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back to article UK electric car funding - another subsidy for the RICH, say MPs

The £11m of public money used to promote electric vehicles is mostly just helping rich Brits buy a second car, a group of MPs said. The Transport Select Committee has published a report questioning the value of spending millions trying to get electric cars on the road, claiming the money is only benefitting a "handful of …

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Facepalm

Plug in cars ain't green.

You still have to generate the electrickery somehow.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

Yep. I was given a lift in a Hybrid Lexus SUV in London... "I don't have to pay tax" remarked the owner. We noted that the engine hadn't stopped at some traffic lights. "Oh, it doesn't when the air-conditioning is on" he replied.

I was impressed that the dashboard not only had an integrated DVD player as standard, but a cassette player too!

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

Large scale power generation is always more efficient than small local sources, e.g. using an internal combustion engine. They may not be totally 'green', but they are greener.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

Yes, in a power station, which keeps emissions out of the town centres and is more efficient than an engine.

Much like electric trains - the French have nuclear powered trains, we could have nuclear powered cars. How cool would that be.

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

Plus transporting the fuel to where it is needed is done using wires, no huge tankers carting heavy tanks of fuel.

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

@AC

The French have nuclear powered trains? Not directly. Maybe the electricity they use is generated by nuclear power, but that's all.

Emissions are only an issue for methods of generation that give out emissions!! Proposals for small nuclear reactors with no emissions that would be suitable for deployment in towns are well documented. Also, green energy also doesn't give out emissions, so you're mostly talking about gas and coal powered. When considering the difference between centralised generation and more local, you also need to take transmission costs (as in losses) into account.

In the green agenda, a lot are now proposing CHP systems where electricity is generated locally. Yes, centralised is still more efficient, but not by as much as assumed when average transmission losses are taken into account.

Nuclear trains are potentially possible, but highly unlikely. Nuclear cars are several orders of magnitude less likely unless you're talking about non-reactor nuclear options. It's a bit like the proposed 'nuclear bomber' developments of the 50's and 60's where the Soviet Union spent a lot of money trying to get a nuclear reactor into a place before realising you couldn't do it!!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

More importantly building a one and a half ton electric car isn't exactly environmentally friendly to start off with.

"Hello Canada, Africa, China, Australia and others, I need large amounts of rare and prescious metals. Please send them all to Japan, where I will assemble them and then ship them off to England"

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

"It's a bit like the proposed 'nuclear bomber' developments of the 50's and 60's where the Soviet Union spent a lot of money trying to get a nuclear reactor into a place before realising you couldn't do it!!"

Silly Russians: The Americans could.

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Pint

Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

"Yep. I was given a lift in a Hybrid Lexus SUV in London.."

Those things are a joke. They're basically a mere nod to electric in order to dodge various taxes and tolls.

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

I'll let you have: Large-scale electricity generation is always more efficient than small-scale electricity generation.

I won't let you ignore the fact that a conventional car doesn't convert petrol to locomotive force via electricity.

Back on the first hand, I will let you respond by noting that an electric car could (in principle) be running off carbon-free electricity, and it is CO2 we are trying to reduce rather than mere energy consumption.

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FAIL

Re: Plug in cars ain't green. @Giles Jones

"Plus transporting the fuel to where it is needed is done using wires, no huge tankers carting heavy tanks of fuel."

Distribution use and losses is far greater for electricity than it is for chemical fuels. From power station to socket electricity losses are around 16%, compared to around 7% for oil based fuels. That of course doesn't include the 60.4% conversion and losses at thermal power stations.

Anybody foolish enough to believe that electric cars are good for the environment needs their head examining.

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Silver badge

Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

Electricity can be generated by any number of means. Decoupling a car moves from the source of energy that powers it is a good thing.

What's no so good at the moment is how expensive and heavy some electric vehicles are. They carry lots of battery to give them a reasonable range comparable to a combustion engine but then become hideously heavy and expensive as a result. I think for the short term hybrids are the only way to go with cars perhaps having storage for 15-30 miles on battery after which an engine kicks in. That would amply satisfy the typical usage pattern of most vehicles and could mean owners could plug them in at night. Think Chevy Volt.

But the engine in hybrids doesn't have to be combustion either. It could be a turbine or something else. Turbines look especially promising since they're more efficient than combustion engines so the turbine could kick in to deliver electric to the motor when necessary and be idle otherwise.

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Silver badge

Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

>Large scale power generation is always more efficient than small local sources,

Multiplied by transmission losses, multiplied by charger efficency, multiplied by motor efficency

Then that's only true for the same sort of power generation. Ultimately power generation efficency depends on the temperature of the combustion cycle.

A diesel engine in a car could be more efficent than burning coal in a power station 1000km away

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

> Large scale power generation is always more efficient than small local sources,

Generation -> transmission -> battery -> motion

Each of the steps loses power. The internal combustion engine (ICE) converts the combustion directly into motion and has been steadily increasing in efficiency, especially over the last decade. Overall, the ICE is "greener".

There is a study, that is often quoted, from 2006 that claims electric cars are greener. However, there are a couple of issues with it. For a start, it is 6 years old and ICE cars have improved significantly in efficiency since then (because of the subsides for electric and the penalties for being inefficient) . The cars chosen for the study weren't exactly the most efficient. The electric cars never used any heating or air conditioning which is unrealistic. There are other issues, but those three will do for now.

So provided you swap your 6 year old Ford Mondeo for an electric car and never use any heating or air con you will be greener.

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Re: Lexus SUVs are a joke

Jeremy Clarkson once commented that if the RX400h was a hybrid, he should be able to strap a couple of U2s (D-cells for you youngsters) to the engine of his Range Rover to avoid the congestion charge. Still, they must be green, our PM drives one.

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

"It's a bit like the proposed 'nuclear bomber' developments of the 50's and 60's where the Soviet Union spent a lot of money trying to get a nuclear reactor into a place before realising you couldn't do it!!"

Yes they could. They just couldn't fit in/get it to lift any radiation shielding.

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Mushroom

Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

Nuclear powered cars? Don't be silly! Haven't you played Fallout?

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.@Mad Mike

How do you get so many downvotes for that?

Anyway, the point I was going to raise was that the benefit of CHP isn't so much the transmission losses, but the conversion losses which are four times greater. Burn coal at Drax (officially middle of nowhere), and the heat goes up the chimney, wasting 55% or more of your input. Burn gas in a small urban gas turbine scheme offering CHP and you can make use of most of the waste heat, reducing your losses to perhaps 15% of the input energy. The difference in transmission losses is probably a further 5% of input energy that favours the CHP.

You

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

Yes they did:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupolev_Tu-119

Killed off by the ICBM.

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

"Plus transporting the fuel to where it is needed is done using wires, no huge tankers carting heavy tanks of fuel."

There are transmission losses either way, though power lines don't usually contribute to traffic congestion.

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green. @Giles Jones

"Anybody foolish enough to believe that electric cars are good for the environment needs their head examining"

You need to differentiate between environment and ecology. Electric vehicles are good for the environment in town centres. Whether they are good for the planet depends on how the electricity is generated. At the moment they aren't.

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FAIL

Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

@Mike Richards.

"Yes they did:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupolev_Tu-119

Killed off by the ICBM."

No they didn't. The Tu-119 might have carried a nuclear reactor aloft, but even the article you yourself identify has three very important parts to it. Firstly, it carried insufficient shielding leading to untimely deaths for most of the crew. Secondly, the reactor took up the bomb bay which is rather pointless given it was a bomber. Finally, it didn't actually power the aircraft. The informations quite amply states that the powerplant was 4 x turboprops. So, fail on all counts.

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

"Large scale power generation is always more efficient than small local sources, e.g. using an internal combustion engine. They may not be totally 'green', but they are greener."

True, but then electric vehicles store that efficiently generated electricity in inefficient batteries made from very un-green materials.

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Stop

Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

"Hello Canada, Africa, China, Australia and others, I need large amounts of rare and prescious metals. Please send them all to Japan, where I will assemble them and then ship them off to England"

The electric car is only *borrowing* those materials. You only get to burn the oil once.

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

Someone better tell Mask that he better strip out those air con an heater from his Tesla electric cars as electric cars can never work with them.

Actually his Telsa cars run just fine with both of them on an in test have done 200 miles with air con on, an that nice 19 inch screen running through out the journey.

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.@Mad Mike

They should build some green houses around Drax, they could use them absorb green house gasses and use the excess heat.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

> Actually his Telsa cars run just fine with both of them on an in test have done 200 miles with air con on, an that nice 19 inch screen running through out the journey.

That is only for the high end $50,000 model.

What you need to look at is the low end <20k models and compare them to less than 20k petrol cars. That is the market that is supposed to be replaced by electric cars.

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

> proposed 'nuclear bomber' developments of the 50's and 60's where the Soviet Union spent a lot of money

> trying to get a nuclear reactor into a place before realising you couldn't do it!!

Oh, it's doable, just not healthy for the crew. Google info on nuclear jet engines developed in the U.S.

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FAIL

Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

@ original poster Pedigree-Pete "You still have to generate the electrickery somehow."

I have a large number of PV panels on my roof, so if I were to charge a plug-in car from those it would be green. There are plenty of ways to generate green electrickery.

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Meh

Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

The Chevy Volt is as bad as pure electrics. Even priced at $40k and with a $7500 tax credit they still lose money on every sale. The Cruz is half the price, profitable at that price and nearly as fuel efficient. Imagine if they put a diesel in the Cruz...

And turbines ARE combustion engines. I think you meant reciprocating piston engines. We'll ignore the Wankels for now.

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

Why does everybody forget the poison that comes from cars. The CO2 is just part of the story, the legislation on emissions is not about CO2, but the other poison that comes from a car. NO3, CO and many others are deadly. One in every driveway. So long as you dont have it in an enclosed space or lots of them in the open air (oops, yes we do). Power stations don't, even the coal ones. Don't forget the poison.

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

"The French have nuclear powered trains? Not directly. Maybe the electricity they use is generated by nuclear power, but that's all."

Yes, that's what they meant and there's no "but that's all" about it. The French trains move because of an energy source that is clean and is cost-effective and is statistically safe. The fact that they don't actually have onboard nuclear reactors is irrelevant.

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

"Back on the first hand, I will let you respond by noting that an electric car could (in principle) be running off carbon-free electricity, and it is CO2 we are trying to reduce rather than mere energy consumption."

I'm not entirely convinced about CO2 being the nightmare that many think it is, but for me, one of the big advantages of electric vehicles is that they reduce localized pollution in cities. And that's a very good thing. People forget what clean air actually smells like in a city. Also, they are quieter. A city of electric vehicles rather than internal combustion engines would be a quieter, cleaner and all round nicer place.

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Mushroom

Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

Those things weren't ever intended to *have* a crew, though.

They were also 'designed' to irradiate everything in their flight path, too! :oO

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

Poison? Here's an experiment for you... fill a big bag with CO2 and stick your face in. Inhale a few times.

Let me know how you feel after.

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.@David 164Mad Mike

"They should build some green houses around Drax, they could use them absorb green house gasses and use

the excess heat."

In principle you're right - the largest UK coal plants that will stay open post 2015 and should be mandated to pump their waste heat into district heating. Scandinavians have proven this can be done even as a retrofit. However, there's a couple of problems - district heating systems can run longish distances, but around (say) Drax or Longannet (the UK's two largest coal stations) the distances are too great for the running insulated pipes to suitably large urban areas to use the heat.

The second problem is that (if you're worried about CO2) then it doesn't make that much difference, because the coal plant still emits just as much, and the offset reduction of domestic heating is usually much more efficient gas.

Having said that, no reason that Ratcliffe couldn't provide heat to *all* of South Nottingham, other than the disinterest and inertia of the owners.

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.@ Martin Budden

"I have a large number of PV panels on my roof, so if I were to charge a plug-in car from those it would be green."

Only if your roof is the size of a small factory, and you leave your car at home during the day.

At least we agree that EV's are fabulous for rich night shift workers who don't have to drive far.

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Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

NO3, CO and many others are deadly.

Because the lobby opposing the introduction of electric cars has no answer to them, so they try an stick to the range issue and and try and make this just about CO2, two areas where they have reasonable sounding arguments. The newest argument about electric cars is that they are silent and that blind people will get run down,

As the range issue get solve with better batteries, more efficient electric engines and lighter cars, you can expect them to start to attack the electric car more and more bizarre reasons. They will try anything to keep us hook on petroleum.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Plug in cars ain't green.

"I have a large number of PV panels on my roof, so if I were to charge a plug-in car from those it would be green."

And if you are lucky the charge you can get the your PV panels might get you to end of the road.

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Anonymous Coward

Err...

"We were warned of the risk that the Government is subsidising second cars for affluent households; currently plug-in cars are mostly being purchased as second cars for town driving"

Surely that's the point? The range and efficiencies suit town driving more. You're not going to buy one as a primary car because of the range. They aren't cheap enough for people who don't have a good income to buy, the discount is to help start the market so prices come down and less well off people can afford them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Err...

The point being made is that these subsidies are benefiting people who can afford second cars.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Err...

That was my point - you aren't going to buy them as a first car (yet) but if you need a second car and may families do - an electric one is better. The person buying the car helps kick off the electric car market and ultimately the prices come down, eventually everyone wins.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Err...

Or it suits those who want to drive locally and then catch a train long distance.

Some people use public transport locally and then drive long distances. Others do the reverse.

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Re: Err...

But is that money well spent? The sort of people who buy them are the sort of people who can probably afford them anyway. The technology isn't mature enough to reach out to average motorists driving in an average way, so subsidising it now - before that stage - is simply creating a market where none would exist. Prices won't fall as a consequence of the creation of this market, prices will fall when the technology matures.

No, it's money poorly spent. The only winners here are the Greener-Than-Thou urban elites.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Err...

At the moment, electric cars represent a false market. There is no demand for them, because they're expensive and need further devlopment. They're expensive and need further development because there is no demand for them, so government investment is required to kickstart the market. This is very much like the arguments around the initial development of the national grid "there's no demand for one, because it's expensive and there aren't that many people who use electricity and anyway, they'll be rich urban elites." which was countered with "There won't be any demand for electricity until people can get it at a reasonable price." in the end the National Grid was built, electricity became cheaper and the market was kick-started.

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Re: Err...

"The person buying the car helps kick off the electric car market and ultimately the prices come down, eventually everyone wins"

What, like where we had subsidies on compact fluorescent lamps which used to be four or five quid a pop (retail, single pack), were subsidised for a decade, and when the subsidy was removed the price went right back up again?

Governments (and other misguided people) really believe that subsidies can kick off a new market. There's few instances of this really working, and lots more where an industry thrives purely on subsidies, to wither when the pumped cash dries up. Look at solar, and how the whole plan was to remove subsidies when they'd made the industry able to stand on its own two feet. And then when the government try and do that, the industry starts carping and whining that it can't cope, and that it isn't fair. You might think that's a British phenomenen, but the same thing has happened in Germany and the US.

And the subsidies do further damage. Germany has carpeted half of Bavaria with solar cells, and on a quiet sunny day at the height of summer can produce about half of total power demand. Sounds good, eh? Well no, not really, because their electricity bills are 40% higher than ours primarily to fund all those solar cells, they've got the same social incidence problems that our solar programme has, and because the excessive build out has made existing thermal generation uneconomic. Therefore the consumers are going to have to pay yet more money to keep thermal plant on line ("capacity payments") for the days when it is cloudy, or during the long winter months.

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Re: Err...

"The point being made is that these subsidies are benefiting people who can afford second cars."

But if toffs are driving around town in plug-in electric vehicles and leaving their Porsche Cayennes in the garage then that benefits everybody.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Err...

The issue with solar was that the subsidy was removed early and without time for planning when the industry had built its business model round the subsidy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Err...no, not really.

"Germany has carpeted half of Bavaria with solar cells, and on a quiet sunny day at the height of summer can produce about half of total power demand. Sounds good, eh? Well no, not really, because their electricity bills are 40% higher than ours primarily to fund all those solar cells!

As a German living in Britain I can tell you that this is utter rubbish. Depending on what you get your electricity for (domestic, industrial) the German prices are 15% to 25% *LOWER* than in the UK.

"they've got the same social incidence problems that our solar programme has, and because the excessive build out has made existing thermal generation uneconomic. Therefore the consumers are going to have to pay yet more money to keep thermal plant on line ("capacity payments") for the days when it is cloudy, or during the long winter months."

More nonsense. No offense but unlike Britain Germany did (and still does) support renewable energy mostly successfully, simply because, unlike Britain, Germany has actually understood that green technology is the future and not just some dream from la-la land as it's mostly considered here in the UK. In fact, Germany is a technology leader in renewables and quite successful in exporting its green technology around the world.

And Britain is in a double dip recession. Go figure.

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