Originally published on July 11, 2022. This story is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT news series.
A TED talk by Graham Conway, principal engineer at the Southwest Research Institute, claims that electric vehicles are less green than ICE cars and this is well argued. While I don’t agree with all of Conway’s metrics, the point he makes is valid, which is that the things we need to do to make electric vehicles truly green haven’t been done yet.
We are nowhere near the maximum potential for an electric car. Conway argues that for the next two or three decades, the hybrid approach may be better – at least until we can fix the parts of the ecosystem that are making electric vehicles less green.
In the meantime, we must continue to explore alternatives such as green hydrogen; A process where hydrogen is produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electricity. With that, if we continue our massive push to convert to electric vehicles, we could be in a better place faster.
Here’s Conway’s presentation for reference:
This week let’s talk about what’s really involved in switching to electric cars. Then we’ll close with our product of the week, a laptop from Vaio that shows just how much you can get for less than $700—at least for now.
I’m not anti-electric
I’ll start by pointing out that I drive an EV and have leased one of the first Jaguar I-Pace electric cars to come to the US since 2019.
Last year I bought that car from a leasing company because I didn’t like anything better, and the lease buyout was much less than what I sold the car for. Seems like a good deal.
I’ve been covering electric cars since the late 1990s, when I was the top US battery analyst among many other titles. So, I love electric cars, but I also know their drawbacks and there are still many.
disadvantages of electric car
As Conway pointed out, electric cars can be driven indefinitely in a closed room without killing us and are certainly greener to operate. However, they have three major weaknesses.
The first is that due to the almost complete collapse of battery development in the early 1900s, battery technology is not where it would have been otherwise.
Lithium ion has one-third the energy density of dynamite, the common configuration being in cells such as small AA batteries that are difficult to cool, and if the battery catches on fire, it is difficult to put out. I know this directly because a fire broke out in a bicycle with a lithium-ion battery in my garage and even though I was trained as a fireman and was at home, I almost lost the house.
Lithium ion burns hot enough to melt aluminum and it will continue to ignite as long as the cells have enough energy to generate the heat needed for combustion. That’s why we have reports of a crashed Tesla on fire again in the wreckage.
Also, as Conway mentioned, manufacturing these batteries is far from a green process and the substance is a pollutant, which means that the batteries must be recycled to prevent groundwater contamination.
The second weakness is that for large-scale cryptocurrency miners, there is no electrical power headroom in the world and the peak generation capacity of the power grid often comes from old, dirty and nearly obsolete production facilities.
Electric cars draw a considerable amount of electricity, and we don’t yet have the headroom in our grid to supply it. Cars are typically charged at night when renewable energy such as wind and solar is unreliable (wind) or non-existent (solar). So, even if you have a solar plant on your roof, if you’re connected to the grid (not using the battery for power at night), and you change your electricity at night, you might end up with something like this. Pulling from a power source that is anything but green.
Third and finally, we don’t have enough neighborhood electric capacity to handle the huge influx of electric cars. Last time I checked, if you find more than three cars charging at once in a block of houses, there’s a good chance your local transformer will grenade – and they really do boom when they go up.
I considered getting a Level 3 charger for my electric vehicle, and it would have cost me more than the car cost. Not only would I have to pull bigger wires and more of them (going from L-2- to L-3 phase), but I would have to pay to replace the local transformer and massively increase my home service level.
Now with solid state batteries (which are coming), the expansion of green energy sources (especially nuclear or geothermal ones that can operate at night), and the expansion of micro-grid technologies (which are small green generators to be distributed Provided), we can turn Electric cars serve as a tremendous force to work against climate change. But we are not there yet.
This is not a list of requirements you can pick and choose from. You need all three elements to make electric cars truly green: green energy storage, sufficient green energy generation, and a more efficient grid to deliver that energy reliably, cheaply, and safely. All that is coming, just not in this decade.
Other Problems We Aren’t Talking About
The big deal is, what do we do with existing gasoline drilling, refining and distribution systems? The oil industry employs about 6 million people directly and 10 times more jobs are created indirectly.
Refineries, gas and oil pipelines, storage tanks and gas stations are all potentially hazardous material problems depending on how much oil and gas has leaked over the years. Even if the answer is zero, equipment will need to be safely cleaned and then scraped.
Industries dependent on oil production ranging from plastics to cheap drugs (petroleum jelly) and some solvents would collapse without large-scale oil production, and the resulting economic collapse of an industry (what happens to all oil platforms and oil drilling rigs?). The ecological time bombs of the future are subject to the firms once owned by them.
Plans should be drawn up on what to do with these related industries and implemented before the car and truck industry moves to electricity so as to avoid huge labor and ecological problems.
Plug-in Hybrids: The Short-Term Answer
As TED Talk also pointed out, you can get the same benefits as an electric car with a plug-in hybrid.
My wife drives a Volvo XC60 rechargeable plug-in hybrid. With the car coming up in a year and a half, we’re on our third or fourth gas tank (largely connected to the drive that exceeds its electric limit). It uses a very small and safe battery.
The Volvo XC60 also typically only requires the included Level 1 battery charger that plugs into a regular household electrical plug, unlike Level 2 chargers that require a two-stage hookup and a plug that plugs into an electric cloth. Uses dryer. His car will work with my level 2 charger, and it charges fast but not enough, in my opinion, to make a level 2 charger worthwhile.
Oh, and I should point out that while his car has a 20-mile power range, the latest version of his car doubles that to 40 miles, which makes the battery size far smaller and greener than the full- Keeping full is more ideal. – On an electric car.
While I’m an electric car fan because they’re fun to drive and gas stations surprisingly pleasant to pass through, the electric car ecosystem isn’t where it needs to be to get the full benefits of going electric just yet.
We need better, safer, more reliable and green battery technology. Charging cars requires more green energy, and we need a far stronger and more powerful grid to handle the extra load (cryptocurrency mining, which has taken off as of late, has led to arguably more powerful grids). pushing has helped). We also need a plan to more painlessly go away from oil. Otherwise, the infection will be noticeably more ugly than expected.
If we move to electric cars before all of these elements are in place, the result will not only be less of the positive impact on climate change that electrics would otherwise provide, but they will create many other environmental and social problems that we are prepared to tackle. are not. with.
Sometimes it’s better not to rush into new technology and instead be more measured in our approach. This is why, for now, a hybrid car may be a more sustainable option than electric vehicles, until we address other aspects of the conversion process to EVs.
Vaio 15.6″ FE Series Notebook
I was a big fan of Sony’s Vaio line back when Sony had the Vaio — and I studied why Sony failed massively in the PC market in the early 2000s. It was not because it did not have a well differentiated and well manufactured product. The products were more innovative and better built than any other big seller of the time.
The bigger problem was that while the product broke less often when it did break, the service experience was terrible. Therefore, customers did not hold back and tended to replace their better looking Vaio PCs with vendors that are still in this market.
Vaio is now largely a standalone company. I was curious whether it maintained its product quality, so I requested the least expensive new laptop evaluation model for this review. I should point out that I haven’t tested the company’s service process, but I’ve been told that it has improved and today’s laptops are far more reliable than they were two decades ago when Vaio was part of Sony.
Priced at $699 in silver, the 15.6″ Vaio FE laptop runs an acceptable Intel i5 processor with limited integrated graphics. That means it tests well for things like web browsing, watching movies, and office work – But it’s by no means a gaming machine or workstation. Its graphics score indicates it’ll be woefully useless if you need graphics headroom for gaming, photo or video editing, or computer-aided design.
The Vaio 15.6″ FE Series Notebook is currently available in silver for $699 and in black for $799. (image credit: Vaio)
It played older and more casual games respectfully, and as mentioned, it streamed TV and movies just fine, though the speakers don’t do the included THX technology justice. It would be far better with a good set of headphones.
This Vaio FE has a fingerprint reader for security on the track pad (unusually), it lacks a touch screen, and has an older-style charger (no USB-C charging) that’s unusual on current-generation laptops – but probably acceptable is the lower end. USB-C chargers are a lot more useful in the sense that they’re more common now, so you’re more likely to find a charger you can borrow, and they can charge many of your smartphones in a pinch.
The fit and finish were sturdy, with a metal casing and a painted plastic keyboard. What I found was silver – and silver-painted plastic usually looks cheap – but this was the best implementation I’ve seen so far. Still, I’d pay an extra $100 to get it in black.
VAIO 15.6″ FE Series Notebook in Black color. (image credit: Vaio)
It was one of the first laptops to come with Windows 11 already on board, and with one exception the startup experience has improved.
That exception is that when it does its first major update, it doesn’t provide a progress bar, which makes you wonder if it’s doing anything at all. Since rebooting the machine can brick it, lack of notice can lead to some costly mistakes. Otherwise, the OS loaded fine and did a better job of bringing in my settings and favorites than Windows 10.
In the end, the $699 Vaio 15.6″ FE laptop in silver was a good high-end, entry-level laptop for school or remote work, has good battery life, isn’t too heavy for its class, and looks great. Is to be mistaken for a more expensive product.
All this makes the VAIO FE Series Notebook my product of the week.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.