Another Silver Bullet Jams in the Breach…….

23 08 2014

One of the silver bullets constantly used by techno Utopians is of course the Electric Car, popularly known as EVs (the V stands for vehicle).  Before the believers in this technology jump down my throat for demolishing their ideals, let me tell you I am planning – the timing of the collapse allowing of course – to eventually convert my trusty ute to electric drive once I get it safely to Tasmania.  Now you may ask why I would do that if I don’t believe in EVs taking over the world in the first place, and I’ll forgive you for asking……  but like everything else I’m about to do in the face of collapse, the motive is purely selfish.  Though I expect such a vehicle could well become a communal asset that might make me popular enough to get assistance with implementing all sorts of other ideas I have for our post crash  future.  It won’t be used for shopping or dropping kids to soccer matches, that’s for sure, but a vehicle capable of carrying a ton of firewood or compost or scrap building materials will sure come in handy.  How fast it can go, or what its range is, or what it’s nought to sixty figure is, are totally irrelevant…. the reason I’ll be doing this is to ensure we have access to a workhorse in the post oil era.

I don’t expect it will be driven that much, and it should be easily kept charged up using the renewable energy I’m planning to install at our next abode.  Let’s hope the Matrix stays together long enough to actually achieve this.

Converting an old car to electric drive means you don’t have to build a whole car.  The amount of energy and resources needed to build a car, any car (and it actually takes more resources to build an EV than an IC powered vehicle of the same size..) is truly staggering.  There was one paragraph in one of my recent posts that was very telling, and that I must resurface here in case anyone reading this has not read it yet…:

“Most of the pollution any car will ever cause is generated in the production process before the car even arrives at the showroom — in the production of all the steel, aluminium, copper and other metals, glass, rubber, plastic, paint and other raw materials and inputs that go into every automobile, and in the manufacturing process itself. Cars produce 56 percent of all the pollution they will ever produce before they ever hit the road. … [S]o long as [automakers] are free to produce automobiles without limit more cars will just mean more pollution, even if the cars are hybrids or plug-in electric cars.”

This is actually far worse than the 60 to 90 barrels of oil I’ve been quoting for years……  XRayMike, as usual, puts this into perspective in his own inimitable way:

The role that fossil fuels play in the creation, maintenance and support of alternative energy technologies is not discussed or analyzed at all by those peddling it to the masses who live with the hope of a “green” economy and carbon-neutral civilization. From the massive mining operations and manufacturing processes necessary to extract the rare earth metals essential in constructing wind turbines, solar panels, and electric car batteries to their daily maintenance, de-activation, and final discardment, the amount of fossil fuel energy embedded in the entire life cycle of such alternative energy technologies renders moot their benefits when compared to what is actually more effective in solving our energy and climate conundrum —reducing our consumption through energy efficiency improvements and waste reduction programs. Alternative energy technologies cannot replace our dependence on fossil fuels and are, in the final analysis, diverting us from coming to grips with a way-of-life that cannot go on for much longer. We have a consumption crisis.

Buried in the comments at the abovementioned page of this blog, Gordon sourced a German report that has figures showing that the pollution numbers for the manufacture of EVs are so bad, that in any event, converting to ‘green transport’ would only reduce CO2 emissions by 20%.  When in fact we need immediate reductions of at least 90%.

“Cars produce 56 percent of all the pollution they will ever produce before they ever hit the road. …”

I think the more relevant quote from the original German Environment and Forecasting Institute report is, in relation to CO2 emissions:

68% of all of a car’s emissions comes from processing and transporting the raw materials;10% is emitted as a result of manufacturing, scrapping, and constructing roads and garage facilities; and only 22% of CO2 emissions comes from the actual operation of the car.

So assuming that this distribution of emissions applies broadly to electric vehicles, a total changeover to electric cars would save only around 20% of the car-related emissions.

Now bring online the manufacturing of millions of such cars, and emissions will not drop, they will rise dramatically.

Following Elon Musk’s public release of all his Tesla patents, l can’t help but wonder if his real motivation is hidden in the penultimate paragraph of this article on The Conversation:

The latest move by Tesla and its partner, Panasonic, will see the construction of the new Gigafactory, which will produce long range battery packs for Tesla’s electric vehicles.

He is not really in the electric vehicle business at all, he is in the battery business.  I’m sure he’s smart enough to have seen the writing on the wall too….  No matter what else goes into an individual electric vehicle design, they will all need batteries.  And these batteries will better serve stationary use than mobile ones that will have to deal with fast deteriorating roads in a post crash world.

Below is an excerpt from a must-see talk by engineer and energy analyst Ozzie Zehner, author of Green Illusions:

Common knowledge presumes that we have a choice between fossil fuels and green energy, but alternative energy technologies rely on fossil fuels through every stage of their life cycle. Most importantly, alternative energy financing relies ultimately on the kind of economic growth that fossil fuels provide. Alternative energy technologies rely on fossil fuels for raw material extraction, for fabrication, for installation and maintenance, for back-up, as well as decommissioning and disposal. And at this point, there’s even a larger question: where will we get the energy to build the next generation of wind power and solar cells? Wind is renewable, but turbines are not. Alternative energy technologies rely on fossil fuels and are, in essence, a product of fossil fuels. They thrive within economic systems that are themselves reliant on fossil fuels.

Now, I’m no fan of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are finite and dirty, but we use them for five principal reasons. Fossil fuels are dense. Their energy is storable, portable, fungible (which means they can be easily traded), and they are transformable into other products like pesticides, fertilizers, and plastics.

I have only just discovered Zehner.  Hat tip to XRayMike for introducing me to this extraordinary man…  He is basically saying the exact same thing I’ve been saying for years, only better, and he knows even more than I about how ridiculous the whole concept of running the world on solar is.  Like me, he also understands the Power of Energy Efficiency.  Even the power of a sticker…  The must see talk is here…..  it will blow you away, I guarantee it:

After seeing that, maybe I should even reconsider all my plans for Tasmania…..  like buying fifty years supply of inverters!



14 responses

23 08 2014

And we must read his book ‘Green Illusions’. Can’t believe we missed this guy.

23 08 2014
Terry J Wall (@terryjw7)

For me this was life changing; thanks Mike for bringing it to our attention

23 08 2014
Chris Harries

Unfortunately almost nobody will sit through the video clip, aside from those like us who are seriously tuned into these issues. Mike’s summary above is very digestible, though.

My overall feeling at the moment is that the renewables lobby feels like it is on a roll at the moment and the public, desperate for hope, just so wants to believe in it. The result is a level of denial that is akin to the denial about climate change and an almost religious fervour around solar and wind.

Those of us who understand these things more fully live an awkward double life – advocating renewable future but at the same time warning the advocates to keep their feet on the ground. If you cast doubts you are seen to be ‘agent provocateur’, or some of your friends suspect that you are becoming a tad unhinged.

I’m a terrible advocate for renewables because something in me draws me to being honest about these things. This goes against the popular environmental wisdom is that it is better to fake hope that isn’t really there on the grounds that this is what turns people on and its better for them to be deluded than depressed.

24 08 2014

I’ve watched Ozzie Zehner’s video and he makes a lot of sense, unfortunately. It reminds me of a video I saw of a group of young people, in France, who were building a community by hand, in the woods outside of a city. No chainsaws or power tools, beautiful barns and houses. And recycled materials. Indigenous knowledge can be lost in just a few generations. Somehow, we are going to get that back and combine it with modern knowledge and apply it to everything from medicine to agriculture. The way forward is to produce and consume a lot less and be happy about it. I’m preaching to the choir, but everything has to change to a balanced state, infinite growth has turned out to be the ultimate cancer.

24 08 2014
Shifting Away From Green Illusions | Damn the Matrix

[…] My last post has created a bit of a stir….  widely read and shared, it’s getting kick arse viewing hits.  It’s odd how Ozzie Zehner managed to fly under our combined radar screens…  so over the last couple of days I have done a bit of research on this interesting and very clever young man.  Interesting because, like me, he obviously believes spending money and energy on energy efficiency is far more valuable than anything spent on the bling on our roofs.  Also fascinating is the way people prefer to spend money and energy on the bling, simply because it’s highly visible, and it makes them look like they’re actually doing something to ‘save the planet’.  Terminology, by the way, I have learned to detest….  Whereas of course, nobody cares what sort of fridge or light bulbs you have, or whether your TV is a 60 inch screen or not. […]

24 08 2014

This is really interesting. It is what I have been thinking for quite a while, but with no information to back it up.
This is why I bought a house that was functional prior to having the electricity connected (>150 years old) and can do so again. It feels as though the whole community is rushing off down another dead end.

24 08 2014

I don’t think it is a balanced video. There are incorrect and misleading statements. He has no technical credentials. More like a scare campaign – and we have enough of them from our political leaders.

24 08 2014

No technical credentials? He’s an ENGINEER! And a scientist. And an architect. The man has more degrees than a thermometer….

24 08 2014

Sorry. I stand corrected on his credentials. But I still don’t think it’s balanced. I stopped watching when I detected internal contradictions and spin.

24 08 2014

I’m not really into ‘balance’. Some quarters of the media insist on, as an example, balance in the climate change ‘debate’. It’s a bit like having a ‘balanced debate’ over whether the Earth is flat or not…

Maybe if you can be a bit more specific..? It’s my experience that he is totally correct on everything he says. have you read this yet?

The poor energy return of PV even got airplay on ABC Radio today, and the Prieto/Hall report gets a mention…

15 09 2014
Solar | rabidlittlehippy

[…] life as we know it just by replacing coal electricity with solar or wind turbines. I watched this video, shared by Damn the Matrix the day after giving approval to go ahead with our solar panel system. Talk about give me the […]

5 11 2016
Eclipse Now

Do you have a link to the study that says EV’s produce half their pollution during manufacture? I thought it was 25% manufacture, and 25% for the roads and infrastructure they run on. (Worldchanging stat).

5 11 2016

Global Warming Potential

For all scenarios analyzed, the use phase is responsible for the majority of the GWP impact, either directly through fuel combustion or indirectly during electricity production. When powered by average European electricity, EVs are found to reduce GWP by 20% to 24% compared to gasoline ICEVs and by 10% to 14% relative to diesel ICEVs under the base case assumption of a 150,000 km vehicle lifetime. When powered by electricity from natural gas, we estimate LiNCM EVs offer a reduction in GHG emissions of 12% compared to gasoline ICEVs, and break even with diesel ICEVs. EVs powered by coal electricity are expected to cause an increase in GWP of 17% to 27% compared with diesel and gasoline ICEVs.

In contrast with ICEVs, almost half of an EV’s life cycle GWP is associated with its production. We estimate the GWP from EV production to be 87 to 95 grams carbon dioxide equivalent per kilometer (g CO2-eq/km), which is roughly twice the 43 g CO2-eq/km associated with ICEV production. Battery production contributes 35% to 41% of the EV production phase GWP, whereas the electric engine contributes 7% to 8%. Other powertrain components, notably inverters and the passive battery cooling system with their high aluminum content, contribute 16% to 18% of the embodied GWP of EVs.

Under the assumption of identical life expectancies, LiNCM EVs cause slightly less GWP impact than LiFePO4 EVs due to the greater energy density of their batteries. With the European electricity mix, the LiNCM and LiFePO4 vehicles present life cycle GWP intensities of 197 and 206 g CO2-eq/km, respectively.

Because production impacts are more significant for EVs than conventional vehicles, assuming a vehicle lifetime of 200,000 km exaggerates the GWP benefits of EVs to 27% to 29% relative to gasoline vehicles or 17% to 20% relative to diesel because production-related impacts are distributed across the longer lifetime. An assumption of 100,000 km decreases the benefit of EVs to 9% to 14% with respect to gasoline vehicles and results in impacts indistinguishable from those of a diesel vehicle. Although not discussed in detail due to space constraints, the sensitivity to lifetime assumption follows a similar pattern for other impact categories as well, with impacts associated with vehicle production being effected more significantly than those more closely associated with the use phase.

5 11 2016
Chris Harries

Basically the answer to this is: Depends whose research you read.

Some calculate that life cycle footprint of EVs is no better than that of an efficient IC-engined car, some say the reverse. Fact of life is that if the electricity is sourced from fossil fuels there’s not much in it. At least not enough differential, even on optimistic assessment, to do a hole hoop and think of EVs as world saving.

Many still earnestly advocate the rapid transition to EVs on the grounds that renewable energy production will eventually catch up over time, and on those grounds – so the argument goes – it doesn’t mater too much about their early life, even if powered by fossil fuelled electricity.

Interesting to see enthusiastic debates now about autonomous cars. Those devotees are quite passionate and they argue vociferously in favour of phasing out all people-driven cars as early as possible, even electric ones. If that agenda turns into reality EVs will not only have to be electric but autonomous as well.

Basically I look at the EV question with some cautious enthusiasm but tempered by visualisation of a choked filled highway and imagining all those wall-to-wall motor cars being electric… and wondering how much difference what sits under the bonnet would really mean.

EVs offer to society a means by which * car manufacturers can keep churning out vehicles for the next several decades, * our nuclear lifestyles can be kept intact and * our cities can remain car bound. We should welcome them to the limited extent that they marginally may reduce localised air pollution and arguably may reduce our carbon footprints, albeit under certain circumstances.

A fix-it for society they are not. The transport dilemma is mostly about mart urban planning and lifestyle change.

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