Friday, August 14, 2009

The Hidden Problem of Electric Cars

There are many myths surrounding electric vehicles. However, in addition to the myths there is are a few troubling realities that are ignored.

For example: The battery problem. First, of course, is the fact that no good batteries for electric cars exist. Second, every battery will degrade and need replacement within a few years. Like tires. Where will the old batteries go? Like tires, the new batteries cannot be recycled. The lead in the old lead/acid batteries is reuseable. But not forever. And lead is hazardous stuff.

New batteries will head to land-fills at a pace that reflects the popularity of electric vehicles. Maybe they will go to the same land-fills currently overflowing with old tires. However, there is no chance the batteries will find their way into road-beds and other places where chopped-up tires are buried.

Moreover, electric vehicles need a lot of batteries. Hundreds of pounds of batteries in each vehicle. Weighing more than the old internal combustion engine, but replaced roughly every five years -- if the owner of the electric vehicle is lucky.

The concept of electric vehicles includes a sense of environmental superiority. Thus, the process of mining the Earth for the components and manufacturing the batteries implies the highest standards of environmental care will guide the process. That guarantees high costs. Unless the raw materials are ripped out of the ground in a less developed nation and/or the batteries are manufactured where environmental laws are lax.

Bottom line: electric vehicles offer almost pollution-free operation. But manufacturing and disposing of these vehicles and their batteries will offset all the advantages.

Future Cars: Hybrids and Electrics in 2010 and Beyond


What's coming in hybrid and electric vehicles over the next few years? The market for electricity-sippers is expected to boom over the coming 12-24 months, with options ranging from hybrid vehicles (think of the Toyota Prius for an example) to plug-in hybrid vehicles (those that get a little extra "juice" from your wall outlet for more electric range) to pure electric vehicles (like Nissan's Leaf, running only on electric power with no tailpipe emissions) to range-extender electric vehicles (think of GM's Chevy Volt, which runs on electric power most of the time until a small gas or diesel engine starts to support long-distance driving).


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