From my email, I will not indent but please note this is all from Austin: “I don’t agree with electric vehicle mandates or subsidies, but the recent push against pure battery electric vehicles from free market commentators is bizarre. The arguments against them because of mineral shortages, battery shortages, or manufacturing emissions completely abandon free
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From my email, I will not indent but please note this is all from Austin:
“I don’t agree with electric vehicle mandates or subsidies, but the recent push against pure battery electric vehicles from free market commentators is bizarre. The arguments against them because of mineral shortages, battery shortages, or manufacturing emissions completely abandon free market principles. These arguments will lead to failure because they are obviously wrong after minimal investigation.
A more effective argument would be that electric cars are so popular and production is growing so fast that there is no need for mandates. The market will provide the goods through better technology, increased output, and substitution. A company like GM will have no chance of paying its debt if it doesn’t make compelling electric cars. Then hammer home use cases that make no sense for batteries, like a farmer that needs a semi-truck for harvest. It will run nearly 24/7 for a week or two and then sit idle for the rest of the year. An electric truck would impose a significant economic penalty while barely saving emissions.
Some of the errors:
1. The majority of electric vehicles in the world use lead-acid batteries, not lithium-ion batteries. Low-speed electric vehicles are popular in China even though the government does not love them. They start at $1000 and might have 100 km of range. They are the Model T of electric cars, except with much better performance at a fraction of the cost of the Model T. They are modern marvels of economic growth. We don’t have these vehicles in rich countries because they would be illegal, and we can afford higher-performance vehicles. There are some exceptions, like golf carts in Peachtree City, GA.
2. Electric cars are a great value. Low-speed electric vehicles obviously provide value to have so many sales. Something like a Tesla Model 3 has the performance of a BMW 3 series with a total cost of ownership more like a Camry. The next generation of electric cars that Chinese automakers and Tesla are designing will have highway-capable performance with an ownership cost below any gasoline car available and entry level purchase prices.
3. The market is screaming for batteries that don’t use nickel or cobalt, and companies are delivering. Even Tesla thinks 2/3 to 3/4 of their cars will use lithium iron phosphate batteries. Only luxury vehicles and some semi trucks will use nickel batteries (and cheaper manganese might substitute for some of the nickel). The performance of lithium iron phosphate battery vehicles has improved because companies are figuring out how to make their cars more efficient and remove unnecessary packaging and structure from the packs to reduce weight. Sodium-ion batteries lack the performance of lithium batteries but are much better than lead-acid batteries that power most electric cars. Consumers will happily trade up as they get richer.
4. We can build more factories and mines. Look at all the factory announcements! There is lots of lithium in the Earth’s crust! Let the market cook!
5. The leading companies are now profitable without subsidies. Protectionists, unions, and car makers that still aren’t good at making battery cars drive lobbying for subsidies.
6. The price of an item signals information about its availability! The need for scale is driving new manufacturing technology. Tesla hopes to produce 20 million cars yearly (car sales are ~80 million globally). They recently highlighted improvements like motors that use iron magnets instead of rare earth ones, higher voltage systems to reduce copper wiring, and a novel assembly technique to reach this scale. These are in addition to previously announced simplifications in battery manufacturing and a focus on lithium iron phosphate batteries. Electric cars need to be inexpensive to sell in the tens of millions. And that means using cheap, available materials that use less energy and labor to produce.
7. Hybrid cars are an engineering travesty. They are more expensive and complex than either an internal combustion car or a pure electric car. There will be adequate fast chargers with a seamless experience now that almost every major North American carmaker is adopting Tesla’s chargers. A hybrid owner pays thousands of dollars more for a car, has to go to gas stations, needs oil changes, etc. A battery car owner might fast charge a few times a year while they eat lunch or shop when their vehicle range isn’t enough for the day’s driving. The battery car is way more convenient. Even many cases like semi trucks can get by with pure batteries because there is plenty of time to charge during government-mandated breaks. Someone with work or leisure that requires frequent highway driving for hours straight but doesn’t have mandated breaks should buy a regular gasoline car.
8. Two-wheel and three-wheel vehicles are popular globally. But they are not big enough to support complicated hybrid powertrains. Highway-speed motorcycles are challenging to electrify. Mopeds, rickshaws, and e-bikes are easy.
9. A new battery cathode technology might increase energy density and dramatically reduce battery costs. But this technology isn’t necessary to electrify ground vehicles on economics and consumer preference alone.
10. Few people care about emissions in their revealed preferences. It’s all about selling stuff people want to buy. Governments will remove mandates if electric cars aren’t ready for the median voter. The worst case for freedom is that electric cars are incredibly successful, and we hurt the outliers that still need gasoline or diesel vehicles. Broadly attacking electric cars doesn’t help!”