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In Planet Forward’s premier segment on Nightly Business Report, host Frank Sesno takes the Nissan Leaf for a spin and crunches the numbers to see if the car’s green technology is worth the extra green in your wallet.
Thanks, the video was pretty good.
You mentioned the “green” advantages to electric cars, but I didn’t notice any mention of the US advantages. Like the economy–buying local fuel instead of foreign. That could cut our trade deficit in half, and keep more money here. And we’d only be spending ~18% as much on fuel, freeing up a lot of money for other things–in significant amounts too; more than the stimulus spending. And then of course there’s energy security–most foreign oil is controlled by governments, rather than private companies that will want our money no matter what political differences we might have. It’s a lot more than just “green yuppies” that are interested in what electric cars can do for us.
I think you missed a couple of points on the “cost savings” angle as well. While nobody can predict for sure where gas and electricity prices will go, gas prices have been a lot more volatile, are not regulated, and are dependent more on outside influences. I suspect it’s more likely to go up than electricity. An electric car is a better hedge against future costs.
Plus, while you accounted for fuel savings, you didn’t account for maintenance savings. No emissions inspections, no oil changes, no plugs or belts or catalytic converters or transmissions (it’s a fixed gear) or complicated engines (one moving part in the motor!)…it all really adds up. Once again it’s predicting the future so there’s no way to be sure, but when I crunch the numbers, I can’t find any car cheaper to operate than the Leaf.
Seems to me that electric cars are not altogether “clean.” Electric power is generated by electric utilities that use coal, a fossil fuel and CO2, that power electric cars. To me, “Clean coal” seems to an oxymoron: Bury dirty emissions underground? Out of sight, out of mind. Right. And, what about the lithium batteries? Where do they end up when they need to be replaced? What is the cost to replace them? Is lithium plentiful? It has to be mined out of the earth and processed. What are these additional environmental impacts?
My question: What’s wrong with compressed natural gas (CNG)? It’s a proven technology. Many municipalities use CNG in their vehicles. Waste Management uses CNG in its waste collection trucks. It’s clean burning. It’s easy to convert a gasoline engine to CNG. Natural gas lines are in the streets everywhere, so there’s little infrastructure cost except compressing it. Gasoline filling stations could add or convert easily to CNG stations. The USA has more natural gas than any other place in the world. No more oil imports! Gas mileage is about the same as gasoline. I’m sure about cost. I think it’s about the same or slightly less.
Another question: What’s wrong with a car with electric motors driving wheels and a gas or diesel or CNG engine in the vehicle generating the electricity to drive the electric motors? General Motors trains have been this way for generations. Those hundred car plus trains weighing a gazillion pounds are pulled and pushed by one or two engines. Seems to me that a small gas or diesel or CNG engine which does not need to push or pull a car would be high mileage and low emission vehicle.
Finally, to me, hybrid seem to be over-hyped. Why? Because most drivers don’t drive the cars correctly to get high mileage/low emissions. For example, I believe the Toyota Prius has to be driven about 55 mph to get top gas mileage for its battery power. High mileage/low emissions is seriously impacted by stop-and-go traffic too when the gas engine is used.
I realize this is an old article but thought I’d address the above concerns.
Coal is only about 45% of the US grid, and shrinking. It’s an even smaller percentage of power on the East and West coasts, where early EV adoption will be greatest.
CNG has a number of problems, starting with the drilling/fracking methods. Even so, it’s much more efficient to burn CNG in combined cycle generating plants to power EV’s than to burn it in inefficient ICE vehicles. There is also limited CNG infrastructure compared to electricity, which every household has.
Lithium is plentiful and cheap, the batteries are not toxic, less so than the lead acid batteries in every car, and can be recycled after use. Studies have shown that building an EV has no more impact than building a conventional vehicle, and of course it’s lifetime impact is much lower even with the current grid mix. It’s really hard to beat an EV for efficiency overall, and EV’s have the flexibility of using a variety of fuel, including solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, CNG, coal, biomass, etc.
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