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Senate Democrats' Plan for Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050 Is 'Wishful Thinking' on Solving Crisis, Climate Action Groups Say

You’re wrong about plug-in hybrids, JZ. Wrong about needing to eliminate fossil fuels too. You could say air travel will become a stranded asset as a mostly unnecessary luxury. You could say global trucking is a stranded asset after our wage-slave work force decides they’ve had enough of factory work and go back to farming.

First of all, I’ll admit I’m hyperbolic about Bill Gates because I see him as ruining open standards which I consider an absolute travesty in our development of computers and related technology (he probably hasn’t done anything he could go to jail for). I’m still going to ignore anything he says about anything though.

I disagree with you on BEVs and self driving tech but that doesn’t mean I’m happy with the way everything has been done. For example I want all software for driverless cars to be opensource and audited like crazy, pay hackers to test it and publish vulnerability reports. Recently I’ve been thinking I’d be more likely to take public transit instead of my Leaf if I knew that no matter what - I miss the last bus or whatever - I can always call up a driverless car to get me. And I still think the potential is there to reduce fatilities from 30k per year further (air bags made a huge difference to get to this point).

I’m worried about some nightmare climate change scenarios in my lifetime (or my kid’s) for sure but I’m not worried about the conspiracy theory you mentioned. I would like to swap my wife’s suburu outback for a PHEV though and hope the market hasn’t completely gotten rid of the idea. I am usually for attacking engineering problems multiple ways and agree for some buyers a PHEV makes more sense.

Thanks for smoothing over my worst nightmare scenario fear. I too don’t want to believe it. There are good reasons to fairly consider plug-in hybrid PHEV tech. My rough estimate is for PHEVs to garner 60% of future EV needs, BEVs 38%, hydrogen fuel cell a niche 2%. Assume the larger the vehicle, the more PHEV tech applies. Freight trucks and utility vans should go PHEV. Municipal buses (with equally large battery packs) should go BEV because of urban air quality. The standard 40’ bus (New Flyer & Gillig) however do not convert to electric nor hybrid very well. New BEV buses should be built from the ground up for EV and most should be shorter wheelbase shuttles for maneuverability, more efficient stop-n-go operation. The 40’ standard are suitable for high capacity hours and routes. “Driverless” AV pipe dreams include households not owning a car. Big mistake. An EV in the garage will keep lights on, fridge, stovetop and communication devices working in a grid failure, indefinitely when matched to rooftop solar and neighborhood mini-grids. The “compromise position” on AV tech goes like this: almost all AV safety features are possible short of “driverless” - eliminating the driver eliminates their constant attention to road conditions and ability to maneuver. “Platooning” or tailgating will never be safe at any speed. My rationale for this thought exercise is my old standby: We drive too much, too far, for too many purposes at too high cost and impact. Automobiles are transportation monopoly that will only get worse with AV, if it were safely possible, which it isn’t and never will be.

Bill Gates’ specialty is finding underappreciated or underdeveloped ideas that other people have come up with and running with them. His original DOS was largely a ripoff of other disk operating systems that others had made. The work Microsoft did for the Mac was derivative of work done at Xerox PARC, which left Apple in a poor position to claim theft when MS brought out Windows with the same basic graphical user interface. So when Gates invests, he is looking for big, potentially revolutionary ideas in largely untrodden territory. One of his big-ticket investments is in TerraPower, which was launched as a spinoff from Intellectual Ventures, and that investment was made primarily on the strength of some technical experts convincing him that the traveling wave reactor, which was an idea from the 50’s, was a much better kind of reactor than what we have now. And it is, but Gates doesn’t know that much about nuclear engineering himself, and what he missed was that there were other ideas that had even better potential than the traveling wave reactor (something that TerraPower is now recognizing with their belated hedge project to develop a molten salt fast reactor).

Electric vehicle tech may make a huge difference in transportation, but it is not the sort of thing that fits the profile of what Gates normally looks for. It is already a fast-developing field, with many different companies gearing up to compete in it. If some underappreciated piece of electric vehicle tech fell in Gates’ lap that he could lock down and make proprietary, something which would jump him ahead of the rest of the market, he’d be on it like a duck on a june bug (assuming he knew enough to see its potential, or assuming he had some smart and visionary person to explain it to him). But the mere fact he hasn’t found a big investment opportunity like that doesn’t mean the field won’t be revolutionary. Remember, this is the same guy who originally thought the web wouldn’t amount to much.

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My guess is Gates must have inside info on EV tech and doesn’t see the current state of the art as viable and profitable; too many competing interests with hair-brained schemes like “driverless” AV tech. Uber/Lyft ride-hailing services don’t need ‘driverless’ to continue undermining fundamental mass transit. Amazon doesn’t need ‘driverless’ delivery vehicles to continue bankrupting small & large local retail. The many benefits of household EVs proves the notion of Robotaxi fleets dispatched from central garage locations does not make sense.

In the same way, PHEVs offer benefits that BEVs cannot. Bigger battery BEVs cannot distribute that resource equitably. Smaller battery PHEVs recharge more quickly no matter what advancements occur in quick charge tech. In a grid failure, PHEVs packs may be recharged using any fuel available, including combustible hydrogen and biofuels at 100-200mpg. “Leave it in the ground” is a cliché. We must first learn how to use fossil fuels more sparingly. Luxury air travel will become a thing of the past. Shipping and trucking raw materials and manufactured goods cannot continue to undermine the same industries in states within every nation.

Gates would not worry about any competitors who might be chasing bad ideas. His concern would be all the competitors who are already doing all the best things that he could think of to do. And I’m pretty sure he does not see EV tech as not viable, because he owns a Porsche Taycan (which, by the way, is not a hybrid). The biggest remaining problems he sees with electric cars are their cost, their range, their slow recharge rate, and the limited access to recharge sites. Those are substantial problems, and he clearly doesn’t know of a quick or easy solution to any of them, or he’d be all over it, but that doesn’t mean he thinks those problems won’t be improved, or that the EV tech isn’t viable because of those drawbacks.

And I don’t see anything hair-brained about fully autonomous vehicles. I think they will be developed and deployed, but I also suspect it is going to happen much slower than what the enthusiasts are expecting.

“The many benefits of household EVs proves the notion of Robotaxi fleets dispatched from central garage locations does not make sense.”

It might be an autonomous version of the old taxi system, it could be something like an Uber system, it could take the form of ride-share jitneys, or it might operate buses on fixed routes. And those are all models that existed even where there were high ownership rates for personal vehicles.

“In the same way, PHEVs offer benefits that BEVs cannot. Bigger battery BEVs cannot distribute that resource equitably.”

There won’t be an equitable distribution anyway, due to the expense. But the most effective distribution of battery resources would not be based on equity, but on passenger-miles and mile-tons of cargo delivered. A big-battery jitney that used the battery hard to deliver, say, 2000 people-miles per day would be more useful towards displacing fossil fuels than 20 smaller personal EV’s that each had 1/20th of the jitney’s battery capacity delivering, say, a combined total of 400 people-miles per day.

“Smaller battery PHEVs recharge more quickly no matter what advancements occur in quick charge tech.”

On an amp-hour rate basis, that’s not right. Suppose you had one battery that it takes a certain amount of time to recharge completely from a fully-drained state. If you had 10 of those batteries, you would only have to charge them to 1/10th of their capacity to equal roughly the same amperage-hours delivered to the one battery, and charging each battery by a factor of 1/10th of its capacity takes no more than 1/10th the time that it does to charge the one battery to full capacity.

“In a grid failure, PHEVs packs may be recharged using any fuel available, including combustible hydrogen and biofuels at 100-200mpg.”

If grid failures become so common that this becomes a consideration, people will be getting fuel-powered generators to serve when the power goes down anyway.

“Shipping and trucking raw materials and manufactured goods cannot continue to undermine the same industries in states within every nation.”

How does that undermine industries?

I agree with everything you say, but this part needs a different perspective just for full understanding.

Depending on the battery chemistry, partial charges can be destructive after only a couple of cycles. And not fully discharging is a problem too for some.

For other battery chemistries, operating close to full discharge, or allowing full discharge is equally destructive to the battery itself. So a 1/10th charge cycle would kill them in a short time, especially if they were asked to go a couple of extra miles to a charging station.

The issue of weight, volatility, intended use/potential for misuse… are dependent on the chemistry of the battery. Add to that the availability of resources to manufacture them safely, store them safely, and use them in ways that might subject them to stresses that they can’t recover from (misuse, collisions with other vehicles, etc.) makes this the most important issue.

Imagine a hydrogen generation system, with a lithium storage array. Now imagine that combination being hit at high speeds in a collision, or consumed in a house fire, or being crushed under a tree in a storm.

I am not saying don’t try to find a better way, fossil fuels are not the answer. But the issue still is how to make it safe, and sustainable under less than “manufacture suggested safety/usage margins”.

Edit to add: I use a lot of different lithium chemistries, and have seen the problems they create vs. those they solve. It is always a trade off. If my quadcopter crashes, or robot gets crushed, lithium is not my friend in the safety area. But density of power vs. weight vs. cost makes them the best in smaller applications.

EV batteries are not like that. They get their greatest longevity if held within the range of 20% discharged to 50% discharged. There is also less charge resistance in that range compared to trying to top the battery off. What shortens EV battery life are full charges, full discharges, fast charges, fast discharges, and hot charges. These can shorten the battery life by as much as 3/4’s. So if you want to get the greatest number of full cycle equivalents out of a given battery cell, you’ll make it part of a large battery pack configured for long range, and then drive it short distances as much as possible.


Thanks for the link. Interesting read. Inspired me to do a bit more reading too!

I was comparing it with the lithium-polymer and lithium-ion types I use, which have many of the same properties. And in small systems, multiple packs are avoided due to size and weight, so full charge is needed to give a useful run time and avoid full discharge.

I am currently (pun intended) working on a 2 cell lithium-ion solar charge system for remote sensor and video transmission over short to medium ranges. The charger itself is not a problem, it is reworking the circuit board layout to accommodate it. Limited space in a pre-existing case that is already maxed out. It was designed around NiMH originally, when it was just a wireless PIR sensor.

So my brain was focusing on a different set of needs. Sorry!

Thanks for continuing this important discussion. Your case for BEV and AV tech has not disproved my case for BEVs (where appropriate) nor against AV tech because if they ever became safely possible, they would do more harm than good. Why believe the pretty packaged propaganda of the most corrupt business interests in the era of catastrophic climate change? I’m trying to improve arguments for and against. Each has to make an honest case to be compelling. AV tech and quicker charging, higher capacity battery tech is ‘dishonest speculation’ of future advancements as inevitable. Bill Gates preference in toy cars is irrelevant. Defending “inequitable distribution” of battery and charging resources based on “market rules” is dutiful service to the .001% ruling class, Bill Gates included.

Your rough calculations of energy consumed per weight and mile are as nerdy as mine but less complete. Reducing car-dependency and long-distance transport is more important than continuing to drive for all purposes and to purchase goods made by wage-slave labor shipped and trucked thousands of miles is obviously unsustainable even with BEVs.

A rough study of Costco warehouse distributors suggests the amount of gasoline required to deliver goods to households could be cut by 90% like this: Were Costco to employ a fleet of 10 vans at 10mpg each distributing to 10 local retailers, all driving 1000 miles daily with 100 gallons of gas. The 5000 customers to Costco daily would reduce their driving distance from 20 miles to 2 miles at 25mpg. This reduces fuel consumption from 4000 gallons to 400 gallons daily and supports local retail. Big Box retail more or less poses this same problem of fuel/energy consumption and traffic that undermines local economies. BEVs are a futile attempt to maintain insane amounts of driving. Your case for BEV and AV is their case to maintain business as usual, etc etc. Nice try, but convincing only to those who want to believe the ruling class don’t see the rest of us as anything more than consumers, wage-slaves and cannon fodder.

“The big remaining problems he sees with electric cars are their cost, range, slow recharge and access to recharge sites. Substantial problems he clearly doesn’t know of quick, easy solutions, or he’d be all over it. That doesn’t mean those problem drawbacks won’t be improved.” Hey, this is good editing, eh JZ? To summarize those statments more clearly left me with a question to pose or restate. Oh remember: Public Tesla charge sites in Oregon are currently 10 statewide; pitiful. OTOH, Asian/European/USA sites in Oregon are around 120. Something like that, not counting private curbside access sites, public venues. So, Tesla charge sites are subsidized yet number 1/10th A/E/U in Oregon. What do you think, JZ or whomever wants to take ACCESS on for a thought exercise? Againthanksjz.