Sunday, April 19, 2009

Electric Vehicles: Solution?

(Oil 101 Pag 7, Fig 1-3, data source: EIA and IEA)
Electric cars have been touted as the next big thing for over 100 years. Current proponents say they are green as they will run on solar and wind energy. They also say that the metals required for batteries are available in sufficient quantities.

Sceptics point out that electric cars simply offer a feel-good factor by shifting the consumption of fossil fuels out of sight (most electricity comes from coal - see chart above) and that solar and wind are not scalable to the level required to offset a meaningful amount of oil. Currently only 2% of electrical power globally is produced from solar, wind and other such fuels.

Still others ask why are we wasting resources producing electric vehicles when a fuel used to generate electrical power, such as natural gas, should itself be used directly in automotive engines. Natural gas is currently successfully used as a fuel by many city bus and taxi fleets around the world.

Alternatively, we could use hydrogen as a store of energy (once the significant kinks have been worked out) and generate the electricity with nuclear power.

We are not short of choices. The real question is if you sum the outcomes of all the choices and their probability of success, do they get us where we want to go? Maybe the easier solution is changing our transportation need itself rather than its fuel?
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