The Biden Administration announced new emissions regulations that require a full two thirds of vehicles sold in 2032 to be electric, nine short years from now. Does anyone seriously believe that we are going to simultaneously increase the number of electric models by a factor of seven, car production by close to 12, and charging stations by 30 in less than a decade?
“I can pull up by the curb
I can make it on the road
I can stop in any street
Invite in people that we meet
Keep me moving, mmm
Out in the woods
Or in the city
It’s all the same to me
When I’m driving free
The world’s my home
When I’m mobile
Hee, woo, beep-beep…”
The Who classic from 1971’s masterpiece Who’s Next captured the thrill of the open road and the freedom that comes with having your own set of wheels, going anywhere, anytime you like, and with whoever you like. A generation ago it was a dream of almost every child in America to have their own car, and many – like myself – dreamed of the cars they one day would get, to paraphrase Bruce Springsteen’s “Brothers Under the Bridges,” but if the Biden Administration gets its way, this dream will come to an end and all of us will be confined to an existence far less mobile than our parents. Of course, they will never say it this way, but there is no other outcome of the policies they are pursuing. This week President Biden announced the “most aggressive” automobile emissions regulations in history with an express goal of having electric vehicles account for two thirds of all automobile sales by 2032, nine short years from now. Passenger cars are not the only type of vehicles impacted. The White House projects that up to 50% of bus and garbage trucks, 35% of short haul and 25% of long haul freight trucks will be electric in this same short period. “Cars and truck manufacturers have made clear that the future of transportation is electric,” the White House wrote in a “fact sheet” that contained precious few facts. “The market is moving.” “As a car enthusiast and self-proclaimed car guy, President Biden is seizing the moment,” the statement continued. “His Investing in America agenda is expanding domestic manufacturing and accelerating adoption of zero-emission vehicles, including battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and fuel cell electric vehicles.” Like magic, consumers are said to benefit by saving $12,000 on average over the lifetime of their vehicle.
The only problem on the way to the promised land: Most of these electric vehicles don’t even exist yet, meaning an environmentally conscious buyer could not purchase one if they wanted. Electric vehicles accounted for a scant 6% of sales in 2022, a figure which is rising, but would have to increase more than 10 fold in 10 years to meet these targets. This is not simply an issue of ramping up production either. There are currently around 285 different models of car available in the United States, of which only about 40 are electric and most of which are prohibitively expensive for the average buyer. The premium brand, Audi, for example leads the pack with 5 different electric vehicles, Tesla with 4. Neither brand offers a car you can buy for less than about $40,000. The average price of an electric vehicle at the end of 2022 was $61,488 compared to $49,507 for all cars in general, a close to 25% percent premium, but even this is deceiving. There is no electric equivalent to an inexpensive sub-compact, the classic commuter car or car for a first time buyer just starting out. (Mine, for example, was a 1998 Dodge Neon.) None, which has lead some to claim these cars are racist. Somehow, however, we are expected to believe that the number of eclectic models will increase by a factor of seven in less than ten years and decline in prices to levels never seen before, nor even discussed by any major manufacturer. Think of it this way: Go to a Toyota dealership right now and look around all the models that are available. The Corolla, the Camry, the Rav-4, the Highlander, the Sienna, to name a few. We’re supposed to believe that two thirds of these models will be completely gone in less than a decade, replaced by electric equivalents, but there is no real plan to do so. Even if we were to assume that these vehicles near magically transform into their electric counterparts, the less expensive electric cars currently on the market have incredibly low ranges. The Nissan Leaf for example, is available at a base price of around $28,000, not unreasonable in today’s market by any means, but the expected range on the least expensive model is a measly 149 miles. Believe it or not, the situation is even worse for commercial vehicles, even basic pickup trucks, virtually none of which have electric equivalents on the road today. Ultimately, it is difficult to conclude that these regulations will result in anything other than consumers paying a lot more to drive a lot less, assuming they can choose a car that fits their needs at all. Putting this another way, it is likely the car dealership you’ve grown up with, the one that offers automobiles in all shapes and sizes, will have barely half the inventory and the cars you can afford will travel less than half as far.
Perhaps even worse, all of this assumes that we can produce electric cars at anything resembling this scale. There were approximately 2.86 million cars sold in the US alone in 2022. Even if sales remained flat for the next decade, that means we would need to produce some 1.92 million electrics by 2032. Each of these electrics requires a massive battery, which requires rare earth minerals that come primarily from adversarial countries like China, and are also used in a wide variety of other electronics, from phones to computers, all of which severely limits supply. Last year, McKinsey and Company described the challenges confronting the rapid increase in battery production required even before the Biden Administration announced these new regulations. “This speed of scaling new technology leads to notable challenges: shortages of labor and materials, delays in the construction of gigafactories to produce batteries at scale, and competition for resources in the supply chain, among others. In fact, the battery supply chain risks facing a situation similar to the current semiconductor chip shortage, where demand growth has outstripped capital investment in new supply. Furthermore, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors will play a more significant role—raising another set of issues that companies need to address. The situation is difficult and novel.” The reference to the semiconductor chip shortage is ominous, impacting everything from existing cars to computers, and driving up prices in some cases by huge amounts. If the availability and prices of existing car models right now is any indication, we have yet to fully recover. Some are claiming these challenges will magically “work themselves out,” to quote Haresh Kamath, an expert featured in a Nature magazine article from 2021, but given our failure to work out challenges across current supply chains, everyone has reason to be skeptical. Of course, batteries are only one part of the electric car equation. The other is charging stations and, if 67% of cars sold are electric, we are going to need orders of magnitude more than we have right now. Estimates are that we will need approximately 30 times more than the 130,000 individual chargers we have today to meet demand by 2030. Does anyone seriously believe that we are going to simultaneously increase the number of electric models by a factor of seven, car production by close to 12, and charging stations by 30 in less than a decade?
These new regulations are part of President Biden’s broader push to achieve a “net zero” economy by 2050, meaning we would no longer emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at all or at least have so-called offsets for everyone ounce we do emit. Needless to say, cars will not be the only thing impacted by this transition. In fact, the challenges with electric cars pale in comparison to those with planes and air travel. A recent study in the United Kingdom determined that there is “no single, clear, sustainable alternative to jet fuel that could support the current level of flying.” As The Guardian described it, “The scientists [from the Royal Society] say that while the government and aviation industry have set a target of 2050 to balance out emissions, huge challenges remain around the availability, costs and impacts of alternative fuels, as well as the need for new types of planes and airport infrastructure around the world to allow the most probable long-term solutions.” They estimated that simply producing enough biofuel, which is not necessarily net-zero anyway, to sustain current transportation needs would require repurposing half the farmland in the entire country. “Producing enough biofuels would require about half of UK agricultural land, while other feedstocks such as municipal waste could only contribute ‘a very small fraction’ of the jet fuel requirements, they report.” Further, it’s unclear if these biofuels even have a net benefit or an accurate definition. Dr. Guy Gratton, associate professor of aviation and environment at Cranfield University, claimed “The term SAF [sustainable aviation fuel] is quite nebulous … they don’t all have the same environmental footprint.” The UK is mandating 10% usage of these fuels by 2030 anyway, a standard this is possible to achieve, but the actual environmental benefits would be “a more complex question.” In addition to devoting farmland to fuels, airlines would have to completely overhaul their fleet of planes, which The Guardian says is “hugely expensive but achievable,” in an early candidate for understatement of the year. Putting this another way, the plan, such as it is, is to replace every single plane in the sky in less than 30 years with planes that don’t exist yet. Thirty years might seem like a long time, but that is, in fact, the average amount of time a passenger plane remains in service.
Once again, it’s hard to conclude that this policy will result in anything other than a lot less air travel, meaning it’s extremely likely you or your children will not be able to take that trip to Europe you’ve been dreaming about or even Florida. Nor will an easy road trip remain in reach, when most people will only be able to afford an electric vehicle with a prohibitively short range, assuming a suitable model exists and a car to actually purchase is even available. People and families that live in apartments, condominiums, and townhomes without a garage will not have easy access to charging in any event, further limiting their range. This assumes you will actually be able to charge the car at all. California, for example, has already issued directives to residents not to charge their electric cars during periods of peak demands on the power grid and it seems overwhelmingly likely they will be able to shut down public charging stations whenever they like. These directives have occurred when only a small percentage of vehicles are electric. Given that there are no plans to increase capacity across every electric grid in the country to meet the expected demand, you might well have a car and still not be able to drive it. I understand that some would claim the administration’s plans might be overly aggressive, based more on wishful thinking than reality, but that they ultimately emanate from the right place, putting you and your family’s best interests along with the future of the planet front and center. People who think this way will be willing to give President Biden the benefit of the doubt, assuming he will adjust his plans according to the reality on the ground and take great pains to limit the disruption in your life. Forgive me for being cynical, but I believe darker designs are at work. Progressives made no secret of their belief that the almost world-wide lockdowns prompted by the pandemic were merely a beginning for what was required to reset the economy and save the planet. Rather than reacting to hundreds of millions of people largely confined to their homes with horror, they saw an opportunity or at least a trial run. Until the Biden Administration provides sufficient detail as to how these and other challenges will be overcome in less than a decade, I can only assume that restricting your mobility and limiting your freedom is a key part of the plan. This is the future they have in mind for you, whatever they may say otherwise.
2 thoughts on “In the future, you will no longer be going mobile”
Good post. Here is some additional information about the charging requirements that have not been addressed.
Yesterday the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that “the Municipal Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Infrastructure Grant Program has awarded over $8.3 million in funding to 70 municipalities to install electric vehicle charging stations for public use.” When I looked at the data provided I only found 69 municipalities and $8.2 million but the innumeracy of the state is not the point of this comment.
The grant totals $8.2 million and funds 458 level 2 chargers and 27 DCFC pedestals (“fast chargers”). The level 2 charger costs averaged $10,713 and ranged from $41,090 to $3,326. I think that reflects an economy of scale when a whole bank of chargers is installed. The DCFC chargers averaged $125,715 and ranged From $250,000 to $40,316.
According to Kelley Blue Book EV charging stations: everything you need to know
“In broad terms, Level 2 charging stations charge at about 6 kilowatts (kW) or a little higher and can add about 20 miles of range in an hour of charging at home or using a public charging station. DC fast chargers use high-voltage direct current to charge at 50 kW and up to 350 kW if the car can accept that rate. It’s not uncommon for EVs to gain 80% charge in about 30 minutes or less during quick charging.”
If you think about these numbers then the absurdity of the implementation is obvious. Somebody is going to have to provide, at a minimum, level 2 chargers for everyone who parks their car on the street or in a parking lot. Who will do it, how will they get paid, and is there room and distribution system infrastructure to support it?
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Thanks for kind words and the detail. Sadly, I don’t think anyone has thought that far ahead because they don’t want to. Making it easy to charge your car is not the plan. Sure, they’ll spend hundreds of millions to put up some chargers through favored companies and essentially political pay offs, but they have no real plan to implement anything near as convenient as gas stations, and that is part of the plan. Why are they using Level 2 chargers at all when you get 20 miles of range in an hour? The Nissan Leaf only has 149 miles of range period. Are we supposed to believe people are going to charge it for over 7 hours?
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