Wednesday, February 23, 2011

So much for 'non-polluting' electric cars!

It looks like being a bad week for environmentalists, following Sunday's report that 'eco-friendly' reusable shopping bags aren't nearly as environmentally friendly as first thought. Now, Which? UK has found that electric cars produce as much pollution indirectly as diesel-powered cars do directly. The Daily Mail reports:

Electric cars are a lot more expensive to buy - though they are generally cheaper to run as they plug in for their power from the domestic mains, say experts at Which?

The amount of carbon dioxide - the so-called 'greenhouse gas' blamed by scientists for global warming - created to generate the electricity powering an electric car, can be just as great as that created by the internal combustion engine, they say.

The main difference is that while a conventional car's emissions come out of the vehicle's exhaust pipe, those created by an electric car are generated at the power station which supplies the electricity.

. . .

Experts at Which? compared the carbon dioxide created by charging electric cars with that emitted by the most efficient diesel models and concluded:'Sometimes there’s not a great deal of difference.'

And the gap is narrowing as 'conventional' cars up their game to cut emissions.

. . .

However, electric cars are much 'greener' than diesel cars when it comes to localised emissions, as they don’t emit toxic chemicals that degrade air quality. This is especially significant in cities, where the uptake of electric cars is predicted to be highest, says Which?

The consumer report concludes: "While we don't agree with the car makers' 'zero emissions' claims, we can't knock their efforts to create greener cars."

There's more at the link.

I have no problem with efforts to reduce pollution, protect and safeguard the environment, and generally live responsibly. However, when so many of the efforts of environmentalists turn out to be nothing more than a panacea, or far less 'productively green' than they maintain, they discredit themselves. When will they learn this, and stop exaggerating?




Anonymous said...

There is too much money and dogma in the environmentalist movement for such trifles as facts and logic to be of any use. :-/


Homer said...

About 30 years ago Brock Yates, writing in Car and Driver magazine, said that electric cars are great if your objective is to run cars on coal.

In the computer biz we look at TCO - Total Cost of Ownership - so we can plan for the cradle-to-grave expenses associated with all facets of a computer system, including hardware, software and support. In that process we perform hard and detailed comparisons of alternatives.

My impression is that such an examination is rarely done with electric and/or hybrid vehicles, or at least almost never sees the light of day if indeed it is done.

I'll heartily agree that it's worthwhile to maximize the efficiency of any energy-consuming system, one of the first steps of which is to acknowledge that such a system actually consumes energy. From that point one can measure how much energy is consumed, and in what manner, while doing what work, so that efficiency can be maximized. That maximization always involves some trade-offs of one kind or another.

My perception is that today's variant of electric/hybrid cars falls well short of what's possible, and anyone who does raise the questions is branded a heretic and banished to the wilderness.

My experience with internal combustion engine development has convinced me that there are more efficient ways of performing "personal people transport" than pure electrics or today's hybrids.

Maybe some day we'll get around to actually examining and comparing the different options.

Simon said...

The question of how green electrical cars are depends very much on how the electricity is made. In a country with a lot of coalfueled powerstations a high percentage of the power for the electric cars are statistically made with coal, and thus has a high greenhousegas emission. In a country like Sweden where almost all electricity are made with old hydropower or nuclearplants the greenhouse gas emissions from electric vehicles are far lower.

MrGarabaldi said...

The problem that I have with the green effort is that it seems to only target the western based societies, the big polluters like china and russia get a pass. I believe that the environmental movement is another name for the apologist of the communist movement. They needed a place to go after the collapse of the soviet union. I call them watermelons. Green on the outside, red on the inside.

Loren said...

No one has mentioned the impact of manufacturing/disposing of lead-acid or nickel-metal hydride batteries. Yeesh.