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back to article Diesels greener than battery cars, says Swiss gov report

Swiss boffins have mounted an investigation into the largely unknown environmental burdens of electric cars using lithium-ion batteries, and say that the manufacturing and disposal of batteries presents no insurmountable barriers to electric motoring. However, their analysis reveals that modern diesel cars are actually better …

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Flame

L/100km?

Just for reference, 3.9L/100km is 72.4mpg (Imperial), or 60.3 miles per heathen US gallon.

/flames for fuel

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mpg?

What sort of unit is that to use on The Register?

The proper value, in sanctioned units, is 6,407,355 bpsp (brontosaurii per swimming pool).

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you beat me to questioning l/km

but what about for rods per hogshead!

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Area

If my maths has its powers of ten in order then it's 0.039 square millimetres. That seems too small to me.

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Not even close

The correct units are Olympic pools per light year.

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Hydropower you say?

"it is the operation phase that remains the dominant contributor to the environmental burden caused by transport service as long as the electricity for the [battery car] is not produced by renewable hydropower ..."

All set in Canada then!

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Coat

Canuck

While it is true that about 58% of "hydro" (as the Upper-Canadians like to call it) is produced from hydroelectric sources, the majority of the rest is produced with some variant of coal/oil/gas fired plants with a smattering of nuclear and wind in there for completeness.

Oh, and lets please not pretend that hydroelectricity is 0-impact... it might be _after_ operational, but certainly does a lot of damage to the environment to get that way.

But back on topic, TDI engines are awesome.

... Mines the one headed to the Thorium research lab :)

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58% is nonsense

What counts is the marginal impact of adding extra electrical demand.

Most of the time hydro, wind etc are used to their maximum capacity and the extra burden is taken up by carbon fuels. If you increase electrical use by 10% then that has to be bet by carbon fuels. It is not coming from hydro.

The impact of building a hydro dam is certainly not zero. Apart from the impact on the river etc, there is also all the building effort + concrete etc which is at least as much as the building materials needed to build a carbon burning station. The important thing to do though is to amortise these costs over the life of the power station (50 years or so for a hydro station). When you do that then the building costs are not that big.

While we're in a pissing contest, the Canucks are nowhere near as good as us kiwis. Around 80% of our electricity comes from renewables - mainly hydro.

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but

people are forgetting the obvious. Battery cars are pretty shit. I'll keep my 224gco2 polluting beast thank you very much. I even managed to get 28mpg out of it cruising up the A1 at the weekend (damn those average speed cameras). And down to 17mpg on the M40 (yey for lack of average speed cameras)

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The only thing shit about battery vehicles...

...is the range and refuelling arrangements. If performance is your main goal, an electric motor will give you far more power to weight than an equivalent internal combustion engine these days, with a much better response curve (as in, full torque all the way from 0 to 50,000 or more RPM).

Sort out hydrogen fuel cells and the infrastructure for them, and believe me you'll be loving that journey along the M40 right up until a traffic cop pulls you for doing 150mph in a 70mph zone. Smoother, quieter, and with comparatively more poke out of a power plant half the size of that chunk of metal you currently have under the bonnet? Yes please.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xitMWUfeLk

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Furlongs

So you've got a Saab 9-5 Aero as well then. 25 mpg, rubbish cornering but 0-60 in 6 secs. Beat that lawnmower man.

PS According to my chemistry instructor in Houston Tx in 1975, the correct general purpose unit of velocity is Furlongs per Fortnight.

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Stop

Was that some sort of bizarre attempt to impress us

with your driving skills or car performance? As it happens I was also out driving on the A1 over the weekend, in a 240BHP 3L V6 petrol automatic rated at 285g/km of CO2. I was cruising at usual motorway speeds (>70MPH) and still managed to AVERAGE better than 35MPG.

Electric cars have a BIG advantage for town driving in that any pollution that is created in producing the energy to propel them ISN'T where the car is. Even small diesels produce NOX and particulates from their exhaust pipes, which are bad for the health of town dwellers.

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My betting is on a Focus ST

It's a bit of a bloater (probably because of safety legislation), but 270bhp with a ECU update and that noise :-)

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I bet Focus ST as well

the 224g/km stuck in my mind as it was JUST below the 225g/km threshold of mega-road-tax

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Even a beast can be economical

Based on a 2000km trip across EU coming back from holiday last weekend a modern diesel six-seater can do:

UK/NL - 50mpg = 5.64 l/100 @65-70 mph

SR - 47 mpg = 6.01 l/100 @80 mph

CZ/SK/BG/HU/A - 46 mpg = 6.14 l/100 @85mph

DE 35 mpg - 8.07 l/100 @ 105mph (average), 95-110

That is for a family car which is about twice the size of a golf. I have yet to see a leccy vehicle of this size and I will be surprised if it will be able to deliver an environmental footprint which is comparable. I have also yet to see one capable of keeping up with the psychotics on the autobahn. There you are either at 60mph with the trucks or at 100+. Otherwise someone will ram you from behind trying to do 150+

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FAIL

Which is why petrol hybrids are a joke...

... the new Auris Hybird for example does 74mpg - oooh, well done, you got a car smaller than a BMW 3 series to do 4.5mpg more than a BMW 3 series but 10mpg less than a Skoda Fabia.

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I own a Hybrid

There's not much point in comparing laboratory or government figures. Go to one of the 'MPG' sites, such as www.fuelly.com. There you'll find real figures for everyday driving. The distributions of actual mpgs are a very good indication of what's generally achievable. BMWs and Hybrids return different figures because the drivers are different: not because it does "4.5 mpg more than a 3 series"

My Prius does about 59 uk mpg (measured lifetime value over 10k miles). Today, a hybrid is needed to give a good range (say 500 miles) to a tank, reliably. Sure, there are diesels that will do better. They tend to be smaller, and manual. Mine's 1800cc petrol + an electric motor, in a 'medium' car and fully automatic. It cost quite a lot more than a smaller diesel. But the engineering is very focussed on achieving these emission/mileage figures. Some of these compromises I don't like, but overall it seems an exceptionally cheap car to run.

Nearly 60 mpg, tyres have little wear, the brakes are hardly touched (it uses regenerative braking), the engine compartment is clean as a whistle, and..no tax. It gets an oil change and filter for servicing. That's it.

A car built for mileage teases you into optimising your mileage. It changes your driving style. Out go the high speed drives in a powerful car. OK, it MAY be a bit 'boring', but a quiet car and a good sound system compensate....

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WTF?

I own an F150 Supercab....

Seats six, 4.6L V8, automatic, gets 17.3mpg. Good family truck from Ford.

Laughs at the Pious on the highway - they move out of the way - makes me happy.

Emissions? It's a truck. It doan' need no emissions...

Yup, American. lol

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Anonymous Coward

Re : give a good range (say 500 miles)

My Touran weighs 1700kg, can do ~120mph, and has just averaged 47mpg to Switzerland & back. I routinely get >600 miles range. So it's not just small diesels

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The Swiss

Don't they insist you switch off your engine every time you stop? And have they every considered how much fuel is used in recharging the battery to replace the charge lost in starting the car? Probably not.

That aside I have to say I take their side on this. The problem with environmental considerations these days is that most people make them based on production of CO2 and don't consider any other environmental damage. Indeed most people are only concerned about the emission of CO2 by the vehicle. No consideration is given to the environmental damage caused by manufacturing a new vehicle or scrapping (sorry, recycling) an old one. Nor do most people think an EV is responsible for any CO2 emissions at all.

So what? Well I think the amount of effort being put into battery fuelled EVs could be much better spent on developing other sources of motive power. And no I don't just mean fuel cells (hydrogen or otherwise) how about more money being spent on cleaner IC engines? I recall Yamaha in conjunction with Ford working on a direct injection two stroke which was supposed to be much more efficient then any other IC engine, and didn't produce loads of unburned hydrocarbons like traditional two strokes. Quite what happened to that development I don't know, it certainly sounded promising. I'm sure there's much more that could be done along those and other lines rather than rushing headlong towards the battery fueld EV.

I also recall some time ago one manufacturer mooted a "fly by wire" sort of system which would adjust driver input to give better economy (and hence lower emissions). I certainly like the sound of that one. I recall a car magazine doing a test ages ago where they showed you could drive much more economically in an urban environment without actually adding to your journey time.

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Re : they every considered how much fuel is used in recharging...

Far less than leaving your engine running.

The rule-of-thumb is turn off if the wait will be >10secs.

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Coat

@AC... The Swiss make good swiss chese...

At least there's holes in their argument...

First, I don't disagree with what they are saying. If you look at an electric car, and compare it with an equivalent gas/diesel model and not consider any external factors like the amount of energy and co2 used to make the battery and to dispose/recycle the battery, then their argument kind of holds water based on today's power generation.

If you consider improving on the efficiency of the hydro electric plants, looking more towards nuclear energy, you may see the CO2 emissions from the production of energy drop shifting things in to the EV court.

But that's not going to happen any time soon.

Your best bet would be to slow the urban speed down to 15mph in cities and 25mph on suburb streets. Then tax the heck out of the highways/tollways so that people opt to use public transportation.

Then improve the railways (US and NA) for inter city travel.

That should help reduce our carbon footprints.

Of course this doesn't amount to squat when you consider our environment is changing not just from CO2 output in the first world nations, but really also in the 3rd world nations and those striving to be second world nations. Biomass (people themselves) and the lack of pollution controls in those areas are just as bad.

You want to solve the problem? Remember that Soylent Green ... ;-)

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Yes

" Remember that Soylent Green ..."

I read the book (Make Room, Make Room) and nobody ate anybody. That was purely an invention of the makers of the truly crappy film adaptation.

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Rule of thumb

And you've researched your rule of thumb thoroughly have you? Thought not.

It will vary massively from car to car. The bigger the engine and the higher the compression ratio the more fuel will be needed and it will be exponential. Generally bigger engines will not only take more energy to start, but they will use more fuel replacing the lost charge.

Add to that the fact that an older battery is less efficient and not only wastes more energy starting the engine, but also wastes more energy when being charged and you'll see your carefully researched (ha!) rule of thumb is complete nonsense.

Don't swiss vehicles spend a lot of time at high altitude? If you've ever driven at high altitude you'll know that engines are harder to start there too. My advice is that should you stop at the top of the Stelvio pass to take a photo, do not switch off the engine of your aging Beetle.

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Happy

Re: Rule of thumb

"The bigger the engine and the....." - the MORE fuel it uses at IDLE . Many car manufacturers offer automatic stop/start in Europe - they will have researched it.

Your evidence is .....? No, thought not

Back of spreadsheet calculation using very rough figures.

Starting amps 1000, time 2 secs = ~7watt.hrs - that's really not very much at all. On the other hand I can watch the fuel drop at idleon the trip computer.

And BTW, I've a holiday home in Switzerland at 1800m (5800ft) and the car ( VW turbo diesel ) starts fine even at -15C.

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Re : Re: Rule of thumb

And now I've finished breakfast ...

The very conservative estimate for the energy to start an engine I gave above is equivalent to 0.5 grammes of diesel (~45MJ/kg). Even allowing for inefficiencies that's still a tiny amount.

My guess is any starting problems encountered on the passes where the result of a hot petrol engine evaporating the petrol in the carburettor at the low atm, pressure

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@Grease Monkey

True the book is always better than the movie. But that image of Charlton Heston in the end?

Now that was classic.

Its funny that my post got thumbs down when you consider that the only people who buy hybrids do so for the smugness effect (Ok you need to know your South Park)

The irony is that as the western nations spend more money reducing their emissions, the nations like China and India are increasing their CO2 and waste output. So yeah its cheaper to do business in these nations.

But the points I made earlier in my post still stand. In the US, there's the mentality of "nobody but a nobody walks in LA..."... that is to say, you want your freedom so you want your wheels. You want your single family home with your white picket suburban fenced in dream. All inefficient.

You want to cut down on green house gas emissions, look at urban living and being able to walk to work, shopping, etc ...

But lets not rush things. Lets take our time and come up with a more fuel efficient replacement to our car...

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Nice calculation but

The trip computer says my car is using something like 0.3l per hour at tick over, so idling for a few minutes is not that big a deal.

I think this whole issue of cars and CO2 is a bit of a dead end. Improving mpg is very good but it seems to me that governments are keen on us concentrating here so that we don't stop and look at other much bigger polluters.

Finlay, if you consider that a modern family diesel will do at least double the mpg of an early Cortina, for example, despite weighing almost twice as much (I know it varies, but it is a lot more) then think what we could achieve if we gave up some of our safety features.... just a thought.

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Dop cars

still use carburettors ?

Fuel injected ones have no carburettors !

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Re : Dop cars still use carburettors ?

Old ones do and Grease Monkey said "My advice is that should you stop at the top of the Stelvio pass to take a photo, do not switch off the engine of your aging Beetle"

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Whole story?

So, they researchers looked at the following:

For the electric car:

* The environmental impact of the fuel usage at the vehicle (nil)

* The environmental impact of the production of the EV fuel at source (power station)

For the diesel car:

* The environmental impact of the fuel usage at the vehicle (exhaust)

Anything missing?

Oh yes...

* The environmental impact of the production of the diesel fuel at source (refinery)

Any guesses about that last item? And how about all the other factors such as exploration, extraction, shipping etc. There have been studies done on this, and from memory petrol and diesel end up looking pretty poor, but I'm sure there will be plenty of biased links supplied below:

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Fair enough points

You do need to compare like for like. That would either include the feed stock to the refinery (and distribution to fuel pumps) or exclude the feedstock to the power-plant.

I would hazard a guess that if you look at the entire production chain things probably even out somewhat once you take into account mining of coal, construction of hydro-dams and oil rigs and the whole fun and games of nuclear.

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biased links?

You mean like the links you haven't provided at all...

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It's nearly free

"""The environmental impact of the production of the diesel fuel at source (refinery)"""

Unless you presume that we cease all oil refining, then diesel will be produced, since it exists in all crudes, to some extent. If we stop driving diesel vehicles and can't use our diesel for similar purposes (Heating Oil, Kerosene, Jet Fuel,) then it'll just have to be stored somewhere, or put through energy-intensive processes to crack it down to gasoline or something.

"""And how about all the other factors such as exploration, extraction, shipping etc. There have been studies done on this, and from memory petrol and diesel end up looking pretty poor, but I'm sure there will be plenty of biased links supplied below."""

Those are pretty well documented as being a tiny, tiny fraction of the energy contained in the fuel. There are some US DoE studies of what amounts of an energy profit ratio of various energy sources (How many joules (or BTU, probably...) does it take to get one kj of fuel,) which I'll allow everyone to find for themselves, because I don't have the patience to navigate their messy website right now. In any case, crude oil is one of the lease energy-intensive ways to get any sort of fuel, and the DoE is nothing if not thorough in their research.

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Well...

Diesel is a mixture of various petroleum products and not a specific individual refinery product.

I can mix vegetable oil and petrol together and run a diesel on it....and even run it on straight veggie oil ! (66p/litre at Tesco (special offer))

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Anonymous Coward

Re : can mix vegetable oil and petrol together and run a diesel on it

Unless it's a very old and cheap diesel it wouldn't be recommended.

http://www.vegetableoildiesel.co.uk/introduction.html

1. May cause engine coking if misused.

2. May invalidate vehicle warrantee.

3. Exhaust smells of chips (unless cat. converter fitted).

4. Have to pay tax to customs and excise

5. Harder to start the engine in the morning

6. Will destroy some injector pumps

7. Only useful in older vehicles.

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Megaphone

Save the environment? Meh.

Environment be dammed. I'd buy an electric car just to poke a finger in the collective eye of the despots who own all the petroleum.

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FAIL

"I'd buy an electric car just to poke a finger in the collective eye of the despots who own all the petroleum."

Oh noes! Whatever will they do? Oh, wait, it turns out that they also own all the coal and gas (and oil) that's burned in the power stations that are making the electricity for your clownmobile.

If it looks like you're paying them less for electricity, you're not - most of the money we pay on petrol or diesel goes to Revenue Retrieval anyway, not the Houses of Saud and Bush.

The only way to stick it to the despots is to get on your bicycle, or better yet, top yourself. That'll show 'em.

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Thats one way to read the report ...

... Carbon fueled vehicles are cleaner if they consume less than 3.9 L / 100 km ...

Then for most vehicle classes, electric vehicles are cleaner even if the power is produced by gas / oil at the power station.

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Read much?

"""Then for most vehicle classes, electric vehicles are cleaner even if the power is produced by gas / oil at the power station."""

The report considered electricity made from all non-renewable sources, presumably in ratios typically found in various first world countries. And you typically can't choose to just have the cleaner fossil-derived electricty delivered to your home / wherever you charge your car.

Handy to dismiss an entire report with a single sentence though.

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but

... it costs far less to charge your car than to spend money on diesel :)

Anyway, how often do you think the batteries will need replacing and disposing of? Not that often, I think. So where's the issue?

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Battery Cost

Actually the wear and tear on EV batteries is greater than the cost of gasoline or diesel. Teasing one to focus only on the cost of electricity is a diversion from the greater costs.

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Re: but

Typical replacement interval for the battery packs seems to be on the order of every 50 000 miles. And you can expect that to be some several thousand UKP to do. Estimates waved around for US models have been on the order of $5000-8000. Amusingly, this is roughly the premium for hybrid/electrics over chemically-powered vehicles in the base price for similar vehicles.

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Bah!

Battery replacement?

(Dons turban, places fingertips on temples and closes eyes)

About every five years, on average, at best.

Y'know, LION batteries have been known to have exciting behaviour under low-charge conditions. Let's hope there won't be any Orbital iPhone moments with LION powered leccies.

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Quite often

Lithium ion batteries are always oxidising. Probably get 5 years out of them before the capacity starts to diminish.

Also, what is the safety like? Lithium ion batteries can explode if damaged or overheated.

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Or discharged too deeply/too quickly.

Can you say "exothermic"?

I think the rule of thumb for most li* batteries is 1000 charge/discharge cycles. Much less if you're putting them under a high load. Either they need to get very cheap, or a hydrogen infrastructure needs to be built. As I mentioned above, electric vehicles can be incredibly high performance, but while battery tech has improved massively in the last few years it's still not going to get you 500 miles on one five-minute charge.

Fuel cells, however, can.

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Fuel cells

"I think the rule of thumb for most li* batteries is 1000 charge/discharge cycles. "

I thought it was more like 400, with the higher quality ones reaching 600-ish.

"Fuel cells, however, can."

On the other hand - how many billions of dollars/pounds/euros would it cost to build a hydrogen infrastructure covering the entire country? By some studies, if electrical vehicles are only charged at night - when the electrical grid/infrastructure has very little use - the current generation and distribution capacity would cover close to 20% of cars on the road with no augmentation. That is a heck of an argument to consider when comparing hydrogen to electric from the point of view of the generation and distribution facilities.

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Prius 2004

Battery life 100,000 miles (160,000 KM) or 8 years.

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WTF?

title, ffs

I know it's lower pressure, but we've already got an infrastructure for moving gas around....

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WTF?

Late to the party?

Based on their sums, my previous car - a 1996 VW Passat diesel - was as economical as a 'leccy car. The previous owner installed an uprated engine management chip, and the thing never did less than 60mpg...

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