Posted by: jmtoriel | June 3, 2016

Open Letter to a Mentor on EVs

NOTE: Rex Weyler is a respected journalist and a co-founder of Greenpeace. I truly respect and admire him as a person, activist and journalist. This is in response to his opinion piece I saw in The Observer today:


Hi Rex,

First and foremost, I deeply respect you and your work and acknowledge the importance of life-cycle analysis for any product we consume.
As a driver, and father of two young children, I have done the careful analysis and have been researching EVs for a number of years now (regarded an “expert”) and started a business in the industry of EV charging infrastructure based on this analysis.
Personal mobility and transportation are in need of a massive shift and it is proving to be difficult to educate and de-mystify entrenched values. This applies to the progressive community to which I consider myself a part of. Many considerations must be scrutinized for any cleaner technological breakthroughs that claim to positively impact and reduce our emissions.
Your opinion piece, I just read in the Observer, questions the validity to the important shift happening in car manufacturing and is missing some very important factors to get the complete picture:
1) Efficiency – the MPG equivalent (or MPGe) of a fully electric Nissan LEAF or BMW i3 or Tesla Model S is about 114 and 124 and 100 respectively. To compare with the top 2 selling vehicles in Canada last year, the Ford F series and Ram pick-ups (really unfortunate). A lot more steel and weight comparatively — especially since i3s are made mostly from carbon fibre and aluminum (which you should have mentioned). Apples and oranges.
2) Mining – there was a meme comparing the, apparently, atrocious appearance of lithium mining (which was actually a copper mine) to a subtle-looking SAGD facility in the tar sands. Here’s a great response. Much like your article outlines, mining isn’t a pretty business and manufacturing batteries do require the prevalent 3rd element to make high-efficiency batteries to store electricity in vehicles. But what is neglected is that this only needs to be done once for the partial life-cycle of the car (8 to 10 years is standard warranty period for EV batteries from car manufacturers) and the batteries can then be reused and recycled for storage. Comparatively, every time one “fills up” a gas tank, more oil is needed from dirtier and farther-reaching sources for most vehicles on the road today. Electricity is much more localized and does not require transportation (through pipelines and tankers, etc) beyond transmission lines. Of course, the more decentralized the grid, the better and the more revenues we keep at home instead of lining the pockets of Big Oil…
3) Re-fueling vs re-charging – Because of the efficiency and energy mix of the grids, battery powered electric vehicles come out on top even when the energy comes from a dirtier mix of coal and natural gas (like in most of US and China for example). The Union of concerned scientists did an excellent analysis recently to set the records straight on this:
All this to say that unless something incredibly drastic occurs, cars will be with us for the next 5, 10, 20 years. Given the increasing sales of them, wouldn’t we prefer them to be electric?…. That’s my focus and hope that more Canadians and BCers make the important switch.
With love and respect,
J-M Toriel

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