The difficulty with electric cars is energy density of the battery:
Material Energy content Conversion Energy
(watt-hrs/lb) Efficiency available to
Gasoline 6,000 20%- 1,200-
Ethanol 4,000 30%+ 1,200+
Li ion batt 100 80%+ 80+
Ethanol is a powerful motor fuel in its own right and, if used in an engine optimized for ethanol, has slightly better available energy than gasoline.
Lithium ion batteries provide at the most 120 watt-hours/lb of available energy to move the car which is why EV's weigh a lot and cost a lot of money. The Chevy Bolt can go 238 miles on a single charge, but at the cost of weight (3600 lb vehicle) and cost ($43,500). The battery alone in a Chevy Bolt weights 960 lbs and you can't even buy the car with a power seat!
If you add even more batteries to get more more power and mileage, the weight of the vehicle increases and efficiency drops even more. Costs also increase dramatically which is why the Tesla Models S and X cost and weigh so much.
Gasoline electric hybrids have a longer range, but they still burn the problem - gasoline.
For batteries to be competitive with gasoline or ethanol the energy density will have to jump from 120 to 1500 watt-hrs/lb. There is nothing on the horizon to indicate this is going to be possible on any sort of near term time scale.
Number of light duty (LD) vehicles in U.S. ~275,000,000
Number of EV's sold thru Dec 2019 244,569
Number of LD vehicles sold thru Dec 2019 17,108,156
In summary, thru Dec 2019 the market share of EV's was 1.4% with 65% of all EV's the Tesla Model 3. For the 1st 6 months of 2020, the market share of EV's was 1.7%, the Model 3 again accounting for 2/3 of those sales.
Clearly, current battery technology is not going to replace any meaningful portion of new gasoline powered light duty (LD) vehicles.
In any case, these sales volumes are horrible especially considering massive government subsidies, rebates, HOV lane stickers and free recharging stations. The fact that market share is so low for these vehicles indicates that these vehicles simply do not provide value to the consumer.
We scrapped ~14.5 million vehicles in 2019, so the entire market grew by over 2.5 million gasoline powered vehicles, 10x the number of EV's sold. Trying to lower CO2 emissions by going to EV's is equivalent to trying to empty a lake at one end by taking a 1,000 gallons of water out at one end and putting 10,000 gallons in at the other end. You have to stop the intake.
To make a difference in the amount of gasoline used, we have to replace millions of vehicles per year, not just thousands, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands.
If a decision were made to go to E100 vehicles, we could easily make 17 million vehicles in model year 2024 . This would truly make a significant dent in the amount of CO2 emitted and reduce global warming.
Consumers would flock to E100 vehicles if the mileage was the same as gasoline engines because E100 would sell for less than gasoline.
Electric cars are great technology, exciting to work on, and fun to drive, but, as the numbers and costs show, are simply not a viable strategy for significantly reducing CO2 emissions or for making us independent of imported oil on any sort of reasonable time schedule.
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Last Updated October 5, 2020