Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Guest post - Electric Cars and Implications

by Adam Baumli, JD
The new Tesla Roadster seen here is the most recent and popular all-electric automobile. This car is supposed to be super green and environment friendly. Zero emissons is one of the major selling points, but I truly believe that the zero emissions claim needs to be explained a little more. Many people make the assumption that electric cars produce no pollution. That is not the case at all. Electricity is created by a process that releases emissions and pollution. The Tesla Roadster uses this electricity. In order to power the Tesla, some pollution must occur, its just that the pollution was created by the process before it gets to the car and the car is not the thing doing the polluting.

Power plants create this electricity by varying processes. Coal and Oil power plants are the most popular right now, but it is nearly impossible to build and use new coal power plants because of the pollution that they release. Im not saying that the Tesla Roadster produces more pollution than a regular V8 sports car. I actually believe that the Roadster is more environment friendly. I would like to see statistical data and comparrisons though just to be sure. How many KW of power does the Tesla Roadster use per one cycle?

There is also another part of the Tesla Roadster that produces pollution that is never thought about. Those lithium ion battery cells that power the car eventually do not last that long, they lose their charging capacity and have to be replaced. I type this on a labtop using Lithium Ion battery cells and it is a year old, so I have to replace this battery. Where do the used up battery cells go? If we all had electric cars, that would be a ton of used batteries that would need to be disposed of. A regular automobile has to have oil chaged and drained several times each year. I want a comparrison so that I know which harms the environment more.

I really think that Hybrid automobiles are the best thing around. The combination seems the best way to keep efficiency and maximize energy. Even though it may not seem like it, I do like the fact that Tesla did build this automobile. The research and development will probably go a long way to creating a super fuel efficient automobile. I applaud them for their development and they have definitely caught my attention and my interest into purchasing an electric car. It's fast and looks really cool. Now if I can just get the $109,000 to by the thing.

Lastly, I think that the government is being ludicrous if they say that they want to spend money on alternative energy research and development, bail out (over $25 billion) American auto companies who do little if any research in that area, and yet, refuse to give $500 mil to this company who took it upon themselves to explore this alternative on their own.

TAE adds: As I often harp on this blog, corn ethanol represents a poor method for producing cheap, clean gas. A recent study found that my pet science, cellulosic ethanol made from natural prairie grass, actually yields 8-24 times as much ethanol per acre, requires one tenth the water, requires no fertilization, and needs no pesticides or herbicides. Another study, however, has found that it is more efficient and better for the environment to just burn the prairie grass in the ovens of a coal power plant, as an offset some of the coal being burned. The scientists believe that the electricity from this burnt grass could power an all-electric vehicle 7,000 miles farther before the equivalent amount of CO2 would be produced by the power plant as would have been produced through the ethanol production process.



evilrocks said...

The conclusion that I have come to is that Batteries Are Evil. Those rare earths could be put to much more productive uses.

And let us take a brief look at hydrogen storage technology (2 parts): 1 that a critical part in storage/release of hydrogen in/from fuel cells requires large amounts of platinum and that 2 a large, single digit denominator fraction of the produced platinum goes into catalytic converters for conventional vehicles. Given these driving themes, it strikes me as slightly unrealistic to expect a serious shift to a medium that requires consuming MORE not less of a resource for the same effect (moving people around).

My proposal is thus: switch the entire personal transportation industry from internal combustion engines to external combustion engines that derive electricity from heat gained from fully reacting oil.

My quibble with internal combustion engines is that by seeking to harness the explosive power of their fuel they leave assloads of burn-able hydrocarbons floating around in the exhaust stream that then have to pass over a catalytic converter in order to reduce down to CO2 and H2O, whereas if we were burning oil for its heat alone and using that heat to drive a steam turbine (a Tesla turbine, for simplicity's sake) for electricity we'd reduce the moving parts by several orders of magnitude, and eliminate pretechnological crudities like the mechanical transmission and differential gearing systems.

Not to mention that the exhaust stream of fully-oxidized fuel will be much much cleaner with much less design-twiddling on the inside of the engine.

As a final note: am I really the only one who thinks that using gasoline in an internal combustion engine is the silliest goddamn way to get electricity on demand from a portable power generator?

B-I-L said...

Whatever happened to the EV1 oh yeah, they killed it. Watch "Who Killed the Electric Car". you can find the whole vid on youtube or google vid. It certainly wasnt the most visually pleasing and not the perfect design, but it was headed in the right direction and then it disappeared. why is that? Too many sectors of the automobile industry are doomed by not being needed if they went the rout of the EV1.

ok I went to pull the link for the movie and it has been removed from google vid and youtube, what do you know. here is the main page, go rent the movie