Recharge Rage

  • October 4, 2023

What do you suppose the result would be if you needed to get gas in a hurry – in order to get somewhere quickly – but you couldn’t fill up because there was another car already at the pump and it just sat there for half an hour while its driver enjoyed a nice cup of coffee inside the station?

How about another parked car at every pump?

Scale that up times several tens of millions of drivers and you have a picture of our forced-electrification future.

Hopefully, they add more coffee machines at Sheetz. That actually calls to mind a secondary problem that will arise from the decrease in throughput – i.e., the number of cars and people who can come and go within a given period of time.

If a gas station has a dozen pumps, a dozen cars can be fully refueled in about five minutes, making way for another dozen cars to be refueled. Such a station can hypothetically as well as actually fully refuel more than 70 vehicles in 30 minutes. The cars – and the people in those cars – come and they go. As each one goes, room is opened up for another car and new – but not more – people.

The lines for gas and for coffee are rarely long – and neither usually is the wait. Even if every one of the 12 pumps in our example is in use when you arrive it is certain one of them will be open within minutes of your arrival. Waiting longer than that for gas is something Americans have not had to suffer since the ’70s, when gas was made artificially scarce by the government.

It had nothing to do with the infrastructure.

With “electrification,” it has everything to do with the chemistry.

Not only isn’t the infrastructure there – and won’t be, for years, notwithstanding the Biden Thing’s sluicing of billions of dollars of other people’s money to build it – because it takes years to build the sort of Soviet-style national infrastructure EVs require. It won’t change the wait and for that reason, the throughput problem will remain.

And worsen.

It is possible to build more EV “fast” charging joints.

They could be built on every corner, assuming limitless amounts of other people’s money and assuming people don’t mind there not being room anymore for other things, such as stores. Never mind that. It will still take 30 minutes or longer to partially recharge an EV. Perhaps this can be reduced to 15 minutes – somehow. Without greatly shortening the useful life of the battery (read the EV owner’s manual). Without greatly increasing the risk the battery will catch fire.

But not without another (sigh) “breakthrough” in “battery technology.”

A gas tank is an empty container. There is almost no resistance to the liquid fuel being pumped into it. That is why gas pumps are fast – in the etymologically accurate sense of that word.

An EV battery is full – even when it is empty. It contains thousand of individual cells and you can’t just pump them full of electricity. The process of recharging is far more complex and involves a number of steps, including assessing the condition of the battery and its readiness to be charged, whether it is warm enough to receive charge – and so on. These steps are handled by the electronics and automatically but they take time. And then it takes time to induct the electricity. The process can be speeded up but it is extremely improbable that it will ever be fast in the way that it is fast at a gas pump – there and done in less than five minutes.

And that will lead to lines – and longer waits. Not occasionally but regularly. It will be part of the New Abnormal.

And those lines – and constant waiting – will lead to tension, which will lead to anger, just the same as happens on roads clogged with traffic. It’s infuriating to be held up by traffic when you have somewhere you need to be, such as work. Or want to be somewhere else, such as home after a long day at work.

But traffic eventually clears.

The wait to charge will remain – and increase.

Charge Rage is already becoming a thing in the UK, where “electrification” has been pushed more aggressively and where for that reason there are more ordinary people driving EVs and waiting in line to charge them. There is an interesting article that gets into details about it here.

But the take-home point is that similar is coming here.

It will be similar to what happened here back in the ’70s, when people had to wait in line – sometimes, for hours – to get gas and for essentially the same reason.

Government.

Back in the ’70s, it created temporary gas lines by causing gas to be temporarily in short supply (even though there was plenty of gas available). In our time, it is recreating lines – which will be permanent – by forcing gas (and diesel-powered) vehicles off the road in favor of battery-powered devices that take many times longer to recharge than it takes to refuel. Irrespective of the number of not-so-fast chargers the government conjures into existence.

Even if there were one “fast” charger for every EV on the road in a fully “electrified” scenario (as opposed to one gas pump for every several thousand; there are about 145,000 gas stations in the country vs. about 290 million vehicles, almost all of them not electric vehicles) it would still take each EV five-times-plus as long to recover a partial charge as it takes to fully refuel a gas-powered vehicle.

It will be like going to the DMV every day.

Perhaps the better – the more apt – example is it will be more like standing in line for bread every day, as in the old Soviet Union.

Which is just what America is becoming.

. . .

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