Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Electric cars, the promise... of inconvenience?

A friend posted a bloomberg article about the promises of e-cars. The report said,

"In the next two years, Tesla and Chevy plan to start selling electric cars with a range of more than 200 miles priced in the $30,000 range. Ford is investing billions, Volkswagen is investing billions, and Nissan and BMW are investing billions. Nearly every major carmaker—as well as Apple and Google—is working on the next generation of plug-in cars."

I commented that perhaps Bloomberg is just promoting and over-optimistic about e-cars. Seriously, people want to charge their cars overnight, or several hours, at home and jack up their monthly electricity bills? 

The convenience of e-cars have been reported by the promoters of the technology. I think many of these are correct. But the public is less informed about some inconveniences, a few that I can think of.

1. Long charging time, several hours if not overnight. Compare it with the current cars, go to a gas station, have a full tank in 3 or 4 minutes or so, pay and drive again.

2. Jack up monthly electricity bills. Remember that in the Philippines, there are about 8 different charges (generation charge, transmission charge, distribution charge, supply charge, universal charge, system loss charge, FIT allowance,...) excluding taxes and fees. Savings from petroleum may be shadowed by a huge spike in the electricity bill.

3. Not only Tesla and Chevy that revolutionize the e-cars. Toyota, others also revolutionize the fossil fuel cars. From 10 kms/liter to 15, 20 and even 25 kms/liter. 

4. Try driving from Manila to Bicol on an e-car. You got stuck in a crawling traffic in Batangas or Quezon, battery is running out of power and there is no or very few charging stations nearby, and those few stations are full as each car takes hours to recharge, instead of just 3-4 minutes to have an oil full tank.

5. If the car owner comes home at 12 or 1am after a meeting or event, then one of the kids or the spouse needs the car by 4am for a long drive, not enough time to recharge fully, what to do?

Cheap oil will be here for the next 5 years or more. For instance, from the number of shale gas/oil rigs that are temporarily closed in the US because of $30+ a barrel oil prices, about 3,000 rigs from the 3 major shale regions alone, if all of them will open up someday as the cost of extraction goes lower and lower, we can expect that the $30-40 oil will persist for the next 5 years or more. 

E-cars to "fight climate change"? hehe. CC has been happening since 4.6 billion years ago. Warming-cooling-warming-cooling, in endless natural cycles, nice, no big deal. 

Besides, the main energy sources for electricity production that power e-cars are from... fossil fuels. For instance, in the Luzon grid in 2015, coal + natural gas + oil-based power plants produced almost 77% of total electricity production. (chart source: DOE)

So e-cars shun petroleum, a fossil fuel, by charging up electricity which is 77% sourced from fossil fuel sources? Not logical.

I am not against e-cars per se, they are good, they expand the choices for the people who want new cars. It is simply inconvenient to maintain them.

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