Journal: Are Electric Cars a Silver Bullet to Fight Climate Change?

Are Electric Cars a Silver Bullet to Fight Climate Change?

Petrolicious Productions By Petrolicious Productions
July 9, 2013
5 comments

Our love affair with internal combustion is a large contributing factor to our overall obsession with fine vintage automobiles. Of course the style, craftsmanship, and freedom offered from these machines all play their own role, but it’s the sound and smell of an old Alfa twin cam honking on open element sidedrafts, a lumpy, over-cammed V8 at idle, or the shrill, metallic yowl of an old Porsche flat six revved up to the redzone that really sums all the other associated thrills up in one easily definable lump—it’s all about the motor. Will it always be?

It’s the positively futuristic year of 2013 and all gasoline-powered things face innumerable environmental, social, and political challenges to their continued dominance, but are battery-powered electrics the silver bullet solution many seem to think they are, or do the complex, expensive, and frequently environmentally harmful processes involved in the manufacture and disposal of said batteries outweigh their potential benefits? Is it better to displace greenhouse emissions to one large, centralized and heavily regulated source (the powerplant), or are cleaner means of electricity generation needed first? These questions and others are explored in an interesting, well-researched, and thought-provoking article we recently ran across on IEEE Spectrum, and it’s titled “Unclean at Any Speed”—we highly recommend it.

Despite our love for four strokes, two strokes, Wankels, Diesels, and anything else that turns liquid dinosaurs into locomotion, we openly acknowledge the status quo cannot stand indefinitely. We’re running out of oil, and as most would agree, we’re irreparably harming the planet by continuing to burn the stuff on an ever exponentially increasing scale—we’re simply recognizing that perhaps we’ve put our eggs in the wrong basket. What do you think?

Image Source: vintag.es

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Acton Novotel
Acton Novotel

Battery electrics aren’t a silver bullet, nor should we expect them to be. They require other technologies in order to live up to the environmental promises some people make for them. But I think a lot of gearheads are too keen to jump to the easy conclusion that we shouldn’t bother trying, and we should all just carry on doing what we’re doing. Climate change can be limited (not stopped, it’s far too late for that, but kept within a reasonable threshold) with electric vehicles AND zero-emission electricity generation AND energy conservation AND better town planning AND greener manufacturing methods… Read more »

Steely
Steely

Not whilst power plants are burning fossil fuel or leaving nuclear waste material behind.

David Parker
David Parker

What Climate Change.

Johnny02
Johnny02

The peanut butter jar conundrum. How much water do I waste to get out the leftover peanut butter? Is it better to simply throw the jar out? Which is greener? I’ll never know, same with engines, right now I’d say no to electrics but if battery tech does (and should) get better, and the power comes from nuclear and or renewables, maybe. Also is it easier to capture emissions at the plant vs the end user? Tough questions indeed. One thing I feel more sure of is in keeping a classic running you are recycling, using a car that would… Read more »

Alex F
Alex F

We have the technology to simulate the sounds that would be emanating from a carb’d engine while having the green-er propulsion source of electric motors… However the battery tech needs to improve in a way that makes manufacturing them green-er. There is losses in transmitting the power from the plant to your house and is mainly based on distance. That being said, a combustion engine is 5-10\% efficient in converting the chemical energy into usable motion. Modern combined cycle power plants are 40-60\% efficient in converting the chemical energy into electrical energy. Now I do not know the efficiency of… Read more »