Comment from Don Brunell: Not so fast on the push for electric vehicles

By Don Brunell

When Toyota speaks, car buyers are listening. Hopefully our elected officials will do it too.

Toyota is one of the two largest manufacturers of cars and trucks in the world – twice the size of GM, which is our biggest. Toyota warns the world is far from ready to ditch gasoline and diesel engines and needs batteries to keep our replacements running.

For Toyota, it’s not just about finding enough critical battery materials like lithium, cobalt and nickel, it’s also about having enough electricity in our power grid to recharge them.

Specifically, Toyota is concerned not only about the capacity of our network today, but in the future, when at least 30 times as many electric cars and trucks are expected to be on the roads.

Last spring, Robert Wimmer, head of energy and environmental research at Toyota, testified before the US Senate warning of problems with the electricity supply. According to, “If we are to make dramatic progress in electrification, huge challenges will have to be overcome, including refueling infrastructure, battery availability, consumer acceptance and affordability.” said Bryan Preston of

Wimmer’s remarks follow GM’s announcement to phase out all gas-fired internal combustion engines by 2035. Other manufacturers, including Mini, have followed suit with similar announcements.

Based on a 2017 U.S. government study, Toyota believes that the electricity supply and infrastructure are woefully inadequate. He saw a need for 8,500 strategically placed charging stations to support a fleet of 7 million electric cars (EVs).

That’s about six times the current number of electric cars, but no one is talking about supporting just 7 million cars, Wimmer added.

“We should be talking about feeding around 300 million people over the next 20 years,” he said.

Toyota is not alone in serving the reality check. Tesla’s Elon Musk, who built his empire on electric vehicles, agrees.

In December, Governor Jay Inslee released his latest climate proposal calling for a carbon-neutral electricity grid by 2030 and one powered by 100% clean electricity by 2045. It is increasing its building codes that include a phase-out of natural gas for space heating and water by banning the use of fossil fuels for heating and hot water in new buildings by 2030.

The codes add pressure on the electricity grid to replace natural gas.

Rep. Mary Dye (R-Pomeroy) added that Inslee’s natural gas ban is important.

“It’s a big industry because it provides heat to about 1.2 million homes, there are 107,000 commercial buildings and 3,500 industrial buildings that run on clean, efficient and reliable natural gas. In addition, it supplies about 11% of our electricity network.

Washington is perhaps in a better position than most places to increase the supply of electricity because of our abundant hydroelectric system, which provides two-thirds of our electricity.

Today our state has an adequate supply of electricity, but if proposals to ban natural gas in new homes and buildings and demands for electric vehicle charging skyrocket, our state could face the same declines in electricity. tension than California and China. (China currently has the most electric vehicles on the road while California leads the United States)

China and California, which have large wind and solar farms, have grid overload and more people are losing electricity. It will probably be much worse in the future.

China, by far the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, says it will take at least 2060 before it is carbon neutral. Meanwhile, rather than replacing the production of electricity from fossil fuels, it increases the capacity of the grid to meet the expected load.

Toyota’s alarm is a good thing. Addressing power shortages now, before we are back to the wall, is even better.


Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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