Summary: Given that oil production will start to decline in our lifetimes — and that climate change means we shouldn’t even burn the oil we do have in the first place — we’ve got to start weaning off oil. Fast. Can we do it?
- EV’s are here to stay – but I have a love / hate relationship with them.
- Electric trucks are here.
- Even Australia’s giant road trains going electric!
- Electric mining and harvesters are possible
- What about hydrogen?
- Save money
- Stop importing oil, stop funding tyrants
- What about peak lithium?
- What about a really sudden oil crisis?
1. EV’s are here to stay – but I have a love / hate relationship with them.
Electric cars have had some teething problems but are now growing exponentially. Put solar panels on your house and it’s like having an oil refinery on your roof! Sceptics might go on about range anxiety. But battery ranges are increasing, and fast charging speeds are also increasing.
Sceptics might also go on about charging anxiety. Will a charger be free when you get there, or will you have to wait half an hour for a customer to leave? Or will they be just plain busted when you arrive? But they are building more. They will charge faster. Apps will help you plan your trip. There are already thousands of EV blogs. Google them if you have questions.
Sceptics might point out that lithium prices have gone up. But they are doing a lot about that – see ‘Peak Lithium?’ below.
So what’s the problem? None really. EV’s are here to stay and will soon be better and cheaper than old oil cars.
But – I have to say – I don’t like cars. It’s a philosophical thing. They enable suburban sprawl. In his classic TED talk (NSFW – language warning!) James Howard Kunstler calls suburbia “greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world”. He is not wrong.
I want a town square instead of a car. I want to walk a trendy granny trolley just 5 minutes to the town square that has everything I need – including a place to sit and chat and make new friends. I want it to feel like a public lounge room. (See the Third Place.) There is so much to say about why suburban sprawl ruins modern life – but you can see my New Urbanism pages for that.
I’m not against anyone owning a car – but am against everyone having to. I see the need for EV’s to give us time to ease the transition from oil to New Urbanism. My main concern is that we’ll go from being addicted to oil to addicted to EV’s. Let’s replace the car with a granny-trolley. Instead of an expensive car, what about a nice pair of shoes? What if we “domesticated” car use so that a family with 2 cars could flourish with 1? As Alex Steffen says, “My other car is a bright green city.“
2. Electric trucks are here.
Back in the day we used to wonder what would win in the heavy vehicle department. Batteries were too big and clunky and took too long to charge. Some proposed synthetic diesel. But as the Electrofuel wiki says:
By 2021, the European Federation for Transport and Environment advised the aviation sector was needing e-kerosene to be deployed as it could substantially reduce the climate impact of aviation. It was also observing electrofuel usage in cars emits two significant greenhouse gases beyond CO2 captured for the production: methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O); local air pollution was still a concern and it was five times less efficient than direct electrification.
Then there was the bizarre idea of having an oxygen cannister in the engine bay that would help burn recyclable boron powder at a really high temperature. The boron powder could then be cleaned up and recycled for use again. Even Dr James Hansen thought this might be an option!
Despite the obvious energy inefficiencies (due to the second law of thermodynamics) in converting one energy type into another and another – it just was not obvious which energy type would win.
Then 2022 rolls along, and the winner is Electric!
Tesla has delivered their Semi to Pepsi. It can carry the maximum American cargo allowance of 40 tonnes about 500 miles in one charge! When the driver pulls over for their 30 minute break (which they must by law) the mega-charger will give them another 400 miles. So that puts the total range at 900 miles or 1400 km.
How does 1400 km compare to truckie driving laws?
In Australia truckies can only drive 100 km an hour and do a 14 hour shift, which is 1400km. Yet they also must have a compulsory accumulated hour break by the 12 hour mark. (These days driver compliance is monitored by in-cabin software apps.) That hour break cuts the legal distance back to 1300 km.
Tesla’s 1400 km range with ONE charge is further than the legal range most countries allow their truckies to drive! But an hour allows another half-hour mega-charger stop, taking the total range up to 1300 miles or 2092 km total.
Tesla’s done it. Electric trucks require 60% less maintenance fees and electricity is about 1/3 the price of oil per km. This is going to cause a REVOLUTION!
The contest between e-diesel, hydrogen, and even whacky boron-powder is over. Tesla has won.
3. Even Australia’s giant road trains going electric!
But it gets better. Australia has crazy big trucks. America’s trucks are mostly limited to 40 tonnes by law. But Australia has vast cattle markets that only work if one driver can carry significant cattle to market in one go. Meet the road train. These beasts can carry up to 200 tonnes!
Why so big? Because Australia is a vast continent with some really tiny towns that are just not economical to build rail to. So we use road-trains instead. As Smart Trucking reports:
This type of setup isn’t allowed in North America, due to the length and weight. Why are road trains used in Australia?
On a normal road, IF there IS such a thing, special permits are needed to run a train. Roads in the Outback are mostly one lane roads. There are no freeways or super highways here.
The longest road train can be up to 53 metres in length and up to 80-120 tonnes in weight.
When the driver looks back in their mirror, well let’s just say, ‘it’s a long way to look back’!
From the driver’s cabin, Australian road trains are a crucial link in the Outback. They are the only possible way to get the freight through to small outback towns.
The Aboriginal communities rely totally on the road trains.
Very remote areas completely depend on these huge loads of goods, and it weren’t for the trains, it could be months in some places before the road train could get back to them, so a normal semi trailer load, would just not be enough.
Surely this is impossible for today’s battery energy density? What kind of battery can carry hundreds of tonnes of cargo over a thousand kilometres in one trip?
Answer? It can’t. They don’t even try to take the same battery all the way. Janus Australia just swaps the battery! A bloke on a forklift lifts out the old battery and slides in the new one in just 4 minutes. An absolutely enormous battery – swapped in 4 minutes! Now imagine how many times you can do that in your various breaks that must equal and hour every 14 hours.
It means there’s no sudden stress on the grid from fast-chargers, and no stress on the batteries from fast charging. This system is gentler on battery and grid. Indeed, in some rural areas or the outback I imagine them being off-grid! Rather than have yet another road-train haul diesel all the way into the Outback – a Janus battery warehouse will sit there using on-site solar.
This video explains they can run 10 trucks off the warehouse roof alone – and in the Outback there’s so much spare desert lying around they could easily add a solar farm to charge as many batteries as they want during the day. The warehouse itself could run on a few of them!
Janus converts any Semi under 10 years old to be a full electric truck. They’re able to carry 100 tonnes where Tesla only carries 40. It’s not like Janus and Tesla are competing that much in Australia. We use our huge road-trains on intercity trips to warehouses outside our main cities. But road trains are banned from driving inside our cities. That’s where a normal one-trailer Semi takes over to deliver from the warehouse to the shops within a city. More on Janus at Sydney Morning Herald August 2022.
4. Electric mining and harvesters are possible
While there has not been large scale adoption of the trucks above, it shows what is now possible and even better – cheaper than diesel! Full electric large scale trucking is just starting but as the price differences get noticed in the market place I expect them to grow exponentially.
So electric mining trucks and harvesters? They’re even at an earlier stage. I’ll refer you across to my blog post from January 2023 which shows everything from giant electric mining rigs with huge battery packs, giant electric mining rigs on a trolley-system with whips and power-lines like trams, and even a giant electric John Deere harvester with a 3 km power extension cord! It’s very early days, and some of these are quite experimental and are in a testing phase. But it shows what is now possible – and will only become more economic as oil peaks and technology improves.
5. What about hydrogen?
Fuel cells are too expensive, hydrogen too hard to store, and the hydrogen ‘economy’ costs too much energy to bother with when there are better alternatives. Click here for the hydrogen page.
6. Save money
Household EV’s are soon to be cheaper than oil cars. Heavy diesel trucking will save money if they adopt the Janus system.
The Janus fleet electrification solution will provide for up to a 60% reduction in maintenance and operating costs over the vehicle’s lifetime. Electrification means no oil changes, no oil filters, no air filters, no fuel filters, and a massive reduction of heat also extends the life of brakes and tyres. Operationally fleets are also cheaper to run as the cost of electricity is cheaper than diesel per km.
COST PER KM DIESEL 0.96
COST PER KM JANUS ELECTRIC $0.33
Not adapting to new electrified fleets means transport companies running on traditional diesel fleets will be left behind by energy and cost-efficient electrical fleet operators. In Australia, we estimate that by 2030 50% of the Australian Road Transport fleet will be electric.
7. Stop importing oil, stop funding tyrants
Stop funding people that don’t like us very much. Western democracies have simply spent too much money supporting tyrannies in Russia and the Middle East. Enough is enough!
Save on importing: America spent $453 billion importing oil in 2011 (according to Pickens). That’s two-thirds of the way towards America’s entire military budget! Imagine America having that much cash injected back into their local economy, employing local people to make local EV’s and build all the infrastructure required. That is real money currently going overseas and – in some cases – funding people who don’t like America very much! Imagine what nearly half a trillion dollars a year could accomplish! It would soon install power adaptor boxes in every home, build super-charger stations and quick-battery-swaps down every highway, and maybe even go some way towards building fast rail to replace interstate trucking! (But boron could be another option, see below)
Save on oil wars: imagine every nation having home-grown lithium trucks and solar power? We’d never have another oil war again!
8. Peak lithium?
First – there has been so much demand for lithium that prices have gone up. I grant this. It’s a momentary blip in the market. But if you watch just a few tech channels on youtube you will know lithium filtration mining is about to speed up lithium supply and reduce the cost.
But will we run out? Answers with Rosie said we used 300,000 tonnes of lithium in 2020. The market in 2030 could be between 1.5 to 2.5 million tonnes per year. But the oceans have a trillion tonnes of lithium in them – a million times the estimated 2030 global demand.
Also, old battery recycling is getting better.
Also, I doubt we’ll ever need to extract lithium from the world’s oceans because in just a few decades lithium will be obsolete. As Pocket-Lint asks, will the battery be a super-micro-capacitor, sodium ion, foam, nano-yolk triple capacity, aluminium air or something else?
Or watch the Undecided battery playlist and Just Have a Think playlist. There are just too many cool new options for lithium to be a thing in decades to come. But if it is still the standard in a few centuries, the ocean has abundant lithium to top up our recycling efforts pretty much forever.