Unless we undertake a massive push for Nuclear Power, there is no point to electric cars and hardly worth the expense..Do electric cars really produce fewer emissions?
Can electric cars claim to be 'emissions-free' when they run on electricity generated from the burning of fossil fuels?
We keep hearing lots of renewed chatter about how electric cars are about to take off (not literally, of course, although that would be fun) in popularity. But for me, the fundamental question remains unanswered: do they really produce fewer emissions when you take into account that they run on electricity produced, in large part, through the burning of fossil fuels?
B Lewis, by email
There is certainly a general assumption that electric cars are "cleaner" than petrol/diesel/hybrid cars, but you are quite right to point out that electric cars cannot claim to be "emissions free" if they are powered from an energy grid supplied by power stations burning coal or gas. Or even nuclear, for that matter.
Tailpipe emissions for electric cars can be classified legitimately as zero - which is certainly beneficial for an urban environment where local air pollution is a huge problem - but is this pollution simply being displaced meaning that it still ends up in the atmosphere but via the route of a power station's stack as opposed to the exhaust? And, crucially, is less like-for-like pollution being emitted by using an electric car as opposed to one reliant on the internal combustion engine?
Professor David MacKay produces an interesting section on electric cars in his book Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air when he examines the efficiencies of the G-Wiz and Tesla Roadster. He concludes: "Electric vehicles can deliver transport at an energy cost of roughly 15 kilowatt hours (kWh) per 100km. That's five times better than our baseline fossil-car, and significantly better than any hybrid cars."
And, specifically in terms of emissions, he calculates: "Over the course of 19 recharges, the average transport cost of this G-Wiz is 21kWh per 100km – about four times better than an average fossil fuel car. The best result was 16kWh per 100 km, and the worst was 33kWh per 100 km. If you are interested in carbon emissions, 21kWh per 100 km is equivalent to 105 g CO2 per km, assuming that electricity has a footprint of 500g CO2 per kWh."
This would suggest that, purely in terms of CO2 emissions, electric cars are neck and neck with the most fuel efficient "fossil cars". Pretty impressive, but nowhere near as "clean" as some might have us believe.
Do electric cars really produce fewer emissions? | Leo Hickman | Environment | guardian.co.uk
"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." - John Adams
Hmm, seems there's some difference of opinion.
Electric cars hold greater promise for reducing emissions and lowering US oil imports, study findsScienceDaily (Sep. 28, 2010) — Electric cars hold greater promise for reducing emissions and lowering U.S. oil imports than a national renewable portfolio standard, according to research conducted by Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.
This assessment is among several contained in a new major policy study the Baker Institute Energy Forum will release at a Sept. 27-28 conference titled "Energy Market Consequences of an Emerging U.S. Carbon Management Policy." The study comprises several academic working papers on a variety of topics, such as carbon pricing, the wind industry, global U.S. carbon and energy strategies, and renewable energy R&D.
"As the country moves forward to deliberate on energy and climate policy," the executive summary states, "consideration must be given to what policies would best accomplish the stated goals for U.S. policy -- a reduction in the need for imported oil and in greenhouse gas emissions." The papers released at the conference seek to "clarify and debunk common myths that currently plague the U.S. energy- and climate-policy debate."
For instance, the Baker Institute analysis found "the single most effective way to reduce U.S. oil demand and foreign imports would be an aggressive campaign to launch electric vehicles into the automotive fleet." In fact, mandating that 30 percent of all vehicles be electric by 2050 would both reduce U.S. oil use by 2.5 million barrels a day beyond the 3 million barrels-per-day savings already expected from new corporate average fuel efficiency standards, and also cut emissions by 7 percent, while the proposed national renewable portfolio standard (RPS) would cut them by only 4 percent over the same time.
Moreover, the researchers found that "business-as-usual market-related trends might propel the United States toward greater oil and natural gas self-sufficiency over the next 20 years while scenarios specifically focused on strict carbon caps and pricing or a high carbon tax of $60 a tonne or more could lead to a significant increase in U.S. reliance on oil imports between now and 2025. A carbon tax of $30 a tonne would also increase U.S. dependence on imports of foreign liquefied natural gas (LNG) by 2025."
The Baker Institute researchers foresee natural gas -- reinforced by recent discoveries of vast reserves of shale gas -- playing "a very important role in the U.S. energy mix for decades to come." Under a business-as-usual approach, the United States won't have to import any LNG for decades. And the growth of natural gas will help the environment by lowering the demand for coal.
Electric cars would place less stress on the grid than you might think, since most charging would be done at night during off-peak hours.
Last edited by AdamT; 08-25-11 at 04:11 PM.
There should be no such thing. The government then gets to pick the winners and losers. Bad law.
Until the electric car technology gets better and more affordable, I think people will stick with hybrids like the Prius.
You know the time is right to take control, we gotta take offense against the status quo
Originally Posted by A. de Tocqueville
Yes indeed, two of the three most profitable companies in the world are oil companies. How they suffer. (sniff)