Monday, March 11, 2013

How to plug in hybrids match up environmentally?

Not too well, according to Bjorn Lomborg.    (h/t Cold Fusion Guy)  More or less, the price reflects the time, effort, and energy used in making the motors, chassis, and battery of hybrids and plug-in electrics results in a huge release in carbon dioxide that really makes it less environmentally sound than a typical gasoline powered car.

And yes, I've gone a step further and said "less environmentally sound" for three reasons.  First of all, batteries will need to be replaced as they wear out, which is another huge carbon hit.  Second, the typical use of a hybrid or electric car is as a supplementary vehicle, not a primary vehicle.  So your environmental cost starts with a baseline of not one, but two vehicles.  So it's not 30,000 lbs of carbon dioxide that are required for an electric vehicle, but really somewhere around 44,000 lbs. 

(update: if the usage profile of a hybrid/electric vehicle is as stated, part of the ecological cost would also be the third garage stall--four yards/four tons of concrete with an additional ecological cost of 8-15 tons of carbon dioxide, plus the wood, shingles, etc...So the overall "carbon dioxide investment" is probably actually 60-80,000 lbs of carbon dioxide--and a likely "break even point" of about 70,000 miles use when compared with a half ton V-8 powered pickup)

The final reason that electrics are worse for the environment is when we consider what could be done with that public money (OK, borrowed money) if we weren't putting it into electric cars, windmills, and the like.

One possibility is to use the savings to swap out the child care tax credit and child tax credits for a big increase in the standard exemption, and see how many moms (or dads) would realize that it makes more financial sense to stay home and not drive to work at all.  


pentamom said...

In order to include the cost of an expanded garage in the environmental cost of a hybrid, I'd think you'd need to establish that most people purchasing third cars expect to garage the vehicle and therefore expand/replace their garages as necessary.

Leaving alone the fact that majority of people don't even have garages, my guess is that isn't all that common. I'm not sure it's proper to consider garage space an inherent "cost" to a third car.

Ray D. said...

Jane, remember, he is from Minnesota. A garage is almost a necessity there.

Bike Bubba said...

Ray, Jane: :^). Actually, since we get snow more than ice storms, one could argue that shelter is more needed in places in the "Deep South" like Chicago, Erie, and Indianapolis. But we do love our garages up here.

Seriously, the demographics of hybrid/electric car buyers are people with a boatload of cash who can afford an extra car--and they tend to have the garage for it, too.

And why we're subsidizing vehicles for rich people is a fine subject for another post. :^)