December 2023
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Get ready for the great British electric car crash

weekend blog

I attach below an article I wrote for a South Korean newspaper. But this is just as relevant for Britain as it is for South Korea. I think this is the 9th or 10th article I have done for them to help promote my climate book:

To summarise, from the little I understand, current electric vehicle (EV) technology is inadequte to make EVs a viable alternatice to ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars and anyone who buys an EV – people the marketers call “early adopters” – deserves an honorary degree in stupidity. Yet our governments are determined to force us all either to buy these things or else to give up having a car altogether. (Incidentally, the UK government’s energy plan foresees a 30% reduction in the number of cars on the road as EVs become the only option we will be allowed to buy) It may be the case that when EV battery technology develops solid-state batteries which have longer range and are less likely to burst into flames due to ‘thermal runaway’ that EVs will become viable. But even then, the problem with providing convenient charging probably cannot be solved.

Anyway, here’s the article and at the end I provide a link to a YouTube video from a guy in Australia explaining the impasse charging EVs will always face:

Is South Korea ready for the electric car disaster?

By David Craig

Currently there are around 25.5 million cars on South Korea’s roads. Of these, around 390,000 – about 1.5 percent – are electric vehicles. According to the South Korean government’s plans to reduce the country’s carbon emissions to supposedly save the planet from man-made global warming, the percentage of electric cars should reach over 30% by 2030 and over 80% by 2050. But there are many reasons why these plans are unrealistic and could be disastrous for South Korean motorists. Here I’ll just deal with the three greatest problems with the South Korean government’s obsession with replacing petrol and diesel cars (internal combustion engine cars) with electric vehicles.

Issue 1: Fire risk -There have been many reports of electric vehicles catching fire due to a process called ‘thermal runaway’. This is caused either due to manufacturing faults or damage to the battery caused by minor scrapes and collisions. Several electric car owners have seen their houses burn down due to fires which started in their electric cars. But three more serious incidents have caused millions of dollars of damage just from one electric car catching fire. In February 2022, a fire broke out in an electric car on a car carrier, the Felicity Ace, which spread causing the ship to sink and the loss of 4,000 vehicles – both electric and internal combustion. In July 2023, another cargo vessel the Freemantle Highway caught fire and it took a week to extinguish the fire and salvage the ship. One rescue worker stated that the fire was due to an electric car exploding. But investigators have claimed that the cause of the fire is still unknown. In October 2023, a fire broke out in a multi-storey car park at London’s Luton Airport. The car park was completely destroyed and around 1,500 travellers’ cars were wrecked. It’s estimated that the damage from just one car catching fire, which then spread to other vehicles, will cost more than $30 million. The authorities have claimed that the fire started in a diesel car. But this seems unlikely as diesel is much less flammable than petrol or an electric car’s lithium-ion battery. But what is certain is that it was the intense heat caused by electric cars subsequently catching fire which led to the collapse of the car park and the loss of all the parked cars.

Statistics from the National Fire Research Institute for Korea show that in 2020 electric vehicle car batteries were only responsible for 0.52 percent of fires while combustion engine cars were responsible for 1.88 percent of fires. But when you take account that there are more than fifty times as many internal combustion engine cars in South Korea than electric vehicles, this suggests that electric vehicles are fifteen to twenty times more likely to catch fire than internal combustion equivalents. Similarly, figures on car fires in London suggest that fires are much more frequent in electric cars than in internal combustion vehicles. In 2022, the Paris metropolitan transport authority withdrew 149 electric buses from operation after two spontaneously ignited in separate incidents. And there are many videos on YouTube, particularly from China, showing shocking electric car explosions. The situation is so bad that come cynics have suggested that the English name for electric vehicles – EVs – should actually stand for Exploding Vehicles. Electric car fires burn at over twice the temperature of internal combustion engine cars and are much more difficult to extinguish. A particular worry is what will happen if there is an electric car fire in a basement car park of a building containing residential flats or offices. So several countries are considering new regulations restricting the transport and parking of electric vehicles.

Issue 2: Battery performance – when you buy an electric car you will no doubt be told by the salesperson the vehicle’s range on a full battery charge. This could be 200 kilometres or 300 kilometres or whatever. But it will always be much less, usually under half, as far as an equivalent internal combustion car. However, you will probably never achieve this stated range. For a start, most electric car manufacturers advise you to always keep the battery charged between 30% and 80%. It’s recommended that you should avoid going up to 100%. The manufacturers claim this is to preserve battery life. This may be true. But charging to 100% also greatly increases the risk of thermal runaway and an exploding car. There is even some discussion about restricting battery charging points so they cannot let you exceed an 80% charge. Moreover, if you use the car’s heating or air-conditioning or lights or windscreen wipers or any other feature requiring electric power, this will reduce the car battery’s range. In addition, electric car batteries deteriorate over time thus reducing the potential range and it’s likely that after eight to ten years, your car battery will need to be replaced. Given that around half the cost of an electric car is the battery, this means the car is almost worthless when the original battery has to be replaced. Another problem is the time it takes to charge an electric vehicle battery, which can be several hours, compared to the few minutes necessary to fill the tank of an internal combustion car. There are fast chargers available in some locations. But even though quick charging may not cause immediate harm to the battery, repeated and sustained use of fast charging might hasten the battery’s overall decline over time. Reduced energy storage capacity, a shorter range and a higher frequency of battery changes can all be consequences of this degradation.

Issue 3: Consumer resistance – while governments in many advanced countries are convinced that internal combustion cars need to be replaced by electric cars to save the planet from what United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called ‘global boiling’, car buyers may not be quite so enthusiastic with this plan. For a start, electric cars usually cost about $10,000 more than their petrol or diesel equivalents. Moreover, they will typically last at least five years less than similar petrol or diesel versions. Then there is the cost of insurance. Insurance companies are realising that even minor accidents or just hitting a kerb badly can cause battery damage requiring the battery to be replaced and are increasing the cost of insurance for electric cars. In some cases a petrol car might cost $500 a year to insure while its electric equivalent may cost up to $5,000 a year for insurance. Some insurance companies are even refusing to insure electric cars. And insurance costs may increase further as no insurance company wants to fork out $10 million or more if an electric vehicle burns down a car park or office or apartment building. Further issues which may discourage buyers are the fact that electric vehicles weigh much more than petrol or diesel cars meaning the tyres have to be replaced more often. A particular problem for South Korea is that, being close to China, most of the cheaper electric cars sold will made in China to typical Chinese rather than Korean quality levels. This may be a worry due to the risk of electric car fires from low-quality batteries.

If the Earth really was boiling as the climate catastrophists claim, then there might be a case for moving from internal combustion to electric cars. But as climate change is a totally natural phenomenon driven mainly by variations in the Earth’s orbit, levels of solar activity and cyclical weather phenomena such as the El Niňo Southern Oscillation and La Nina, governments’ decision to ‘go electric’ is completely unnecessary. As for electric cars, it’s clear that the technology is not yet ready as they are range limited, have a limited lifetime, are much more expensive than internal combustion equivalents to buy and insure and may even be dangerous due to thermal runaway. In the future – in ten to twenty years – when manufacturers have developed less dangerous solid-state batteries with much longer range than current lithium ion batteries, electric cars may become viable. But with existing technology they are a disaster and will only impose massive costs on ordinary Korean families and businesses for no benefit at all.

The EV charging conundrum

2 comments to Get ready for the great British electric car crash

  • A Thorpe

    In my 79 years I have never owned a car and would like to see their use reduced, but that is not because of the environment.

    I was born in a small village of less that 100 houses and it did not have a road through it. It had two small shops that provided many essentials. The was little car ownership. Everybody knew everybody and in a much wider area. Car ownership has closed down local shops even in larger communities to be replaced by out-of-town shopping centres needing a car or long bus journeys. Even in larger shopping centres the useful shops are disappearing and we have to order online, often not even seeing the goods we buy before purchase.

    The car ownership results in less contact with people because they drive by with just a wave. The streets are full of parked cars hardly ever used with some families often having several cars. Cars are probably the cause of a lot of crime, not only because of car theft, but because criminals need to get away with their goods.

    The car is dehumanising in my view.

  • Alex Ruiz

    A Thorpe. You are barking mad or just trying to wind people up. But let’s assume you are just plain stupid, do you have no understanding of how the economies and transport functions?

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