Thursday, April 05, 2007

Electric Dreams

Johan Hari has an article in today's Independent called "Big Oil's vendetta against the electric car."

You have to admit that Johan Hari writes a good conspiracy. A lot of what he says is true, but it’s only part of the story. Electric cars are clean and silent, but only because the pollution and noise are generated at the power stations. Over 50% of the energy input to a conventional power station is lost in the process and more energy is lost as it travels across the grid, making electric cars very inefficient. Of course he may claim that we should be using green energy, but we would need to double our total electricity output to meet our transport needs. With only 4% of electricity coming from renewables at present – mostly from landfill gas and waste incineration – there is a long way to go.

The capacity of the grid would have to be doubled as well; will Mr Hari accept twice as many pylons? The other problem is that many of us have to park on the street and could not plug in our cars “like a mobile phone.” However, assuming you could charge your car and drive from London to Scotland as he claims, a 300 mile range would still leave you 100 miles short of Edinburgh.

The quoted fuel economy is impressive. Mr Hari tells us that he can buy the electrical equivalent of a gallon of petrol for only 30p. Given that a gallon of petrol contains 36kWh of energy, that is equal to less than 1p per unit. Can he tell us the name of his power supplier?

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