Monday, March 11, 2013

Electric Cars Are Not Necessarily Good For The Environment

So says liberal vegetarian (and skeptical environmentalist) Bjorn Lomborg, about whom I've written several times:
Electric cars are promoted as the chic harbinger of an environmentally benign future. Ads assure us of "zero emissions," and President Obama has promised a million on the road by 2015. With sales for 2012 coming in at about 50,000, that million-car figure is a pipe dream. Consumers remain wary of the cars' limited range, higher price and the logistics of battery-charging. But for those who do own an electric car, at least there is the consolation that it's truly green, right? Not really...

A 2012 comprehensive life-cycle analysis in Journal of Industrial Ecology shows that almost half the lifetime carbon-dioxide emissions from an electric car come from the energy used to produce the car, especially the battery. The mining of lithium, for instance, is a less than green activity. By contrast, the manufacture of a gas-powered car accounts for 17% of its lifetime carbon-dioxide emissions. When an electric car rolls off the production line, it has already been responsible for 30,000 pounds of carbon-dioxide emission. The amount for making a conventional car: 14,000 pounds.

While electric-car owners may cruise around feeling virtuous, they still recharge using electricity overwhelmingly produced with fossil fuels. Thus, the life-cycle analysis shows that for every mile driven, the average electric car indirectly emits about six ounces of carbon-dioxide. This is still a lot better than a similar-size conventional car, which emits about 12 ounces per mile. But remember, the production of the electric car has already resulted in sizeable emissions—the equivalent of 80,000 miles of travel in the vehicle.

So unless the electric car is driven a lot, it will never get ahead environmentally.
It's hard to argue with someone who makes sense. Go read his entire piece here.


allen (in Michigan) said...

Kind of immaterial whether electric cars are or aren't good for the environment since no one wants them and no one can afford them.

Anonymous said...

The left is not fact-based; it is emotion-based. Electric cars make people feel like it's cleaner; facts to the contrary be damned.

Anonymous said...

Oh my, 80,000 whole miles, cars never make it that many miles before hitting the scrapyard. Who cares about the reduction in local smog and pollution, we should stick with older technology like our founding fathers intended or something. A 24% reduction in carbon-dioxide emission, who cares? I only like solutions that get rid of 100% of things.

I don't know if it's nostalgia but I think you were a much better blogger in the past, or maybe I just never read your biased source material.

I know you are a realist when it comes to environmental issues, and I know you tend to be pro-nuclear, so how can it not be clear that some targeted investment and research would be beneficial to the United States in the long run.

Darren said...

Ah, I was better when you didn't disagree so vehemently. Go take a nice drive in your Prius and simmer down.

Ellen K said...

Note to the writer above, most cars made after 2001 last well into the 120K plus region as long as they are well maintained. In terms of absolute cost efficiency, a small Honda or Toyota is far more efficient from the ground up than most of the hybrids and all of the electrics. The range works for smaller urban centers, but not for larger areas, which makes them impractical for most families. If you want or can afford one, go ahead. But don't delude yourself that you are doing anything beyond buying a status symbol because they are far more of an impact once those big batteries start having to be replaced.

KauaiMark said...

I always wondered how much the mpc (miles per charge) drops when the "all electric" cars use the heater in winter.

Regular cars use scavenge heat from the engine so it's "free"!