Monday, August 4, 2008

The Electric Car Fallacy

Let's suppose we could wave a magic wand and make every car in the State of California an "electric' vehicle with batteries that could be charged up by just plugging those cars into any standard electrical outlet. What then? We'll, the "then" would be that California's electrical grid would totally collapse under the demand. Californians can barely keep up with their current electrical needs. This is a State who, almost every summer, has experienced the loss of electricity due to rolling blackouts.

If all the cars in this country were suddenly electric, there isn't enough infrastructure to support it. We would probably need 50 percent or more electrical generation capability than we have now. At best, we might get 20 percent of our power from new solar or wind. But, that will take years, if not decades, to build. The bulk of the electricity that will needed for any all-electric-car society will have to come from traditional source of electrical production; and, that is coal and natural gas. Both of which produce carbon; that nasty greenhouse gas.

There are over 200 million vehicles (cars, trucks, buses, boats, and airplanes) in this country that are totally dependent on some form of oil product like gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel. It will take a couple of decades to replace all of them all. Those vehicles can literally keep going all day and night by just taking a few minutes to refill their tanks with petrol; every few hundred miles. Americans aren't going to look too favorably at driving for a couple of hours (maybe four) and, then, sitting around for 12 hours while their cars charge up for another brief ride. And, there is no way that you will see a Boeing 747 "plug in" and, then, fly around the world. And, the trucking and boating industries? Forget it!

To keep America (and the world) moving, automobiles and trucks will need some kind of quick and easy replaceable fuel supply. Electricity isn't it. Electric cars need hundreds of pounds of batteries. Unless electrical batteries can be made so light weight that some-how they become hot-swappable at service stations, it is and will continue to be a useless technology. Just think about scaling up your kid's rechargeable, remote controlled car to the size of the car that is in your garage. Then, think about how big, in relationship to the toy car, those batteries would have to be. Now, you can imagine the problem.

I still say that the only truly viable replacement for gasoline/diesel vehicles will be hydrogen.

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