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Electric Cars - Panacea, or Plain Con?

Just go back to this article I wrote in 2016

I believe that the situation described therein is as relevant today as it was then, but with a couple of additions:

1.   A car retailer who sells a electric version of his particular agency informed me that a minor ding in that particular vehicle could cost an additional $5,000 to repair because of the need to bring expensive equipment in to remove the battery before any work could be performed - the said battery being in danger of exploding in the event of heat being applied in the wrong place. Not good!

2.    And here is the latest from The Global Warming Policy Forum- a blog maintained by and for sceptics, I suspect. I print this in the interests of balance. I am not a sceptic by any means, but I have always believed that we were being 'over-sold' on electric cars.

It seems that indeed, this may be the case. Even at the risk of offending many who are aficionados. I think that a few may have been impressed by the 'bells & whistles,' and bright shining paint.

       "New study: Large CO2 emissions from batteries of electric cars"

by Johan Kristensson, New technology

"IVL, the Swedish Environment Institute has, on behalf of the Swedish Transport Administration and the Swedish Energy Agency, investigated the climate impact of lithium-ion batteries from a life-cycle perspective. Batteries for electric cars were included in the study. Lisbeth Dahllöf and Mia Romare have produced a meta-analysis, that is, a review and compilation of existing studies.

The report shows that battery manufacturing leads to high CO2 emissions. For each kilowatt-hour storage capacity in the battery, emissions of 150 to 200 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent are generated, already in the factory.

The researchers have not studied individual car brand’s batteries, just how they were produced or what electrical mix they used. But to understand the importance of battery size here’s one example: Two standard electric cars on the market, Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S, have batteries of approximately 30 kWh and 100 kWh respectively.

As soon as you buy the car, CO2 emissions of approximately 5.3 tonnes and 17.5 tonnes, respectively, have been released for batteries of these sizes. The numbers may be difficult to relate to. By way of comparison, a trip for a person returning from Stockholm to New York by air causes emissions of more than 600 kilograms of carbon dioxide, according to the UN organization ICAO’s calculation model."



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Reader Comments (11)

this is just scratching the surface of the issues -- a much better summary of cradle to grave emissions comparisons here -

electric cars are the winners by a huge margin

June 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDenis Tegg

Good post. Electric cars owners are the losers by a big margin (although they may be made to feel virtuous...saving the planet and all that!).

Let's not forget that the battery pack will probably have to be replaced several times during the lifecycle of the car and this is a very significant total lifecycle cost.

If these cars can not be recharged by renewable energy (as is the case in most of the world) they are just moving the CO2 emissions from the car to the power station. The only adavantage is that really harmfull emissions of other things such as SO2 get taken out of the cities and moved to the countryside.

Electric cars tend to be much heavier than similar conventional cars thanks to the battery pack so that extra weight has to be lugged around the countryside which increases the emissions (wherever they occur).

Refueling them may seem cheap but it is only because the government does not collect massive taxes on the electricity like it does on petrol. The rest of us who cannot afford or want them are thus subsidising those who can afford these expensive toys.

June 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCoromandel 49

Sorry but both the post and the comment cherry pick a few issues. If you want a serious comparison between fossil fueled and electric cars you have to assess them from cradle to grave - the total life cycle of the vehicles - including all the factors.

This what is done in the previous link I supplied -- and electric cars wins on emissions and other environmental factors hands down

Beware of fake news from the Koch Bros funded fossil fueled sources

June 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDenis Tegg

I doubt very much if the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Energy Agency and IVL, the Swedish Environment Institute, are purveyors of Mr. Tegg's "fake news from the Koch Bros funded fossil fueled sources". They are, I would think, responsible organisations who have done their homework for a change.

June 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCoromandel 49

cradle to grave emissions and environmental impacts - not cherry picking one small issue - electric cars wins massively

which is why care is needed in relying on "think tanks" like the Global Warming Policy Forum and their backers

"Michael Hintze, a leading Conservative party donor who runs the £5bn hedge fund CQS, has emerged as a financial backer of the climate sceptic thinktank founded by former chancellor, Lord Nigel Lawson.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation, launched by Lawson in 2009, regularly casts doubt on the science and cost of tackling climate change in the media and has called on climate scientists to show greater transparency, but has refused to reveal details of its donors. Leading Nasa climate scientist James Hansen calls it “one link in a devious manipulation of public opinion [regarding climate change].”

On Monday, Downing Street was forced to reveal that Hintze was among the leading Tory donors who were invited to privately dine with David Cameron at a “thank you” dinner following the general election in 2010. The revelation that Hintze, who has also donated £1.5m to the Tory party, is connected with climate change scepticism will be an embarassment for David Cameron,"

June 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDenis Tegg

I accept Denis that there are all manner of ulterior motives at work in the background that are attempting to throw doubt over established science. But in this case I am only interested in examining the claims made in regard to electric vehicles that I believe still remain to be proven. It would be good if we could stick to this argument, and leave the other stuff aside on this post at least. I for one remain unconvinced in regard to your 'whole of life' argument, particularly when considered in the light of the estimated actual battery life, and likely charging back-up once the expected numbers hit the road. It appears nightmarish from where I sit, and I cannot see that Tesla has all the answers, yet. I would like to see all the for and against arguments laid out in a manner that the average joe can understand - I don't believe that this has happened as yet, and it appears unlikely while entrenched interests push their barrow.

June 22, 2017 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

Bill I am as keen as you to debate the fors and against electric cars – that is why I included the link in my first comment. It is set out in language which the average Joe can clearly understand. The article linked includes
1. Lifetime Emissions
Cradle to Grave emissions of fueling and manufacturing of EVs vs FOSSILs

2. Re-Use and Recyclability
How much can EVs or FOSSILs be recycled or re-used

3. Toxicity
What other upstream effects should be considered

It seems to me most if not all of your concerns have been answered in that article for example the latest Tesla batteries have lasted for 320,000 km and can still be recycled after that usage

The conclusion from that comparison is that In summary, EVs are 7 – 10 times more CO2e efficient than FOSSILs over their full lifetime when using 100% carboNZero Certified Electricity.

June 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDenis Tegg

Okay Denis, but just a final niggle - what about when Huntley has to fired up through lack of water in the South Island hydros using coal imported from Indonesia.. EVs are only going to add to the demand that increases the likelihood of this having to happen more regularly over the next few years. Perhaps our conversion rate needs to slowed in order to match renewable capacity. If Huntley is to be the marginal supplier, then it seems to me that nearly.every, if not all EV advantage is nullified. Currently 20% of usage is being met from non-renewable (including Huntley) sources as announced last week. Climate change again - according to NIWA. The arguments are endless, and the debate must go on if you ask me - I know you are committed, but it does not appear as settled as you appear to claim.

June 23, 2017 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

Bill, I think you are way too pessimistic on electric cars. And no, Huntley will not need to be fired up. In fact, a large fraction of EVs on the road and plugged in, will eliminate a lot of short term electricity production during costly margin times. Here is why: Once we have many EVs on the roads and the according to infrastructure, they will spend a lot of time plugged in where parked. Smart meters and cars will not only decide when they are charging but even permit small discharging into the network. The sitting capacity of EV batteries will become a buffer well suited for the future of more intermittent production.
Also, we easily have the space capacity to feed a large percentage of EVs on our roads with the current electricity generation in NZ. If the Bluff AL smelter goes, we have a lot of extra capacity.

That aside, the story about that "expensive to repair" EV will soon be an anecdote only. EVs will be widespread and by that time repair shops will have the tools everywhere to tend to them.

I have been driving an EV since 2008. I converted a Toyota Starlet into an EV. It has been a great time so far. I have "compartmentalized" my driving. For all local journeys, I use the EV (90% of my driving). For the rest, we still have a family car.

Battery; Modern EV's batteries last longer than the average lifetime of a car on NZ's roads!

Look, you seem to have a negative opinion on EVs. I don't think your opinion is based on actual experience or on the evidence form the market out there.

Stories of a user here or there who had negative experiences can be found on any product. If you really want to know if EVs are worth it, just look at what taxi drivers are driving. You will see lots of Priuses and Hybrid Camry's - why? Because they save them lots of money. Soon you will be buzzing in EV taxis around because they are the most economical to drive for their commercial owners.

The EV revolution is unstoppable now. Best to get with it.

July 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Everth

Thanks Thomas - I accept your account, and arguments. I really wanted to get the discussion going because so often we are simply submerged by opinion that is not based on actual experience, and you certainly seem to have had ample. I am not quite convinced about the Huntley argument though - Genesis plan to fire it up to get through a South Island shortfall this winter, and 60,000 cars charging (2021 by Government estimate) will certainly add to that load regardless of the time of day. But perhaps the renewable supply will be up to scratch by then - just a small quibble, because not all vehicles will be able to charge overnight.
Anyway - thank you again for your very valuable contribution.

July 3, 2017 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

Actually, a news report on RNZ at midnight revealed that 28% of our power was carbon (coal or gas) generated last month - 23% the month before. You see - this is where I have a problem Thomas - it is all very well to claim total virtue for EVs, but if significant additional carbon-based generation is required when we don't have capacity for the marginal consumption they bring about, then it has to alter the whole equation. It is something that has niggled me from the outset.

July 4, 2017 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

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