Electric cars – Do me a favour

One of the aims of this blog was to capture hopes and fears for my son in the years to come. This is a long one but please stick with it. It has a humorous side too. So what will his future look like? Here is one thing that may or may not transpire….

Electric Dreams

We are constantly being bombarded with news items about how in the very near future we will all be driving electric cars.

What do you think this old dad thinks about that one? Simple: Not in my lifetime. But here’s why I believe it will not happen in Dani’s either.

Unwittingly helped by Tesla…

Probably the biggest and most well-known electric car company is Tesla. Owned by the brilliant entrepreneur who goes by the name of Mr. Elon Musk.

I had heard that their car batteries could be charged in about 20 minutes – just enough time to top up at a motorway service station while having a coffee eh? So while I was browsing their website I got into an online conversation with one of their “experts” (the unlucky Alec). This is the exact conversation as emailed to me following its abrupt end.

The online chat…

Alec: Have a question? Chat with a Tesla expert.
Me: How long does it take to recharge battery?
Alec: Hi At a supercharger 45 minutes or at home about 7/8 hours
Me: So how would that work if everyone (or a lot of people) owned an electric car? For one thing the grid would never cope with it. Between 5 and 7pm when everyone plugs in the substations would crash.
Alec: They could install batteries in their household to store the energy from day time and charge their cars with this  Or alternatively energy companies could load balance using battery storage systems, a lot like Australia do at the moment
Me: But if everyone was doing that or some mix then local substations would be tripping all hours of the day. There are not enough power stations anyway without this. They are closing the larger power stations in the UK. It is not only that. The type of power stations required would need to be either nuclear (decades away in time to build etc), hydro (do-able but not on any politicians radar) or pumped storage (like the one in North Wales – which took 10 years to build in the 60s, so would take about 20 nowadays!). Infrastructure is so way off, so far off that the electric car thing will drop off a cliff edge some time in the near future. Probably when that critical number is sold and power cuts abound.
Alec: It would take those timelines or even longer for the nation to shift away from petrol and diesel cars to electric. The government and energy companies have time to sort this.
Not really, the government have put plans in place for all cars sold to be fully electric by 2040, times are changing now
Me: No they don’t. Mostly because governments have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. They play to the gallery – which at the moment wants to hear about an electric car future, or at least possibility thereof. Not all good ideas are feasible unfortunately. When the reality check kicks in (power cuts etc…) people will demand their old cars back.
Thank you for contacting us.
Chat session disconnected.

Oops… No more of that.

And that was that. They cut me off. (And who can blame them I hear some of you say.) Admittedly I was being a little mischievous. But that was the point. The questions did not fit with the standard answers. That online live chat thing now seems to have disappeared from their website. I guess that tells a story in itself. Don’t get me wrong. As an engineer I am full of admiration for most of the things Tesla are building (or attempting to build).

Who are you calling a Cnut?

My main point is not only where will all the electricity come from but how will the surge in demand be handled? Wind and solar power we are often told. But guess what? You can’t control the wind or the clouds. Mind you there was once a Danish monarch who thought he could control the ocean’s waves. He went by the name of King Cnut. More like stupid Cnut if you ask me. But he is now in good company. With a myriad of politicians; half believing, some lying to us about the prospect of everyone driving all electric cars in about 20 years time.

Nah… Even with greatly improved battery technology the problem is what happens when everyone tries to charge their car after work? At the same time!? The reality is, not only do we not have realistic new power sources; the government (in the UK certainly) are doing absolutely nothing about replacing the existing power sources. This inability to address a known  problem while simultaneously telling us that we will all have to drive electric cars is something that should concern everyone.

Summary

While trying to avoid getting too political I do maintain a healthy (engineering based) enquiring mind. A questioning attitude. Nobody should take what they see or hear in the mainstream media at face value. There will always be something else. Another angle, another side to the story. Isn’t it  ironic that that our wonderful leaders hardly ever mention the one source of power that perhaps could be harnessed and never ever stops. The very same waves that stupid Danish Cnut failed to stop.

 On that note, I suppose there is yet another side to this. Maybe there is something Mr. Musk knows that we are not being told. Perhaps the secrets of safe and abundant nuclear fusion are about to be uncovered???

Footnote: To be fair to King Cnut (aka Canute) he was king of England and Norway as well as Denmark. A powerful man back in his day – the 12th century. 

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