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Environmentalist on NPR assails EVs as worse than ICEs, calls for walking and biking

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by anticitizen13.7, Jul 29, 2013.

  1. anticitizen13.7

    anticitizen13.7 Enemy of the Status Quo

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    Former GM employee Ozzie Zehner was interviewed at Boston's NPR affiliate today, and sparked a firestorm of controversy:

    http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/07/29/electric-cars-green


    Here's his article at IEEE Spectrum: http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/renewables/unclean-at-any-speed

    Basically, Mr. Zehner's argument is twofold:

    (1) Electric cars are typically built with aluminum, and require more copper, rare earths (does not apply to Tesla induction motor, I believe), and lithium. He says that the extra energy required for these metals raises the carbon footprint, as well as emissions of other bad stuff like particulates.

    (2) The "shifted tailpipe" argument.

    His argument is based on this study, which I have not had time to read: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12794

    He says that advocates of EVs over ICEs are like doctors recommending that smokers change their brand of cigarettes:eek:

    Ozzie Zehner's solution: "If legislators truly wish to reduce fossil-fuel dependence, they could prioritize the transition to pedestrian- and bike-friendly neighborhoods" and "reduce suburban sprawl".

    For this, he was attacked by people on the political Right as a "radical environmentalist"
    And assailed by those on the political Left as a shill for oil companies who don't want EVs to succeed

    :eek:

    So why did I post this?

    I am curious if there is a lifecycle CO2/Energy/Polution study on the Model S versus a comparable ICE like a BMW 5 series. Is there merit to what this fellow is saying, or is his conclusion based on outdated information?
     
  2. ChadS

    ChadS Petroleum is for sissies

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    Do a search for Ozzie Zehner on these forums. His specific claims about EVs have been pretty well debunked here.

    For that matter, do a search of Ozzie Zehner on the internet. He lies about a lot of technologies. He's afraid we will become complacent with electric cars and never make the move to bicycles, so he's lying about EVs to keep environmentalists on his side.

    Me, I don't like anybody who lies; I don't care what your reasons are. If you can't get people on your side without lying, maybe you need to rethink your goals.
     
  3. brianman

    brianman Burrito Founder

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    ... and have your ethics checked. Maybe a lobotomy reset.
     
  4. dsm363

    dsm363 Roadster + Sig Model S

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    His ultimate goal of reduced urban sprawl and designing cities with walking and biking in mind is a good one but lofty. Lying and attacking EVs to make his point is not cool and will get him nowhere.
     
  5. Zythryn

    Zythryn MS 70D, MX 90D

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    As far as green house gasses, walking and biking is definitely better than an EV.
    However, EVs are definitely better than an ICE unless you twist the data and initial assumptions.
     
  6. Al Sherman

    Al Sherman It's about THIS car.

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    Figures lie, and liars figure. Yes, but the "shifted tailpipe" argument for me is the last one we need to definitively debunk. I know in my heart and mind that it's nonsense but it's the hardest one for me to shutdown without question. It's the one that all the EV bashers are holding onto the longest and strongest.
     
  7. robballan

    robballan Member

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    Zehner may not be credible; I don't know. But the report cited (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12794) is a credible one, with significant scientific input and published by an authoritative institution. Reading selected sections on EVs seems to confirm that, once manufacturing life-cycle and fuel-generation inputs are considered, EVs contribute to higher "health and other damages" than comparable light-duty vehicle transport.

    The major factors are health-related consequences of battery manufacture and recycling, and greater electricity generation required from polluting power sources (shifted tailpipe). Here's the significant quote: "Thus, even with the large decreases in emissions from generating electricity at fossil-fueled plants, the large damages from the vehicle-manufacture component mean that life-cycle damages for electric vehicles would probably be somewhat greater than those for conventional vehicles, unless there is significant reduction in energy use in manufacturing batteries and other electric vehicle components" [pp. 203-204].

    Those with more knowledge of these issues are invited to attack me from all sides ;)

    Given Elon's focus on using EVs to change the environmental landscape, it is extremely unlikely that he is unaware of these kinds of studies. I would willingly bet that he fully understands that manufacturing costs and battery technology have to change in order to fully realize the promise of EVs, and that Tesla is working on this for future vehicles and batteries.
     
  8. RDoc

    RDoc S85D

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    My understanding of this polluting power source issue is that it's not so much about carbon, but rather about things like mercury, particulates, etc. from existing power plants, mainly coal, and their effect on health. As bad as auto pollution is, coal power plants are far worse.

    One positive side is that as US energy production shifts to natural gas and away from coal these effects will diminish.
     
  9. Dan5

    Dan5 Member

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    You have to be very, very careful about the studies, one or two wrong assumptions can lead you to grossly different conclusions, as can relying in older data.

    Most studies that cite EVs as worse have lower than expected mileage or battery replacements or no end use of batteries. As an example, most of the batteries after the car is sent to the scrap yard still have a significant amount of capacity that can be used for grid storage/wind storage/battery back-ups. An EV battery in an EV only accounts for 30-40% of the battery's actual usage.

    Then consider that some studies compare virgin EV materials to recycled regular car materials- going to skew the results in favor of the regular car.

    Also consider that the full life cycle of gasoline generation is typically not considered

    In order to make a good comparison you need the following
    1. Current data related to emissions
    2. Consider end of life uses for the battery
    3. Use appropriate mileage (not saying the EV will last less than 100,000 miles)
    4. Compare like for like; if car 1 uses recycled materials, the EV also uses recycled materials
    5. Consider the source of energy for the material manufacture (hydro and NG typically used for aluminum manufacture, so it is inappropriate to use the grid average)
     
  10. ChadS

    ChadS Petroleum is for sissies

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    #10 ChadS, Jul 30, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2013
    The DOE, Sierra Club, and Union of Concerned Scientists have already read the full report (it's from 2010) rather than just sections, and they are all solidly behind vehicle electrification - and in fact they (with the possible exception of the DOE) have spoken out about Zehner. Even IEEE, which published Zehner's opinion piece, is following up with a strong defense of EVs that points out his mistakes. That's because they've been studying the issue for years, and have read several dozen studies, and can see the mistakes in this one.

    I would willingly bet that he fully understands that the study has old data and several faulty assumptions (see Dan's post). Elon has never said that EVs might be cleaner in the future. They are cleaner now; and they will get even better in the future.
     
  11. caddieo

    caddieo Member

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    Nowhere do I see any reference to the pollution by the oil industry itself. He starts the impact of gas and diesel at the tailpipe -as if they magically appear from nowhere in the gas tank. No mention of pollution from extraction, transport and refining. Refining alone produces more than 200 million megatons of CO2 a year. And yes, refineries and all phases of oil processing use electricity too. Another case illustrating how belief can trump reason.
     
  12. anticitizen13.7

    anticitizen13.7 Enemy of the Status Quo

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    I'd still like to see a comprehensive lifecycle study of the Model S versus the BMW 5 series, just to see the breakdown of total environment effects.

    I've seen charts of the Honda Civic Hybrid versus the standard Honda Civic, and the hybrid comes out much lower in lifetime CO2 emissions than the pure ICE, in exchange for a small increase in stuff like particulates and NOX during production. I'll see if I can dig up the link.
     
  13. CalDreamin

    CalDreamin Member

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    Here's some responses to Zehner's "Unclean at Any Speed", by EV experts at the IEEE
    Letters to the Editor: Responses to “Unclean at Any Speedâ€￾ - IEEE Spectrum

    This excerpt from one of the IEEE experts sums it up well: "Mr. Zehner has engaged in this journalistic sensationalism in order to promote his book; in so doing he has tainted the professionalism of the IEEE. He has shown how bias, old data, cherry-picked facts, and simple shortsighted judgments based on assumptions of the past can undermine our path to a cleaner tomorrow."
     
  14. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Active Member

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    One thing I really don't understand is that they rate CNG better than EV. Sure, they note 20% extra damage from EV manufacturing, but we know that pipe to wheel efficiency is significantly higher for EV. What's particularly stupid is that they're apparently assessing EV based on grid mix. But if you're comparing EV with CNG you can measure EV based on 100% NG use.
     
  15. stephenpace

    stephenpace VIN S00219

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    #15 stephenpace, Jul 30, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2013
  16. Norbert

    Norbert TSLA will win

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    Some of the life-cycle analysis' which try to cast a bad light on EVs, have been using numbers from industrial electric motors with several times the material values actually used in EVs. Not sure about the one above, but you are likely to come across those as well.

    And it's worth repeating that Tesla's electric motors, unlike some others, don't use rare earth metals. Regarding any limited resources, it needs to be said that battery chemistries and other technologies are not as fixed as in ICE's: they are actually likely to change in the future. (Also, the need for aluminum is likely to become obsolete some time in the future, as the energy density of batteries increases, aside from the possibility of new materials in that regard as well).

    Electricity is surely the most flexible form of energy available.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Lots of handwaving and maybe's. He doesn't seem to have a real point that he can back up in a straight forward manner.

    Nevertheless, nothing against bicycles. I'd be in favor of more support for bicycles (and measures reducing their theft and vandalism).
     
  17. robballan

    robballan Member

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    That's good news. Do you have links to those rebuttals?

    Zehner seems to be discredited, but I'd like more ammo to rebut reports like the NAS one.
     
  18. jaanton

    jaanton Roadster NA #1026

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    There are people who feel cars are a problem no matter what the fuel. I meet a lot of them in Berkeley. Go looking for a charge station in Berkeley. Good luck. A city that should have lots has next to none. For the liberal bay area, Berkeley is the worst for EVs. The 'stop' signs have 'driving' painted below the 'stop'. Just as the ICE advocates may slam EV's, the anti-driving contingent also slams EV's I think because they don't want cars at all and EV's have a chance to perpetuate that evil. Berkeley is aggressive for ticketing parking, missing front plates, expired plates, and whatever.
     
  19. Iz

    Iz EVs are here to stay

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    Thanks. Would have never thought that.
     
  20. mkjayakumar

    mkjayakumar Active Member

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    Interesting that Zehner's rebuttal is getting a lot more flak (read the comments) than his original article. In his rebuttal he peddles a ridiculous 'price tag' theory, that if an item A has a higher price tag than item B, then A has to be more dirty with higher carbon footprint. He says Solar panels have a poor ROI than power through coal plants, so solar is more dirtier.

    How do these guys end up writing in IEEE Spectrum ?
     

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