Thursday, 12 August 2010

To dream the unsustainable dream

While Obama dreams of electric cars, reality bites in Spain…

Spain’s plans to have 2,000 electric cars on the road by the end of 2010 have been dealt a blow as figures showed just 16 have been soldIn April, the government said it would invest 590m euros ($775m; £490m) in the production of electric cars.

And in Britain…

Sales of electric cars have fallen by more than half this year, according to figures released two days after the Government’s climate change advisory body predicted a huge increase. Only 156 electric cars were sold from January to October, compared with 374 for the same period last year.  [Hat tip Andrew Bolt.]

Moral of the story?  “Sustainable” is just another euphemism for unrealistic, unprofitable, and unaffordable. Which means “sustainable” really means unsustainable.


  1. Let's see. Electric cars are expensive, sluggish, unresponsive and suitable only for short distances in the city. When you include manufacturing and generation of electricity, their carbon footprint is higher than a Hummer's.

    What's not to like?

  2. I think the key problem with arguing we should all switch to electric cars (a la a grand cash fro clunkers scheme) is that they only consider the incremental effect for each mile travelled, not the life cycle costs. We know that a prius can have a greater total environmental cost due to manfacturing and disposing of there battery and all the chemicals contained in. All in all, silly uses of figures by people who dont understand numbers.

  3. Peter,

    Our consultancy company actually undertakes Total Cost of Ownership modelling of motor vehicles for clients.

    Running costs of Prius are higher than new diesel vehicles (even allowing for RUC. This is due to battery costs, parts, etc).

    Best to buy a VW Golf if you want to save the world.

  4. FOr those who see a massive rise in electric cars just around the corner and use that as a justification for expensively redesigning the power network (eg the Parl Comm for Environment saying everyone needs smart meters now to charge electric cars) I'd draw their attention to the sales curve of hybrids in NZ.

    After 10 years on the market only about 3 or four models are for sale and they account only for about 700 in a new car sales market of 70,000.

  5. Meanwhile, the latest petrol and diesel engines are the most fuel efficient for the kW power produced and the cleanest burning.

    For example, the Greens tout a claim that rail freight is 4x more fuel efficient than road freight. The evidence for this was a 1981 trial done between Wellington and Auckland. Since then, the biggest change has been in diesel truck engine technology, so this gap is now about half what it was.

    Of course if the peak oil doom merchants are right, electric cars will take off, yet you see so few peak oil doomsayers investing in such things, which says a lot about their own lack of personal belief in what they say.

  6. "Electric cars are expensive, sluggish, unresponsive and suitable only for short distances in the city. When you include manufacturing and generation of electricity, their carbon footprint is higher than a Hummer's."

    Not true, or at least, not necessarily so (except the distance thing, but not actually an issue for most people).

    Most standard cars today can easily be turned into electric cars and if electric cars were produced at a scale comparable to internal combustion cars they would be/should be the same price, if not cheaper.

    The only real problem is the batteries.

    I think they are inevitable, just not perceived necessity at present.

  7. I recommend the comment section that follows my PJM article where many of these issues are discussed in detail.


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