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RVelectricity: An open letter to the Electric Vehicle industry

Dear EV manufacturers,
Last week I spent two days at the Detroit Auto Show with a focus on studying electric vehicles. I rode the Lightning (in an F-150 Lightning pickup truck) and saws dozens of EVs from the major manufacturers.

Marjorie Taylor Greene is wrong!

Recently Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (aka MTG), R-GA, posted on social media that Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, is trying to emasculate us all by taking away our gas- and diesel-powered vehicles and making us drive battery-powered cars and trucks. However, rather than removing the testosterone of everyone who drives an EV, many of these high-profile electric vehicles have (and are being sold with) a lot of machismo.

A lot of the latest EVs perform like drag racers in street car disguise, out-accelerating any of the muscle cars I drove in the ’70s. My short 5-second ride in the Ford Lightning truck was breathtaking, and I am a child of the ’70s who used to drive (and occasionally street raced) a big-block Dodge Challenger and Pontiac GTO.

It’s the sizzle that sells the steak

Nearly every exhibit area at the Auto Show showed a beautifully detailed electric vehicle of some sort, most of which boasted about the acceleration of these electric-powered vehicles. For example, the humble Blazer SUV with the sports package boasted an acceleration time from 0 to 60 mph of 3.2 seconds, and the F-150 Lightning pickup truck 3.8 seconds.

But none of the presenters at the Detroit car show had a clue as to how much it costs to charge any of their EVs or details about their range, especially when towing a trailer.

Current EV trailer towing tests are flawed!

And there it is. Most of the electric vehicle towing tests I’ve seen have focused on the weight of the trailer, not the wind resistance. While trailer weight certainly does influence handling and road safety, it really has little effect on the range loss. It’s not the weight, it’s the wind! And these are noted car gurus who should know better. Here’s my simple towing test from last July using my loaner ID.4 EV to tow a Safari Condo trailer at various interstate speeds.

I would like to see tests like this run with several EV trucks (Lightning, Rivian, Silverado) and at least two styles of RV trailers. I already have a standard-aerodynamic GeoPro toyhauler—which is perfect for this since I can do the same road test both unloaded and loaded. But I think the ideal form factor for an EV towable trailer would be an Airstream trailer which is shaped like an airplane, which is why that would be my second test trailer.


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I can’t drive 55…. (Thanks, Sammy Hagar)

I would also like to see identical road tests performed at 55, 60, 65 and 70 mph. As you can see from my ID.4 towing test last summer, road speed is a huge determining factor in the mileage loss while towing.

I’m within a 20-minute drive of one of the longest continuous Interstate highway grades in the USA, going up to Sideling Hill (6% grade for 13 miles). So this would be a great test of towing torque on grades as well as regenerative braking.

What does it cost to recharge one of these EV trucks?

My estimate for the F-150 Lightning is around $15 for 0% to 100% charge. It should take around 10 hours when plugged into a 50-amp outlet overnight. There are faster and slower charging options that are more or less expensive, but that’s a topic for a future article.

BTW: I’ve just seen an article stating that it took four days to recharge a Lightning at a campground. That’s a pile of bologna. But I need a loaner EV truck to test my estimates.

What about campground EV charging?

I have a Zoom meeting in the next few days where I’ll be discussing this very topic with a medium-size campground owner who’s installing EV charging pedestals as we speak. So I’ll know a lot more in the next few days.

Don’t get me started on the idea that there’s 500 years of oil in the ground we can use, so we should continue to use our gas and diesel engines for the next 500 years.

Death ValleyIt’s obvious that the climate is changing for the worse and we need to intervene somehow. And while I do agree that there’s currently not enough power or distribution capacity in the electrical grid to charge all the EVs if they all happened overnight, this will be a phase-in project that will take at least 10 years to accomplish.

The power grid in the U.S. is currently well over 100 years old and seriously in need of an upgrade which, as mentioned, will take at least 10 years to accomplish. And that also includes ways to gain energy independence from foreign entities who would like to weaken us.


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Where will the power come from?

That’s another topic which I am studying as fast as I can. As you all know, I like to design my own experiments, do my own observations and run my own numbers. So if I publish something, you can be sure that I’m sure of my conclusions.

Right now, I simply don’t know enough to jump on any particular technology for the near future. But I do believe I’m capable of figuring it out. I’ve been invited out to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to see the big Fusion experiments. That will be really cool when it works. But it won’t be ready for the power upgrades that are needed right NOW. However, there are lots of other immediate power possibilities. More to study….

What do I need from the EV manufacturers?

I need loaner electric vehicles, access to your engineering brain trust, and a budget so I can take a year off of my regular work for this study. In that time I could run dozens of tests, read hundreds of papers, and do a thousand calculations. And it will all be published for the good of the public as well as the EV and RV manufacturers. Please contact me to discuss….

Please don’t argue with me unless you bring your slide rule…

I simply won’t get down in the dirt with any politically charged arguments. So if you want to compare notes and discuss this logically, then bring your math and physics chops to the party.

Let’s see if we can help human civilization get over this energy crisis just like when we began converting from horses to internal combustion engines nearly 150 years ago. I have the utmost faith in American ingenuity and entrepreneurs, so let’s compare notes and make it happen.

Let’s play safe out there….

Send your questions to me at my RVelectricity forum here.

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.

For information on how to support RVelectricity and No~Shock~Zone articles, seminars and videos, please click the I Like Mike Campaign.

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Eric
3 months ago

I like your attitude Mike! And MTG is just plain wrong (about everything).

Last edited 3 months ago by Eric
Steve H
3 months ago

We just need more new nuclear power plants in our power grid!

Just kidding, as I spent half my professional engineering career cleaning up the waste from uranium mining and milling, “Radium Era” (1910-1923) and WWII radioactive research projects, and nuclear bomb manufacture. And that’s in addition to work I did on a high-level nuclear waste repository project that still hasn’t been approved and constructed 35 years later!

IMHO, no new nuclear plants should be built until that repository is completed. But that won’t stop the politicians from a few uranium-producing states from advocating for new plants.

Jesse Crouse
3 months ago

Physics and electrical engineering. Go Mike!

Mike Sokol
3 months ago

Everyone: Here’s an article on how Tesla is beginning to utilize Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries in some of their vehicles, which don’t use cobalt or nickel in their production. That’s the same technology we use in our RV batteries. https://electrek.co/2022/04/22/tesla-using-cobalt-free-lfp-batteries-in-half-new-cars-produced/

Last edited 3 months ago by Mike Sokol
Steve Comstock
3 months ago

Mike, I appreciate you taking on the role of ombudsman, as it were, in the development of the EV industry. I also like your optimism for its future. Having a son-in-law who works for Rivian (has an R1T) and a daughter who just acquired her R1S, I have had the opportunity to experience the EV testosterone features of which you speak. It is obvious to me that we’re really in the infancy of this transition, and much has to be answered and improved before we can all be comfortable with change. But, the continuing need for the fossil fuel industry will not abate. As has been so eloquently stated by this great discussion, you don’t get a lithium battery without mining it. The Rivian batteries are NMC, so much more than lithium needs to be mined. As one who keeps his cars for long periods and cherishes vehicles that are built to last, my biggest anxiety is the extreme costs of EV battery replacement and material disposal. These issues aren’t being given enough attention IMHO.

Mike Sokol
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Comstock

Great post. I am reminded that I need to do a deep look at EV battery recycling. I know that Tesla has a robust battery trade-in and recycling program, but I don’t know about companies like Ford, GMC, VW and Rivian. But I agree that’s an extremely important part of a sustainable future for EV adoption. Without a working lithium recycling and reclamation program in place we’ll soon be waist deep in dead EV batteries.

MattD
3 months ago

This is from the Institute for Energy Research…”For every one pound of batteries produced, 50 to 100 pounds of lithium, copper, nickel, graphite, rare earths, and cobalt are mined and processed. Thus, a future of batteries for electric vehicles and back-up energy for the grid would require mining gigatons more materials. A single electric-car battery weighs about 1,000 pounds and manufacturing it requires mining and processing over 500,000 pounds of raw materials. About $200,000 worth of Tesla batteries, weighing over 20,000 pounds are needed to store the energy equivalent of one barrel of oil. A barrel of oil weighs 300 pounds and can be stored in a $20 tank. Even an unlikely 200 percent improvement in lithium battery economics and technology would not close the gap.”
In my opinion, until we find a way to store electricity more efficiently, WITHOUT destroying the environment doing it, electric vehicles are no more than a novelty.

MattD
3 months ago
Reply to  MattD

And not to rub salt in that wound…EV cars in Florida flooded by hurricane Ian have been spontaneously combusting because of battery corrosion, causing problems for firefighters!

Mike Sokol
3 months ago
Reply to  MattD

Please provide a link to any news stories showing this.

Tommy Molnar
3 months ago
Reply to  MattD

Thanks for providing that link. I’ve read several articles about EVs catching fire from water shorting them out.

Mike Sokol
3 months ago
Reply to  MattD

Did you see my article on the Salton Sea Lithium extraction pilot plant? Please read this and comment on Lithium mining. I have an invite to tour this pilot plant if I can get a budget for the trip. https://www.rvtravel.com/rv-electricity-salton-sea-lithium/

MattD
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

This is encouraging indeed! I used to visit there as a kid in the 60’s and it was THE place to go if you lived in SoCal. Glad they found a use for it now…but there’s still the issue of Cobalt strip mining in the Congo. And mangenese and nickel mining processes, of course those three elements needed for the negative cathode in the battery construction. I am not against EV’s Mike, I’m against laws that force us to replace the ICE for stored energy in batteries that is, for the most part, generated by fossil fuels in the first place. Just does not make sense to me. Bottom line, we need to invent energy storage that is cheaper, and has more capacity than lithium-ion batteries for common vehicles. I’d guess 80% of the population can’t afford these EV’s at this point in time anyway.

Mike Sokol
3 months ago
Reply to  MattD

I’ve recently read a technical paper on a new Lithium battery chemistry that could use much less Cobalt than current designs.
Cost per kWh of battery storage is predicted to drop by 70% in the next 10 years.
And there’s a number of EV SUVs for 2023 that are priced in the mid $30k range. If we can solve the energy production and distribution challenges the EVs could work. But right now getting enough electricity to charge all the predicted EVs is a huge problem. More to study…

Last edited 3 months ago by Mike Sokol
MattD
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

That is outstanding news Mike…this type innovation is what we need

Last edited 3 months ago by MattD
Lanny V
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

Hi Mike, Did you see this story from a couple days ago? U.S. steps away from flagship lithium project with Berkshire (msn.com)

Mike Sokol
3 months ago
Reply to  Lanny V

I’ve not seen this exact story, but I had a text conversation with a local representative of the Salton Sea property owners association who hinted there was talk of an oppressive California tax that could be imposed by the governor. That could tank the project. Ugh…

Mike Sokol
3 months ago
Reply to  MattD

Please provide a link to the article you’re referencing…

Admin
RV Staff
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

I think this is the article MattD was referencing regarding the statement from the Institute for Energy Research: https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/renewable/the-physical-impossibility-of-renewable-energy-meeting-the-paris-accord-goals/ Here’s what Wikipedia says about the Institute For Energy Research: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_for_Energy_Research Here’s a sentence from that description: “IER has been described as a front group for the fossil fuel industry, since it has accepted financial donations from firms in that sector.” 🙂 –Diane

Last edited 3 months ago by RV Staff
MattD
3 months ago
Reply to  RV Staff

well… if it isn’t a front group for the fossil fuel industry, it’s a front group for the renewable energy industry. It’s all about perspective 🙂

Admin
RV Staff
3 months ago
Reply to  MattD

Yep. Lots to consider. Have a good night, Matt. 😀 –Diane

Jeff Craig
3 months ago
Reply to  MattD

And all that oil and gasoline that was spilled into the environment in all those flooded vehicles created an even larger hazard. There will be shady ‘operators’ that will take totaled/flood vehicles and sell them to desperate people, and they will have issues and failures almost immediately.

Now is a GREAT time to push out more electric vehicles, not less. In fact, current LI batteries should actually be smaller, making them safer in an accident, but people keep talking about ‘range anxiety’, even though there are tons of public chargers.

Rob H.
3 months ago

It isn’t about how far the battery will take you. It’s about where the batteries are made… 56% in China, 26% in Korea, 10% in Japan, and 8% everywhere else. Recycling of lithium is next to impossible, most of the parts get thrown away as it is too expensive to do anything with them.
And the carbon footprint? A joke. Sure… countries that USE the batteries had lower carbon footprints, but those that MAKE these products increase it exponentially.
Until these issues are resolved, it is ludicrous to say we are somehow saving the environment. All we are doing is transferring damage from one area to another.
The costs are far too great at this time and don’t make any sense unless you are going to keep your vehicle for 20 years or more.
And this is from me… social liberal and economic conservative.

Mike Sokol
3 months ago
Reply to  Rob H.

I never said “saving the environment”, I said “intervene with climate change”. That’s not the same thing at all. It should be obvious that climate change is occurring. How much is man made and how much is due to natural cycles can be debated. But the weather is certainly getting more energetic every year.

Gene Bjerke
3 months ago

What no one seems to consider is the comparison that internal combustion vehicles have hundreds (thousands?) of moving parts and an electric motor has one. That has an effect on maintenance and frequency of repairs.

Mike Sokol
3 months ago
Reply to  Gene Bjerke

Plus no oil changes, fewer brake jobs (due to regenerative braking) and no emission inspections like we have in Maryland.

Bob p
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

Your local government will institute something else to make the loss of revenue from emission inspections.

Mike Sokol
3 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

I am afraid you might be correct. I just hope the government won’t screw the pooch…

Rebecca
3 months ago

We just installed a solar array & will soon begin shopping for an EV…but NOT to tow our RV. We figure on a year of research, comparison shopping, talking to people & waiting for whatever car we eventually choose before we can actually own/drive it. It’s a big investment. I appreciated your article and hope you can continue your research.

JAMES
3 months ago

Might as well go back to using a horse and buggy. California can’t even keep the electric on in all their cities.

Mike Sokol
3 months ago
Reply to  JAMES

I don’t agree with that statement. California and Texas certainly have their electrical grid problems, but if enough citizens demand electrical power improvements, they will happen. And I have a lot of faith in our scientists and engineers to solve the challenges of EV charging, but sadly much less faith in politicians to do the right thing.

Bob p
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

You hit the nail on the head about politicians doing the right thing, politicians are mostly lawyers and we know how little common sense they have. Just read a contract.

Mike Sokol
3 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

I’m a live sound engineer who has interacted with dozens of politicians in Wash DC over the last 35 years, up to the level of presidents since Bush. I’m not terribly impressed with their ability to understand a technology issue.

John Macatee
3 months ago

What does it “take” to make the batteries for an EV? (How many tons of earth are removed to to manufacture 1 EV vehicle?)
What rare earth metals are required to make these batteries and what country is the primary source?
Aren’t EV’s charged by fossil fuel power plants?
What highway maintenance taxes do EV’s pay (none)?
Elon Musk stated ” we need fossil fuel well into the foreseeable future”, is he wrong?
“More than 6,000 products from oil, including dishwashing liquid, solar panels, food preservatives, eyeglasses, DVDs, children’s toys, tires and heart valves. Just some of the common petroleum products that are an important part of our modern lifestyle”I’ll never be purchasing an EV, I cannot afford one, (my GMC Yukon XL is paid for) it’s carbon foot print is just as large as a fossil fuel vehicle or greater, it’s communist china dependent, subsidised heavily by the government & charging stations at taxpayers expense?

Mike Sokol
3 months ago
Reply to  John Macatee

I’m studying all this right now. While past and current mining and production costs are wasteful and environmentally destructive, I see new processes coming online soon that should help.

Last edited 3 months ago by Mike Sokol
John Macatee
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol
Rebecca
3 months ago
Reply to  John Macatee

Is it all or nothing? Can’t we reduce the burning of oil while still using petroleum in other ways?

Jeff Craig
3 months ago
Reply to  John Macatee

Ah, yes, few sources are as reliable and impartial as The Epoch/Trump Times….

Les
3 months ago
Reply to  John Macatee

Consider, technology starts with the easiest and cheapest way to obtain and use resources, which is generally the most impacting to the environment. It would be easy to investigate the environmental impacts of petroleum acquisition past, present, and future. Not all states depend on oil for creating electricity. Horse and buggy to automobile…who wants to go backwards? The whole planet has become industrialized and want to drive cars…think India and China. Simple supply and demand…how much are you willing to pay for a gallon of petrol before you won’t? I have 19 solar panels on my roof producing all the power I need, and then some. Zoom zoom!

Richard Kanatzar
3 months ago

Thanks Mike! That is a very thoughtful comment. I believe that you are correct. I watched ‘ long way up ‘with ewen McGregor where they had electric trucks and motorcycles. The infrastructure was installed just prior to the ride . It’s a great series and really should show us that it can be done here.

Jeff A
3 months ago

Just saw a invoice estimate for battery replacement on a Chevy volt .
$30,000 so there’s that . Trucks generally last quite a bit longer so I can’t see how can work out. The estimate came off the net so maybe not accurate but still somewhat believable considering the current rate of inflation

Mike Sokol
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff A

Every EV I saw at the Detroit show had a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty on the battery. The technology is getting better…

Bob p
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

Yes the technology is getting better, but…I don’t see any action to improve the infrastructure. Without the infrastructure the technology is going to lay there and rot. When ICE vehicles came out people started developing infrastructure to support them. Yes it took several years before you could drive coast to coast, that’s the point politicians are boasting the benefits of EVs, but nobody is jumping on the bandwagon to upgrade the infrastructure. That’s why I say when the power companies start spending millions of $$ up grading the infrastructure I’ll start taking the EV industry seriously. At 79 years young I don’t think I’ll ever own an EV. I have bought a hybrid and love it. On a trip to Orlando, FL from our home in Leesburg, a distance of 42 miles I was averaging 60.2 mpg. I think that’s the answer to today’s vehicles until the infrastructure is updated.

Mike Sokol
3 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

As I noted, powering and upgrading the electrical grid is lagging way behind EV proliferation and performance.

Seann Fox
3 months ago

Mike I have been watching numerous YouTube channels on EV vehicles especially trucks. I watched one where they picked up a new lightning in Michigan and drove it all the way to Alaska. Unfortunately that was without a trailer behind it. I’ve watched some videos towing a trailer specifically a Ford lightning with the regular battery pack towing a flat deck unloaded aluminum trailer the range dropped to 100 miles. Every charging station they pulled into was out of service.

Mike Sokol
3 months ago
Reply to  Seann Fox

That’s why I said it will probably take 10 years for the charging infrastructure to be upgraded. It’s the wild west right now…

Last edited 3 months ago by Mike Sokol
Dave
3 months ago

Cheers to you, Mike! Hope you get some loaners. Electric cars are amazing from a machismo perspective with the speed/torque. Plus the enhanced tech is just incredible vs. my 2015 car. Can’t wait to have one someday. But the real key I’m waiting for is battery range. Research and investment will take 10 years to ease the transition.

Mike Sokol
3 months ago
Reply to  Dave

My casual studies of battery technology predict that in 10 years there will be a 300% increase in energy density with an inverse decrease in cost to 30% of current prices. So a 1,000-mile range is possible.

Bob p
3 months ago
Reply to  Dave

I out grew 0-60 times 40 years ago, now I want longevity and cheap operation. As a retired industrial mechanic I know electric motors can run for years with no problems. However they run continuously 16-24 hours a day 6-7 days a week. I’m wondering how long these motors will last going from 0-60 7 days a week just because they can. Starting an electric motor is one of the most stressful part of the operation, when you continuously start and stop them that’s bound to shorten the life expectancy. Correct me if I’m wrong Mike.

Mike Sokol
3 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

You are correct, which is why I’m chastising the EV industry for promoting only the acceleration and not discussing the cost to charge it, as well as the lifespan of the vehicle battery and drive train. Lots to study and discuss.

Last edited 3 months ago by Mike Sokol
Richard Hughes
3 months ago

Great article. Thanks!

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