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Enthusiasm For Electric Vehicles Still Appears Excessive

Enthusiasm For Electric Vehicles Still Appears Excessive thumbnail

For decades, enthusiasm for electric vehicles has failed to translate into market success. Though continued skepticism may be warranted, it’s important, naturally, to keep an open mind when considering whether this time really could be different.

I’m kind of like the grumpy old man in the microwave commercial a few years back who, listening to the marketer sing the oven’s praises keeps saying, “But does it brown the food?” I am constantly hearing:

·       The Chinese market is booming;

·       Norway’s automotive market is dominated by electric vehicles;

·       Manufacturers are planning to introduce scores of new electric vehicles;

·       Battery costs are falling rapidly; and

·       When batteries are less than $100/kwh, BEVs will be competitive with ICE vehicles.

To all of which I respond, do the cars achieve mass market volumes without major government support? Or, to paraphrase a certain movie character, “Show me the sales!” Tesla TSLA -3.8% is certainly doing well, but others, not so much. The graph below shows GM’s sales for the hybrid electric vehicle Chevy Volt and the battery electric vehicle Chevy Bolt. Note that they are not showing the massive growth projected by so many optimists and peak oil demand forecasters, which tend to run well into the double-digits. Similarly, where Ford offered battery and gasoline-powered versions of its Ford Focus, sales for the latter tended to be about 100 times the former, implying consumer preference is far from the tipping point for BEV sales to dominate the market.


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And there are certainly those who have been overly uncritical about the challenges facing electric vehicle sales, such as the 2017 CarbonTracker/Grantham Institute report which predicted a peak in oil demand in 2020, in large part because of technological advances in clean energy. As they said at the time: “This cost projection is credible given that most studies believe EVs will be cost competitive with ICEs when battery costs are between $150-300kWh and Tesla already claims that batteries will cost as little as US$100/kWh by 2020. Furthermore, Volkswagen asserts that its ID vehicle will be launched in 2020 ‘at a price on a par with Golf’, and the next batch of EVs available in 2020 will have double or triple the range of the current ones, offering 200-300 miles per charge.”

Well, not quite. The range for the ID4 is, indeed, 250 miles (at least nominally) but the price is roughly double that of the Golf. The question of what battery cost makes BEVs competitive comes up repeatedly, although this seems to be one of those “everyone knows” issues as opposed to serious analytical estimates. In part, this reflects the fact that some aspects of the driving experience are intangible, such as the ‘coolness’ factor of driving a Tesla but also the range anxiety of driving any BEV, to say nothing of the inconvenience of long charging times.

The M.I.T. Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research has created a calculator that allows for some clarity on this issue, by, for example, testing different assumptions about electricity and oil prices, battery range, and savings on maintenance for BEVs to generate the battery price needed to compete with ICE vehicles. (A link to the calculator is provided below.) I have used this to generate utility or demand curves for different oil prices shown in the figure below, partly because oil prices are a significant component in the competitiveness equation and many advocates of BEVs appear to assume that oil prices will always rise, a common but flawed assumption amongst energy economists. Indeed, one of the reasons so many fuels and technologies (methanol, coal-to-liquids, DME, shale-to-liquids, etc.) that were lauded as the next big thing in the 1970s failed was that predictions oil prices would accelerate after tripling in 1979/80 proved wildly incorrect.

The results in the figure above suggest that at $60/barrel of oil, BEVs will not be competitive until approximately 2030, using the battery cost projections from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (the large blue stars). Changing the assumptions used will move the curve up and down, but this at least shows the importance of the price of oil in the competitiveness of battery electric vehicles.

And one assumption in particular seems worth testing. (I could perform a variety of sensitivity analyses and produce numerous graphs of the results, but that is a task for another time and venue.) A recent paper from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago analyzed electricity demand in households with electric vehicles and concluded that BEVs were used much less than ICE vehicles, about 5300 miles per year vs. 12,000 miles for the average light duty vehicle. The CEEPR model has a default assumption of 15,000 miles and when that was reduced to 6000 miles, the picture changes significantly, as the figure below shows.

The lesser distance traveled for BEVs implies that they are often a family’s second car, used for short trips such as shopping or commuting, which is rational given their limited range and range anxiety. However, since BEVs are much more expensive the ICEs, the capital costs per mile are thus higher if the car is driven less. In the future, this should improve of course, moving the lower curve closer to the higher one, but for now, the results suggest that lithium-ion battery costs are still far above what is needed to compete for the mass market in light duty vehicles.

In recent months, there has been a huge tendency on the part of the media, social and news, to confuse ‘evidence’ with ‘proof’. The above constitutes evidence that enthusiasm for the domination of vehicle markets by BEVs is likely overblown: it is not proof, as there are many assumptions about both intangibles like convenience and tangibles like future battery costs. But at the least, the reader should recognize the value of skepticism on this topic. Further reading can be found here:

The Pandemic and the End of Oil? The Pandemic, Peak Oil Demand, and the Oil Industry – By Michael Lynch and Ivan Sandrea – The CEEPR calculator is here: CEEPR Site (

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9 Comments on "Enthusiasm For Electric Vehicles Still Appears Excessive"

  1. DT on Sat, 6th Mar 2021 1:32 pm

    Read this and weep for all you alt energy enthusiasts.

  2. biden’s hairplug on Sat, 6th Mar 2021 3:47 pm

    “Charles Hugh Smith is a novelist and commentator.“



  3. DT on Sun, 7th Mar 2021 1:39 pm 

    When you have no argument or real point to make in a debate just use an ad hominem attack putting down the author. Pretty lame bidens hairplug.

  4. makati1 on Sun, 7th Mar 2021 4:28 pm 

    biden’s, does being a novelist make the person stupid? I would say it makes them at least one step above you, who exhibits his ignorance frequently.

    Try writing a novel that is actually published and you will realize that you cannot. It is easy to put down your betters, but it only proves my assertion. See above. lol

  5. Biden's hairplug on Mon, 8th Mar 2021 1:24 am 

    “biden’s, does being a novelist make the person stupid?”

    No, just that he should stick to writing novels.

    When you have toot-ache, do you go to a novelist? A blacksmith?

    Of course not, you go to a specialist dentist, who has dedicated years of his life without income, making debt, in order to become a master in his trade, followed by years of experience.

    But in an egalitarian = Marxist country like the US, where “no child gets left behind”, making distinctions between people, based on their value, is considered not done, “discriminatory”.

    I made the mistake myself, paying too much attention to energy laymen like Heinberg and Kunstler and their outlandish predictions regarding energy, all wrong of course.

    Since then, I only listen to people from the Fraunhofer Institute, TNO, Siemens, Vattenfall, Nel Hydrogen (preferably Europeans, because Americans are unable to think outside the oil drum), engineers who KNOW what they are talking about, not collapsenik freaks, who can’t wait until the world falls apart.

  6. Anonymouse on Tue, 9th Mar 2021 2:25 pm 

    “Cloggjude is a jobless Liar and Fraud that subsists on gov’t handouts”.



  7. FamousDrScanlon on Tue, 9th Mar 2021 7:55 pm 

    Clog, what “outlandish predictions regarding energy,” do you speak of?

    I don’t see any quotes from kuntsler or energy czar Richard Heinberg. Typical for a sewer rat like you.

    Show the quotes or go fuck yourself with a stinky old clog.

    All your babbling & all you have is a verbose, deceit filled argument from authority.

    “My Euro experts are better than your American experts, so there.”

    I don’t need experts. The data shows that so called alt energy is a drop in the bucket.

    A Bourgeoisie fantasy.

    You’re just beating off.

    Whitey crisis cult – save my privileged way of life Elon.

    Not gonna happen little bitch.

    Btw, there’s no waiting. ‘The world’ has been falling apart for sometime now.

    “The running 365 day average sea ice extent reached it’s lowest levels yet. It has beaten the 2017 record for the past 10 days and is still dropping”

    Hey clog, I know, let’s throw a solar panel at it. That’ll make it stop melting.

    Oh no, melting Arctic means sea level rise.

    I’m sure humanity’s best & brightest have a plan.

    Florida Republicans are ready to stop rising seas — just not climate change

    “The same story has largely played out in Florida, where former Governor Rick Scott, who served between 2011 and 2019, stifled climate science and even banned environmental regulators from using the term “climate change.”

    In most of the country you can’t say the “N word”. In Florida you’re not allowed to say the “C word”.

    Top people on the job – America’s best.

  8. Biden's hairplug on Wed, 10th Mar 2021 12:16 am 

    “I don’t see any quotes from kuntsler or energy czar Richard Heinberg.”

    Apparently you have never read them, you stinking kike.

    If we had to believe this merry band of American incompetents, industrial society would have been crushed by 2020, because of running out of oil:

    “The Party is Over”

    American society is going to crash alright, because of its diversity scam, but not because of energy running out. You want quotes?

    The only other question for now is when do the different population groups in this land explode in violence? The group loosely bundled as “Red” is angry enough with the ongoing insults of Wokery, failed rule-of-law, and abridgments of basic constitutional rights. The states where they dominate are likely to resist any more fiats by the federal government, like the imminent attempt to confiscate firearms. The “Blue” auxiliary armies are beyond their creators’ control. Antifa will be ready to rock-and-roll in the streets with good weather because so many young people have absolutely no prospects to thrive in the collapsing economy, and the streets have become their social space, with so little money for lattes and beers. And BLM need look no further than the Derek Chauvin trial in Minnesota, starting today, for an excuse to resume its characteristic activities.

    Kunstler should stick to commenting “current affairs”, rather than energy, of which he simply lacks the qualification.

    “The data shows that so called alt energy is a drop in the bucket.”

    “Germany marks first ever quarter with more than 50 pct renewable electricity”

    In third world cesspools like North-America its a drop in a bucket indeed, but not in Europe. And you know how it goes, things get invented in Europe first and a couple of decades later it arrives in America and Africa as well:

    Just patience, little boy, just patience.

  9. FamousDrScanlon on Wed, 10th Mar 2021 2:33 pm 

    tomorrow-boy-clog, I look at global data & I always provide quotes.

    Here’s a nice Tim Watkins piece in which he exposes your phony green claims.

    A nice colour chart that even a retard can see alt energy don’t amount to shit.

    A Zero Sum Game

    “Note that more than 85 percent of this energy is still derived from the three fossil fuels – coal, gas and oil – while non-renewable renewable energy-harvesting technologies account for less than five percent. Observe also that the large scale utilisation of renewable energy has not replaced a single watt of energy – it has merely been added to the consumption of an energy-rapacious global economy.”

    “This is the vision of non-renewable renewable energy-harvesting technologies that we are currently being sold. Mass use, they assure us, will bring prices down to an affordable level. And over time, efficiencies will massively increase the amount of energy they generate. For this reason – we are told – we need not be concerned that these technologies struggle to provide twenty times more energy over their lifetime than is required to manufacture, deploy and maintain them. Nor – they say – should we worry about the enormous cost so far invested to generate such a paltry proportion of the global economy’s energy. Not too long from now, they say, when the price is right, all will be well:”

    non-renewable renewable energy-harvesting technologies account for less than five percent.

    non-renewable renewable energy-harvesting technologies account for less than five percent.

    non-renewable renewable energy-harvesting technologies account for less than five percent.

    non-renewable renewable energy-harvesting technologies account for less than five percent.

    Yabut the futureNstuff

    For two decades now you future alt energy hope pimps have been claiming alt energy is going to replace FF’s……tomorrow…you’ll see.

    Even with technological improvements & efficiencies the ratio 5% hasn’t budged an inch.

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