Future Travel

Electric cars: cutting or increasing emissions?

0 Comments 04 March 2011

This big push towards electric cars has long puzzled me. On the face of it, the move looks like a great way to reduce emissions by replacing the internal combustion engine with batteries. However, what everyone seems to be forgetting is that in most countries electricity is generated by coal, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels around.

According to the World Coal Association, coal accounts for 41% of global electricity production. However, what is really worrying is that in some of the world’s largest countries, coal accounts for an even larger percentage of electricity production; namely the USA at 49% and China at 79%.

Take a look at the table below. Unfortunately it makes for some depressing reading:

I’m sure you’ll agree that the stats for South Africa are frankly terrifying!

This problem is worsened by rising oil prices, which only increase the push towards electric cars.  Many car companies’ vehicle development strategies champion the development of electric vehicles. Some have even gone as far as to bet their business on it, so in one form or another, the electric car is going to become commonplace on our roads in the near future.

Personally, I would like to see hydrogen power used on a large scale, which as readers of The Human Race will know is the fuel of choice in Iceland.  I can’t see this happening though. The big problem for hydrogen is the lack of an existing distribution infrastructure. This is a problem that brings us neatly back to electricity, as the infrastructure for moving large quantities of the stuff already exists in everyone’s home, leisure and work place. Therefore, for the car companies, this is a win-win; they can smoothly introduce the electric car into a consumer market already familiar with electricity, while at the same time boost their environmental credentials.

It’s unfortunate that at the very same time as electric cars become an everyday reality, electricity consumption and carbon emissions are going through the roof.

Of course there are other ways of generating electricity. Perhaps the most established is nuclear power, which whether you love or hate it is very ‘clean’ from an emissions perspective.

However, I suspect that nuclear fuel is not the answer to the world’s electricity generation problems, partly because the commissioning timelines are so long and partly because having a reactor in your back garden is even more socially unacceptable than a noisy wind farm blighting your views.

Talking of which, I think that all it will take for wind turbines to become a regular sight in many suburban gardens is a few years of sky high fuel prices. They might not look or sound great but they may shortly be a fast track option for consumers – either individually or collectively. And their widespread adoption will not only cut their domestic and business costs, but also their transport bills.

If wind farms can be rolled out on a large scale, then maybe electric cars wouldn’t be so harmful to the environment after all. But until then, we’re only swapping one problem for another.

This post was selected for the 23rd March 2011 edition of Everything Home – Blog Carnival, hosted by My DIY Home Tips.

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Reviews of The Human Race

Unputdownable. Yes, I know it's not a word, but it definitely applies here, anyway. That's the word I'm going with, to describe The Human Race by O.C. Heaton. - Hira N. Hasnain

An outstanding first novel from O.C. Heaton that catapults him into the Best Seller league… - Justine Bond

"This is an exciting, fast-paced read. The Human Race is a book that is very easy to forget to put down. Bring on part two!" - L. H. Bowers

"If you are looking for a well-plotted and well-written thriller to while away the hours of a long flight, this offering might suit you very well." - David Bryson, Amazon Top 50 Reviewer

For further reviews of The Human Race by O.C. Heaton click here.

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Charles Heaton British thriller writer O.C. Heaton, author of The Human Race, is fascinated by the past, present and future of human evolution. (Image credit: Ross Parry Agency) Read More>>

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The BeachThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timeLife of PiOuter DarkThe FirmAlexander 3: The Ends of the Earth: A Novel

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