The European Union has entered into an unworkable, pointless, risky and very expensive agreement with itself. From 2035, new passenger cars may no longer have diesel or petrol engines.
I heard a conversation with experts about this on Radio 1. It was about the number of charging points. I waited for the crucial question of how we’re going to generate all that extra power for hundreds of millions of electric cars, but that question never came. It continued to be about charging stations, with a charging station operator and a professor.
700 billion kilowatt-hours of additional green electricity production
The necessary additional power must of course be green. Otherwise – as now – electric driving hardly saves CO2 and it causes a lot of environmental damage because of the batteries. After a lot of research and calculations, I arrive at 500 billion kilowatt-hours of net extra power consumption per year. This requires a gross of 700 billion kilowatt-hours of additional green electricity production per year in the EU, taking into account the losses of necessary electricity storage.
Of these 700 billion kilowatt hours, 300 billion kilowatt hours can be used directly. The remaining 400 billion kilowatt hours must be stored to prevent momentary power surpluses on the grid and to bridge dark windless days and weeks.
Such large-scale electricity storage cannot be done with batteries, but will primarily have to be done with hydrogen. About half of these 400 billion kilowatt hours are lost. This leaves 200 billion kilowatt hours when there is no sun or wind. Together with 300 billion kilowatt hours for direct consumption, this corresponds to a net 500 billion kilowatt hours per year for hundreds of millions of electric cars in the EU.
700 billion kilowatt hours gross electricity production is six times as much as the total current Dutch electricity consumption. This requires 45,000 extra wind turbines and 600 million extra solar panels, assuming a reasonably balanced distribution between offshore wind, onshore wind and solar. To this end, we must in the next 15 years weekly Manufacture and install 13 offshore wind turbines, 43 onshore wind turbines and 800,000 solar panels.
Then we have not yet done anything for the electrification of residential heating and industry. We therefore do not yet have a much larger grid capacity, and no hydrogen factories to store tens of billions of kilowatt hours. I don’t hear anyone in politics or the media asking about the concrete implementation plan for the next 15 years, let alone the absolute impossibility.
We literally see no further than our nose. We are only talking about the very last link in a complex chain of electricity production, storage and distribution, the number of charging stations in neighborhoods and along roads.
In addition to wind and solar, there will still be a need for fossil energy after 2040. The variable and scarce wind and solar energy will of course be used as much as possible, not only by hundreds of millions of electric cars, but also by millions of heat pumps and electrified business processes. There will continue to be a need for fossil energy to balance the daily fluctuations in wind and solar energy production and supplement the total annual energy production as needed.
Each scarce green kilowatt-hour can only be used once, so as more green power goes to driving, less is left for heat pumps and industry. This offsets the total CO2emissions do not matter to which consumer a kilowatt-hour of green power goes.
The total national lack of green energy can only be supplemented with fossil energy, even if we now decide to build nuclear power plants. The latter will certainly help, but certainly not enough to get rid of all fossil fuels by 2050. All these electric cars in the EU alone would soon require more than a hundred nuclear power plants like Borssele (500 megawatts).
Electric is not the same as emission-free
This means that electric driving is not the same as emission-free driving. Although the majority of all electricity comes from solar and wind, each additional electric car will continue to generate as much additional fossil energy production as it consumes. After all, wind and solar cannot be scaled up at will as soon as an electric car starts charging (neither does nuclear energy, by the way).
The effect of the difference is therefore that each additional electric car runs on 100% fossil energy, also after 2035. Electric cars do not themselves have an exhaust system, but they cause extra CO2 now and in the future.2emissions from the chimneys of fossil power plants. Nothing emission-free.
Electric cars run on extra fossil energy
The differential effect of 100% fossil power is connected to the fact that there is a well-functioning fossil alternative to electric cars, namely cars with a combustion engine. This therefore also applies to heat pumps, with central heating boilers as a well-functioning fossil alternative.
However, this does not apply to power consumers for which there is no well-functioning fossil alternative, such as computers, lamps, irons and washing machines. All energy consumers who can only work on electricity form the necessary base load on the electricity grid.
This necessary base load will increasingly be met with variable scarce wind and solar energy. Heat pumps and electric cars come on top, and basically do nothing but increase the grid demand with extra fossil power. After all, all available green power is already usable due to the electricity consumers’ base load, for which there is no fossil alternative.
It only changes if there is a structural surplus of green electricity that would not be used without heat pumps and electric cars. That moment will certainly not come before 2050, and in light of the increasing scarcity of raw materials and the growing world population, probably not throughout this century.
The EU is playing with fire by banning the internal combustion engine, which we have developed ourselves with superior engine technology and manufacture in our own factories with our own raw materials. The EU is doing this at a time when dependence on less respectable countries is proving more risky than ever. We want to get rid of Russia now, but China, Chile, Congo and Peru are already wringing their hands over our rapidly increasing demand for their solar panels, lithium batteries, cobalt electrodes and copper cables.
I wonder if there is still strategic thinking in Brussels. In 10-15 years we will be completely dependent on Asian, African and South American countries for all the rare metals we need to run electric. You don’t have to be an economist to know what it will do to the prices and security of supply of the metals that we have made indispensable.
This will make electric driving even more expensive in the future than it is now. Today, the electric car manufacturers are sponsored with tax money through tax benefits and purchase subsidies. Electricity prices will rise tomorrow, partly due to the necessary grid expansion and excise duties to compensate for falling revenues from car fuels. And the day after tomorrow, many more subsidized hydrogen plants for electricity storage will be built, and the prices of solar panels, lithium, cobalt and copper are going through the roof.
A better alternative
The better alternative to abolishing the internal combustion engine is simple, affordable and effective. Stop subsidies for electric cars and, in consultation with the car industry, create a binding roadmap to halve the consumption of all new fuel cars by 2030. We can drive 1 in 40 with existing technology, without sacrificing money, comfort and well-being. Then we save much more energy and CO much faster2 than with the abolition of fuel cars. Furthermore, we are reducing our dependence on all kinds of non-EU countries, rather than increasing them.
Maarten van Andel has many years of experience as an engineer and manager in high technology. Several times a month, he publishes his critical remarks about climate policy in Wynias Uge.
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