Science Questions

What's so good about electric cars?

Sun, 26th Apr 2009

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Paul asked:

Dr. Chris, why is the government hell bent on electric cars? The science doesnít make sense. Itís not greener as the production of electricity can be dirty from power stations and the short life of batteries and they were expensive to replace and difficult to dispose of...


Chris Smith -   Well I think that Paul has a point which is that thereís no such thing as a free lunch.  If you are suing energy itís got to come from somewhere but the benefit in electric car offers is that it doesnít produce pollution once itís working as an electric car, obviously the pollution is all in one place, the power station, and that means that mitigating strategies to recover the waste from the power station, the CO2, the particles etc. can be done locally where the power station is and probably more effectively than fitting scrubbers and things which will be less efficient to a car and also individual cars are all going to be inherently less efficient than one giant power station.  

So itís the sum of lots of little inefficiencies adding up to a bigger inefficiency, the one big inefficiency Ė the power station.  So thatís why we think electric cars are beneficial.  They also are much better in traffic because stopping and starting burns enormous amounts of fuel waste, enormous amounts of energy.  Electric motors are absolutely perfect for that kind of thing because they donít waste energy when theyíre not actually moving.


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