“Zero Emissions” from Electric Vehicles is Bunk
Electric vehicles (EV) are seen by many as the harbinger of an environmentally Neutral future. Industry as assure consumers of “Zero Emissions,” and US President Barack Hussein Obama promised a 1-M on the road by Y 2015. Another, failed promise from the “Hopemiester” as less than 450-K plug-in EV’s are operating in the US, their market share is 0.66% of the annual US car market and falling.
Consumers are wary of the cars’ limited range, higher price and the logistics of battery-charging.
But for those who do own an electric car, at least there is the consolation that it’s truly Green, right?
For celebrity and activists proponents the Key argument is that their electric cars do not contribute to global warming. Sure, electric cars do not emit CO2 (carbon-dioxide) on the road. But the energy used to manufacture them and continual battery charges certainly does, and much more than most people realize.
A Y 2012 comprehensive life-cycle analysis in Journal of Industrial Ecology shows that almost 50% the lifetime CO2 emissions from an electric car come from the energy used to produce the car, especially the battery.
The mining of Lithium is a less than Green activity.
The manufacture of a gasoline-powered car accounts for 17% of its lifetime CO2 emissions. When an EV rolls off the production line, it has already been responsible for 30,000 lbs of CO2 emission. The amount for making a conventional car: 14,000 lbs.
While EV owners cruise the streets and roads of their community feeling virtuous, they still recharge using electricity overwhelmingly produced with fossil fuels.
So, the life-cycle analysis shows that for every mile driven, the average EV indirectly emits about 6 ounces of CO2. This is still a lot better than a similar-size conventional car, which emits about 12 ounces per mile. But remember, the production of the electric car has already resulted in sizable emissions, and that is the equivalent of 80,000 miles of travel in the vehicle.
So unless the electric car is driven a lot, it will never get ahead environmentally, and that continues to be a challenge.
People do not realize that the batteries in electric cars fade with time, just as they do in a cellphone.
Nissan estimates that after 5 years.
The MIT Technology Review cautioned in Y 2012: “Don’t Driver Your Nissan Leaf Too Much”
If a typical electric car is driven 50,000 miles over its lifetime, the huge initial emissions from its manufacture means the car will actually have put more CO2 in the atmosphere than a similar-size gasoline-powered car driven the same number of miles.
Similarly, if the energy used to recharge the electric car comes mostly from coal-fired power plants, it will be responsible for the emission of almost 15 ounces of CO2 for each of the 50,000 miles it is driven, that is 3 ounces more than a similar gasoline-powered car.
Even if the electric car is driven for 90,000 miles and the owner stays away from Coal-powered electricity, the car will cause just 24% less CO2 emission than its gasoline-powered relative.
This is a long way from “Zero Emissions” claims.
Over its entire lifetime, an average EV will be responsible for 8.7 tons of CO2 less than the average conventional car.
Those 8.7 tons may sound like a considerable amount, but it’s not.
The current best estimate of the global warming damage of an extra ton of [email protected] is about $5.00. This means an optimistic assessment of the avoided CO2 associated with an electric car will allow the owner to spare the world about $44.00 in climate damage.
On the European emissions market, credit for 8.7 tons of CO2 costs $48.
Yet the US federal government subsidizes electric-car buyers with up to $7,500.
In addition, more than $6-B in federal grants and loans go directly to battery and electric-car manufacturers like California-based Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA), a really bad deal for US taxpayers, a super deal for Hot Shot ‘rentier’ businessman Elon Musk.
The electric car does virtually nothing to tackle the problem of global warming.
Government spending on subsidizing electric cars is putting the cart before the horse, and very expensive to boot.
The real challenge is to get Green energy that is cheaper and more efficient than Crude Oil, Nat Gas and Coal. That, then requires heavy investment in Research and Development. For the most part the US does not subsidize R&D.
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Have a terrific week.