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EV v ICEV – A Perspective to Consider

Via Kiwi In America on Kiwiblog 


I interrupt celebrations on the centre-right in New Zealand over the successful three-way coalition arrangement and the great policies to be enacted with an issue that one hopes the new government will eventually have to confront. For those who are acronym deprived, EVs are Electric Vehicles and ICEVs Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles. As various 1stworld countries attempt to reach either net zero (or significantly reduced carbon emissions), the cutting edge, indeed the picture child, for these efforts are EVs. Various governments are using a combination of carrots (EV purchase subsidies, free use of express motorway lanes, free access to central cities by avoiding congestion charging etc.) and sticks (enforced EV mandates on vehicle manufacturers, higher taxes on ICEVs like NZ’s now soon to be scrapped ute tax, congestion charging and ever-increasing excise taxes on petrol and diesel). Some countries and US states have gone as far as indicating dates in the next 12 to 15 years after which no new ICEVs will be able to be legally sold.

The purpose of these two essays is to propose that such bans will never be carried out because it will not only not be possible to get to net zero in any country without prohibitively massive costs and a huge reversal in standard of living and travel independence, but it will also not be possible for the world’s economies and mining capability to replace ICEVs with EVs for the many reasons I will explain.

The reasons for the ultimate failure of the drive for exclusive EV use will be divided into two Posts, the individual or consumer level problems (what I will call the Micro problems) are covered in Part 1 today and then there are the industry, countrywide and international barriers (that I will call the Macro problems) that I will cover in Part 2.


1 – Purchase pricing differential

Anyone wishing to buy an EV of any type will find the purchase price is usually at least 10 to 15%+ more expensive than the equivalent model, size and speced ICEV. The differential still holds even with EV buyer incentives like trade-in bonuses, tax credits or outright government subsidies. This differential comes into even sharper focus when looking at the secondhand EV market which has its own additional set of challenges with thin supply, early model EVs with rapidly shrinking battery range and then the looming cost of a new battery that will range from USD$5,000 to $10,000 for the smallest cheapest entry level EV like a Nissan Leaf all the way to USD$15,000 for a Tesla Model 3 and up to $25,000 for the luxury Tesla S. The raft of new luxury EV SVUs will have replacement batteries priced similarly to the Tesla S. For these and other reasons, the re-sale or residual value of EVs are plunging not only as more second EVs come on to the market but because of the battery replacement cost and other issues that will be covered today. Paying more up front and getting less on a trade-in for a new EV versus an equivalent ICEV adds to the total cost of ownership beyond the sticker price and the running cost equation.

Manufacturers of EVs also are targeting their new releases to the middle and upper segments of the car market meaning there are relatively few affordable EV options versus many affordable ICEVs. This skewering of EV offerings to more expensive market segments and the purchase price premium is acting as a real barrier to entry to all but the well healed upper middle-class professionals, dedicated environmentally sensitive consumers and high-income earners. Low-income families and migrant and Polynesian communities have little extra cash to pay a premium for an EV or to shell out thousands for a replacement battery even if they are able to obtain a quality cheaper secondhand EV. As market penetration of new EVs increases then the prices and availability of second-hand EVs should improve. The big promise made by the green advocates of EVs is that, over time, technology will make batteries more efficient and cheaper thus gradually reducing the new vehicle pricing gap over ICEVs. As will be seen in Part 2 of this analysis, this is a forlorn hope for quite some time into the future.

2 – Range issues

Range anxiety is usually the No. 2 biggest reason cited by people not making the jump to EVs and the concerns are well founded, and they combine with the charging issues (covered in #3), to present significant hurdles to widespread majority EV acquisition. It is true that as time and battery technology has advanced, so has the stated range of new EVs, but they are still well below the range of the equivalent ICEV. Over the years travelling across the US and other countries, I have rented a good range of mid sized vehicles (Mazda 6, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima/Maxima, Kia K5, Hyundai Elantra/Sonata, Honda Accord, Checy Malibu, Dodge Challenger etc). Each of these cars have a highway range of between 420 and 500 miles (675 to 800kms) assuming highway fuel consumption. Large SUVs and utes/pickup trucks with larger tanks feature 500 to 600 mile ranges (800 to 965 kms). Most modern mid sized EVs have a real highway range of only 200 to 250 miles (320 to 400 kms) with larger SUV and pickups around or maybe slightly over 300 miles (480kms). Now those are best case scenario ranges which are on average half the ICEV average.

Then there is the impact that extreme heat and cold has on range – in the case of heat it is the need to constantly use the power draining air conditioning which is an issue in probably half of the US, most Australian cities and in southern Europe. For the other half of the US, Canada and most of Europe and Japan, the issue is the cold in the winter. The cold has a double impact on range being the need to heat the car interior AND the impact on the battery because of the cold. There are a large number of real world actual owner range tests that you can view on You Tube that show that range in cold weather reduces around 30% on average. This adds to the range anxiety issue as even the EVs with the best range, the car in cold weather is effectively reduced to a range of under 200 miles or 300kms meaning more frequent re-charging stops on a long journey. In large countries like the US, Canada and Australia, these range restrictions are more keenly felt.

Towing is another issue particularly for tradies and other people who rely on a ute or pickup and the need to carry a heavy load in the bed and/or in a trailer for their livelihood. Despite the larger batteries for the larger EVs, a heavy load also reduces the range by up to 30% and again, there are plenty of comparison videos on YT that track the impact of the temperature and the weight of cargo on the range. In all instances, the effective range is now down to a third or less of the equivalent petrol/diesel work vehicle. For the self-employed, more frequent stops for charging will impact on their income and for companies employing trade staff, their efficiency on the job is hampered by time wasted charging the EV thus reducing profitability.

3 – Charging issues

(i) Home

The dream of the lower running costs of EVs that is promoted by environmental lobby groups and those who sell EVs is the fact that, for most city use, an EV can be plugged in at home and can recharge overnight when power tariffs are usually the lowest. There are number of issues that crop up even then and this scenario is a best-case scenario only. First off, this convenience only works for those who live in what the Americans call a single-family home or in other words a dwelling on a separate section with a car port or garage. But with the global shift to smaller, more affordable, more compact and densely populated housing, for people (particularly younger people with no or a small family), apartment living makes it much more difficult to connect an EV to your own power supply. Many complexes have no off-street parking and those that do, there is no plug infrastructure in underground car parks to enable an apartment tenant or owner to hook up from their designated parking spot. As new apartment blocks allowing for EV charging are constructed, the charging plug maybe available but not at the cheap rate your power company is charging for what you use in your apartment but at a rate that the Body Corporate or Homeowners Association charges as the power plugs will be in common usage areas.

People who live in older homes in crowded inner-city suburbs may only have on-street parking and only the ability to have a three point higher voltage plug that also has to have an extension cord put into the street that can be tampered with. For those who live in cold climates, unless you have a heated garage or have a plug-in car engine heater, recharging in freezing conditions is a lengthy and more costly process because the battery has to be first warmed before it can be properly and quickly charged.

Finally, there is the very big and widespread issue of the capacity of a home plug to deliver a high-speed charge. If you simply use the same type of heavy duty plug as is used for a stove, fridge, washing machine or a stationary air conditioning unit then this cannot deliver power to the EV fast enough to affect a full charge overnight. One of the smallest EVs available is the Nissan Leaf and its 62 kw battery would take a whopping 18 hours to fully charge from a standard residential three point socket. EV owners soon realise that they need to boost the amperage to a larger more powerful 50 amp 7 w connector. For the Leaf this brings the full charging time down to 11 hours. These converters cost between $500 to $600 in the US and you’ll need another $1,300 for electrician’s costs to install. But what about a Hyundai Ioniq with a 77 kw battery or a Tesla X with a 100 kw battery or the Ford F150 Lightening (or similar large pickup or SUV) with a 131 kw battery? There is no possible affordable capacity upgrade that allows the owner of a larger EV that boasts the longest range with the largest battery where you can fully charge overnight at home. Then there are the wider issues of limits to the local suburban electricity grid capacity to handle mass switching to EVs for suburban in-home charging, something that I will cover in the Macro issues in Part 2. All of these problems push more EV owners to having to use public charging stations more than they ever planned with a whole new set of problems covered next.

(ii) Public

There are a host of issues with the public EV charging infrastructure. These issues will vary from location to location, city to city and country to country but many of them are present in most markets:

  • Insufficient numbers of charging stations. This problem has two facets: gaps in ANY available fast chargers on certain key routes or, the more common problem, insufficient fast chargers in key locations leading to long queues to charge. California is supposedly EV fast charging nirvana and yet this video shows a huge queue in Burbank in suburban LA at 11pm at night! With even an optimal situation (newer battery, good fast charge station, no queue and reasonable weather) you’re looking at a 30 to 40 minute wait from near flat versus 5 minutes to refuel an ICEV from empty. There have been reports of so-called “charge rage” of frustrated drivers jumping queues and even unhooking cars left charging whilst an owner gets a coffee to avoid the long waits.
  • Inconsistent charger styles. It is known that Tesla’s aren’t compatible with most public non-Tesla charger sites hence why they have invested in their own fast chargers. Because the installation of fast chargers is usually barely regulated, there are not uniform standards of charging ports forcing EV owners in some jurisdictions to have to spend hundreds of dollars on adapters. Continental Europe has largely avoided this issue with standardisation.
  • Inconsistent electricity pricing. The providers of public fast charging stations are often entrepreneurs seeking recovery of the cost of installing the chargers that each cost USD$45,000 to $70,000. Unlike petrol stations who advertise their price per gallon or litre in large displays and the prices can be easily researched via Apps such as Gaspy (NZ) or Gas Buddy (US), an EV owner won’t know the price of the electricity they need until they insert their card at the charging station. Whilst gas prices in the US for instance fluctuate markedly from state to state and city to city due to differing state and county/city fuel taxes, in most countries there are more narrow petrol pricing bands making accurately costing of a road trip pretty easy. Electricity pricing is far more variable from not just city/state and country but time of day, the utility company providing power for a particular charging location and the fact that owners of the charging stations will adjust their prices at any given charging location based on demand like the surge pricing policies of the ride share companies. Because the driver of an almost flat EV battery usually cannot just keep going to another possibly cheaper charging site as is the case with an ICEV driver with so many petrol station options close by, they are forced to pay whatever price is on offer. Whilst EV owners can time an overnight charge at home to coincide with rates as cheap as $0.05c p/kwh nighttime domestic electricity tariffs, they can be hit with charges like $0.35 p/kwh or more on the road being many multiples higher making an EV road trip in some locations significantly more expensive than the ICEV equivalent trip.
  • Vandalisation of EV charging locations and other connection issues. It is not uncommon for EV owners to come to a site of multiple charging stations only to find a long line behind only one or two chargers as the others have had their card swipe machines vandalised. The Wall Street Journal recently surveyed 126 non-Tesla charging stations in Los Angeles and 27% were out of order, an additional 10% had payment issues, and still more had connection or handshake issues. In the most EV charger saturated city in the world, fully half of the chargers could not be made to work. This compares to regular petrol stations were non operative pumps are extremely rare.
  • Most public charging sites charge electricity by the minute rather than the kw/h. This is an issue in colder locations and at colder times of the year because, in order for the fast charger to recharge quickly, the charging site has to warm the car battery first before charging it. This adds to the recharge time meaning a recharge in the summer might take 35 minutes and the same EV at the same location in winter might take 15 minutes longer to charge and the driver is going to be charged for that extra time the car is hooked up the charger.
  • Public charging locations can’t accommodate the needed electricity load when multiple cars are hooked up to their chargers. When you fill up at a petrol station, all the pumps pull fuel from a common giant tank. As long as the master tank is kept topped up regularly (and they are), every single pump can be pumping fuel at the same time and the volume of fuel moving from the master tank to the individual vehicle tanks is identical. This is not the case when multiple EVs are charging at the same time at an EV charging site. Electricity is supplied to the location at a fixed amount that comes down the underground cable and is then distributed to the individual fast chargers. If one vehicle is charging alone then that vehicle will have access to all the electricity being fed to the location. As more vehicles hook up, the power coming off the grid at the site has some ability to increase flow but generally there is an overall kwh limit to the site (unless the site owner has paid for additional expensive high voltage cabling) and so the power flow must now be shared amongst all the users hooked up and when a site has all chargers in use, this can significantly add to the charging time due to diffusing the electricity amongst the multiple users. What the owner hopes will be a 35-minute stop (the time EV manufacturers tell you about in their promotional material) can turn into a 90 minute or longer nightmare of queues to begin to charge and slow charge times due to the cold and diffuse electricity supply.

4 – Fire risk issues

There is an increased risk of spontaneous battery fires with any lithium-ion battery hence why airlines won’t allow you to have a smart phone in checked luggage. There has been a raft of high-profile incidents of electric cars spontaneously catching on fire and alighting nearby cars, houses and multi-level car parks. Two of the most spectacular were: the fire in an electric bus in Shanghai that spread to 40 other electric buses parked at the depot. Put “electric car fires” into You Tube and dozens of examples show up, and a fire at a Ford dealership in Detroit of a Ford F150 Lightening that saw almost an entire row of EVs ultimately engulfed. The problem with EV fires is they are more intense and take longer for firefighters to put out than an ICEV fire and they normally involve more damage to nearby vehicles and/or property. An EV can catch alight even with only slight damage to a few of the battery cells. Because it is hard to know what cells might be damaged without a complex and costly test, slightly damaged EVs may be ticking fire time bombs without the owners knowing.

These increased fire risks have a range of complex and costly implications. Will car parks have to be modified to allow wider spaces between vehicles to reduce contagion fire risk, who pays for the more stringent fire safety provisions like the need to bring higher volumes of water to the site so the firemen who fight EV fires have sufficient volume to douse the more intensive EV fires? My prediction is that car park owners will simply avoid these additional costs and ban EV use. Will apartment complexes allow EVs to park underground due to the risk of a complete building fire after contagion to other underground parked vehicles? Will EV owners eventually be forced to park in spaces away from buildings and other vehicles adding to EV owner cost and inconvenience? The number of EV fires is only going to increase as the numbers on the road mushroom. EV supporters say there are more ICEV fires but that’s because in most countries, over 95% of all vehicles have an ICE but ICE fires are much easier and quicker to contain. EVs that have caught on fire and, if the fire has been contained before total destruction, the burnt out remains have to be specially quarantined because of the high risk of a re-sparking or a spontaneous re-ignition. This imposes big costs on car repair shops and panelbeaters who again, like the car park owners, may avoid the hassle by refusing to work on damaged EVs. These are massive safety issues that are only just now being looked at and the solutions are going to mean more cost and inconvenience to EV owners not the least of which is rising insurance costs arising from the fire risk issues that I cover next.

5 – Running costs issues

(i) Insurance

If you get an insurance quote for an EV compared to its comparable ICEV equivalent (e.g., BMW i4 vs BMW 4 series, Mini Cooper, Hyundai Ioniq, for the US the Ford F150) you’ll find in the US, Australia and New Zealand about a 20 to 30% insurance premium for like for like EV versus ICEV full comprehensive collision insurance. This is because, if the battery is only slightly damaged, it has to be replaced not repaired due to the fire risk (covered in #4 above). In the UK, due to the number of high-profile EV fires and the generally higher costs of repair of damaged EVs, insuring an EV has become a very difficult and costly task with owners facing cancellation of coverage, a tripling or more inpremiums and an increasingly larger number of UK Fire and General insurers refusing to cover EVs. Whilst Tesla does offer its own vehicle insurance product, this is currently only available in the US. How long before Fire and General insurers in other first world markets begin to adopt the strategy and pricing structure now prevalent in the UK? If so, then much of the running costs savings for the average EV owners would be offset by the massively higher insurance premiums.

(ii) Repairs and maintenance

Whilst it is true that an electric engine has massively fewer moving parts than an ICE, there are more complex construction methods and more costly other parts to an EV. There are also inferior economies of scale in producing the parts for EVs so they cost more and there is not the same network of service locations even within the dealerships of EV manufacturers so scheduling service appointments can be trickier. Tesla of course do not have full-service dealerships in the traditional sense sending instead a service van to your location. Routine maintenance is cost effective and can be done quickly but anything more complex means time-consuming and costly repairs due to the difficulty in finding EV certified and trained mechanics, and that’s before we factor in the fire risks that are beginning to burden repairers with potential costly liabilities and extra storage spacing requirement that they may seek to avoid.

(iii) Tyres

EVs are on average 25 to 30% heavier than their ICEV equivalent due to the weight of the battery. This means more strain on the tyres and so, depending on the model, some EV owners find themselves having to replace their tyres twice as regularly as the equivalent ICEV.  Increasingly manufacturers use heavier and stronger EV specific tyres, but these cost the same 30% premium to replace even if they last longer than regular tyres. Either way, an EV owner is paying more for tyres than the ICEV equivalent.

(iv) Battery replacement

EV batteries can die if left in extreme heat or cold or are overcharged. EV batteries lose 2 to 3% capacity every year. There are lots of websites and You Tube channels instructing EV owners on how best to protect their battery and prolong its life. It is interesting that, on the one hand EV proponents tout the lengthening ranges now capable with more powerful batteries being installed but preach prudence by not charging to the maximum to preserve battery life. If you follow battery life instructions, then you are effectively lopping off the maximum range of your EV by 20%. Whilst an 80% charge will suit those who use an EV pretty much only to commute in the city, it adds to all the issues cited earlier to increase the frequency at which an EV owner must charge up for long trips. The high cost of battery replacement is a major issue for EV owners because either they must find $10,000+ for a new battery for the smallest of EVs or face a very low re-sale on an older EV when they come to sell or trade. Horror stories of huge costs some EV owners have had to wear in order to replace the battery abound, the worst being that of Simrat Sooch of Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada who was quoted CAD$50,000 to replace the battery in his Hyundai Ioniq and he chose to scrap the car instead and got a measly $1,000! As stated earlier, this is causing the residual value of EVs to plummet. Comparing the value of an equivalent say 8-year-old ICEV of similar make and quality, the lower trade/sale value of the EV become yet another cost EV consumers must absorb versus staying with an ICEV.


Part 2 will cover some very large issues that act as major real physical resource availability barriers to widespread EV production. Part 1 has focused on the consumer side of EVs and on the various factors that are now limiting widespread EV adoption. In most first world the ecology conscious consumer who wishes to make a public point of supporting the environment by purchasing an EV (some would cynically call this virtue signaling) has pretty much already bought an EV. It is an observation that EV purchasing households to this point have been amongst the upper/professional middle class and higher because almost all have a second ICEV so the issues of taking EVs on long journeys are avoided. If you only ever tootle around town or have an ordinary commute to work in an EV and charge from home at night, many of the issues mentioned here are minimized. But that is not where governments want this product to remain. In order to meet net zero (or similar) targets, middle and working class consumers will have to transition. In part 2 I will cover the resistance to mass EV transition recently occurring with almost all the major car manufacturers. This is because of stalled EV sales and massive and growing inventories of unsold EVs as the penetration of EVs into the truly mass car markets is happening very slowly because of all the above issues. Negative word of mouth from all the dramas and unforeseen additional costs borne by EV owners for whom it is their only car is only going to further erode confidence in EVs as a viable and convenient sole family transportation solution. With consumers voting with their feet to opt to stay with ICEVs what will follow is the same consumers voting at the ballot box to reject attempts by governments to force this transition. In this matter, I predict that eventually the mandates to phase out ICEVs will be scrapped due to mass consumer electoral revolts from the proposed solution.

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