19 votes

As More Electric Cars Arrive, What's The Future For Gas-Powered Engines?

44 comments

  1. [20]
    Pilgrim Link
    I see gasoline engines mostly regulated to the world of lawn equipment, such as trimmers, lawn mowers, etc. I can also still see gasoline powered generators continuing to be important. Also it'll...

    I see gasoline engines mostly regulated to the world of lawn equipment, such as trimmers, lawn mowers, etc. I can also still see gasoline powered generators continuing to be important. Also it'll probably be awhile until watercraft move over to electric - most docks, etc aren't equipped with electrical outlets.

    Now the lawn equipment would move over to electric eventually...but if you've ever tried to do a serious job with electric lawn equipment you've probably found them lacking as I have so there is still a ways to go. The batteries either don't last long enough or you're left dragging an extension cord behind you.

    7 votes
    1. [6]
      Nmg Link Parent
      I mean, if we are talking about the environment, having a monolithic grass yard that needs to be trimmed is somewhat contrary to the idea of reducing waste, isn't it? More homes should have low...

      I mean, if we are talking about the environment, having a monolithic grass yard that needs to be trimmed is somewhat contrary to the idea of reducing waste, isn't it?

      More homes should have low maintenance and low resource native plant gardens if possible. There are already one or two in my parents' suburban neighborhood.

      10 votes
      1. [2]
        Pilgrim Link Parent
        I think a great way to start making that more popular is doing that with your own yard!

        I think a great way to start making that more popular is doing that with your own yard!

        3 votes
        1. Nmg Link Parent
          I would, but I live in a 670 sq ft (roughly 74 m^2) apartment :-)

          I would, but I live in a 670 sq ft (roughly 74 m^2) apartment :-)

          4 votes
      2. [2]
        Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
        The grass is a carbon sink: it extracts carbon dioxide from the air and fixes it in plant form (this is why planting trees is one of the strategies for fighting climate change). If it's a native...

        having a monolithic grass yard that needs to be trimmed is somewhat contrary to the idea of reducing waste, isn't it?

        The grass is a carbon sink: it extracts carbon dioxide from the air and fixes it in plant form (this is why planting trees is one of the strategies for fighting climate change). If it's a native grass that's suited to its local climate, I don't see the problem.

        2 votes
        1. Akir Link Parent
          The problem is that it very often is not native grass, so it takes a lot of resources to maintain. That's why the recommendation is to have native plants, not to leave it bare. I am doing my part...

          The problem is that it very often is not native grass, so it takes a lot of resources to maintain. That's why the recommendation is to have native plants, not to leave it bare.

          I am doing my part by having my lawn full of nothing but native, naturally growing weeds. :P

          4 votes
      3. Akir Link Parent
        I can't agree more. I just wanted to add that if this is something that interests anyone, you should check your local community college or university. They very often have resources to help their...

        I can't agree more. I just wanted to add that if this is something that interests anyone, you should check your local community college or university. They very often have resources to help their local community with gardening.

        1 vote
    2. [7]
      cfabbro (edited ) Link Parent
      Every dock I have ever been to had plenty of electric outlets, usually one at each berth, since boat engines have piss poor efficiency, so when docked it's way cheaper to just hook into the grid....

      most docks, etc aren't equipped with electrical outlets.

      Every dock I have ever been to had plenty of electric outlets, usually one at each berth, since boat engines have piss poor efficiency, so when docked it's way cheaper to just hook into the grid. But those outlets aren't designed for charging battery banks of the size that would be required to operate a boat for long periods... so your point still largely stands, even if not technically correct. ;)

      3 votes
      1. [6]
        Pilgrim Link Parent
        Thanks for the comment! I definitely do not have much marine experience. The lake we've been to didn't have electrical outlets at the dock by the cabin or the one at the gas station so I wrongly...

        Thanks for the comment! I definitely do not have much marine experience. The lake we've been to didn't have electrical outlets at the dock by the cabin or the one at the gas station so I wrongly assumed that was widely the case. I should know better!

        1 vote
        1. [5]
          cfabbro (edited ) Link Parent
          In all the "rich asshole" cottage areas I have boated in (Thousand Islands, Muskoka, etc) the docks there have generally all had electric outlets, but yeah I don't imagine that's the norm for most...

          In all the "rich asshole" cottage areas I have boated in (Thousand Islands, Muskoka, etc) the docks there have generally all had electric outlets, but yeah I don't imagine that's the norm for most cottage/cabin areas, especially on small/isolated lakes. But pretty much every "pleasure craft" berth, dock, pier and harbor I have ever been to on an ocean, major river and canal, in Ontario, British Columbia, Florida and the UK has had them widely available too... so I think overall more have electric outlets available than don't.

          p.s. I don't actually own a boat (and never could afford to) but quite a few of my friends, relatives and friends of my family do, so I have done a fair bit of boating and sailing over the years. A few times I have even gotten a private sail on the Bluenose II. :)

          1 vote
          1. [4]
            Pilgrim Link Parent
            I've never been anywhere so fancy. Fun saying about boats: The best day with a boat are the day you buy it, and the day you sell it. :)

            I've never been anywhere so fancy. Fun saying about boats: The best day with a boat are the day you buy it, and the day you sell it. :)

            2 votes
            1. [3]
              cfabbro Link Parent
              Another fun one... it's always better to be the person with a friend that owns a boat than the one that actually has to pay the bills for it. ;)

              Another fun one... it's always better to be the person with a friend that owns a boat than the one that actually has to pay the bills for it. ;)

              1 vote
              1. Pilgrim Link Parent
                Same for trucks lol!

                Same for trucks lol!

                1 vote
              2. Weldawadyathink Link Parent
                A boat is a hole in the water into which the owner shovels money.

                A boat is a hole in the water into which the owner shovels money.

                1 vote
    3. [5]
      Bedevere Link Parent
      I can't wait for the leaf blowers and lawn mowers to all be electric. I'm tired of their noise pollution more than their air pollution. There are already cheap electric leaf blowers and lawn...

      I can't wait for the leaf blowers and lawn mowers to all be electric. I'm tired of their noise pollution more than their air pollution. There are already cheap electric leaf blowers and lawn mowers for sale on Amazon. As batteries get better and cheaper, it's just a matter of time before those transition as well. Maybe even faster than cars. I couldn't imagine myself buying any gas powered yard equipment today, in this age of good Lithium Ion batteries.

      2 votes
      1. Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
        I can't wait for people to remember that brooms are an extremely low-pollution way of removing leaves from a driveway or footpath - and quiet!

        I can't wait for the leaf blowers and lawn mowers to all be electric.

        I can't wait for people to remember that brooms are an extremely low-pollution way of removing leaves from a driveway or footpath - and quiet!

        5 votes
      2. [2]
        cfabbro Link Parent
        My electric lawn mower, trimmer and leaf blower are practically as loud as my old gas powered ones were. The majority of the noise isn't from the engines IMO. Well... maybe the trimmer is a bit...

        My electric lawn mower, trimmer and leaf blower are practically as loud as my old gas powered ones were. The majority of the noise isn't from the engines IMO. Well... maybe the trimmer is a bit quieter, but it still makes a pretty loud "bzzzzzz" sound while it's spinning.

        1 vote
        1. Bedevere Link Parent
          Yeah, I guess that makes sense. My all electric quadcopter is loud AF. I guess electric cars are so quiet because there are no blades powering through the air, just turning the tires.

          Yeah, I guess that makes sense. My all electric quadcopter is loud AF. I guess electric cars are so quiet because there are no blades powering through the air, just turning the tires.

          1 vote
      3. Pilgrim Link Parent
        Yeah, it's honestly been awhile since I looked. I'll have to take stock again next time I need to buy lawn equipment.

        Yeah, it's honestly been awhile since I looked. I'll have to take stock again next time I need to buy lawn equipment.

    4. Weldawadyathink Link Parent
      I have a battery powered lawnmower, leaf blower, and weed whacker. They are spectacular. I would agree that they are not good enough for serious work, they are better than gas for anything less...

      I have a battery powered lawnmower, leaf blower, and weed whacker. They are spectacular. I would agree that they are not good enough for serious work, they are better than gas for anything less than that. They have basically zero maintenance. You never need to go to the gas station to refill your gas can. You don't have a jug of explosive liquid to store (although lithium ion is arguably just as bad on that regard). For anyone who just wants to keep their own small to medium size lawn maintained, electric is better.

      2 votes
  2. [21]
    masochist Link
    Something that a lot of electric vehicle proponents (and this article) seem to miss thinking about is that if you're powering your electric car with e.g. coal or some other non-renewable source,...

    Something that a lot of electric vehicle proponents (and this article) seem to miss thinking about is that if you're powering your electric car with e.g. coal or some other non-renewable source, you're not really making much of an impact on the environment. I am absolutely in favor of electric cars, but only if their power source is similarly clean and renewable.

    5 votes
    1. [11]
      spctrvl Link Parent
      Not really true. Electric motors, battery charging, and even large scale fossil fuel plants are much more efficient than combustion engines: the average electric car gets over 120mpg equivalent....

      Something that a lot of electric vehicle proponents (and this article) seem to miss thinking about is that if you're powering your electric car with e.g. coal or some other non-renewable source, you're not really making much of an impact on the environment.

      Not really true. Electric motors, battery charging, and even large scale fossil fuel plants are much more efficient than combustion engines: the average electric car gets over 120mpg equivalent. Even if you're running them off of nothing but coal plants, EVs offer a sharp reduction in emissions.

      34 votes
      1. [5]
        asoftbird Link Parent
        I don't mean to be (overly, if any) skeptic or anything, but have you got a source to this? I'd like to look into the numbers.

        I don't mean to be (overly, if any) skeptic or anything, but have you got a source to this? I'd like to look into the numbers.

        5 votes
        1. [2]
          spctrvl (edited ) Link Parent
          You can work it out with this calculator from the EPA. Let's take the Chevy Bolt for example. It has a 60kWh battery and a range of 240 miles. Charging it up from dead, including line losses,...

          You can work it out with this calculator from the EPA.

          Let's take the Chevy Bolt for example. It has a 60kWh battery and a range of 240 miles. Charging it up from dead, including line losses, releases 42kg of CO2 (using the current average CO2/kWh for the US as a whole). For comparison, a car that got 30mpg would burn 8 gallons of gas to go the same distance, releasing 72.1kg of CO2.

          It's a little worse than might be expected, because the fossil fuel plants that are ultimately powering an EV are only about twice as efficient as ICEs, but it also doesn't take into account the gas burned to transport the gas to stations, whereas it does take into account line losses for electricity. I tried to find figures for that, but I swear google just isn't as good as it used to be.

          9 votes
          1. dubteedub (edited ) Link Parent
            Yeah, I have had trouble for awhile finding good well to wheel vehicle emissions analyses that are not 10-20 years old at this point. It has been kind of frustrating. There is the Argonne National...

            Yeah, I have had trouble for awhile finding good well to wheel vehicle emissions analyses that are not 10-20 years old at this point. It has been kind of frustrating.

            There is the Argonne National Laboratory GREET model that includes a well to wheel analysis, but it is pretty cumbersome to use and its all in excel.

            https://greet.es.anl.gov/results

            2 votes
        2. [2]
          dubteedub Link Parent
          The US EPA's fuel economy ratings are a pretty easy demonstration of this. https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/evtech.shtml Here is a list of all EVs that show their average fuel economy is >120 miles...

          The US EPA's fuel economy ratings are a pretty easy demonstration of this.

          Energy efficient. EVs convert about 59%–62% of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels. Conventional gasoline vehicles only convert about 17%–21% of the energy stored in gasoline to power at the wheels.*

          https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/evtech.shtml

          Here is a list of all EVs that show their average fuel economy is >120 miles per gallon equivalent.

          https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/PowerSearch.do?action=noform&path=1&year1=1984&year2=2019&vtype=Electric

          11 votes
      2. [4]
        masochist Link Parent
        Huh, thank you for the correction! Much appreciated, especially as someone living in a backwards state that still seems to think that coal is just fine. I wish this kind of thing was mentioned...

        Huh, thank you for the correction! Much appreciated, especially as someone living in a backwards state that still seems to think that coal is just fine. I wish this kind of thing was mentioned more often. With that said, bring on the EVs!

        4 votes
        1. [3]
          spctrvl Link Parent
          Yeah, it can be surprising how efficient electric cars are! They kind of have to be, since batteries aren't nearly as energy dense as gasoline. Even EVs with the biggest battery packs around can...

          Yeah, it can be surprising how efficient electric cars are! They kind of have to be, since batteries aren't nearly as energy dense as gasoline. Even EVs with the biggest battery packs around can only manage to store the equivalent of 2 or 3 gallons of gas.

          3 votes
          1. [2]
            masochist Link Parent
            That is really impressive. I had no idea. Thank you for the clarifications. :)

            That is really impressive. I had no idea. Thank you for the clarifications. :)

            1 vote
            1. Maven Link Parent
              Also, quarantining the problem makes it easier to fix later, and amplifies the effectiveness of those fixes. If the entire world had to rely on solar power, then everyone would be working on a...

              Also, quarantining the problem makes it easier to fix later, and amplifies the effectiveness of those fixes. If the entire world had to rely on solar power, then everyone would be working on a single field of research instead of being split across hydro, geo, solar, natural gas, coal, etc.

      3. Akir Link Parent
        To add to this point, most developed countries are investing heavily in renewable energy. So even if your electric car is powered by coal now doesn't mean that it always will. In fact, the added...

        To add to this point, most developed countries are investing heavily in renewable energy. So even if your electric car is powered by coal now doesn't mean that it always will. In fact, the added demands for power delivery caused by electric vehicles will likely incentivize energy companies to build their next green power plant to power your grid!

        2 votes
    2. [2]
      dubteedub Link Parent
      My view on this is that we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Electric cars still dramatically reduce emissions compared to gasoline cars on a well to wheels basis. Sure much of...

      My view on this is that we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

      Electric cars still dramatically reduce emissions compared to gasoline cars on a well to wheels basis. Sure much of our electricity currently comes from coal right now, but coal use is dropping while renewables are continuing to grow as a percentage of our electricity production source.

      This is particularly true for the most part for areas with high electric vehicle adoption like California, where only 4% of electricity comes from coal and 29% from renewables.

      If our ultimate goal is to reduce emissions in our transportation space, which is the largest source of emissions as total for the US, we should encourage adoption of BEVs and other Zero Emission Vehicles like fuel cells.

      14 votes
      1. masochist Link Parent
        Thank you for all of this data! This is certainly very useful to those scientifically-minded skeptics like me. Did some digging for my state and I see we're... second highest in natural gas and...

        Thank you for all of this data! This is certainly very useful to those scientifically-minded skeptics like me. Did some digging for my state and I see we're... second highest in natural gas and third in coal, go PA! 🙄I'm grateful that my preferred means of transportation is the 100% renewable method known as walking.

        1 vote
    3. [2]
      Greg (edited ) Link Parent
      I won't rehash what others have said about efficiency, but I think it's also worth adding that going electric decouples the energy source from the vehicle - even if those cars are running on the...

      I won't rehash what others have said about efficiency, but I think it's also worth adding that going electric decouples the energy source from the vehicle - even if those cars are running on the dirtiest possible coal plant today, the state can make a concerted effort to shift them all to wind or solar without the issue of having to replace or modify millions of vehicles. Knowing that the consumer base is out there and paying for the electricity can also shift the economics in favour of building new or additional plants, which allows for more efficient tech and renewable sources.

      [Edit] Although if you really want things to get interesting you need to start accounting for the carbon emissions from extracting and processing all the lithium and rare earth elements used, among other things, and amortise them over the lifespan of the battery. And then compare it to the equivalent for all the steel that goes into a combustion engine. And a thousand other details like that.

      10 votes
      1. masochist Link Parent
        These are two very good points that I hadn't even considered. Thank you for bringing them up.

        These are two very good points that I hadn't even considered. Thank you for bringing them up.

        1 vote
    4. [3]
      cfabbro Link Parent
      That's true (edit: though spctrvl does have a good point about efficiency), but depends entirely on which country you reside in. And in my case, as a Canadian:...

      That's true (edit: though spctrvl does have a good point about efficiency), but depends entirely on which country you reside in. And in my case, as a Canadian:
      https://www.neb-one.gc.ca/nrg/sttstc/lctrct/rprt/2017cnddptnrnwblpwr/xctvsmmr-eng.html

      66% energy generation from renewables in 2015, up from 60% in 2005, with wind-power experiencing a twenty-fold increase in the same period.

      8 votes
      1. [2]
        masochist Link Parent
        I am happy to see how enlightened my neighbors are. And, yes, it's funny how the internet will say both yes and no, kind of like when you go to elves for counsel. :D

        I am happy to see how enlightened my neighbors are. And, yes, it's funny how the internet will say both yes and no, kind of like when you go to elves for counsel. :D

        3 votes
        1. cfabbro Link Parent
          Yeah, lol.. I thought it especially ironic spctrvl and I both had completely opposite statements at the beginning of our comments made only moments apart, hence my feeling compelled to make the...

          Yeah, lol.. I thought it especially ironic spctrvl and I both had completely opposite statements at the beginning of our comments made only moments apart, hence my feeling compelled to make the edit. :P

          2 votes
    5. [2]
      NaraVara (edited ) Link Parent
      You can do a back-of-the-envelope calculation to derive the supply chain differences yourself. On its face this doesn't seem right, though I'm not an expert on the subject and there might be stuff...

      You can do a back-of-the-envelope calculation to derive the supply chain differences yourself. On its face this doesn't seem right, though I'm not an expert on the subject and there might be stuff I'm not considering.

      Coal powered Electric Gas
      Extraction Extraction
      Refining Refining
      Transportation to central distribution center Transportation to central distribution center
      Transportation to local power plant Transportation to regional distribution centers
      Transmission to charging stations Transportation to gas stations
      N/A Driving to gas station to fill up the tank

      Unless gas is hugely efficient relative to coal I don't see how this shakes out (and AFAIK it's actually the opposite). You save a bunch from transmission by wire versus transmission by ferrying trucks of hazardous material around and having people make special trips to gas stations.

      And that's just pure thermodynamic efficiency. You also just lose a lot of material each time you add another leg to the transporation chain. There is some tiny amount of waste pouring things from one container to another, converting things from one state to another, pumping gas into your tank, etc. It's miniscule individually, but it adds up on the scale of the entire global economy.

      And that's ignoring accidents like trucks getting in accidents, tankers spilling, etc.

      4 votes
      1. masochist Link Parent
        These are all lovely points, thank you. The table wasn't quite clear on its own but the text after did explain things more clearly.

        These are all lovely points, thank you. The table wasn't quite clear on its own but the text after did explain things more clearly.

        2 votes
  3. [3]
    nsz Link
    I think we are still a long ways away form electric vehicles fully replacing the current capabilities of combustion engine cars. The temperature sensitivity and especially range are such big...

    I think we are still a long ways away form electric vehicles fully replacing the current capabilities of combustion engine cars. The temperature sensitivity and especially range are such big factors that really only make electric suitable to a pretty narrow California weather city commute.

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      Greg Link Parent
      I don't know enough to comment on the temperature side, but in terms of range it looks like the vast majority of Americans commute 35 miles or less, which is well within range for pretty much any...

      I don't know enough to comment on the temperature side, but in terms of range it looks like the vast majority of Americans commute 35 miles or less, which is well within range for pretty much any electric car, especially if you can leave it charging while at work. For rarer, longer distance trips, you've still got trains, planes, or a rental car as options. I fully admit it's not as convenient, but it's still very doable.

      Right now, electric cars are expensive and fossil fuels still comparatively cheap, so that's decision made for most people. Once the prices start to flip (through carbon taxes, rising fuel costs, cheaper batteries, etc.) I think the idea of using a long range combustion engine for general purpose commuting will start to be seen as a wasteful luxury, even if the electric version never quite reaches feature parity.

      4 votes
      1. nsz Link Parent
        At low temp the range gets cut by a lot, 40-50%. But also I just see cars for a different use, I've always used public transport or cycled to work. So It's always been about the long 150-300 km...

        At low temp the range gets cut by a lot, 40-50%. But also I just see cars for a different use, I've always used public transport or cycled to work. So It's always been about the long 150-300 km trips. Which sure maybe on a good day is fine in an electric but having that cut in half during the winter and then more say 5 years down the line - as the battery degrades, just does not seems like it's quite there yet.

        Very valid point on the wistful luxury, and that's probably for the best.

        1 vote