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Author Topic: Are electric cars environmentally friendly?  (Read 5504 times)

@civilshock

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Are electric cars environmentally friendly?
« on: 05/12/2010 14:30:04 »
@civilshock asked the Naked Scientists:
   
The new Chevy Volt still has to be plugged in, so is it really better for the environment? We have to burn coal to get most electric power...
What do you think?
« Last Edit: 05/12/2010 14:30:04 by _system »


 

Offline CliffordK

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Are electric cars environmentally friendly?
« Reply #1 on: 05/12/2010 15:16:02 »
At this point, the EV cars are a "feel good" thing, unless specific efforts are put into generating "renewable energy" to power them.

One thing they may do is to effectively displace the pollution out of the metro areas which may have some benefit in itself, especially in some of the larger metro areas, and those with inversion weather patterns.

I'm not convinced that our "grid" will be able to handle more than a few percent of the vehicles running off of electricity.

5 States in the USA derive 49% or more of their electricity from renewable resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_electricity_production_from_renewable_sources

Idaho - 84%
Washington - 77%
Oregon - 65%
South Dakota - 50%
Maine - 49%

Optimally, people will be able to offset their vehicle electricity needs with renewable power.  The above states are over 50% renewable.  Now, if the new cars are fed by adding coal plants, then it would be a step backwards. 

I suppose the question remains...  if I added 10,000W of renewable electric generation power to my house, it is still better to just feed it up into the grid, or to power my own car?

Perhaps GM should make an effort to get 1 wind turbine erected for every 10 EV cars that are sold.
 

Offline Don_1

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Are electric cars environmentally friendly?
« Reply #2 on: 05/12/2010 15:23:08 »
I agree with that, it is a 'feel good' factor, not a real problem solving alternative.

Take a look at this thread
 

Offline Geezer

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Are electric cars environmentally friendly?
« Reply #3 on: 05/12/2010 19:25:52 »
Idaho - 84%

I trust you are all "green" with envy.
 

Offline peppercorn

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Are electric cars environmentally friendly?
« Reply #4 on: 05/12/2010 20:22:59 »
Idaho - 84%

I trust you are all "green" with envy.

Is that mostly down to hydroelectric? I here there a few tallish hills round your way :D



The new Chevy Volt still has to be plugged in...

I thought it was a series hybrid (with plug-in capability) - Is this incorrect?

If you run one in France (75% nuclear power and 15% hydroelectric) you'd be doing a lot better than off petrol.
« Last Edit: 05/12/2010 20:48:18 by peppercorn »
 

Offline Geezer

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Are electric cars environmentally friendly?
« Reply #5 on: 05/12/2010 20:49:22 »
Idaho - 84%

I trust you are all "green" with envy.

Is that mostly down to hydroelectric? I here there a few tallish hills round your way :D

Yes - I'm looking at a very large lake with a surface that is more than 2,000 feet above sea level right now.

Perhaps we should really redefine hydroelectric generation as a form of solar generation. It's really solar energy that elevates the water. Come to think of it, I think there are really only four fundamental forms of energy available to us.

Solar Energy
Geothermal Energy
Earth/Moon System Kinetic Energy
Fossil Fuel Energy

Ultimately, they will all run out. Pick your poison.
 

Offline peppercorn

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« Reply #6 on: 05/12/2010 21:12:14 »
I think there are really only four fundamental forms of energy available to us.

Solar Energy
Geothermal Energy
Earth/Moon System Kinetic Energy
Fossil Fuel Energy

Three really.  Hence the term 'ancient sunlight'.
On the basis that wind, hydro and sea-currents are all slightly old sunlight ;D
 

Offline CliffordK

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« Reply #7 on: 05/12/2010 21:36:04 »
The Northwest has a lot of Hydro Power.  I had thought a few years ago there was actually a hydroelectric energy surplus, but somehow that went away.

I had thought that Tennessee with the TVA would also be up there, but it only has 6%.  California also generates a lot of MW of renewable energy, but is a power-hungry state too.

Anyway,
Sorry for leading this off topic.
If one is using coal power, then the EV is just moving the location of the exhaust pipe.  As mentioned, that could benefit some urban areas, but provides little benefit for resource depletion, and CO2 emissions.

However, the reports that I've seen is that the cost of a "fillup" with electricity is less than the cost with gasoline.  I suppose one should actually translate that into KWH and verify.

If we can assume that batteries can be efficiently recycled, I'm not real worried about the impact of them.
 

Offline peppercorn

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« Reply #8 on: 05/12/2010 22:45:34 »
However, the reports that I've seen is that the cost of a "fillup" with electricity is less than the cost with gasoline.

And what's the CO2 impact of gasoline from Well-to-Wheel - I think it's more like a quarter on top of the quoted grams/km.  And if that nasty muck from Tar-sands it's much worse!
 

Offline Geezer

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« Reply #9 on: 05/12/2010 23:56:35 »
I think there are really only four fundamental forms of energy available to us.

Solar Energy
Geothermal Energy
Earth/Moon System Kinetic Energy
Fossil Fuel Energy

Three really.  Hence the term 'ancient sunlight'.
On the basis that wind, hydro and sea-currents are all slightly old sunlight ;D

Are tidal forms not really Earth/Moon kinetic energy? BTW, I think I left out nuke-you-lar, as GWB would say.

Come to think of it, a lot of geothermal energy is really nuke-you-lar too.
« Last Edit: 05/12/2010 23:58:12 by Geezer »
 

Offline Geezer

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« Reply #10 on: 06/12/2010 00:10:36 »
.....meanwhile, back on the original topic, the answer is maybe. If you can afford one, an electric car might be a good way (although I'm not convinced) of demonstrating your concern for the planet Earth. However, it may actually be less ecologically valid than running a car on synthetic gasoline.
 

Offline peppercorn

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Are electric cars environmentally friendly?
« Reply #11 on: 06/12/2010 14:49:45 »
On the basis that wind, hydro and sea-currents are all slightly old sunlight ;D
Are tidal forms not really Earth/Moon kinetic energy? BTW, I think I left out nuke-you-lar, as GWB would say.[/quote]

I choice the term 'sea-currents' to differentiate them from tidal, act-u-lay!
Nuclear, tidal and Geothermal could all be redefined as 'supernova-remnant energy sources' to get even more pedantic ;D


An electric car might be a good way of demonstrating your concern for the planet Earth. However, it may actually be less ecologically valid than running a car on synthetic gasoline.

For some reason I hearing the ring of sarcasm in 'demonstrating your concern'. Can't imagine Why :D
Synthetic gasoline has its own moral issues. It should be possible to make a good proportion of this from non-arable land sources (avoiding pricing the poorest of food).  Of course, the figures would look a lot more manageable if we only had a global population of 2 billion vegetarians!  And if 'they' could only drive 400 miles a year, in cars with 3.5L/100km and never fly that'd be good too!
 

Offline Geezer

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« Reply #12 on: 06/12/2010 18:20:35 »
What? Me? Sarcastic?!

Electric cars are a neat way of demonstrating how "green" one is, as long as we ignore minor details like the coal fired generator that's producing the energy and the potential environmental implications associated with the manufacture and disposal of their batteries. They are also a particularly effective method of allowing heavily polluted urban areas to export their pollution.

However, I'm sure that won't deter many of the twits in Hollywood from running around in them. Let me see, we could start with....

BTW, synthetic gasoline might be produced from wind, or solar energy, and carbon dioxide without the need for any biological material at all. I don't know how efficient this process could be though.
« Last Edit: 06/12/2010 18:56:25 by Geezer »
 

Offline CliffordK

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Are electric cars environmentally friendly?
« Reply #13 on: 06/12/2010 22:52:59 »
In Portland, OR

One has an option to pay a little "extra" to get the "renewable energy"...
So that one's neighbor gets stuck with the nasty black coal energy   [xx(]

http://www.portlandgeneral.com/residential/renewable_energy/green_source.aspx
http://www.portlandgeneral.com/residential/renewable_energy/clean_wind.aspx

 

Offline Geezer

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Are electric cars environmentally friendly?
« Reply #14 on: 06/12/2010 23:54:18 »
In Portland, OR

One has an option to pay a little "extra" to get the "renewable energy"...
So that one's neighbor gets stuck with the nasty black coal energy   [xx(]

http://www.portlandgeneral.com/residential/renewable_energy/green_source.aspx
http://www.portlandgeneral.com/residential/renewable_energy/clean_wind.aspx



Brilliant! All we need to do is make an electricity meter than can differentiate between "clean" and "dirty" watts. I propose a new unit;

The "Kleanowatt" - in SI the kW    Oh! wait a minute.


I notice they refer to something called "New Wind". What was wrong with the old stuff?
 

SteveFish

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Are electric cars environmentally friendly?
« Reply #15 on: 07/12/2010 01:38:42 »
I would love to have a plug in hybrid car, I just can't afford one. I enter all the drawings that our local public radio, schools, and civic organizations offer for these cars to raise money. I could charge the batteries about half of the year when my solar PV system goes to idle from about 2:00PM, and do all of my local driving for free.

These cars are a bit of a status symbol, but they do have some current utility, at least in the US, and are definitely the wave of the future.
 

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Are electric cars environmentally friendly?
« Reply #15 on: 07/12/2010 01:38:42 »

 

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