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Ian
Lv 5
Ian asked in EnvironmentGlobal Warming · 8 years ago

Would you buy an electric car?

I've actually thought about getting an electric car myself but it didn't work out economically (the batteries are friggin expensive). It seems like they are not that great for the environment either.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1530-...

(Full disclosure: The link is through Watts so alarmists can copy/paste their answer about how you can't trust anything on that site. There are also limitations on the study concerning the type of energy used.)

Would you buy an electric car right now to combat any supposed Global Warming?

Update:

@apeweek... I was more concerned about discharge rate of the batteries over time myself and from what I've read the maintenance costs are pretty much the same between electric and conventional.

15 Answers

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  • 8 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Your link doesn't actually say electric cars are a problem for the environment. This is a quote from your own link:

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    "...We find that EVs powered by the present European electricity mix offer a 10% to 24% decrease in global warming potential (GWP) relative to conventional diesel or gasoline vehicles"

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    The study in question is often quoted by folks who dislike EVs because it examines some scenarios where electric vehicles may be environmentally problematic - but these are not the most common or likely scenarios, and the study doesn't say they are.

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    Quick example: Some countries like China have very high proportions of coal power on the electric grid (in the US it's under 40%). Even 100% coal isn't necessarily worse for electric cars, because electricity is also used to refine gasoline. If coal power is used to refine gasoline AND to power electric cars, then electric cars still win, because the EV doesn't emit petroleum pollution. The gas car would have pollution both from the refining electricity AND petroleum.

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    It's only a possible win for gasoline over EVs if the petroleum is made from clean power while the electricity is made from dirty power. This is NOT the most common nor likely scenario - by far.

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    Batteries: Some battery types are environmentally problematic because they may contain heavy metals like lead or cadmium, or use rare earth elements. But the most recent and common battery technologies are lithium based. These modern battery types contain no toxins, rare earths or heavy metals. (Plus they are recyclable.)

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    Economics of EV ownership: You appear to be afraid of the cost of changing a battery. This is a misplaced concern. Very old battery technology - lead-acid batteries in the very first electric cars - used to require frequent battery changes - every 2 to 5 years.

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    But that was a long time ago. Look at today's hybrid cars, for example - they have been with us for over a decade now, and battery changes are not common in hybrids at all. Some of the very earliest Priuses have up to 400,000 miles on the original battery packs.

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    I'm not saying it's not a concern at all - but it's no bigger worry than any other very expensive thing that might go wrong with a car someday. And to compensate for the worry, consider that an electric car will need no other maintenance on the motor, ever. No oil changes, tune-ups, spark plugs, filters, fluids, nothing at all. Plus electricity is the cheapest and most efficient energy source available - costing just 2 to 4 cents per mile (gasoline costs 12 to 30 cents per mile, depending on vehicle.)

    Source(s): * EV owner here. Here's my oldest EV - from 1981. No motor maintenance or repairs have ever been needed in over 30 years: http://evalbum.com/popupimg.php?4562 * Early Priuses with 300,000 - 400,000 miles on the original batteries: http://www.dailytech.com/End+of+Life+Approaching+f... * Those pesky facts are certainly annoying, aren't they? Better downvote!!
  • rowlfe
    Lv 7
    8 years ago

    The problem with electric cars is what you are NOT being told. Take the Toyota Prius for example. They SAY it gets 50 MPG. Where does that figure come from? The engine does nothing more than drive a generator to charge the battery. The engine does NOT turn the wheels through a drive train! OK, so they figured out it takes a gallon of gas to replace the power used by a trip of 50 miles, THAT's how! So, that amount of electricity is FIXED. If I have an all electric car, that recharge power comes from my utility company, which ends up on my utility bill instead of a gas pump. The power plant that made that power used a fuel of some kind, probably coal, and BURNED it to make steam to turn a turbine generator. So, what did I really DO here? I traded burning gasoline for burning coal to get the power I used to recharge my battery after my 50 mile trip. So, NO, I would NOT, because either way, burning gas directly or burning coal (or oil or any other fossil fuel) indirectly, contributes to global warming. you can't get something from nothing and there is no such thing as a free lunch. Why don't these greens who say electric is so much better NEVER mention WHERE the recharge power comes from? I have a 1990 Geo Metro, 3 cylinder, which gets 50-55 MPG around town. It is NOT cost effective for me to spend the money to change to a hybrid such as a Prius just to get the SAME MPG as I do now... What would be the point?

  • 5 years ago

    Earlier than going any further I wish to recognize where all of the further electricity to vigour these matters goes to come from. Some thing you believe about AGW of which choice for power is high-quality/worst we face - at least right here within the UK - a major shortfall in production as our coal/gas/nuclear stations are being phased out. Take that with an increasing populace and it appears to me that someplace along the road an predominant calculation is missing. Nevertheless, assuming the magic wand arrives from ebay on time, i might purchase one IF the cost comes down to simply below completely unaffordable, IF i can get the kind of mileage out of it that i want journeying the long distances I have to for my job, and IF just as quickly as I change the federal government doesn't make the rate of that form of motoring as bloody pricey as petrol/diesel is now, and IF i will be able to find one colossal ample to accommodate the musical instruments which i need for my job. I by some means can not support pondering that an property variant might be considered anathema to the 'inexperienced' rationale.

  • 8 years ago

    At present, I probably wouldn't, both because I'm not currently in a position to buy a car, and because affordable electric cars don't *quite* have enough range to drive to my mother's house half a state away, a trip I make frequently.

    But if I was in the market for a new car, and they managed to increase battery life or engine efficiency enough that I could drive ~150 miles, mostly at highway speeds, without running out of charge, in an electric car that I could afford, I likely would buy one. Likewise if they mastered quick-charging enough that I could top off my batteries halfway in no more than about 15 minutes (assuming, again, I could afford it and was looking for a car)

    Source(s): Please check out my open questions.
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  • 8 years ago

    I might. But then I live near work and shopping so I don't have to drive much and an old car is much more economical for for than any new one. Also, I live in California so the charge for an electric car would come mostly from hydro-electric whereas in other places the charge would come from burning coal which limits the environmental benefit. Anywhere in the U.S. our big goverment supressess the price of gas so I'm less interested than if I lived in Europe or elsewhere where gas was priced by the free market. (Gas in the U.S. is only about half the worldwide market price.)

  • 8 years ago

    I certainly wouldn't buy one because I was trying to combat global warming. There are conventional cars and hybrids that get excellent mileage without the cost or inconvenience of an electric. It would not surprise me at all to find out their environmental impacts are larger.

    However, there are certain aspects of electric cars that I find very attractive. They can be very quiet and give a very smooth ride, and if you had a photovoltaic system you could charge them from electricity that you generate. They may also rely on lithium batteries, and I'm peripherally involved in the lithium mining industry at present.

  • 8 years ago

    Yes, I absolutely would buy an electric car right now, both for convenience and to combat global warming. Yes, electric cars do have a limited range, but the range is sufficient for me to do 95% of all my driving. Since most families are 2-car families then having a second gas powered car takes care of any situation where the electric range doesn't cut it. If you don't want to have a second car then services like ZipCar are becoming popular, or you can rent if the need is infrequent. Electric cars are also nice because there is so little maintenance. You don't have to worry about belts, hoses, spark plugs, oil changes, etc.

    Now, I am sorry to digress, but I just have to address a couple of previous comments...

    Rowlfe, you are using mileage figures from hybrids (not even plug-in hybrids). You talk a little bit about the trade off between burning gas and burning coal. The advantage of an electric car is that you then have a single point of pollution to focus on. If we used electric cars then replacing one large coal plant would offset the pollution of hundreds of thousands of cars.

    Jonathan, I don't even know where to begin. In your post you talk about electricity being the "most valuable form of energy" and that it should only be used for "HIGH VALUED purposes" yet you offer no alternative energy source. You talk about how it would be more efficient to burn fossil fuels directly for heat, and you are correct, but we don't want just heat, we want to do work. Any time we build a machine to do work the machine will have inefficiencies, this is just the way the world works.

    The big advantage of electricity is that it is extremely efficient to transport and electric motors are extremely efficient. Electricity is wonderful because we can produce it from so many sources and it is so useful for doing work. If anything we should be expanding our use of electricity especially for transportation.

    The NEMA design specs for motors that are >125 hp require at least 92.4% efficiency. This just leaves the major sources of efficiency loss in electric cars from charging/discharging the battery pack. Although this is the major loss, the process is still 80-90% efficient.

    Now, as you alluded to in your response, there are losses that occur during generation of electricity. Most large coal plants are about 33% efficient. Transmission losses can be estimated at 2% for moderate distance. All together the whole process is about 25% efficient (1000 W of thermal energy from the coal will produce ~250W of power at the wheels of the car).

    Internal combustion engines in your car are only about 30% efficient. In addition, you end up with 5-6% loss due to the transmission and another 5-6% loss from running other parts like the water pump and alternator. Using these rough figures you can figure that your ICE car is only about 26% efficient (1000W of energy from burning gas only produces ~260W of power at the wheels). Within margin of error, this is the same as an electric vehicle. However, this does not include the energy required to make gasoline from oil.

    So where is the advantage of using electricity? It lies in the centralization of production. In both electric and gas cars the major loss comes from the combustion of fossil fuels. Fortunately for us, we can produce electricity easily from other sources. If you are worried about the environment, electric vehicles are the way to go. It is a much easier project dealing with a few centralized, non-mobile "engines" (power plants) than trying to deal with millions of small mobile ones.

    Source(s): NEMA Design B, Single Speed 1200, 1800, 3600 RPM. Open Drip Proof (ODP) or Totally Enclosed Fan Cooled (TEFC) motors 1 hp and larger that operate more than 500 hours per year. http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/atv.shtml
  • 8 years ago

    I have been researching and writing about electric vehicles for perhaps 5 years. Last year I was able to test drive a mitsubishi I for 4 days and put about 200 miles on the vehicle during that time. http://cleantechnica.com/2012/07/29/a-200-mile-dat...

    I would certainly buy an electric car.

    But an electric car like any vehicle has to fit the circumstances of the driver. A great grandmother is probably not going to look for a motorcycle. A mother of 8 is probably not going to select a compact car. A plumber is probably not going to select an electric car for their work vehicle. The basic criteria for considering an EV at the present time is a limited or reasonable stable and repetitive driving distance and a place to charge the vehicle. If you don't fit this basic profile, your opinion is that of a supporter or detractor but not a purchaser or user.

    Those who do purchase electric vehicles may do so for the economic reasons, environmental interests or strategic concerns.

    ECONOMICALLY it is clear that it is far cheaper to fuel a battery electric vehicle. Average annual estimates are around $500 for the full cost of electricity. With time of use metering this might be half. This can be compared with other vehicles that may cost from double to 6 times this amount just for fuel. The EV does not have a great deal of history for maintenance so there is a lot of speculation. The EV never requires an oil change or a tune up. Without a cooling system, exhaust system, fuel delivery system or the 700 moving parts in a petrol engine and transmission the EV is likely to be cheaper to maintain. Any article that suggests otherwise suspect.

    The ENVIRONMENTAL rational for the EV may be the weakest presently. You may not believe in global warming but pollution and smog from petrol vehicles is an established fact. I have previously crunched the numbers here on YA and elsewhere and they suggest a minimum of 1/2 to 2/3 less pollution for the EV vs a petrol vehicle even considering coal powered electric generation. http://cleantechnica.com/2012/02/16/new-study-ev-m... Typically studies that show otherwise, are narrowing the area they are studying, eliminating sources of pollution for the petrol vehicle and otherwise skewing the results to over reach for their conclusions. If someday we actually place a value on the cost of pollution this rational for electric vehicles will become extremely significant. At that time electricity produced with alternative power sources (wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, hydroelectric) will become very cheap and the electric car will be positioned to take most advantage of the pollution free power.

    More people are purchasing the EV for STRATEGIC reasons. Recently on the East Coast a hurricane produced power outages and gas shortages first because gas could not be pumped from stations and then because deliveries could not match the demand for gasoline. Ev owners weathered the crisis easily by charging their vehicles at the next town or at home when the power came back on. The situation with the Japan Earthquake and Nuclear meltdown was similar. Electric cars were the only ones up and running after the disaster. They were the only ones that could be fueled and could also provide emergency power when needed.

    Long term I think that battery vehicles are not our best choice. Electric vehicles should have power transmitted to them using some form of wireless energy transfer. http://cleantechnica.com/2011/08/27/unlimited-rang... However battery vehicles are what we presently have. I have sat in on discussions with battery engineers who claim that the EV battery may degrade somewhat within the first year of use. Then we can expect a much slower decline that may last longer than the present industry standard warranty of 8 years or 100,000 miles. At that point the batteries will be reduced to about 70% to 80% of their like new capacity. Battery life can be extended with good care. This means that a car that had 100 miles of range when new, 8 years later may only have a range of 70 to 80 miles. When I have amortized the present price of a new battery pack over the miles driven $9000 over 100,000 miles this additional 9 cents a mile when added to the fuel charge continues to allow the EV to be less expensive than similar non electric cars. It is very likely that the battery pack will have residual value as a stationary battery that could be taken off the price of a new battery pack. It also likely that in 8 years battery packs will be cheaper with more range than those today. And so it is possible that concerns over battery packs are simply another excuse dreamed up by petrochemical companies in an attempt to protect their ever growing profits.

  • ?
    Lv 6
    8 years ago

    Can't afford to buy one. Price must come down otherwise it will remain a vehicle for the elitists. Finding recharge stations seems to have become a bottleneck and problem. So, not at this time; perhaps not even in my lifetime.

  • 8 years ago

    Maybe, by creating a market for electric cars you help indirectly fund research in cleaner transportation options.

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