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Monday, May 1, 2017

Green Spot: Why Electric Cars?

Posted by Tim Stobbs on May 22, 2009

Ok I agree with the idea of forcing car manufactures to increase their average fleet mileage, but I question the idea that electric cars are going to be good for people.  Let me say I’m speaking of specifically the fully electric versions out there not hybrids.

The reason I have issues with large amounts of electric cars out there is the idea of where are you getting the power from to fuel the cars?  50% of US power generation is from coal.  So depending on mileage improvements, where your power comes from and battery life cycle emissions you might actually be better off buying a gas powered or hybrid car instead of a fully electric car.  (For an interesting discussion related to this read here).

Ironic isn’t it.  People will consider their cars emission free, but ignore the fact their power company had to burn more coal to keep the car on the road.  I’m not against electric cars, I just think people need to consider where their power comes from before buying one.  In Canada good choices include BC, Quebec who have large hydroelectric power sources and Ontario will be a good choice post 2014 once they shut down the coal fired units.  On the other hand buying one right now in SK or AB is just plain dumb since most of the power comes from coal.

So good ahead be ‘green’ if you want, but please consider the content of your decision before buying one of these electric cars.

Comments

5 Responses to “Green Spot: Why Electric Cars?”
  1. I think the starting point of such a discussion should be that oil is a non-sustainable limited resource. The question then becomes…what do we do next?

    Alternative sustainable energy sources like solar and wind energy have yet to be tapped in NA the way they could be. The “system” is skewed to oil and there are many vested interests. These interests are strong in Canada.

    I expect that in time the cost of the remaining oil supplies will become expensive enough to easily justify looking seriously at other alternatives.

    An example…If the stage were set by government agencies so that individuals could invest in solar panels on the roofs of their homes, (in their fields etc) and if they could sell excess energy into the grid, I expect this alone would go a long way to help things.

    Any loan for solar panels would then, at least in part, be for investment purposes and this would make the interest income tax deductible. That would be an incentive. I have read that California and Ontario have moved in this direction already.

  2. Rosie says:

    It’s worth doing a little more research on this; you’ve probably read George Monbiot’s Heat and others that have calculated that even though there is an increased use of energy to power the cars in the way you explain, there are 2 big pluses with electric cars: it still takes less energy to run them, regardless of the energy source, than it does to bring the petroleum, refine it, distribute it etc to run regular cars (or hybrids, which I would argue are a big scam), and second, they are only releasing carbon once, in the raaw energy production, rather than twice, in the gasoline production AND then in the car emissions. Carbon emissions still need to be at the forefront of our decisions too, although levels of energy consumption are obviously a closely related concern…

  3. A related topic..Electric Bikes

    I got to ride my first electric bike today. Cool.

    I ran into an acquaintenance at a local public market. He had recently bought a stock elec bike at Zellers for under $400. He added a small additional battery, removed the speed governor, and added a switch to control when the second battery came on line. It has two power levels now. It now goes faster than it is safe to. I think he said about 40 km/h and he can get 30 km distance on a charge. Pretty nice for not having to buy insurance or pay for parking.

    Too bad the Canadian government is not encouraging this type of thing, especially with the recession going on.

  4. Canadian Dream says:

    CM,

    Agreed. The system is based on oil and changing from that is going to be expensive. I was just pointed out perhaps electric isn’t the best if you burn coal/oil to produce the power.

    An electric bike. Now that is cool. How long does it take to charge both batteries?

    Rosie,

    I agree energy consumption to get a product also matters. That is why I saying coal fired power sucks from an environmental stand point.

    Power generation from coal has mining emissions, power generation emissions (a plant is about 30 to 40% efficient) and then distribution losses. All in all it’s a hell of a lot emissions to produce a kWh. Even if an electric car is more efficient I’m not sure it would make up the losses from the entire process.

    On the other hand if you using hydro power, go ahead and switch to a car now.

    Tim

  5. Mathew says:

    By the time EVs make up a significant part of the car market, coal generation will be all but eliminated (in Canada). We are a long way from EVs effecting our overall electricity consumption.

    But I agree with the general idea that they are not zero emission. A car will never be zero emission. Even if the power comes from wind, solar nuclear, hydro – everything has an effect (even hydro power). Also the production of a car is not clean, metals need to be mined, uranium needs to be mined and upgraded. But it will be significantly better than what we are using now.

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