Posts Tagged ‘Electric Cars’

GM Temporarily Halts Volt Production – Blames Politics

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Cutting the Cord

The Hill is reporting that GM is putting a temporary halt to its production of its Chevy Volt, an electric car promising wonders, but failing to convince customers.  Volt sales are already heavily subsidized by the Federal government, but the problem with the car isn’t merely its price.  It has a short range, it’s impractical, and its design can lead to fires stemming from its batteries even after relatively minor collision damage.  Of course GM and the Obama administration promise this will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but I don’t see how that’s possible.  GM complains that the Volt has gotten a black eye from the politics, but the truth is that the Volt suffers another problem:  Consumers don’t want it.  For most Americans, the prospect of buying an expensive Volt with all the associated hassles is roughly as inviting as a root canal.  They have good reason to balk.

The electric current to re-charge the volt comes from power plants using a variety of sources including coal, natural gas, petroleum products, and nuclear energy. Transmitting power over a network of lines to your charging station is inefficient, because the longer the lines, the more energy is wasted along the way.  I blame much of the hype surrounding the Chevy Volt on people who understand only buzzwords, but do not understand science, or engineering.  One of the other concerns is what happens when one experiences a power outage at home.  You’re stuck if your car is not fully charged prior to the outage.  More, having to leave the car plugged in means time.  Filling a gasoline tank takes a few minutes.  Charging a Volt?  Plan on hours. Up to ten.  That means that when I leave for work at 6am, if I had arrived home at 9pm the evening before(and that’s not uncommon,) the silly thing may not be fully charged.  Most Americans can’t afford that kind of inflexibility.

In total “carbon footprint,” including its manufacture, its batteries, and its use of electrical energy from some source, an electric car is no more friendly to the environment.  The simple truth behind all of these green schemes is that until we come up with an entirely different energy source, you still have all the same basic problems.  Sure, you can burn residual fuel oils at electric generating stations, and therefore centralize the pollution, but by the time you calculate all the inefficiencies of generating electricity in one location, transmitting it many miles to another location, losing some energy every inch of the way, only to be placed in a storage cell where some is lost both charging and discharging, never mind the cost of providing outlets all over the place, and the reduced range of most of these vehicles compared to fossil-fuel powered vehicles, what you may find out is that the total impact on the environment is even greater with electric vehicles.

The only way electric vehicles become substantially better is for their source of energy to become substantially better.  At present, the best hope of so doing is to perfect nuclear fusion.  No worries about radiation or waste(or only a tiny, tiny fraction.) No worry about meltdowns.  No worries about finding new sources of radioactive materials.  Nuclear fusion promises the power of the sun, but the real obstacles are in how to technically do it.  Many programs, mostly funded by government, are carrying out designs studies and experiments.  If ever the technical difficulties are overcome, cheap and abundant electricity will be a reality, making electric cars much more practical.

Meanwhile, as GM spins its wheels chasing a technology that is not much more than a nifty science fair project in terms of its practical application in the lives of most Americans, we’re missing the big picture.  The answer lies not in how to move cars electrically, but instead how to create electric energy more cheaply.  That is what our economy fundamentally needs, and it’s a goal that may be achievable if we want it.  The problem is that at the end of the day, the environmentalists don’t want it.  What they want is a contraction in the amount of energy available to humanity, so as to suppress humanity. What that means for you is what you have seen under Barack Obama: A reduction in your standard of living and an escalating cost for every form of energy.

If you wish to make the Volt or its successors a reality, the best answer is to find the way to make electricity more cheaply.  We’ll always need the highly portable energy source that are fossil fuels, because electrics really aren’t feasible in some applications, but if we can convert most of our energy uses to electric in a environment of inexpensive electric generation, we can make that supply of fossil fuels stretch many millennia. Chasing electric cars in the near term is as frivolous as opening a baseball factory when there are no bats or ball-players.  That’s why the Volt is so heavily subsidized.  That’s why it will remain No Sale with the  American people.

 

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