Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Slate's EV Acid Test: Are electric cars greener?

Every electric car advocate is asked the same question every day: Are EVs really cleaner, greener, better for the environment? The long tailpipe, and all that. Slate, the online magazine, has an enviro Q&A column, The Green Lantern, that asks the question today.
Driving one still has an environmental cost, mostly associated with the use of Santa's most feared stocking-stuffer: 49.7 percent of our nation's electricity is generated by the burning of coal. But if you break down the numbers, EVs still come out ahead of cars featuring internal combustion engines, especially in terms of carbon dioxide emissions.
...The real question, then, isn't whether EVs are environmentally superior to today's gas-powered cars, but how they stack up against another technological rival: plug-in hybrids. The Lantern promises to tackle that question soon.

EV1 Stirs Emotions Decade Later

An emotional Alexandra Paul, actress who appeared in Who Killed the Electric Car?, is interviewed by Matt Kelley of Next Gear in front of an EV1 that made an appearance at RenewableLa put on by by Energy Efficiency Solar.

I gather GM really did destroy the molds and sever relationships with suppliers, but it is so clear that if they simply re-released the EV1 today it would still be a show stopper. Who thinks that GM couldn't sell 5-10,000 EV1s for between $50,000 and $75,000? And wouldn't those cars, even if they took a loss on each one, bring more positive results for GM than the millions of dollars of "Gas-Friendly to Gas-Free" adverts endlessly appearing in the American media these days?

German Battery, German Electric Car?

An Agence France Presse report has produced a small flurry of articles this past week, here and here, for example, that has a German company developing Lithium batteries that would be suitable for electric cars. Li-tec is said to be working in cooperation with Bosch and Volkswagen, which has heightened interest.

One can only hope, despite scant evidence, that the fierce grip of internal combustion on the German automakers might loosen. German Greens have bought into hydrogen hype as much as California regulators. BMW is pushing hydrogen gas into the most complicated engine ever and dousing the American airwaves and celebrities with this unavailable $500,000 diversion.

The country has admirably pushed renewable electricity generation, offering subsidies and incentives greater than most any other nation. Their insatiable appetite for solar panels has kept the world price high and supply low. But somehow, the increasingly low-carbon grid has not enticed either automakers to manufacture or policy makers to create incentives for grid connected cars. Do the Germans actually intend to make a green grid, only to throw away 75% of the energy to the losses involved in hydrogen production?

Of late, the French, Irish and Finns are creating feebate structures that could push electric cars. The Norwegians have a host of EV positive initiatives. But the Germans, for all their green reputation, remain laggards. The German government has opposed the strictest CO2 emission proposals in the EU, in order to protect their domestic, comparatively more polluting, auto industry.

Perhaps a German battery will propel interest. An electric VW, say a Plug-in UP!, might bring boomers back to the car that brought them to their first Earth Day rally.