By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Cities
I want electric cars to succeed. If fossil fuels are dirty and running out, and hydrogen power remains a pipe dream, electric is the way to go. But I'm not convinced that more cars solve the geographic sprawl and lengthy commutes of suburban America.
If fossil fuels are dirty and running out, and hydrogen power remains a pipe dream, electric vehicles are the way to go.
And why not? It's not as if we aren't used to plugging in everything else.
Earlier today, fellow Smart Takes blogger Larry Dignan wrote about Chevrolet's new Volt hybrid electric car, which supposedly gets 230 miles per gallon. That's an incredible feat that blows away any "hybrid" vehicle on the market today, which seem to use electricity for nominal gains in fuel efficiency.
But I'm not convinced that electric cars, which perform best in city driving, are the way to go.
Take the Volt, for example: it can ride for 40 miles on a single charge, or up to 300 miles with its fuel engine, without considering A/C and on-board weight. That's about enough to commute to work for most (but certainly not all) people before needing to recharge.
To be sure, that takes a lot of pollution-producing vehicles off the road. But to me, it's only a stopgap solution.
In my opinion, most work commuters within a 40 mile radius would be better served by a more comprehensive public transportation system.
To me, electric cars help solve a pollution problem but ignore other problems with the efficacy in which we move workers. The traffic congestion faced by these workers -- and increased time and stress associated with it -- seems to work against justifying the expense.
And who's to say electricity companies -- some of which use fossil fuels to deliver energy -- won't just raise prices?
Why not kill two birds with one stone?
If regional rail systems were bolstered, there would be a more efficient way of getting a greater metropolitan area's workers to and from the same place: the city.
That doesn't mean electric cars aren't useful, of course: in the short-term, they're still a far more efficient way to navigate the spread-out suburban communities much of America lives in.
But perhaps a comprehensive rail-vehicle plan would better address the lack of density that is a factor in everything from a town's happiness to its crime rate.
Neither aspect of this suggestion addresses workers with significant commutes, by the way. That's a problem for national high-speed rail to address.
But I wonder whether all this time, energy and money would be better spent addressing a solution that solves more problems. Then again, I doubt General Motors would want to cede its business to the light-rail industry.
That's my smart take. What's yours?
Aug 11, 2009
Bence ??ok G??zel http://www.sohbete.net
The simple truth is that electric motor can drive directly the wheels, and electricity can be generated with much more effectives energy(60+%) in compared with combustion engine vehicles, which only less than 5% energy from gasoline or fuel are used on moving human body weight and goods..
Everyone keeps working under the assumption that there is going to be some sort of choice (see post 2). The reality is that unless you live somewhere with mass transit, you will be moving, soon. At 8 dollars a gallon, Phoenix and Vegas are dead, and southern California and southern Florida will be on life support. At 12 dollars a gallon, the entire suburban model dies. If we get there in two years or 12, it does not matter, we will get there, and we should be investing in the most efficient means of moving people and food now, while we still can. Never mind high speed, just an efficient system with today's technology will make the difference in the communities that will survive vs the ones that will not.
300 miles is "about enough for most people to commute to work without a recharge" What are you talking about. You don't seem to grasp how this car works. 40 miles on the battery, the remaining mileage on gas. You can drive forever on the gas as long as you keep filling up the tank, just as people do now. In the meantime, you have 40 gas-free, pollution free miles. For many people, that will totally cover to work and back. Where is the downside? How does this do anything but make the situation better? The problem is you are treating this as if it were an either-or situation. It is not. If government wants to improve rail, they should go ahead. Government does not finance the Volt. GM does. GM does not build rail infrastructure. The government does. GM builds cars. This is a better car. Period. Full stop.
In reply to stano360. I can't speak for your Italian professor but I lived in San Diego for several years and I found public transportation to be wonderful for commuting. A monthly bus pass cost less than half of what gas cost, the trip was 10 minutes shorter, I read a book while riding and the busses ran every 15 minutes (every 45 minutes on Sunday). I did have to walk a half block from my townhouse to the bus stop and another block to the office at the other end. I was riding a bus though as the trolley didn't come to my neighborhood. I did use the trolley and the ferry to Coronado on occasion though. Unfortunately no other city that I've been in has as good of a public transportation system as California cities do. Every city could benefit from more public transportation. Electric cars would be find for puttering around town but they wouldn't help the commute much.
In a very few years time the makers will be saying "Sorry, we can't cost-effectively make any more cars using electric engines, or large batteries - we cannot source the raw materials". At the moment the planet is being raped and pillaged for rare earth elements for these vehicles. And the car market is in competition with the wind turbine market for some of these rare elements. If ever there was a non-sustainable technology, this is it! I believe the makers know it too, but don't find it convenient to mention. They are making hay and will charge super-high prices by conning the public that this is "green", while knowing that it will all turn into a fiasco.
Electric vehicles to not decrease pollution, they increase it. Consider, a vehicle like the Toyota Prius is a PZEV. Its pollution is often lower than the ambient air. Where does the electric vehicle get its fuel? Well, its not through solar, wind, or hydro. These sources are fully committed to reducing pollution for residential and industrial users. The electricity comes from the dirtiest, highest polluting sources. If the electric car did not need the energy, the dirty power plant does not need to pollute to generate the electricity. In addition, the electric vehicle does not pay road taxes so is putting the highway maintenance burden on existing users. So we, the average user, are paying for someone to travel without paying taxes and to pollute more. Doesn't seem right to me.
Used to make light rail cars and engines. To bad they shut down the manufacturing in the late fifties early sixties. I would guess that is part of what the new GM LLC scum left behind in cleanups and abandoned sites.
The great high speed rail pipe dream! Give me a break, rail only works for high-density residential tied with high density business. Somewhat with low-density residential/high density business with very long commutes. These exist in few places in our country. It is the nature of business to seek out the lowest operating costs, for many employers this is not downtown. When people cannot be dropped off within a few blocks of their job or they still require a second car to get to the station the value of rail drops considerably. Or if you can't work late without getting a ride. Do you two take public transportation? I had an Italian professor in San Diego rant on about public transportation until I asked him why he didn't take it! He could have, it just would have taken longer, totally inflexible and more expensive (even though heavily subsidized). That's why it doesn't work, look at NY or SF only a fraction of workers are actually taking public transportation even though it is readily accessible. Electric cars make great sense, if alternative electric sources are developed. Right now in CA we max out the grid sometimes in the summer, so how will we manage millions of electric cars?
Hi Andrew, I could not agree with you more. By focusing in on fuel efficient cars we will simple exacerbate the problems of urban sprawl, loss of 'community' and stress relating to work commuting. Public transport must be a focus and in such a way that it is done with the environment in mind. Keep pushing your point - it is the way forward. To further demonstrate this, take a look at this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGJt_YXIoJI