The End of Gasoline/Diesel Powered Cars?

The current crop of electrics won’t be killing off the gas station any time soon. There is a potential battery technology, Lithium-air, that has the same energy density as gasoline. If scientists can work out the kinks, these could make electric vehicles that go as far a gas powered ones a reality. Unfortunately, we can’t predict when that will happen. Until the range problem is truly solved–and by that I mean the ability to charge at home and then drive at a minimum all day without recharging–I can’t see electrics replacing gasoline powered cars, though they could well take over some niches.

Electric cars need to compete on an even keel with gasoline powered cars, having similar costs and ranges, especially since the environmental benefits are minimal when their electricity is being generated by burning coal. According to The ‘electric cars aren’t green’ myth debunked , “using coal powered electricity electric cars do nothing to cut emissions, using natural gas electricity they’re like a top hybrid and using low carbon power they result in less than half the total emissions of the best combustion vehicle, manufacturing included.”

In BC, we generate most of our electricity with hydro-electric dams, so there are environmental benefits to be had. Unfortunately, we also have cold winters. By controlling battery temperatures, car makers have solved performance problems in cold weather. But electric cars can take twice as long to charge in cold conditions. Leaving an electric car out all day in sub-zero temperatures can also halve its range. Finally, using the car’s heating system, which is essential in Canadian winter, can radically decrease range. (Source: Electric cars during winter)

fuel-cellAnother possible replacement for gasoline powered vehicles are hydrogen powered vehicles. Hydrogen is actually very low energy when burnt, but it can be used to generate electricity using a complex device called a fuel cell. Unfortunately, HFC powered vehicles suffer from range limitations similar to electric vehicles, though they can be refueled in less time (in about 5 minutes). Hydrogen fuel cells are relatively expensive to produce, as their designs require rare substances such as platinum. Then there is the fact that 95% of hydrogen is made from natural gas, generating large amounts of CO2. Producing hydrogen cleanly via electrolysis is not currently cost effective.

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About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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2 Responses to The End of Gasoline/Diesel Powered Cars?

  1. Sam says:

    I agree that electronic car will not be the norm for a long time yet. I think it has been from watching Elon Musk talking of his Tesla car technology and predictions for the future that made me wonder when electric cars will be favoured and seen as a better choice. Thanks for posting.

    • jimbelton says:

      Elon is at least working to make electrics feasible for more people. For example, there are fast charge stations at all the Greyhound bus terminals between Vancouver and Whistler and Vancouver and Edmonton. The reduction of smog is another huge benefit of electrics (and HFC power) that gets lost when you only look at the economics. Smog is a contributor to asthma and allergy symptoms, both sources of hard to quantify losses in productivity. Thanks for commenting!

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