Dec 30, 2022Liked by Hannah Ritchie

This is an incredible trend. It makes the UK goal of banning new fossil fuel cars in the next decade feel very achievable. Is there any data that tells us whether supply of charging points, generating capacity and grid capacity can keep up?

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It makes me very optimistic that this will be possible too (I think some countries may even bring their deadline forward if they see it being achievable elsewhere).

I'll add to my list of future posts to take a look at charging points, capacity etc. Already looking into the question of lithium stocks and availability (hopefully coming soon).

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Great analysis. I would just add one important element - the market doesn’t just magically learn how to get more affordable on its own. We need to give full credit to all the government-funded research of the US Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Lab and others that has consistently helped bring down the costs of PV, batteries and other essential technologies of the clean energy transition.

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Interesting article. How long do these batteries last, hopefully longer than my iPhone?

What happens to the battery after it is no longer usable?

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Properly managed, they can be made to last quite a while. I think the iPhone is an example of something engineered with lower priority given to the longevity of its battery. The simplest answer is that the manufacturer's design intentions have greater implications than the battery technology itself. That said, the same compromises are present in EVs. Faster charging (and discharging) decreases battery lifespan, as do charging to full capacity and irregular use. Toyota's Prius (and other hybrid) batteries last forever because they charge/discharge relatively slowly and don't ever reach a fully charged state.

Fun fact: The first-generation Prius had a five-digit odometer because Toyota wasn't confident the batteries would survive much longer than the projected timeframe for that amount of usage. Now, 2 decades on, quite a few of them are still on the road with original batteries (and odometers that read 99999.)

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The best thing about this from a terminally-online perspective is that it is finally possible to be both pro-EV and anti-Musk.

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Hmm… not sure what to do with this analogy. Does it scale?

I teach a graduate engineering management course to Detroit-based auto managers, and this year we are looking at the viability of the BEV business model. (Btw Hannah, I post some of your Our World in Data articles for class reading.)

A couple of years ago the IEA posited that the battery mineral supply must increase by 40x to replace the existing ICE fleet of 1.4b autos. Your research highlighted greater battery efficiency through density, but there is only so much that mining can do to be more efficient. What’s more, Nickel, Manganese, Cobalt, Lithium sources are politically fraught, and resource economies tend to create new political tensions. E.g., a BBC 4 podcast noted that Ukraine’s Donbas region is high in battery minerals.

But beyond batteries, BEVs (a power consumer) need the same magnet materials as any turbine based power producers. (E.g., all but solar.) in the traditional ownership model, private vehicles sit idle 95% of the time… do we have so many battery and magnet minerals that we can leave them idle 95% of the time?

And how do we charge them? Or more to the point, for how long? I confess I don’t have personal experience with this, but my brother (whose family has two HEVs and BEV) estimates 15 minutes per 100 miles, whereas about 4 minutes of petrol fueling provides 400 miles. Using the traditional gas station model, we would need a 15x increase in the number of fueling stations. Of course there are solutions to this (e.g., chargers in parking lots) but charging 1.4b vehicles at 15m per 100 miles is no trivial thing. And while we currently ‘rent’ a parking space solely for the purpose of car storage, the need to charge creates a dual demand. How do we balance the need to charge, and the need to park?

But I am no fan of ICE. The solution I envision involves much less transit in general, and it is accomplished by electrically powered trains and trolleys, powered by stationary sources.

All that said… I appreciate your work! Spent yesterday afternoon creating a slide based on CO2 and land use change.

References here:


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The transition from ICE to EV is indeed an improvement, but further entrenches car dependency...especially as costs drop. More cars means more traffic. If you love being stuck in traffic, you'll love an EV future.

EV transition is necessary, and I enjoy the luxury of owning a private car, but it's not sufficient in a world witnessing exponential population growth in urban regions. We need both an EV transition AND a transition to a more balanced and creative use of public transportation and land use.

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I agree. EV are great and all but ultimately public transport is a much more efficient and clean way to move people around. Not to mention all the asphalt that is required to support all those cars, and all the batteries you need to make (and all the pollution associated with producing them). More effort should be made to stimulate public transport use and discourage car use. Accessible and cheap EV ride sharing can further further cut down the number of cars. The remaining use cases, like rural areas (there should be some form of compensation for people in areas where the aforementioned options are not as readily available so that they don't incur higher costs, which should involve choice), work-related, or if you really need/want to can then be EV.

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💯 Yes, there will always be cases for car use, like rural, just as there will be cases for fossil fuel use. (Heavy machinery)

It’s more about fewer cars and more choices. Also, particulate matter from tire and brake dust will still do damage to air and water quality...some studies point to heavy EVs being worse in this regard than traditional ICE vehicles.

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Availability of base materials may slow things down. We believe focusing on hybrid vehicles is the sensible compromise.

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I think your manipulation of the data is interesting, but like many things these days is biased towards the desired outcome.

Nowhere in your data are the impacts to third world societies and environments from the aggressively destructive mining of raw materials, the reliance on slave labor within China and its CCP satellites, or the realities of non-urban life (farming, trucking, rail and air transport).

The sustainability cost, when described as cost to the end user, is only reasonable when all the other unseen costs are disregarded.

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One consequence of the declining cost of batteries for EVs which I find interesting but which I guess is less amenable to number-crunching is the extent to which they not only electrify existing vehicles - cars, vans & buses - but their effects on other modes. The huge rise in electric bicycles could be regarded as electrification of mopeds but who saw electric scooters a few years ago?

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I would like to learn more about the following:

1) How do the CO2 emissions of an electric car compare to a fossil fuel car when all factors are considered, such as the electricity generation?

2) To what degree do electric cars reduce overall CO2 emissions, and to what degree to they shift CO2 release from the vehicle to the electric power station?

3) How much money does an electric car consumer save when the cost of the needed electricity is compared to the cost of the needed gasoline?

These are questions, not points. Thanks for any replies.

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Dec 30, 2022·edited Dec 30, 2022

Here’s a thoroughly researched answer to point 1. In a nutshell electric cars produce between 90% and 20% less co2 over their lifetime depending on where they are manufactured and what electricity they run on. But in all scenarios they are better:


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Thanks Nick, if I understand correctly you've answered question #2 as well.

So my next questions would be:

1) What is being done to accelerate the transition from fossil fuel vehicles to electric vehicles? What are the primary obstacles here?

2) How well is the transition to clean renewables going in the power station industry?

3) Can anyone credibly predict how long it will take to complete the transition at both the vehicle and power station level? When does fossil fuel transportation come to an end?

I realize entire books can be written on these topics. Not expecting that on substack, just looking for your bottom line best understandings.

Many thanks!

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Hi Phil,

I can answer point 3. This is based on using a Nissan Leaf in the UK. The car has a 30 kWh battery and a useable range of about 90 miles. The car reports the average amount of electricity it uses, currently this is 15.5 kWh per 100 kM. Rearranging, this is almost exactly 4 miles per kWh. We are currently paying about £1.60 per litre for petrol and using night-rate charging, 14.61 pence per kWh for electricity. Using these figures and assuming a similar petrol engine car would get about 45.4 miles per (imperial) gallon, the costs are 3.64 pence per mile for the electric car and 16.0 pence per mile for the petrol driven equivalent.

Hope this helps although probably not very useful in the USA.

Regards, Hugh

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You write, "the costs are 3.64 pence per mile for the electric car and 16.0 pence per mile for the petrol driven equivalent."

Thanks Hugh, that is helpful. I'm in the US so the particular numbers are over my head, but I get the bottom line point, the electric car is substantially cheaper. That's good news.

I guess this will depend over the long run on the cost of electricity generation at the power plants, yes? Would you happen to know anything about the trend lines there? Should electricity generation get cheaper as power plants shift to renewables? Or?

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Some folks will tell you that the rapid drop in costs from solar and wind mean consumers will soon be paying lower electricity prices. Careful though. One has to look at total system costs including storage, complementary clean firm generation like geothermal and nuclear and much needed expanded and replacement distribution and transmission infrastructure.

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Yes, good point. It seems reasonable to propose that transition costs will outweigh any savings for some period of time, perhaps the next generation. I don't claim to know, but that sounds credible to me.

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I would also like to consider the environmental and social costs associated with, say, lithium mining, compared to those of fossil fuel cars. Not sure if these life cycle analyses can be direvtly compared, but it's good to be aware of the consequences of each.

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There is a good YouTube video on copper and lithium mining in Chile. Link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oywE0mQnWI0&ab_channel=SkyNews

One often overlooked part of achieving 'net zero' is that ALL energy needs to be supplied as electric energy. This amount of change this requires is very country / region dependent but for the UK - physically small, temperate climate with a high population density it will mean a large upgrade to our existing electricity grid. In the region I live, which is a very good location for solar PV power, many schemes cannot go ahead due to lack of grid capacity. Plus a lot of our existing housing stock is just not suited to either electric car ownership of air-source heat pump installation. A bolder model for areas with high density housing is to tilt the balance away from car ownership in favour of electric bikes / scooters with short term electric car rental as needed.

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Dear Hannah

We are writing a scientific paper on demand for electric cars. For this purpose, we need the price of this car over time. Your data for electric car battery prices is a good proxy to show the price trends of these cars. Please provide me with this data if possible. I will be very grateful. Or to follow this article together, which will make me very happy. Salehghavidel421@gmail.com

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