By Scott Hamilton

Last week I wrote about the issue of weak battery technologies and the impact on the electric vehicle. This week we will address a second issue that prevents widespread use of electric vehicles. Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe warns that the upcoming electric vehicle battery shortage is going to make the current microchip shortage look like a “small appetizer.” In case you haven’t been following the chip shortage news, it left nearly two million vehicles stranded waiting for parts in 2021 and 2022, creating the greatest shortage of new vehicles in recent history. Needless to say, it will be impossible to keep electric vehicles on the road without batteries and Rivian is the leading supplier of electric vehicle batteries.

The demand for electric vehicles is driving both the cost and timeline of battery production through the roof; the demand for the batteries not only outweighs the production capacity of the plants, but also of the mines producing the raw materials. It is estimated that mining for the materials is about a decade behind the expected volumes needed to meet the electric vehicle demand.

As it turns out it is not just a demand for batteries that will place a limiting factor on the production and adaptation of electric vehicles; power to charge the electric vehicles is also lagging the demand. Last year the state of California asked owners of electric vehicles to refrain from charging their cars for a full week during the peak power demand for cooling systems in the heat of the summer, and this is not the only place where there is a lack of power.

I will just use our area as an example. Intercounty Electric Coop purchases the wholesale power from Sho-Me Power and in their latest report, the Little Niangua hydro project provides three megawatts of power to our region, which sadly only meets one percent of the current demand. The remaining power is purchased through a contract with AECI, which currently produces 600 megawatts of power utilizing a coal-based power plant in New Madrid, burning 4000 tons of coal per hour. At the current time this slightly exceeds the demand of 550 megawatts for our region. 

Now for a little more math, just using my average sized home as an example. I utilize 40 kilowatt hours of power a month; this equates to a little less than 1.5 kilowatts a day. The most energy efficient electric vehicle on the market today requires 1.5 kilowatts to charge for a 300 mile range, but it consumes this wattage during a four hour charge window. My home, like most average homes, has a 100 amp electric service, meaning that its maximum power demand is 2.2 kilowatts, if I have every appliance running at the same time, which is almost never the case. I currently own two vehicles and drive approximately 300 miles a week, which means I would need an additional three kilowatts of power to charge two cars, effectively tripling my power demand on Intercounty Electric.  

If every household in their service area has the same power requirements for electric vehicles, there would be a need to triple the size of the power plant in New Madrid in order to support the demand for new power. As it turns out this is a bigger problem than the demand for batteries, as the plant currently burns a 121-ton coal car full of coal every twenty seconds, which is only accomplished by turning the coal cars completely upside down to empty them fast enough to keep the fire going. For more details on the New Madrid plant you can visit: https://www.aeci.org/resources/reliable-coal/new-madrid/.

Until next week, stay safe and learn something new.

Scott Hamilton is an Expert in Emerging Technologies at ATOS and can be reached with questions and comments via email to shamilton@techshepherd.org or through his website at https://www.techshepherd.org.

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