Not So Fast With Those Electric Cars

Discussion in 'BEV or Battery Electric Vehicle' started by ALS, Jul 10, 2009.

  1. ALS

    ALS Super Moderator Staff Member

    [​IMG] A government report says reliance on electric cars will do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and may merely shift our dependence on foreign sources from one set of dictators to another.

    [FIMG=RIGHT][/FIMG]Investor's Business Daily - INVESTORS - July 09, 2009

    I've been thinking the same thing "What if" --Ed.

    Alternative Energy: A government report says reliance on electric cars will do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and may merely shift our dependence on foreign sources from one set of dictators to another.

    It's a beautiful theory — highways full of electric cars emitting no greenhouse gases or pollutants after being plugged into an outlet in our garages overnight. The problem, according to a new Government Accountability Office report, is that the effort may only shift the problem somewhere else.

    "If you are using coal-fired power plants, and half the country's electricity comes from coal-powered plants, are you just trading one greenhouse gas emitter for another?" asks Mark Gaffigan, co-author of the GAO report. The report itself notes: "Reductions in CO2 emissions depend on generating electricity used to charge the vehicles from lower-emission sources of energy."

    The GAO report says a plug-in compact car, if recharged at an outlet drawing its power from coal, provides a carbon dioxide savings of only 4% to 5%. If the feeling of saving the environment from driving an electric car causes people to drive more, that small amount of savings vanishes entirely.

    It's much the same effect we saw when the Corporate Fuel Economy Standards were passed in the '70s. Aside from forcing us into less-safe downsized vehicles that increased highway fatalities, the promise of more miles per gallon caused people to drive more miles. The promised energy independence never materialized as we imported more foreign oil than ever before.

    Okay, so how about a zero-emission source of electricity — nuclear power? The administration has done little to promote it beyond lip service. The administration recently killed the safest place on the planet to store what is erroneously called nuclear waste — at the nuclear repository that was being built at Yucca Mountain, Nev.

    This "waste" is in the form of spent fuel rods the French and others have safely stored and reprocessed. These rods still contain most of their original energy and reprocessing them makes nuclear power renewable as well as pollution-free. The French get 80% of their electricity from nukes, and nobody in Paris glows in the dark.

    They will have a place to plug in their electric cars, but right now we don't. The government is promoting solar and wind, which is fine if the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. Both have their own environmental drawbacks.

    Both require huge amounts of land. Wind turbines tend to slice and dice birds, including endangered species. Solar panels of the size that might be competitive require huge amounts of water to clean. Water is a rare commodity in the areas the sun shines most — the arid land of the West and Southwest.... [RM][/RM]
  2. Right Lane Cruiser

    Right Lane Cruiser Penguin of Notagascar

    Wow... I don't even know where to start with this one. :(
  3. ALS

    ALS Super Moderator Staff Member

    I just wanted to point out that I'm about neutral on this piece and thought it would be a good article to discuss the positives and the negatives of electric cars pointed out by the writer.

    I totally disagree with the writer on this point. What sane individual would take a vehicle such as pictured in the article out on the Interstate or busy four lane highway. The other issue that bugged me was his blatant misunderstanding of battery recycling in the United States today.

    Yet on the other side of the coin I do agree with his assessment over the environmental and political concerns.

  4. NiHaoMike

    NiHaoMike Well-Known Member

    What about hydroelectric power?
  5. R.I.D.E.

    R.I.D.E. Well-Known Member

    You start with an unbiased investigation of every potential pathway to energy independence.

    The necessity to obtain the objective should never be focused on any single pathway, especially when you make long term commitments to raw material sources that could actually make the situation worse.

    Optional pathways that provide near term improvements should be considered, as most changes in the auto industry are going to be evolutionary. If they were not evolutionary then you could create unintended financial consequences.

    Short term, technology should focus on optimizing the present basic vehicle, with start stop, smaller engines with some form of forced induction for the occasional high power output situation, with the most efficient regeneration of braking energy available.

    Aero and rolling resistance improvements should be actively pursued and at some point transition into mandatory requirements.

    The role of government should be much the same as it was in the Manhattan Project of WW2. The end result is to obtain energy independence, not focus on any individual pathway to the solution. We have the ability to make an fairly inexpensive financial investment and reap 100's of times that investment in reductions in foreign energy dependence.

    Money that goes overseas leaves the US, in many cases forever, in other cases as loans and outright purchases of our industry.

    Money that stays in the US is leveraged by 10 or more times it's actual value by a functional financial system. We are bleeding our net worth at an unprecedented pace and within the next few decades we could be bled dry.

    We HAVE to focus on technology that works RIGHT NOW, and penalize those who waste energy because they can afford to do so, because they increase the cost of energy to those who can not afford to compete with those who grossly waste a finite resource. Not the energy itself, but the wealth this nation has accumulated in the last 3 centuries.

    All wars are economic, and the sad thing is we as a nation seem to be oblivious to the real problem.

    I'm not a Liberal, but we are rapidly throwing away the chance to reverse the current direction of our gross inefficiency or we will leave nothing but IOUs for those generations who can do nothing but look back at this time period and shake their heads at how stupid we were.

  6. fuzzy

    fuzzy Mild hypermiler

    That is another hot environmental issue with considerable destruction of migrating fish populations and various habitats. Mention the Lower Snake River dams and declining salmon runs, and we could start another whole forum.
  7. pcs0snq

    pcs0snq Well-Known Member

    Get the actual report and read it. It's spot on from the stand point of emissions. Can't tell you how many pen headed articles I've read from Plug in pushers that are mindless about what's involved on the other site of the cord. Some in fact have treated it as fee energy (by neglect) when plugging for the some FE performance.
  8. bomber991

    bomber991 Well-Known Member

    EV's make no sense because they have a range of 10 feet, and are powered by acid filled batteries. ACID PEOPLE!!! That's the stuff that melts your skin off of you like butter. And where's that electricity come from? It comes from super dirty coal that has to be shipped upwards of 1000 miles to a coal power plant. Not only that but the country that has all the coal we use is evil and wants to kill all of us, but hasn't done so yet because they greedy and want our money more!!! RABBLE RABBLE!!!

    Yeah, I didn't RTFA, but I'm guess it said some bs like that. It's so nice how everyone conveniently forgets that our cars today are full of flammable liquid, and that the source of energy to power those cars is mostly in the hands of our enemies on the other side of the world. It's nice how they forget that it's much easier to clean up one power plant than a million cars. It's nice how they forget how much of a battery can be recycled. It's nice how they forget that people can generate their own electricity with solar or wind generators, but that they can't produce their own gasoline.

    Yep, I'm under the impression that with lead-acid ev's, you must replace the batteries about every 2 years, and then that's about it for maintenance. Brakes, tires, and transmission fluid changes would be the only things remaining from ICE maintenance cars.
  9. Right Lane Cruiser

    Right Lane Cruiser Penguin of Notagascar

    If Americans would scale back on their use of those huge, widescreen televisions they are so fond of EVs could be implemented with no impact to the electric grid. :p
  10. jimepting

    jimepting Well-Known Member

    There are going to be huge problems any way we go. In the final analysis, huge amounts of energy are currently being used to operate motor vehicles. Unless we as a nation can wean ourselves from our heavy use of vehicles in general, then we will incur lots of fuel use regardless of which type of motor propells these vehicles. It is just simple engineering.

    I don't actually know whether lithium is economically recoverable through battery recycling, but I do know that about half our electric power comes from coal, with the percentage increasing all the time. The author rightly concludes that much of the polution problem is simply moved from one place to another. We might be able to achieve major improvements in coal plant emissions, and we might be able to find a way to sequester carbon dioxide, but we don't seem to be making enough progress on either.

    Many of the problems are political and ultimately lay at the feet of an unlightened and disinterested electorate. Yucca mountain gets canceled because a politician buys votes by promising to cancel. We have ethanol partially because of the lobbying of midwestern farm interests. We fail to make progress on nuclear because of the negative politics. For gods sake - the French can do it, we should certainly be able to do it!

    Not that it will make much difference in the end, but we should be able to answer the question of indirect CO2 emissions with some simple calculations. If we assume that coal will grow as an energy source to about 60% of our fuel by the time we get EVs in large numbers, then the math is manageable I think. We have lots of smart engineers here. It is a calculation we could do! Then we could stop talking about EVs like the energy was free and the polution was zero, neither of which pass the "idiot" test in my mind.

    I hope not to offend any of my good friends. It just seems like we should all refrain from knee jerk reaction to anyone who raises questions. Are our agendas so entrenched that we cannot see where our logic might have some holes? After all, that is the kind of fault that gets our nation into trouble time and time again.

    With so many smart people on this forum, we should be able to do some actual calculations. I'm going to make a start by doing a bit of research on how much coal we are like to be burning in 10 years. Our future is coal. Like it or not I'm convinced that the die is cast and that outcome is highly likely.
  11. Taliesin

    Taliesin Well-Known Member

    Or the catfish decline in the Mississippi River Basin. There were reliable reports of 300+# catfish in St. Louis fish markets during the Civil War. Now the world record is barely over 120#.
  12. Bike123

    Bike123 Well-Known Member

    I fully agree that we need to wean ourselves off of heavy vehicles. However, I would not expect an article supporting bicycling (or hypermiling or smaller cars) from this author.

    Regarding the need for calculations instead of knee jerk reactions: I don't see any calculations in this article -- it is pure knee jerk reaction. Here is an example:
    "Solar panels of the size that might be competitive require huge amounts of water to clean. Water is a rare commodity in the areas the sun shines most — the arid land of the West and Southwest."

    Go to and look at the size of the PV panels. They supply more electricity than the owner's EV uses in a year. And compared to water use of bluegrass of the same area, cleaning water requirements are negligible. Low water use is one of the advantages of PV and wind -- coal and nuclear plants need large amounts of cooling water.

    If we are considering future electric requirements, consider that EV charging can be a shedable load (or even a short term source to the grid), enabling higher a higher % of variable production such as wind.
  13. owlmaster08

    owlmaster08 Well-Known Member

    Anyone can point out the flaws in something. A useful person would provide a better course of action when shooting down another, otherwise such criticism is pretty useless. I don't see the article providing a better solution, but rather that we are okay in how we are getting along now.

    Articles like this one promote inaction and complacency, when action is needed!
  14. JusBringIt

    JusBringIt Be Inspired

    This is much like the other article rant
  15. WriConsult

    WriConsult Super Moderator

    I'd like to see the link to this alleged GAO report. My impression has been that EVs powered by coal generation are about 3x more GHG efficient than comparably sized gas powered cars. And that's for comparably sized cars -- maybe the day will come when Tahoe sized BEVs are practical, but that's many years off. In the meantime most people buying EVs are going to be downsizing from something bigger, creating further savings.

    There's definitely some additional garbage spewed in this article, but I won't bother.
  16. GrendelKhan

    GrendelKhan Well-Known Member

    I would. I have taken motorbikes too...

    Not that you don't have a point. I'm just answering the question.
  17. jimepting

    jimepting Well-Known Member

    I agree with this! We Americans would all be better off if we did more biking. Many of us are overweight and under exercised. We'd accomplish a dual objective by biking more and driving less. Unfortunately we'd have to rebuild much of our housing infrastructure to accomplish very much. Commutes over 10 miles aren't going to work very well.

    Again, I strongly agree with the observation of lack of statistics. Most writers of articles and even posts here stake out positions that aren't documented with data. That was the basis of my point that we are smart enough to work up some statistics. I'm sure there is a wealth of data on the internet to help us.

    I have my doubts about PV solar and I speak as a personal owner of some. It is very expensive to produce and has its own sets of environmental issues. There are some promising new developments on thin films, but the old silicone method has lots of drawbacks. The ref you provided has 20 panels. At around $600 each, that is $12,000 worth of solar panels. Not cost effective by any means. If a home requires air conditioning, the cost is even greater.

    If I understand you, this COULD be true if the BEV were put on some type of timer, or if the utility had active control over the charging. Otherwise the owner just plugs it in when he finishes his commute, right at peak consumption hour;)

    I'm still searching out good stistics which would help us enlighten the conversation:D
  18. jimepting

    jimepting Well-Known Member

    Me too! I wonder if we can find the actual report. I'm going to Google.
  19. jimepting

    jimepting Well-Known Member

    Here is another article on the subject:

    Though the article is potentially from a biased source, it mentions the author of the report, one Mark Gaffigan.

    I have searched the GAO web site without success. I have put in a request to the GAO to provide me a direct ref to the report. We'll see how long it takes some government employee to respond to that ;-)
  20. NiHaoMike

    NiHaoMike Well-Known Member

    Promote hybrid bikes since they can go faster. 10 mile EV range with a hybrid bike is not that big of a deal. There are some homemade hybrids that get an EV range of many dozens of miles and very good performance. (Though they no doubt lose a lot of range at high speed due to aerodynamic factors.)

    Even a very good hybrid bike would be much more affordable than a hybrid or electric car.

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