Looking forward to listening to this - read the report and chatted with one of the authors a few weeks ago. Regarding the idea that more energy-efficient vehicles with smaller batteries could cut lithium demand by 50% or more, RMI was thinking about this in the 90s with their Hypercar concept, drawing from the team's efficiency knowledge in the buildings space. My sense is that RMI was so focused on design efficiency that powertrain electrification was treated more as a secondary improvement. Sometime in the 2010s, as the trend towards EVs became clear, it seems like RMI's focus shifted towards EVs and on efficient transportation systems (ex. mobility as a service). However, it seems like this course-correction resulted in the design-efficiency topic getting dropped - the last mention I can find was associated with Reinventing Fire from 2011. It seems like the timing would be quite good for an updated RMI whitepaper on vehicle efficiency, making the point that lightweighting and aerodynamics are more important than ever given the expense and weight associated with EV batteries, and the increasing realization that heavy cars are not just inefficient but dangerous to other people on the road.

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David you really need to talk with Aptera. It's super light and aerodynamic. It requires a much smaller battery. If someone requires an EV this type of design should be the first choice.

Also we need to remember how much telecommuting helps everything.

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Feb 8·edited Feb 9

Lithium is the (current) silver bullet for transportation. If we don’t go all in on this, WE WILL FAIL.

If we could efficiency our way out of climate catastrophe, we would have done it already. Take it as gospel that if we ask people to do with less transportation, or fewer cars, and/or use mass transit (in the US), WE WILL FAIL.

You’re correct that cars like the Leaf had batteries 1/3 the size of the current gen EVs but there is a reason they didn’t take off on the same trajectory as the Teslas - they suck. Ok, they make great 1st cars for kids (like mine) but they aren’t suitable for replacing ICE vehicle in most circumstances. If we try to go backwards, WE WILL FAIL.

Lithium mines are in literally the least biodiverse locations on earth - the desert. If we overanalyze this and fret over soil microbes, WE WILL FAIL.

Of course local populations don't like lithium mining near them. This is true for 100% of mines of any type, all over the world. If we give into NIMBY, WE WILL FAIL.

David, your previous guest with the sodium batteries better hurry up, but I'm sure sodium mines kill microbes too.

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Apologies if this is disjointed or seems off-topic a bit at first, but the more I read and the more of your pods I listen to (and the War on Cars, Strong Towns, Not Just Bikes, etc.), the more worked up I get about an issue that I feel is hugely consequential but is simply being overlooked because it's simply so familiar as to be invisible. And I apologize for using military-strategic analysis terms, but they're the ones that come to mind in this situation because (a) we're in a war for the future; and (b) we're losing because we aren't fighting it like a war.

Going back to the days of siege warfare to the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, the smartest generals avoid battle whenever possible until they have done everything they can to first degrade and, if possible, destroy the enemy's supply capacity. Then they accept the enemy's surrender or, if not, have the battle with the odds on their side, since an enemy unable to resupply is at the edge of collapse already.

Bringing this to our dire situation vis a vis the need to decarbonize our transportation systems, we (people unhappy with auto domination and the thought of the resulting climate chaos) completely ignore that the carburban paradigm is hugely propped up and reinforced by a boring but catastrophic stroke of evil genius on the part of the nascent highway lobby: call for gasoline taxes but demand (successfully) that the revenue be constitutionally dedicated so that it could only be used for highway purposes. Oregon was the first, and many other states followed.

Trying to fight against climate catastrophe while ignoring this supply issue is acting like a general who attacks his enemy's reinforced bunkers instead of sinking the supply ships providing the enemy with food and ammo.

The dedication of gas tax revenue is how the carburban paradigm gets daily delivery of support for the sprawl system and starves all the alternative paradigms.

One of the insidious evils of cancerous growths is that they first secure their own blood supply. On a societal level, we are sitting here with auto domination of our entire culture being a giant cancerous growth that is going to kill us, just like a runaway cancer kills the host. It is a rare guest on this podcast that does not bemoan the lack of money to support better public transit systems, to fund walkable redevelopment, etc., all the while this huge gushing flow of dollars runs by simply unmentioned - a gushing flow of dollars that makes every problem we have worse because it can't be used for anything but more sprawl and more pavement for the giant pickup trucks.

This isn't a fact of nature, it's policy, and it's policy that every blue state has the power to change! The dedication of gas tax revenue to highway purposes only is a policy decision that we can, and must change. Or else we're simply going to keep watching gigantic highway widening projects suck up all the dollars that we desperately need for all the things we need to do if we are serious about making it possible for to decarbonize.

We need to have a campaign in every state to abolish the constitutional dedication of gas tax revenue to highway purposes; the fallback position is that, ok, if you won't eliminate the restriction on using gas tax revenue for highway purposes, then you make it so that ONLY gas tax revenue can be used for highways/roads etc. No more taxing homeowners in cities to fund roads, in other words. Whatever the state DOT gets through gas taxes is all that it gets for roads, and no other revenue from any source can be spent on roads so long as gas taxes cannot be spent elsewhere.

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Feb 9·edited Feb 9

I feel that the EV use trajectory is already set, as more and more, cars are in high demand. And as Mr. Norman, in his comment, said Lithium is found in deserts. Currently all of these EV cars are, essentially, powered by natural gas, which the utilities use for power production, mainly coming from this fossil fuel. So the main problem is to replace this power source with Solar and Wind power with storage. I read an article that said that more Electric grid lines could take 10 years to build, with lots of solar and wind projects completed, but held up due to lack of Electrification. Can we all focus on Electrification happening faster?

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And we need to remember that carbon emissions are just one of the problems with car dominated world. This article was grievously overlooked during the pandemic:


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How many electric hummers does Gm project they’ll sell at peak, 5000 per year? Probably fewer than that since the vehicle is illegal in most countries.

As for small EV batteries, Nissan had ten years and was only able to sell 500,000 LEAFs on the global market. It was a straightforwardly great car. I owned and loved one for four years, but the small battery put a hard ceiling on sales—and no amount of long division about small batteries being optimal is going to change that ceiling.

Likewise the micro batteries in hybrids and Plug in hybrids are market failures in todays reality, plug in hybrids are uniformly bad gas cars and mediocre electric cars, people just don’t like them and the market is collapsing.

The market is coalescing around normal batteries in the 60-75 kWh range, particularly for global production of models that sell in the 500k-1m range of units.

The handwringing over the big battery models are not models that’s will have the unit sales per year to matter in the global market.

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Apparently the Superb Owl event yesterday included an unbelievable ad (WA Post has it ad one of the “best” ads) that is just SO PERFECT for explaining why we’re so screwed. And why EVs are becoming the size of tanks, because it’s all about masculine fear of drooping “voltage” in critical moments . . .

Perspective | The 5 best Super Bowl ads, from Workday’s rock stars to Affleck’s drive-through

Winners included Amy Schumer's Google Pixel spot and Ram Trucks' frank talk about "premature electrification."

By Sonia Rao


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