Skip to comments.Electric cars not so green after all?
Posted on 06/13/2011 1:56:53 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column for The Week in which I questioned the notion of electric cars being a green option. My arguments got swift rebuttals from backers of electric cars, but a new study produced in partnership between the British government and the car industry shows just how correct I was. Not only do electric vehicles produce just as much carbon in their overall cycle as internal-combustion engines, the need to replace the batteries actually makes the less green than current technology (via Jeff Dunetz):
ELECTRIC cars could produce higher emissions over their lifetimes than petrol equivalents because of the energy consumed in making their batteries, a study has found.
An electric car owner would have to drive at least 129,000km before producing a net saving in CO2. Many electric cars will not travel that far in their lifetime because they typically have a range of less than 145km on a single charge and are unsuitable for long trips. Even those driven 160,000km would save only about a tonne of CO2 over their lifetimes. …
The study was commissioned by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, which is jointly funded by the British government and the car industry. It found that a mid-size electric car would produce 23.1 tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime, compared with 24 tonnes for a similar petrol car. Emissions from manufacturing electric cars are at least 50 per cent higher because batteries are made from materials such as lithium, copper and refined silicon, which require much energy to be processed.
Many electric cars are expected to need a replacement battery after a few years. Once the emissions from producing the second battery are added in, the total CO2 from producing an electric car rises to 12.6 tonnes, compared with 5.6 tonnes for a petrol car. Disposal also produces double the emissions because of the energy consumed in recovering and recycling metals in the battery. The study also took into account carbon emitted to generate the grid electricity consumed.
Battery manufacturing is an energy-intensive process, as is recycling and reclamation. Normal cars use batteries, of course, but only one per car rather than a bank of batteries. Moving to all-electric vehicles would mean an explosion of manufacturing, recycling, and disposal, none of which the US or the UK are prepared to handle.
As I also noted two weeks ago, that’s not the only “green” concern in the battery cycle:
Where do we plan to put all of the dead batteries that will necessarily have to be discarded? Some (but not all) components can be recycled, and those elements which must be disposed are not terribly eco-friendly, depending on the kind of batteries made. Lithium ion seems to be the direction most car manufacturers are heading, which poses fewer disposal risks to the environment but still poses risks in mining and manufacturing, especially to groundwater.
Lithium also poses another blow to the argument for the electric car its domestic availability. Eighty-five percent of the known reserves are inBolivia, Chile, and China, and lithium is not the only element needed for large-scale production of car battery systems. Large flake graphite is also needed, and China controls 80 percent of the market, along with other rare earth elements. Far from ending our dependence on foreign resources, we will merely exchange our dependence from the Middle East to China, which is not exactly an encouraging thought for our future.
Even if we did have these elements in abundance, we would need to mine and drill for them. Those are precisely the activities that environmentalists and short-sighted government policies have been blocking for decades in coal, oil, shale, and natural gas. Besides, peak lithium may arrive long before peak oil, as the Argonne National Laboratory estimates that we only have enough lithium available to manufacture car batteries through 2050 less than 40 years from now. A lithium crunch could occur by 2017 which also hardly lends confidence to the reliability of the electric car as a long-term solution.
We would have to do extensive mining somewhere to get the materials necessary to manufacture the batteries, most likely overseas, which makes us more dependent on foreign energy, not less so. Instead of putting us even further at the mercy of foreign countries for our transportation and energy needs, why not just convert to natural gas? The technology for natural-gas vehicles has been around for decades, and it burns cleanly while giving drivers a normal range for their cars. Natural gas is an abundant resource in the US, which would require less work to extract than the metals needed for a massive expansion of battery manufacturing, and would make the US much more self-reliant for energy. It also requires much less effort to transform into consumer-ready energy than either lithium (which still requires electrical charging and recharging) or gasoline, which requires heavy refining, with its own environmental issues.
If we want the most “green” solution for mass-produced energy in personal transportation, the answer is natural gas, not electric vehicles. That wouldn’t need overwhelming federal subsidies for decades to give the illusion of competitiveness, either.
They are coal-burning cars. Shut off the coal, and the car stops. (Where the hell do people think electricity comes from?)
The electric cars are a hazmat crew's worst enemy.
Ah, the refreshing sight of an article written by someone who actually knows science and engineering.
Read it and weep, oh libtards.
Right after you try for the third time to pass algebra 1.
Libtards think that electricity comes from the wall.
It’s just there.
Just like “food comes from the store.”
From the article :
“If we want the most green solution for mass-produced energy in personal transportation, the answer is natural gas, not electric vehicles.”
Question : How “safe” are natural gas powered vehicles compared to gasoline powered ones if (God forbid) they were to meet an accident?
Greens are for the most part morons or liars who ignor physics.
In any energy conversion there are losses from the mechanical and chemical energy that is used to produce the electricity.
A coal burning power plant is around 37% percent efficent. A nuclear plant is around 48%.
ANd hybrids are just the latest in the snob feel good and superior vehicles because they suffer from the same chemical to mechanical losses.
Ask Honda, for starters. They make a CNG powered CIVIC that YOU can buy TODAY.
Then there are all the taxi cab companies that have converted, and many utility company and some state government vehicles.
In California, the big utlity company, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) runs the vast majority of their vehicles with CNG.
In San Jose, the local bus company runs most of their vehicles on CNG, or are hybrid.
Then there is this:
Physical Properties: Yes, natural gas itself is a safer fuel than either gasoline or diesel fuel. It has a limited range of flammability, meaning it requires the correct mixture of air and fuel to burnsomewhere in the 5 to 15 percent range, and an ignition temperature of approximately 1100 degrees F. Compare that to gasoline and diesel fuel which both have lower concentrations of flammability and lower temperatures of ignition.
Fuel Density: Natural gas is lighter than air. If a leak were to develop, the gas would rise and disperse through the atmosphere giving little chance for ignition. Compare that to gasoline and diesel fuel, both of which are dense liquids that tend to pool and are easily ignitable.
The on-board tanks are made of steel up to one half-inch thick and often wrapped in protective reinforced fiberglass sheathing. Plus, newer tanks are constructed of polymers and composites that are stronger than steel.
Contrast this with standard gasoline and diesel tanks in regular vehicles. These tanks are usually made from stamped steel shell halves, just a few thirty-seconds of an inch thick, that are welded or crimped together. In the event of a traffic accident, the ability of rugged, durable CNG tanks to withstand rupture or puncture certainly exceeds that of simple stamped steel.
How about that?
“Where the hell do people think electricity comes from?”
The plug in the wall :)
A quick liberal coal story - we have had a coal power plant battle in Kansas...and the lunatics in a very liberal city (Lawrence, KS) have been howling about the prospect of a new plant. They are very concerned that the power plant (200 miles away!) could pollute their air.
Most of them are too stupid to understand what that big building on the edge of town, with the steam coming out of it, is for. Their power just comes from unicorn farts.
I don’t think they’ve considered the degraded performance of these batteries over time and how that will require more charges covering less distance.
It’s likely they create a net increase of CO2, but worrying about CO2 output is a stupid metric to judge a car by to begin with.
I would be more concerned with total cost of ownership over its lifetime, but I already know these are big losers in that regard.
Most green technology simply hides it’s costs and silently stabs you in the back financially by shifting the costs to different areas that are more difficult to calculate. (smoke and mirrors)
It is the Honda Civic GX. I drive the 2004 model. It is the best car I've ever owned and the fuel economy is awesome. I pay $1.25 per gallon of gas equivalent and I get over 30mpg AND I get to drive for free in the Express Lane during my 100 mile daily commute.
The Honda Civic GX has the cleanest burning engine of any mass produced vehicle on the road.
Countless science-fiction authors have used the "decendants of a highly advanced civilization can no longer figure out how to fix the machinery" plot device. I no longer scoff at that story line.
and you're in business!