Plug-in electric vehicles, and other clean transportation and technology solutions, are growing by leaps and bounds in sales and support by fleets, trucking companies, consumers, and government support. But the challenges continue to grow right along with it. Here’s a look at a few of the issues that tend to come up, and solutions that will need to be considered…………………….
What’s going into the EVs on the parts and components side: There’s the challenge of “embodied emissions,” which come from the materials that go into these passenger and fleet/commercial vehicles. High-carbon materials like steel and aluminum that are made with coal-fired energy is one of the central challenges to overcome by automakers and their suppliers. Vehicle emissions are being reduced substantially by EVs, but emissions from the manufacturing side have been linked to cancer, respiratory illnesses, and premature death predominantly in disadvantaged communities. An impressive speaker panel, Eliminating Dirty Supply Chains in the EV Transition, will take place today, Nov. 15, at 4:00 pm Pacific time in Los Angeles.
Copper supply diminishing: Lack of copper is a serious problem for EVs and solar and wind power coming up. A temporary surplus is keeping prices low for now and discouraging investors from funding projects that would expand the supply as demand continues to increase. China, which consumes more than half the world’s supply of the metal, increased its purchases more than 150% higher than the same nine-month period of 2022, according to Goldman Sachs. Copper miners say investors are waiting for this factor, and a few others, to kick in before it becomes a worthwhile investment.
Lithium has its own problems: Major lithium producers for now are bullish about demand for the essential EV battery materials even through prices have been dropping lately. LG Energy Solution, General Motors, Honda, and other auto and battery makers have trimmed EV expansion plans in recent weeks, partly due to rising interest rates, raising concerns about a supply glut for the battery metal. Australia-based Pilbara Minerals, operating in the world’s largest lithium-producing nation, has been the most-shorted stock on the Australian Stock Exchange, which suggests investors are concerned about lithium demand. Overall, lithium, which varies by region and type, has dropped more than 60% this year. Concerns over lithium supply for EV battery pricing stability have been part of OEMs and suppliers looking for alternatives. In 2022, lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) remained the dominant battery chemistry with a market share of 60%, followed by lithium iron phosphate (LFP) with a share of just under 30%, and nickel cobalt aluminium oxide (NCA) with a share of about 8% — point to new alternatives to conventional lithium-ion being on the rise, according to International Energy Agency.
Are EVs really fluctuating in sales? Several automakers have been warning this year that the transition over to increased sales will need to slow down as demand declines. Part of the reason is likely due to the fluctuations in supply for a few of the EV models — not the entire market, according to David Reichmuth, Senior Engineer, Clean Transportation Program at Union of Concerned Scientists. About a year ago, a number of EV models were in short supply and dealers had waiting lists of buyers. This year, oversupply has been the case for some EV models. Buyer interest is still there (measured by sales, which are up this year in the US), but the supply of some EV models is facing diminishing consumer demand (or unrealistic production forecasts). Overall, the EV market in the US and other global markets is still looking good, but there could be a downturn the rest of the year. Sales were down in October of this year — with EV sales down, and prices down about 22% year-over-year, which is mainly affected by Tesla sales dropping.
Taking a wholistic approach to sustainable emissions reduction: The most intensive country for electric vehicles as a share of its new vehicle sales presents a good look at the real challenges markets around the world face in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and keeping a workable transportation system in place. That would be Norway, which plans to ban the sale of all fossil-fuel powered vehicles, including hybrids, from 2025. Last year, more than 153,000 plug-in electric vehicles were registered in Norway, which made up nearly 88% of the total volume — higher than in 2021 by nearly one percent. For 2022, Norway led the global market for percentage of total new vehicle sales followed by Iceland (41%), Sweden (32%), the Netherlands (24%), and China (22%), according to analysis by World Resources Institute. The country has been receiving praise and acknowledgement for that accomplishment by the New York Times, the Guardian, Environmental Defense Fund, the World Economic Forum, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
The generous subsidies that drove the EV sales won’t be so plentiful in the near future. Norway may back down from funding the subsidies and redirect funds to other goals, such as supporting city efforts to transition over to alternative transportation modes supporting transit, bicycling, and other efforts to reduce the volume of vehicles on roads, that would address emissions reductions, enhance road safety, and help enliven urban life. There’s also been criticism that EV subsides have gone mainly to affluent Norwegians, adding to the gap between rich and poor in a country that’s prided itself on progressive social policies. This debate is being addressed in the US and around the world. While supporting EV sales and charging infrastructure is a necessity, concern over crowded, congested city streets continues to rise. Perhaps there will be greater support for vehicles such as electric buses and vans transporting groups from Destination A to B — eventually autonomous as well.
The cost of the battery packs: The 65 kWh 350V lithium-ion battery battery pack inside the Chevrolet Bolt runs the full wheelbase of the car and weighs 960 pounds. The standard car model version of the Bolt weighs 3,589 pounds. That would mean it makes up about 26.75% of the Bolt’s total weight. The average lead-acid car battery in a passenger vehicles weighs around: 25-40 pounds. The popular SUV, the Toyota RAV4, weighs 3,370 pounds for its standard model. That would be about 1.2% of the vehicle’s weight for the battery. A semi-truck including its cargo can weigh a maximum of 80,000 pounds. A battery for an electric truck can be up to 16,000 pounds, according to recent reporting by CNBC. That would be about 20% of the total weight. An EV battery might cost between $4,000 and $20,000, depending on the brand and model of your passenger vehicle, JD Power reported in May. It’s harder to find information on the cost of the battery needed for a heavy-duty truck. Transport Topics reported in May that the base price of a Class 8 battery-electric truck is between $350,000 to $500,000, or three to five times that of a diesel-powered heavy-duty truck. The battery has a lot to do with that. Recycling and disposing all of these battery packs will also be one of the major issues to deal with in the near future.
And in other news:
Most air-polluted cities: New Delhi, India, has again topped a real-time list of the world’s most polluted cities compiled in an air quality index by Swiss group IQAir, which put the Indian capital’s AQI at 640 in the “hazardous” category, followed by 335 in the Pakistani city of Lahore. The reasons for it? A seasonal combination of lower temperatures, a lack of wind and crop stubble burning in neighboring farm states had caused a spike in air pollutants in New Delhi, wreaking havoc on the eyes and itchy throats of local residents and workers.
Electrify America and 4 Gen Logistics: Electrify America, the nation’s largest open DC fast charging network for electric vehicles (EV), and 4 Gen Logistics, a leader in sustainable logistics solutions, recently announced the start of construction of a charging station at the Port of Long Beach to support 4 Gen’s growing fleet of electric class 8 drayage trucks. The first phase of the project, funded through Electrify America’s $25 million “Green City” investment, includes installation of thirty 350 kW DC fast chargers at the Port of Long Beach in support of advancing zero-tailpipe emissions and electrification of class 8 heavy duty trucks.
EV tire company recognized: Electric vehicle tire company Enso was named one of 15 global finalists for the environmental Earthshot Prize. Launched by Prince William in 2020, the award aims to acknowledge sustainability leaders; and help scale the world’s most innovative climate and environmental solutions to protect and restore the planet. With 1.5 billion vehicles globally, addressing the issue of tire pollution is of critical importance in the fight against climate change. Research from Imperial College London in 2023 says that globally, tires emit six million tons of pollution each year and more airborne particulate matter than all tailpipes combined, according to London-based Enso. Michelin is also selling a line of its tires customized for EVs. You can see a banner at Costco stores advertising it.