Preface. The article below argues that electric cars aren’t going to replace gas and diesel vehicles enough to lessen greenhouse emissions.
The average electric vehicle requires 30 kilowatt-hours to travel 100 miles — the same amount of electricity an average American home uses each day to run appliances, computers, lights and heating and air conditioning. If electric cars expand, a U.S. Department of Energy study found that increased electrification across all sectors of the economy could boost national consumption of electricity by as much as 38% by 2050, in large part because of electric vehicles (Brown 2020).
I would argue that since two-thirds of electricity is still generated with natural gas and coal, emissions will certainly go up. Wind and solar won’t put much of a dent in that 66% fossil usage in the future either, because the best areas for solar and wind power have already been built, and the new transmission lines cost far more than the solar and wind power generated in more distant unexploited areas. Also, when natural gas and coal are burned to generate electricity, two-thirds of the energy contained in them is lost as heat, so only one-third of their energy makes it onto the transmission grid, where another 6 to 10% is lost over the wires, so as little as 23% of the fossil energy reaches your electric socket. Better to just burn the natural gas directly in cars perhaps.
And finally, until we have massive energy stored in batteries and pumped hydropower, we simply have to have natural gas to balance intermittent wind and solar power or they’ll bring the grid down.
Do the math: expensive electric cars that only the top 5% can afford are not replacing natural gas and coal.
Alice Friedemann www.energyskeptic.com author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Collapse Chronicles, Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report
Jolly, D. December 7, 2015. Despite Push for Cleaner Cars, Sheer Numbers Could Work Against Climate Benefits. New York Times.
The number of automobiles on the world’s roads is on pace to double — to more than two billion — by 2030. And more likely than not, most of those cars will be burning carbon-emitting gasoline or diesel fuels.
That is because much of the expansion will be propelled by the rise of the consumer class in industrializing parts of the globe, especially in China and India, as hundreds of millions of new drivers discover the glory of the open road. Those populous and geographically sprawling countries might be hard pressed any time soon to assemble the ubiquitous electricity grid required for recharging electric vehicles; and much of the electricity China and India will produce in coming decades will come from coal-fired power plants that are some of the planet’s biggest emitters of carbon dioxide.
Given the limitations of electric cars so far — including their limited range between charges — many experts predict that most of the billion additional cars predicted to be on the road in 2030 will have internal combustion engines that spew greenhouse gases.
But virtually everyone who studies the issue understands that transportation, which is still 95% reliant on petroleum, is the world’s fastest-growing energy-based contributor to greenhouse gases. About three-quarters of the total comes from motor vehicles.
But optimists argue that even in the case of cars with internal-combustion engines, carbon dioxide emissions can be cut significantly by measures like increasing fuel economy and introducing smart-driving technologies to make cars move about with greater efficiency.
The countries with the most cars today have set aggressive goals for improving fuel mileage. The United States, under President Obama’s fleetwide standards for carmakers, is aiming for an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, up from about 30 m.p.g. now. China is aiming for 50.1 miles per gallon, and the European Union 60.6.
Still, the math is daunting. If the number of cars doubles, and the average mileage improves by only 50%, all of the fuel-economy gains would be offset by the emissions from the new vehicles.
And that assumes the auto industry does its part to comply with the new standards and that national regulators diligently enforce them. Recent revelations that Volkswagen, for one, deliberately misled regulators, and that European Union air-quality standards and enforcement have been far from rigorous, do not inspire confidence.
“But the automakers are attacking these standards as we speak, both in Congress and through a review of the program they demanded from the Obama administration,” Mr. Becker said. “Similar attacks are underway in the E.U.”
Congress, in an effort to make the United States more energy independent, passed a law in 2007 mandating a 35 m.p.g. auto-fleet standard by 2020. But before that, there had been no official change to American fuel-economy standards in more than 30 years.
“The U.S. auto industry was successful between 1975 and 2007 in preventing any improvement for mileage standards for CO2 emissions,” Mr. Becker said. “They exploit every loophole in the standards, making more SUVs, pickups and other light duty trucks than cars because trucks have weaker standards than cars, and more large vehicles because large vehicles have weaker standards than smaller vehicles.”
But Mr. Becker, at the Safe Climate Campaign, points out that electric vehicles are only as environmentally friendly as the electricity that recharges them. China, though it is rapidly adopting nuclear power plants, is still heavily reliant on coal-fired electrical plants.
And India, where the biggest growth in automobile ownership is expected to occur as the country industrializes and its population surpasses China’s by 2030, might actually increase its reliance on coal-fired electrical power plants between now and then.
“At the end of the day, when you talk about transport emissions for transport in general, including for freight transport, they increase when the economy is growing,” he said. “So what are we going to say, we’re going to stop the economy to stop emissions?”
Brown, A. 2020. Electric cars will challenge state power grids. Boston.com