EVs are more environmentally destructive than internal combustion, say some

Discussion in 'General' started by Domenick, Oct 27, 2017.

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  1. There has long been the accusation made by some that electric vehicles are more environmentally damaging than internal combustion vehicles. Those voices have grown quieter over the years as the gaping holes in their arguments become more clear.

    Even today, though, here are some who hold on to their long disproven notions and find outlets to publish their views. Take John McElroy, for instance. This morning finds him published in the respectable Ward's Auto.

    First, let me say, from all accounts, Mr. McElroy is a good guy. Never met him, but I know people who know him. Great guy, they say. Here, though, he is being willfully wrong.

    Yes, electric vehicles can be more carbon intensive to build (something that will improve as battery chemistries improve and more energy is stored using the same amount of material input), but the balance tips in their favor soon into their usage cycle.

    This from the same Union of Concerned Scientists study that Mr McElroy uses to establish the larger initial environmental footprint of EVs, "Battery electric cars make up for their higher manufacturing emissions within eighteen months of driving—shorter range models can offset the extra emissions within 6 months—and continue to outperform gasoline cars until the end of their lives."

    Not only this, but as the grid continually improves, carbon-wise, the vehicles that depend on it for energy also improve. Internal combustion vehicles, on the other hand, become more carbon-intensive and produce more particulate pollution as they age.

    To his point that EVs can only be cleaner than gas-powered vehicles if the energy source is particularly clean, I say hogwash. Just two days ago, yet another study, this one a full life cycle modelling study by VUB University in Belgium concludes that even in coal-dependent Poland, EVs are cleaner than diesel-powered vehicles (which are, in-turn, cleaner in terms of CO2 than gasoline).

    The argument he makes in the first half of his column is dead. Deceased. It is no more. It's not even pining for the fjords. It has shuffled off this mortal coil.

    Sure, I'll give him that putting used batteries in landfill would be a problem. Is that happening? Not to any great extent, really. Manufacturers are now reusing at least some of the packs removed from used vehicles for static energy storage. Tesla, the biggest creator of battery packs in terms of kWh, are actively pursuing a recycling strategy, recognizing that recovering cobalt and lithium can be a money saver as well as easier on the environment. A quick internet search will reveal a number of advances in battery recycling, demonstrating that this is an area of keen research, as there is great potential for economic and environmental payback.

    Finally, to his point about hydrogen. Dude. (Really, this is a discussion for a whole 'nother thread, but this is a quick summation of my thoughts on the matter)

    In the end, fuel cell cars are natural gas cars (the only way to economically produce hydrogen in quantities needed for wide-spread fuel cell commercialization is from natural gas), only with a bit more in the way of whiz-bang materials and process. On top of any number of problems with hydrogen as energy storage, it's not really much cleaner, if at all, than just using natural gas. It's also a lot more expensive, something that until now has been hidden, as retail owners of fuel cell vehicles get either free or highly subsidized hydrogen. But if you like the idea of $6/gallon equivalent of gasoline, be my guest.

    So, come on. Battery electric cars still have drawbacks for some potential owners, but claiming that gas-powered cars are more sustainable than electrics is hogwash. The science is in, and Mr. McElroy's talking points are in direct conflict with the facts.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2017
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  3. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    It's very hard for me to believe that any informed person can honestly believe that an electric car produces more pollution over its lifetime than a gasmobile, when comparing cars with a power plant (engine/motor) of similar power. (Smaller cars tend to have smaller, less powerful power plants; larger cars tend to have larger, more powerful ones, which consume more energy. For an apples-to-apples comparison, compare cars with similar power.)

    I think that everyone who claims that BEVs are more polluting than gasmobiles (or FCEVs or PHEVs) either knows what they're saying is B.S., or else they're a "useful idiot" who is parroting propaganda made up by those who know it's B.S.

    If anyone needs hard data to prove this is true, I think there is more than a sufficient amount here:


    (The article linked above focuses on the contrast between FCEVs (fuel cell cars) vs. PHEVs and BEVs, but also contains pertinent comparison data for gasmobiles.)

    Much of the relevant data in that article is summarized here:

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  4. Feed The Trees

    Feed The Trees Active Member

    I dont think the case exists that new:new that the electric version of a same car is not net better in it's life cycle. Looking at something thats available in both pure ev and pure gas like a Spark there isn't any doubt that the ev is better net.

    I think though what is often overlooked is that one of the key tenets of being eco friendly is recycling. When your car is fully shot and you have this decision to make then new:new math works. I have seen many a person run out and swap their 2015 something or other high mpg car for a 2017 EV. Well now come on, you are looking at the math of a car whose manufacture eco cost is sunk vs building a new car. That isn't a battle that the EV can really overtake unless you're ditching a GMC Yukon or something.

    I hear people argue that theyre just recycling their car down stream to someone else... and sure maybe they hold it the rest of the 10-15 years it's good for... but the basic principle of using something that's already been produced and not turning it over and over seems lost today. Maybe the buyer is replacing a 5 year old car and selling to someone replacing a 10 year old car which is now off the streets. Sure, could work that way. But also maybe not. And when it comes to making a decision I find it better to make it based on what you know will occur vs what you think may occur. But when you are weighing your existing fine car against an EV? You yourself are going to have a losing eco credit (almost always) and just hope that your old car on the used market pushes out a really old car that brings you back to net positive. And if you are trading in that Yukon for the EV then great! But your Yukon may also be going to someone driving a Corolla so not so great. The Yukon is still out there and you have no idea what ripple effect it will have on the net emissions given the car(s) it pushes off the roads.

    Serial leasing is part of the issue tied to the throw away economy. New tv from Costco every 2 years because it's only $800 for a bigger one? There's eco costs of making and putting it on a dirty barge and throwing the old one out. Oh your cell phone isnt the latest version? Same deal. The amount of stuff people buy and never get the full life out of is probably worse than anything on net. Imagine if we could keep a few of those barges anchored in port with no deliveries to make. That right there saves millions of cars worth of pollution. Or other forms of pollution like pesticides from industrial Monsanto farms trucked in for hundreds of miles. Local organic saves not just the gas but all those pesticides in the water.
  5. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    Isn't it better, more reasonable, to consider the lifetime of the car, and not just the period of ownership of the first owner? Sure, you can't know what's going to happen to any individual car after it's sold by the first owner, but what we should be considering here is what happens to the average car. Outliers are just that; outliers, and rare events. And the average car isn't just thrown away when the first owner sells it or trades it in; the average car is re-sold as a used car, and goes on to have several years of life with its second owner. Some cars and light trucks even have third owners; Toyota trucks (pickups) were often reported to be resold in Mexico and run until they literally fall apart.

    The reality is that many people, even a good percentage of Americans, never even consider buying a new car. They simply can't afford it. Getting a "new" car for them means getting a newer used car. And we shouldn't ignore that very large part of the overall car market.

    I've seen many comments posted to InsideEVs from people saying they were glad to see a new EV go on sale, because perhaps in 2-3 years they might be able to buy one used. I think ignoring second ownership of cars would be a mistake.

    * * * * *

    If we're going to discuss recycling, then I think the real issue is how almost nobody is yet recycling or re-using EV battery packs. Tesla said that it planned to take that up as part of the Gigafactory, but I don't think they have started doing that yet, or at least not doing it in any real quantity.

    We've seen reports of maybe a few hundred used EV battery packs used for grid storage, but these all appear to me to be merely relatively small-scale test projects. Frankly, I still think that li-ion batteries are the wrong solution for grid storage. Flow batteries would be far more cost-effective for grid-scale energy storage, if flow batteries could be developed as much as li-ion batteries have been.
  6. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web Well-Known Member Subscriber

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  9. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web Well-Known Member Subscriber

  10. Jack

    Jack Administrator

    I merged the threads! No big deal, thanks for sharing!
  11. Jennie

    Jennie Member

    Domenick, your tweet and UCSUSA's response is awesome!
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