On July 18, 2019 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency. Since the law was enacted the process of developing strategies to meet those targets has been underway. My posts describing and commenting on the strategies are all available here. In order to meet the emission reduction targets for the transportation sector, electric vehicles are a necessary component. This post comments on the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) recent email giving four reasons you should consider an electric vehicle.
I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA closely because I believe the solutions proposed will adversely affect reliability and affordability, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change, and cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented. I briefly summarized the schedule and implementation CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements. I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulations, summarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and climate in other articles. The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.
I recently wrote a post on a similar NYSERDA email about heat pumps and the Energy Efficiency & Housing Advisory Panel scoping plan recommendations to the Climate Action Council. I noted that in the panel presentation the first mitigation strategy is an initiative to modify building codes and standards for new construction, including additions and alterations, to require solar photo-voltaic (PV) panels on “feasible” areas, grid-interactive electrical appliances, energy storage readiness, electric readiness for all appliance and electric vehicle readiness. An all-electric home must use electricity for heating and heat pumps are the proposed solution. My post showed that the NYSERDA email titled “Myth Buster: The Heat Pump Edition” was propaganda.
Propaganda is defined as material disseminated by the advocates of a doctrine or cause. There are many propaganda techniques including “card stacking”. This technique is a feature of the CLCPA:
It involves the deliberate omission of certain facts to fool the target audience. The term card stacking originates from gambling and occurs when players try to stack decks in their favor. A similar ideology is used by companies to make their products appear better than they actually are.
On May 10, 2021 the Transportation Advisory Panel presented their strategies to the Climate Action Council. An outline of their recommendations is also available. As shown in the following slide from the recommendations the first mitigation strategy initiative is to transition to 100% zero-emission light duty vehicle sales.
The recommended mitigation strategy overview noted that a potential risk or barrier to success was “Lack of consumer awareness/interest and consumer concerns about technology & charging/fueling”. The strategy suggests a “Coordinated and cooperative marketing campaign with industry partners” as a possible mitigant.
I think garnering support for this initiative is a major challenge for proponents. Clearly a marketing campaign is necessary to dupe the public into this ill-advised strategy. As shown below, I believe the rationale for purchasing an electric vehicle in their marketing campaign is pretty weak and certainly not enough to make me consider getting one.
Four Reasons to Consider an Electric Vehicle
The following is the text from a NYSERDA email titled “Considering an electric vehicle (EV)? Here are four reasons you should”. It also is available in a weblink.
There’s no denying that over the past several years the demand for electric vehicles (EV) has increased. In New York State, driving electric is a great opportunity for vehicle owners to make a positive environmental impact, lowering their carbon footprint while helping the State reach its ambitious clean energy and climate action goals.
Transportation accounts for 42% of New York State’s greenhouse gas emissions, meaning that every EV that replaces a gas-powered vehicle will help make a difference.
Making the switch to an electric vehicle is a big decision. The more knowledge you have, the more informed your choices will be. If you’re still on the fence about making the switch, here are four additional things to consider:
1: Electric vehicles will save you time and money.
Compared to gasoline-powered cars, EVs are more energy efficient and cost about 50 to 70% less to operate per mile. EV motors don’t need oil changes, you’ll be making fewer visits for regular maintenance and repairs. And since your car will run on electricity, not gas, you won’t need to make trips to the gas station.
2: Electric vehicles are clean, quiet, and fun to drive
There is no loud engine, but electric vehicles deliver fast acceleration and surprising pick up that make them exceptionally fun to drive. EVs also boast a variety of different technological advantages, including the ability to preheat your car without garage emissions, or to turn up the bass on your speakers without engine distortions.
3: There are tax credits and rebates available to help you purchase your EV.
With an electric car charger provided by your vehicle’s manufacturer, you can simply plug into a standard home outlet to charge your car. You can also upgrade your home to a Level 2 charger, which requires an electrician to install but increases the speed of charging up to 10x compared to a standard outlet. And if you need to charge your EV while you’re out and about, rest easy: there are thousands of available charging stations throughout the State that are easy to find through mobile apps and through the NYSERDA website.
4: There are tax credits and rebates that can be put toward purchasing an EV.
Use the Drive Clean Rebate to take up to $2,000 off the price of an electric car at the time of purchase. You can also combine that rebate with the existing federal tax credit for electric cars, which provides up to $7,500 for the purchase of a new electric car.
I will address the propaganda in the components of the NYSERDA email below. My comments will rely heavily on Dr. Jay Lehr’s excellent overview of the many reasons that electric vehicles will never replace the internal combustion engine.
NYSERDA claims that electric vehicles will save you time and money because they are “more energy efficient and cost about 50 to 70% less to operate per mile” than gasoline powered vehicles. This ignores the fact that electric vehicles are significantly more expensive than comparable internal combustion automobiles. There also are buried assumptions about the costs of electricity relative to gasoline that can be used to game the answers to provide this rationale. Another claim is that “since your car will run on electricity, not gas, you won’t need to make trips to the gas station”. What happens when you want to take a trip that exceeds the battery range is ignored. A gasoline powered car can re-fuel in a matter of minutes whereas an electric vehicle charger takes hours if you can find a charging station that is not being used. Lehr also points out that the cost of battery replacement and lack of a used car market should also be considered when comparing costs.
Electric vehicle proponents love to claim that they are clean, quiet, and fun to drive. Although electric vehicles to have lower emissions the life-cycle emissions and supply chain implications of the batteries needed need to considered for this claim. NYSERDA claims that “electric vehicles deliver fast acceleration and surprising pick up that make them exceptionally fun to drive”. Reality is that most people use their vehicles as a tool and having fun is a low priority. The email goes on to claim that they “boast a variety of different technological advantages, including the ability to preheat your car without garage emissions, or to turn up the bass on your speakers without engine distortions”. The first claim about garage emissions suggests this was written by someone who has a garage. Based on my neighborhood more than half the cars are not stored in a garage in the winter. The final claim is absurd. Who in the world decides to buy a car based on being able to turn up their bass speakers?
One of reasons that electric vehicle ownership is more expensive is the desirability of a charging system that can provide a full charge in a short time. The third component notes that you can choose between the electric car charger provided by your vehicle’s manufacturer that uses a standard home outlet to or upgrade your home to a Level 2 charger, “which requires an electrician to install but increases the speed of charging up to 10x compared to a standard outlet”. Another notable observation in my neighborhood is the number of vehicles per home. Most have at least two and anyone with adult children living at home has more. Of course, the concern about where to charge at home in my suburb pales in comparison to any city where car owners have to park on the street. NYSERDA goes on to claim that “if you need to charge your EV while you’re out and about, rest easy: there are thousands of available charging stations throughout the State that are easy to find through mobile apps and through the NYSERDA website”. I believe it is fair to say that European electric vehicle implementation is ahead of New York so the “horror trip” of a retired German couple who needed 26 hours to make a 765 Km or 475 mile trip in an electric vehicle makes me leery of this NYSERDA claim.
Finally, NYSERDA notes that you can use the Drive Clean Rebate to take “up to $2,000 off the price of an electric car at the time of purchase” and that you can also combine that rebate with the existing federal tax credit for electric cars, which provides up to $7,500 for the purchase of a new electric car. There are around 9.4 million standard vehicles registered in New York. If every one of those vehicles were to be replaced, this subsidyt would cost $18.9 billion so I have to wonder if this money will be available for everyone.
When I explain the CLCPA implementation strategies most people do not grasp that this abstract concept is going to have big impacts on personal choice and affordability. Moreover, as details on the plans are fleshed out it is becoming increasingly obvious that there are serious environmental consequences that are being ignored in the process.
In my opinion the majority of New Yorkers will object to electric vehicles primarily because of personal choice. In my case I rely on my personal vehicles as a tool to my way of life and I expect that my concerns are similar to many others. I do not choose my vehicles based on whether it is fun to drive. Several times a year I use my car to take a trip beyond the range of current electric vehicles. While I try to avoid driving in bad winter weather there are times it cannot be avoided and a car that might lose power quickly if I get marooned is a danger to me and my family. While I could afford an electric vehicle, I see no reason to pay more for a vehicle that might be an interesting toy but has flaws for my personal use.
The fact is that purchasing a new vehicle, much less a more expensive electric vehicle, is beyond the means of many people. Worse is that there are other costs involved with widespread electric vehicle use. Dr. Lehr notes that “On most suburban streets the electrical infrastructure would be unable to carry more than three houses with a single Tesla. For half the homes on your block to have electric vehicles, the system would be wildly overloaded.” As a result, the suburban electric distribution system will have to be upgraded and everyone will have to pay for those costs. Experience elsewhere shows that, for example, upgrade costs to the electric system for the United Kingdom are enormous and will increase costs for everyone. Therefore, electric vehicles are toys for the rich that will be subsidized by the poor.
Among the environmental consequences not included in the CLCPA implementation process are the impacts of exotic materials needed for the transition. A recent report by the International Energy Agency included a comparison of the minerals needed for electric vehicles as opposed to conventional cars. Assuming that a million cars are sold per year in New York in 2035 when the mandate to sell only electric vehicles are sold in New York that means that an additional 34,505 tons of copper, 8,904 tons of lithium, 43.409 tons of nickel, 15, 583 tons of manganese, 14,470 tons of cobalt, and 70,122 tons of graphite will be needed each year. If all other jurisdictions enact similar mandates the amount of rare earth minerals required will be enormous. The newly released book “Clean Energy Exploitations” by Ron Stein and Todd Royal explains how the development needed to provide these materials will exploit the most vulnerable people while destroying their environment.
I conclude that NYSERDA’s rationale for purchasing an electric vehicle is out of touch with the public. I think this strategy is ill-advised due to its hidden environmental impacts and cost shifting from higher-income drivers to lower-income consumers. I hope that when the public becomes aware of these impacts that there will be sufficient push-back to drop the electric vehicle mandates.
Update 7/27/21: Immediately after publishing this I found another summary of the problems of EV deployment that is worth reading. “Electrifying parts of our transportation system may result in incremental reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” Robert Bryce argues. “But a look at history, as well as an analysis of the supply-chain issues involved in manufacturing EVs, the resource intensity of batteries, and the increasingly fragile state of our electric grid – which is being destabilized by bad policy at the state and national levels – shows that a headlong drive to convert our transportation systems to run on ‘green’ electricity could cost taxpayers untold billions of dollars, increase greenhouse gas emissions, be bad for societal resilience, make the U.S. more dependent on commodity markets dominated by China, make us less able to respond to extreme weather events or attacks on our infrastructure, and impose regressive taxes on low and middle-income Americans in the form of higher electricity prices.”