Battery powered fantasies

HURRAY!  Cars that run on batteries are only 5 years off! Just read the article below and see for yourself.

Boy isn’t this good news!  We can live in sprawl forever! We absolutely do not have to change our ways simply because oil is getting expensive.  Indeed, we can give the finger to all those greedy oil companies and crazy nations currently giving us the finger. All we have to do is buy one of these great new battery powered cars and we’ll sail quietly into a future of more strip malls and cul de sacs.

Oops. Slight problem.  Electric cars still require a LOT of oil. From the transportation of the materials to the plastics in the inside, these slick little beauties are still drenched in oil.  This means that when oil gets expensive enough to make batteries competitive, the rest of the car will be getting really expensive too.  So, electric cars will only be for people who can afford them.  The rest of us, well, we’re just stuck paying scary prices for gas and polluting the earth.

And the whole bit about living in sprawl forever?  Lies.  Sprawl is nothing but cheap oil made visible.  Cheap oil is gone.  Sprawl will follow it.  There is no amount of battery-powered cars that can change that fact.

Folks, we’re not going to be saved by electric cars.  There are over 250 million oil powered vehicles in this country.  Time alone will dictate that we don’t get there.  It would take 30 years at 8.5 million electric vehicles a year to replace our fleet.  Right now, we are barely selling 10 million oil powered cars.  The article says that GM is planning on making 45,000 electric cars in 2012!  At that rate it would take 5,555 years to replace our combustion fleet.

The economic effects of peak oil will have changed our economy too drastically within 30 years for us to really care anymore.  As oil gets more expensive every year, keeping our economy in perma-recession, sales of expensive electric cars will drop like a stone.  Anyway, there’s very little chance of replacing the semi-truck rolling warehouse fleet that serves us 1,500 mile salads, and cheap goods from China with electric trucks.  Where would the power come from?  More coal?  Nuclear?  We don’t have enough of either to keep traffic moving.  Nor a solid enough electric grid.

Personally, it means that at some point the car you are now driving will be worthless as a trade in.  So without some huge government program, every new battery-powered car will have to be purchased without the benefit of a trade in down payment.  How’s that going to work out when nearly 1 in 6 people in the US  today are on food stamps today?

Physics is forcing a change upon us.  We can begin adapting, or we can, like the shills of the Obama administration, keep living in a fantasy world.  100 years from now, people will look back and say: “They wanted to save that way of life?  Why?”

Improved car batteries 5 years off: energy chief

By Timothy Gardner

CANCUN, Mexico | Tue Dec 7, CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) – Cars that run on batteries will begin to be competitive with ones that burn petroleum fuels in about five years, the U.S. energy secretary said at the annual U.N. climate talks.

“It’s not like it’s 10 years off,” Secretary Steven Chu said at a press conference on U.S. clean energy efforts on the sidelines of the climate talks. “It’s about five years and it could be sooner. Meanwhile, the batteries we do have today are soon going to get better by a factor of two,” said Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist.

Chu is one of three Obama administration officials that will briefly visit the talks among 190 countries being held at a Mexican beach resort through December 10. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Nancy Sutley, the head of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, are the other two.

Chu’s Department of Energy, or DOE, is supporting several approaches seeking to improve car batteries. A battery race has developed between U.S. companies like Massachusetts-based A123 and ones in Asia, like China’s BYD, of which Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns 10 percent.

South Korea‘s LG Chem is supplying General Motors with batteries for the automaker’s electric Volt car.

Petroleum-powered transportation emits about a third of the world’s greenhouse gases. Scientists say battery-powered cars reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, even if they are powered by coal-burning power plants. As more natural gas-fired plants are built, they will become even cleaner.

Right now electric cars do not go as far as ones powered by internal combustion engines, which could limit sales if there are no improvements.

Even so, GM said last month it is stepping up production of the Volt to meet “huge demand,” without giving details. GM had planned to build 10,00 Volts in 2011 and 45,000 in 2012.

Chu said car battery companies have to develop units that last 15 years, improve energy storage capacity by a factor of five to seven, and cut costs by about a factor of three in order to be make electric cars comparable to cars that run on gasoline and diesel.

While the technology may improve, it is not certain that there will be ample materials to build the batteries to support a massive move to such cars.

BYD is looking for new sources of lithium, an important ingredient in advanced batteries. Lithium supply is expected to be tight by 2050 if drivers give up their cars and go for battery-powered cars, according to a European Commission study of raw materials for high technology goods.

One unit of the U.S. DOE called the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy is making investments in batteries and other technologies considered too risky for the private sector, but that have big potential.

Chu said if one out of every 10 projects in that program, which received $400 million from President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package, made it into the market, they could help the world improve energy security and cut emissions.



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4 responses to “Battery powered fantasies

  1. Danny

    Excellent points about the battery cars. I figure we’ll start moving away from car culture about the time the state/federal governments can no longer afford to keep up the many, many miles of paved roads which litter the country. Once some of these roads start getting eaten back and reclaimed in a number of ways, car culture will start to erode, too. Of course, I’ve been called cynical and a pessimist, too.

    • Not to sound too apocalyptic, but yes, we need be able to envision a time when our streets are for vehicles other than private cars…. in the future, the questions will be asked: “why should everyone subsidize a system that only rewards those who can afford it?” “What if in 10 years less than half of Lexingtonians drive everyday, and the rest walk, ride their bike, or take transit of some sort?” (That is a very distinct possibility.) “Why should all subsidize the hundreds of miles of city streets that only serve a few people – as in most suburban development?”

      I’d say these are frightening questions to most folks.

  2. These questions are not so frightening when you believe that they can/will only happen to those “other” guys.

    The wealthy are the ones buying the hybrids and thus less gas per mile traveled. They will drive farther(on less fuel) and pay less fuel tax (from which we maintain our roads) while claiming that a subsidy on mass transit, for the few who will use it, is an imposition on all Americans. As we move to electric/battery and even hydrogen fueled autos, the divide will grow even larger yet it will always be “the other guys” who will pay a larger share of the cost.

  3. Danny

    Yeah…a friend of mine who rides the MARTA in Atlanta always makes a similar case: people claim not to want to support “public” transportation with their tax dollars, yet they pay, via their tax dollars, a ridiculous amount of money upkeeping our maze of roads. In terms of paying for public transportation, roads as they’ve developed on the American landscape are a way more inefficient use of tax dollars.

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