[LINK] Standards, please! The third coming of electric vehicles
francisoconnor3 at bigpond.com
Sat Apr 21 01:51:33 EST 2012
Coming late to this discussion .... but for what it's worth ...
a) Biofuels bring with them their own problems ... not least being
- Production of a large percentage of them currently uses up arable land which could be used for food production. This may not mean anything in an Australian context, but if you live in a Third World country hungry for foreign cash then what you plant can have serious effects on your food self-sufficiency, the standard of life of your poor (cheap, bulky, starchy foods tend to have little in the way of nutritional value) and the general health of the population.
- They don't do away with the problem of pollution and green house gases. Some may be slightly 'cleaner' than petroleum and conventional petro-carbon based fuels .... but not enough to make an appreciable difference.
- Cost of production is as high, if not higher, than the current oil based alternatives ... and unlikely to shrink dramatically over the coming few decades.
- The tank/culture based ("Soylent Green") approach would have to be ramped up dramatically to make an huge difference. That said, every other bio-farming initiative that has been started over the last thirty years (be it complex aquaculture, spore based anti-biotic production, microbe based hormone production or whatever) hasn't really scaled well. The problem is that even the most primitive biology is a complex ecology that can be affected by conditions of crowding, abundance and the introduction of even the smallest most innocuous supposedly independent variable (a foreign microbe, a virus, a trace chemical, a small temperature fluctuation etc etc) that can result in destruction and disaster in your supposedly closed system that effectively wipes out your enterprise. "All your eggs in one basket" doesn't work really well in a biological-industrial context.
b) Electric also comes with its problems:
- Generation of same still causes pollution ... many would argue more per unit of power generated than the petroleum/diesel burning internal combustion engine.
- It's marginally more efficient that internal combustion per power unit generated, but loses a heap of that advantage in the transmission of same.
- Battery technology still sucks. Eight to ten hours for a complete refill on an e-car (four to five for an 80-90% refill), only storage of enough to travel a 100 - 150 Kms or so with any confidence, bulky and heavy enough to appreciably reduce the performance of the cars into which they are installed. OK for short trips, not ideal for long ones ... and in Australia, the US and other big countries that is fatal for a general purpose motor vehicle.
- Electric engines (and the transmissions that serve same) aren't exactly the most efficient in design or operation at present. Gimmicks like turning the motor off when stationery, coasting and dual powered machines like the Prius and others that charge off the petrol motor are just that ... until electric can stand on its own. They are an interim approach with little to recommend them long term.
- Battery charging/replacement infrastructure is lacking ... as is a battery design that can easily and quickly be replaced at something like your local service station. Refuelling convenience is currently a joke.
- The suckers still cost a heap, and the premium isn't worth it at the moment in the context of what you save or get for your money. Only the morally, ethically constrained ... or the rich who want a new toy ... would buy one now.
c) That said, I still favour electric over biofuel as a solution because:
- Battery design will improve, the technology will get cheaper as it becomes more pervasive, and any way you look at it (even with taxes and charges applicable to climate change) it will be cheaper than petroleum.
- Generation of electric is restricted at the moment to major power companies, and that is a good thing ... because it enables a concentrated low key approach to improving the technologies and systems involved in power generation so that they have less of an impact on the environment and produce less in the way of greenhouse gases than the current antiquated power infrastructure around the world.
- Electric can be supplemented by the consumer with improved solar and other technologies to power their vehicles ... and even a 10-15% supplement would appreciably reduce demand on the centralised sources.
- It's so much quieter, cleaner and less intrusive than the roar of an internal combustion engine (especially on weekend mornings and the like when I want to sleep in). For that alone I would vote the Nobel Prize to anyone producing a viable electric car ...
Just my 2 cents worth ...
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