Unclean at Any Speed IEEE Spectrum

29 Апр 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи Unclean at Any Speed IEEE Spectrum отключены
Electric Cars

Electric cars don’t the automobile’s environmental problems

Smalldog Imageworks; Photos: Transtock/Corbis; coal: Nolimitpictures/iStockphoto

summer, California highway pulled over pop star Bieber as he sped through Los in an attempt to shake the paparazzi. He was a hybrid electric carnot any hybrid, mind you, but a Fisker Karma. a US $100 000 hybrid sports sedan received as an 18th-birthday gift his manager, Scooter Braun, and singer Usher. During an surprise presentation, Braun “We wanted to make since you love cars, when you are on the road you are always environmentally friendly, and we decided to get you a car would make you stand out a bit.” Mission accomplished.

joins a growing list of environmentalists, and politicians who are leveraging cars into green President Obama once to envision 1 million electric plying U.S. roads by London’s mayor, Boris vibrated to the press over his electric conversion after a Tesla Roadster. marveling how the sports coupe produced more noxious vapours a dandelion in an alpine meadow.” environmentalists who once stood against the proliferation of automobiles now subsidies for companies selling cars and tax credits for people them.

Two dozen governments the world subsidize the purchase of vehicles. In Canada, for example, the of Ontario and Quebec pay drivers up to C to drive an electric car. The Kingdom offers a £5000 Car Grant. And the U.S. federal provides up to $7500 in tax credits for who buy plug-in electric vehicles, though many of them are enough not to need such (The average Chevy owner, for example, has an income of 000 per year.)

Some states additional tax incentives. California the total credit up to $10 000, and to $13 500more than the base of a brand new Ford Fiesta. Virginia offers the sweetest

The state’s mining interests are at the possibility of shifting automotive from petroleum over to Residents can receive a total of up to $15 000 for an electric-car purchase and up to $10 000 toward the of a personal charging station.

are other perks. Ten U.S. open the high-occupancy lanes of highways to electric cars, if the car carries a lone driver. stores offer VIP parking for vehiclesand sometimes a free of electrons. Mayor Johnson moved to relieve electric-car of the burden of London’s famed fee .

Alas, these carrots overcome the reality that the of electric cars are still higha reflection of the substantial and fossil-fuel costs that to the companies constructing them. And taxpayers understandably feel that these subsidies to go to the very rich. Amid all the and hyperbole, it’s time to behind the curtain.

Are electric cars really so

The idea of electrifying automobiles to get their environmental shortcomings new. Twenty years I myself built a hybrid car that could be plugged in or run on gas. It wasn’t very and I’m pretty sure it safe.

But I was convinced that like mine would reduce both pollution and dependence.

I was wrong.

I’ve to this conclusion after years of studying environmental more deeply and taking of some important questions we to ask ourselves as concerned citizens. is an unpopular stance, to be sure. The power of electric cars is a forceso persuasive that the seemingly simple question electric cars indeed quickly gets complicated.

As most anything else, the depends on whom you ask. of think tanks and scientific have ventured conclusions the environmental friendliness of electric Most are supportive, but a few are critical. For Richard Pike of the Royal of Chemistry provocatively determined electric cars, if widely stood to lower Britain’s dioxide emissions by just 2 given the U.K.’s electricity

Last year, a U.S. Budget Office study that electric car subsidies result in little or no reduction in the gasoline use and greenhouse-gas emissions of the vehicle fleet over the several years.”

Source: Generous EV Incentives: Governments the world offer drivers inducements to buy electric cars. The incentives in western Europe, for include direct subsidies on purchases as well as certain tax Some of these countries provide the drivers of electric with free parking and perks.

Others are more including the Union of Concerned Its 2012 report [PDF] on the titled “State of Charge,” that charging electric yields less CO 2 than the most efficient gasoline The report’s senior editor, Don Anair, concludes: “We are at a point to clean up the grid and to electric vehicles.”

Why is the assessment so Ultimately, it’s because is not just about science. about values, which shape what questions the ask as well as what they to count and what they

That’s true for many of research, of course, but for electric bias abounds, although often not obvious to the casual

To get a sense of how biases creep in, follow the money. Most programs carrying out electric-car receive funding from the industry. For instance, the Plug-in and Electric Vehicle Research at the University of California, Davis, describes itself as the “hub of and research on plug-in hybrid and vehicles for the State of California,” on its website partnerships with Chrysler-Fiat, and Nissan, all of which are or developing electric and hybrid Stanford’s Global Climate Project. which publishes on electric vehicles, has received than $113 million four firms: ExxonMobil, Electric, Schlumberger, and Toyota.

University, MIT, the universities of Delaware, and Michigan, and numerous schools also accept sponsorship for their electric-vehicle

I’m not suggesting that sponsorship automatically leads to massage their research But it can shape findings in more ways. For one, it influences studies get done and therefore ones eventually receive attention. After all, direct money to researchers who are the kinds of questions that to benefit their industry.

An who is studying, say, car-free is less likely to receive funding than a colleague who is vehicle-charging stations.

Many of the crafting electric-vehicle studies are proponents of the technology. An electric-vehicle from Indiana University’s of Environmental Affairs. for instance, was led by a vice president of Ford. It like a set of public relations points and contains advertising for the electric-car industry (that it manage customers’ expectations, to a backlash from excessive Even the esteemed Union of Scientists clad its electric-car in romantic marketing imagery of Ford, General Motors, and companies whose products it

Indeed, it’s very to find researchers who are looking at the merits of electric cars a disinterested eye.

So how do you gauge the effects of electric cars the experts writing about all seem to be unquestioned car enthusiasts? tough. Another impediment to electric cars is that difficult to compare the various options.

It’s relatively to calculate the amount of energy to charge a vehicle’s battery. It so straightforward, however, to compare a that’s been charged by from a natural-gas-fired power with one that’s been using nuclear power. gas requires burning, it produces CO 2 . and it demands environmentally problematic to release it from the ground. power yields hard-to-store as well as proliferation and fallout There’s no clear-cut way to compare impacts.

Focusing only on greenhouse however important, misses of the picture.

Manufacturers and marketing exploit the fact that power source carries its own portfolio of side effects to the terms of discussion that suit their needs. makers like to point for instance, that their can be charged from renewable such as solar energy. if that were possible to do on a scale, manufacturing the vast of photovoltaic cells required have venomous side Solar cells contain metals, and their manufacturing greenhouse gases such as hexafluoride, which has 23 000 times as global warming potential as CO 2 . to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate

What’s more, fossil are burned in the extraction of the raw materials to make solar cells and turbinesand for their fabrication, and maintenance. The same is true for the backup power plants require. And even more fuel is burned when all equipment is decommissioned.

Electric-car eagerly embrace renewable as a scheme to power their but they conveniently ignore the environmental repercussions.

Finally, electric-car assessments analyze the charging of the car. This is an factor indeed. But a more analysis would consider the impacts over the vehicle’s life cycle, from its through its operation and on to its eventual at the junkyard.

One study attempted to a complete picture. Published by the Academies in 2010 and overseen by two of the United States’ leading it is perhaps the most comprehensive of electric-car effects to date. Its are sobering.

Illustration: Bryan Design What’s in your EV? just think about the tailpipe. Manufacturing the specialized that go into electric such as the Nissan Leaf, has environmental costs.

It’s noting that this was commissioned by the U.S. Congress and funded entirely with not corporate, money. As with earlier studies, it found operating an electric car was less than refueling a gasoline-powered

It isn’t that simple, according to Maureen Cropper. the committee’s vice chair and a of economics at the University of Maryland. we are talking about a conventional automobile, an electric vehicle, or a most of the damages are actually from stages other just the driving of the vehicle,” she out.

Part of the impact from manufacturing. Because packs are heavy (the accounts for more than a of the weight of the Tesla Roadster, for manufacturers work to lighten the of the vehicle. As a result, electric car contain many lightweight that are energy intensive to and processcarbon composites and aluminum in

Electric motors and batteries add to the of electric-car manufacture.

In addition, the in the motors of some electric contain rare earth Curiously, these metals are not as as their name might They are, however, thinly across the globe, their extraction uneconomical in places. In a study released year. a group of MIT researchers that global mining of two earth metals, neodymium and would need to increase 700 and 2600 percent, respectively, the next 25 years to keep with various green-tech Complicating matters is the fact China, the world’s leading of rare earths, has been to restrict its exports of late.

strategies exist, but deploying introduces trade-offs in efficiency or

The materials used in batteries are no burdensome to the environment, the MIT study Compounds such as lithium, and nickel must be coaxed the earth and processed in ways demand energy and can release wastes. And in regions with regulations, mineral extraction can risks beyond just the directly involved.

Surrounding may be exposed to toxic substances air and groundwater contamination.

At the end of their lives, batteries can also a problem. If recycled properly, the are rather benignalthough not something want to spread on a bagel. But improperly, disposed batteries can toxic chemicals.

Such are difficult to measure, though, is why they are often left out of on electric-car impacts.

Fiat 500e Electric Cars

The National assessment didn’t ignore difficult-to-measure realities. It drew the effects of vehicle construction, extraction, refining, emissions, and factors. In a gut punch to electric-car it concluded that the vehicles’ health and environmental damages long-term climatic effects) are greater than those of cars.

Indeed, the study that an electric car is likely than a car fueled exclusively by derived from Canadian tar

As for greenhouse-gas emissions and their on future climate, the researchers ignore those either. The like many others who probed this issue, that electric vehicles produce fewer of these than their gasoline- or counterpartsbut only marginally so full life-cycle effects are for. The lifetime difference in emissions between vehicles by batteries and those powered by diesel, for example, was hardly

The National Academies’ study out for its comprehensiveness, but it’s not the only one to such grim assessments. A study published last in the Journal of Industrial Ecology life-cycle impacts of electric The researchers considered acid airborne particulates, water smog, and toxicity to humans, as as depletion of fossil fuel and resources. According to coauthor Stromman, “electric vehicles perform worse or on par with internal combustion engine despite virtually zero emissions during operation.”

Earlier last year, from the University of Tennessee five vehicle types in 34 cities and came to a similar These researchers focused on impacts from emissions and matter such as airborne organic chemicals, metals, and particles. For a conventional vehicle, are worst in urban areas, the emissions associated with vehicles are concentrated in the less regions surrounding China’s coal-fired power stations.

when this difference of was taken into account, the total negative health of electric vehicles in China those of conventional vehicles.

American power station also largely occur of urban areas, as do the damaging of nuclear- and fossil-fuel extraction. And leads to some critical Do electric cars simply pollution from upper-middle-class in Beverly Hills and Virginia to poor communities in the backwaters of Virginia and the nation’s industrial

Are electric cars a sleight of that allows peace of for those who are already comfortable at the of intensifying asthma, heart and radiation risks among the and politically disconnected?

Source: Academies Press They all Even assuming 2030 technology and grid enhancements, the Academies concluded that the and nonclimate damage from cars would still the damage from conventional options.

The hope, of course, is electric-car technology and power will improve and become over time. Modern technology is still quite so it should get much better. But expect batteries, solar and other clean-energy technologies to a Moore’s Lawlike curve of development. Rather, they’ll asymptotic growth toward ultimate efficiency ceiling.

the National Academies researchers technology advancements and improvement to the electrical grid out to 2030, still found no benefit to an electric vehicle.

If those are correct, the sorcery surrounding cars stands to worsen health and the environment rather the intended opposite. But even if the are wrong, there is a more illusion at work on the electric-car

All of the aforementioned studies compare vehicles with petroleum-powered In doing so, their findings attention away from the array of transportation options as walking, bicycling, and using transit.

There’s no doubt gasoline- and diesel-fueled cars are and dirty. Road accidents tens of thousands of people in the United States alone and countless more. Using kinds of vehicles as a standard which to judge another sets a remarkably low bar.

Even if electric cars clear that bar, how they stack up against alternatives?

For instance, if policymakers to reduce urban smog, might note that pollution follows the Pareto or 80-20 rule. Some 80 of tailpipe pollutants flow just 20 percent of vehicles on the with incomplete combustion. engineering and remote monitoring communities could identify cars and force them the shop.


That would be far expensive and more effective subsidizing a fleet of electric

If legislators truly wish to fossil-fuel dependence, they prioritize the transition to pedestrian- and neighborhoods. That won’t be everywhereeven less so where the is on electric cars. Studies the National Academies point to land-use planning to reduce sprawl and, most fuel taxes to reduce dependence.

Following that would solve many that a proliferation of electric could not begin to addressincluding injuries, deaths, and the frustrations of stuck in traffic.

Upon consideration, moving from vehicles to electric cars to look more and more shifting from one brand of to another. We wouldn’t expect to endorse such a thing. environmentally minded people revere electric cars? we should look beyond the gadgets now being offered and some less sexy but optionssmog reduction, bike energy taxes, and land-use to start.

Let’s not be seduced by illusions.

This article appeared in print as “Unclean at Any

About the Author

The author of the Green Illusions . Ozzie was working for GM when it “killed” its EV1 car. A plug-in advocate at the he later realized that cars just trades one set of problems for another. Zehner is now a scholar at the University of California,

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