"Everyone thinks that battery-electrics are the ultimate solution and everything else is just an intermediate step," Michalek told us. "But that's not necessarily the case. In our study, BEVs (battery electric vehicles) are worse."
That's good news for consumers who are interested in preserving the environment, but don't want to spend big bucks doing it. Because batteries still account for a large percentage of the cost of electrified vehicles, hybrids with smaller batteries would typically cost less than comparable pure electrics with larger batteries. Moreover, hybrids also offer the convenience of greater range.
To be sure, Michalek's numbers could change if electricity suppliers go to a bigger diet of renewable power in the form of wind and solar. "In a world where all our electricity is coming from cleaner sources, BEVs could be the best," Michalek said. "They might even be the cheapest. But there's no guarantee we're ever going to get there."
The irony of all this is that public policy now favors bigger batteries, largely because it's assumed that BEVs pollute less. Subsidies from the federal stimulus package give as much as $7,500 for vehicles with batteries sized at 16 kWh or larger, but $2,500 for smaller, 4 kWh packs. "The larger the pack is, the more public money we're spending on it," Michalek said. "But the truth is, bigger isn't necessarily better."
Really? Everybody is just going to take another one of these so called studies' results at face value? I seriously doubt their method at calculating battery manufacture impact would pass muster. Using dollars does little to relate to this...people cost more money than anything else in manufacturing and you can't just assume that the people can be eliminated if they don't work in the battery plant. Don't people need jobs anyway?
Just another 'study' that began with a conclusion...
A misleading article. Making gasoline alone is fairly polluting with 3kwhr/gal needed just to refine it not to mention all the other pollutions it causes before it gets to the gas tank.
Coal has dropped from 60% to the low 30;s% of US electric production and all the old dirty plants are gone or will be soon making the pollution points moot. Most EV owners buy or make RE power making the point moot anyway. High sulfur coal use is illegal in the US as in gasoline, diesel too.
EV batteries use the same materials as as gas car does except a few lbs of lithium/EV, .5lb/kwhr. PHEV 40's as currently built get the same tax credit as a 240 mile EV making that point moot.
That said having over 100 mile range EV is a waste as the extra batteries are almost never used and have to be always carried around hurting eff. Far better is a tiny fueled generator of 50-100lbs giving unlimited range at 100+ mpg the few times needed. These can even be plug in and/or rented or built in. This gives great flexiability at lower costs and higher eff.
But this all pales to the fact that present EV's and ICE's for that matter are overweight, overpriced and overteched. What we need are far lighter composite bodied EV's of the same size but aero that need a 50% smaller EV pack, drive for the same range, performance and 50% of the cost, pollution and energy needed both building and running.
Yeah an EV 'may' have a smokestack somewhere but roll down your window when driving in a freeway jam and inhale. Zero emissions is at the point of use and in California there are clean air days where more zero emission vehicles make a difference in the 'local' air quality.
But the root of the problem is we depend on energy sources that use carbon and keep trying to justify it.
Heartening to see? When hybrids were first introduced about 8 to 10 years ago, they were victimized by ICE drivers as slow, inefficient, didn't make economic sense etc. etc. It seems we are running into the same arguments with BEVs. There was an incentive for early adopters by giving tax breaks etc for buying these cars. Battery technology is not static and as more sources of electrictity are used such as nuclear, solar PV, wind etc. the only component of manufacturing and operation of these vehicles related to pollution will be the battery manufacturing and recycling of it. Captive power plants can have their pollutions managed much more efficiently than millions of ICE vehicles belching varying amounts of pollutants. Getting one of the 1970s or 1980s ICE vehicles is probably equivalent to hundreds of modern day ICE cars. Let's get rid of all these belchers first. So, do people consider the transportation costs/pollution with gasoline, oil exploration, wars and so on so forth? How about engine lubricants, various other consumables related to ICE? This is a BS article at best with only part of the story. Many of us are using solar panels to feed power back into the grid, reducing the need for grid upgrades at the same time providing power to charge EVs. Distributed power generation and usage. It is actually heartening to see that there are some who will look to the future and try to advance the technology rather than sit and complain about the tax subsidies or find reasons to kill a technology in its infancy.
Its about bloody time we start looking at energy consumption for the entire life of the car, not just for the operation of the vehicle. A "zero emission vehicle" is a myth -- the emissions have to happen somewhere if energy is required -- for operation or for manufacture.
In addition, and the auto manufacturers won't like this, but it would be nice to see real studies of the overall energy effect of keeping a car longer than the, what is it now, 2-3 year average?
Electric makes real sense when the source of the electricity is connected directly to the vehicle as is done with electric trains. Then the battery contribution is removed from the graph and a pure electric has very low social impact. So a hybrid with a caternary or some other form of efficient connection would be the best. Regen braking would feed power back into the grid.
It's more than simply reducing pollution and increasing electrical energy generation and transmission efficiency. To be more to the heart of environmental protection we have to learn better ways to produce the materials of the future. Use far less energy, pollute less and fine tune processes so they do not create toxic waste.
For example, if a process requires a lot of heat, why not build a facility around solar furnaces? Granted this would restrict the facility geographically and add to transportation costs. But looking into the future, transportation will become much more energy efficient, but, of course, only if we continue to work on all fronts to raise the efficiency of the new industrial age.
In the consumer realm I'm still coming across new products that have been designed with zero consciousness about energy waste. The old phonograph turntable is back as a relatively cheap consumer comodity selling at a fraction of the cost of the technology of a couple of decades ago. The turntable, typically of a cheap lightweight plastic base, has tone arm and RIAA equalized phono cartridge pre-amplifier built in! Furthermore, most of this new breed includes a built in USB sound card (A/D converter) so that old vinyl can be dubbed directly into a computer as an MP3 sound file for transfer to a personal audio player. Problem is, there is no On/Off power switch. Only the turntable motor is switched, typically by placing the tone arm on the record. Round the clock, the electronics remains powered. Granted its only a few watts, but multiply it by millions of households with great vinyl album collections and this wasted energy isn't trivial.
At the very least, almost every component of cost comes back to the environmental impact of producing energy. It certainly does assume that electricity will continue to be as dirty as it was 10 years ago and that in future will return to that high level which is a rather pessimistic (or as Romney would have it, optimistic) view. Curiously, the energy cost associated with making a large EV battery (150 mi driving distance for an unspecified size of vehicle) would be approximately 2.5 times the energy cost of making the entire rest of the vehicle - one would like to see where that data comes from: at least the MSRP of the battery should be less than the industrial price of the energy input ... you'd think. In this analysis, it appears that it takes more energy to make the battery than the battery will ever store!?
To be fair to the author, this is the pessimistic view where we return to dirty electricity as in the heyday of 51% coal, nothing of any value occurs in either basic battery technology or battery manufacturing technology and EVs never achieve economy of scale compared to IC vehicles. At the extremes of this problem set we can either give up or get our collective buts in gear or just wait for the Japanese to do it for us. Any one who assumes that battery technology is static would be incorrect (even in the humble LA family of batteries). Another emerging technology is all electric drive trains which will have a substantial impact on EV efficiency. However, the worst thing to bet against is manufacturing technology which is financially purely a scale factor - given the right context, manufacturing and process engineers can squash production costs like a bug. Perhaps the one fallacy of this study is to compare the costs of various technologies at significantly different points on the experience curve without adjusting for experience factors.
This makes total sense to me. Any technology requiring so much government subsidy money is a technology that is not ready for normal day-to-day use yet. When EVs make sense without a subsidy, then they will make sense. Not before.
A recently released government report has raised the hopes of automakers looking for a break on future fuel economy regulations, despite the warnings of an Environmental Protection Agency official who said the agency is unlikely to back down on its goal of 54.5 mpg by 2025.
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