21 votes

Electric cars are less green to make than petrol but make up for it in less than a year, new analysis reveals

49 comments

  1. [49]
    daedalus
    Link
    I find articles like this to be extremely frustrating because they are trying to justify EVs for their environmental benefit. Electric cars are fun to drive and filled with cool features, but if...
    • Exemplary

    I find articles like this to be extremely frustrating because they are trying to justify EVs for their environmental benefit. Electric cars are fun to drive and filled with cool features, but if you should never justify the purchase by thinking it's green. EV's are just a new tool to justify our insane consumption that is threatening our existence as a species and most people don't care because they value convenience so highly. About half the trips in the US are under 3 miles, something that could be easily done on bike, transit, or walking. There are so many other ways EVs pollute that are never talked about. For one, they tend to be 30% heavier than their gas counterpart, and since road wear and tear scales exponentially with weight, it would cause about 60,000 times the amount of damage to the road for someone 200lb to drive the same trip on the lightest Tesla (3,500lb) vs riding a heavy ebike (40lb). Furthermore, we are just beginning to understand the particles released by tire wear, and some studies find that even more damaging to the environment than gas emissions. And again, because of the increased weight of EVs from the batteries, their pollution is even worse in this area.

    Finally, EVs don't reduce our car dependence, they increase it. Cars have enabled so many environmentally horrific patterns like the suburbs, which use an order of magnitude more energy because things are so spread out and inefficient. The US has 8 parking spots for each person and the energy to create those is bad enough, but on top of that, the asphalt traps an enormous amount of heat which just causes even more warming. Also, because electricity is much cheaper than gas and because EVs are perceived as "green", they are actively incentivizing people to drive further and more often - the last thing we want to encourage if our goal is curbing emissions.

    I'm sorry if I'm coming off harsh, I don't intend to and tone is hard to communicate in writing. But we need to be making major changes as a society if we are going to do something about climate change and EVs aren't a change. They make people feel like they are making a difference, when their environmental impact at best is lessened a little bit. If we really want to solve climate change, we need to greatly reduce our consumption but people don't want to sacrifice, so they turn to false promises like EVs instead.

    25 votes
    1. [23]
      Akir
      Link Parent
      I find comments like yours really frustrating because they use logic so incredibly twisted that the only way they make any sense is if they came from the fossil fuel industry or if you simply live...

      I find comments like yours really frustrating because they use logic so incredibly twisted that the only way they make any sense is if they came from the fossil fuel industry or if you simply live somewhere dramatically different from where I live.

      Don’t get me wrong. I know where you are coming from and I’m just as concerned about the environment as you are. But having our cars convert to electric is a step forward, and it’s counterproductive to fight it.

      For one thing, car culture is never going to go away. The US is literally built around it. Look at how shitty it is to be a pedestrian in Houston. All of Texas is built that way. Do you think it’s realistic to flatten all of Texas and force them to rebuild in a way that they would probably not be happy with?

      This whole thing about weight and tire wear is also extremely unrealistic and doesn’t take into account what is actually being sold in the US. Did you know that the entire light truck category has basically disappeared over here? That’s because given the choice Americans always choose the larger ones. Outside of metropolitan areas it is almost like lightweight compact cars don’t exist. And why are we worrying more about the state of our roads when it was clear long ago that we cannot afford to maintain the roads we have already?

      The idea that electric cars create more consumption is frankly a laughable concept. Who on earth thinks “There are electric cars now, I guess I need to add one to my collection”? There are people who collect cars but they are extremely rare. Most car purchases are made because they are replacing an existing one, and unless you are fairly rich it’s usually because it has reached a point where the maintenance is more expensive than the car is worth.

      Now I am not saying that there isn’t wasteful car buying in the world, but they also have the side effect of creating a used market that lower income people can afford. So even if electric cars being produced are somehow “wasteful” they are not being wasted because they are going to go to people who need it and it is likely going to replace a car that has a far heavier environmental impact.

      EVs are very obviously not a solution to the climate crisis and nobody is claiming that they are. And yes, things would obviously be better if we had halfway decent public transit instead. But in our current reality it still acts as a slight break to how quickly our planet is hurtling towards oblivion.

      16 votes
      1. [6]
        daedalus
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I feel like you misunderstood the majority of what I said. This article frames EVs as more green than gas cars, and I don't think that's helpful because cars as a mode of transportation...
        • Exemplary

        I feel like you misunderstood the majority of what I said. This article frames EVs as more green than gas cars, and I don't think that's helpful because cars as a mode of transportation hilariously inefficient and by extension not green. That is what my comment was all about. Many people view EVs as these incredible devices that virtually eliminate your environmental impact in transportation, and for most people transportation is the biggest part of their individual impact. You are correct in saying that no one is explicitly saying that EVs are the sole solution to climate change, but EVs are put on this pedestal when they do very little to help the environment. Let's use the last six months for example with the build back better, a plan that was called by many news outlets America's most progressive climate legislation. And coverage after it failed to pass that called climate change policy doomed. Almost every article I could find talking about the climate parts of the bill highlight the EV investments at the top. So much of the climate parts of the bill are for EV subsides, EV chargers, energy grid infrastructure to handing more EV charging, purchasing EVs for federal use and more. But again, this investment is just not well placed. We need to be making massive changes to curb our emissions and to do that we need to not just consume more efficiently, we need to consume less. EVs are not consuming less, they are consuming a bit more efficiently with a couple of nasty side effects.

        I find comments like yours really frustrating because they use logic so incredibly twisted that the only way they make any sense is if they came from the fossil fuel industry or if you simply live somewhere dramatically different from where I live.

        How is pointing out the issues with electric cars and wanting to move as much car usage to more sustainable forms of transportation something from the fossil fuel industry?

        Don’t get me wrong. I know where you are coming from and I’m just as concerned about the environment as you are. But having our cars convert to electric is a step forward, and it’s counterproductive to fight it.

        What I'm saying is that obviously there are use cases for cars, but the vast majority of trips that are taken by car or by EV should be taking by more efficient transportation. For cases that need a car, absolutely it should be an EV. I'm fighting settling for just switching gas cars to EVs, because that isn't enough to stop climate change. Not even close.

        For one thing, car culture is never going to go away. The US is literally built around it. Look at how shitty it is to be a pedestrian in Houston. All of Texas is built that way. Do you think it’s realistic to flatten all of Texas and force them to rebuild in a way that they would probably not be happy with?

        Are we watching the same notjustbikes? Slaughter often talks about how American cities weren't built for cars, they were bulldozed for them. He also shows how good design in the Netherlands enables people to ditch cars. But they haven't always been like that. The Netherlands was also very car dependent, but they chose the welfare of people over the throughput of cars, and the whole country has benefited from it. We can do the same in the US. I don't think car culture is a given, gen z is much less interested in driving than past generations because it costs so much, they see other transportation as an option, and they see less of a need with the internet.

        Texas is huge, and the urbanist in my dies every time I visit family there (another lane did not fix traffic). However, 83% of the US lives in cities. We don't need to eliminate all car usage in Texas, we need to make Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas less car dependent. Yes, a lot of the US needs to be built better, but the situation isn't nearly as dire as you might think. I know it's an uphill battle, but it's one we need to fight for our survival as a species.

        This whole thing about weight and tire wear is also extremely unrealistic and doesn’t take into account what is actually being sold in the US. Did you know that the entire light truck category has basically disappeared over here? That’s because given the choice Americans always choose the larger ones. Outside of metropolitan areas it is almost like lightweight compact cars don’t exist. And why are we worrying more about the state of our roads when it was clear long ago that we cannot afford to maintain the roads we have already?

        That's my point. Car and trucks have gotten comically large for no good reason. People buy big vehicles not because they need them for better towing or for more space, but because they like the look better. This is horrible for the environment, people are driving around a 5,000 lb and all they are transporting is themself and a purse or bag. Also, EVs tend to be 30% heavier to their gas counterpart, not just a random car. The last gas hummer, the H3 was 4,883lb. The new Hummer EV weighs in at 9,046 lb (Not totally equivalent but still 85% heavier). That's insane. Using the math from before, that would cause about 2,000,000 times the damage to the road that an ebike would cause. The infrastructure bill has 110 billion for roads and bridges. That's a ton of money we are spending or infrastructure, and because these EVs are exponentially more damaging, we will have to spend more money that we didn't have to. That isn't green. Furthermore, the act of repaving roads causes emissions, and again, it will happen more often with heavier EVs.

        The idea that electric cars create more consumption is frankly a laughable concept. Who on earth thinks “There are electric cars now, I guess I need to add one to my collection”? There are people who collect cars but they are extremely rare. Most car purchases are made because they are replacing an existing one, and unless you are fairly rich it’s usually because it has reached a point where the maintenance is more expensive than the car is worth.

        You really didn't understand what I was saying on this one. I said nothing about people purchasing multiple cars. I said that when a person changes their vehicle from a gas to EV, they are going to be incentivized to drive more. I'm in Seattle, electricity here is very cheap, so it costs about $.023 to drive a Tesla a mile. To drive a gas car a mile assuming the 25 mpg average and the $4 a gallon gas has been hovering around you get $.16. If you have an EV, you are much less financially obligated to be wise with how much you drive because you are spending 1/7 of the cost on fuel. An EV enables people to make environmentally destructive choices like moving far away from work because cost of fuel is much much less of a factor.

        Now I am not saying that there isn’t wasteful car buying in the world, but they also have the side effect of creating a used market that lower income people can afford. So even if electric cars being produced are somehow “wasteful” they are not being wasted because they are going to go to people who need it and it is likely going to replace a car that has a far heavier environmental impact.

        One of the biggest pushbacks when you advocate to move away from car dependency is the question about lower income residents. You saw it a ton when New York was debating congestion pricing. Cars should be a luxury not a requirement. If you are poor, cars are a crushing expense, running thousands of dollars a year. Creating a used market for poor people isn't how to best car for them in terms of transportation needs, building cities with proper public transportation is how we care for lower income people. Of course that's going to take a long time with how US is built, but again, we need to do it for the sake of our world.

        We are living in an illusion in the US. Our way of life is completely unsustainable. Our need for convenience is poison. We have the audacity as Americans to think using thousands of pounds of car to get a person and their few belongings from one place to another is reasonable. That driving 30 miles to work is normal. That wasteful single family homes in the suburbs miles away from any business is society should be built. EVs prop up this system of waste and make the owner feel like they have done their part to stop climate change.

        18 votes
        1. [5]
          Akir
          Link Parent
          I'm not interested in arguing with you about any of your points, because to do so is missing my point. What you are doing with this negativity is saying that because EVs aren't enough to combat...
          • Exemplary

          I'm not interested in arguing with you about any of your points, because to do so is missing my point. What you are doing with this negativity is saying that because EVs aren't enough to combat climate change, they are bad and we shouldn't be using them. That's a very short-sighted and defeatist view. As things are, EVs are a way for individuals to have a greater positive impact on the environment than they ever have had at any time in history. I have literally never come across an EV driver who says that because they drive EV they've already saved the world; you have created a strawman in an attempt to make things far more negative than they need be.

          Everyone knows that car culture is a problem. And we all know that it's the way our world is designed that creates the necessity of car ownership. But you can't just change that overnight. The fact that most people live in cities makes that harder, not easier. You use the Netherlands as an example of a car culture that got turned around, but the US is nothing like the Netherlands; we are living in a society where most people couldn't give a damn about the public welfare and there's a huge number of people trying to dismantle whatever public programs there are. It's obvious that things need to change but right now individuals need to live in the world as it exists right now, and an EV is a massively better option for the environment than purchasing another ICE vehicle.

          Changing the status quo is a monumentally massive undertaking. Right now we have the ability to encourage people to buy EVs to reduce their overall carbon footprint. We do not have the ability to force people into dense neighborhoods or to force businesses to switch to telecommuting. The way you are arguing you are advocating for not taking one positive step when in reality we need them both to happen.

          14 votes
          1. [3]
            Cycloneblaze
            Link Parent
            No, but we need to try, and the point is that advocating electric vehicles does exactly the opposite of changing that. It locks in car culture for decades or more and the direct reduction in...

            But you can't just change that overnight.

            No, but we need to try, and the point is that advocating electric vehicles does exactly the opposite of changing that. It locks in car culture for decades or more and the direct reduction in pollution from combustion engines is simply not enough compared to all the indirect pollution that cars generate (most notoriously here in electricity generation) for that to be worth it. Your point is that it is worth it, and I at least just don't believe that. It's not.

            The way you are arguing you are advocating for not taking one positive step when in reality we need them both to happen.

            Not when one change completely undercuts the other, far more fundamental and necessary change!

            5 votes
            1. mat
              Link Parent
              Anecdote time - I have an EV and I regularly contribute positive comments to my city's plans to restrict car access and expand bike and public transport systems. I don't want to have an EV because...

              Anecdote time - I have an EV and I regularly contribute positive comments to my city's plans to restrict car access and expand bike and public transport systems. I don't want to have an EV because I'd like to not need any sort of car but if I have to have a car (and I do have to right now), I'd rather it was the best sort of car it can realistically be.

              Also if you think it's not going to take generations to get rid of "car culture" I fear you are mistaken. There's a LOT of infrastructure which needs changing, much of which would cost terrifying amounts of money to do anything about, not to mention face huge opposition. I'm not saying we shouldn't try, I absolutely think we should.

              But we can't afford to hang on to fossil-fuel ICE vehicles in the hope everyone will be on a bike or bus within a handful of years. The Netherlands have been heavily pro-bike for well over a century and it's still a minority mode of transport compared to cars (27% of trips compared to 45% by car). They arguably have the best bike infrastructure in the world and they're still not even close to getting rid of cars.

              6 votes
            2. Akir
              Link Parent
              But the idea that encouraging EV adoption will stop people from advocating against car is completely unfounded.

              But the idea that encouraging EV adoption will stop people from advocating against car is completely unfounded.

              5 votes
          2. lou
            Link Parent
            I'm going to steal that.

            I'm not interested in arguing with you about any of your points, because to do so is missing my point

            I'm going to steal that.

      2. [15]
        Grzmot
        Link Parent
        Is it really though? I think what @daedalus is getting at that the systemic changes that are currently being made to enforce a transition towards EVs could be better invested in infrastructure in...

        But in our current reality it still acts as a slight break to how quickly our planet is hurtling towards oblivion.

        Is it really though? I think what @daedalus is getting at that the systemic changes that are currently being made to enforce a transition towards EVs could be better invested in infrastructure in making transportation itself more clean, e.g. public transit, biking, walking, making cities actually denser instead of spreading everything out because cars take up a lot of space.

        The idea that electric cars create more consumption is frankly a laughable concept.

        They do, because instead of not buying another car because they don't need it, the person buys another car.

        There is also the problem that EVs rely on one large, very expensive part that sometimes has to be exchanged completely, leading to stories like the one that recently came out of Finland, where a man bought a used Tesla, which stopped working after he drove 1500km, and then the Tesla repair shop told him that a battery swap was needed, estimating the replacement cost at 20k EUR. Dude blew the car up instead, because why the fuck would you pay 20k EUR to repair a car.

        It is somewhat of an extreme case, but if my very expensive car relies on a single part working correctly, which if breaks, can warrant a repair bill ranging somewhere between 12-20k EUR, I will not buy a car like that.

        Systems like car-sharing seem a much better option, if you want to stay with personal vehicles.

        9 votes
        1. [13]
          Adys
          Link Parent
          Spending time trying to optimize every environmental effort is a fools errand. If it even somewhat moves the needle in a good direction then let it let it be. Best focus that energy against...

          the systemic changes that are currently being made to enforce a transition towards EVs could be better invested in infrastructure in making transportation itself more clean

          Spending time trying to optimize every environmental effort is a fools errand.

          If it even somewhat moves the needle in a good direction then let it let it be. Best focus that energy against projects that move the needle the other way, or spend time moving the needle on your own by creating your own initiatives.

          I'm vehemently anti-car but I appreciate the move towards electrics. If nothing else, because of the immediate effects such as noise and air pollution reductions.

          7 votes
          1. [12]
            Grzmot
            Link Parent
            Correct, so shouldn't we focus on changing city layouts and infrastructure instead? Ultimately I think we agree more than we disagree. The noise and pollution benefit of EVs in city areas would be...

            Spending time trying to optimize every environmental effort is a fools errand.

            Correct, so shouldn't we focus on changing city layouts and infrastructure instead?

            Ultimately I think we agree more than we disagree. The noise and pollution benefit of EVs in city areas would be massive, and removing a luxury from people that they already have is a difficult process to complete in a democracy.

            4 votes
            1. [5]
              Adys
              Link Parent
              Yes, but cars aren't going to disappear in that time. The switch to Electric, with rising gas prices and taxes, coupled with improving city infrastructure, will reduce car use for sure. But for...

              Correct, so shouldn't we focus on changing city layouts and infrastructure instead?

              Yes, but cars aren't going to disappear in that time. The switch to Electric, with rising gas prices and taxes, coupled with improving city infrastructure, will reduce car use for sure. But for everything else, please more electric, I'd like to stop breathing in toxic fumes.

              9 votes
              1. [4]
                meff
                Link Parent
                [rant] And noise. Please. Every time I'm biking around town, everyone around me is oblivious to how much damn noise their cars are spewing into the air because they're in a soundproofed cage. [/rant]

                I'd like to stop breathing in toxic fumes.

                [rant]
                And noise. Please. Every time I'm biking around town, everyone around me is oblivious to how much damn noise their cars are spewing into the air because they're in a soundproofed cage.
                [/rant]

                4 votes
                1. [3]
                  MimicSquid
                  Link Parent
                  Not to disagree about the issues of ICE noise, but a lot of the noise of a car is actually the noise of the wheels against the ground. I used to be worried about cycling around electric cars...

                  Not to disagree about the issues of ICE noise, but a lot of the noise of a car is actually the noise of the wheels against the ground. I used to be worried about cycling around electric cars because I was concerned that they'd be so quiet they could sneak up on me, but they're plenty noisy still.

                  4 votes
                  1. vektor
                    Link Parent
                    That's just at low speed. Below 30km/h, they're quiet enough to have mandated "noise-making" devices, and they're still significantly quieter than ICE cars below 50km/h, though no longer to the...

                    That's just at low speed. Below 30km/h, they're quiet enough to have mandated "noise-making" devices, and they're still significantly quieter than ICE cars below 50km/h, though no longer to the point of sneaking up on an alert pedestrian.

                    At high speed, wheel noises dominate, that's certainly true.

                    2 votes
                  2. meff
                    Link Parent
                    Heh you're not wrong, I added "[rant]" there just to show that I was being unrigorous and mostly emotional lol.

                    Heh you're not wrong, I added "[rant]" there just to show that I was being unrigorous and mostly emotional lol.

                    1 vote
            2. [6]
              meff
              Link Parent
              FYI There's also an environmental cost to doing this as well, it's not free. Can you articulate a calculation of the time horizon needed to "pay back" the cost of densification to overcome the...

              Correct, so shouldn't we focus on changing city layouts and infrastructure instead?

              FYI There's also an environmental cost to doing this as well, it's not free. Can you articulate a calculation of the time horizon needed to "pay back" the cost of densification to overcome the incremental savings we get from EVs?

              5 votes
              1. [5]
                vektor
                Link Parent
                Yep. Infrastructure is fucking expensive, both in terms of CO2 (concrete, asphalt) and in terms of money. Redoing the road in front of your house can be about as expensive as a new car, and that's...

                Yep. Infrastructure is fucking expensive, both in terms of CO2 (concrete, asphalt) and in terms of money. Redoing the road in front of your house can be about as expensive as a new car, and that's without expensive components like tunnels, bridges. Any plan to "redo" urban infrastructure has to (imo) do so very slowly, replacing bits of infrastructure as they need to be replaced anyway; or work with the existing infrastructure. Adding more space for public transit, bikes and pedestrians will take away space from cars; where that deal works and gives you net-positive mobility, it can work. From using public transit all my life, I can easily imagine that no reasonable amount of added transit will give you a net-positive effect on mobility (measured as time taken from point to point) for all or even most trips. So now you need to accommodate cars for the trips where public transit is ineffective, while also setting aside lots of space for greener transit options. Which is going to be an additional burden on your infrastructure.

                Let me hazard the guess that a lot of people here underestimate how hard it is to provide enough public transit service to come anywhere close to the travel times of cars. I live in urban Germany. Germany has, I think, quite a robust network of public transit, and even traveling between well-connected points you can expect twice the travel time than you would by car. If you just want to go from one suburb to another, expect way more than that.

                Well, that went on a bit of a tangent from your point, meff.

                7 votes
                1. [3]
                  Akir
                  Link Parent
                  This is one of the points that I've been trying to make, but haven't been able to fully articulate. The scale in which we will need to change everyone's minds, the scale of the buildings that...

                  This is one of the points that I've been trying to make, but haven't been able to fully articulate. The scale in which we will need to change everyone's minds, the scale of the buildings that would have to be made, and the time it will take to achieve it are all so grand I'm not even confident that I'm capable of understanding them let alone explain them.

                  In the meanwhile I'm looking at the examples near me with mixed-use buildings - shopping on the bottom and apartments on top - and it seems that most of the places are empty. That just signals to me that we have so much further to go before we get anywhere near making this pedestrian-friendly city concept into a reality.

                  In the meanwhile I see so much backlash to literally any change that's even remotely positive. People don't want to move out of their homes. Commercial real estate companies don't want to let go of their obscene rent payments. And then there's a completely different can of worms if you want to start talking about historical sites. And even then, there's a huge amount of the population who aren't interested in living in an urban community at all - how do we deal with their environmental waste?

                  6 votes
                  1. meff
                    Link Parent
                    The example of the Netherlands is a telling one. Anti-car protests broke out in the Netherlands in the 1970s. Infrastructure that urban advocates use as examples were built/finished in the last...

                    In the meanwhile I see so much backlash to literally any change that's even remotely positive. People don't want to move out of their homes. Commercial real estate companies don't want to let go of their obscene rent payments. And then there's a completely different can of worms if you want to start talking about historical sites. And even then, there's a huge amount of the population who aren't interested in living in an urban community at all - how do we deal with their environmental waste?

                    The example of the Netherlands is a telling one. Anti-car protests broke out in the Netherlands in the 1970s. Infrastructure that urban advocates use as examples were built/finished in the last 2-3 years. That's roughly 50 years to get to where the Netherlands is now. The US isn't even close to having anti-car protests. It's hard enough as is reminding Americans that a healthy public sphere is a proxy for healthy civic life. If protests were to break out today, then we could feasibly have similar culturally acceptable levels of cycling in urban areas by 2070 if we follow the same timeline.

                    4 votes
                  2. vektor
                    Link Parent
                    Oh indeed. I mean, there's bound to be some controversy with some things: There's plans in the EU to class nuclear and gas power as "green"... which, well, you can look at that cynically and just...

                    In the meanwhile I see so much backlash to literally any change that's even remotely positive.

                    Oh indeed. I mean, there's bound to be some controversy with some things: There's plans in the EU to class nuclear and gas power as "green"... which, well, you can look at that cynically and just laugh. Or you can accept that gas power will be the last fossils to go, and in terms of climate, nuclear is actually sensible (though don't talk to me about my problems with nuclear power if you don't want to get me started.) Moreover, as far as gas goes, those are power plants that are (a) super clean (b) cheap to build and (c) excellent for burning synthetic fuels we could use for long-term storage like methane. Germany for example might actually need more gas plants if we want to go fully renewable, unless we want to install a 100-200kWh battery per home. But of course, everyone knows that natural gas is a fossil fuel so EU=bad. (I've given that spiel so many times it feels like I'm playing devil's advocate by now. Let it be known that I fully admit that the EU's motives could be more cynical.)

                    Yeah, I completely agree. The fight for climate action is monumental, but to expect that we have to do one monumental thing and then we're done is reductionist, if not laughable. So what if we have pedestrian-friendly cities? People wanna visit their mom a few towns over; so they need a car. If you don't want that, guess what, we're not just committing to the massive undertaking of building people-friendly cities, which might cost, oh, I dunno, 10 trillion dollars, we're also committing to expanding rail infrastructure massively and providing cost-ineffective service to remote communities. This all will take decades to complete, by which time climate change will have had our ass for lunch twice.

                    I've made this point here before, but like WW2, climate change will not be won with massively complex, fancy megaprojects. Instead, by scaling up a reasonably affordable solution to gigascale. WW2 was not won by building 300 V2 rockets and 1000 Tiger tanks, but by 50000 shermans and 12000 B-17s. Economies of scale is where it's at, so imo we have to find a solution that we can start implementing now and then scale up.

                    1 vote
                2. meff
                  Link Parent
                  No you just detailed and articulated exactly the point I was trying to make heh. Thanks.

                  Well, that went on a bit of a tangent from your point, meff.

                  No you just detailed and articulated exactly the point I was trying to make heh. Thanks.

                  1 vote
        2. Akir
          Link Parent
          You can see my direct response to daedalus above, but I did want to address some points from your comments. People who buy new cars are almost always wasteful because they largely buy them based...

          You can see my direct response to daedalus above, but I did want to address some points from your comments.

          People who buy new cars are almost always wasteful because they largely buy them based on looks rather than necessity. I don't think that's something that will change in my lifetime. But to say that it doesn't make a difference if they buy an EV or not is extremely short sighted. If they buy an EV, they're looking at cars, so they would have bought one in either case. And if they end up buying another car to replace it it doesn't just disappear; it gets added to the used market where it will be used by others who will use it, which is likely to replace a car that generates vastly more emissions than any new car would.

          The battery story you gave us is a result of not doing simple research and instead deciding to do something idiotic instead. EVs do not have one huge battery. The "battery" they use is actually a large array of individual batteries and electronics to monitor and maintain them. Tesla famously does not service their battery packs, for which they are largely and justly criticized. There are third parties that are capable of doing this. But in any case, literally anything would have been a better idea than to blow up the car.

          5 votes
      3. NoblePath
        Link Parent
        Not entirely true. Imported Light trucks in the US are subject to a special tarriff..

        light truck category has basically disappeared over here[…]because given the choice Americans always choose the larger ones.

        Not entirely true. Imported Light trucks in the US are subject to a special tarriff..

        4 votes
    2. nacho
      Link Parent
      What I find extremely frustrating for all environmental reports and attempts at finding out what choices are environmentally good and bad, is how the methodologies and subsequent calculated...

      What I find extremely frustrating for all environmental reports and attempts at finding out what choices are environmentally good and bad, is how the methodologies and subsequent calculated emission values vary so extremely.

      There don't seem to be experts or large bodies that even evaluate the environmental costs of systems to find out what're good ways of doing this!


      For example: Even for basic things like reporting the (experimentally measurable) emissions of driving today's cars, numbers vary hugely.

      The report from this summer (PDF) that this article is based on has much, much lower emissions per kilometer than a similar report with different methodology from 2018 (PDF), both for electric vehicles and combustion engine vehicles. (The reason I use this report is this previous thread on this topic from 2021)

      Did all vehicles halve fuel/electricity usage in 3 years? No way. Who've got reliable figures and sound methodology to trust?

      On the margin, considering production costs, getting vehicles to market, the whole cycle: Should I swap out my combustion car for a new electric car, or are the emissions from producing a new car (on the order of 5000 tons of CO2 equivalents) such that I should use my low-emission, high mileage petrol car until it breaks?


      We're deep in a true environmental crisis. Why is there no huge, concentrated effort to gather the best possible data to ensure we're making actual environmental choices that matter?

      We need to fundamentally change society and behaviors on massive scales. How should we go about doing so to actually make a difference? What do we need to do to reach the global temperature goals? What do we need to stop doing, and ban through international convention?

      12 votes
    3. [24]
      Autoxidation
      Link Parent
      Sadly, cars are here to stay, especially in many parts of the US where there is not even basic walking infrastructure. Hundreds of millions of people live in these areas, and EVs are de facto...

      Sadly, cars are here to stay, especially in many parts of the US where there is not even basic walking infrastructure. Hundreds of millions of people live in these areas, and EVs are de facto greener than a combustion alternative.

      11 votes
      1. [3]
        DepartedPretzel
        Link Parent
        That doesn’t negate bus transit, which can still thrive in car-dominated infrastructure. Metropolitan areas use bus rapid transit to match car travel speeds, and can use connecting routes to reach...

        That doesn’t negate bus transit, which can still thrive in car-dominated infrastructure. Metropolitan areas use bus rapid transit to match car travel speeds, and can use connecting routes to reach more destinations. Rural areas use paratransit and demand responsive transit to meet transport needs in a sprawling area.

        Improving walkability is crucial. But if that isn’t immediately possible, then improving the availability, frequency, and reliability of bus transit could be the option. By those measures, as long as there’s quality transit near people, people will use it.

        It’s all a matter of political will. Cars are here to stay only because we and our municipal governments refuse to imagine another way. The Netherlands was car-centric in the 1970s until people demanded walkability, en masse. A similar thing is happening in car-centric Paris but much more rapidly, thanks in part to their mayor. In North America, the highly walkable and bikeable Montréal only became that way in the past decade.

        Governments waste time and money on temporary pilot programs, half-assed bike/pedestrian infrastructure, and frivilous capital upgrades for transit. Once we get serious about tangible improvements to street design and transit service, we will get people out of cars. No, it will not happen nationally in the United States. But material change is possible through regional organizing and state-level lobbying.

        It’s not hopeless. I think declaring it as such means giving up on the millions of people who won’t or can’t have a car, much less an EV.

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          meff
          Link Parent
          Advocates level the same criticisms against bus transit. Why build bus rapid transit when you can build a streetcar? It's only marginally more expensive (you need to lay track down on the road,...

          That doesn’t negate bus transit, which can still thrive in car-dominated infrastructure.

          Advocates level the same criticisms against bus transit. Why build bus rapid transit when you can build a streetcar? It's only marginally more expensive (you need to lay track down on the road, but otherwise you don't even need to give it a dedicated RoW) and instead of having high lead times due to the expense of bus drivers, you can run larger cars and automated routes, leading to high-capacity low-lead-time transit.

          It always comes back to the same calculation: cost. We can always defer the stopgap solution (EVs, bus routes, etc) for the "best" solution (car-free environments, metro, etc) but we need to weigh whether the emissions in the interim + capital expenditure needed to build this infra (tracks, RoW, signage, necessary grade separations, etc) outweighs the benefits of the infrastructure we're building over the time horizon we expect it to be used.

          1 vote
          1. MimicSquid
            Link Parent
            There's also some debate about rail vs. bus for local public transit, as rail lines are nowhere near as flexible. As long as a bus can fit along a road a new bus line can be added comparatively...

            There's also some debate about rail vs. bus for local public transit, as rail lines are nowhere near as flexible. As long as a bus can fit along a road a new bus line can be added comparatively quickly in response to changing ridership patterns, whereas building a new light rail extension is both slower and more permanent.

      2. [20]
        NoblePath
        Link Parent
        True maybe if they are used to replace other cars at the end of that car’s life. lots of people think that “upgrading” somehow increases their green measures. Social status maybe, but definitely...

        EVs are de facto greener than a combustion alternative.

        True maybe if they are used to replace other cars at the end of that car’s life. lots of people think that “upgrading” somehow increases their green measures. Social status maybe, but definitely not real impact.

        1 vote
        1. [9]
          mat
          Link Parent
          I'm not sure that argument follows, because I don't think that's how car ownership generally works. I think used cars generally move down the ownership ladder. I've only driven cars to the end of...

          I'm not sure that argument follows, because I don't think that's how car ownership generally works. I think used cars generally move down the ownership ladder. I've only driven cars to the end of their lives when I was at the bottom of that ladder, as a younger (and more broke) person, at which point I was buying them as the fifth, sixth or even more owner.

          Having EVs displace cars at the top of the ownership stack is how we eventually replace all the cars with EVs. If I sell my diesel car in place of an EV, that diesel car goes to someone else, who sells their older/crappier car to someone else - and somewhere along the line an ICE car gets scrapped (and hopefully recycled) because I bought an EV. Or even if it doesn't, even if at the end a new driver gets the end of the chain - the overall balance of cars on the road is still tipped ever so slightly towards cleaner vehicles than it would be if I hadn't bought one.

          Personally I am responsible for fractionally lower CO output now than I was before I bought an EV. It is a real impact. It's a fairly small one and it's not a magic bullet but no one thing is, and driving an EV isn't the only thing I do to help reduce my environmental impact.

          14 votes
          1. [8]
            NoblePath
            Link Parent
            Perhaps true if cars continue down the stack to the end of their useful life, and call me skeptical. I do discern that there is a strong incentive for auto manufacturers (at least) to see cars...

            Perhaps true if cars continue down the stack to the end of their useful life, and call me skeptical. I do discern that there is a strong incentive for auto manufacturers (at least) to see cars scrapped as soon as possible. I also don't see many cars much older than about 15 years on the roads. Data suggests average age is increasing, but it still less than 15 years old. And I know from personal experience that with decent maintenance, a great many cars last significantly more than 15 years.

            1. [6]
              skybrian
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              Following that link it looks like 11 years and rising? But it doesn't seem so bad given that: Some cars get a lot more miles put on them per year. Consider taxis and Uber / Lyft, or just people...

              Following that link it looks like 11 years and rising? But it doesn't seem so bad given that:

              • Some cars get a lot more miles put on them per year. Consider taxis and Uber / Lyft, or just people with long commutes.
              • We don't all live in California. In places where they salt the roads, rust can be a big issue.
              • We don't all have garages. UV exposure makes a difference.
              • Many cars aren't well maintained and do start having engine problems.
              • Accidents do happen.

              Yes there are Hondas that get 300,000 miles on them, but these other things are going to bring the averages down.

              It still makes sense to sell a car and if you can't be bothered, donating it to charity will cause it to be resold as well.

              And at the end of their life, there is significant recycling as well.

              5 votes
              1. [5]
                NoblePath
                Link Parent
                Shirley you're not suggesting this amounts to a significant percentage of passenger cars on the road. At most, this is half the cars. Also, rust has to go a long way before it actually interrupts...

                Some cars get a lot more miles put on them per year. Consider taxis and Uber / Lyft, or just people with long commutes.

                Shirley you're not suggesting this amounts to a significant percentage of passenger cars on the road.

                We don't all live in California. In places where they salt the roads, rust can be a big issue.

                At most, this is half the cars. Also, rust has to go a long way before it actually interrupts performance, it's just an eyesore until then. Also, cars manufactured since 2000 have much better bult-in rust proofing. Most cars this age have oxidized paint, but no rust, in my part of the country.

                We don't all have garages. UV exposure makes a difference.

                A difference in what? It makes cars less shiny perhaps, but I don't see how UV exposure effects performance at all.

                Many cars aren't well maintained and do start having engine problems.

                This is in fact part of the problem, along with suburbs, lack of walkability, too much red meat, etc. etc.

                Accidents do happen.

                yes. But what percentage of accients result in inoperable cars each year? And what percentage of total cars on the road? I'll wager it's not a very large percentage.

                Yes there are Hondas that get 300,000 miles on them, but these other things are going to bring the averages down.

                The primary driver (ahem) of car replacement IMO, across all age strata, is Westerner's preoccupation with the shiny and new, aka, status. Based on these age data, and what I know about how cars work, a majority of scrapped vehicles are still perfectly servicable, just undesirable.

                It still makes sense to sell a car

                Under what rubric? Short term fiancial gain perhaps, or social pressure/status. It doesn't make sense environmentally to sell a working car.

                donating it to charity will cause it to be resold as well.

                Only if there's a market.

                And at the end of their life, there is significant recycling as well.

                Well, we hope, but recycling a car that is still functional, even if you are replacing it with an EV, is a net environmental detriment.

                The folks who believe that we can tech our way out global environmental decline may ultimately be right, but based on today's technology and available data, it surely appears to me that the sobering fact is that any purchase of an EV to replace a functioning ICE car is not little more than the barest improvement over status signalling. Not far from thinking recycling programs make bottled water OK.

                1 vote
                1. skybrian
                  Link Parent
                  It makes sense to sell a car for environmental reasons because reuse is good, better than recycling. Someone who needs a car will have a car, and sometimes they are people who couldn't afford a...

                  It makes sense to sell a car for environmental reasons because reuse is good, better than recycling. Someone who needs a car will have a car, and sometimes they are people who couldn't afford a new one. A car that's sitting there parked is just taking up space while slowly decaying.

                  Like an empty apartment or house, it's a sign of inequality. A poor person with a car they don't use would sell it because they need the money. You need at least some wealth to ignore that cars are worth money.

                  And there is always a market for used cars. There are routine auctions. Prices for used cars are going up, which is a pretty good indicator that used cars are useful.

                  If you can really get by without a car then selling it is the right thing to do.

                  3 votes
                2. [3]
                  mat
                  Link Parent
                  Interesting. I'm not saying you're wrong because I don't know either way, but it would be interesting, if you have anything on hand, to see some data backing this up. Old cars are often pretty...

                  recycling a car that is still functional, even if you are replacing it with an EV, is a net environmental detriment.

                  Interesting. I'm not saying you're wrong because I don't know either way, but it would be interesting, if you have anything on hand, to see some data backing this up.

                  Old cars are often pretty inefficient. Partly because it's only been very recently that manufacturers have given a shit about optimising for mpg. Partly because they just get that way as they wear. Keeping on driving them until they die may not be the optimal use of resources.

                  A slightly tangential example but.. I have a friend who, until about four years ago, had a large CRT television because she was convinced that it was more environmentally sound to keep it rather than replace it with an LCD which would use 3-4 times less power to run. I do not know how many kWh of in-the-UK-likely-to-be-gas-or-coal-generated power got burned powering that monster or precisely where the lines cross on the graph of energy use vs energy cost of replacement but just keeping on using stuff isn't always the best solution.

                  Even if the only things you are factoring into the "should I keep or sell this car" equation is environmental cost (and that's far from the only factor for most people) it's unlikely to be a simple and straightforward answer in most situations.

                  2 votes
                  1. [2]
                    vektor
                    Link Parent
                    Depending on where you are and the type of car, this could go either way in terms of raw CO2-equivalent. Old cars can be quite efficient in terms of MPG, but their exhaust gasses are likely to be...

                    Old cars are often pretty inefficient. Partly because it's only been very recently that manufacturers have given a shit about optimising for mpg. Partly because they just get that way as they wear. Keeping on driving them until they die may not be the optimal use of resources.

                    Depending on where you are and the type of car, this could go either way in terms of raw CO2-equivalent. Old cars can be quite efficient in terms of MPG, but their exhaust gasses are likely to be full of air pollutants still. This is because (1) some manufacturers cared about fuel efficiency even back then and (2) old cars can be super light weight, what with lacking air conditioning, safety features, space, etc.

                    1 vote
                    1. mat
                      Link Parent
                      Oh, I absolutely agree and that's sort of my point. It's not a simple equation with a straightforward answer. You have to factor the use of the car in as well - driving a big old car on a bunch of...

                      Oh, I absolutely agree and that's sort of my point. It's not a simple equation with a straightforward answer. You have to factor the use of the car in as well - driving a big old car on a bunch of short journeys is very different to driving the same car on a 100 mile round trip to your Mum's house once a week. Or a small old car, the other way around. I've owned cars which sip fuel on long trips but suck at going to the shops and vice-versa.

                      Anecdotally I've never driven an older (let's say 15+ years old at time of ownership) car which got anything close to the ~65-70mpg my last two, modern, ICE cars have reliably managed, and I've owned quite a few classics over the years. But that's me, my usage, my location, my choice of vehicles. Will almost certainly be different for someone else.

            2. meff
              Link Parent
              A lot of cars over 15 years old get exported to the UAE and African countries.

              Data suggests average age is increasing, but it still less than 15 years old. And I know from personal experience that with decent maintenance, a great many cars last significantly more than 15 years.

              A lot of cars over 15 years old get exported to the UAE and African countries.

              2 votes
        2. [10]
          Autoxidation
          Link Parent
          I don't buy that argument. Ideally, we should all be doing whatever we can to reduce our carbon footprint, especially in the countries with the highest per capita emissions like the US and Canada,...

          I don't buy that argument. Ideally, we should all be doing whatever we can to reduce our carbon footprint, especially in the countries with the highest per capita emissions like the US and Canada, where our individual choices can have the largest reductions. Have gas appliances? Spend the money to replace them with electric, where those appliances will decrease their emission rate as the grid gets greener. Reduce meat consumption. Drive less, and when you do drive, choose a car with fewer emissions.

          That's not to say those should be the only changes, we need systemic changes too, but that doesn't absolve us of our agency to make changes in our own lives. It's easy to continue making the same choices laid before us. It's a little bit more difficult to spend more to make positive changes in our own lives. It's monumentally difficult to fight to end car culture in the cities that are built around it with no alternatives.

          In many cities in the US that saw substantial growth after the 1950s, it would be easier to convince the population to go vegan than it would be to change the very infrastructure and layout of the suburban hellscape that has developed. It's easier to imagine these cities begin destroyed by a disaster or war than voluntarily changing.

          3 votes
          1. [9]
            vektor
            Link Parent
            That's an important aspect wrt EVs as well, imo. EVs have an advantage over ICE cars there that is hard to enumerate: How easy it is to further reduce emissions. Let's assume that the above study...

            Spend the money to replace them with electric, where those appliances will decrease their emission rate as the grid gets greener.

            That's an important aspect wrt EVs as well, imo. EVs have an advantage over ICE cars there that is hard to enumerate: How easy it is to further reduce emissions. Let's assume that the above study (thread starter) calculated the EV emissions based on current-day mix of power generation, i.e. fossils, nuclear, some renewables. If we shift that mix to a greener one, the EVs get greener as well. An EV is future-proofed somewhat: An EV is viable in a post-carbon world, and you're ready for that world by using one. An ICE car is inherently not.

            4 votes
            1. [8]
              mat
              Link Parent
              Relevant to this is the change in spending by consumers. I used to spend money on fossil fuels for my ICE car. Now I spend money on green electricity - my supplier buys only renewably generated...

              Relevant to this is the change in spending by consumers. I used to spend money on fossil fuels for my ICE car. Now I spend money on green electricity - my supplier buys only renewably generated power and I know that doesn't mean every kWh I use comes from solar/wind/etc because sometimes it's dark/still/etc but it's still better than nothing.

              By buying an EV I have made fossil fuels a tiny bit less profitable and green energy a tiny bit more profitable. It's always going to be tiny bits but if everyone does a tiny thing, that's a big thing. And like it or not (not, personally), we live in a largely market-driven society and changing where we spend our money is one of the most powerful things we can do to change that society. Car makers are going big on EVs right now partly because of upcoming bans on ICE but largely because people want to buy them. It's the same reason I often buy vegan fake-meat products, not because I can't cook without meat, but because I want to encourage the market , so it gets better and stronger and can compete with the entrenched animal-flesh one.

              3 votes
              1. [7]
                Adys
                Link Parent
                I applaud your commitment to renewables, however I can’t help but point out spending money on green-only electricity might not have the effect you desire, for the exact same reasons I outlined the...

                I applaud your commitment to renewables, however I can’t help but point out spending money on green-only electricity might not have the effect you desire, for the exact same reasons I outlined the other day here: https://tildes.net/~talk/zxr/bitcoins_cant_it_only_go_down_from_here#comment-71ce

                If you want to move the needle, make sure you’re buying less electricity from your green supplier than you’d be buying from a fossil fuel supplier. You can achieve that by generating renewable energy on your end (eg solar panels).

                largely because people want to buy them

                I think the market was convinced because they’re not just cleaner, they feel cleaner as well. No exhaust, less noise, a world the same as the current one but with every car an EV is a much more pleasant one indeed.

                1. vektor
                  Link Parent
                  I think it's important to add a few more options to this: The core idea here is to spend money on things that directly affect emissions. Investing in green-energy-producing companies such that...

                  You can achieve that by generating renewable energy on your end (eg solar panels).

                  I think it's important to add a few more options to this: The core idea here is to spend money on things that directly affect emissions. Investing in green-energy-producing companies such that they can install solar power elsewhere could be a viable alternative if you don't own the roof above your head. Likewise, and probably more effective than any of this: Donate to super-effective charities.. There's also the answer floating about elsewhere in this thread of "why is no one doing anything?" - the people who really care and have the right incentive structure to affect genuine change instead of posturing - these people are criminally underfunded and quite obscure too. Sadly,

                  they feel cleaner as well.

                  is not the case. "I am paying for clean air nonprofit lobbying" is hardly as appealing and outwardly signalling as "1000s of trees with my name on them in Brazil" or solar on your roof and an EV in your driveway.

                2. [5]
                  mat
                  Link Parent
                  Fair point, but two points - firstly I've been on a green-only energy tariff for almost 15 years now over two houses so I'm not sure I have a meaningful point of comparison against my fossil-fuel...

                  Fair point, but two points - firstly I've been on a green-only energy tariff for almost 15 years now over two houses so I'm not sure I have a meaningful point of comparison against my fossil-fuel energy use; secondly my supplier invests heavily in renewable generation so every unit I buy does in some miniscule way increase the generation base.

                  I'd love to install solar at home because we have a large, south-facing roof and I live in a particularly sunny part of the UK - but it's a big investment I can't afford at the moment. It's getting cheaper fast though. Come back to me in five years..

                  1. [4]
                    Adys
                    Link Parent
                    When I was in the UK there were a lot of subsidies for installing solar panels and solar-powered boilers. Did they stop those?

                    I'd love to install solar at home because we have a large, south-facing roof and I live in a particularly sunny part of the UK - but it's a big investment I can't afford at the moment. It's getting cheaper fast though. Come back to me in five years..

                    When I was in the UK there were a lot of subsidies for installing solar panels and solar-powered boilers. Did they stop those?

                    1. [3]
                      mat
                      Link Parent
                      Yup, pretty sure they did. And they stopped the preferential feed-in tariff so excess power could be sold back to the grid at higher rates too. You can get cheap solar installs still, but they're...

                      Yup, pretty sure they did. And they stopped the preferential feed-in tariff so excess power could be sold back to the grid at higher rates too.

                      You can get cheap solar installs still, but they're done by companies who retain ownership of the panels and take all the excess power money for themselves. If I was very good at managing my power use and could afford a bunch of batteries (which they probably don't let you have anyway) that might be worth doing but I'd much rather own my own if possible.

                      There are some new subsidies just coming online for non-gas heating systems but they're not up-front, they're "you buy it now, we'll slowly pay you some of the cost back over the next seven years" kind of thing. I don't have the money to get ground/air source hot water/heating installed up front, that's even more expensive than solar!

                      1. [2]
                        Adys
                        Link Parent
                        what the fuck. TIL about this business model.

                        You can get cheap solar installs still, but they're done by companies who retain ownership of the panels and take all the excess power money for themselves.

                        what the fuck. TIL about this business model.

                        1. mat
                          Link Parent
                          My local council does this. They install panels on the roofs of their council houses at no cost to the tenants and the residents get to use whatever power they can while it's being generated,...

                          My local council does this. They install panels on the roofs of their council houses at no cost to the tenants and the residents get to use whatever power they can while it's being generated, which saves them some money on their electricity bills - and the council gets the feed-in money which pays the cost of the panels and later helps generate revenue for other things. Which I think is a pretty good move, it benefits everyone involved and adds to the overall renewable generation base.

                          I agree it's rather less cool when it's private companies doing it for profit.

                          2 votes