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Fri, 5 Oct 2012

Electric cars: the green threat

Finally, the media are realising that electric cars are not such a good idea.

I find the hoops they jump through with lifetime mileage assumptions interesting. They assume that electric and petrol/diesel cars have the same lifetime mileage, and then run the sums for different assumptions. Even with that bogus assumption, they struggle to show that electric cars are cleaner than normal ones. They can show that they emit less CO2, but that ain't the same as being clean. You also have to account for, as an example, the polluted run-off from the mines where the rare minerals that go into the batteries come from, and the waste products from processing those minerals into batteries.

I read some research a coupla years ago which took into account that hybrids' batteries (and I presume that this applies to all-electric cars too) give an expected lifetime mileage of only 100,000 miles, whereas yer typical diesel pickup has an expected lifetime mileage of 250,000. While the pickup may have a higher environmental cost over its entire lifetime, the environmental cost *per mile* was lower because manufacturing the hybrid took so much energy, produced so much nasty pollution, and involved the sacrifice of baby elephants and seals with ritual incantations to the Elder Gods.

But it's all a bit suspect, because none of this appears to take into account where they are driven and how they are driven. Not only are different vehicles and powerplants more suitable to different types of driving (eg motorways, low speed country roads, stop/start city traffic, carrying a heavy load, ...), they quite probably attract different kinds of people with different driving styles. You'd generally buy a Prius (for example) because you care passionately about polar bears, but you'd buy a normal car because you care more about making the best use of your time and money.

In summary, if you care about the environment, you should avoid electric cars, avoid hybrid cars (unless you live in a big city and expect to do most of your driving there; hybrid wins in stop/start and slow traffic), buy a small efficient diesel. There are useful data here and here.

Posted at 08:24 by David Cantrell
keywords: cars environment
Permalink | 1 Comment

All cars pollute, they take a lot of energy to make and a lot of energy to run. The best advice is to walk, use public transport (as long as it's full) or ride a bike!

If you MUST have a car, you are correct. If you look at the details, electric cars currently only have a very narrow use case where they are better than a decent diesel or even petrol car when it comes to total lifetime pollution.

Posted by Adam on Sat, 20 Oct 2012 at 23:41:12


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