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Based on what I’ve seen, I can safely say that most of the people who visit the CleanTechnica website really want an energy transition that ends the use of fossil fuels and replaces ICE monster polluters with electric vehicles. But there is a real problem that we need to address, and it keeps popping up here and elsewhere on the internet: “Where do we get all the lithium we need for it?”
The situation is that the US DOE awards prizes for answers. (HERE) Even experts like Elon Musk and Zach Shahan have thought about it. (HERE)
There are people asking what the big buzz is when there is more lithium in the ocean than we would ever use. In fact, the answer to that is simple. Extracting lithium from seawater is a technology that was under-developed, is now expensive, and would take long enough to develop that it would probably be too late to tackle carbon emissions.
The good news is, that there is an answer that is readily available that would save a lot of people a ton of money – any one. Now I know you’re asking me what the answer is, so I’m going to give it to you instead of making you go through 40 ridiculous slides like other One Weird Trick admissions do. In this case, the weird trick is super simple:
Most people have to drive to the grocery store four miles each way, and commute to work 18 miles each way. And every now and then they take the kids to the zoo, 22 miles each way. And they have to do this to charge the car by plugging it in overnight – or possibly, like an Aptera, by leaving the car in the sun and charging it from its own solar panels.
For a hypothetical one average family, a minimum range of 44 miles is required for most days. Double that for safe measure and we’re up to 88 miles. A terribly shoddy pick for those who want a sexy car, but we’re not trying to be sexy here. We’re trying to be practical – and save the earth.
Let’s look at the specs of a real car that is currently for sale and doing well (not currently available in the US where everything is either sexy or “normal”) must be in order to be sold):
Now I admit that this information is miserable for a person who wants a sexy car, especially when compared to a Tesla Model 3 with its 50 to 80 kWh Battery and a top speed that is not legal near where I live. But the specs really do meet the usual needs of an average family of two to four people. And if you want to convert the nation to electric vehicles, you have to convert all cars for all people who are average or poorer.
One problem with this is that the car is not available in the US. Another is, even if it were, why would someone buy something like this?
To answer the second question first, the price is an important reason to buy the car. In China, it starts at $ 4,200. On the high end, it goes for $ 5,540. It’s the Hong Guang MINI EV that was written about a few days ago at CleanTechnica. The reason for buying the car is to save the average family enough money to buy a hybrid vehicle when more range is needed. A smarter use of the money would be to use the money to pay a down payment on a beautiful solar home. If you ever need more range, rent a car.
Another reason to buy the Hong Guang MINI EV is so that four other families can buy similar EVs with the same amount of lithium that you get in a single Tesla model 3 would find. This means that we can multiply the number of EVs on the road by a considerable number without increasing the amount of lithium needed.
To come back to the first question, why are these vehicles not available in the US? I doubt they would meet safety requirements in anything like their current form.
After not engineering, I would guess the biggest problem is top speed. I don’t think it’s too slow, however. My feeling is that it’s too fast. If the Hong Guang MINI EV had its speed regulated in this country to qualify as a city car with a top speed of 40 mph, it could almost meet the requirements for this class of vehicle. If not, it could be used as a template for a design that would work.
I’m not going to scold Elon Musk for focusing on sexy electric vehicles with insane power and range. He had a level of wisdom I certainly wouldn’t have, and he knew the cars needed to be showcased to get people excited about electric vehicles, to appeal to people’s sexual instincts, not their thoughts. After Elon did that, he lowered the price so that some more normal people could afford a Tesla.
But like I said, we have to convert all cars for all people. If ordinary people could afford to buy a MINI Tesla for less than $ 9,000, even one that is designed and regulated to meet all of average needs, would they? I bet they would. And could Tesla build such a vehicle? I’d bet it could – and if not, someone else will.
With such a small battery, you could build half a dozen cars for the amount of lithium in a Tesla. That would take electric vehicles a lot further, a lot faster.
And that’s a weird trick – in fact, it’s especially weird because unlike other weird tricks, it might just work.
George Harvey, a retired computer engineer , researches and writes on energy and climate change, maintains a daily blog (geoharvey.com) and has a weekly one-hour TV show, Energy Week with George Harvey and Tom Finnell. In addition to the articles at CleanTechnica, you can find many of his articles on greenenergytimes.org.
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