AndrewI understand the need in a place like California, but I've always wondered a few things:
- how good are batteries in frigid environments
- how will the gas tax be migrated toward energy grids
- how bad is mining for battery-metals (lithium, etc) for the environment
- how much life will the battery packs have - especially in very cold environments
- how will residential grids have to change to accommodate 100 percent uptake in electrical car buy-in
- is this better for the environment than investing in hydrogen fuel, which would theoretically result in harmless emissions and no-strip-mining (with obvious challenges, of course)
- how do batteries get recycled at end-of-life, if at all
- how does this work in rural areas distanced from urban areas, especially frigid rural areas
- if my battery can't turn a small flywheel in -40, how is a battery going to operate a vehicle in the same temperatures
- Does the technology provide enough torque for a work truck?
- if we're not using it for trains, big rigs, heat, etc - is it just 'environmental theatre' in that we're think we're making a difference, but not addressing other substantive issues?
- are batteries made from sustainable and ethically mined materials, and are they recyclable
We HAVE to make changes for the environment, but I think hydrogen might be a longer-term solution despite early issues with figuring out safety.
You are asking the right questions. I don't have all the answers, but here goes - - -
- Batteries have problems in cold weather - both for electric vehicles and ICE vehicles. And ICE vehicles have other cold-weather problems - that's why you guys in Canada have engine-block heaters in your cars.
- gas tax is a problem for the politicians to solve (yeah, that thought doesn't inspire confidence) - in most places, funding for highway maintenance is derived from taxes on gasoline. The optimum solution is to transition to some other mechanism for collecting highway maintenance revenue, but that will require creative thinking by politicians (a major oxymoron)
- actually, most of the rare metals used in making high-performance batteries are byproducts of mining for less exotic metals. So there is quite a bit to be had in the tailings of old mines. Also, a lot of the exotic materials can be found on the seabed. The issue is whether the mining companies wlll utilize responsible methods for recovering these materials - those methods exist and are well known, but the mining industry is very slow to adopt new technology.
- residential grids will require reinforcement. Having worked in that industry, I know that some very smart people have been anticipating those problems for a couple of decades and they have solutions in hand.
- battery life cycle is currently one of the factors that limits adoption of electric vehicle technology. But like everything else, the thing that will drive solutions is expanding adoption - as more people buy electric vehicles, they will create a market demand for batteries with longer life.
- there is a place for hydrogen, but it may not be an ideal fit for personal vehicular transportation because the logistics are complicated, and there are some very serious safety issues.
- battery recycling is a thing today with conventional lead-acid batteries for ICE vehicles - you just don't hear a lot about it. Recycling will be more important with batteries based on exotic materials.
- rural vs urban is a problem that affects many aspects of life. I suspect that electric vehicles will be adopted by people who live in rural areas, as the charging infrastructure is built out, but I also suspect that ICE technology may linger for quite a while in farm machinery - farmers buy new cars as often as anyone else, but they tend to hold onto tractors.
- torque isn't an issue for electric vehicles. In many places trains are electric today. The entire Amtrak system from Washington DC to Boston is electric, and most (probably all) urban public transportation is electric. A number of urban bus companies are switching to battery-powered buses. And the large off-road machines used in the mining industry are also electric - some powered directly from the grid (literally, long extension cords), and some powered by electric motors powered from on-board diesel generators. Even modern cruise ships and naval vessels are electric drive (supplied by on-board generators), so the idea of using electric motors as the source of motive power isn't an issue. Electric motors generally outperform internal combustion engines - the only thing that is different about electric vehicles is that batteries can only deliver that performance for a finite period of time.
People have been toying with electric vehicles for since powered vehicles first came into use - in the late 1800, Charles Steinmetz built an electric car that he routinely drove on a regular basis. The problem has always been batteries - which is why ICE technology became dominant. But things are changing, and problems you identified are being solved (at least the technical problems are - not sure about the political issues) - while I would like to have an electric car today, but I don't think that the recharging infrastructure is ready in the areas where we travel today. But even that is changing pretty rapidly.