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A Brighter Future for Electric Cars and the Planet

A Brighter Future for Electric Cars and the Planet thumbnail

There is simply no credible way to address climate change without changing the way we get from here to there, meaning cars, trucks, planes and any other gas-guzzling forms of transportation. That is why it is so heartening to see electric cars, considered curios for the rich or eccentric or both not that long ago, now entering the mainstream.

A slew of recent announcements by researchers, auto companies and world leaders offer real promise. First up, a forecast by Bloomberg New Energy Finance said that electric cars would become cheaper than conventional cars without government subsidies between 2025 and 2030. At the same time, auto companies like Tesla, General Motors and Volvo are planning a slate of new models that they say will be not only more affordable but also more practical than earlier versions. And officials in such countries as France, India and Norway have set aggressive targets for putting these vehicles to use and phasing out emission-spewing gasoline and diesel cars.

Skeptics may see these announcements as wishful thinking. After all, just 1.1 percent of all cars sold globally in 2016 were electrics or plug-in hybrids. And many popular models still cost much more than comparable fossil-fuel cars.

The skeptics, however, have consistently been overly pessimistic about this technology. Electric cars face challenges, yet they have caught on much faster than was thought likely just a few years ago. There were two million of them on the world’s roads last year, up 60 percent from 2015, according to the International Energy Agency. The cost of batteries, the single most expensive component of the cars, fell by more than half between 2012 and 2016, according to the Department of Energy. Tesla has indicated that it can produce batteries for about $125 per kilowatt-hour. Researchers say the cost of electric cars will be at parity with conventional vehicles when battery prices reach $100 per kilowatt-hour, which experts say is just a few years away. Electric cars are more efficient, of course, but they also require less maintenance, which should make them cheaper to own over time.

The potential environmental benefits of electric vehicles are huge. The transportation sector accounts for 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 27 percent of emissions in the United States. Moreover, countries have found it much more difficult to reduce planet-warming gases from transportation than from power plants. In America, for example, transportation emissions again regularly exceed those from the electricity sector for the first time since the late 1970s. The switch to electric cars is good for the climate because petroleum vehicles produce more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy than power plants fueled by natural gas, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Proponents say the growth of electric cars, when combined with the surge in renewable energy sources, like solar and wind, could lead to big reductions in emissions over time. These forces should also help reduce local air pollution in countries like China and India, which is why their leaders are getting behind these technologies in a big way. Government incentives have turned China into the biggest market for electric vehicles. And an Indian government minister says his country wants all cars sold there by 2030 to be electric. France says it wants to end sales of new diesel and gasoline cars by 2040, while Norway’s goal is 2025.

Government support could prove as crucial to the future of the technology as technical advances. If countries, states and localities encourage the spread of public charging stations, through tax breaks, other incentives or public spending, more people will take the plunge and convert. If the United States and other governments continue to spend money on research to help drive down battery costs, their economies and consumers will benefit.

Some parts of the fossil fuel industry will no doubt try to sabotage the electric car revolution. In the United States, the industry is lobbying states to eliminate subsidies for the vehicles. And many analysts expect the industry to seek similar changes at the federal level from President Trump and Republican leaders in Congress, who have already made clear that they do not see climate change as a major threat. They should know, though, that the most they can do is slow down the process. The electric car has already left the garage.

NY Times

23 Comments on "A Brighter Future for Electric Cars and the Planet"

  1. Bob on Tue, 18th Jul 2017 5:10 pm 

    Electric cars are only marginally able to help the planet. We still need roads, bridges, steel, concrete, etc to make it work. Large trucks will never run on batteries. Want to save the planet? Reduce speeds on Interstates to 55 and 35 on all other roads unless posted lower. Only sell 4 cylinder cars limited to 100 horsepower. Presto! Fuel use lowered by half. Electric cars will never achieve that. But Humans fail to see and implement the obvious. Tesla toots its Ludicrous Mode and super horsepower. That is what still sells cars. Too bad for us.

  2. Cloggie on Tue, 18th Jul 2017 5:19 pm 

    The NYT forgets to mention another huge advantage: e-vehicles are silent. You can buy that pretty jome again, even if situated directly next to the motorway.

    About e-vehicles: the Netherlands for instance intends to build 5 offshore 700 MW wind parks in the coming few years.

    Two of those would be enough to power the entire Dutch private car fleet of 8 million, provided they would be Renault Zoe e-vehicles, currently the most popular e-vehicle in Europe:

    The message is clear: in a decade or so oil for cars will be a has been in several European countries. Smart money knows that.

    Bye-bye Big Oil.
    Enter Big Renewable.

    Intrinsically an e-vehicle is cheaper than a gasoline one. Because an e-motor is cheaper than an Ottomotor with all these moving parts and pumps and gears and what not.

    E-motor is simpler, weighs less, is silent and doesn’t stink and can run on renewable energy. Advantages as far as the eye can see.

  3. Harquebus on Tue, 18th Jul 2017 5:24 pm 

    Yeah, right.

    “An important frequent shortcoming in the discussion on availability of lithium is the lack of proper terminology and standardized concepts for assessing the available amounts of lithium. Published studies talk about “reserves”, “resources”, “recoverable resources”, “broad-based reserves”, “in-situ resources”, and “reserve base”.”

    “Enormous hopes are linked to electric cars as the solution to the automotive industry’s climate problems. However, electric car batteries are eco-villains during their manufacturing. Several tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) are generated even before the batteries leave the factory.”

    “But lithium is only one key component of the lithium-ion battery—the backbone of the latest energy revolution. Cobalt makes up some 35 percent of this mix, and it’s shaping up to be Tesla’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) bigger concern.”

    “It’s left some Aussie junior explorers stranded and potentially short of cash. The ASX put some of those affected into trading halts last week.
    Tanzania is a hot bed for graphite exploration as part of the electric car battery boom.”

    “it’s no secret that China wants to dominate the battery industry. The bigger the electric car market, the better for China.”
    “Just yesterday, NMT announced that the price agreed for its lithium concentrate is going from US$750 per metric tonne to US$841.”
    “We could be looking at a looming supply squeeze in the lithium sector.”

    “Still, keep an eye on events in the Congo.
    It could send every battery maker scrambling for cobalt reserves from anywhere but there.”

  4. MASTERMIND on Tue, 18th Jul 2017 7:32 pm 

    EV’s will never catch on in America. Because there are only around 86 million garages for over 250 vehicles.

  5. dave thompson on Tue, 18th Jul 2017 7:39 pm 

    The NY Times certainly likes the happy talk. Humans are way short on time when it comes to abrupt climate catastrophic change. The window of opportunity long ago closed for humans and the remaining ecosystem all life relies on. This silly idea that driving electric cars will somehow reverse this situation in the coming decades is hopelessly laughable. The sad part is that this is what the people want, magical thinking, hopium, and a dash of your head up your ass.

  6. RD on Wed, 19th Jul 2017 8:48 am 

    Only people talking about EVs are people that weren’t burning significant gas anyway. We are a long way from a meaningful impact by EVs. A long ways. I know zero people interested in owning one except as a luxury item to impress their hip friends. They will come, but at a pace well below what the fishwraps would have you believe.

  7. Outcast_Searcher on Wed, 19th Jul 2017 10:54 am 

    RD said ” I know zero people interested in owning one except as a luxury item to impress their hip friends. They will come, but at a pace well below what the fishwraps would have you believe.”

    Ah yes, the mentality that one’s personal bias / observation is a better one to use than, the assessment of industry and science overall.

    So like the doomer that says “my neighbor and brother in law are out of work, so the economy must be in a depression, and the fact that the MSM proves otherwise proves a conspiracy!”

    I’ll go with the scientists and industry. And I know a LOT of people who want one. Personally, I want to see some choice, and to be able to buy and have one serviced in/near my home city.

    So, around 2020, if Tesla and a few others are available (non-Bolt, I loathe GM) in the well under $50,000 range, I’ll be very interested in taking the plunge. I’m currently rooting for a fast Tesla Model 3 and hoping Tesla will be allowed to have dealers in my state.

  8. pointer on Wed, 19th Jul 2017 2:11 pm 

    “cars, trucks, planes and any other gas-guzzling forms of transportation”

    Yeah, right. Replace every unit of gas-guzzling transport, and see where you end up. Christ, NYT, do the math and physics.

    “I know a LOT of people who want one”

    So do I. I have one. They don’t know what they’re getting into. I can fuel up my gas-guzzler and drive from Boston to NYC in 4-5 hours non-stop. My EV barely makes it down the Mass Turnpike before it needs a recharge.


    Cloggie, come over to the US and marvel at the double-trailers making the 3000 mile trip over the Rockies bringing California Central Valley produce to the east coast at 75mph. It’ll become clear those trucks will never be battery powered, and if you could make the batteries compact enough, I doubt you’d want to be in an accident with something that can release hundreds of kwh’s in one big POOF! What’s needed is nuclear fusion in a jar or somesuch miracle.

  9. Kenz300 on Wed, 19th Jul 2017 3:56 pm 

    The future is electric.
    The only question is how fast we get there.

  10. Makati1 on Fri, 21st Jul 2017 12:39 am 

    An Elton Musk wet-dream that will be like all his other insane ideas, failures. How there can still be so many gullible people who actually send him money and believe his bullshit at this point is amazing. Proves there is a fool born every minute. lol

  11. boat on Fri, 21st Jul 2017 1:10 am 


    Musk can deliver goods to the space station and land the rocket on your apartment complex. You can rent a taxie.

  12. Makati1 on Fri, 21st Jul 2017 1:20 am 

    Boat, another insane comment from the techie peanut gallery. lol

  13. Antius on Fri, 21st Jul 2017 7:19 am 

    What may turn out to be a better energy storage system: Liquid Air.

    This would only really be efficient if combined with a waste heat source (i.e. an IC engine, burning either gasoline or some sort of synthetic fuel). But assuming it is used in that way, round trip storage efficiency can be 70%.

    Energy density is ~150-200Wh/kg, a little less than state of the art Li-ion, but embedded energy in manufacture is much lower; no rare elements are required, just stainless steel for tanks and lines and liquefaction technology is quite mature.

  14. Cloggie on Fri, 21st Jul 2017 8:20 am 

    There is still a lot of improvement possible with Lithium-ion batteries, as applied in e-vehicles:

  15. Apneaman on Fri, 21st Jul 2017 9:03 am 

    clog, how are those e-car at driving with water up past the rocker panels?

    More downpours, gales tipped as flooding emergency forces evacuations in Otago, Timaru

    I really like this one because of the picture of the BP gas station flooded out with water a third of the way up the pumps.

  16. Cloggie on Fri, 21st Jul 2017 9:11 am 

    I really like this one because of the picture of the BP gas station flooded out with water a third of the way up the pumps.

    You are shooting yourself in your own foot with that link:

    The Taieri Plain south of Dunedin is on track for its second-largest flood on record….

    The previous record for the wettest July day was in 1908, when 111mm fell.

    Keep ’em coming TalmudT.

  17. Antius on Fri, 21st Jul 2017 9:40 am 

    ‘Musk can deliver goods to the space station and land the rocket on your apartment complex. You can rent a taxie.’

    I suspect that Musk has insufficient money to fulfil his ambitions. His plans for Mars colonisation are going to require a lot more R&D than he could actually afford. But I would like to see him succeed.

    Just because his ideas appear fantastical does not mean that they will not work. Just over a hundred years ago, the idea of manned flight seemed ludicrous and absurd. And space travel is something that we have already done in a limited sense. Calling it absurd and dismissing it with handwavium does not make it so.

  18. Apneaman on Fri, 21st Jul 2017 9:46 am 

    clogscum, no problem keeping them coming because unlike in decades past where there would be one or two records broken a month somewhere on the planet and a weather disaster here or there, now it’s multiple and very costly disasters and broken records EVERY FUCKING DAY. Many of the records being broken were set in the last two decades.

    Every wonder why you are the only regular on here still denying?

    Bullock declares drought disaster in 28 counties, 5 Indian Reservations

    This one is 2 years old and if written today would read 15 of the 16 hottest years on record….

    14 of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000, UN says

    World Metereological Organisation’s analysis narrowly places 2014 as the hottest recorded since 1850, as global warming continues

  19. Cloggie on Fri, 21st Jul 2017 10:40 am 

    Bullock declares drought disaster in 28 counties, 5 Indian Reservations

    Two-hundred-year drought doomed Indus Valley Civilization

    That was 4200 years ago.


  20. Cloggie on Fri, 21st Jul 2017 10:49 am 

    I suspect that Musk has insufficient money to fulfil his ambitions. His plans for Mars colonisation are going to require a lot more R&D than he could actually afford. But I would like to see him succeed.

    Forget it. Not even NASA has enough money.

    There is no private business model that can bring the returns for an exercise that boils down to: “pissing on Mars, collect a few stones and come back in one piece.”

    It would be nice if we could continue to put a few satellites in orbit and perhaps maintain the space-station, but that’s about it.

    The real challenges are if we can:

    a) motivate ourselves to defend our civilization from overrun by third-world barbarians (by defeating the Marxists within, a Soviet 1989-style dismantling of the US empire would be a good start)
    b) set up a renewable energy base
    c) halt population growth by recolonizing Africa by Greater Europe and China
    d) combat a host of other problems like water shortages, resource depletion, etc., etc

  21. Apneaman on Fri, 21st Jul 2017 11:59 am 

    clog, you have the rhetorical skill of a retarded 12 year old. My dog could pick your lame assed, beyond amateur, arguments apart. You’re way past your due date old man.

    Anecdotal evidence

    “Anecdotal evidence (also proof by selected instances, or, more pejoratively, anecdata) is use of one or more anecdotes (specific instances of an event; stories) to either support or refute a claim. The use of anecdotal evidence to draw a conclusion is like using the NBA all-star teams to estimate the average height of Americans.”

    Cherry picking

    “Cherry picking, when used figuratively, refers to selective extraction of points in an argument in order to refute or affirm them while ignoring others which will not support the point(s) being made. It derives from the obvious reluctance to harvest unripe, or overripe, fruit and to select only those which will make profit (or pie).

    Often, cherry-picked factoids or references will be over-extrapolated and oversold to give the impression that they are representative, when they are not.”

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