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If the electricity used to charge up an electric car is created by burning fossil fuels, is it better to stick with a gas-powered car with good fuel economy?

No.

There, saved you some time.

No.

There, saved you some time.

Is it really that simple?

There is some energy lost in converting heat to electricity and then into motion. And if you charge your batteries and then let the car sit, you are also losing energy.

So it seems possible that in the short term, in some limited situations an electric car might pollute more then a gas car.

That said. It's hard to strap a carbon capture plant onto the end of your tailpipe but more tenable on point sources like power plants. So in the long run, moving to electric will reduce emissions everywhere

There is some energy lost in converting heat to electricity and then into motion. And if you charge your batteries and then let the car sit, you are also losing energy.

I would imagine it's easier than taking that factory with you everywhere you go, trying to make that factory as lightweight and efficient as possible.

One large factory producing energy, and only optimized for producing energy (not weight or size) is most likely more efficient than having everyone do it in their own contained energy system.

Once you get the energy into the form of electricity, there is much less loss than trasferring heat and pressure to motion, to motion again, and then to energy, like the "high effienccy" cars we have now.

And like you said, it's easier to have one major plant to capture carbon at, than thousands of small carbon capture devices that require regulation, standarization.. etc.

"to motion again, and then to electricity"

that's what I mean.

It's better to have a plant creating electricity, feeding it into a car, and then to motion, rather than a car doing it on its own. Too many energy transfers in a car nowadays.

re: electric cars

We must always keep in mind that the electric car is just one step of many in our quest to sustainable capitalism.

If your home is coal-powered, you cannot solve the problem with an electric car any easier than you could with a new toaster- both will draw power, increase demand, result in more coal being burned.

However, couple an electric car (and lawnmower) with solar/hydro/wind or (dare I say it) nuclear (if only as a stop-gap measure), and you have "struck at the root" of carbon pollution.

Of course, this is still only a small step forward. Sustainable capitalism also requires sustainable manufacturing processes, and 100% renewable construction materials. I.e. if your new electric car runs off your solar car port, but includes a plastic dashboard, you are still funding the import of petroleum.

I am the first to admit that this transition is tedious, but I still contend that "sustainable capitalism" need not be an oxymoron.

nuclear (if only as a stop-gap measure)

I am back and forth on the nukes. If we can operate all these plants safely with 1970's technologies, then we ought to be able to run a much more safe and efficient version today.

On the other hand, A stop gap with a half life is solving a short term problem with a long term problem.

There is some energy lost in converting heat to electricity and then into motion. And if you charge your batteries and then let the car sit, you are also losing energy

So it seems possible that in the short term, in some limited situations an electric car might pollute more then a gas car.

There are fundamental reasons of physics which limit the efficiency of the traditional car engine.

The maximum possible efficiency of a heat engine, be it a coal-burning power plant or a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine, is limited by its Carnot efficiency, given by the expression [1 – (T_low / T_high)], where T_high is temperature at which heat enters the heat engine, and T_low is the temperature at which waste heat leaves the heat engine. For our purposes, T_high is, roughly speaking, the temperature at which the engine operates.

We would like to make this Carnot efficiency as close to unity (100 %) as possible. We can do this by decreasing T_low and/or increasing T_high in the above expression. But you can't do too much practically to decrease T_low as it is limited by the temperature of the environment into which the waste heat is dumped. So it is left to try to increase T_high as much as possible, and it is much more feasible to do this in a standalone fossil-fuel-burning power plant than in a car designed for safe—internal combustion, not spontaneous combustion—operation on the roads.

The thermodynamic efficiency of the internal combustion engine in an automobile is about 15%–20%. In contrast, the thermodynamic efficiency of a coal-burning plant is at least twice that.

Also, with electric cars running on electricity from coal-fired plants, any pollutants from the latter in the form of carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen and sulphur can be kept away from urban areas as much as possible. Imagine Los Angeles without smog.

full disclosure: i have a friend (or maybe a close aquaintance) who's a reporter for fox. our friendship is pretty much based on a mutual love of playing music (he's a bass player and i play guitar). he comes from, and perhaps longs for a kind of "leave it to beaver" america that i can't really relate to, but i do understand the attraction. from his side, he's aware that i'm a "settler" and he's anti-settler. so when we get together, we drink beer and play music, and don't talk about the politics of "settlerism" or "leave it to beaverism" which are actually closely related.

he's got some great stories about life as a (fox) reporter. i once had a discussion with him about tony snow, me pointing out that snow was a mouthpiece for pure evil, and him telling me snow was (this was a couple of years before he died) a musician, an accomplished "rock and roll flute player", in fact. i looked it up on youtube and, lo and behold, there's tony snow, jamming with feeling, sounding not unlike ian anderson. of course, it got boring after about a minute, but it was kind of an eye opener.

i still think that learning to see each other as human beings is one of the highest callings available to us as humans. unfortunately (i guess) this is mostly a left wing activity, so i find myself by default a left winger in spite of living in such a controversial area, just as i find myself by default a "settler", in spite of being pro "peace love and understanding". what can i do? being truly "fair and balanced" is a lot more complicated than fox news, or indeed many posters here realize.

the point i'm sort of trying to make is the same one i heard paul simon make in an interview once: that i, as a musician, can relate to/understand a right wing musician better than a left wing politician. i think this is important to know, somehow. thanks for your patience.

oh jeez, i'm sorry. that was supposed to be on the "fox news" thread. never mind.

Nice speech, Mr. Blim. Me, I prefer "change you can agree with," for some very boring, non-entertaining reasons.

Also, with electric cars running on electricity from coal-fired plants, any pollutants from the latter in the form of carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen and sulphur can be kept away from urban areas as much as possible. Imagine Los Angeles without smog.

Gee, inwit, I'm awfully glad you might someday be able to live smog-free in LA. Nevermind the devastating effects of mountaintop removal to the environment and economy of Appalachia. Or the health problems related to living downwind from a coal-fired plant. It's our pleasure, really.

I'm sorry, but the fact that most Americans remain woefully ignorant about where their electricity comes from, or about the devastation that is mountaintop removal, just really pisses me off.

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