20 votes

Yes, electric vehicles really are better than fossil fuel burners

25 comments

  1. [20]
    daychilde
    Link
    I can't wait for prices to keep coming down. And combine this with efforts to make more and more of our electricity renewable, and it's exciting.

    I can't wait for prices to keep coming down. And combine this with efforts to make more and more of our electricity renewable, and it's exciting.

    8 votes
    1. [14]
      reese
      Link Parent
      In the US, we subsidize the oil industry with $20 billion annually. Since, apparently, we have plenty of money, we should direct it at the proliferation of electric vehicles. No, and I'm not just...

      In the US, we subsidize the oil industry with $20 billion annually.

      Since, apparently, we have plenty of money, we should direct it at the proliferation of electric vehicles. No, and I'm not just talking about tax credits that may or may not still be available. We need straight-up, direct subsidies on all qualifying electric vehicles. Get those things on the road, and do another "cash for clunkers" to decimate the aftermarket on anything else. Let the subsidy window span a hard five years, and afterward the public consciousness will still be all about electric.

      11 votes
      1. Spel
        Link Parent
        Especially electric bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles. They should get subsidized with at least as much as electric cars, and that in absolute numbers rather than percentages.

        We need straight-up, direct subsidies on all qualifying electric vehicles.

        Especially electric bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles. They should get subsidized with at least as much as electric cars, and that in absolute numbers rather than percentages.

        8 votes
      2. [2]
        Weldawadyathink
        Link Parent
        By the way, the cash for clunkers or a similar program still exists in California. It's really hard to find and not advertised in any way. It has a rolling cutoff year, so it's probably good for...

        By the way, the cash for clunkers or a similar program still exists in California. It's really hard to find and not advertised in any way. It has a rolling cutoff year, so it's probably good for any pre 2000 car now. It has to be able to be registered to drive, so it has to have passed a smog check in the last 2 years or pass a new one. My parents did this a few years ago with a 1995 accord with almost 300k miles. We got $1000 for it, and it was probably on the verge of $5000+ in repairs. The trade in value at any dealer probably wouldn't have been worth the fuel in the tank.

        5 votes
        1. Akir
          Link Parent
          Oh man, I wish I knew about that a few years ago when I had to get rid of my old car. Oh well, it ended up helping my local public radio station anyway.

          Oh man, I wish I knew about that a few years ago when I had to get rid of my old car. Oh well, it ended up helping my local public radio station anyway.

          3 votes
      3. [10]
        NaraVara
        Link Parent
        I’d rather we put it towards electric buses and decent light rail service TBH.

        I’d rather we put it towards electric buses and decent light rail service TBH.

        1. [9]
          reese
          Link Parent
          I'm in favor of an all-of-the-above approach—electric across the board. If the subsidies were strictly for public transportation, then enormous swaths of Middle America will feel left out,...

          I'm in favor of an all-of-the-above approach—electric across the board.

          If the subsidies were strictly for public transportation, then enormous swaths of Middle America will feel left out, exacerbating their resentment toward city folk which will probably just make the climate situation marginally worse at best. Over the years I've known many people who will always want their own car, and they won't ever support funding public transit because they're racist (who tends to ride the bus?), brainwashed, too lazy to ever use it, etc. But many of these people will buy a car based purely on its financial merits.

          Yeah, some will continue obstructing charging stations with pickup trucks sporting shiny, aluminum testicles. Oh well.

          The prevailing attitude in Middle America is that Mother Earth is a resource, plain and simple. Undoing the decades of propaganda responsible for this attitude is only realistic on a generational basis. Only the minority, if anyone, is willing to consider that humans affect the climate in the deepest-red counties. Still, nudging all of these individuals to adopt a paradigm far better than what we have at present, whether they fully grasp the significance or not, is as good as we can probably get. Money is a language they know.

          2 votes
          1. [8]
            NaraVara
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            I just feel like electric vehicles are basically an inevitability at this point and it’s mostly just a matter of when. Mixed use built environments and transit oriented development, though, is a...

            I just feel like electric vehicles are basically an inevitability at this point and it’s mostly just a matter of when. Mixed use built environments and transit oriented development, though, is a choice we’d have to keep making.

            The only impediment I see to electrics is that they’re still not quite cost effective for people. A Tesla needs about a $7k subsidy for be on par with a comparably performing ICE. Tesla has serious issues with scale and manufacturing practices, so there is probably more room for margins there. But none of the other electrics seem to be as good as the Teslas on battery or performance. The Polestar 2 is the coolest and most fun looking I’ve seen, but we’re looking at $50k for that after subsidy.

            There just haven’t been great options for budget buyers. The Hyundai Ioniq is probably the strongest option, but you’re paying over $30k for something with under 120hp and under 125 mile range. A hybrid Corolla comes in a few grand cheaper and SO much better optioned and with noticeably more power.

            1 vote
            1. [7]
              Akir
              Link Parent
              HP really doesn't matter that much. 120HP is perfectly fine unless you are carrying heavy loads, and if you want more power you can get the Nisan Leaf for about the same price. 120 miles sounds...

              HP really doesn't matter that much. 120HP is perfectly fine unless you are carrying heavy loads, and if you want more power you can get the Nisan Leaf for about the same price.

              120 miles sounds small compared to ICE vehicles, but that's only an issue when you don't account that with an electric car, fuel is constantly being delivered to your home. Keep in mind that the average commute is only 16 miles in the US, so you are looking at more than three times as much capacity as the average day's usage.

              1. [6]
                NaraVara
                Link Parent
                I’m talking more about value for money though. ICE cars offer so much more power, versatility, and range than comparably priced electrics. It’ll still take a while before electric cars can match...

                I’m talking more about value for money though. ICE cars offer so much more power, versatility, and range than comparably priced electrics. It’ll still take a while before electric cars can match them. Even the Tesla vs. non-Tesla comparisons aren’t favorable. The Teslas always seem just a bit better on every performance metric despite their poor economies of scale or production processes.

                1. [5]
                  Akir
                  Link Parent
                  There are a few problems with that view, though. The largest one being that you're only considering initial value; you should be comparing TCO. Electric cars not only have lower fuel costs, but...

                  There are a few problems with that view, though. The largest one being that you're only considering initial value; you should be comparing TCO. Electric cars not only have lower fuel costs, but they also have much lower maintenance costs because they are much simpler mechanically. The only necessary consumables in a Leaf are the tires and the brakes, and the brakes tend to last even longer than in ICE cars because the car has regenerative breaking. The biggest worry about electric cars was about the diminishing capacity of their battery banks, but I believe that so far reality has exceeded expectations for most battery manufacturers.

                  Power, versatility, and range are only of value if you use them often enough to warrant them. If you upgrade from a commuter vehicle to a truck because you want the ability to carry heavy loads, you should make sure that you are going to do that often enough to warrant the extra costs you are paying. I'm not saying that ICE vehicles are without their place, because sometimes these parameters are important useful features. But things like range don't tend to matter unless you are driving more than 120 miles in a single day (or fewer, depending on where you are driving). And you should also keep in mind that more power generally means more fuel consumption and more stress on the transmission, which makes the car more expensive to run.

                  1. [4]
                    NaraVara
                    Link Parent
                    This is all bloodless logic, but this isn’t how people buy cars which is much more emotional. You’re not going to see broad adoption of electrics unless the budget electrics match the feel and...

                    This is all bloodless logic, but this isn’t how people buy cars which is much more emotional. You’re not going to see broad adoption of electrics unless the budget electrics match the feel and power of an ICE. For many car buyers their vehicle is as much about status-signaling and enjoyment as it is an appliance. They need to match enjoyment per dollar as much as anything else, and the electric drive trains are still expensive enough that they end up cutting corners everywhere else.

                    1. [3]
                      Akir
                      Link Parent
                      If you want an emotional story, how about the reason why I bought my Leaf? I was looking for a fuel-efficient used car under $10K and 100K miles, and of all the cars I test drove, the Leaf...

                      If you want an emotional story, how about the reason why I bought my Leaf? I was looking for a fuel-efficient used car under $10K and 100K miles, and of all the cars I test drove, the Leaf actually performed the best; it drove through the streets like a hot knife goes through butter. And because torque is instant on electric cars, I actually drive mine in eco mode so I don't accelerate too fast. If it didn't have the performance needed for defensive driving, I would have not bought it.

                      You should also keep in mind that you are looking at a low-end electric car; other electric cars offer better performance. Tesla's model S has 513HP, nearly as much as a base model GT-R while actually costing much less.

                      ... the electric drive trains are still expensive enough that they end up cutting corners everywhere else.

                      I'm honestly taken aback from that. I know I haven't seen every electric car out there, but I have yet to see one that had any cut corners outside of early pre-Tesla experiments and failed startups. Electric drivetrains are almost laughably simple. You can see from the example illustration that it's basically just a motor attached to a simple reduction gear with a handful of industrial electric components.

                      1. [2]
                        NaraVara
                        Link Parent
                        And yet, they’re not really competing in sales with things like the Sentra because people have concerns about range and the driving is geared towards appliancey commuter experiences instead of...

                        And yet, they’re not really competing in sales with things like the Sentra because people have concerns about range and the driving is geared towards appliancey commuter experiences instead of aspirational fun ones.

                        Teslas and the Leafs are the only EVs that even sell in decent numbers. Everything else is basically rounding error still because they just don’t have them down at a price people want to spend on them yet for what they really getting.

                        1. Akir
                          Link Parent
                          I honestly don't know why you are trying to argue with me about this anymore. All I was trying to say is that electric cars are competitive with ICE cars. The fact that the Sentra sells more is...

                          I honestly don't know why you are trying to argue with me about this anymore. All I was trying to say is that electric cars are competitive with ICE cars. The fact that the Sentra sells more is irrelevant to the conversation. Regardless of what argument you are hoping to "win", I see there is nothing I can say that will make you happy.

    2. [5]
      benoliver999
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      This is more important than people are stating. It's not something we can keep batting down the line. As it stands the production of an electric car generates so much CO2 that it hurts its lower...

      combine this with efforts to make more and more of our electricity renewable

      This is more important than people are stating. It's not something we can keep batting down the line.

      As it stands the production of an electric car generates so much CO2 that it negates the benefits of hurts its lower emissions once it hits the road.

      There are figures all over the place but if you take an average, it's fair (if not generous) to say that petrol and electric put out a similar amount of CO2 from the start of manufacture to end of life.

      This is on the current grid. Switch to renewable energy and electric cars become hundreds of times better than petrol.

      Electric cars offer the potential to reduce emissions, and there are plenty of other benefits (cost, lower local pollution etc) that make them a really good thing.

      It's important however not to lose sight of the original aim, reducing CO2. Going electric is only half of the equation. At least it's a half the consumer can act on.

      5 votes
      1. [4]
        spctrvl
        Link Parent
        That's not true. Electric cars are more carbon intensive to manufacture than ICE cars, but not that much more. Extra carbon emissions from manufacture are going to be offset in the first two to...

        As it stands the production of an electric car generates so much CO2 that it negates the benefits of its lower emissions once it hits the road.
        There are figures all over the place but if you take an average, it's fair (if not generous) to say that petrol and electric put out a similar amount of CO2 from the start of manufacture to end of life.

        That's not true. Electric cars are more carbon intensive to manufacture than ICE cars, but not that much more. Extra carbon emissions from manufacture are going to be offset in the first two to three years of an EV's life.

        7 votes
        1. [3]
          benoliver999
          Link Parent
          Fair, I retract it! This brief shares both our outlooks - electric cars are superior over their lifecycle, and renewable energy is an important part of the equation. All that said it also...

          Fair, I retract it!

          This brief shares both our outlooks - electric cars are superior over their lifecycle, and renewable energy is an important part of the equation.

          All that said it also concludes that the CO2 emissions estimates for battery production vary by a factor of 10, something I have also noticed...

          5 votes
          1. [2]
            skybrian
            Link Parent
            The mix of renewable energy on the grid varies quite a lot depending on where you live, and it changes as coal plants get shut down and more alternative energy goes online, so it seems like the...

            The mix of renewable energy on the grid varies quite a lot depending on where you live, and it changes as coal plants get shut down and more alternative energy goes online, so it seems like the only broad conclusion you can make is "it depends?"

            This is why we need a carbon tax. Supply chains are complicated and it's too much to expect anyone to keep track of it by reading scientific papers. And generic advice is fairly useless. But people do know how to shop around for cheap stuff and avoid expensive stuff, and that happens at every level in the supply chain.

            6 votes
            1. daychilde
              Link Parent
              The good news is that in most places, renewable energy is slowly taking over. That trend is awesome, and will only improve as the tech means it's cheaper, so it won't take regulations to change;...

              The good news is that in most places, renewable energy is slowly taking over. That trend is awesome, and will only improve as the tech means it's cheaper, so it won't take regulations to change; it'll happen naturally.

              1 vote
  2. Sahasrahla
    Link
    There are a lot of people who claim that somehow burning fossil fuels for transportation is better for the climate than electrification. Something counterintuitive can still be true so it's nice...

    There are a lot of people who claim that somehow burning fossil fuels for transportation is better for the climate than electrification. Something counterintuitive can still be true so it's nice to see an article like this.

    Additionally, something that I don't see mentioned as much is that aside from benefits to the climate electric cars should also help improve the quality of the air we breath:

    "Across scenarios, we found the more cars that transitioned to electric power, the better for summertime ozone levels," Schnell said. "No matter how the power is generated, the more combustion cars you take off the road, the better the ozone quality."

    Particulate matter, which is also called "haze," decreased in the wintertime but showed greater variation based on location and how the power was generated. Locations with more coal-fired power in their energy mix, for example, experienced an increase in haze during the summer. Locations with clean energy sources, however, saw drastic reductions in human-caused haze.

    "We found that in the Midwest, the increased power demands of EV charging in our current energy mix could cause slight increases in summer particulate matter due to the reliance on coal-fired power generation," Schnell said. "However, if we transition more of the Midwest's power generation to renewables, particulate matter pollution is substantially reduced. In the Pacific Northwester or Northeast, where there is already more clean power available, EV adoption—even with the current energy mix—will decrease particulate matter pollution."

    Electric vehicle adoption improves air quality and climate outlook (phys.org, April 2019)

    7 votes
  3. [4]
    archevel
    Link
    Comparing a new electric car versus a new diesel/petrol car I can clearly see the environmental benefits. I am less clear when it comes to my situation. I have an old car, which still works (it...

    Comparing a new electric car versus a new diesel/petrol car I can clearly see the environmental benefits. I am less clear when it comes to my situation. I have an old car, which still works (it can go both backwards AND forwards!!!). Is it better from an environmental standpoint to buy a completely new electric car or is it better to keep driving it, repairing it as things break etc etc? There's a bunch of resources that had already gone into creating my current car so there ought to be some kind of cut-off for when its better to upgrade. Perhaps that cut-off is already in the past?

    6 votes
    1. benoliver999
      Link Parent
      You are better off driving your car if it works. Building a new car, petrol or electric, takes a lot of resources. Off the top of my head, the ~45% of CO2 emissions to come out of an electric car...

      You are better off driving your car if it works. Building a new car, petrol or electric, takes a lot of resources.

      Off the top of my head, the ~45% of CO2 emissions to come out of an electric car happen in production (the rest being electricity generated from fossil fuels).

      If you live in a place that has mostly renewable energy, it's worth the switch (from a strict CO2 standpoint). If you don't, it's probably a waste of resources to change cars when you don't need to.

      6 votes
    2. Autoxidation
      Link Parent
      You're better off buying an electric car. EVs emit nothing so pretty much their entire carbon footprint is during construction, while the reverse is true for ICE cars. 75% of a 1996 Toyota Camry's...

      You're better off buying an electric car. EVs emit nothing so pretty much their entire carbon footprint is during construction, while the reverse is true for ICE cars. 75% of a 1996 Toyota Camry's carbon footprint over a 15 year lifecycle is from burning gasoline (Table 5.4 on page 5.8). Every year you're prolonging the use of an ICE vehicle is one you're not emitting anything with an EV. Buying a new ICE vehicle is even less polluting than driving an older one, especially one from the 90s or before.

      If you get an EV, its carbon footprint will lessen over time as energy sources used to charge the EV move to cleaner options.

      5 votes
    3. skybrian
      Link Parent
      It's so hard to say. If it doesn't pollute too much then someone should probably drive the old car, but it doesn't have to be you; you could sell it and someone else will drive it. And some people...

      It's so hard to say. If it doesn't pollute too much then someone should probably drive the old car, but it doesn't have to be you; you could sell it and someone else will drive it. And some people should buy new electric cars or they will stop making them, but again, it doesn't have to be you.

      There is also what's called the "sunk cost fallacy" which means that you shouldn't care how much you paid for the car or how much resources went into manufacturing it, because you can't change the past. You already have the car, so consider it like you got it for free. The cut-off should be based solely on what you expect to happen in the future.

      I think if you're putting on a lot of miles and you can afford it, then it might make sense to buy a more fuel-efficient or electric car (maybe newer, not necessarily new). But if you're not driving much and/or are good at repairs then keeping your car makes more sense? Or even going carless.

      3 votes