If you can't explain the 'pause', you can't explain the cause...
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Electric cars 'human toxicity potential' is 180-290% higher than gasoline cars, and CO2 emissions about the same
The Detroit News: "According to a comprehensive engineering study published in the February 2013 Journal of Industrial Ecology, greenhouse gas emissions for an EV's [electric vehicle] full life cycle — from production through road use — are not much greener than a comparable gas-powered auto, and no more planet-friendly than a diesel car. Indeed, when you factor in the toxicity of materials used in battery production, it’s hard to make the case that EVs are a green alternative." “Human toxicity potential (HTP) stands out as a potentially significant category for problem-shifting associated with a shift from gas engines to EVs,” concludes the Norwegian study. “The different EV options have 180 percent to 290 percent greater HTP impacts.”
Tesla celebrated its first profitable quarter this year. (AP photo)
Auto enthusiasts were thrilled last week as green automaker Tesla made it into the black, earning $11 million profit on revenue of $562 million in the first quarter of 2013. “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t somewhat surprising to see they’ve been able to turn a profit so quickly” said Alec Gutierrez, an industry analyst for Kelley Blue Book.
A closer inspection of the numbers, however, reveals that the Palo Alto-based carmaker made its profit by selling $68 million in carbon credits to other automakers. Under a mandate that 15 percent of sales be zero-emission vehicles by 2025, California requires that automakers make a certain number of electric vehicles (EVs) or be penalized. And since Tesla makes only the athletic, $70,000 electric Model S, it has credits by the trunkload — while full-line automakers like GM pay a penalty.
“At the end of the day, other carmakers are subsidizing Tesla,” says Thilo Koslowski, an analyst at Gartner Inc. Combine the Golden State’s generous zero-emission credits with federal tax credits ($7,500) and a state rebate ($2,500) on purchase of each Model S, and the government subsidy amounts to $45,000 per car.
But the greater con is the fiction that electric cars are zero-emission vehicles.
According to a comprehensive engineering study published in the February 2013 Journal of Industrial Ecology, greenhouse gas emissions for an EV’s full life cycle — from production through road use — are not much greener than a comparable gas-powered auto, and no more planet-friendly than a diesel car. Indeed, when you factor in the toxicity of materials used in battery production, it’s hard to make the case that EVs are a green alternative.
“Almost half of an EV’s life cycle global-warming potential is associated with its production,” concluded a study group from the Department of Energy and Process Engineering at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. “We estimate the GWP from EV production (to be) roughly twice (that) with gas-engine production.”
Green proponents — from California bureaucrats to Leo DiCaprio to Barack Obama — celebrate EVs as morally superior, sustainable vehicles because they get their juice from the common wall plug, not carbon fuels. But while EVs out-green their fossil fuel cousins in the use phase, the energy-intensive process of lithium battery mining and assembly negates much of that advantage in their production phase. The Norwegian study also assumes a European electricity mix in producing batteries. In the U.S., where coal is a greater percentage of the mix, the production emissions of EVs are even higher.
Yet, another study commissioned by the British government and auto industry compared mid-size cars with electric and gas power-plants. It found EV production emissions equal to 80,000 miles traveled in a gas-powered car, meaning the electric must be driven that distance before it was as environmentally efficient as its rival. Given that range-challenged EVs serve mostly as short-hop commuter transportation, that mileage figure may never be reached — even as EVs gain credits for zero-emission superiority.
The earth impact of EVs gets more complicated still when you factor in the toxic tail of electronic equipment materials like copper and nickel.
“Human toxicity potential (HTP) stands out as a potentially significant category for problem-shifting associated with a shift from gas engines to EVs,” concludes the Norwegian study. “The different EV options have 180 percent to 290 percent greater HTP impacts.”
The urgency of global warming as a public policy issue has already been undercut by science. Cutting CO2 emissions by 80 percent by 2050, as called for by the United Nations, would insignificantly impact temperature increases — while causing gross economic harm. And the 2009 Climategate scandal exposed the doctoring of climate models.
Still, green consumers are looking to reduce their environmental impact. Tesla EVs are superb vehicles — but they are no more green than their gas-powered Caddy rivals, even as pols unfairly subsidize them with thousands of dollars.
Henry Payne’s column runs every Tuesday online. Payne is a Detroit News editorial writer and editorial cartoonist and editor of The Detroit News Politics forum. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org