Politicians who declare that they know best and only nominate electric cars to lead the race to be green are at risk of wasting valuable and proven resources provided by internal combustion engines (ICEs) coupled to batteries, and hybrid technology is the fastest way to reduce global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
Claims that battery cars are CO2 emission free are false, and although in conjunction with renewable energy they have a clear advantage over hybrids, the overall gain is perhaps not so great.
These are some of the conclusions of the book “Racing Toward Zero – The Untold Story of Driving Green” written by engineers Kelly Senecal from the US and Felix Leach from the UK, published by SAE International.
Hybrids that use small batteries (compared to the enormous batteries for electric cars only) avoid the risk of consuming large amounts of scarce and probably increasingly expensive goods such as lithium, nickel, cobalt and copper and can offer an affordable option. If electric cars that only have battery, due to artificial demand of government subsidies, come to dominate the market, this will probably earn average from their cars and on the bus price.
As the UN’s Climate Change Conference, COP 26, continues in Glasgow, Scotland, the message from politicians, environmental groups and the media seems to be an almost hysterical desire to “do something” in general and kill the ICE car in particular. . Britain has already decided that the sale of new petrol and diesel cars should end by 2030. The EU plans to do something similar by 2035 although no decision has been taken. Germany, with its government currently in limbo after the elections as political parties negotiate for power, may find itself in the same position as the United Kingdom. or fuel cells in 2030.
Given the fact that gasoline and diesel engines in today’s cars and SUVs are all but dirty, Senecal and Leach say it would be foolish to end their role too soon. These cars do not emit much in the way of toxic gases and CO2 is impossible to prevent, but claims that electric cars are “zero emission” are far from the market.
Electric cars are not ready for prime time yet. Fully electric and hybrid electric makes sense in many scenarios, but concentrating solely on electric cars for batteries risks wasting valuable property that has been around for more than 100 years and is not ready for the scrap heap.
“The electric car is not ready. And it can and must not fight this battle alone. In fact, one of the immediate ways to become green is by improving the ICE,” the authors say.
“And my message is not pro-ICE per se; its pro-diversity. Eclectic. I firmly believe that we should explore all technologies, not the one and the other, not ‘us against them,'” Senecal said.
Co-author Leach puts it this way.
“I believe we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions quickly, and we have a variety of tools and technologies at our disposal to do so. If we wait for a future of all hydrogen or all batteries with 100% sustainable electricity, I am afraid we’ll be late, “said Leach.
ICE motors still have enough room to improve efficiency. And there are carbon-neutral fuels, biofuels and synthetic fuels.
“A move away from CO2 emissions legislation and after life cycle analysis will be the key to carbon neutral fuels. On an emissions basis they still emit a lot of CO2; on a life cycle basis they have the potential CO2 emissions to be neutral and sustainable.Unfortunately, the ICE does not get a fair shake.With regulation focused on emissions only, it cannot compete with alternative technologies that do not have tailpipes.
The authors call for more Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA) that includes emissions related to the generation of electricity that drives BEVs. Current rules do not recognize that a substantial portion of the emissions are generated during production. There are also particles generated by brakes and the generally much heavier BEVs induce more inner wear. The adoption of LCA would allow a more intelligent technologically neutral approach allowing different choices to alternate the advantages and disadvantages, without compromising on contributions to climate protection.
“In other words, the future is eclectic,” Senecal says.
After using a variety of LCA methods, the authors find that BEVs emit on average about 20 to 50% less CO2 on a life cycle basis than today’s conventional ICE cars that use an average electricity mix.
“However, there is no such thing as an average person, nor is there such a thing as an average BEV – the differences in CO2 emissions depending on usage and location are large. It is also important to note that all of these studies show that BEVs are simply not zero-emission cars. The average CO2 savings of BEVs also do not take into account future advances in propulsion technology. Finally, the studies agree that hybrids offer many of the same benefits as BEVs at lower costs, and in some markets even produce lower emissions than BEVs, on both counts because of their smaller batteries, “the authors said.
“Any policy or government intervention that dictates one particular solution is likely to result in the lowest CO2 emissions or the least harm to people in general. As such, we strongly advocate the use of different automotive technologies for different applications. and locations, ”she said.
“Hybrids are the fastest way to decarbonize, given the likely limited supply of batteries in the coming decades, the rapid developments in hybrid technology, and the ICE improvements already in production,” she said.
In areas that are largely dependent on coal and natural gas for electricity production, hybrids may be the best general choice. (Germany, for example, uses coal to generate more than 20% of its electricity). In an electrically not based on high renewable energy, BEVs may be the best solution, at least from a climate point of view. Despite these nuanced findings, governments have already chosen BEVs as winners. This may be the right call in the long run, but not necessarily.
Current electric cars perform well in short range, average urban roles, but fall short on longer journeys.
“For the average trip it is ideal, but for that one-time long trip it needs an enormous battery pack, with all the accompanying embedded CO2, which is then also carried on all short trips. This makes the car not only more expensive but also heavier, less energy efficient, and a greater offender of emitting non-exhaust particles. A PHEV may theoretically be the best solution, but it also depends heavily on consumer behavior, “she said.
Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) can be charged independently and have an electrical-only range of about 30 miles, although recent iterations can provide 50 independent miles or more. Overall range can be at least 400 miles. Use self-charging hybrids batteries that cooperate with the ICE motor to maximize its efficiency.Electric-only range is probably less than 1 mile).
The authors make a powerful case that it is too early to write off the benefits of ICE technology in favor of an unnecessary and perhaps counterproductive quest for perfection. The French philosopher Voltaire almost said “do not let the search for perfection stand in the way of a great solution”. The authors’ support for plug-in hybrids and self-charging is ridiculed by green advocates such as the Brussels-based Transport and Environment, who can not overcome the idea that some PHEV company car drivers may be abusing the system and not using the technology. use well because they do not pay for the fuel and have no incentive to save. But that means throwing away a perfectly acceptable interim solution unnecessarily.
My own preference is thinking that European manufacturers are going a cul-de-sac with their failed quest to make electric cars as good as today’s ICE. This takes away monster batteries that take into account masses of CO2 that certainly undermine the point of exercise in the first place. Manufacturers need to lower their technical ambitions and embrace usability. The small electric city car of less than € 10,000, with a range of 100 miles and a top speed of 60 mph, would be ideal for commuting, schooling and shopping and would really realize maybe 90% of the required capacity. Think of a golf cart on steroids. Instead of unaffordable electric ICE cars selling only with massive subsidies financed by taxpayers, this theoretical small car would be embraced by buyers on average salaries. You can always rent a plug-in hybrid for the summer race to the sun. Or keep one locked up in the garage for 11 months of the year.