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Novel education programs for sustainable microchips made in Europe

The European Chips Act is intended to raise the European microchip industry to a new level, with several billion euros are being invested in the construction…



The European Chips Act is intended to raise the European microchip industry to a new level, with several billion euros are being invested in the construction of new semiconductor production facilities in Germany, Poland and Italy, among others. For the operation of these new high-tech facilities, a large number of engineers and technicians are needed, and so far it is unclear where they will come from. The electronics sector already lacks qualified personnel – in Austria alone, 14,000 additional skilled workers are needed, and Europe-wide estimates range from 60,000 to 150,000.

Credit: Schachl – TU Graz

The European Chips Act is intended to raise the European microchip industry to a new level, with several billion euros are being invested in the construction of new semiconductor production facilities in Germany, Poland and Italy, among others. For the operation of these new high-tech facilities, a large number of engineers and technicians are needed, and so far it is unclear where they will come from. The electronics sector already lacks qualified personnel – in Austria alone, 14,000 additional skilled workers are needed, and Europe-wide estimates range from 60,000 to 150,000.

In order to specifically counteract this shortage of skilled workers, seven European universities have joined forces with a further eight partners from industry and research in the “GreenChips-EDU” project. Together they want to accelerate the training of skilled workers in the field of microelectronics. The European Commission is funding the four-year project with 7.15 million euros, and the Austrian Research Promotion Agency is adding another 750,000 euros. “In the past, production costs were the decisive factor for deciding on the location of production facilities in the microelectronics industry,” says project manager Bernd Deutschmann, head of the Institute of Electronics at TU Graz. “Today, microchips are developed and built where the skilled workers are. With GreenChips-EDU, European universities are joining forces for the first time to develop joint curricula for education in electrical engineering and microelectronics in order to train the necessary specialists in the best possible way.” Of the seven universities, six are members of the “Unite!” network, the strategic alliance of nine universities of technology in Europe.

Core topics: energy efficiency and sustainability in power electronics

The focus of the university programmes is on the development and production of sustainable and energy-efficient microchips, because power-saving microchips are indispensable to achieve the climate targets in Europe. According to Bernd Deutschmann, a special focus is on the field of power electronics: “This is an area where Europe is an international leader and has great personnel needs for which we want to train young people.” The internationally harmonised university programmes facilitate the cross-border recognition of academic achievements and promote student mobility. “GreenChips-EDU also shows the importance of international university networks. Graz University of Technology is part of the European University Alliance Unite!, as are several partners in the GreenChips-EDU project. A good network with excellent partners from science and industry is what makes a project like this possible in the first place,” says Andrea Höglinger, Vice Rector for Research at TU Graz.

“Our goal is for 600 students to complete a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme during the four-year project period,” says Bernd Deutschmann. The Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes are to be maintained after the end of the project period. In addition to the degree programmes, GreenChips-EDU is developing further and higher education programmes for industry professionals – ranging from short workshops to microcredentials and MBA programmes.

Theses in cooperation with companies

In addition to universities, an association and a research institute, six companies are also involved in GreenChips-EDU, including Infineon Technologies Austria and Končar from Croatia. The industrial partners are involved, among other things, through teaching assignments and cooperation on Master’s theses. Sabine Herlitschka, CEO of Infineon Technologies Austria: “Microelectronics is an enormous enabler to achieving the climate targets, thus contributing to decarbonization and digitalization. More than ever a skilled technical workforce is needed to implement these impactful innovations, to reduce carbon emissions and to leverage the enormous potential of energy efficiency. These are highly attractive job opportunities capable to shape a better tomorrow. The new European “GreenChips-EDU” project will be instrumental in developing up-to-date and purpose oriented curricula fit to attract more young people for technology studies. As Infineon Austria, we contribute with our extensive expertise in research, development and manufacturing of energy-saving chips, as well as with our comprehensive educational activities for more than 100,000 young people over the last years. Together with this highly competitive consortium, we will generate enthusiasm for technology, boost education and empower technical specialists for the future. This is a very tangible initiative to strengthen Europe’s talent pipeline in this highly relevant field of microelectronics.”

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Goldman Sachs weighs in on commodity prices ahead of rate cuts

Commodity prices are often volatile over short periods.



Over extremely long periods – centuries – commodities prices are pure inflation hedges. That means their inflation-adjusted returns are about zero.

But over shorter periods, commodity prices are extremely volatile. For example, they tanked in early 2020 amid the pandemic outbreak. They climbed sharply from March 2020 to June 2022 and have mostly slipped since then.

Commodity investors maintain that the asset is uncorrelated to stocks and bonds and can thus provide a significant diversifier to your portfolio. But commodities often trade in line with the economy.

A strong economy stimulates demand for commodities, including oil, copper, grains and cocoa, because consumers and companies are flush with cash to spend. Similarly, a weak economy depresses demand for commodities.

Commodities prices are on the rise.

Investors have been buying commodities

The asset class has strengthened in recent weeks, as signs of economic recovery have emerged worldwide. The Bloomberg Commodity Index has ascended 3.5% in the last month.

Related: Analysts issue unexpected crude oil price forecast after surge

The two most-followed commodities, oil and gold, have helped lead the way. You may have seen the impact of rising oil prices at your gas pump. The national regular gas price averaged $3.53 Monday, up 8% from a month ago.

Gold has hit a record high above $2,200, buoyed by Chinese demand. The People’s Bank of China purchased more gold than any other central bank last year, according to the World Gold Council, an industry group.

It’s not just big-time commodities taking off. Cocoa prices have surpassed a 46-year-old record peak. Bad weather in West Africa crimped supply, while speculative fervor has sparked demand, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Goldman Sachs analysts weigh in on commodities

Goldman Sachs analysts believe the commodities rally will continue. Their reasons:

1. What they call “cyclical” support.

“With the trough in global manufacturing behind us and our economists’ strong conviction of interest rate cuts in the U.S. and Europe [starting in June], we expect further support to commodities demand and prices,” the analysts said. Lower rates generally lift economic growth.

Copper, aluminum, and oil products should show particular strength, they said.

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2. Then there are “structural” factors. For example, strong demand for green metals, those that are used to make clean energy, and increasing supply concerns have pushed copper prices to a one-year high, the analysts said. They forecast a 40% increase for copper this year.

3. Geopolitical factors, such as the wars in Gaza and Ukraine, are also relevant, as they limit commodity supply.

“The ongoing Red Sea shipping disruptions and recent attacks on Russian oil-refining capacity” illustrate how geopolitical turmoil is boosting commodity prices, the analysts said.

Another commodity bull is Bruce Kamich, a technical analyst for’s Pro service. He sees demographic trends supporting commodities.

“Since 2000, hundreds of millions of people have moved into the middle class, and that is fueling demand that we have never seen before,” he wrote.

“This insatiable demand is hitting against stagnant supplies of food and materials. I anticipate that commodities will be rationed by price in the years ahead.”

Kamich is looking for an upward move in commodity prices starting in August.

To be sure, the Goldman analysts warn against loading up on every commodity. They have a bearish view for this year on natural gas and lithium. And they see little change for nickel and zinc.

If you are going to invest in commodities, you might consider purchasing a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund ETF with a diversified portfolio. That can protect you against the plunge of an individual commodity.

Related: Veteran fund manager picks favorite stocks for 2024

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Apple CEO Tim Cook woos China as part of big Asia pitch

Apple needs China, and other markets in Asia, now more than ever.



Apple  (AAPL)  shares closed lower Monday, extending a notable 2024 decline for the world's second-largest company as it balances the challenges of aggressive regulations in Europe and the U.S. and a realigning of its broader position in Asian markets.

CEO Tim Cook wraps up a five-day visit to China, as part of the tech giant's renewed Asia push, early this week to revive growth in the world's biggest smartphone market — which also happens to host the most critical elements of its global supply chain.

Last week, Cook opened the company's newest flagship Apple Store in Shanghai, the second-largest behind its Fifth Avenue location in New York and met with key suppliers and government officials including Commerce Minister Wang Wentao ahead of a key business development summit that ended Monday. 

China remains one of the most important markets for Apple, accounting for around 20% of its global sales, pegged last year at around $386 billion, although that share has fallen steadily since 2015 and has largely plateaued since the COVID pandemic of 2020.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, faced with slowing domestic sales and an increasingly hostile regulatory environment, is looking to boost its fortunes in Asia. 

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Increased competition from lower-priced rivals and a drive by Beijing to bolster the fortunes of state-backed Huawei Technologies have added to Apple's China-sale challenge, as have the ongoing trade tensions with the U.S. and Washington's move to limit the export of high-end technologies.

Apple's China sales pressures 

Reports have suggested that Beijing has banned the use of iPhones by government employees and state-backed enterprises to support the launch of Huawei's new Mate 60 handset.

Apple's fourth quarter 2023 China sales fell nearly 13% from a year earlier, the company reported in February, even as global iPhone revenue surprised to the upside at just under $70 billion.

The decline prompted a rare move from Apple to cut the price of its new iPhone 15 by around $70, or 5%, as part of a Lunar New Year promotion in late January. 

Cook said Apple would launch its new Vision Pro headset in China later this year, telling CCTV that he remains "very confident" regarding domestic market prospects.

“I love China, I love being here, I love the people and the culture," Cook said on a broadcast streamed through CCTV's Weibo social media account. "Every time I come here, I am reminded that anything is possible here.”

However, Cook needs to balance the need for a robust sales base in China and the support of officials in Beijing with its broader Asia efforts as it gingerly retools its supply chain to locations in Vietnam, Thailand, and India. The goal is to reduce its reliance on a single location — and to ease the political risk tied to tensions between Beijing and Taiwan.

Related: Goldman Sachs analysts unveil a big change to Apple's outlook

"There's no supply chain in the world that's more critical to us than China," Cook reportedly told the state-controlled China Daily over the weekend, but the group's recent push into India suggests it's playing a much longer game. 

"The timing of this trip was important as, in essence, Apple needs China and China needs Apple despite all the noise," said Wedbush analyst Dan Ives. "Apple needs to turn this headwind into a tailwind heading into the iPhone 16 release this fall and it all starts with reaffirming Apple's presence" in the world's second-largest economy.

Apple's journey: A passage to India

At the same time, however, Cook is shrewdly making inroads into India, an economy boasting more than a billion citizens and a huge, largely untapped, iPhone market.

Apple doesn't break out India sales separately, but Cook said revenue hit a record last quarter, and data from CounterPoint Research suggests it topped more than 10 million iPhone shipments in the Android-dominated market last year. 

Its overall market share, however, is only around 6.5%, well south of the 20% stake it commands in China, according to International Data Corp. figures. That provides a huge opportunity for sales growth over the coming years.

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi also wants to see that nation become a major export hub for smartphones, and he has courted Apple and others in setting up new manufacturing bases, including an iPhone 15 assembly facility, run by Taiwan-based Foxconn, in Tamil Nadu.

That may be why his government reversed an earlier rule earlier this month, following intense lobbying from the U.S., to require laptop makers to obtain licenses for all shipments into the estimated $8 billion a year market.

Apple faces the long arm of regulatory law

Apple's Asia fortunes could be even more critical over the coming years as it grapples with a slowdown in U.S. demand, which some have tied to its lack of new product innovation, and an intensifying regulatory environment in key Western markets.

EU regulators, which have long held U.S. tech giants in their crosshairs, opened an antitrust probe into Apple this week under the region's newly enforced Digital Markets Act. 

Related: Apple hit by massive music streaming fine (it's big)

Last week in the U.S., Attorney General Merrick Garland unveiled details of an antitrust suit that accused the tech giant of running a monopoly in the smartphone market that if left unchallenged "will only continue to strengthen."

"We do see an increasing likelihood that AAPL will be forced to incrementally open up its ecosystem over time across all geographies but view monopolistic claims as a bit of a reach," said CFRA analyst Angelo Zino. 

"All eyes will be on whether recent changes in Europe and the pending U.S. litigation will impact the growth trajectory of Apple's high-margin services business."

The weakening sales, tepid innovation and long-armed regulators have combined to shave more than $300 billion from Apple's market value this year, with the shares falling more than 8% and trailing only Tesla TSLA as the worst-performing Magnificent 7 stock. 

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Ives at Wedbush, however, sees the recent events as strengthening the case for Apple's renewed Asia push, noting that China's recent foreign investment slump and moribund domestic economy make the two necessary if wary, bedfellows.

"Cupertino is facing regulatory battles from all directions," Ives said. "And while China has been a headache for Apple over the past year, it appears to be changing its tune as the threat of Apple taking its supply chain outside China has been heard loud and clear from Beijing."

"We have seen Apple's back against the wall before and we view this period as just another chapter in the Apple growth story with AI now on the doorstep," he added.

Related: Veteran fund manager picks favorite stocks for 2024

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The Norwegian Illusion: EVs Are Not More Energy Efficient

The Norwegian Illusion: EVs Are Not More Energy Efficient

Via Goehring & Rozencwajg,

“Electric vehicles (EVs) are pilling up on lots…



The Norwegian Illusion: EVs Are Not More Energy Efficient

Via Goehring & Rozencwajg,

“Electric vehicles (EVs) are pilling up on lots across the country as the green revolution hits a speed bump, data show.”
~ USA Today, November 14, 2023

“Hertz Global Holdings announced Thursday it planned to cut one-third of its global EV fleet over the year. Following the announcement, Hertz CEO Stephen Scherr suggested the road to electrification could be bumpier than anticipated.”
~ Bloomberg, January 11, 2024

Starting mid-point last decade, the investment community became convinced EV adoption would quickly surge.  EV penetrations would become so great that global oil consumption would imminently peak, or so consensus opinion widely believed.   2019 was repeatedly referenced as the year that oil demand would peak and then decline. In retrospect, these concerns were misplaced. Despite the massive COVID-19 disruption,  oil demand in 2024  should reach 103 m b/d – 2.3 m b/d greater than 2019. Undeterred by the surprising surge in demand, many analysts remain convinced that “peak oil demand” is still imminent.  

The investment community’s belief that EVs will displace the internal combustion engine remains as strong as ever.  

We vigorously disagree.

In our last letter, we predicted that global energy demand would consistently exceed expectations for the next twenty years. Never before have so many people been simultaneously in their period of energy-intensive economic development. Our essay focused broadly on total energy demand and specifically avoided oil consumption. Our choice was deliberate: we wanted to highlight the critical drivers of total energy demand and avoid getting distracted by the debate on EV penetration. Today’s essay focuses on oil and explains why we believe demand will surprise the upside for years to come.

Our research shows that EVs will struggle to achieve widespread adoption despite massive subsidies and the growing threat of outright internal combustion engine (ICE) bans. After carefully studying the history of energy, we have yet to find an example where a new technology with inferior energy efficiency has replaced an existing, more efficient one. Despite claims to the contrary, our research suggests EVs are less energy efficient than internal combustion engine automobiles. As a result, they will fail to gain widespread adoption.

Our claim is controversial; most pundits insist EVs are far more efficient. We believe the ICE is clearly the winner once the energetic costs of both the battery and the renewable power required to make “carbon-free” EVs are considered.

Although governments can encourage EVs through either subsidies or ICE bans, these measures will likely fail, as consumers will ultimately refuse to embrace a new technology that sports inferior energy efficiency.  Better examples couldn’t exist than Ford and Hertz dramatically scaling back their EV initiatives due to lower-than-expected consumer interest.

Mitigating carbon emissions is central to the case for electric vehicles. Advocates argue that displacing fossil fuels is essential to curbing global warming. We disagree.   Replacing  ICEs with  EVs will materially increase carbon emissions and may worsen the problem. Manufacturing an electric vehicle consumes far more energy than an ICE. Most of this additional energy is spent mining the materials for and manufacturing an EV’s giant lithium-ion battery. Mining companies use energy-intensive trucks, crushers, and mills to extract each battery’s nickel, cobalt, lithium, and copper. The manufacturing process consumes vast amounts of energy as well. Many analysts eagerly tout the carbon savings from displaced fossil fuels without adequately accounting for the battery’s increased energy consumption. Once these adjustments are made, most, if not all, of the EV’s carbon advantage disappears.

If our models are correct, EVs will fail on two fronts: they are less energy efficient than the ICEs they are trying to replace and their adoption will do little to mitigate carbon emissions.

Policymakers often tout Norway as the ultimate EV success story. Thanks to massive subsidies, EVs made up 80% of all Norwegian new car sales in 2022 and currently account for 20% of the total car fleet. Policymakers hope all developed countries will ultimately adopt Norway’s model. However, upon closer inspection, Norway's experience does more to warn of EVs’ shortcomings than advocate for their adoption.

The first problem is financial.

The Norwegian government offers consumers massive subsidies to purchase an EV. New vehicles are exempt from several onerous taxes and the 25% VAT. On average, a large new ICE would be subject to $27,000 in various taxes; an equivalent EV would pay none. Next, Norway exempts EVs from any road or ferry tolls and allows them to use bus lanes, offers free parking and charging in municipal areas, and ensures “charging rights” in apartment buildings. Although Norway rolled back some of these operating subsidies starting in 2017, an Oslo resident can still expect these benefits to total $8,000 annually.

Norway is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with a per capita GDP of $106,000 in 2022. Despite its impressive wealth, the government must still financially incentivize its citizens to purchase EVs.

The benefits are starting to take their toll on Norway’s finances. At nearly $4 billion annually, Norway spends as much on EV subsidies as on total highway and public infrastructure maintenance. The program has also raised significant issues around equality in Norway. EV subsidies favor high-income urban citizens, who take advantage of free tolls, parking, and charging and avoid the onerous tax on larger luxury vehicles. Several populist-leaning political groups in Norway have made so-called “elitist” EV subsidies a focal point of their platform.

Amid growing scrutiny, the government has actively sought to reduce several subsidies. Municipal parking is no longer free, and passengers (although not the vehicles themselves) are subject to certain tolls. The government also introduced a partial purchase tax on new EVs. Proponents have warned that any rollback of subsidies will surely harm EV penetration and offer Sweden as a case study, where, in 2022, the elimination of several subsidies precipitated a 20% drop in EV sales.

More important, EVs in Norway have not affected fossil fuel demand or carbon emissions as expected. Although oil demand and carbon emissions have fallen by 15% since 2010, most of this is unrelated to EV sales. Over the period, total oil demand fell by only 34,000 b/d, with gasoline and diesel making up a mere 10% of the decline. Most of the decline came from heating, lighting, and petrochemical demand, which we estimate collapsed by more than a third. Despite 20% of all vehicles on the road now being electric, Norway’s gasoline and diesel demand fell by a mere 4%.

Our data suggests that Norwegians are reluctant to give up their ICE vehicles, even after purchasing an EV. We calculate that two-thirds of Norway’s EV households own at least one ICE vehicle. From 2010 to 2022, Norway added 550,000 EVs, but the number of ICE vehicles on the road, rather than falling,   increased by 32,630. While the population grew by 11%, the total number of passenger cars grew by 25%. When an EV household prefers to avoid a road or ferry toll, have access to free parking or charging, or avoid congestion by using bus lanes, they use their EV. When they visit their hytte in the mountains, they use their ICE. The impact has been so material that advocates have lobbied for a government-funded ICE scrappage program,- another veiled EV subsidy.

Unsurprisingly, electricity demand has surged  as Norway shifted from fossil fuels to electricity for transportation, heating, and lighting. Since 2010, Norwegian electricity demand rose an impressive  20%. Total primary demand for all forms of energy increased by 5%. The data suggests that a widespread shift to EVs did little to reduce overall energy consumption despite claims they are far more efficient.

The shift from fossil fuels to electricity has reduced Norway’s CO2 by an impressive 16%, an achievement lauded in the press. Far less discussed, however, is how the US lowered its emissions by 16% over the same period, by switching from coal to natural gas in its power generation.

Using Norway as a model for CO2 reduction would be a mistake. Far more than any other country in the world, Norway benefits from its vast hydrological potential which generates nearly 92% of all electricity carbon-free. Therefore, a move from fossil fuels towards electricity will significantly impact Norway’s carbon emissions more than anywhere else on Earth.

Furthermore, Norway imports all domestic EVs. As we discussed, EV manufacturing is incredibly energy-intensive,  mainly to build the battery. In Norway’s case, none of this additional energy is reflected in their domestic demand figures. China manufactures most lithium-ion batteries and 80% of all EVs. Coal accounts for 60% of their total energy supply.

We estimate an average EV consumes 60 MWh to manufacture, of which the battery represents half. Therefore, manufacturing Norway’s 579,000 EVs (all the EVs on the road today in Norway) requires 35 twh, equivalent to 25% of the total annual Norwegian electricity demand. Given that China emits 600 grams of CO2 per kwh (China is where almost all of Noway’s EV batteries are manufactured), we calculate Norway’s EV fleet would emit 21 mm tonnes of CO2. Norway’s gasoline and diesel consumption fell by a meager 3,200 barrels per day or 50 mm gallons per year. Assuming 9 kg of CO2 per gallon of gasoline or diesel, Norway’s entire EV fleet mitigates a mere 450,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, compared with an upfront emission of 21 mm tonnes. In other words, it would take forty-five years of CO2 savings from reduced gasoline and diesel consumption to offset the initial emissions from the manufacturing of the vehicles. Since an EV battery has a useful life of only ten to fifteen years, it is clear that Norway’s EV rollout has increased total lifecycle CO2 emissions dramatically. Incredibly, this is true despite Norway having the lowest carbon hydroelectricity in the world. Even if China were to reach its overly ambitious targets for wind, solar, and nuclear power by 2035, we calculate that the carbon “payback” would still exceed twenty years. Realistically, the only way for EVs to reduce lifecycle carbon emissions would be with a widespread move to carbon-free energy in EV manufacturing. Most EV advocates hope renewable energy will be the solution. Unfortunately, we do not believe this will prove feasible due to their inferior energy efficiency.

Instead of serving as a model, Norway’s program should warn of the unintended consequences of large-scale EV penetration, particularly when consumers purchase an EV in addition to an ICE. Countless articles claim EVs are far more energy efficient than ICE vehicles. Moreover, these authors argue   EVs will be more efficient and more carbon-free once renewables replace coal and natural gas. Our analysis, unpopular and controversial, suggests the opposite.

Most articles list EVs as anywhere between two and three times more energy efficient than the ICEs they replace.  

The basis for this claim is that internal combustion engines are only 40% efficient and that nearly 60% of the energy contained in gasoline or diesel fuel is “wasted,” –mainly in the form of heat and friction. On the other hand, an electric motor transfers nearly 90% of its electrical energy directly to the wheels. The difference leads many to erroneously conclude that an EV is almost three times as “efficient” as an ICE.

This common argument is fundamentally flawed for three reasons.

First, it fails to capture the energy needed to make the battery;

second, it fails to distinguish between thermal and electric energy;

and third, it fails to account for the poor energy efficiency of renewable energy.

An EV uses 32 kWh of electricity per 100 miles traveled. The vehicle’s battery, meanwhile, consumes an incredible 24 MWh in its manufacturing. Assuming a useful life of 120,000 miles, the battery pack consumes 20 kWh per 100 miles traveled, two-thirds as much as the direct electricity itself. Most analysts we have read fail to include this onerous energy burden when touting the EV’s superior efficiency.

Next, most efficiency arguments fail to distinguish between thermal and electrical energy.

While most of us have been taught that energy is fungible, several distinct forms of energy have differing degrees of usefulness. Although it is beyond the scope of this essay, the distinction surrounds the randomness, or entropy, of the energy carrier. The more entropic an energy source, the less useful work it can perform. Burning fuels of any kind always has high entropy. Electricity, on the other hand, with its orderly string of moving electrons, has extremely low entropy. Upgrading from thermal to electric energy always introduces predictable inefficiencies based on the fundamental laws of thermodynamics.

When pundits claim an EV is three times more efficient than an ICE, they fail to make this distinction.  In a combustion engine, the driver converts gasoline (high entropy) into forward motion with approximately 40% efficiency. Electricity (low entropy) drives a motor with approximately 90% efficiency in an electric vehicle. However, electricity does not exist in nature but instead must be generated. Burning natural gas (high entropy) to generate electricity (low entropy) is only 40-50% efficient. The EV is not inherently more efficient; instead, the inefficient “upgrade” from thermal to electric energy occurs off-stage and is conveniently omitted by most analysts.

Last, most efficiency arguments fail to account for energy generation in the first place.

For example, as we saw with Norway, the only way to lower automotive carbon emissions is by converting to renewable energy for both the manufacturing and powering of the vehicle. Unfortunately, renewable power is prohibitively inefficient. This may be surprising. After all, neither wind nor solar “burn” fuel, and so are not subjected to the inefficiency of moving from thermal to electric energy discussed earlier. However, wind and solar suffer from incredibly low energy density (consider the heat from a gas stove compared to a stiff breeze). To capture useful quantities of power, windmills must stand 300 m tall, and solar farms must spread out over thousands of acres. These large installations require raw materials like steel, cement, copper, silver, and polysilicon. These materials, in turn, consume vast quantities of energy to both mine and process. By comparison, oil and gas extraction is highly efficient.

We study the total energy required to produce various forms of energy, a metric known as energy return on investment  (EROI). While a single unit of invested energy might generate fifty units of (thermal) energy over the life of a productive oil well, it will only generate ten units of (electrical) energy with wind or less than six from a solar panel. Furthermore, wind and solar power must be buffered by grid-level battery storage to avoid intermittency, which requires far more energy. Fully buffered wind likely has an EROI of six to seven, while solar may be as low as three. Claiming a renewable-powered EV is efficient because its motor operates at 90% fails to account for the poor upstream efficiency.

Instead, we have taken a completely different approach when calculating automotive efficiency: assuming 100 kWh of available thermal energy, how far can a driver expect to travel in an ICE compared with an EV. We prefer this methodology, as it aligns with our intuitive understanding of “efficiency:”: how much can we get out of a single unit of energy. Using this approach, the race isn’t even close --the ICE wins “hands down.”  

An efficient ICE can expect to achieve 37 miles per gallon of gasoline or 98 kWh of thermal energy per 100 miles. The vehicle components require 20 MWh, or 15 kWh per 100 miles, when amortized over a useful life of 170,000 miles—according to Argon Labs. The ICE can expect to consume 112 kWh per 100 miles, of which 90% represents thermal energy in the form of gasoline. Oil extraction benefits from a very high EROI of 60:1 at the wellhead. In other words, 60 units of thermal energy, in the form of crude, comes up the wellbore for every unit of energy invested. Transportation and refining consume approximately 15% of the energy contained in the crude, lowering the EROI to 50. To be conservative, we are assuming an ultimate EROI of 45. Therefore, investing one kWh of thermal energy will create 45 kWh of thermal energy, propelling the ICE 41 miles.

A modern EV consumes 32 kWh of direct electrical energy per 100 miles. The battery requires an additional 24 MWh, which over the vehicle’s useful life of 120,000 miles equals 20 kWh per 100 miles. The remaining vehicle components consume 27 kWh per 100 miles. The EV can expect to consume 80 kWh per 100 miles, of which 95% is electricity.

Assuming the electricity is generated in a natural gas-fired power plant, the EROI is approximately 25 once transmission line losses are considered. Starting again with one kWh of thermal energy, we would expect to generate 25 kWh of electricity. The EV would, therefore, travel 32 miles – 20% less than the ICE. If electricity is generated using a mixture of unbuffered wind and solar, the EROI could be as low as 13. Therefore, one kWh of energy would only generate 13 kWh of electricity, propelling the EV a mere 16 miles – over 60% less than the ICE.

Never in history has a less efficient “prime mover” displaced a more efficient one. We believe this time will be no different. While governments may try to coerce drivers into buying EVs or even ban ICE altogether, these policies will ultimately fail as consumers insist on keeping their more efficient vehicles. A new battery breakthrough would help make EVs more energy efficient, and we are studying the space very closely. In particular, we are impressed with the work being done by the team at PureLithium, in which we have made a small private investment. However, we cannot identify any battery technology that would materially change this analysis. Until then, we expect internal combustion engines will continue to dominate, and EV penetration will disappoint. 

Intrigued? We invite you to download or revisit our entire Q4 2023 research letter, available below.   

Tyler Durden Mon, 03/25/2024 - 17:00

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