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We will all drive the cars from Cars

30 Sep 2020 | News Roundup

In California they seem to be going all in on a green transformation. Governor Gavin Newsom really did just ban cars as we know them as of 2035. Remarkably, in the “Land of the Free” he undertook this massive intervention in the affairs of citizens without the tedious hassle of passing a law. He just did it by executive order, leaving the ghosts of King John, Richard II, Henry VIII and Charles I gaping with envy. And citizens, we predict, soon gaping in horror.

Of course Newsom laid it on thick rhetorically, politicians’ sense of irony being on a subpar with their sense of shame or humour. “For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe. You deserve to have a car that doesn’t give your kids asthma. Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse – and create more days filled with smoky air. Cars shouldn’t melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines.”

In the first place, the opening sentences are rubbish. “We” did nothing of the sort. Instead, governments mandated greater fuel economy and fewer noxious emissions and firms responded, to the point that by 2005 it would take 17 new cars to match the emissions of a single new car made in 1970.

In the second place, the subsequent sentences are rubbish. Cars aren’t making wildfires worse and electric ones won’t make them better. Ditto glaciers and sea levels.

Then there’s that greasy flattery about how “You deserve to have a car that…” Why? If Californians wanted such cars they could have bought them, and if they refused to do so on what basis do they “deserve” them, except in the general sense that the same voters politicians treat as hopeless idiots 364 days a year, hedging them in with regulations and restrictions lest their folly and nastiness should burst loose, are suddenly wise and noble on election day?

What’s more, if you “deserve” such a thing, why isn’t he giving you one? It sounds like he is, yes, thank you very much, vote for me. But of course Newsom isn’t giving anyone a new car. He’s just taking away the one you have and saying “Hope something comes along”.

If you’re wondering how the elected king can simply bypass the legislature and dramatically infringe on citizens’ rights, well, you may not have been paying attention to the erosion of the constitutional order across the English-speaking world including the massive transfer of rule-making power back to the executive. In this case specifically, “His order directs the California Air Resources Board to develop regulations mandating that all new passenger cars sold in the state by 2035 will be zero emission vehicles, meaning they will not require gas to drive.”

If you’re wondering how it’s meant to work economically, “The order also requires state agencies to partner with private sector industries to deploy affordable fueling and charging options for zero-emission cars.” Right. No boondoggle here. No mega-version of the Ontario Green Energy Act debacle. What could go wrong? Other than companies fleeing rather than comply, or filling their pockets from a fast-emptying public treasury?

Oh, right. The grid could collapse. As Eric Worrall asks, “why would anyone else want to copy California’s slow moving energy disaster? The more engineering literate amongst us might have noticed that, thanks to renewables, California can barely keep their lights on. More unreliable renewables will just make this situation worse. Adding millions of energy hungry electric vehicles, many of whose owners would want to charge at night, would be unlikely to improve California’s unstable renewable energy grid.” In fact California is already having such serious trouble keeping the lights, fridge and AC on in one of the wealthiest jurisdictions on Earth that there are billboards in Texas saying “Don’t California our Texas”.

Such mundane considerations do not reach the ears of King Gavin, to whom that dreary old-tyme work is but a distant rumour. He says “we no longer need to drill things or extract things to advance our economic goals”. Everyone can work in CGI making cool pictures of the lights being on and people moving around… even as the Golden State’s Bay Area contemplates banning going to work most of the time “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”, possibly unaware that if they stay home people will use their AC.

As with generation, so with consumption: If electric cars made sense they wouldn’t need subsidies or the blackjacking of their rivals. If the electric-car makers can’t persuade consumers to buy their products, their ability to persuade politicians to mandate them is not an offsetting virtue but another vice, placing intolerable burdens on public finances, public power and public patience.

10 comments on “We will all drive the cars from Cars”

  1. All transportation runs on energy, and that energy presently comes, directly or indirectly, from fossil fuel. Newsom mandates that the majority of that energy, in California automobiles at least, must come from renewable energy through the medium of electricity. No amount of wind turbines and solar panels can possibly provide that much energy, even when the wind blows and the sun shines.

    When the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine, people will still need to recharge their car's batteries. Newsom is an ignorant doofus.

  2. A couple of analogies first. The cost of water consists of the pumping costs, labour and the amortization of the pumps, pipes etc. For practical purposes the head loss in a piping system is proportional to the square of the velocity of water in the pipe. The head loss is simply the equivalent of the extra height the water has to be lifted. The power required is proportional to the total head (lift). Increasing the diameter of the pipe reduces the velocity of flow, but it increases the cost of the pipe. The reverse is also. Small pipes are cheaper but the head losses, and costs are higher. Two curves can be plotted on a graph, sloping in opposite directions. Typically both curves are concave upwards. The lowest total cost is found at the point where the two curves intersect. Much is the same with electricity. There is an optimum thickness of conductor.

    In almost all engineering works the minimum cost per unit of output is achieved when the operating costs equal the plant amortization costs. Thus it is always more efficient to operate one plant at full efficiency rather than two plants at less than optimum efficiency.

    Wind power always requires backup that is immediately available. This means a coal or oil fired turbine will be kept spinning.

    When you consider that the amortization contributes half the cost it becomes self evident that wind power cannot reduce the cost of electricity. It will increase it by a minimum of 50%.

    Every motor and or generator has an efficiency of somewhere between 60% and 70%. The more motors and generators between the fuel source and the back wheels of the car, just for example, the lower the total efficiency. Consider the efficiency losses between the fuel oil feeding the electricity supply generator and the back wheels of the electric car! There are losses of efficiency charging the batteries, discharging the batteries and in the electric motors. Overall, running the car on diesel fuel is cheapest and most efficient. When the cost of mining the metal for the batteries and motors is taken into account the disparity increases.

  3. In Australia they are talking about fast chargers. Say 35 min. for 80% charge on electric car.
    Electric cars are advertised as doing 400km, that sounds not too bad. However if you ask the manufacturer about the range with A/C running. (No young person has driven non A/C car for 30 years) This distance is cut by 30% and it's raining and you need wipers and headlights. Kiss that 400k goodby.
    You luckily make it to fast charge station. It has 3 points to connect and ten cars ahead of you at 3 pm. Go and find a motel.

  4. 'We no longer need to drill things or extract things'? Newsom hasn't thought it through has he? We need to extract metals & minerals for electric cars as much as for internal combustion engine cars. Electric cars will require lubricants & plastics, hence oil & coal. Most importantly, electric cars require guess what? Electricity of course! How do you make electricity? You burn fossil fuels even if you supplement with renewables. While an electric motor is more efficient than an internal combustion engine at the point of use, electric vehicles suffer an additional loss of efficiency overall due to inefficiencies in generating the electricity in the first place. I was in a VW dealers the other day, & of course they were plugging electric cars. You could have one with a 45 KWh battery or a 77 KWh battery. 45 KWhrs is nothing, it's about 54 BHP for an hour. It wouldn't take you from London to Leeds yet they boast 'up to 340 miles'. On ordinary household mains without having a new higher current supply put in (yet more cost) it would take 12 hours to charge. I don't think anyone would be prepared to put up with this. It's an inconvenience & a nuisance. 'Sorry I can't come, my car needs charging'. As for fast charging, all batteries have an internal resistance & as the charging current flows through it it generates heat. If you use a higher current to fast charge you generate more heat which could well be excessive & dangerous. It may also reduce the battery life. Our UK government wants to ban ICE cars in around ten years time. They are doing this because they know it's the only way they can get us to buy electric cars. Thank you Boris, I'll stick to my petrol driven car, it's always ready to go & only takes about 5 minutes at the petrol station to fill up.

  5. Yes, Mark, and that's in Australia. I live in Alberta and have driven in conditions where it was 20 degrees below zero and there was a blizzard. The heater was going full blast, the wipers and headlights were on full time, and the traffic was moving at about 5 km/h due to snow, ice, and large numbers of cars that were broken down or out of fuel. What do you suppose my range would have been in that electric car?

  6. Roger D.
    How dare you refute the need to kill fossil fuels with well considered, fact supported and practical economic considerations?

  7. My darling daughter lives in San Fran (and has a new room air cooler); when I said to her "I hope PG&E can keep your electric on" (she having been warned by PG&E that they may have to load-shed), she said "it's OK, it's all 100% renewable".
    She has a science degree...

  8. My apologies for an error in my post. '45 Kwhrs is nothing, it's about 54 BHP for an hour' should read '45 KWhrs is nothing, it's about 60 BHP for an hour'. 1 KW is about 1 1/3 BHP. It still does not alter the point of my argument that it is not very much energy at all unlike that that you would get from a tank of petrol as we call it here in the UK.

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