Just like my first post titled “DTE” (1), this one’s about electric cars. But there is some news about my own energy provider in here. Stories about EVs just keep piling up like a freeway full of Teslas with dead batteries. Since you’ll not be hearing these on the Nightly News, I have a duty.
Several general discussions about the problems with EVs have appeared. Danish economist Bjørn Lomborg, who’s had the audacity to apply cost-benefit analysis to proposed climate change mitigation policies (2), got some space in the Wall Street Journal to expound on EVs (3). He starts by asking if EVs are so great why do they have to pay us to buy them? He blasts those who drive them to save the planet by using actual numbers. He calculates that if all states and countries reached their ambitious goals by 2035, the planet will have been spared 251 million tons of CO2. Plugged into the United Nations Climate Panel model, that leads to a temperature reduction of 0.0002 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. For this there will be costs. EVs generate more particulate air pollution than gas guzzlers. Material costs for EVs, mainly for batteries, are skyrocketing, and the social costs of relying on resources from Communist China and poor third world countries are considerable. Always one to look at the true costs of subsidies, Bjørn offers an example from Norway, where most new cars are electric. To promote these sales, the government has waived sales and registration taxes on these vehicles, amounting to $25,160 a car. Norway can afford this lost revenue as it is rich with North Sea oil. To cut one ton of CO2 emissions through the subsidization of electric cars, Norway has to sell 100 barrels of oil, which emit 40 tons of CO2.
Steve Hayward, commenting in a lesser forum (4), included this tidbit about Volvo’s new electric car, the C40 Recharge, whose manufacture generates 70% more CO2 than its gas twin, the C40. Volvo says the deficit will be redressed by carbon savings while driving. Volvo calculated that at the world’s average electricity sourcing today, a C40 Recharge driver would need to drive his car 68,000 miles to reach a break-even carbon footprint with a gasoline-powered model. The average American drives about 14,000 miles a year, and thus would need to drive his Volvo EV almost five years before reaching a lower carbon footprint. What if we had a grid that was 100 percent wind- or solar-powered? Volvo calculates that an EV driver would still need to drive 30,000 miles before reaching a carbon-footprint breakeven point with a gasoline car. But the Volvo has always been a prime car for virtue signalers (“it’s so safe!”) – I myself had a black 142 in med school – so I’m sure sales of the Recharge will be brisk.
Even us gas guzzler aficionados might admit that a little EV go cart might be good for getting around in town, not that we’d even buy one. But EV mania has extended to some much bigger vehicles, with not unexpected consequences. Ford’s made an electric version of their iconic F-150 pickup truck. It’s quiet, looks snazzy, and has mighty torque, but can’t haul worth a pinch (5). And who asked for the electric Hummer? The $110,295 (base) 9,000# (2,923# is battery) guzzles energy just like its replica HV2 with the 60-gallon gas tank. A 212-kWh charge is said to give 329 miles of range (6). At regular DTE rates, that’s 11.5¢/mile, nearly 3 times that for a Tesla S (4.6¢), which is cheaper. Charging the Hummer on a regular 120 V home outlet will take 4 days. An upgraded 240 V charger will do it in half the time, maybe even 24 hours. Regardless, it ain’t no overnight plug-in. And if we’re talking big trucks, how about Elon’s super semi? But I’ve already covered that (1).
But don’t EVs “save resources”? This burning Tesla required over 25,000 gallons of water to douse, something ever-drought stricken water-poor California can ill afford to waste, although the reported fire took place in Connecticut (7). And it was an “easy” EV fire to quench, as the burning battery fell out of the car out in the open where it could be attacked directly. And those burning lithium batteries generate plumes of toxic smoke (8).
Yet governments, particularly California’s, are beginning to eye EVs as “resources” in themselves. The charge in those EVs’ batteries can be tapped and returned to the grid, a process recognized since the last century (9). Power nerds and politicos are salivating over this new “source” (10), no more so than in – of course – California. The California Public Utilities Commission is looking seriously at this process as a way to pump some juice into its sorry-assed grid (11). There’s not only a name for this – “bidirectional” or “vehicle-to-grid” charging – the latter has already generated an acronym “V2G”. Will fit easily onto the stickers the state will slap on your EV to explain why its battery is dead. But the future’s so bright, they gotta wear shades. If California really does get 14 million EVs by 2035, local utilities could use V2G to power every home in the state for 3 days! Heck, you could blow up another hydroelectric dam and save more endangered minnows! Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.
Those natural disasters God visits upon us, as opposed to those we bring on ourselves, can put a sharp focus on problems that might not have been so evident when things were normal. Electric cars aren’t too popular in Florida, fortunately. Just trying to get out of Dodge to flee Ian in one of them would have been a disaster, with dead EVs whose charge range can’t possibly traverse the peninsula dying in flight clogging the highways for ICEs that can. The state had investigated this situation 2 years previously and knew what might happen (12). Of course, EVs and water don’t mix, especially salt water. You can imagine what a class IV hurricane did to Florida’s fleet. Not only do the waterlogged go-carts not run, they go flambé big time, and those lithium battery fires are damned hard to put out (13). But don’t worry, Uncle Joe – with the help of Congress – has authorized the printing of $1.5 billion to build charging stations across the fruited plain. Coming to a storm near you. And fighting those EV fires is proving to be a burden on Florida fire departments, as dousing a pile of burning lithium takes much more time and more than twice as much water as it does to put out a gas car fire (14). Sometimes, even in a state surrounded by water, there isn’t enough for the task and fire departments must just clear the area and hope the virtue-signaler doesn’t catch anything else on fire. The process obviously takes resources away from other rescue efforts, for which there is plenty of demand after Ian.
Just driving a car these days is draining plenty of resources from the average citizen. Mayor Pete, Bimbo Jenn, and Uncle Joe in particular push EVs as the way to escape high gas prices. Pain at the pump has been a fact of life since the last election, mitigated only somewhat by Uncle Joe’s draining 10s of millions of gallons of crude from our strategic reserve. EV drivers sit smugly by as their cost per mile continues to drop relative to us poor gas guzzlers. But that ain’t gonna last. Remember when Obama was talking about how under his plan to combat global warming “electricity prices would naturally skyrocket” (15)? Well, here come the fireworks.
Electric utilities do not operate in a free market. If they did, we’d probably be screwed already as the companies passed on to us the costs for the fuels they used to generate our juice. Yeah, God hasn’t jerked up His prices on wind, water, and sunshine, but His other gifts come to us through intermediaries who most assuredly have. We’re all aware of oil and gas, but even coal, which accounts for most of DTEs energy, has tripled in price over the last year (16).
Whatever utilities wish to charge, they must first have the numbers approved by a public service panel. In Michigan, we have the Public Service Commission (MPSC), composed of three members appointed by the Governor to serve staggered six-year terms (17). They’re supported by staffers specialized in engineering, law, economics, finance, accounting, and technical and administrative support. They meet about every three weeks. Companies must submit a detailed application which then grinds though a dozen step review process that takes at least 10 months. DTE made its last formal new application in June 2020 but has submitted numerous addenda, last on 10/5/22. Even though each of the 3 commissioners is a highly accomplished person, I’m sure they’re aware of the political ramifications of their decisions and thus are slow walking these requests for rate increases. But they can’t hold them down forever. In DTE’s next to last brief (8/16/22), it projected an operating loss for the coming year of $367.9 million.
So, look for a reckoning, probably not till after the midterm elections. These are Public Utilities, not Public Charities. EV drivers will be laughing out of the other side of their mouths, their butts bitten at least as hard by DTE for KwH as we unenlightened knuckle-draggers have been forking over to Sunoco. Meanwhile, what’s a good response to our betters pressuring us to go electric? Dear Nancy Reagan said it best – on another topic – over 3 decades ago: “Just say no”.
1. Ike B. DTE. WordPress 9/10/22. https://theviewfromharbal.com/2022/09/10/dte/
2. Lomborg B. Cool IT (Movie Tie-in Edition): The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming. New York: Vintage Books, 2010. https://www.amazon.com/Cool-Movie-Tie-Skeptical-Environmentalists/dp/0307741109/ref=sr_1_5?crid=3OL97J5C62RQV&keywords=bjorn+lomborg&qid=1665328913&qu=eyJxc2MiOiIzLjQwIiwicXNhIjoiMi44OCIsInFzcCI6IjIuODYifQ%3D%3D&sprefix=bjorn+lomborg%2Caps%2C142&sr=8-5
3. Lomborg B. Policies Pushing Electric Vehicles Show Why Few People Want One. Wall Street Journal 9/9/22. https://www.wsj.com/articles/policies-pushing-electric-vehicles-show-why-few-people-want-one-cars-clean-energy-gasoline-emissions-co2-carbon-electricity-11662746452?st=v1dcpgxbxxptev1&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink
4. Hayward SF. Piercing the Electric Car Fantasy. The Pipeline 7/24/22. https://the-pipeline.org/piercing-the-electric-car-fantasy/
5. Sanibel H. “Complete And Total Disaster”: YouTuber Drives Electric Ford Truck, Recounts Disastrous Results [VIDEO]. The Blue State Conservative 9/27/22. https://thebluestateconservative.com/2022/09/27/complete-and-total-disaster-youtuber-drives-electric-ford-truck-recounts-disastrous-results-video/
6. Posky M. How Long Does the GMC Hummer EV Really Take to Charge? TheTruthAboutCars.com 10/7/22. https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/cars/news-blog/how-long-does-the-gmc-hummer-ev-really-take-to-charge-44497092
7. Landry M. Tesla Catches on Fire, Takes Over 25,000 Gallons of Water and 42 Minutes for Firefighters to Extinguish. The Western Journal 9/20/22. https://www.westernjournal.com/tesla-catches-fire-takes-25000-gallons-water-42-minutes-firefighters-extinguish/
8. Nolan L. Green Inferno: Tesla Battery Catches Fire in California Causing Shelter-In-Place Advisory Due to Toxic Smoke. Breitbart.com 9/21/22. https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2022/09/21/green-inferno-tesla-battery-catches-fire-in-california-causing-shelter-in-place-advisory-due-to-toxic-smoke/
9. Kempton W, Letendre SE. Electric vehicles as a new power source for electric utilities. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment 1997:2(3):157-75. doi.org/10.1016/S1361-9209(97)00001-1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1361920997000011
10. Marshall A, Simon M. Electric Vehicles Could Rescue the US Power Grid. Wired 9/19/22. https://www.wired.com/story/electric-vehicles-could-rescue-the-us-power-grid/
11. Zavala A. Experts: Electric vehicles could help, not hurt, California’s energy grid. KCRA3 9/8/22. https://www.kcra.com/article/experts-electric-vehicles-can-help-california-grid/41126929
12. Downing S. Challenge of electric cars in mass evacuation was warned of in 2020 Florida report. Must Read Alaska 10/1/22. https://mustreadalaska.com/challenge-of-electric-cars-in-mass-evacuation-was-warned-of-in-2020-florida-report/
13. Roberts K. Florida’s Top Fire Marshal Warns ‘Tons’ of Waterlogged Electric Vehicles Catching Fire After Hurricane Ian. Epoch Times 10/7/22. https://www.theepochtimes.com/floridas-top-fire-marshal-warns-tons-of-waterlogged-electric-vehicles-catching-on-fire-after-hurricane-ian_4781135.html?utm_source=News&src_src=News&utm_campaign=breaking-2022-10-07-1&src_cmp=breaking-2022-10-07-1&utm_medium=email&est=6slM8W6EoX6h0A2xKT%2BKCQ2bX3QSmNhAaVfR3Hp8p7wGhPg5buujVoYEf2%2FoI38%3D
14. Altus K. Battling fires from water-damaged EVs ‘ties up resources’ in Hurricane Ian recovery, Florida fire dept says. Fox Business 10/7/22. https://www.foxbusiness.com/technology/battling-fires-water-damaged-evs-ties-resources-hurricane-ian-recovery-florida-fire-dept-says
15. Martinson E. Uttered in 2008, still haunting Obama. Politico 4/5/12. https://www.politico.com/story/2012/04/uttered-in-2008-still-haunting-obama-in-2012-074892
16. Trading Economics. Coal. https://tradingeconomics.com/commodity/coal
17. Michigan.gov. Michigan Public Service Commission. Ratemaking. https://www.michigan.gov/mpsc/regulatory/ratemaking