back to article Electric cars not as 'green' as advertised

Electric cars may be cheaper to run, but they're as guilty for CO2 emissions as the internal combustion engine. So say consumer watchdog Which? researchers, who compared the energy consumed when charging electric cars to that of several efficient diesel vehicles and concluded there was minimal difference. For example, the …

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          1. That Llewellyn bloke

            Very impressive

            I have been corrected by numerous people who have studied this subject for amny years and in great depth. I have been informed that I was underestimating. The 7.5 kwh is for a US gallon, in the UK it is 9 kwh and all the figures I have seen estimate the total amount of electricity used by the refining industry is very close to 20% of our total consumption.

            That said, I am very impressed by your breakdown and what ever the actual figure, we do use a lot of electricity to refine petrol. Is the carbon output of this figure included in the 'tailpipe emissions' of a 'super, eco, econobox diesel' No, of course not. My argument has always been that the C02 output figures are pure fiction, in just the same way as 'zero emissions' are fiction. My argument is, if we charge an electric car off the UK grid today, there is a carbon element in that power, but no where near as much as a rattle old internal combustion engine.

            Finally again, I like your thorough take on this subject, I think we could get along. if you're on twitter I'm @bobbyllew

            1. Steven Jones

              Yet more...

              Robert,

              thanks for that - It's the natural sceptic and physica graduate in me. You won't have seen my second posting with a much more definitive reference which rather confirms my interpretation that the kWh figure is total energy. It's not surprising that people associate kWh with electricity. In fact it's just a unit of energy (3.6MJ) and it would be helpful if the industry didn't keep mixing up units - BTUs, kWh, MJ, ktoe (kilotonnes of oilkd equivalent) and so on. That's not to mention units of mass (tonnes etc) with those of volume gallons (US & UK), litres (or liters if you are American) and barrels.

              However, on the refining energy the most notable link in my second post was this :-

              http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file28581.pdf

              "In 2004, UK refineries consumed approximately 6,600 kilotonnes oil equivalent (ktoe) of energy (or 77,000 GWh) to satisfy their heat and power requirements (DTI 2005)."

              This 6,600 kilotonnes was used, in the same year, to refine 90 megatonnes of crude oil (in the same report). That's the equivalent of 7.3% of the original oil (which goes some way to justifying my 10% estimate). Coming up with figures for oil extraction energy overheads is amazingly difficult, and it also varies a lot by source. The Canadian oil sands have huge overheads - ranging from 10% to 30% at the extreme of what is extracted. However, go to Saudia Arabia and the extraction energy costs are tiny - at least until steam and other injection is required. Oil transport by sea is extremely efficient (just compare a tanker's fuel oil capacity with it's crude oil carrying capacity).

              I'll look you up on Twitter - my name is @Eulerid .

              nb. I'm planning to semi-retire to the Cotswolds some time in the next year, but it looks like I'm more likely to be run down whilst out on my bike by one of Jeremy Clarkson's gas-guzzling V8s than your lithium-powered whisper box (although I suppose I'll at least hear him coming).

        1. Steven Jones

          More maths and references

          OK Robert - some more references for you. According to this report from the government archives :-

          http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file28581.pdf

          "In 2004, UK refineries consumed approximately 6,600 kilotonnes oil equivalent (ktoe) of

          energy (or 77,000 GWh) to satisfy their heat and power requirements (DTI 2005)."

          Note that's total energy consumption of the refineries.

          According to this report, total diesel and petrol production in the UK amounted to near enough 40 million tonnes in 2004 (about 19m tonnes each).

          http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file43853.pdf

          (page 29).

          If we neglect the other products produced by refineries (kerosene, chemical feedstocks etc.) and say it is attributable all to just diesel and petrol refining we get (per tonne of output)

          77,000,000 mWh / 40,000,000 tonnes = 1.925 mWh/tonne or 1.925 kWh/Kg.

          If we take the average density of petrol & diesel to be approximately 850gm/litre (diesel is denser than petrol, but both are less than water) then, at about 4.5 litres/gallon we can derive an average refining energy use per gallon.

          1Kg = 1/0.85 = 1.18 litres avg diesel & oil

          therefore, one gallon (4.5 litres) = 3.8Kg

          Therefore to product 1 gallon of oil and diesel it will take, on average, 1.925 x 3.8 = 7.3kWh.

          Note that 7.3kWh is an overestimate. It excludes the other products of the refinery. It is also total energy input - not electricity.

          So that's the way I've worked out my figures. Where's the sources for yours? Unfortunately I have no privileged access to any data or organisations, but I'm well aware that interest groups distort and misrepresent figures for their own purposes. Personally I like to see the numbers myself.

  1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Real CO2 cost please

    But this still ignores the CO2 cost of manufacturing the damed things. Please can we also see how that compares.

    Here's an example. If everyone threw away their current car today, and got a brand-new, more efficient one, then CO2 would go through the roof manufacturing all those vehicles and getting rid of the old ones.

    If everyone threw-away their car after 1 year, to get the newest one, how exactly would that reduce the TOTAL co2 emissions? All the articles we see in the press suggests that the world would be better off if we did this!

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Real CO2 cost please

      "If everyone threw-away their car after 1 year, to get the newest one, how exactly would that reduce the TOTAL co2 emissions? All the articles we see in the press suggests that the world would be better off if we did this!"

      You must be reading a different press from me, then. The articles I've seen suggest that half the carbon footprint of a car is spent in manufacture, so the green approach is to keep cars going for as long as possible to amortise that footprint.

      But I don't have figures, and since most of the press demonstrate total scientific cluelessness every day, I don't expect they'll be easy to come by.

      1. Mike Dimmick

        Usual figures are

        10% in production, 5% in disposal, 85% in use. The more efficient the car, the lower the percentage emitted during use.

    2. Flossie
      Boffin

      Re:Real CO2 cost please

      I suspect the CO2 cost of manufacturing can be largely ignored, it's probably about the same for both since the only practical difference between an electric car and a petrol one is the engine and fuel tank/battery. An electric engine is simpler than a petrol/diesel one but batteries are more complex than fuel tanks, so I suspect they roughly balance.

      Now if you have a hybrid, which has both, then the CO2 cost is almost certainly higher.

      1. JP19

        roughly balance

        IC engines and fuel tanks don't need large amounts of rare earths and rare metals.

        Their high cost is a reflection of the high cost of extraction and refining these materials and I expect CO2 production roughly follows monetary costs.

  2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Laws of Thermodynamics apply to cars - shock!

    "To produce these figures, Which? looked towards the Carbon Trust's measurements that 544g of CO2 is emitted for each kilowatt hour of electricity used"

    If, on the other hand, you concede that you don't *have* to generate electricity by burning fossil fuels, then the car emits 0g. Don't get me wrong. There *are* issues with electric cars, like re-charging (practical) and raw materials (environmental), but this isn't one of them.

    I assume the original Which? report makes this point. I mean, they surely aren't *that* stupid, are they?

  3. James Howat
    Megaphone

    Zero emissions

    The premise of this article is ludicrous. When they say a car is zero-emissions, that's exactly what it means. It means that the car emits no exhaust fumes.

    I don't see how you can conclude that this means that someone is claiming that it gets energy for free.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Wrong title

    "compared the energy consumed when charging electric cars to that of several efficient diesel vehicles"

    And how efficient would these diesel vehicles be, if not for the push from leccy competition over the past 10-20 years?

    The correct title for this piece would have been: "Electric cars as efficient as the most efficient diesel cars, despite tech being 50 years youunger."

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    but surely (and stop calling me Shirley)...

    If I have a green energy tariff and/or a roof-full of solar PV panels (both hypothetical) then my e-car would be 0g of cee-oh-twos to run? And no displacement of cee-oh-twos!

    Even better yet - if I fitted a wind turbine to my e-car ... <off to patent office to submit yet-another-perpetual-motion-machine idea>

    Paris - because I would like to displace her cee-oh-twos ....

  6. nemo20000
    Flame

    Top Sheep

    I’m staggered by the number of Clarksonites here, vapidly repeating his illogical nonsense in the vain hope they don’t have to think about an issue at all.

    Canada? Batteries? You have to pull something out of the ground and then transport it around the world to make batteries? Shock! Horror!

    Yes you do. ONCE. Whereas your petrol and diesel has to be pulled out of the ground every single day for as long as you want to carry on moving around.

    Get a flaming grip.

    1. S2S
      Thumb Down

      infinate battery life ! ?

      So these are new magical batteries last forever and have an infinite number of recharging cycles !! ??? I think you should do your home work .

      Nissan have conveniently refused /dodged the question every time they have been asked how long these batteries will last in every press interview .

      And they say it will only cost you 3 pence per mile or something like that, so much cheaper to run ! Well it is until 3 years later when you have to spend £5000 on new batteries and your fuel saving just goes out the window.

  7. Steven Jones

    Where's Robert?

    Is Robert llewellyn going to make another appearance? He's presumably going to accuse Which of being unreconstructed petrol heads as he did to those on this site who were unwise enough to question his judgement on this issue and that he might just have overstated the advantages of electric cars.

    To repeat the obvious using electric cars only saves a lot of CO2 emissions if you can use a much higher proportion of non fossil-fueled power stations.

    1. D Peilow
      Megaphone

      I'm sure he'll be along in a minute.

      In the meantime, I'll ask: If the emissions are slightly better (according to Which, all of the EVs were 20% better than the diesels and one was 92% better than the comparison car), then what is the problem?

      The grid is being cleaned up, so the EVs will only get better.

      If you get an £8k solar PV system on your garage you can essentially get 10,000 miles a year for 25 years (that's the usual guarantee on them - they may work longer). That's a saving of over £22k on the diesel. The PV supplies the grid during the day, the car charges back from it at night - net saving £22k.

      If you don't have the option for that, it's still going to be a lot cheaper even when they start taxing it.

      Either way your not propping up Colonel Gaddafi.

    2. That Llewellyn bloke

      I'm here

      I love the slant of your post, you write as though one lone voice standing up to the deluge of nonsense spun out by these stories is a terrifying prospect. The hundreds of thousands of loud mouthed, opinionated men who will no doubt defend the drill and burn economy we live in to the death are cowering because one wet liberal piped up and said, hang on, this just isn't true.

      I have posted a comment, the gist of it is this.

      Where does the electricity come from?

      Where does the petrol come from?

      How much electricity is used to make petrol?

      How absurd and misleading are 'tail pipe emissions' figures

      And of course, electric cars are not green, or eco, they are just cars, made in factories. When they start their lives they are no different from any drill and burn car. However, from that day on they are viable, cheaper, more efficient, cleaner, they can be charged from renewable sources, they last longer, need less servicing, fewer spare parts, go further and waste far less energy.

      1. Steven Jones

        Nice to see your return

        Personally I prefer a more measured debate. I was a physics graduate, and have watched with some amazement misleading stats and ranting from both sides.

        No sure about all your points - in the round, do electric cars really need fewer spare parts? Sure electric motors and transmission will require less maintenance than their IC equivalent, but the elephant in the room is always the batteries. None of those last for ever. How long will they last before the gradual loss of range means they need to be replaced? Hopefully the lithium can all be recovered, as that's an energy intensive substance to mine in produce and supplies are limited.

        I'm sure there is a role for a certain amount of battery-powered vehicles. They are quite useful as a way of absorbing the inherent peaks in wind power, although to do so would require a very sophisticated smart metering and distribution system which will cost a huge amount to implement. Battery vehicles are probably most attractive for local deliveries as stop/start is where there are major advantages. The UK once had the world's largest fleet of electric vehicles in the shape of milk floats.

        As far as costs go, electric cars also have to be heavily subsidised - not only is there the £5,000 for purchasing the things, but they are also not paying a 200% tax on their base power costs as there's no duty and little VAT. For those limited to a single car, without easy access to charging they are simply impractical. If you want to be really efficient buy an electric-powered bike. Those things are way more efficient - indeed they are much more thermodynamically efficient than producing extra food to feed hungry cyclists.

        So I'm not against these things as such, just deeply suspicious about those who've made wild claims and make misleading comparison (eg NIssan Leaf vs 4x4 and the like). Buy a new electric car and compare it with the best equivalent diesel model and the gap is relatively narrow.

        My suspicion is that pure electric traction will never be the norm for cars and that liquid chemical fuels will remain with us. It may be that liquid chemical fuels will gradually move from fossil source to advanced bio (note, not from crops - maybe genetically engineered organisms) or other artificial means. Hydrocarbons are simply the most convenient way of storing large amounts of chemical energy for transport, and there's still much that can be done to eke out IC efficiency.

        nb. the "lone liberal voice" thing is surely not true. The BBC, C4 are full of liberal (with a small "l") journalists. It is, outside of the deliberately provocative Top Gear, rather difficult to find anything else.

  8. nemo20000
    FAIL

    We all know about Which? surely?

    I subscribed to Which? for a couple of years. They always had lots of really useful and well researched advice, except when it was on a subject I knew about, where their spectacular misunderstandings, misinformation and miscalculation made a mockery of their excellent work on all the other subjects...

    And then I realised.

    And then I cancelled my subscription.

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      This is true for ALL the press ...

      ... as my old Dad liked to point out, if you spoke to an expert in 'x' for long enough, they would eventually tell you how everything written about 'x' in the media was pretty much rubbish. As you went through life, and met more people, you found that this was true for a pretty large range of 'x'.

  9. Mike 125

    What magazine?

    Which?, oh you sad little mag for the baby boom generation. Opitome of selfishness and the me me me consumer. When I was a lad, 30 years ago, it was a sorry little affair. Can't believe it still exists. Good for toasters though.

  10. Mike Pellatt
    Linux

    TCO

    Oh look, lots of discussions about TCO (at least total Carbon cost) of an electric car vs hydrocarbon-powered.

    Seems just like the Windows vs Linux TCO arguments :-)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    But at the end of the day

    it's impossible to design an internal combustion engine that doesn't produce CO2 and - bio-fuels aside - doesn't require a very finite and increasingly expensive resource to power it. It is however possible to run an electric car without any CO2 production and from entirely renewable energy generation.

    I'd rather we saved the oil left for making important stuff like aviation fuel. Whether or not powering a car via a coal fired power station is a good idea or not aside, I'm pretty sure you can't power a 747 that way.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Grenade

    If only....

    If I could by a V8 that ran on liquidised baby rabbits or African orphans' tears I'd get it just to piss off the sanctimonious hippy green bastards that infest the media these days.

    As it is I'll have to make do with a 30mpg 2.0T petrol and run down as much wildlife as possible.

  13. Hairy Spod

    oranges and apples

    Does diesel come out of the ground as diesel where normal cars are garaged, or is a significant amount of CO2 also expended seperating it from crude oil and then transporting to your local garage as well?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Right back at you...

      Are you suggesting that the fuels used to generate the electricity appear at the power station by magic?

      Coal, for example, manages to cost much more CO2 per tonne than it used to. Time was most of the coal used in UK power stations was at least mined in the UK. These days most of it seems to be imported.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Troll

      Sanctimonious bastards

      Takes one to know one, I suppose...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    France

    These numbers only apply to the UK - France generates nearly 80% of it electricity from nuclear power so the CO2 emission of it's domestic electric car fleet will be massively lower.

    The electric car "argument" can't be conducted with exclusive reference to the UK's hopelessly outdated and dirty power generation infrastructure.

  15. irneb

    Oh Yippeee!!

    Yet another ... here we did some arb check on one aspect only ... never mind the possible faulty premise of is it "really" 544g or 844g?

    I still can't see EV / Hybrids being "the" answer (perhaps closer to the answer than ICE's, but only in some instances). As was discussed numerous times, there's several points to still consider in all scenarios, e.g.: manufacture / supply emissions and costs (for both EV and IC), other types of emissions (CO2 is hardly a "bad" thing in comparison to some of the others - just think of ICE's CO emissions which WILL KILL YOU, not just make you sweat a bit more), charging / refuelling times and costs, etc. etc. etc.

    IMO a first step in a "right" direction would be to combine the best points from both - and I don't mean Hybrid. I mean an ICE (probably Diesel) generating the electricity for the electrical motor(s). This removes the entire gearbox system (as you'd have to have with Hybrids), allows the ICE to run at its most efficient RPM (and not need to rev-up each time you pull away), the "battery" (or I'd think capacitors instead) would be much smaller than EVs' (or even those in Hybrids), refuelling becomes a non-issue in comparison to either EV / IC. And the technology is here and now, it's used in ... wait for it ... "Diesel-Electric" motors for trains and large trucks. So there's very little to be done except for miniaturizing the existing tech.

    After that we might start looking into fuel-cell technology. The H2 is a bit of a problem (even if you can use electrolysis to generate it, you're still stuck with EV's problem of where does the elec come from). Another option is using an alcohol fuel-cell, they're not as efficient as an H2 one, but have several advantages which may overpower the efficiency loss:

    1. Alcohol can much more easily be produced through fermentation than H2 from extremely high voltages. And for best results the alcohol need not be pure, about 50-60% proof seems to work best - so you don't need to distil it as much as you'd expect.

    2. It's not as dangerous to store liquid alcohol as it would be to hold enough H2 in a canister at thousands of atmospheres to get it into its liquid form (or at least smaller than your car). Imagine having an accident with the H2 canister rupturing - you'd take out a city block!

    1. Chemist

      "H2 in a canister at thousands of atmospheres to get it into its liquid form"

      Er, you can't. It needs to be cooled at great energy cost to liquify it

      Generating hydrogen by electrolysis doesn't need high voltages but it does have a low-ish efficiency. (OK if you can use the waste heat)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        Sorry, Chemist, but you're possibly wrong-ish

        You can't use cryogenic fuels in cars. Imagine coming back from a trip away/weekend where you haven't used it, going to start the car and realising that all your hydrogen has heated up by a couple of kelvin and exhausted through the vent valve (or, even worse, blown rather a large hole where your house used to be). And that you've frozen the neighbours cat who was walking past at the time (you wouldn't want to vent it into the car's body- even sprayed into somewhere unimportant seeming like the wheelarches you'd cause massive problems with the material going brittle).

        Pressurised is the only way to go with Hydrogen- and highly pressurised. You're talking 4500 or so psi before you can get anywhere near the volumetric energy density of petrol- and a 4500psi housing is pretty heavy.

        Then you have to make it able to hold that pressure after being deformed in a crash, while in the intense heat of a petrol fire and after 200,000 miles of being scraped going over speedbumps (not to mention being pressurised and depressurised a couple of times a week for, say, 20 years).

        You've suddenly added like quarter of a tonne of Aluminium (>$500 at wholesale aluminium prices) and a bucketload of sensors and other warning equipment to the car.

        So the small, light, cheap car is suddenly nigh-on impossible unless it's got a tiny capacity fuel tank.

        And for this reason, Hydrogen will fail.

        1. Chemist

          I wasn't supporting the use of cryogenic hydrogen...

          but irneb's post I was replying to said :

          "....as it would be to hold enough H2 in a canister at thousands of atmospheres to get it into its liquid form "

          I was merely pointing out that hydrogen can't be liquified by pressurization. Further even liquid hydrogen has a much lower energy density than hydrocarbon.

          By the way considerable research is being done into the use of cryogenic hydrogen by BMW and others

          I'm no fan of using pure hydrogen as an energy carrier unless the numerous practical problems can be overcome, maybe by on-board generation from precursors (formic acid for example -which brings it's own set of problems)

          Unfortunately even fuel cells have a low-ish efficiency (~50% tank-wheel) esp.when combined with the efficiency of hydrogen production. No doubt some considerable improvements remain to be made.

  16. nigel 15
    FAIL

    what about CO2 produced refining, transporting etc.

    the two figures do not compare the same thing.

    for electric it is considering the whole energy cycle.

    where as for diesel it is considering only that emitted by the car, not in refining, transporting the petrol etc.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    True costs for hydrocarbons

    Can someone please publish the true energy costs for extracting oil, refining it and transporting into your tank please (and name your sources), and translate that into a gm/km value? I'd love to, but I can't find any.

    That would be more reflective of the true cost of hydrocarbons, and thus form a valid comparison to electric vehicles rating used by Which?.

    Otherwise you'd need to revert to comparing *direct* emmission from the vehicle, and we're back where we started - with electric being "zero emission".

    PS - I'm a motorbiker, so I'm expecting to be downvoted simultanously by both the Clarkonsites and the tree huggers.

  18. RyokuMas Silver badge
    Go

    If/when I buy an EV...

    .. it won't be because I'm some eco warrior out to save the planet. No, it'll be because I can no longer afford petrol.

    I think I remember reading that it cost something like £2.40 to fully charge a Leaf, giving it a range of about 100 miles. Compare that to my current car (1.25 Fiesta), which I'm lucky if I get 200 miles out of what has recently become a £35+ tankful. I'll take paying less than a seventh of the price for my milage, thankyouverymuch.

    Go - and get an EV. Which I will, as soon as I can afford the base price.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Agreed

      I think you'll find you're not alone. When it starts to hurt motorists the most (when filling up), that's when market forces will drive them to EV. I'm the same - I'd take EV now, and I'd serious consider the leaf - if it was literally half the price.

      Snag is, an insider for a big oil company he tells me that the market research shows people are willing to pay DOUBLE what we pay now before they consider alternatives. So EV still has an uphill battle for the foreseeable.

      Though the coming crunch be slightly delayed for me - a £45 tank in my recent-generation little diesel is good for 550 miles...

    2. squidy

      This is the wrong comparison

      I agree. In fact a review I saw of the Nissan leaf on channel 5's 'fifth gear' claimed that when you take into account the CO2 produced in the acquiring/refining/transportation of the diesel as well as the burning, the figure is a about 100g/km in favour of the electric car.

      I can't vouch for the accuracy of these values, but you certainly can't compare the CO2 involved in generating electricity with the CO2 produced by burning diesel and draw any valid conclusions. You have to look at the whole cycle (including the construction and destruction of the vehicles).

    3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      ~500 Charge cycles

      Most of the cost of an electric vehicle is replacing the battery when its charge retention falls to useless. Long lasting batteries survive 1000 charge cycles. If you want some other features like good energy/weight or good energy/price then you will have to accept a smaller number of charge cycles. At present, the battery life for electric vehicles is unknown. If running an electric car was cheaper the running a petrol one, then the manufacturers would increase their profit margins to compensate.

      The down side of electric is you are giving some money to the ROC farms. More money goes to battery and car manufacturers. On the other hand, petrol is a complete disaster. Try to imagine how much damage the government would do if you keep paying petrol tax.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Think it through

      One reason that petrol is expensive is the fuel duty & tax. As soon as any government realizes that there's a significant swing to other fuel sources, it will simply hike the cost of that fuel to maintain the same level of income for the treasury.

      Add that to the cost of EV battery replacement every few years and your motoring will not cost you less.

      1. Adam Foxton
        Thumb Down

        Exactly

        Expect a minimum-price-per-kWh for batteries, coupled to a 500% level of tax on all replacement vehicle batteries.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      True Cost of Rare Earths

      The CO2 costs at the power plant are an direct comparison for CO2 cost of internal combustion. This cost is obviously highly dependent on your source of electricity though. If you want to get the cost of getting gasoline to the fuel station then you have to compare that to the cost of building and delivering a battery to your car. You also have to take into account the number of batteries used over the average lifetime of the car compared to the average number of gallons used over the cars average lifetime. As batteries become better this comparison will likely lean further and further toward the battery's favor, but I'm not sure where that is now.

      Also do you consider the non-CO2 pollutants in the battery production? If so how do you also include non-CO2 pollutants from refining petroleum? It's a valid comparison that should be made but it isn't easy to do.

    6. JP19

      Cost

      Well you will pay more for replacement batteries than the electricity to charge them. You can't currently buy a battery that costs less than the amount of electricity (at current mains prices) it can charge and discharge in its lifetime.

      That problem will become less significant when we get a 300% tax rate on 'vehicle electricity' to match the 300% tax rate we currently have on vehicle fuels.

  19. justkyle
    WTF?

    Ultimately, doesn't the consumer decide?

    Especially with oil-based fuel prices climbing in recent days, won't the daily cost of operation factor into it, even if just a little bit?

    Heck, I thought I'd never own a Prius, but I do now. Matter of fact, I see a lot more of the 1st generation sedan style around than I have before. Believe this to be a factor of the primary reason why people buy automobiles in the U.S.-the looks.

    I'm all for bio-diesel, but only in the form of greasel. This doesn't impact anybody's food prices, where traditional bio-diesel flavored by corn or soy does.

    Ultimately, a bio-diesel (greasel) -electric hybrid would probably be the best of both worlds.

    And, of course, being a 'Merican, I can't resist the smell of fried foods, so that's another benefit of a greasel car.

  20. Rores

    108g/km - Really?

    What a lot of people fail to realise is that in order to get anywhere close to 108g/km in the diesel you have to drive like an old lady with very weak right leg muscles, who enjoys going on long journeys on empty dual carriageways. Due to the very high part and full load efficiency characteristics of electric motors you can drive it like you stole it all the time and still get close to the 81g/km.

    @ Steve 44 - Of course they'll be making extra electricity to power electric cars - it's not comparable to the "the bus is going anyway" scenario.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Alien

    People tend to forget ...

    that the tailpile is far from the only source of CO2 normal cars have. How much CO2 do you think was dumped to produce that diesel?

    Refineries aren't exactly carbon neutral.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Make your own petrol

    OK so we've all (hopefully) read about the plant that can generate a hydrocarbon fuel from water and CO2 drawn from the atmosphere running entirely on solar power. Sounds like a great idea, it's close to carbon neutral, it allows us to keep running the vehicles we have and it doesn't put any extra load on our already stretched electrical infrastructure.

    So why is more not being done with this particular technology? I suspect the real reason is that the motor manufacturers don't like it because it doesn't involve them making a load of money out of flogging us new cars* and it doesn't involve the energy companies making loads of money out of selling us more electricity. It involves the patent holders making money, but since they don't have the lobbying clout of the car manufacturers or energy companies it doesn't matter squat whether it will save the planet or not. </CYNIC>

    * Not, you will appreciate, new technology. There's no really new technology in an EV, no matter what the marketing men tell us.

  23. PowerSurge
    Boffin

    Green in not the only reason

    Electric trains are much nicer to travel on than diesel. They're quieter, accelerate better. They're also cheaper to maintain. Same is true of cars. The infernal combustion engine is noisy, smelly and requires high maintenance.

    It's a shame batteries aren't up to snuff yet. However, got to start somewhere.

    Also central electricity generation is greener and more efficient than lots of internal combustion engines and and has potential to improve. There's two new nuclear technologies on the way: TWR and thorium neither of which suffer so much from the bugbears of uranium fission.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travelling_wave_reactor

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWUeBSoEnRk&feature=player_embedded

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/02/01/china_thorium_bet/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The consumer?

      But the consumer never gets to decide, because the consumer never gets a real choice.

    2. Adam Foxton
      Go

      Yeah, I can see the problem with that whole "awesome solar car" thing.

      "Don't buy our car! It's only cheaper and greener to run! And if you want to screw over BP, then BOY are you in for a treat if you buy our car. Which you shouldn't."

      There is no motor industry lobby trying to keep the Electric Car down, except in that EVs aren't ready for production yet. Even if the acceleration/top speed weren't issues (within reason), the range is still a problem.

      The reason the Hydrocarbon from seawater/CO2 + Solar tech isn't deployed more is that the amount of solar energy you need is just not feasible. It's not like "ooh, we have a sunny day so I'll stick the generator by the window" and hey, presto- you've got a tank of fuel 10 minutes later.

      Saying that, Hydrocarbon from Seawater/CO2 IS the solution to our energy problems- there are 850Mn cars in the world and there isn't enough lithium to cover 1% of them, so battery electric's out, and Hydrogen's just plain dangerous. Plus remember aircraft need hydrocarbons, as do boats and lorries and trains and many people's homes.

      But "artificial hydrocarbons" are only really feasible if we use Nuclear power as this can provide a steady, dependable, carbon-free (and low waste volume) source of power for the chemical processes required to create the hydrocarbons. Solar and other renewables don't produce sufficient power or aren't dependable enough.

      The problem with THIS is that to build a massive nuclear hydrocarbon generation plant you've got to contend with a load of treehuggers and NIMBYs. My solution would be to use the UK's unparalleled experience in subsea engineering to drop the hydrocarbon generators to the bottom of the north sea. They'd be relatively safe from Terrorists, they'd be on one of the best-mapped and most studied pieces of sea-floor in the world (far away from volcanic faults), and they're in the middle of existing oil fields, so the existing pipelines can be repurposed. Plus there's almost infinite amounts of space down there, and it's shallow enough that in the event of a problem some cheap ROVs (or expensive SAT divers) can be deployed to repair them.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        'Artificial' hydrocarbons are feasible and exist already

        Bio-engineering has already 90% solved the problem - there are now engineered bacteria that excrete diesel fuel when fed cellulose: http://www.ls9.com/

        The issue left is 'normal' engineering - creating a suitable industrial-scale bioreactor for these microbes. That's a complex task, but quite feasible given that this has already been done for many other natural and bio-engineered microbes (eg yeast for penicillin, bacteria for insulin etc)

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