Monday, December 15, 2008

Totally electric cars not viable any time soon

I'm all for "green" technology, but only when it actually works. At this point in time, the best "green" cars we can make won't be electric ones. Consider this:

Politically inconvenient truth about electric cars
[...] Mr Sarkozy’s own government commissioned months ago one of France’s leading energy experts – Jean Syrota, the former French energy industry regulator – to draw up a report to analyse all the options for building cleaner and more efficient mass-market cars by 2030. The 129-page report was completed in September to coincide with the Paris motor show. But the government has continued to sit on it and seems reluctant to ever publish it.

Yet all those who have managed to glimpse at the document agree that it makes interesting reading. It concludes that there is not much future in the much vaunted developed of all electric-powered cars. Instead, it suggests that the traditional combustion engine powered by petrol, diesel, ethanol or new biofuels still offers the most realistic prospect of developing cleaner vehicles. Carbon emissions and fuel consumption could be cut by 30-40 per cent simply by improving the performance and efficiency of traditional engines and limiting the top speed to about 170km/hr. Even that is well above the average top speed restriction in Europe, with the notable exception of Germany. New so-called “stop and start” mechanisms can produce further 10 per cent reductions that can rise to 25-30 per cent in cities. Enhancements in car electronics as well as the development of more energy efficient tyres, such as Michelin’s new “energy saver” technology, are also expected to help reduce consumption and pollution.

Overall, the Syrota report says that adapting and improving conventional engines could enhance their efficiency by an average of 50 per cent. It also argues that new-generation hybrid cars combining conventional engines with electric propulsion could provide an interesting future alternative.

By combining electric batteries with conventional fuel-driven engines, cars could run on clean electricity for short urban trips while switching over to fuel on motorways. This would resolve one of the biggest problems facing all electric cars – the need to install costly battery recharging infrastructures. The report warns that the overall cost of an all-electric car remains unviable at around double that of a conventional vehicle. Battery technology is still unsatisfactory, severely limiting performance both in terms of range and speed. The electricity supply for these batteries would continue to come from mostly fossil sources.

The misgivings over the future of the electric car may explain why the French government appears to have spiked the report. It probably considers it politically incorrect [...]

This pretty much fits in with many of the things I've read. Improving conventional gas combustion cars to be more efficient, and improving hybrid cars until batter technology improves. If we are going to think seriously about having "greener" cars, we have to be PRACTICAL, by supporting what works, not POLITICALLY CORRECT by insisting on promoting technologies into the mainstream that cannot perform yet.

That is one of the things I find worrisome about our own Congress and their Auto Industry Bailout plans. Congress seems hell bent on forcing the introduction of electric cars, before the technology is good enough. They can throw a lot of our tax money down the drain on political correctness, forcing the mass production of inefficient, overpriced electric cars that no one will buy. No one can waste money like government can.

The suggestions in the French report for improving gas combustion engines would do a lot to help reduce carbon emissions, but it's being repressed in favor of an untenable solution. You have to wonder if the real motive isn't to reduce carbon emissions, but to reduce personal freedom and capitalism by restricting transportation choices?

Environmentalism is increasingly being used as an excuse to promote other, hidden political agendas by the Left. We must be wary, and carefully separate authentic environmentalism from the political kind.

Related Links:

Congressional Motor's New Car of the Future

Ford Motor Company is profitable - in Brazil

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