According to several well-known writers of blogs and columns, based on a recent study by North Carolina State University, EDV’s (electric cars, hybrids and plug ins) are not all they are cracked up to be. Because they may be powered by a coal or natural gas utilities, they spew pollutants, because hybrids may use gasoline, they emit ghg and other pollutants, because their production processes are “dirty,” they generate more pollutants than gasoline.
Electric cars in China have an overall impact on pollution that could be more harmful to health than gasoline vehicles… EDVs ghg reduction will not make a big difference because the total number of vehicles in the U.S. only produces about 20 percent of all carbon emissions.”
I have seen higher numbers than stated by the writers concerning carbon emissions by cars and trucks fueled by gasoline. It is not clear whether the North Carolina study compared general supply chains to supply chain specifics. For example, EV engines use a proportionately large share of aluminum. Its mining probably emits more ghg than materials used in non evs. Yet, its use in cars, given its lighter weight, produces less emissions.
More relevant, perhaps, while recently there has been some retreat because of rising natural gas costs compared to coal costs, in the long term future, (perhaps aided by government regulations of carbon emissions,) conversion of coal based power generation to natural gas will again trend upward and lower the total ghg allocated to EDVs.
The bloggers and columnists as well as the North Carolina scholars seem to believe in the theory that if you build it they will come. Indeed, the most frequent comments on the models used in the study relate to one model, that is, a 42 percent EDV market share by 2050. It presumes a government cap on emissions. Apparently, according to this model, any ghg reductions caused by EDVs will soon be filled up by other emitters. According to the study’s author, Joseph DeCarolis, ( interviewed by Will Oremus, a critic of the paper in his article in Future Tense, Jan. 27), “It’s that there all this other stuff going on in this larger energy system that effects overall emissions.” I would add based on the study, DeCarolis presumes ghg emissions are fungible and equilibrium will result in 2050.
Diminishing the ghg importance of EDVs , more than three decades out, shifts issues and initiates arguments over whether or not government should have a tougher cap; whether or not other sectors of the economy will illustrate more or less ghg emissions; whether or not technological advancements focused on ghg reduction across the economy will remain almost static; whether or not businesses will accept ghg reduction as a must or as part of “conscientious capitalism” both to sustain profits and quality of life.
The continued development and increased sales of edvs are important to the nation’s long term effort to reduce ghg and other pollutants. But, until evs among edvs increase mileage per charge to remove owner fear of stalling out in either remote or congested places like freeways and until the price comes down and size increases for families with children, they will at best constitute a relatively small share of the new market for cars in the near future. Even if the total numbers of edvs significantly increase their proportion of new car sales, many years will pass before they, will collectively, play a major role in lessening the nation’s carbon footprint.
Perfectibility not perfection should be a legitimate goal for all of us concerned with the environment. Individuals and groups concerned with the economic and social health of the nation should drop their ideological bundling boards. (Some of us are old enough to remember the real origins of the bundling board. Because of a shortage of space in many homes, it was used to separate males and females who often slept together before they were married in revolutionary days. I am not sure it was abandoned because mores changed, houses got bigger or people got splinters. I have no videotapes!)
2014 should witness the development of a non-partisan,non- ideological coalition of environmental, business, non-profit, academic and government leaders to embrace the need for an effective transitional alternative fuel strategy for new and existing cars and EDVs. The embrace should respond to national and local objectives concerning the environment, the economy, and security and consumer well-being. A good place to start would be to extend the use of natural gas based fuels, including ethanol and methanol.
Simultaneously, the coalition should encourage Detroit to expand production of flex fuel cars and the nation to implement a large scale flex fuel conversion program for existing cars. Added to the coalition’s agenda should be development of a more open fuels market and support for intense research and development of EDV’s, particularly EVs. Hopefully, evs will soon be ready for prime time in the marketplace. Succinctly, we need both alternative fuels and evs.