Electric cars: indiscreet gravediggers of jobs

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Electric cars: indiscreet gravediggers of jobs
Electric cars: indiscreet gravediggers of jobs

Many are sure: the electric car is a green toy that will never dominate the planet. We are figuring out why electric cars will soon take away the main part of the market from conventional cars and how this threatens the global economy.

In the 21st century, electric cars began to be produced in a million copies just ten years after the appearance of the first production car with an electric drive. / © insideevs.com

In 2018, 1.4 million electric vehicles (excluding hybrids) were sold worldwide - more than one and a half percent of the car market. Interestingly, the leader of the electric sector - a quarter of a million cars - was a manufacturer from the upper price segment, whose cheapest car costs 35 thousand dollars. Many observers believe that by the early 2030s, more electric vehicles will be sold than conventional cars.

The very formulation of the question may seem strange. Why should EVs get the bulk of the market at all? Why are they better than cars with an internal combustion engine? To clarify the situation, we need to look at the carrot and stick used to force consumers to change from one car to another.

Gingerbread for the consumer: a victory for immodesty

A conventional car has a large internal combustion engine and a multi-stage transmission, which allows it to more efficiently transfer power to the drive axle. There is no combustion in the electric motor, that is, it heats up less during operation. Therefore, it can be spun up to higher rpm. That is, with dimensions equal to the internal combustion engine, it will be many times more powerful. The electric motor pulls well over the entire rev range, so a simple and compact single-stage transmission is enough for it.

The motor-transmission unit of an electric vehicle is so small that it can be “planted” directly on the drive axle, “embedded in the floor”. It does not need to allocate space under the hood, which is why, with the same total length of the car, an electric car will always come out more spacious than usual. Yes, an electric car battery is much larger than a gas tank. But the battery can be made so flat that it fits into the plane of the car's bottom, practically without taking up space from the passenger compartment.


The weight of the batteries (half a ton for a long-range electric car) is also, oddly enough, not a big problem. In regenerative braking, the electric motor acts as a generator, supplying current back to the battery. This means that the extra energy costs for accelerating an additional half-ton of weight are almost completely compensated for with such braking.

Another plus of an electric car is the power of the motors. In an ICE car, a larger engine, as a rule, raises energy consumption per kilometer. An electric vehicle with a very powerful engine will return more energy with regenerative braking than a comparable vehicle with a weaker engine. That is, electric cars "by nature" tend to be more powerful than ICE-mobiles.

Despite all of these benefits, electric vehicles have sold poorly for many years. The machine is compared by the consumer with analogs, surprisingly, in two parameters: size (inside) and dynamics. The second is very strange, because drivers who have accelerated at least once in their lives at the maximum dynamics of their car will not reach even ten percent of the total mass. But in practice, this is exactly the case. The fact is that a car is not only a means of transportation, but also a "status thing" with which the owner is trying to designate his social position. That is why he often takes a loan, just to get a more powerful engine and more options.


A typical electric car eight years ago was the first generation Nissan Leaf - a small, not too strong engine and a battery charge for only 160 kilometers (hereinafter, the EPA cycle is used). From zero to 96.5 km / h, he accelerated in 9.8 seconds - like a classmate with an internal combustion engine.Since the Leaf engine power was chosen as a gasoline car, the maximum speed was limited to 150 kilometers per hour, and the regenerative braking turned out to be rather weak.

The battery of the electric car was cooled by air, its heating in winter was weak, and when it cooled down to minus 20 degrees, the car did not go anywhere. All this was done so that the Leaf came out as cheaply as possible, since electric cars were not made in large quantities, and a non-mass car cannot be produced cheaply without extreme economy measures.

Such electric cars looked like "cut down" usual - the speed, limited to 150 kilometers per hour, the range, reduced to 160 kilometers. Charging was carried out at a power not higher than a couple of tens of kilowatts (otherwise the air cooling of the battery cannot cope). That is, you cannot quickly recharge on the way. Not far away and not super fast, but environmentally friendly. Such machines were perceived by consumers accordingly: the second machine is for those who already have the first.

According to surveys of American women from 2014, electric and hybrid drivers generated their least interest as potential partners. Only 9% of US ladies saw them like this. Owners of ordinary cars were much more interesting to them (up to 32%). A similar picture emerged when men were asked about women drivers.

Oddly enough, this is a very significant factor for car sales: a car is often bought as a means of social positioning, and the positioning “I am for the environment, but I don’t give a damn about the opposite sex” is often found only among those whose love of nature has gone too far.

Naturally, electric cars were sold very slowly. Since then, the Nissan Leaf has been pulled up several times in terms of parameters, but its sales still do not reach even 7% of the electric vehicle market. True, they started selling the model earlier than others, so today the Nissan Leaf is still the leader in electric sales, although this will end in 2020.

In 2017, a player entered the mass market with the exact opposite concept: be immodest. In the segment of "mid-size cars" began its own production of Tesla. Its Model 3 matches the interior dimensions of the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-class and Audi A4 (in fact, even surpasses, although not much).

We have already described the reasons for this: electric motors are much smaller than internal combustion engines, and the transmission is ultra-compact. The battery is "smeared" with a thin layer on the bottom, therefore it does not steal volume from the passenger compartment. From this, a car with an internal combustion engine with the same external dimensions will always have less space inside: its engine and transmission are much larger, and they cannot be smeared with a thin layer a few centimeters thick, like an electric car battery.

In terms of dynamics, Model 3 also surpasses the aforementioned competitors' internal combustion engines. Model 3 for 35 thousand dollars accelerates to 96.5 kilometers per hour in 5.6 seconds. For the same amount it makes BMW 330i (the cheapest "three-ruble note" in the USA), only it costs from 40, 75 thousand dollars. Model 3 Performance accelerates to the same speed in 3.2 seconds, that is, at the level of sports cars, not sedans. It's not just about speed: in track races, cars of this line also perform better than conventional cars from the same price category.

There are no miracles here: the "poorest" Model 3 has a 287 horsepower engine, that is, much more powerful than the BTR-80 engine, which weighs more than 13 tons. Unsurprisingly, the Germans have ceded most of their segment of the US market to this electric vehicle.


Of course, there are still Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and the like - formally, in terms of the size of the cabin, they are like Model 3, but at the same time their price in the same USA starts from 22-25 thousand dollars. However, it was not without reason that we talked about dynamics: the fastest Camry accelerates to 95.4 kilometers per hour in more than seven seconds - that is, it is significantly inferior to the base Model 3 at the same price.


We repeat once again: at first glance, all this has nothing to do with the practical, objective utility of the machine.95% of drivers have never accelerated from zero to a hundred in their cars in the technically possible minimum time. In ordinary life, there is simply no need for this.

But the specificity of the automobile market is that it sells to a person not only a means of transportation, but also a means of demonstrating his financial, social and other status. In that sense, Tesla's choice to “make the electric car faster than its competitors of equal price and size” worked completely. Powerful, but still small electric motors only slightly raised the price of the car, but they brought its dynamics to the place where ICE-mobiles of the same cost cannot get.

Only in 2018, 157, 3 thousand Model 3s were released, and in the first three quarters of 2019 - 220, 3 thousand. The fourth quarter is the most successful in auto sales in the world, meaning Model 3 production is expected to double this year. This is pretty good if you remember that the car market in 2019 is experiencing what the American press calls a collapse: sales fell by four million units a year (minus 5%).

But the more modest Nissan Leaf lags far behind in sales from its more expensive competitor. In 2018, it was produced 87.5 thousand, for three quarters of 2019 - less than 59 thousand. That's 3.7 times less than the Model 3 this year. That is, an electric car with the reputation of being "modest, but green" is falling along with the global car market, while the one that is made according to the concept of "immodest, and even green," on the contrary, is growing rapidly. The indiscreet has clearly defeated the humble.

In the American market, electric cars have already entered the mass segment: the average price of a new car in the USA is 35 thousand dollars, that is, as the starting price of Model 3. But the rest of the world does not have that much money, so there the transition to new transport will begin really energetically only after the creation of electric vehicles. the same range, but at a lower price.

For the first half of the 2020s, the release of such a car is already planned, costing from 25 thousand dollars. It is this price segment that dominates in Europe. In the PRC, the population is poorer, but the local Communist Party with an iron hand restricts the purchase of internal combustion engines (they cannot be bought without participation in a special expensive lottery). Therefore, in the Chinese market, the transition to an electric motor will also go quite quickly.

Countries like Russia will be the last to complete the full transition. The average price of a new car on our market is well below $ 25,000. And, judging by the dynamics of the population's income, this is for a long time. Nevertheless, we cannot avoid the transition either. First, the cost of electric vehicles will continue to fall further, because batteries are steadily getting cheaper, and the start of mass production greatly reduces costs. Secondly, in Russia, cars developed abroad are mainly assembled (for example, the B0 platform in the case of VAZ), since the owners of our car industry are mostly foreigners.

Large Western manufacturers are cutting investments in new ICE platforms, planning to soon abandon them altogether. Without development centers in the West, the domestic automotive industry will find itself in the situation of the USSR, stamping out licensed fiat money. And the western owners of Russian auto enterprises, as the owner, will begin to produce electric cars in our country.

Knut: ecology fictional and real

We have already noted that fears about global warming are greatly exaggerated, and in some places they turn reality on its head. In reality, this phenomenon can hardly be called dangerous: the biomass on the planet and the number of trees on it are growing rapidly due to warming. As well as a part of the land suitable for human habitation.


However, the vast majority of humanity is not aware of these scientific facts. Due to the not entirely correct presentation of the problem, many media consider global warming a catastrophe that will lead to the death of civilization and mass extinction.

In the history of mankind, objective facts consistently turn out to be less significant than subjective ideas.This means that the real, but little-known positive consequences of global warming are not so important for public opinion as the imagined, but widely replicated negative ones. Therefore, the Western world is stubbornly fighting against anthropogenic CO2 emissions and will do so even more persistently in the near future.

From this point of view, the transition to electric vehicles is absolutely inevitable. As we will show in more detail below, the newly introduced solar and wind power plants more than cover the consumption of electric transport. And the current internal combustion engines-mobiles consume 50% of the oil produced in the world, that is, they emit billions of tons of CO2 annually. It is impossible to drastically reduce anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions without getting rid of the dominance of internal combustion engines.

It is hardly possible to turn the world off the path of a fanatical fight against global warming. Even the head of the United States, the most powerful nation on the planet, cannot achieve this. After his second term, there won't be a single politician brave enough not to fight the warming. That is, the authorities of the Western world will do everything to push through the victory of electric vehicles - both with new subsidies, as in Germany, and a ban on the use of internal combustion engines in cities, which is already being prepared in a number of world capitals.

Fortunately, electric vehicles not only have fictional environmental benefits (less CO2 emissions) discussed by everyone, but also little-discussed real ones.

The main harm to health is the exhaust of conventional cars in the form of solid microparticles - less than 10 micrometers in diameter - invisible to our eyes. They enter the lungs and from there into the bloodstream. Blood clots form around them, stressing the cardiovascular system. The more microparticles in the bloodstream, the higher (all other things being equal) the risk of death from heart attack or stroke.

In total, hundreds of thousands of people a year die in the world from the exhaust of cars with internal combustion engines. How many of them die in Russia is difficult to say, because this issue has not yet fallen into the area of ​​interests of Russian scientists. If the situation is similar in the world as a whole or with the United States, for which such figures are collected, then in Russia the exhaust takes no less than tens of thousands of lives a year.


The transition to electric vehicles will inevitably reduce this mortality, even where electricity is generated by thermal power plants that also emit such microparticles. The fact is that car exhaust gets into the lungs of city dwellers along the shortest path, on the streets, killing most effectively. The chimney of the TPP is located high and distributes microparticles over a large area: the exhaust from power plants is not so lethal.

A simple example: if all passenger cars in the United States were electric vehicles, they would only spend 0.8 trillion kilowatt-hours a year. At the same time, car exhaust kills 53 thousand people annually in the United States. Power plants in this country generate more than 3.5 trillion kilowatt-hours a year, about four to five times what a fully electrified vehicle would consume. But at the same time, thermal power plants in the United States kill 52 thousand microparticles a year.

In other words, a kilowatt-hour obtained at a thermal power plant is several times less lethal than the same amount of energy obtained by burning fuel in an internal combustion engine. Any large country can reduce the death toll from car emissions by 80%, even if it powers the electric car exclusively from thermal power plants. In real life, the gain will be more than 80%: after all, a quarter of the world's electricity comes from safer types of power plants.

Another clear plus of electric vehicles is the reduction of noise pollution, especially in cities. At speeds much higher than 60 kilometers per hour, the main source of noise from the car is the tires, but up to 60 kilometers per hour it is the engine that makes the noise, and it produces two to three times more decibels. Full electromobility will mean quieter streets for metropolitan areas.

Come on, the skeptics will tell us.Let's say electric cars are more spacious and faster than conventional cars, but what to do with a bunch of insurmountable obstacles on the way to their implementation? Let's try to consider them - and show why, in fact, these are not obstacles at all.

Myth # 1: limited range is holding back the EV offensive

Many, including the president of GM, argue that electric vehicles have low mileage on a single charge. According to GM polls, most buyers today want 480 kilometers of range. As the president of this corporation concludes: "Until this problem is solved, electric vehicles will not succeed."

Frankly, the problem has been resolved long ago. Model 3 modifications with a range of up to 515 kilometers and more have been produced since 2017, 0.44 million have already been made. But more importantly, it's not a fact that the GM survey actually affects sales. Popular modifications of the same Model 3 have a range of only 400 kilometers. As you can see, either the GM study missed something, or the president of the corporation is trying to ascribe problems to electric vehicles that do not exist.

The reason why the range of 400 kilometers is enough for most is in the low average mileage of an ordinary car enthusiast. In the United States, this is 60 kilometers per day (since almost everyone lives outside the city), in other large countries it is even less. It is enough to charge the battery once a week in order not to run out of charge.


Long-distance trips can reach up to thousands of kilometers per day, but even here a range of 400 kilometers is quite acceptable. In 12-16 minutes at the "gas station", the most massive electric car on the market today gets enough charge to drive another 224 kilometers. That is, even on a journey of a thousand kilometers, you will have to spend less than an hour at gas stations - the same amount as the driver of an ordinary car spends today on stops, deciding on such a journey.

Myth number 2: battery life is several years, like in a smartphone

Many people compare modern electric vehicles in terms of battery survivability with smartphones and tablets - after five years, as you know, the batteries in them "die".

This seems logical until we remember that the most popular electric vehicles have a liquid cooling system for lithium batteries, which prevents them from overheating or overcooling. The chemistry of the cathode is also slightly different: in a car it is optimized for a longer service life, in consumer electronics it is often optimized for a minimum thickness.

Therefore, on the stands, the batteries of the same "Tesla" show the preservation of 80% of the capacity even after 800 thousand kilometers (at the stand, tests are going on continuously). Practical results from users confirm this data: the loss of capacity drops dramatically over time, and now there are batteries that have departed half a million kilometers with a moderate loss of capacity.

Interestingly, in 2020, Tesla expects to launch production of slightly modified batteries in chemistry. Estimated, they will have about twice the resource than the current one. It looks meaningless to the average user: few people travel even 800 thousand kilometers in their lifetime - the resource of already existing batteries.


But batteries with a range of 1.6 million kilometers are significant for taxi drivers (and electric cars are often chosen for taxis), as well as maintaining the car's resale value. This is helped by the fact that the outer panels of the most popular electric vehicles are made of an aluminum alloy that is resistant to corrosion. The market has already begun to take this point into account: used Model S and Model 3 lose in price (upon resale) less than their peers with internal combustion engines.

Myth # 3: cold versus electric car

As you know, at minus 20 and colder, the mileage of an electric car on a single charge drops by 30%. If there is no heated garage, then he has to "refuel" every two days, much more often than usual. In Russia, this is often assessed as a serious problem in the electrification of transport.

However, one glance at the climatic map of the Earth is enough to understand: this is not so.The zero isotherm of January is the border to the south of which the average temperature of the coldest month of the year remains above zero: it runs along the western border of the former USSR. In North America, it passes through the least populated minority of the states of the United States and Canada.

That is, only 5% of the world's population lives where it is possible to talk about severe cold. Cold regions of the planet simply cannot be densely populated: people rarely want to live there. On a global scale, the climate cannot influence electromobility in any way.

In Russia, the situation is undeniably slightly different. Therefore, we are so fond of the question "How will you electrify cars in Yakutia?" (although specifically in the cities of Yakutia, electric cars drive better than internal combustion engines at minus 47).

But this, in fact, is not particularly important. Only 2% of the population lives in the permafrost zone, and the remaining 98% live where it does not exist. The "frozen" regions are, in principle, sparsely populated, and this situation will not change in any future. Therefore, Yakutia and similar places do not affect the situation typical for 98% of the population of Russia.

And in Moscow, and in Perm, and in other warm, by Russian standards, places there are severe frosts. Can they interfere with electric vehicles? Doubtful, to be honest. First, the reliable operation of electric vehicles at low temperatures is a fact that has long been proven experimentally. Mars rovers cool down to minus 100 at night and, despite this, they can safely drive for many years without the slightest maintenance. Meanwhile, technically, these are electric vehicles, moreover, using lithium batteries.

Secondly, reducing the range by 30% is not such a problem in itself. At minus 20 and below, the user of an electric car will simply have to charge every two days, as Siberian owners of such cars do today. The owner of an electric car, who decides to travel a thousand kilometers in winter, will stay at gas stations not for 45-50 minutes, but for 70-75 minutes. Definitely not as comfortable as in a frost-free period. But it is also certain that this is not a particularly big difference.

Myth number 4: there will not be enough lithium and cobalt for batteries, and used batteries threaten the environment

The press speculation about the shortage of lithium for electric vehicles rarely comes to concrete figures. Meanwhile, they are very sobering: the battery of the same Model 3, on average, only needs 10 kilograms of this metal. For a million electric vehicles per year, 10 thousand tons are enough, and for 100 million (complete replacement of conventional cars) - a million tons per year.


Today, lithium is already produced 70 thousand tons per year, and even a slight increase in price will significantly expand the volume of its commercially viable reserves (it will become profitable to extract it from water of high salinity). But even at the existing sources, metal production is constantly growing. With cobalt, the raw material situation is even simpler: more of it is mined, and the cobalt content in batteries for electric vehicles is rapidly decreasing.

You can often hear concerns: used lithium batteries are not disposed of today, and tomorrow they will cover the entire planet. To understand whether this will come true or not, you need numbers. How many components are hazardous to health in an electric car battery? The most massive electric vehicle on the market has 10.5 kilograms of lithium and about 1.5 times more cobalt. The rest of the battery components - such as carbon - are difficult to classify as toxic.

But lithium and cobalt are only moderately dangerous. To get a 50% risk of dying from taking them, you need to cram several tens of grams of any of these metals into yourself. Approximately the same dose of table salt is sent to the next world with the same probability. However, no one is worried about the pollution of the planet with table salt - although there is a lot of it in the environment.

Each liter of seawater contains tens of grams of NaCl - no panic, nevertheless. Civilization annually extracts 300 million tons of salt, the main part of it is used in industry, from where brackish runoffs freely enter water bodies.Wastewater: 24 million tons of salt is thrown onto roads every year, from where it ends up in ditches (although, without killing anyone there, due to its low toxicity).

Cobalt and lithium are equally dangerous. And their use in electric vehicles will never even reach tens of millions of tons per year. That is, the danger of environmental pollution from lithium batteries will always be much lower than from ordinary salt.

Why does the scattering of tens of millions of tons of sodium chloride in the environment do not bother anyone, but a much smaller amount of cobalt and lithium that are close in toxicity causes so many concerns? Most likely, the reason is that people are afraid of the unusual, or rather, of what they think so.

In real life, lithium hydroxide is found in car batteries, but we've never heard of it. Moreover, any of us often came across lithium compounds in glass and ceramic dishes - it is there, and not in the batteries of electric vehicles, its main part. Together with broken glass and ceramics, lithium has been continuously released into the environment for a very long time, without the slightest attempt at recycling it.

But until we know about something, we cannot be afraid of it. Electric cars attract more public attention, because at least the public knows about them. Hence the fears.

The development of society has its own laws that must be taken into account. One of them: not those problems that are more important are being solved, but those that society considers important. Due to the hype of the problem of recycling lithium batteries, the world's largest consumer, Tesla, is already recycling its lithium batteries. Today the company has very few of them: most of the 0.93 million cars it has produced have not yet reached the end of their battery life.

Therefore, processing is carried out on an extremely small scale (recycling of defects replaced under warranty) and is not so cheap (per volume unit). Other EV makers have produced even fewer EVs than Tesla. For example, Nissan is half the size, the rest are even more behind. They do not have their own processing yet. But there is no reason to believe that it will not appear as new cars are produced more massively.

Myth # 5: there isn't enough electricity

If all one billion cars on the planet suddenly became electric vehicles, the total power of their motors would be 200 billion kilowatts (200 terawatts). All existing power plants have a capacity of only 10 terawatts. From this, many conclude: for a complete transition to an electric car, no energy capacity will be enough. In addition, doubters say that the world's electricity is generated mainly from coal and gas. What is the point of switching from internal combustion engines to "coal cars"?


Several nuances at once make these calculations not entirely sound. Let's turn to specific figures. The most massive electric car on the market spends 15.5 kilowatt-hours per 100 kilometers (air-conditioned). Its EPA rating is confirmed by both independent tests and user experience.

On average, a car drives no more than 20 thousand kilometers per year - that is, it spends 3100 kilowatt-hours. With losses on low-voltage charging and parasitic consumption (for climate control of the passenger compartment and batteries) - less than 3500 kilowatt-hours. That is, we will not in any way force a billion electric vehicles to consume more than 3.5 trillion kilowatt-hours from the network per year.

The global energy sector produces more than 21 trillion kilowatt-hours a year today. That is, full electric mobility would require an increase in electricity consumption by only 17%. And this does not mean at all that new thermal power plants will have to be built in order to "feed" electric vehicles.

Now, most power plants have to be switched off periodically: at night, few people consume energy, and during the day, between the morning and evening peak hours, some of the stations are stopped. But it is at night and upon arrival at work that 80% of electric car owners charge them from a garage or parking socket.

The average operating time of a thermal power plant, for example, in Russia, is 4070 hours per year, or 46.5% of the total time. For the main part of its life, a typical thermal power plant is simply idle. Electromobilization would make it possible to raise the average operating time of a TPP to 60% of the total duration of the year, and this would easily cover the need for additional electricity.

Along the way, the profitability of power plants would also grow: the more kilowatt-hours are generated per year, the faster the loan pays off, namely, almost all thermal power plants on the planet are being built on the loan money.

However, it is possible that nothing like this will happen. Today, 50 gigawatts of wind turbines and 100 gigawatts of solar panels are commissioned in the world annually. The total annual generation of the new input alone, thus, exceeds 200 billion kilowatt-hours. That's enough to fuel six million electric vehicles.

As we have already noted, last year only 1.4 million electric vehicles were produced in the world. That is, the introduction of new wind turbines and solar panels many times overlaps the growth in electricity consumption due to battery-powered cars.

It is worth remembering that the commissioning of SPP and WPP continues to increase, and the prices for their energy continue to fall. In the 2020s, they will be commissioned much faster than now.

Tar bucket

So, we have established that the transition to electric vehicles will reduce deaths on the planet by hundreds of thousands of people annually. This is undoubtedly good, but one must understand that the victory of an electric car will have other, unpleasant consequences.


In the world, millions of people work in dealerships (there are a million of them in the USA alone), and these centers have a lot of real estate (in the States they keep two million cars on their premises). Meanwhile, the most popular electric vehicles are sold without the participation of dealers. They have a technical inspection every 20 thousand kilometers, the resource of the electric motor and transmission is higher than that of an internal combustion engine. That is, millions of people from dealerships are at risk of losing their jobs in the next two decades.

As we noted above, the resource of electric vehicles is already about 800 thousand kilometers (before a noticeable loss of battery capacity), that is, 40 years of mileage of an average driver. Aluminum and stainless steel corrode weakly. This means that the average service life of used machines will increase significantly. As a result, the number of jobs in the auto industry - including those who make parts - will shrink significantly over time. After all, ordinary cars are made of rusting steel, and even a rare internal combustion engine reaches a million kilometers: that is, a used car is more difficult to maintain on the move.

Electric vehicles will hit employment further in the oil sector. Half of the oil produced in the world goes to road transport, but power plants avoid it - it is too expensive. The crowding out of ICE vehicles means a sharp contraction of future oil demand. However, this process is unlikely to show itself earlier than ten years from now, so we have time to prepare for a new reality.

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