The ONLY way to reduce pollution with electric cars...

 

It’s simple,really.

The ONLY way to reduce pollution with electric cars... /img/time-value-of-co2.jpg

A long post on Medium explains with plenty of details that, besides the pollution caused by making their batteries and recharging them, there are “three more factors that further complicate the climate credentials of electric cars.”

Let’s talk about time-value

The most important among those three factors is so-called “Time-value of money, energy, and CO2”, that is explained in this way (emphasis and parentheses mine):

One dollar, kWh of energy, or ton of CO2 emissions today is worth much more than the same unit 20 years from now.

This is accounted by means of a discount rate.

For example, a commonly assumed discount rate of 8% means that one dollar in cash next year is valued at only 1/ 1.08=92.5% of a dollar in cash today.

Similarly, a dollar 20 years from now is valued at only 1, divided (1.08) to the 20th power, that is 21.5% of a dollar today.

Let’s look at the time-value of CO2 emissions

In general, assigning a correct discount rate to something, be it money, CO2 emissions or energy, is essential if we want to find out which initiatives, or policies about that “something” will will generate the greatest future returns.

Applying this kind of analysis to the cumulative CO2 emissions of electric vehicles (EVs) with a realistic discount rate that takes into account all the factors involved the result, says that post, is this graph:

The ONLY way to reduce pollution with electric cars... /img/time-value-of-co2.jpg

which basically means that, with a discount rate of 8%, corresponding to EVs “charged with relatively low-carbon electricity (e.g., Europe)”

the cumulative CO2 emissions of a hybrid vehicle exceed those of a compoarable EV only when both drive over 250K miles.

The (unsurprising) conclusion

“All considered, an EV revolution will do next to nothing to mitigate climate change, especially not one involving all the heavy and powerful cars needed to keep the hype train going and overcome range anxiety.”

Therefore, the obvious solution (even if climate change and pollution did not exist) is switching from the left half of this picture to the right one:

The ONLY way to reduce pollution with electric cars... /img/car-centric-present-vs-human-future.jpg

Why? Obvious. Because:

  • “EVs will perpetuate highly inefficient car-centered urban design”
  • “Fixing [the current] huge economic inefficiency will be impossible with electric cars [because] Fuel taxes affect only the transportation sector, but higher electricity taxes would impact the entire economy. Thus, raising electricity taxes to control demand by tripling fuel prices would never be accepted”

In other words, the ONLY way to reduce pollution with electric cars is to have LESS electric cars. No, scratch that, it’s even simpler. The only way out is policies that

  1. make owning or even leasing long term personal cars, SUVs, vans… a completely unnecessary and economically senseless choice for as many people as possible. Whatever “fuel” those cars use
  2. then yes, electrify all the vehicles that must remain, from trucks to scooters
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