Why i care about electric cars

First about global warming. There’s a lot of evidence and a lot of data and a lot of controversy. If there is evidence that says something may harm you, you take precautions to avoid it. We wear seat belts, obey stop lights, and look both ways before crossing the street. If you don’t do those things you aren’t certain to suffer, but it’s more likely and stupid to take risks you can easily avoid.
There is a range of theoretical dangers from global warming, from food shortages to global disaster displacing 600 million people who live within 10 meters of sea level.
There are many things that we can do to try to reduce our contribution to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Reducing our consumption of fossil fuels is one of them. There are at least 3 additional reasons to do this, each of which should compel us to do it independent of any others. If any one of these reasons convinces you, it doesn’t matter how you feel about the other 3.

The first is that we are poisoning the air we breathe, causing smog, cancer, acid rain, and all kinds of respiratory ailments. A clean source of energy would dramatically improve our health, and relieve us from billions of health care spending.

Second, we buy fossil fuels from parts of the world that we have a horrible history of destabilizing. The money we send there gives great power over us and then we feel compelled to mess with to “protect our national interests”. The wars over oil are a huge drain on our morality, our economy, and our international goodwill. We are far better off not participating in the trade of fossil fuel with these parts of the world at all, and letting them manage their own affairs.

Third, we send billions of our dollars out of the country every month for something we burn and the money never comes back. It is an incredible economic opportunity to lead the technology that provides clean domestic energy. We can export that technology to other countries. Every dollar spent on domestic energy rather than imported drives the economy rather than draining it.

All of this pushes me to want the world to move to any form of transportation energy that doesn’t use fossil fuel as fast as possible. I don’t know if battery electric cars are the best, or hydrogen fuel cell cars, or compressed air cars, or electric trains, or biodiesel made from algae, or ethanol made from switchgrass, or magic carpets.

I do know that electric cars work. I drive one every day, I’ve driven it across country. I plug it in at my house every day and it will never need to visit a gas station.


3 responses to “Why i care about electric cars

  1. To be fair, it should be pointed out that electric cars don’t solve most of those issues unequivocally. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’re ahead of the game because a lot of our electricity is generated in reasonably “clean” ways (not counting the environmental effects dams have on waterways and the wildlife within). But elsewhere, even in the US, electricity is as polluting or more so, generated from diesel or coal (coal is especially prevalent in various places around the US).

    The other part is that electric vehicles using Li-ion batteries still have the various dependencies on foreign governments, just different ones (the US isn’t exactly a big lithium exporter 🙂 ). In addition to the lithium itself, the entire car relies on lots of fancy electronics that use all sorts of rare elements dug up all over the world.

    Which isn’t to say that electric vehicles aren’t a good step in the right direction. They are the most immediate, most practical way to move ourselves away from all of these problems. But it’s important to not over-sell the technology, lest some oil addict go around pulling apart arguments in favor of EV based on these kinds of omissions.

    • highspeedcharging

      The mine to wheel analysis of electric cars running on electricity produced from coal shows them to be cleaner than gasoline cars. I will find references for this, its probably worth its own post. Clearly we would be cleaner if we moved away from coal, but its still a positive intermediate step.

      As people buy new cars, we produce more cars. Electric cars are produced using similar resources to gas cars. Probably more copper in the electric motor and power electronics and less iron and steel. Gas cars have computers to run the ICE and transmission and are probably similar complexity to the computers in electric cars to manage the batteries and power electronics. An electric car will last a lot longer than an ICE car. The drivetrain in an electric has a handful of parts rather than thousands of parts, with many many fewer things to wear out. The batteries in electric cars will need to be replaced long before the car, but they will be 100% recycled and reused just like lead acid batteries are now. Once we have the components for batteries, we will be able to reuse them many many times.
      There is no shortage of lithium. It is so cheap that its primary use is in lithium grease. We currently get it from the cheapest sources, but if those governments tried to squeeze supply there are many many other sources at slightly higher price points. The higher price points are not significant to the cost of the batteries, as the lithium cost in the batteries is only 2 or 3% of the total cost. Link to article.

  2. Andrew Bienhaus

    To add… Copper is one of the best recycled products on the planet, as compared to steel and iron.

    On the GW issue, my only concern (as I have expressed in person) is that it’s recently been popular hype. When something is hype, it is always distorted to sell newspapers. (one way or the other, we can never be sure)

    Science facts aside, my problem wiuth the hype is that we have focused for the last 5 years on the greenhouse gasses almost exclusively, ignoring the rest of the pollution entirely.

    All pollution is bad.

    I’d love to have a Tesla… if the mortgage gets paid off, or I win some money, I will buy one.
    In the mean time, I have to keep sucking the teat of the oil companies…

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