Electric cars

Government insistence Electric cars must win risks of wasting valuable interim technology – Book review


Politicians declaring they know best and naming electric cars alone to lead the race green risk wasting valuable and proven resources provided by battery-bound internal combustion engines (ICEs), and hybrid technology is the way the fastest to reduce global carbon dioxide (CO2).

Claims that battery-powered cars produce no CO2 emissions are false, and although when paired with renewables they have a clear advantage over hybrids, the overall victory is often not so big.

These are some of the conclusions of the book “Racing Toward Zero – The Untold Story of Driving Green” written by engineers Kelly Senecal of the United States and Felix Leach of the United Kingdom, published by SAE International.

Hybrids, which use small batteries (compared to huge electric car batteries only) avoid the risk of consuming huge amounts of scarce and possibly increasingly expensive products like lithium, nickel, cobalt, and copper. and may offer an affordable option. If battery-only electric cars, thanks to artificial demand for government subsidies, eventually dominate the market, it is likely to cost average workers to get out of their cars and get on the bus.

As the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 26, continues in Glasgow, Scotland, the message from politicians, environmental groups and the media appears to be an almost hysterical desire to ‘do something’ in general and to kill the ICE car in particular. Britain has already decreed that the sale of new petrol and diesel cars must cease by 2030. The EU is planning something similar by 2035 although no decision has been taken. Germany, with its government currently in post-election limbo as political parties negotiate for power, may well find itself in the same position as the UK The US has demanded that 50% of its auto market be fueled by BEVs, plug-in hybrids or fuel cells by 2030.

Since gasoline and diesel engines in today’s cars and SUVs are anything but dirty, Senecal and Leach say it would be foolish to end their role prematurely. These vehicles don’t emit a lot of noxious gases and CO2 is impossible to avoid, but claims that electric cars are “zero emissions” are far from the truth.

Electric cars are not yet ready for prime time. All-electric and hybrid-electric make sense in many scenarios, but focusing solely on battery-electric vehicles risks wasting a valuable asset that has been around for more than 100 years and is not ready for scrap.

“The electric vehicle is not ready. And he cannot and should not have to fight this battle alone. In fact, one of the most immediate ways to go green is to improve ECI, ”say the authors.

“And my message itself is not pro-ICE; its pro-diversity. Eclectic. I firmly believe that we need to explore all technologies, not one or the other, not ‘us versus them’, ”Senecal said.

Co-author Leach puts it this way.

“I think we need to quickly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and we have a variety of tools and technologies to do so. If we wait for an all-hydrogen or all-battery future with 100% renewable electricity, I’m afraid it’s too late, ”said Leach.

ICE engines still have a lot of room for improvement in terms of efficiency. And there are carbon neutral fuels, biofuels, and synthetic fuels.

“A move away from legislation on tailpipe CO2 emissions and towards a life cycle assessment will be essential for carbon neutral fuels. At the level of the exhaust pipe, they still emit a lot of CO2; on the basis of the life cycle, they have the potential to be CO2 neutral and sustainable. Unfortunately, the ICE is not shaken up well. With regulations focused solely on tailpipe emissions, it cannot compete with alternative technologies that do not have tailpipes.

The authors call for more life cycle analyzes (LCAs) that would include emissions associated with the production of electricity that powers BEVs. Current rules do not recognize that a substantial proportion of emissions are generated during production. There are also particles generated by braking and generally much heavier BEVs cause more tire wear. The adoption of LCA would allow a smarter, technologically neutral approach allowing different choices of trade-offs between advantages and disadvantages, without compromising contributions to climate protection.

“In other words, the future is eclectic,” Senecal says.

After using a range of LCA methods, the authors find that BEVs on average emit around 20-50% less CO2 on a lifecycle basis than today’s conventional ICE vehicles using an electric mix. way.

“However, there is no average person, and neither is there an average BEV – the disparities in CO2 emissions by use and location are huge. It’s also important to note that all of these studies show that BEVs are just not zero-emission vehicles. The average BEV CO2 savings also do not take into account future advances in propulsion technology. Finally, studies tend to agree that hybrids offer many of the same benefits as BEVs at a lower cost, and in some markets even produce lower emissions than BEVs, on both counts due to of their smaller batteries, ”say the authors.

“Any government policy or intervention that dictates a particular solution is unlikely to result in the lowest CO2 emissions or the least harm to humans overall. As such, we strongly advocate using different vehicle technologies for different applications and locations, ”they said.

“Hybrids are the fastest way to decarbonize given the likely limited supply of batteries over the next decade, rapid developments in hybrid technology, and ICE improvements that are already entering production,” they said.

In regions that rely heavily on coal and natural gas for power generation, hybrids may be the best overall choice. (Germany, for example, uses coal to generate more than 20% of its electricity). In an electricity grid heavily based on renewable energies, BEVs may be the best solution, at least from a climate point of view. Despite these nuanced conclusions, governments have already chosen BEVs as the winner. It might be the right call in the long run, but not necessarily.

Current electric vehicles perform well in medium urban short-range roles, but break down on longer journeys.

“For the average ride it’s ideal, but for that single long ride it needs a huge battery, with all the associated built-in CO2, which is also carried on all the short trips. This not only makes the vehicle more expensive, but also heavier, less energy efficient and more likely to emit particles not emitted from the exhaust gases. A PHEV could theoretically be the best solution, but it also depends heavily on consumer behavior, ”they said.

(Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) can be charged independently and have an electric range of around 30 miles, although the latest iterations may offer 50 independent miles or more. The overall range can be at least 400 miles. Hybrids self-recharging batteries use batteries that link to the ICE motor to maximize its efficiency. Electric-only range is probably less than 1 mile).

The authors forcefully argue that it is premature to negate the benefits of ICE engineering in favor of an unnecessary and perhaps counterproductive pursuit of perfection. The French philosopher Voltaire almost said “do not let the search for perfection stand in the way of a formidable solution”. The authors’ support for plug-in hybrids and auto-recharging vehicles is ridiculed by conservationists like Brussels-based Transport & Environment, who cannot ignore the idea that some drivers of PHEV company cars might abuse the system. system and not use technology. correctly because they don’t pay for fuel and have no incentive to save. But that means that a perfectly acceptable interim solution will be needlessly rejected.

My own preference is for European manufacturers to head for a dead end with their unsuccessful quest to make electric cars as good as today’s ICEs. It takes monster batteries representing masses of CO2, which surely undermines the purpose of the exercise in the first place. Manufacturers need to lower their technical ambitions and embrace utility. The small electric city car under $ 10,000, with a range of 100 miles and a top speed of 60 mph, would be ideal for commuting, running to school and errands and would really achieve maybe 90% of the capacity needed. Think of a golf cart on steroids. Instead of so-called unaffordable ICE electric cars that only sell with massive taxpayer-funded subsidies, this notional little car would be embraced by mid-wage buyers. You can always rent a plug-in hybrid for summer running in the sun. Or keep one locked in the garage for 11 months of the year.


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