Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Not getting what we're paying for...

...and being sold a bill of goods in the process.

More bad news on the green technology front. Turns out those electric cars you aren't quite ready to shell out $41,000 for aren't quite as green as people would like you to think.

ELECTRIC cars could produce higher emissions over their lifetimes than petrol equivalents because of the energy consumed in making their batteries, a study has found.

An electric car owner would have to drive at least 129,000km before producing a net saving in CO2. Many electric cars will not travel that far in their lifetime because they typically have a range of less than 145km on a single charge and are unsuitable for long trips. Even those driven 160,000km would save only about a tonne of CO2 over their lifetimes.

The British study, which is the first analysis of the full lifetime emissions of electric cars covering manufacturing, driving and disposal, undermines the case for tackling climate change by the rapid introduction of electric cars.

The study was commissioned by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, which is jointly funded by the British government and the car industry. It found that a mid-size electric car would produce 23.1 tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime, compared with 24 tonnes for a similar petrol car. Emissions from manufacturing electric cars are at least 50 per cent higher because batteries are made from materials such as lithium, copper and refined silicon, which require much energy to be processed.

Many electric cars are expected to need a replacement battery after a few years. Once the emissions from producing the second battery are added in, the total CO2 from producing an electric car rises to 12.6 tonnes, compared with 5.6 tonnes for a petrol car. Disposal also produces double the emissions because of the energy consumed in recovering and recycling metals in the battery. The study also took into account carbon emitted to generate the grid electricity consumed.

Greg Archer, director of Low CVP, said the industry should state the full lifecycle emissions of cars rather than just tailpipe emissions, to avoid misleading consumers. He said that drivers wanting to minimise emissions could be better off buying a small, efficient petrol or diesel car. “People have to match the technology to their particular needs,” he said.

As is the case here stateside, the Brits will not be deterred by mere numbers as they are charging head long into their own electric car subsidization program and are spending $66 million over the next year giving up to 8,600 buyers of electric cars $7,700 towards the sticker price.

But more on those pesky lithium-ion batteries. Captain Ed provides some fun facts regarding the batteries:

Average life span of lithium ion battery: 3 - 8 years.

Replacement cost of a battery for a Nissan Leaf: about $10,000.

Think that might put a dent in the resale market of electric cars? And think that the lithium contained in the batteries might pose some environmental disposal problems?

85 percent: the percentage of known lithium reserves in Bolivia, Chile and China.

80 percent: the percentage of known large-flake graphite reserves, also needed in battery production, that are in China.

Please remember this next time you hear someone telling you we need to go electric to end our dependency on foreign sources of energy.

2050: the year that Argonne National Laboratory estimates we will essentially run out of lithium.

That's less than 40 years, folks. Doesn't sound like a real attractive long-range solution, now does it? Luckily, we keep finding more and more of that black, sticky stuff in the ground so it's a money-back guarantee that "peak lithium" will arrive before "peak oil".

And finally, think of where it is that we will be getting that electrical energy from once we all start plugging our cars into bed every evening and once both here and back during a trip up to L.A. and 3 or 4 times here and back during a trip to Vegas and...

Oil, natural gas and coal are all on the political class's hit list so it's going to be wind turbines and solar farms?


Harrison said...

Greeners won't care, they'll just say "technology is advancing" or we'll run out of oil one day or, oh look, the subsidies for electrics are so good I need one!

SarahB said...

Cause cleaner and cleaner petroleum use is bad...no progress in sight for lithium replacements = good.

We are interviewing to put in solar and the last guy was trying to sell us on how we can expand if we ever get an electric car...to which I said, "when hell freezes over." I wasn't sure if he was offended or trying not to laugh out loud.

By the way...who is invested in Lithium? Gore, Soros, every hedge fund investor on earth?