The End of the Electric Car?
July 07, 2013 04:58PM
(Ozzie Zehner, the author upon whose work this column is drawn is a former proponent of the electric car)

Ozzie Zehner, who 20 years ago built an electric car that could run on gas or electricity,
and was convinced electric cars would save the planet, has now released a study, showing that
much of what we know about electric cars is false.

Zehner points out that in measuring the carbon footprint of the electric car, most scientists
count only the CO2 emission from the generation of electricity. And even that is subjective,
since the way we generate electricity is diverse and each has it's own particular drawbacks.

For instance, electricity generated by natural gas, requires that the gas be burned, thus
releasing CO2. Electricity from nuclear power has a much lower release of CO2 but produces
hard to store waste and carries proliferation and fallout risks. Thus, in order to do an
accurate study, all of these factors must be considered, but they're not.

Many proponents of the electric car point out the cars can be powered by electricity generated
by wind and solar, but the truth is neither will ever generate enough electricity to power millions
of cars and solar panels are made with heavy metals that produce the greenhouse gas, sulfur hexafluoride.

Sulfur hexafluoride as a greenhouse gas has 23,000 times more global warming potential than CO2.
And it takes a lot of fossil fuels, mostly oil, to manufacture and requires rare earth materials
which are very limited.

Money Talks

The fact is that most of the studies done are paid for by large corporations with their own interests
in mind. As an example, the well known and respected Global Climate & Energy Project at Stanford University
gets 113 million dollars from ExxonMobil, General Electric, Schlumberger, and Toyota.

Most of the universities who research electric cars receive large grants from corporations.
Zehner points out that the money may not influence the test results, but that corporations fund research
that is in line with their interests, although when large sums of money are thrown around, it's bound to
have some influence.

Subsidizing the wealthy

Another factor is government subsidies towards the purchase of electric and hybrid vehicles. Or as some
people refer to them as welfare for the rich. The US gives a $7,500 tax break for a purchase of an
electric car. The UK, 5,000 pounds. ($7,900 US) Canada provides $8,500 Canadian. ($8046 US)

States also get into the act. California kicks in an additional $2,500. Colorado subsidies are $6,000.
And West Virginia tops them all with a subsidy of $7,500 (on top of the $7,500 federal subsidy) and
they will throw in another $10,000 towards a home charger.

The Fisker Karma costs $100,000 and studies have found that the gas mileage is worse than a small SUV.
Even the Volt, which costs around $40,000k, are bought by people whose income is an average of $171,000.
This causes resentment by people in the middle and lower classes, who feel those people can afford to pay
for their own cars.

Social Study

One study has attempted to put a value on the construction and operation of electric cars, from design to
junkyard. Released by the National Academies in 2010, and aided by 2 dozen of the top scientists in the US,
it's findings are eye opening and sobering.

This study was funded entirely with public funds and commissioned by the US Congress. Although it found
that in the operating of the vehicle, the electric car is definitly better than gas powered cars, but the
biggest factors occur during manufacturing and the disposal process.

Battery packs are heavy and in the Tesla Roadster, constitutes 1/3 of it's weight. Therefore other parts
must be made lightweight and the manufacture of these parts are energy intensive. Also the magnets used
in the motors are made from rare earth metals.

Rare earth metals are not really rare but a majority of them are too costly to extract. So we have just
a small portion of the world's supply to work with. In a study released last year, MIT scientists have
determined that just 2 of these metals would require an increase of between 700% and 2600% over the next
25 years just to fill the proposed plans now on the books.

Those minerals are neodymium and dysprosium, respectively. Neither one is likely or even possible.
Substitutes exist but are not efficient and are costly.

Lithium, copper, and nickel consume a lot of energy and release toxic wastes. That adds to their
carbon footprint considerably. Used up batteries are also a problem. If disposed of properly by
recycling the materials, it is fairly benign, but if disposed of recklessly, could create major
environmental issues.
Re: The End of the Electric Car?
July 07, 2013 05:00PM
After everything is considered, the difference between an electric cdar and it's deisel or gasoline
counterpart, the electric car is marginally better. And if proper disposal methods are not used are
actually worse. Several other studies were made and reached almost identical conclusions.

The costs associated with purchasing and operating an electric car are much higher.
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