from stored mine tailings, the relatively small benefit to the local economy, destruction of sacred sites on indigenous land, and the bypassing of the democratic process that allowed the project to move forward in the first place…

    Anyways, the only benefit of this project (to the global market, not so much the state or the US, talk about selling off our natural resources to overseas corporations for a pittance), is the increased copper supply from the largest remaining deposit in the US.

    Knowing the sometimes steep collateral costs of copper mining and the difficulty of filling global demand, what are the ways copper recovery/recycling could potentially help?

      1. I mean, does it matter if nobody in power cares anyway? I guess this question is useful in easing national guilt if you can justify a cynical enough answer, but probably pretty useless otherwise.

        I’m not indigenous and I don’t know the answer, but Oak Flats specifically is still used for coming of age ceremonies, despite it not belonging to the tribe anymore. At some point it was taken away for probably the same reason the federal government has taken land away from any reservation.

    1. No to mention all the miles of copper inside the average exchange – distribution frames, contacts, all the relays & electronics that can be massively reduced when you move over to just squirting data down a piece of glass to the customer or to the cabinet.

      Then there’s the reduction in power requirements, you can down-size all your fat 48v copper cabling & bus-bars, downsize your battery backup & generator, etc.

    2. That may be true for Norway, but is not true for most countries in the West. The majority of Internet access is copper based, FTTH is very rare.

      And for those countries where the very thin copper lines are properly installed in earth, it’s not worth it to take them out.

  6. EVs sound cool until you consider:

    It takes a much longer time to “fill up” vs. ICE (yes, overnight charging at home can mitigate this issue in some cases)

    A line to “fill up” at a fast charging station could result in hours of waiting just to get a spot to charge if this ever becomes mainstream (I’ve actually seen a video of this happening in China, line went into the street and around the block)

    The grid infrastructure and power generation needed to support EVs will need to be quite massive if everyone/nearly everyone switches over

    The increase in demand of electricity will lead to higher rates

    In cold temperatures, usable capacity goes down a bit

    When the battery pack reaches EOL, the battery pack replacement expense will likely cost far more than the vehicle and thus the vehicle will almost certainly be junked which also makes buying viable used EVs problematic

    Many of the parts for EVs (batteries in particular) are manufactured in countries such as China that have little qualms in creating quite a bit of pollution to make supposedly “clean” vehicles

    As it stands, it seems this benefits car manufactures, manufactures of charging station equipment, and grid infrastructure equipment manufactures, far more than the end users.

    I’ll be sticking to my old ICE vehicles for the time being, well until authoritarian governments start banning gas and diesel in the name of “saving the planet.”

    1. Agree. In fact I am going to get permanent plates on my truck to keep it around. I can buy a bunch of gas for the cost of buying a new truck… or the cost of equivalent powered EV + battery change-outs….. Economics just aren’t there.

      “The increase in demand of electricity will lead to higher rates” …
      That’s a given. The more solar and wind in our systems, the higher the cost (at least what we are seeing in our utility) (and also less reliable source). Only reason these facilities can be installed at all is ‘subsidies’ and making utilities buy at ‘x’ higher rate than current energy sources… We the people pay for it…. And then people scream as we (utility) have to raise our rates for the ‘free’ electricity going into our grid… LOL…. So yeah all around more expensive bills as time goes on as the so called climate change agenda is pushed.

    2. We have an early generation EV: a Renault Zoe with a 22 kWh battery pack. It’s done 50,000 miles in 5.5 years. The state of health of the batteries was measured last week and it’s 98%.

      When would you estimate the battery reaches EOL?

      The car was originally worth £19,000. By the time the battery reaches EOL for driving (and becomes a battery for supporting base load); the cost of a replacement battery will be about $80/kWh or less. $80 x 22 = $1760, or about 10% of the cost of the car (since $1<£1).

      There you go, actual figures.

      Ironically, it's states like Texas that are the real authoritarians, because they won't even allow people to buy a Tesla EV inside the state, even though Tesla EVs are made in Texas! Even California will let you buy an ICE all the way until 2035.

      Here's another irony: the faster the US (and the world) adopts EVs, the longer you can keep your smog monster. That's because it'll slow down the drain on the carbon budget for the US and then your ICE vehicle won't have to be scrapped. Of course, there might not be any gasoline stations by 2040, but I'm sure you could grow enough bio-fuel for the occasional joy-ride ;-) .

      1. Sounds like wishful thinking :) . An ‘equivalent’ truck with the hauling power and distance needed isn’t even in the cards yet (well, Ford and others are looking at it) . But I bet it isn’t $19,000 :) . Nor the cost of a replacement battery down the road. Plus you can’t throw a Jerry Can in the back to get you back out of the mountains (a backup battery pack??? right) …. Electrics have there place for ‘some’ limited applications, but not all. EVs aren’t the answer. The power has to come from somewhere to power them…. And the infer structure isn’t there yet to support ‘everyone’ plugging in.

        Looking at your Zoe, it competes with the mini and Fiat 500… so a small car. From a quick scan the cost starts at 32K for the little vehicle today which is almost reasonable with today’s prices for that class….

        As for battery life, it will depend on how much you use it of course and years of service and environment it is used in. And it works .. until it doesn’t. I just recall the Florida family that bought a used EV for their kid with only 60,000 miles on it (should be just breaking in with that little miles). The battery died. $14,000 for the battery. But it was discontinued. Now what do you do… The replacement battery cost was more than the Ford Focus was worth even if you could get it. I guess, this would be reason to keep buying new cars and filling the landfills… Battery goes, get a new vehicle … Win Win for dealers :) .

        As for Texas: https://texasaz.com/how-to-buy-a-tesla-in-texas/ . It looks like you can.

        As for Kalifornia (and the coast), there is a reason people are leaving that state…

        1. EVs get back out of mountains for free, thanks to regenerative braking. e.g. descend 1km => 20,000N x 1km = 20,000kJ = 5.5kWh thanks!

          Even the US grid can handle the switch to EVs, and providing the capacity is certainly doable – I mean, it’s doable for the UK, just 5GW/year, so it’s doable for the US. It’s worth remembering that oil refineries use as much electrical energy to refine 1L of oil as it does for an EV to drive as far as an ICE does on 1L (there’s a Fully Charged episode which explains this).

          Yes, the Zoe is a small car, a super mini. When we bought it, in 2017, it really was £19K new (with the government grant), but for us it was only £7.5K, because we bought a 6 month old showroom model and the new Zoe 40 had just been released (with twice the battery).

          Again, cherry picking an anecdote about a poor EV battery isn’t representative is it? It’s not just how much you drive it, but how you drive it and the underlying Battery Management System. For example, early Nissan Leafs didn’t have any support for battery cooling; and in Florida that might be particularly important for maintaining battery life. Early Leafs in fact, do have relatively rapid battery degradation.

          “The replacement battery cost was more than the Ford Focus was worth” I’d not heard of an electric Ford Focus, but in fact they did exist. Bit of a dodo that leaked battery coolant, from a company that is reluctant to make EVs, right? Hardly sold any. And this is your prime example of an EV?

          Even so, why do you imagine that EV batteries go to land-fill? You must know that Nissan and Tesla have already set up battery recycling facilities.

          And, nope, you can’t buy a Tesla actually in Texas: “Currently, Tesla must build its cars in Texas and then ship them out of the state to be sold to Texans, after which they’ll return to the state in possession of their new owner.” That’s how it’s done. From InsideEVs, June, 2022:


          Anyway, thanks for the conversation! Cheers from Julz

          1. I have my doubts on the Zoe’s SOH measurements: they specifically had some magic BMS update that just boosted everyone’s state-of-health to mid-90s, which makes me wonder if they shifted to measuring it relative to advertised rather than total capacity. Which is, well, just lying: it means your SOH won’t degrade at all for several years, and then it’ll just happily start dropping quickly once you get under advertised capacity.

            Lithium ion batteries have calendric aging, just like any other battery – you can not drive them at all and capacity still fades. After 5 years you just can’t be at 98% original capacity, the chemistry pretty much totally prevents that.

            The original design capacity by this measure 118%, so if you’re at 98% that means you’re at a “real” SOH of 83%, which is much more consistent. Entirely possible that the battery was effectively “bigger” than design as well (margins on margins).

      2. “the cost of a replacement battery will be about $80/kWh or less. $80 x 22 = $1760, or about 10% of the cost of the car (since $1<£1)."

        Oh, I seriously wish you luck on that endeavor. There's a strong *disincentive* for car manufacturers to provide replacement battery packs at anywhere *near* market cost, which means if you want low-cost batteries you're going to be relying on third-party pack rebuilding, which aren't going to be seriously cheap because they don't have scale going for them.

        That being said, comparing cars for Europe and cars for the US is just silly, the geography/demography is just far too different. Given the infrastructure in Europe the fact that cars are as prevalent as they are is just insane. Just start banning cars from cities, period.

        1. Urban areas have great public transport, but outside of that not. And people need to take cars to go anywhere there as well. So you will need to enter the city, too.

          US needs cars in the city even if you live there, that’s the difference. Banning cars will disadvantage people from non urban areas.

          1. I said ban cars *inside* cities. Cars from outside the city just park at the boundary and switch to public transportation within. People who live in the city keep the cars parked at the boundary if they want them.

            Plus you just do it gradually. Start at the center, begin closing streets to public traffic, progressively do more. In Europe this is particularly simple, plenty of city centers already are car-free.

            Yes, shipping make things complicated, but shipping in a city’s a disaster anyway: start off by contracting a company to receive and distribute things internally using EVs only, and functionally make it a mail route.

  7. Get fusion power working first, then with abundant and reliable electricity supply your cities with desalinated water, and use the concentrated saline waste streams from that to extract the minerals you need. While you are at it you can also extract the dissolved CO2 for hydrogenating with H2 from the water too, because there are many uses for hydrocarbons that have no viable alternative. What minerals that can’t be extracted from seawater can be found on the moon or in asteroids. What people are trying to do right now, and the order in which they are doing it, does not make a lot of sense at all, you can’t build a perpetually sustainable economy from the top down, you must get the fundamentals right first, then everyone can have their flying robot cars, or whatever.

  8. There is lots of copper available – right in front us – all of those old phone lines snaking everywhere on the telephone poles which at this point are unused thanks to fiber and cell phones. They are going to have to come down sooner or later and hopefully the pvc and the copper can be separated in a environmentally friendly way. I’m guessing that the amount tied up just on the telephone poles is quite significant .

    1. I think it has been a long time since I’ve seen a telephone pole…
      Most of the ranches around here got underground cable back in the 1970-80s.

  9. I wouldn’t have thought copper would be a limiting factor in EV production. Nickel and lithium are probably bigger issues.

    When CA announced that it would ban the sale of new ICE cars by 2035, I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation:

    There are about 2M new car registrations in CA each year
    A BEV has about 10 kg of Li in it
    The worldwide annual production of Li is about 100M kg
    Therefore, electrifying all new car sales just in CA will require 20M kg, 20% of the annual global production of Li

    To me, this is the bigger bottleneck. People who advocate for mass conversion of ICE to BEV (leaving our patterns of car usage unchanged) have to accept that this will require an enormous (several orders of magnitude) increase in mining activity — for Li in particular, but also for Ni, Co, and some other metals. That itself will have a huge environmental impact, and won’t come cheap. (The price of Ni has doubled just in the last two years.)

    Battery recycling will help, and progress is being made, but it won’t be enough to supply the world’s Li, Ni, and Co needs for electrification.

    There is a significant amount of GHG embodied in the construction of a BEV, largely due to these battery materials — far more than with ICE vehicles. With a typical energy grid, it may take 4-6 years of BEV driving before the total GHG emissions from production + use starts to drop below the corresponding value for an ICE driven the same distance. The break-even happens sooner in low-GHG electricity supply regions, and later in high-GHG grids.

    This website is really handy as a look at the GHG impact of your electricity supply: https://app.electricitymaps.com/map

    The electricity supply in most of the US (WA state and parts of MT excepted) is not particularly “green”. The province of Quebec has a very clean electricity grid — with about 10% of the CO2 emissions per kWh than even NY state (which has a clean grid, by US standards).

    One could argue that a lot more daily travel can be electrified by moving en masse to PHEVs with ~ 70 km electric range, where that same 10 kg of Li can electrify five daily commutes rather than just one in a pure BEV.

    An even better argument could be made that what we really need to do is make massive investments in, and prioritization of, public transit — to get people out of their cars for routine travel. One electric bus has about six Teslas worth of Li in it — that metal does a lot more good electrifying thousands of passenger trips than it does sitting under the hood of a car that is parked for most of the day.

    Air travel is a whole other can of worms — with its own very high carbon impact (an NYC-LA round trip is worth about 5,500 km of driving — which is many months of daily commuting for most people).

  10. I’m hoping with California’s (and likely, the nation) requiring only new EVs to be sold, the cost of gasoline will plummet as demand falls. Gasoline will be tough to get rid of. So my already paid for cars will have essentially zero operating costs. I’ve also heard nothing about regulating the buying and selling of pre 2035 gasoline powered cars, nor how smog and emissions will be regulated at that time either. Currently, nothing before 1976 model year has to be smogged, but that is such a tiny portion of the cars on the road that it is irrelevant.

    Also, I looked into replacing some failure-prone components on my current car and was shocked to learn that CA has laws against changing anything to do with intake or exhaust, even if it makes the car run cleaner and more efficiently. That’s just dumb. So I can’t wait to see how this stupid state addresses the smog issue after the 2035 ban on the sale of new ICE cars. Maybe it will be as successful as all the CA gun control measures that have had, well, essentially zero measurable impact on gun violence in the state.

    1. I’m sure they’ll go after gas via a combination of regulations and taxing it though the roof, and perhaps eventually an outright ban. Don’t think for a minute if they get everyone to switch over the EVs, they will rejoice and be at peace. Electricity used to charge EVs will be rationed next.

  11. Quoth the article:

    “the idea is generally to eliminate vehicles powered by combustion engines and replace them with electric vehicles instead.”

    And this is the wrong idea. The right idea would be to change the ways we move around. More public transport. More foot, bicycle and small vehicles. Vehicles adapted to the kind of transport they’re going to do.

    Less individual vehicles.

    All that discussion on efficiencies is utterly moot if I have to drive 25 Km in my SUV to go fetch a couple of groceries.

    For those left, copper will be enough.

    I know, hard to swallow. But we’ll be forced, one way (painful) or another (a bit later, much more painful).

    It’s starting already.

    1. That wont happen since public transport in rural areas is very bad, think of a few times a day, and not reaching far.

      There have been long standing endevours to change it, nothing happened, because it is not economically viable.

      Also you will need to transport what you bought, and a lot cannot be done just with a bike. People who say that are all people with cars, who don’t know what it is like to not actually own a car.

      1. “That wont happen since public transport in rural areas is very bad, think of a few times a day, and not reaching far.”

        People in rural areas don’t need to change. There aren’t enough of them to matter. Wyoming drives ~18k vehicle-miles per person, per year, and New York drives ~6k vehicle miles per person, per year. So Wyoming citizens drive 3x more than New York citizens, but New York has *40 times* the population.

        Rural areas don’t matter. It’s urban and suburban areas that matter. The Los Angeles and New York metropolitan areas *alone* are like 7% of the miles traveled in the entire country. The entirety of the state of Wyoming could stop driving and it likely wouldn’t even be measurable in terms of emissions.

  12. “To understand the problem of converting transportation to electric drive en masse, you have to take a look at the big numbers.”
    Totally true. It is a matter of MAGNITUDE. It is the same magnitude considerations who say that renewable energy will never replace fossil energy. When the fossil energy crisis will begin (current stock depletion), we will be doomed if we haven’t by then reduced our energy consumption by a factor of 9. That means “no more growth”. This is a major shift in every aspect of our life. We should start right now to start learning how to make it and prepare a smooth transition. The longer we deny it, the harder it’s gonna be.
    Thanks Hackaday for addressing this topic.

  13. “In fact, a modern EV requires approximately twice as much copper as a traditional combustion-engined vehicle. Thus, if we want to eventually have the entire car industry only building electric vehicles, that’s going to up the car industry’s copper demands by 150%.”

    You are saying that electric cars use twice as much copper, so if we switched to only making electric cars, no ICE cars, then copper demands would go up to 200% not 150%, unless you mean an extra 150 % on top of what we have now which would work out at 250 % of current demand, but still where are you pulling this 150 % from?

  14. We could use aluminum as a substitute. Of course this has also a limited supply.
    Or a different conductor has to be found. Gold is excellent conductor but even more expensive and we don’t want to give up on shiny necklaces ect.
    But maybe ramping up recycling of old cars and other stuff would lower xx% of the need to dig for these resources.

  15. PHEV! Why do we continually ignore the steps toward BEV?? When Battery technology gets better full BEV transport will make sense. As it stands, it does not.

    But if we all had Plug In Hybrid Electric Vehicles MOST of our transport would be electric, with some fossil when needed. I have a 2022 Ford Escape Hybrid. With the market I could not get the PHEV in a time that worked with my needs. I needed either the Hybrid or PHEV version to allow for flat towing.

    I consistently get more than half of my miles off the battery. If I could have secured the PHEV version I wouldn’t need gas for weeks. My battery capacity would also not be so large as to add crazy weight or tax the grid during charge cycles. If we want adoption of cleaner personal vehicles and we ignore Hybrid and Plug in Hybrid technology, we’re not looking to solve ANY problem. We’re looking to make sure those who have heavily invested in BEV technology will make a profit based on legislation!

    1. From a pure vehicle perspective, PHEVs are indeed attractive. There is a more advantageous “bang for the buck” factor in electrifying the first 70 km of daily driving by 5-6 households vs. electrifying the first 350 km of daily driving by one household (in terms of where the lithium, nickel, and electricity goes). When our ICE car conks out, I too hope to go PHEV.

      But I would still argue that a serious re-think of “car culture” is also necessary.

      1. Not arguing that. I would gladly take the train to work daily if it made ANY sense. Around here it does not. My trips to the UK and France…that was telling. My local commute would take twice as long in a crowded, uncomfortable train and is prone to dealing with local freight rail tracks and delays in the summer.

        If the DC metro extended the Red line to Laurel MD, I’d take that to work. But then they want to charge you to park, which adds to the expense. They make the lots too small so you’re looking for a space for a period of time. I live in a rural area. Walking or biking to the train station or the extended red line station is not feasible. So by the time I leave home, hunt for and get a parking spot (paid or otherwise) take the train, and walk to work from the destination metro station I’m out about the same money as I am to purchase and maintain a car and a significant time loss compared to getting in my Hybrid and enjoying a comfortable ride to and from. This also allows me to do errands on my commute and keep my home life stable.

        No easy answers. But BEV isn’t even an answer at this point. It’s a “feel good about your choices” mentality that we humans enjoy to try to pretend to be good people. Even when the math and science don’t bear that out.

      2. “But I would still argue that a serious re-think of “car culture” is also necessary.”

        Personal vehicles contribute 15% of the US’s greenhouse gas emissions. Fifteen. Percent. And the average fleet economy in the US is well behind new vehicle mileage (about 1.67x worse in terms of fuel consumption). Which means that with proper incentives to improve fleet economy (subsidize selling highly efficient used vehicles rather than just new) you could reduce that fraction to below 10% easily. Possibly even lower than that if you just tax the hell out of larger vehicles to force US vehicles back to a 1970s-ish distribution (if you had said rethink of SUV culture, I’d buy that).

        At that point… why are you worrying so much about less than 10% of the emissions? Electricity generation is 25%, industrial emissions are 25%, ag emissions are 11%.

        People talk about “car culture” being a problem because it’s the easiest thing to point at, but electrifying vehicles has a terrible return on investment in terms of carbon emissions. You’d be better off throwing money at, dear God, just about anything else.

  16. We’re missing the most important factor here: we have met the enemy and he is us.

    We don’t have a pollution problem or a carbon problem or an electric vehicle problem, we have a people problem. There’s just far too many of us and, as a species, we suck. Get rid of the people, we get rid of the problem.

    Nature tried with the COVID-19 pandemic but we prevailed, we “won” that skirmish. Next up is… (consults universal existential almanac)… looks like giant meteor. Fingers crossed. Don’t want to get past that and have to experience global nuclear conflagration – that would be bad for everything. Best we go quietly while earnestly thinking about what we’ve done.

  17. “[A] modern EV requires approximately twice as much copper as a traditional combustion-engined vehicle. Thus, if we want to eventually have the entire car industry only building electric vehicles, that’s going to up the car industry’s copper demands by 150%.”

    Which seems weird to me because it’s either:
    a) 2x as much = a 100% increase,
    b) 2.5x as much = a 150% increase.

    You don’t get too mix and match, that’s not how math works.

    Please make your numbers internally consistent before publicly expressing opinions which rely on math. Otherwise people who understand basic math might start to think you’re just making stuff up.

  18. Timely headline from UK’s The Register: “California asks people not to charge EVs during heatwave”

    “”The top three conservation actions are to set thermostats to 78 degrees [25˚C] or higher, avoid using large appliances and charging electric vehicles, and turn off unnecessary lights,” CAISO said, noting that voluntary reduction in energy consumption could “prevent more drastic measures, including rotating power outages.”

    So, somewhere between the time you might top of your charge before heading home from work and the time you arrive home and plug your car in for an overnight charge…you can’t. Because it’s warm out. Clearly this is a world-saving, ready-for-primetime technology.

    Full story:

    1. I think I get your point but:

      “Load on the electrical grid peaks between 4-9 pm, during which time CAISO said it may issue flex alerts urging Californians to reduce their electricity consumption.”

      How is 4pm-9pm affecting “overnight” charging?

  19. I find it really sad, and surprising, that the author and readers here don’t know that aluminum has lower resistance than copper by weight. Copper has lower resistance by volume.

    People seem to believe that there would be lower efficiency, when there wouldn’t be. To have the same power and efficiency, the motor would be slightly larger, but weigh less.

    1. You’re assuming that the comparative motors are composed wholly of copper or aluminum and that the weights scale linearly. There is little reason to think that. Also, aluminum has a number of other properties that differ from copper which prevent it from being a drop in replacement.

    2. If aluminium was a workable cheaper replacement for copper wires, everyone would use them. As resistance is a function of surface area, not density, aluminium is, and never will be, a viable surrogate for copper in high power utilization.

  20. Maybe electrostatic motors could help? Without the need for coils there is no real need for copper. Don’t know if the large interleaved stacks of thin plates could survive in a car though.

  21. The fact that Tesla didn’t start out proposing an interchangeable battery you could swap out at every gas station converted into a battery charging station is proof that this isn’t about lowering emissions. That’s the only sound way to handle all mentioned issues including the most unmentioned issue which is the end-life waste that the battery creates, the most important part being how little time these batteries last and diminishing charging capacity downgrades the function and efficiency well before any end-life scenario. There is still another 50 years of battery development and MATERIALS SOURCING and POWER PLANT FUEL SOURCING to be ensured before you can begin limiting combustion engine cars. I can’t believe you’ve all fallen for the Elon congames. As adults you should be ashamed at your blinding, stock-price-bias-driven ignorance. You are the people pushing the flush button on the economy and driving us headlong in the subscription-low-quality-goods-slavery economy. And it IS slavery when they keep you on the hedonic treadmill of Consuming to buy yet another masterpiece of engineered obsolescence to keep you working harder every year to replace common goods every few years instead of passing down sturdy household goods that last at least two generations. You and your endocrine-disrupted-castrated children (or furbabies) get what you deserve. If only you could catch up with ackchuall science and realize you need many small, local failsafe-design nuclear reactors to diminish line losses, obviate the need for a TREMENDOUS amount of raw materials to expand infrastructure to handle all the new EV cars (not to mention the economy will never boom enough to economically justify this in enough regions in the USA) and lock down uranium sources to even BEGIN to float out your dreams of an all-EV car network, and even that might not allow individual ownership, just a bus/taxi network in an ever constricted hyper-dense urban setting with only corporate vehicles allowed outside of the gates to tend to the nu-agri slop fields to toss into the pit of entertainer-economy degen goons. Less work, more free time, “more entertainers” living in coffin sized apartments where 2 to 4 lumps pump away creating love and sludge at ever decreasing age of entry. You know it’s your fantasy, don’t deny it. Not mine, though. Let’s hope more thoroughly human sensibilities prevail and we end the slide into this impossible EV suicidemobile utopia slide ASAP and get ahold of the reigns of our own futures not decided upon by PlaySkool Plastic Food and Convenience moralizing fed by ultra-wasteful “green” energy. I really can’t believe how blownout and pie in the sky so many of you are. We even have buffoons thinking that the lower night time charging prices will hold after everyone is charging their cars then, millions of cars, and you expect it to just hold? Huh…it’s like variables and system dynamics will hold still forever…try to THINK.

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