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Electric Vehicles Might Not Benefit the Environment After All

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the just-invent-room-temp-supercapacitors-duh dept.

Transportation 775

New submitter countach44 writes "From an article in IEEE's Spectrum magazine: 'Upon closer consideration, moving from petroleum-fueled vehicles to electric cars begins to look more and more like shifting from one brand of cigarettes to another. We wouldn't expect doctors to endorse such a thing. Should environmentally minded people really revere electric cars?' The author discusses the controversy and social issues behind electric car research and demonstrates what many of us have been thinking: are electric cars really more environmentally friendly than those based on internal combustion engines?" Reader Jah-Wren Ryel takes issue with one of the sources, and offers a criticism from Fast Company.

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Depends on the energy source duh! (5, Insightful)

beernutmark (1274132) | about a year ago | (#44161943)

Of course it depends on the energy source. I purchase wind powered offsets to power my focus electric. This changes the equation greatly.

Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (4, Insightful)

SYSS Mouse (694626) | about a year ago | (#44161959)

What about building the cars itself? Battery production pollutes quite a bit.

Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (5, Informative)

beernutmark (1274132) | about a year ago | (#44161973)

Yes that's true. But it seems to be also true that the battery is quite recyclable. Thus, as we end up with more electric vehicles ending their life cycle the environmental costs of newer vehicles will be mitigated through the recycling of older electric cars.

Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (4, Insightful)

haruchai (17472) | about a year ago | (#44161987)

So does lead-acid production yet we've gotten a handle on that. And nobody seems to care about battery pollution when it's for PCs, smartphones and flashlights.
It'll be a while until EVs start increasing that by a significant fraction.

I'm not saying there aren't problems but they are manageable - if the environmental standards are strong and enforced.
In some places, that's a big if, at the moment.

Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (1)

dyingtolive (1393037) | about a year ago | (#44162247)

Actually, that's something that bugged me when I realized that my old thinkpad battery didn't fit my newer one.

Yeah, I know there's a radically different power requirement from an older generation system to the next. I'm not sure what would be required to get it more compatible, but you can't tell me that they couldn't try harder to do so.

you want to look at all details and aspects? (2)

OrangeTide (124937) | about a year ago | (#44162003)

more than oil refining? more than shipping oil, with the inevitable spills? I'm all for taking the total cost of a system into account, but half estimates on one side of the discussion results in decisions made on incomplete or downright wrong information.

Re:you want to look at all details and aspects? (5, Informative)

garyebickford (222422) | about a year ago | (#44162265)

Stipulating that at present *every* method does not include all the externalities, the actual cost of any product, method or system reflects the environmental cost to the extent that the cost has been de-externalized. One way that happens is that, increasingly, cleanup costs are charged to and paid for by the producer/shipper and their insurance companies. And reporting is at least one, maybe two orders of magnitude better than it was 30 years ago. That _should_ be true for oil, for wind, for solar, etc. And it is increasingly true. At this point it's probably more true for oil than for any of the others (I suspect coal is still getting a break but I dunno.)

One example of externalities not presently charged to the electric vehicle industry is the lack of cleanup and mitigation in Canada and Russia around the big nickel mining areas, where according to legend 100s of square miles of territory are devoid of living vegetation. (/.ers: is this true? I keep hearing it...)

As it turns out, shipping the oil is not one of the bigger costs of oil. IIRC from two-three years ago, the cost of shipping is only about 18c per gallon (US cost). I think the actual bulk-carrier-tanker-ship part of that is only two or three cents - my memory may have failed me on that but Wikipedia agrees. That includes the cost of insurance and the overall amortized risk to the companies involved (if it were not, the companies would have been out of business long ago). Which means that it includes the costs to the companies including fines and mitigation costs, of all the oil spills and other pollution. It also includes the costs of the newer double-hull ships with additional spill prevention and mitigation equipment that is now required. One cost that isn't being included yet is the smokestack pollution from the tankers, and all other shipping.

To the extent that externalities of all the methods are included, that cost demonstrates that pollution is actually not a very large problem for oil _compared to total production_, so electric vehicles and their power sources (wind, whatever) will have to work hard to match the true cost/benefit of oil.

Discussion: people don't realize the sheer volume of oil that goes through the system every day - counting fuel and products, around 150 million barrels (6+ billion gallons, 24+ billion liters) per day. As of 2000, the total amount spilled in 20 years in the US from causes was about 300 million gallons (about 1/576000 over 20 years), and had decreased by 50% in that 20 years. The rate has continued to decrease since then. This is equivalent to about 2/100 of one cc out of a barrel - or an invisible speck that pops out of a bubble when you open a carbonated beverage and little bubbles pop.

note: some of this data was loosely adapted from this analysis [] . Also, a USA Today article followed that trend - from 2005 to 2009, there were an average of 22 spills per year of more than 50 barrels (down from some 8000 in 1980. This is not to excuse, but to provide perspective. Interestingly, the New England states had the highest number of spills per square mile 1980-2002.

Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (4, Insightful)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44162101)

I think hybrids are a good option. It's essentially a highly efficient fuel vehicle even before they add the batteries, and the batteries smooth out the variations in engine work rather than acting as pure electric motors, plus regenerative braking, plus the feedback to the driver to encourage better driving. So you're still getting all the power from gasoline instead of the power grid, but it uses it more efficiently.

Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (1)

Moryath (553296) | about a year ago | (#44162115)

Get a hybrid with a charging cable. Top it off from wall overnight.

Also, consider that electrics don't dump a ton of smog-producing particulate straight into the air on the roadway. Sure, a stiff wind (might) dissipate it but if 50% of the cars on the road were running electric instead of gas in a particular moment I think we might begin to smell the difference.

Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (1)

The Mighty Buzzard (878441) | about a year ago | (#44162235)

Also, consider that electrics don't dump a ton of smog-producing particulate straight into the air on the roadway.

The power source for your wall outlet very likely does though. It's all fine and dandy if you're running off a clean source like hydro or nuclear but purchasing credits like GGGP suggests does nothing but make you feel better. No amount of credits will unburn one ounce of fossil fuels.

Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (4, Interesting)

rthille (8526) | about a year ago | (#44162241)

It seems like hybrids would benefit from a gps and software, so it can know my routine, and whether or not a low battery should be charged by running the engine (I'm at the start of a long trip), or not (I'm about to pull into my driveway and plug in).

so far, I haven't seen any coverage of anything like this.

Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161969)

And what power source was used to build that equipment to capture wind power?

Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (1)

anarcobra (1551067) | about a year ago | (#44162007)

Wind power. (potentially)

Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (2)

The Mighty Buzzard (878441) | about a year ago | (#44162259)

If the blades are steel, quite likely it was coal and/or coke.

Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (1)

beernutmark (1274132) | about a year ago | (#44162013)

Well since the largest producer of wind power equipment is in Denmark and since Denmark uses 30% wind power..... Regardless, as we hopefully move toward renewable sources of energy then more of our electricity will come from renewables. As more of our energy comes from renewables we will be building our equipment to harness renewable energy from other renewable energy. At some point we could hit a critical mass where renewable energy is powering the majority of our electric cars/homes/businesses. It is a simple feedback loop which has huge potential gains. If we remain naysayers simply stating that most of our electricity is from coal right now thus electric cars are not good and fossil fuels are better we will never reach the much better endgame.

Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (2)

rwa2 (4391) | about a year ago | (#44162017)

Also, electric cars and hybrids can use regenerative braking. So you can theoretically get back a substantial portion of the energy you put into accelerating, so it's down to a fight against just friction and air resistance. In a gas powered car, 100% of the kinetic energy you manage to build up goes up in waste heat from your brake pads.

Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (2)

haruchai (17472) | about a year ago | (#44162087)

The DragTimes YouTube channel claims the Tesla Model S uses 1.1 kWh for a 12.3 second 1/4 mile drag race but recaptures 0.5 kWh through regen braking. That's very impressive.

Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (2)

MachDelta (704883) | about a year ago | (#44162245)

This isn't necessarily true. You can have a regenerative braking system [] in essentially any vehicle, electric or not.

Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (2)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about a year ago | (#44162025)

Whoopie! Other than making you feel good about yourself, what difference does your "offset" make? Even if you didn't pay this fee, the same power would have been produces from the same sources. This "offset" that ou are paying is nothing more than a "politically correct" fee.
The country needs XXX units of e;electricity. Z units are produced by windmills, and dumped in with that produced by other means. You pay $$$ to pretend that you can filter out the windmill power from the rest of it. Sorry, that's not possible.
Using this type of thought, you can become a vegetarian by buying meat and paying a "carrot offset" fee.

Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (1)

beernutmark (1274132) | about a year ago | (#44162085)

Well, the company I pay that to puts solar panels around town. Purchases wind power to feed our local grid. Funds renewable energy programs. Etc... However, I could just continue to put gasoline in a regular car and spend my time harassing anyone trying to do something more.... Nah, I'll stick with being part of the solution.

Re:Depends on the energy source duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162303)

Of course it depends on the energy source. I purchase wind powered offsets to power my focus electric. This changes the equation greatly.

Ah, so you don't mind the coal or natural gas plant that's kept spinning to supply your power between gusts of wind?

Yes they are. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161953)

Because you can get the electricity from clean renewable sources.

Oh, and I forgot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162149)

You only need to kill 9 out of 10 people to support a society based on clean renewable resources. Trust me it'll be worth it.

Re:Yes they are. (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#44162161)

but not electric car batteries, they're energy pigs and carbon-pollution intensive because of where and how they are made. electric cars are not green

We've been saying this for over a decade! (4, Insightful)

Lord Kano (13027) | about a year ago | (#44161955)

Unless we switch to solar, wind and/or nuclear for the bulk of our electricity generation, all electric cars do is concentrate where we burn the hydrocarbons to power them.


Which has multiple benefits (5, Insightful)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | about a year ago | (#44161997)

The central power station is not making its emissions a few feet from the sidewalk. Its pollution controls aren't restricted by weight or the need for portability.

It's also way more efficient.

Electrifying the vehicle fleet is like modularizing your code. Instead of being tied to petroleum, with an electric fleet you can snap in nuclear, tidal, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, or whatever else turns out to be a good idea.

Re:Which has multiple benefits (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162141)

Tapping geothermal energy cools the planet's core. If it cools too much, it will solidify, and stop moving. That will rob the planet of its magnetic field, which in turn will allow solar winds to blow our atmosphere right out into the void of space, and asphyxiate us all.

Just sayin'.

Re:Which has multiple benefits (5, Funny)

bidule (173941) | about a year ago | (#44162193)

Yes, yes! And every time we use the Moon to slingshot spacecrafts, we cause an orbit decay that will ultimately result in a collision with the Earth!

Re:Which has multiple benefits (1)

dadelbunts (1727498) | about a year ago | (#44162243)

The Earth's core has stopped spinning. Disasters are appearing all over the world: Birds acting crazy, powerful thunderstorms, 32 people die within seconds of each other when their pacemakers quit working. Dr. Josh Keyes and his crew of five go down to the center of the Earth to set off a nuclear device to make the Earth's core start spinning again or Mankind will perish.

Re:Which has multiple benefits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162201)

think batteries - it's called strip mining, and it's bad

Re:Which has multiple benefits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162261)

And just like modularizing your code, if it takes 10 times the effort to produce it in the first place, it might not be a good idea.

Re:We've been saying this for over a decade! (5, Insightful)

haruchai (17472) | about a year ago | (#44162019)

Even if we don't make the switch to cleaner sources, it's still a win. Collecting or cleaning up the emissions at a few thousand power plants should be easier, more efficient and cost-effective than doing it at tens of millions of tailpipes.
Plus, it means that you don't get the smog-forming exhaust and ground-level ozone in your population centers. You also get some noise reduction since EVs are quieter and there's no engine idling.

Re:We've been saying this for over a decade! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162059)

That's a pessimistic point of view.

All other things are equal, one could argue that concentrating the hydrocarbon production might be a good thing, because it at least gives us the opportunity to efficiently process those emissions in one place instead of spewing it from millions of cars (or installing millions of scrubbers). I'm not saying that they WILL do better -- just that they could, and that it would likely be more efficient than anything you could slap onto a few million cars.

Similarly, we would have the ability to start switching everyone to green power if everyone has an electric vehicle. Seen that way, keeping everyone on fossil fuels has a very high opportunity cost, because you can't switch a gasoline motor to solar/wind/nuclear.

Re:We've been saying this for over a decade! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162081)

Yup, we just switch it to another combustion system with better emissions control devices than those that are car mountable and can more efficiently use the heat of combustion.

Re:We've been saying this for over a decade! (5, Insightful)

amoeba1911 (978485) | about a year ago | (#44162105)

Unless we switch to solar, wind and/or nuclear for the bulk of our electricity generation, all electric cars do is concentrate where we burn the hydrocarbons to power them.

and that's a good thing because the concentrated hydrocarbon cremation facilities can generate energy with >80% efficiency, while a car burning the same hydrocarbons generates energy with only 20% efficiency. This means you need to burn about three times as much hydrocarbons if you burn it in the car instead of at a power plant.

The portable power plant you find in a car (internal combustion engine) does not even come close to the efficiency you find in a stationary power plant. The car simply wastes most of the fuel's energy as heat, and then wastes even more energy to get rid of all that heat it by swirling liquid around in a "radiator": a device whose sole purpose is to waste as much energy as possible to prevent the engine from melting itself. What's more, is when you step on the brakes all of the car's kinetic energy is wasted as even more heat. The whole thing is hugely wasteful and inefficient.

Geopolitics vs Environment (4, Insightful)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | about a year ago | (#44161961)

Perhaps it isn't any cleaner, but I'd rather have my car using power from natural gas or nuclear than other sources that are more likely to come from outside my country. The geopolitics of sending our dollars to Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, or elsewhere unfriendly isn't a good idea, so even if the pollution level is the same, electric is superior to gasoline/petrol.

Re:Geopolitics vs Environment (2)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about a year ago | (#44162063)

Most power in the US is from burning coal, which is mostly dug up in the US. Not so much is made by burning petroleum products.

Re:Geopolitics vs Environment (2)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about a year ago | (#44162095)

Most of the US oil imports come from Canada.

Re:Geopolitics vs Environment (1, Interesting)

TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) | about a year ago | (#44162121)

If you are smart, the civilized countries use all the natural resources of the hopelessly socially-backwards countries first.

For example, wouldn't it be preferable for Saudi Arabia and Syria and Egypt to be out of natural resources in 50 years, but the socially-compassionate countries still have theirs?

I'm politely saying you are a short-sighted --- but well intentioned --- dumbass, but even more so I'm trying to get you to expand your thought process to see why you are so very, very wrong. Perhaps after thinking about what I say, you might see my angle here --- you certainly are bright --- just not connecting the dots long-term.

Re:Geopolitics vs Environment (3, Insightful)

Jeremi (14640) | about a year ago | (#44162231)

For example, wouldn't it be preferable for Saudi Arabia and Syria and Egypt to be out of natural resources in 50 years, but the socially-compassionate countries still have theirs?

Yes, because those areas aren't volatile enough yet, we need to have them energy-starved (and likely literally starving) as well, while we Westerners continue to enjoy our remaining energy reserves in front of them. If you think they generate too many terrorists now, just wait for real desperation to set in. You're going to need all those oil reserves for defense...

Seriously though, in the long run there is no "homeland-only solution". Either the entire world figures out how to survive without fossil fuels, or modern civilization mostly collapses when the fossil fuels run out, and we (well, those of thus that survive) go back to a pre-industrial lifestyle. Hoarding fuel only delays the inevitable, whereas developing renewable energy makes the exhaustion of fossil fuels a non-issue.

Re:Geopolitics vs Environment (1, Insightful)

t4ng* (1092951) | about a year ago | (#44162307)

Not to mention that when peak oil [] occurs everyone will have no choice but to start looking for other energy sources.

Yeh like we did not know this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161965)

Electric cars don't solve the problem of CO2 producing fuels, they just allow us to solve the problem by substituting the electricity source whenever we get around to it. Necessary but not sufficient, so we should not try, right ......

No. (4, Insightful)

sqrt(2) (786011) | about a year ago | (#44161989)

Even if ALL of the electricity to power EVs was generated from the dirtiest coal plants, it would STILL be cleaner than every single car carrying around its own heavy, petrol burning, ICE. Also you have the benefits of localizing pollution somewhere less populated. This smells like a big oil hit piece.

Now, there is a separate conversation about other forms of transportation being even better than personal automobiles. Trains and even airplanes might be better in some scenarios than everyone racing around pell-mell with their own car, but that's a different issue. If we, as a society, have decided that everyone will be driving their own vehicle, the question is how to make that scenario least damaging; and the answer is electric vehicles.

Re:No. (1)

haruchai (17472) | about a year ago | (#44162135)

It's probably not practical or affordable to put lithium batteries in transport trucks but if the Sumitomo low-temp molten-salt battery lives up to the hype, that could change. I've read that almost 10% of the fuel consumption of a tractor-trailer is when it's NOT running ie idling or driver sleeping.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162139)

Public and mass transit aren't the end-all-be-all they are claimed to be either.

Many people don't live in cities where public transit it an option. Many others use their viehicles to transport equipment for their jobs that no bus or van would allow them to bring along. There are also people who's jobs aren't tied to one location and would have to spend hours each day searching for the correct connections just to make it to work.

For longer distance travel, it's often still a better option to drive than take a plane or train. I travel frequently, but use a car because the TSA would never let me board a plane with all of the equipment I need for work.

For many people, the car is still king.

Agreed. Gas vehicles have hit physics limit (0)

taharvey (625577) | about a year ago | (#44162165)

It is definitely a hit piece.

About 5 years ago there was a study from a couple of Boston University professors of the Energy Return on Energy Investment for texas Oil.The most stunning thing was that when you include refining, and once run through a ICE engine, the EROEI is less than 1. Thats right, a car engine could not drive the pump that pulls it out of the ground after going through the refinement process! American crud is a net loser.

This means that when it comes to USA oil, it is energy subsidized by coal power. Which is fine, as gasoline is a convenient form to store energy. But it is important to understand that the EROEI on global oil has steadily declined over the last 100 years.

Fundamentally the ICE engine is limited by physics. It will never get more than 25-30% efficient. Whereas the electric car can achieve 70-80% easily, and is only limited right now by technology. And as the EROEI of these fuel stocks decline, this will become increasingly important.

Re:Agreed. Gas vehicles have hit physics limit (4, Informative)

whoever57 (658626) | about a year ago | (#44162293)

Fundamentally the ICE engine is limited by physics. It will never get more than 25-30% efficient. Whereas the electric car can achieve 70-80% easily, and is only limited right now by technology.

Perhaps you should RTFA [] , which points out that, in the UK, power stations are only about 36% efficient at delivering energy to end users. Add in the 80% efficiency of an electric car and now you have something similar to that of a gas (petrol)-powered car.

Efficient-market, inefficient-energy hypothesis (3, Funny)

BetterSense (1398915) | about a year ago | (#44161993)

According to my "the cheapest thing is the best for the environment" theory, this was easily predictable.

Energy means fossil fuels. To a first approximation, other energy sources can be ignored. And in the modern economy, money ~ energy. When fuel (i.e. energy) prices go up, the effect ripples through the whole supply chain, touching absolutely everything that is manufactured and shipped. The costs associated with most products are dominated not by human labor costs but by energy costs. And since our modern agriculture essentially exchanges energy for food, even human labor comes down to energy costs.

Therefore, TO A FIRST APPROXIMATION, the cheaper of two alternatives is better for the environment.

Electric cars are more expensive than gasoline cars, and often would never exist except for subsidies. If they were really more economical, they would already be popular. Ergo, per The Theory, they are worse for the environment.

Re:Efficient-market, inefficient-energy hypothesis (2)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year ago | (#44162091)

No new technology is cheap or popular at launch. Electric cars are relatively new and many of their biggest problems have only been solved very recently, while others are still be solved.

Your "theory" needs to become unstuck from time. (2)

FallenTabris (1709190) | about a year ago | (#44162167)

Within a century (easily) we will be able to live mostly off of renewables for the purpose of transportation and energy. Any given time you google "Solar breakthrough", there will be a couple advancements within the last month that enables greater efficiency-- []

Hell, it could even be a paint-- []

Plastics without fossil fuels is also quite forseeable in the near future: []
Also, "they would already be popular"? Really? Do you have any idea what goes into something being "popular"? Advertizing, buddy. Watch the docu Who Killed the Electric car for an example of how automakers can manipulate peoples' desires with advertizing, pressuring them towards vehicles that're more costly to maintain (internal combustion engines), and away from more economic choices that the government may force them to offer.

You also forgot to mention petroleum subsidies, which artificially lowers the market price of oil. All in all, your "theory" is very short-sighted.

Re:Efficient-market, inefficient-energy hypothesis (1)

Sabriel (134364) | about a year ago | (#44162223)

Well, hell, then, just skip all the safety precautions on nuclear power. No domes, no separated coolants, etc. You could probably build and operate fission reactors a hell of a lot cheaper for a hell of a lot more output than anything fossil-based by order(s) of magnitude if you skipped all that environmental/worker protection stuff... so it's probably a good thing that you used the term "to a first approximation". Those nth-order effects can really FUBAR your day. :)

Re:Efficient-market, inefficient-energy hypothesis (1)

crispytwo (1144275) | about a year ago | (#44162283)

nice theory, but I think it doesn't quite hold up. Specifically cheap doesn't mean better for the environment.
eg. []
unfortunately much of what is cheap today is only on loan from future clean-up-costs. That is not factored in the costs now. Not even a bit.

However, cheap is better in other ways.
Drink water from a creek.
Cool off by sweating.
Sit on the ground.

I also suspect that the longevity of an electric car (besides the battery) can outlast a conventional one by a long time given there are so many fewer parts. So quality plays into it. I think it is a simplification that electric cars are more expensive. They probably will not remain that way from a price point either. I think that it is foolish to think that batteries are equivalent to consumable like gasoline. There are similarities, of course, but they are very different.

Even with rough calculations of other technologies, take something recent that has changed quite a bit, like plasma tvs - 10 years ago, they were $10k or more - now, a much better one is available for $1k. If electric cars follow that trend, they will be $5k-$10k in 10 years, and they will be better. The people today buying these are allowing that technology to develop. The people who aren't are possibly Luddites.

paul revere on a bicycle (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44161995)

"Should environmentally minded people really revere electric cars?"

I'm environmentally minded. Guess what I revere. Yep, you got it, since it's a no-brainer: bicycles. Best machine humans have ever created. Good for the body and good for the earth. I've never owned a car, and I don't want to. I use car sharing programs when I need to drive and bicycle or use public transportation (or both) otherwise.

And before anyone says "Well, but bicycles don't work for everyone: kids, job, blah blah," let me just squash that fallacious argument. Bicycle advocates *never* are saying we *all* have to ride bicycles. Just more of us. Everyone who wants to should feel they can. I bet you want to. Wind in the face, endorphin high, the feeling of doing things with your body, the joy of not destroying the earth to do the daily drudge: who doesn't want that?

Re:paul revere on a bicycle (-1, Troll)

XanC (644172) | about a year ago | (#44162051)

I'm pretty sure that the effort required to put the necessary calories into your body is a lot higher, and less environmentally friendly, than burning a few gallons of gasoline in a car engine.

Re:paul revere on a bicycle (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162111)

pretty sure you forgot the cost of making a car vs the cost of a bike or running shoes.

Re:paul revere on a bicycle (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162219)

I understand your point, XanC, but it's just plain wrong in so many ways.

First, I've been a vegan most of my (long) adult life. I probably eat about ~2K calories of vegan food in a day. Most people eat more calories but don't burn them. Second, they also eat resource-intensive food like meat, which has an agricultural footprint of something like 15x a vegan food's agricultural footprint. Third, I'm healthier at the level that I can be; any of us can get a disease by bad luck or genes, but someone who gets daily exercise like a bike commute is less likely to get metabolic and related diseases.

So in fact bicycling is better at many levels. I'm transporting less mass around; I'm healthier, which lowers my impact on the healthcare system; and it's part of my earth-friendly lifestyle, which includes what I eat and many other things. Convinced? Let's keep talking if you're not.

Re:paul revere on a bicycle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162099)

Unfortunately you are still burning oil by riding a bike, its just harder to see cause its in fertilizers etc.

Re:paul revere on a bicycle (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about a year ago | (#44162113)

How much does it snow where you live?

Re:paul revere on a bicycle (2)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year ago | (#44162123)

Watch out, you're harming the environment by breathing too much when you ride a bike to get that endorphin high. []

The best solution is to just stop breathing, which would eventually result in death (if not the other way around). Then the problem would be that your dead, rotting corpse is probably not 100% environmentally-friendly either... I guess it all depends on what organisms and species you're trying to make happy. No doubt a lot of flies would be thrilled, though.

And by the way, I prefer to get my endorphin high from hot peppers. Endure the pain and then enjoy the high.

Even if its electricity from fossil fuel... (1)

ctrlshift (2616337) | about a year ago | (#44162001)

...I can scarcely imagine how it could be less efficient than everyone carrying around their own personal combustion engine and fuel supply ON the vehicle itself.

Re:Even if its electricity from fossil fuel... (1)

jythie (914043) | about a year ago | (#44162037)

small (but oversized) IC engines are inefficient, but per mass gasoline is a VERY efficient form of energy storage, much greater then current batteries.

Re:Even if its electricity from fossil fuel... (0, Troll)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#44162049)

you are forgetting the one thing that ruins the whole carbon offsetting business: battery manufacturing, replacement and recovery of materials. the carbon load for that is huge and totally destroys the advantage of electric vehicles.

add to that the massive subsidies electric cars currently enjoy, and they turn into an expensive way to not reduce pollution []

Re:Even if its electricity from fossil fuel... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162127)

You realize you're linking to a "Research Institute" funded by the oil industry, quoting a blog citing a study ... that's conveniently 404.

Re:Even if its electricity from fossil fuel... (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#44162177)

doesn't change the truth, electric car batteries ruin the whole deal for a number of reasons. too little energy density, long recharge times, short life, toxic materials, and energy intensive recycling

the oil industry and coal industry have been powering civilization and extending human life for 400 years.

Re:Even if its electricity from fossil fuel... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162189)

Thank you for your input, Mr. Bradley [] .

Re:Even if its electricity from fossil fuel... (3, Informative)

haruchai (17472) | about a year ago | (#44162207)

There's a powerful smell of bullshit coming off that link.

For example - "Additionally, electric car batteries must be replaced after about four years". REALLY??!!?

Most of the RAV4 EVs and original Priuses are still on their original batteries, some after more than 200,000 miles. And every carmaker selling EVs is guaranteeing battery life of approx 8 yrs. They can't all be so stupid to guarantee free replacements for twice the expected life of the product.

And, the batteries are not exhausted after those 4 or 8 yrs but reduced to ~70% - that still a heckuva lot of life and can be recycled or refurbished into other products such as UPSes or some other stationary storage with weight and performance characteristics that'll stomp lead-acid.

By the way, have a look at the bios of the good people at the IER - not a single scientist or engineer among them []

Re:Even if its electricity from fossil fuel... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162155)

...I can scarcely imagine how it could be less efficient than everyone carrying around their own personal combustion engine and fuel supply ON the vehicle itself.

Its easy to see that batteries (80%-90% efficient: could make the electric vehicle worse. Because of the power density, if the range is long enough, the bigger gas tank will win over the much larger and heavier batteries.

That said, well made electric vehicles apparently do win on mileage efficiency when powered by well made gas turbines. Compared to Coal (which has way more CO2 release for the energy than gas) the environmental side may come out differently.

Also, manufacturing electric vehicles is worse for the environment than gas ones (the magnets for the motors have a bad reputation as far as mining the metals goes). If you like to buy new cars often and don't drive them a ton, this could be an issue.

Re:Even if its electricity from fossil fuel... (3, Informative)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#44162271)

Heavier doesn't hurt economy much. A small linear contribution from rolling resistance. Losses in getting it moving are recovered on braking. heavy hurts non-hybrids because they are non-regenerative. And given two identical cars, the lighter will always be better because of the rolling resistance, but compared to the IC losses, weight is inconsequential.

Well, no vehicle is ever completely clean (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about a year ago | (#44162021)

If you consider each and every ecological impact, no vehicle can ever be considered green.

Me, I use a velomobile [] to get around. It uses no oil on the face of it, yet it burns people's fat (that's food that needed to be grown and shipped, which is a lot of oil), it's made of non-recyclable fiberglass and aluminum (manufacturing aluminum is a HUGE source of pollution), etc... So even an ultra-efficient bicycle isn't green if you look closely.

Re:Well, no vehicle is ever completely clean (1)

Jeremi (14640) | about a year ago | (#44162169)

Me, I use a velomobile to get around.

How do you find the velomobile compares to a road bike? More useful, less useful, or just different?

There is that foam nickel smelting problem (1)

kriston (7886) | about a year ago | (#44162027)

Well, there is that pesky nickel smelting problem for the nickel foam thing that is required by the vehicles that you Earth-Firsters think is going to save the world.

What is the value of flexibility? (5, Insightful)

OrangeTide (124937) | about a year ago | (#44162029)

While charging your electric car with coal power sounds like a bad deal in the short term. The electric doesn't care where that power comes from, so in the long term that gives us the flexibility to operate an energy economy that is based on a wide range of sources. Also, diversity in the market also means stability and theoretically fair prices. (but we'll probably cock that up)

Someone was paid off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162033)

The 'facts' here do not add up. Efficiency on a larger scale suck as at a generating plant will always be higher than locally to say nothing of people like myself who use solar cells to charge our electric cars.

Who cares? (1)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year ago | (#44162035)

As long as it works. I'd take an electric car if, performance-wise, it could compete with internal combustion engines while saving be the hassle of regular tune-ups, oil changes, etc while being decently-priced (which, right now, they are not). Whatever's convenient... the power has to come from somewhere, and until we start using natural, renewable resources like sunlight it will obviously not be a huge step up for environmentalists. But then, I don't give a damn what environmentalists say. They're just another annoying extremist group.

LOL Top Gear has been saying this for years (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about a year ago | (#44162039)

Despite the fact that he's a loud-mouthed git, Clarkson has been saying this for years although Andy Wilman (producer) is probably putting the words into his mouth.

Wait, Clarkson doesn't need anybody to put words into his mouth. From the production of the materials for the batteries to the charging problems of range and overall production of the electricity to charge them up, the technology just isn't there. We'd all be better just making moonshine in our backyards and feeding 100% alcohol into our cars (with mods of course)

Knee Jerk (1)

bondsbw (888959) | about a year ago | (#44162045)

This is exactly why I don't kneel to the gods of environmentalism. I honestly don't care which company gets my energy money. I do care when the government decides to regulate markets just because the sun feels hotter today than yesterday.

I want proof that the current markets are causing a problem, and I want proof that the regulations are going to obtain the desired results. Otherwise, it's political posturing.

Comparing analyses... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162075)

The linked article takes you to a 1-page analysis. They must have put a lot of time into that! Corporate mission-statements frequently use more ink.

By comparison, the union of concerned scientists made a more robust, and likely more earnest attempt at understanding total fuel consumption using the "well-to-wheels" benchmark. You can read about it here:

Page 11 (of 48) gives at least an approximation of CO2 consumption as measured in equivalent MPG for EVs, depending on what what's being used to push the electrons to the car in the first place. Coming in first place is geothermal, with an eMPG or 7600, and coal comes in last at 30 eMPG.

Whether somebody involved in this study or that study has erred or has been disingenuous is hard to say, but my guess is that the union of concerned scientists probably followed an actual scientific process where their work is available for full scrutiny by the rest of the scientific community.

Tired of this argument (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162079)

I am tired of people telling me that my electric car is not any better for the environment. There are no tail-pipe emissions and my energy is sourced from the solar panels on the roof of my house. Yet, I see post after post about how electric cars are no better than gas powered vehicles. Stop making the worst possible assumptions about my energy source when you have no valid data to back up that claim. It's more logical to think that owners of electric powered cars are also sourcing their energy responsibly. Not all owners have solar panels. Many are able to choose wind or hydroelectric power from their energy provider if they so choose.

Slow erosion of freedom (2)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about a year ago | (#44162125)

Yeah, yeah, get your mu-metal hats on. But think about it. How many choices for gasoline are within driving distance? Half a dozen or more? How many choices for electric power? Most likely one. What happens when that one source decides to restrict your usage? And then what happens when usage restriction become geographic?

Yes, it's a punt! (1)

EzInKy (115248) | about a year ago | (#44162129)

Really though, what else do you think those of us not educated in physics are supposed to do but trust the experts in the field? Personally, I think humankind is at it's zenith when it comes to understanding every little detail that controls it's very existance.

Seriously, the only algorithm I'm left with is this:

If( It_Will_Make_Someone_Money)

Jah-Wren?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162131)


Fundamental problem (5, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#44162133)

Basically we keep looking for "green" alternatives that don't require us to be even slightly inconvenienced or to change our lifestyles at all - and it's probably not possible.

How to help the environment in 4 steps. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162163)

1: Carpet Nuke China
2: Carpet Nuke India/Pakistan/Bangladesh
3: Carpet Nuke the Middle East
4: Carpet Nuke SE Asia and Korea

That right there will cut down the population of the planet by roughly 3 billion people and will reduce pollution by 2/3rds to 3/4ths.

And for a bonus?

5: Carpet nuke anyone who complains.

Re:How to help the environment in 4 steps. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162175)

Hell yeah!

Shortsighted (1)

daftna (630630) | about a year ago | (#44162173)

With a fossil fuel based car, you HAVE to burn those fossil fuels. With an electric car, you have a choice. This article seems a bit black-and-white to me when there are many shades of grey. Yes, cars take up a lot of space and have a host of other problems however improving one problem DOES help, even if it is only one piece of the puzzle.

Additionally, all of the subsidies the author writes about are a carrot for investing in the future. Sure, solar panels and cars and whatever other example may take fossil fuels to make now but 1. petroleum burning cars require fossil fuels to make as well and 2. if we are learning to build a machine to use an alternate energy source eventually that technology, when it is cheaper, will reach the manufacturing process.

It's like saying a computer uses more energy to print out a letter that you then need to mail via snail mail. We eventually realized we could bypass printing entirely. Clearly different batteries, charging processes, manufacturing processes etc would need to be and will be developed. While I appreciate calling attention to the defects in electric car manufacturing and quality this article lacks vision and cannot see the potential in the future.

"National Academy" (1)

Rick in China (2934527) | about a year ago | (#44162185)

The ieee article keeps mentioning the National Academy, which admits on their own webpage: "Do the National Academies perform or fund research? The Academies have no research laboratories. Study committees generally evaluate and compile research done by others rather than generating original data." When we're discussing a topic that is highly controversial, and when the article itself mentions "To get a sense of how biases creep in, first follow the money." - lets do that. Oil & Gas contributions to buy politicians.... both contributions and lobbying funds, is a multitude more than that of any environmental organisation or, even if automotive companies WERE pushing for pro-electric studies which I see no presented evidence of and only presumption, automotive manufacturers are a tiny fraction of the contribution/lobbyist funds that ultimately go towards the people who apparently fund the "National Academies" stu...wait, it's NOT a study, it's a collection of bits of other studies which could be collected in absolutely any way they see fit to promote any agenda they like, since there's so much conflicting "data/fact" here. Just a bunch of nonsense.

Why don't you drop the car altogether? (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | about a year ago | (#44162187)

I drive a 110cc motorcycle everywhere I go. I do ~60km every day. It goes up to 95km/h, it fits anywhere, I don't have to worry about parking, I just leave it in the sidewalk right at the door wherever I go, I never get stuck in traffic since I can fit just about anywhere. If the road is truly congested, I just driver over the yellow line, nobody ever seems to use that space anyway ;)

And my fuel consumption? I go through ~1.5 liters of shell v-power every day, or around 1.6 dollars taking into account the fuel price and exchange rate where I live (Argentina).

It's a lot more fun and enjoyable than riding a car, it's cheap as fuck, and it's certainly more eco-friendly than the most advanced electric car.

If I have to travel out of town, I take a motherfucking train.

Re:Why don't you drop the car altogether? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162215)

Motorcycles are dangerous and could you imagine if everyone were driving them? They are more versatile meaning everyone would be disorganized. It's not always a bad thing like in manila it works well to just forget about road rules, but people in the US aren't skilled enough to learn how to adapt to this. Instead public transportation should become a big thing. I wouldn't need a car if I could just pay a bus 40cents one way to get to work or wherever. Public transportation in the US just doesn't really exist and if it does, it's meant for poor and shady people.

Re:Why don't you drop the car altogether? (1)

Jeremi (14640) | about a year ago | (#44162301)

Yes, a motorcycle is in many ways ideal (at least for instances where a bicycle won't do), except for two things -- it's not much fun in bad weather, and it's really no fun when you get in an accident. For that reason, there are many people who simply (and justifiably) won't ride them, no matter what the benefits are -- safety and comfort are non-negotiable to them.

Location Based Pollution Control (2)

Fieryphoenix (1161565) | about a year ago | (#44162195)

The aggregate effect may not be advantageous, but if you change where the emissions or pollution occurs, you have one hell of a difference when it comes to smog.

Always been in favor of series hybrids (1)

rolfwind (528248) | about a year ago | (#44162197)

Like a train, let the engines charge the batteries, the the electrical motors drive the wheels. Because acceleration is tied to the electrical motors, you can gear engine size towards average load, not maximum peak of acceleration. Smaller engines = automatic fuel savings.

Also, since the engine only charges batteries, they will be easy to swap out and smaller engines are also cheaper to swap out. Today, hardly anyone would refit their car to run on hydrogen or alcohol or whatever. Expensive, voids the warranty, you might fuck up the entire car. With a series, swapping out the engine becomes less like touching the OEM parts of your all integrated mac and more like taking out the PSU of your PC.

Alcohol becomes cheap? No problem! Switch it. Same with biodiesel. Batteries advance significantly? Take the engine out completely and throw some of those in there instead! A lightweight small stirling engine becomes viable or the wave disk generator actually gets off the drawing board? Cool, go with that. Whatever. Real modularity.

The 2 other real problems I see is that we're still building sexy sports cars or other wind pushing hunks of metal that aren't as aerodynamically efficient as say an Aptera. And that the US is a car culture more than most. That's the hardest to fix though. Entire economy has been swining on that since the idea of the suburb beens introduced since the 1930-1950s via the government's pathological want of everyone to get their own house (cheap mortgages yo) to the country becoming one continuously ugly strip mall.

Chemical Reaction vs. Electromagnetism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162211)

As everything, processes have losses, the worst possible result is the problem.
The byproduct of electromagnetism is radiation (especially heat), but the main product or byproduct of burning fossile or regenerative fuels is usually toxins and the problem is multiplied by millions of vehicles instead of being centralized and filtered there (like it can be done in coal power plants).

The current does generally not care about its source, so it is possible to swap gradually towards greener sources.

Having millions of inefficient and dirty power plants (engines) means just spreading the problem to the user instead of the mining companies. The risk is therefore shifted in direct vicinity of the users and non-users as well. These fuels themselves contain numerous additives just to cope with some effects within the engine, to make them work in general and not damage them, which does not decrease pollution and raises inefficiency. Best example might be the rise and fall of leaded fuels or the necessary shifts in infrastructure to lower emissions and the following requirements to improve exhaust gas treatment. Vehicles with internal combustion engines might become more expensive and a shift to electrical or range-extended vehicles is therefore logical.

Ive not yet seen middle to big class power plants that use crude oil or gas. There are of course natural gas power plants because they are less polluting per kWh, but if gas is the better solution no one keeps mining companies from opening up power plants and supplying electrical energy.

fuck off (1)

gary_7vn (1193821) | about a year ago | (#44162221)

The idea that every single human on the planet can haul their ass around in about 1000 kilos of metal and plastic on road, literally, paved with oil, is about as stupid as a plan ever devised by us monkeys. Whether by oil or lithium, it's still a remarkably stupid idea.

Criticism yes? Intelligent no? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162229)

The supposed reply or 'criticism' of Pike's article is nothing but unscientific wishful thinking, there is so much wrong with it that it isn't worth to try to respond to the 'non points' made...if Pike's article has problems than a cogent well reasoned reply should be able to demonstrate them, the reader's reply article is not even close.

Electric infrastructure more efficient than cars (1)

andrewagill (700624) | about a year ago | (#44162237)

A mobile internal combustion engine has to have certain concessions for weight, vibrations, ease of maintenance, and other things that a stationary power plant does not need, and power plants can install expensive equipment and expensive maintenance to reduce emissions that a car cannot have.

See for example: [] and let's assume that we are generating our energy according to 2012 rates [] so that average CO2 production per kwh is 1.20.

Let's compare the 2013 RAV4 [] which gets 44 kwh per 100 miles (the worst I could find that has a gas equivalent). Compare that to the RAV4 2WD [] which gets 26 MPG.

1 mile on the gas-powered RAV4 produces .63 pounds of CO2.
1 mile on the electric RAV4 produces .52 pounds of CO2.

(I used to do the same calculations on coal alone, but it appears that either coal has gotten more polluting or gas powered cars have gotten a lot more efficient since I last checked)

Yah lets not account for (2)

future assassin (639396) | about a year ago | (#44162249)

Pollution from drilling for oil, manufacturing the gas, getting the gas to the station, using electricity to power the pumps etc. and lets throw in some accidents once in a while where we waste more gas powering the machines that clean up the spill. Right....

Conservation of Energy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44162257)

Can we stop pretending that a car will ever do anything good for the environment? We are taking something that is close to 3000 Lbs and accelerating it to decent speeds over and over again. Oh yeah, and there are millions of us doing it. It's easily solvable by looking at classic conservation of energy laws. We lose. Even solar, we are taking the suns energy and placing it into our atmosphere. I'm sorry but we lose there too. But wait, we get the sun's energy anyway right? Nope, we reflect a lot of it but with solar cells we are soaking it up. We lose.

Ok, So I'm not saying there is nothing we can do. There are plenty of things. But lets stop pretending our vehicles are ever going to help things out. Sure we can reduce the impact, but energy is energy, and our cars use lots of it.

Necessary but not sufficient (1)

TheWoundedSeagull (183327) | about a year ago | (#44162291)

Necessary but not sufficient is really tough for some people isn't it?

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