The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    Donal's picture

    Fuel me twice

    In 2007, Time Magazine dubbed the Prius design team, Heroes of the Environment. By contrast, I recently posted a Mother Jones news item about the dirty secret that making hybrids, EVs and a lot of other gizmos requires rare earths that are about as nasty to refine as tar sands. 
    Over at TTAC, Bertel Schmitt first interviewed the leader of that team, Toyota Chief Engineer Ogiso Satoshi (in the center, above) about the effort that led to the Prius: 
    “Look, when we started the Prius project in 1993, we did not even think of a hybrid system for the Prius. We did not set out to build a hybrid. We studied what was needed for the 21st century, and two things were certain: The need to protect the environment, and the need to bring consumption down. That’s all we knew, and you did not need to be a clairvoyant to know it.”
    We can debate whether the hybrid is protecting the environment, or not, but in TTAC's second interview, Ogiso-san provided the chart below and talked about Peak Oil - the gap between supply and demand:
    “To control this gap, we must go multi track. We must improve gasoline and diesel engines. We must increase the number of hybrid models. We must produce the plug-in hybrid. We must develop city commuter electric vehicles. We already started small production of fuel cell vehicles.  We must do all these improvements at the same time.”
    Ogiso predicts that hybrid and EV sales will greatly expand from the two percent they manage now, which, given that hybrids function a lot like the cars we're used to, is not that difficult to see happening—if fuel prices rise high enough. Where the Toyota man surprises me is that he confidently predicts that all the technical issues of hydrogen fuel cells will be solved, and in fact are nearly solved now. Among many energy depletion types, it is a firmly-held belief that "fool cells" will never be successful. Even beyond the difficulty of storing ultra cold hydrogen on a sunny day, there is the issue of where to find the energy to manufacture the hydrogen. The attraction of hydrogen cells is that they are one of the few "fuels"—along with compressed natural gas (CNG) and electric batteries of the future—that seem to offer the range and refill convenience of gasoline or diesel. Ogiso claims that Toyota has gotten past all that, but that there is still one problem:
    “For us, the only remaining real issue that stands in the way of fuel cell electric vehicles is mass production cost.”
    Assuming Toyota's tech holds up, what I can see happening is that fuel cells could power the expensive luxury cars of the future. Just as limited numbers of people do buy exotic cars and limousines now, fuel cell cars may only be affordable by the same class of buyer in the future. Meanwhile, the rest of us may have to do with less convenient vehicles, ride electric bikes, pedal, walk or use whatever mass transit that still runs.



    Some facts and links, in case there are a few people actually interested in isth field.
    1. Rare Earth Elements.... aren't rare. It's a misnomer. But, because of their name - and solely because of their name - they've been swept up in a recent and wondrous End Times set of rants, involving China... Peak Oil... and of course, Green products. Everybody gets some fun, bashing China and bashing Greens, and frothing about Peak something new, and nobody's hurt, right?
    Better to start with the basics. Here, from the USGS. 
    “Rare” earth elements is a historical misnomer; persistence of the term reflects unfamiliarity rather than true rarity. The more abundant REE are each similar in crustal concentration to commonplace industrial metals such as chromium, nickel, copper, zinc, molybdenum, tin, tungsten, or lead. Even the two least abundant REE are nearly 200 times more common than gold. 
    So. Nickel crisis, anyone? No? Doesn't sound as sexy, does it?
    2. Apparently, these Rare - and Filthy - Earths are essential to... green stuff. Hybrid and electric cars. Wind turbines. Efficient light bulbs. By now, most of us have heard this. (Certainly at Dag, where you get to hear this quite a lot.) 
    Thing is, the majority of Rare Earth Elements aren't actually consumed by new-fangled green gizmos at all. The #1 end use is... ceramics, glass and phosphors. Over 1/3 of ALL usage of ALL Rare Earth Elements is right there. Like in glass polishing, to give glass various colours and properties, in TV and computer displays, that sort of thing. 
    But to make this story more specific, let's look at the US Geological Survey's Report - from this year - on the end uses and recyclability of Rare Earths.  
    This one's worth a look too.    
    For example, the Mother Jones articles named Cerium, Yttrium and Neodymium. Which are, in fact, used for green products like catalytic converters, and the magnets in wind turbines and batteries and the motors in hybrid cars. But let's step back and look at all the things made from Rare Earths, shall we? Yes, we shall.
    Like that glass finishing business. You know, any finished glass, like... your glasses, or lens, or windows. All those specially coloured windows and the ones with all the fancy properties? 
    Yeah, Rare Earths. And your computer. The display uses Rare Earths. As do any disk drives. And many of the batteries in them. 
    And your regular car? Well, turns out that a massive use is at refineries, where Rare Earths are used for cracking and for producing stuff like diesel. 
    Also, ever use a cell phone or that Internet thingie? Well. Odd, really, because it's not just the batteries and the screens and the drives, it's even the fibre optic cables themselves.
    Oh yeah. You know steel, aluminum, and the weird metals like that that you rarely see these days? Yeah, lots of rare earths in them.
    And that neodymium stuff they use in magnets in hybrid cars and wind turbines? Well,all sorts of those tiny servo motors use them, like the ones that roll up your windows in cars, and in those disk drives we all use. 
    And sure, cerium's used in hybrid cars, in their batteries. Except that they're all busily changing to lithium batteries, which DON'T use Rare Earths. 
    Satellites? Rare Earths. 
    Lasers? Rare Earths.
    So. In my mind, what we really have here is an Internet crisis. The Internet is not gonna work. Because there are no more Rare Earths, and they're all in China, and Radioactive, and so we'll need more paper cups tied to strings. 
    And maybe a glass crisis. I don't wanna see any more of that filthy "glass" being used round these parts.
    3. To cut to the chase, what we have with Rare Earth's is the same crap we've run into with copper or iron or aluminium or various other useful metals. There are a complex set of issues which goes into their mining, the control of their trade, and the eventual price they fetch. A nation will want to control their production and extract a premium - China for Rare Earths, Bolivia for Lithium, Canada for Potash. Others have done similarly with oil, with uranium, with diamonds, and so on. It's really not that new. 
    And as soon as someone makes that play, and restrict sales to drive up prices, a whole world of counter-forces comes into play. Companies find ways to switch out of the vulnerable material - just as they're doing with batteries and motors as we speak. Then, other companies roll out old mining plays that produce the materials in question, or bring forward new sites. And a massive new force gears up which is not often discussed because it seems so prosaic now. Namely, recycling. (I know, I know... it's a green thing. But there you go.) Anyway, a fundamental rule of recycling is that where you have a material which is... economically scarce... has a high cash value... is found in near perfect concentrations.... and in large discrete quantities.... like, oh, Rare Earth-using magnets in wind turbines... then they're pretttttttttttttttty likely to be recycled. Especially if we're facing some global shortage, doncha think? Yeah, doncha think.
    4. News flash - Mining in the developing world is often a foul and filthy process. Therefore, kill the Internet, it's a bad thing.
    5. Fuel cells aren't gonna make it. Sorry. They'll be able to make them work, technically, yes. But. Their capital cost is incredibly expensive, even compared to all-electric cars, and NOBODY predicts they'll suddenly get cheaper than electrics. Also, compared to electricity, the fuekl cell lifecycle as an appallingly low efficiency. And even if we're all out of fossil fuels, then the next most likely thing we're going to make them out of is... electricity. So. More expensive in capital, and operating costs, and less efficient. Winner? Not so much.
    However, if you want to make hydrogen out of natural gas, you can potentially do that too, so... hope for fuel cells? Problem is.... if you have all that natural gas hanging around, that you can afford to make into hydrogen... why wouldn't you just burn it directly in a natural gas car? They're easy to make and drive, today.
    So fuel cells are snookered.
    Hybrids and electrics aren't. 
    And certainly not by any Rare Earths Crisis.

    Thanks for this well sourced comment. In the back of my mind, I remembered some of these facts, but didn't take the time to put them together as you have. Of course, as this is the internet and it's sometimes hard to understand "tone", I'll point out that it's still valid to be concerned about how these minerals (as well as the more mundane ones you mention) are mined.

    Well, we're not likely to stop using technology out of concern for brown or yellow people living near mines, or even paler people near tar sands, but at least we should recognize the blatant greenwashing of new technology.

    As Louis CK would say, we're all assholes. He has a great stand-up bit where he talks about those "feed the hungry" commercials and about how many kids he could help if he sold his car, etc. I'm not sure what the take-away from that is, but it does make one think. (Which is all I really think Louis CK is going for with it.)

    If you saw The Gods Must Be Crazy, at one point Xi sleep-darts a goat, then thanks the goat before killing and cooking it. Everyone's gotta eat, but we assholes stopped being thankful a long time ago.

    Donal, I honestly don't get it when you say stuff like this. So the Prius and hybrids are "blatant greenwashing?"

    They do what the say on the box - deliver great gas mileage. So at a really fundamental level, they save the Earth's resources, and in large quantities. 

    Apparently, however, you want to dig into the world of "life cycle assessments" and "toxic impacts from mining" or somesuch. But all we read here are... anecdotes. 

    Seriously, mining - do you know anything about it? You build buildings, right? Do you actually think there's anything about our mining and smelting or aluminum/bauxite and nickel and lead and zinc and copper that is in any way done sustainably? If so, I'd love to go see it, and then take notes on who sourced their stuff from these magic mines. 

    Canadians mine. All over the world. And those guys are fucking monsters. No jokes, no goofing around. If you're in the Andes or the Congo, Indonesia or Manitoba - they don't give a shit. If people have to die for them to get their stuff, cheap, then people die. And it's been that way for decades. Governments are toppled, native peoples killed, towns poisoned. 

    And the same goes for the big mining companies out of other nations. These are some of the world's last, greatest, ham-fisted, monstrously hard-headed, violent, companies. 

    But now, suddenly, it's only the mining of Rare Earth Elements that is filthy?

    You ever done a building using aluminum? You know, the bright, shiny, happy, light metal? Because if so, you're responsible for the destruction of some of the world's greatest rivers. Sure, we can recycle it like crazy. But if you want to follow it back, when it got smelted, it required absolutely unbelievable amounts of energy. Something like, for every aluminum can you use, it required as much energy as if you half-filled it with gas.

    Or ever used a lead-acid battery? Well, I can walk around certain English cities which are polluted, in every meter of soil and in the dust of every house, with levels of lead beyond anything "safe." 

    Ever driven a bike? Ever examined the metals -- all super-light and super-strong -- and looked into their origins?

    But I don't see you harping on about the poisoned people that created the materials in your keyboard or your cell phone or your computer or glasses or bike? 

    But somehow, Green materials - every one of them - must not only defeat the competition in their own chosen end-use, but also change every single material they are supplied with?

    That's just plain idiocy. Really - it's untenable. I've got friends who build straw bale houses, and the question I don't dare ask them is whether or not they know what's in the STRAW they use. Because if you really looked, you'd despair. Our agricultural fields have been laced, for decades, not just with pesticides, but with metals. Which, being elements, tend to last a bit. There's no "X years then you're organic" for this stuff.

    I'm not saying we don't go to work and try to change how our metals are sourced, and don't clamp down on mining companies, and don't find alternatives. It's one reason I'm a freak for recycling. Because metals - once made - are the best materials imaginable to recycle. So we can vastly cut the load that way. 

    But still.... for years to come.... when you hold a metal, you're going to be holding dammed rivers, acid-thick lakes, scarred mountains, poisoned kids, chopped forests. And that's where we are. Where EVERYTHING is.

    Which means the Mother Jones article is - in picking out green products to slam in particular - either malicious, or just stupid, in that it fell prey to the right-wing storyline about how Green thingies are somehow Rare Earth monsters. And I think that's a fair evaluation.

    None of us can be perfect, but we can always try to do better. Hybrid cars probably don't result in significantly more mining damage than non-hybrid cars, and they (typically) consume less fuel. If you're comparing two new cars, one hybrid and one non-hybrid, I'm pretty sure the hybrid does less damage. It's a little murkier if you're comparing the environmental cost of keeping an old gas-guzzler versus taking that gas-guzzler to a landfill and buying a new hybrid (I'm deliberately ignoring other options such as selling that gas-guzzler to someone else). A high performance bike is probably better than any of these options (I think most of them use carbon-fiber composites, so I'm not sure how much mining is required for those these days). Living closer to work is probably better yet, except that maybe it results in more concrete being used in high rises. Then there's tele-commuting, which does require some rare earth elements itself, but is probably the best option of all of these.

    Prius: Harmony between Man, Nature and Machine. Yeah, I'd call that blatant greenwashing. And yeah, I realized a long time ago that construction was part of the problem, and that I had very little power to make it better.

    It's funny to see you accuse other people of defending the status quo, then turn around and do the same thing here.

    It seems to me that, unless you can make the case that rare earth mining is a greater threat to the planet than reducing greenhouse gas emissions, you are the one defending the status quo.


    False dilemma.

    I think it might help to explain where others might be coming from. My first exposure to the "harm caused by hybrid" concern was the "Dust to Dust" document, which came to the crazy conclusion that Hummers were better for the environment than hybrids. Obviously you are not positing that here, but I fear this document is the first thing that comes to mind when people now express concerns about possible environmental dangers of hybrids.

    So, yes, it's good to be concerned about the harm that mining does to the environment, but like Q, I see no solid evidence that the mining associated with hybrids is any worse than the mining associated with conventional cars.

    I do know, however, that your concerns are not false, i.e., that you're not a "concern troll".

    I'm not posting about harm, just the hype that hybrids are so green that we can go on driving everywhere with a clear conscience. Car-centric culture is the status quo.

    This is exactly correct, hybrids do give people the idea that there is no need to change our habits.  We have a car-centric culture.  That is spot on Donal, spot on.

    I understand that, but I also want to emphasize that we also want to avoid the idea that hybrids do no good whatsoever, which is what some people seem to be inferring from what you wrote. I did not infer that from what you wrote (and I know it's not what you believe), but because of the history of this topic, I can understand why some people might infer that.

    I suppose I'll have to add a public service message to every post: For those unfamiliar with gray areas, I neither hate nor worship the Prius.

    I understand your frustration, but from my perspective, you and Q/Ethanator are arguing about two different things, seemingly without being aware of it. I agree with both arguments and do not find them at odds, which is why I find some of the comments frustrating as they begin to devolve into what I perceive as harsher tones.

    Or you could nod towards those gray areas yourself when making your argument.

    Like this?

    We can debate whether the hybrid is protecting the environment, or not, ...

    I don't think that cuts it.  You intended for this article, basically arguing in favor of fuel cells as opposed to hybrids, to be read in conjunction with your link to the Mother Jones article about rare earths being mined in order to manufacture hybrid technology.  So, that's two anti-hybrid articles and one tossed off comment basically dismissing the possibility that hybrids do any good at all.  It requires a lot of squinting to see the gray in your argument.

    As the lengthier comments in this thread have suggested, hybrids are a cleaner option for drivers and they are actually popular in the marketplace.  The way it works is that market success will likely push auto makers to continue to improve the performance and fuel efficiency of these cars.  I don't understand why you would choose them as your point of attack on overreliance on the automobile.  If people decide that hybrids are just as destructive to the environment, then why wouldn't they just go ahead and buy a Taurus?      

    If you think I'm arguing in favor of fuel cells, you don't read very well. As I wrote, I think they may find a niche among very wealthy buyers—if the technology pans out.

    In this article, I'm not actually arguing in favor of anything, I'm trying to inform people about what's going on. The Yergins of the world are telling us that oil is plentiful if we only drill and mine for it. Fuel prices could spike up, they could crash in a recession, or they could continue to creep up and down, though up more than down. Or all three. War with Iran could severely curb availability. Large manufacturers like TMC are spending big bucks on alternatives—hybrids, PHEVs, EVs, fuel cells—to hedge against what happens with fossil fuel price and availability. But 98% of American buyers are still buying ICE cars, which are getting a bit more fuel efficient themselves. And the number of buyers is dwindling.

    It's not a false dilemma.  It's exactly the conclusion to which your argument leads.

    The "status quo?" Good God man, hybrids are still just a fraction of overall vehicle sales. WTF? 

    The great thing is that hybrid technology - forget any particular model - is moving rapidly through the rest of the models being produced, and has placed incredible pressure on the other automakers, and regulators, to boost efficiency. i.e. It's now extremely common to see new cars posted as being able to achieve 30 and 40 mpg.

    In addition, without hybrid technology, you wouldn't have plug-in hybrids, like the Volt or the new Plug-In Prius. Which - given that they can achieve 90-150 mpg - I'm damned pleased to see.

    Status quo? Sorry, but no. Hybrid technology is one of the absolutely unparalleled revolutions in modern transportation. 

    The commission has selected me to inform you your internet priviliges are hereby revoked - for the sake of humanity, the internets, and Rare Earth.

    Rare Earths?

    Downpressors, man.

    Thanks for making the effort to clear up the latest internet echo-chamber urban myths. This is what comment fields are for. I won't read articles that don't have comment fields to keep writers on their toes. Good comments are often much better than the original articles.

    From Green Car Congress: Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) will stage the world premiere of the FCV-R, a practical sedan-type next-generation hydrogen fuel-cell concept vehicle, at the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show. Toyota calls this concept model “a highly practical fuel-cell vehicle” that is planned for launch in about 2015.

    Toyota's FCV (above). A lot of fuel cell prototypes have been built, but only the Honda FCX Clarity and a variety of buses have been in use by the public. Honda's been leasing their hydrogen fuel cell vehicle for $600/month since 2008, but outside estimates of cost per vehicle range from $120,000 up.

    I love these pretend arguments against fuel cells that alwasy ignore one major thing: EVERY MAJOR CAR MANUFACTURER IN THE WORLD IS MAKING THEM.  All of them have also announced dates between 2013 and 2020 for release of their FCVs to market - most in 2015.

    Yet the naysayers keep on claiming that they're untenable and can't be done.  If that's the case - WHY ARE ALL OF THE CAR MAKERS DOING IT THEN??  And with far less incentive from governments than electrics and hybrids have, I might add.

    As for the guy with the Clarity being the only "consumer car on the market" remark.. how many electric cars were on the market five years ago for consumers vs. those being tested by fleets?  It's part of the testing process to put these vehicles through their paces with fleets, which have predictable and controllable usage cycles - something that's kind of important if you're planning on making any kind of scientific comparison.

    You anti-H2 people are nuts. 

    The future will have multiple modes of transportation and the sooner you people see that an FCV is just another electric car with a different battery, the better.  Your precious batteries are NOT going to meet consumer demand anytime soon and will NOT be the only option (thank God). 


    WHY ARE ALL OF THE CAR MAKERS DOING IT THEN?? I think the answer is simple. No one knows what will happen with fossil fuels, so the manufacturers are hedging their bets.

    Donal, I tried sorting through this thread a bit.

    It seems to me that you have a good argument (assuming you're making one) if you can show that:

    • Hybrids are worse, environmentally, to manufacture than regular cars or other reasonable alternatives...or...

    • People feel so good about reducing their footprint by buying a hybrid that they tend to drive more than they did before or would with an alternative.

    If you can't show these two things, then I think buying a hybrid is a big improvement over buying a regular car.

    If your real point is about our car-centric society, then I think you have to show that moving toward hybrids or other environmentally friendly cars is somehow delaying society's move toward becoming less car-centric.

    Given how thoroughly our society is wrapped up in the car, truck and airplane, I think this last point would be hard to show. To become less car-centric will require a massive transformation in how we physically organize ourselves. This goes WAY beyond whether people start buying hybrids.

    Moreover, I would bet that people who buy hybrids are the most receptive to ideas about removing the car from the center of our social universe.

    If I'm any guide to the future, here's how I (and my wife) think: We own a Prius. I want my next car to be the most environmentally friendly car I can afford. Maybe it will be a plug-in; maybe it will be a fuel cell; I have no idea. But we're on a trajectory toward whatever is most environmentally friendly (and still reasonably convenient and affordable).

    Though, traditionally, I own my cars into the ground, I will trade in to make a big reduction in our footprint. So owning a Prius now in no way sates our ardor for doing better and even doing away with the car as we know it. I suspect a lot of Prius owners are like us (though I don't know for sure). But sure, I'm happy to be doing better environmentally than other car owners. Why not?

    According to one study, EVs and hybrids do have a higher embedded CO2 content than conventional cars, and with EVs almost 4 tons is in the battery pack. EVs do better on whole life cost, but that assumes you don't replace the battery:

    5.6 embedded, 24 tons life Conventional vehicle

    6.5 embedded, 21 tons life Hybrid vehicle

    8.8 embedded, 19 tons life Battery electric vehicle

    Replace the EV battery pack and its almost even. Hybrid batteries have held up fairly well and they put out 13% less CO2.

    Hard to say if hybrid owners drive more, but I read people on TTAC saying, "I want one of those for my 100 mile commute." I'm not attacking hybrids, but I'm not interested in being a cheerleader for them, either. All of these efforts are intended to maintain the status quo and keep people driving. I think we'd be smarter to put our efforts into driving less now. It'll happen anyway.

    I'm more optimistic than you are (though not necessarily for good reasons), but your comments remind of a book I heartily recommend: Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences. In that book, Tenner covers such things as how people started driving faster after safety belts made us more likely to survive high speed accidents and how mountain climbers take bigger risks because of the safety equipment they have. He's not arguing against safety belts or other safety equipment, but he does a good job about discussing their unintended consequences.

    I was just reading about another unintended consequence, the correlation between driving and obesity.

    You don't attack hybrids, but just aren't interested in being cheerleader?

    What complete bollocks.

    Here's the study you happened to come up with. First, you just happened to ignore the dozens of US-based studies on CO2 emissions from EVs and PHEVs, and somehow found your way to England... where the entire auto industry is anti-hybrid, because their manufacturing is based around specialized ICE's, with almost NO hybrid supply lines... and yet THAT'S where you happen to find your "one study"... and even then, it's a report that got caught doing such hackery that they had to ADD A BIG RED HEALTH WARNING when they got to the numbers, stating that their report/powerpoint ISN'T A PROPER LIFE-CYCLE STUDY, JUST A "HIGH LEVEL" ESTIMATE.

    Right. So... ignore the US reports.... because we don't want anything one-sided and unfair... and let's find this one which is belly up in the mud with a big red warning sticker on it... but JUST HAPPENS to be brutally anti-EV and PHEV.


    No wait.


    Yeah, that's the word. 

    How about this. Let's actually look at a couple of the assumptions this "high level report" is based on, shall we? Instead of just quoting whatever it's "bottomline" was?

    1st off, it assumes a lifetime vehicle mileage of 90,000 miles. Which is lower than you will find, anywhere. Result? The higher capital-related emissions of an EV count much more heavily against it, while their much better year on year running emissions get cut off. The justification? That the batteries might not last. Which was EXACTLY what was said about hybrids. And tell me, anyone, what Toyota's record on this front has been thus far? What's that? Superb? Well beyond estimates? Oh.  

    * 2nd, their calculations assumed the mileage of a gas-powered car meeting year 2015 European standards. But oddly enough, when they had to assume emissions from the electricity for an EV, they used... not 2020 figures, though they posted them, but those from the year 2010. The result? Well, the 2020 emissions were 310 gCO2/kwh.... but the 2010 ones were 500 grams. Ouch. That's a 40% reduction the electrics would have had which got ignored. Odd.

    * 3rd, when they assumed how much of a battery would actually be USED to drive the car, they estimated.... 50%. That's right kids, they assumed away 50% of the battery. When even GM, with their super-cautious first gen Volt ended up using much more than that.

    Which - when you sum up just those 3 things - is huge. Is playing with numbers. And which was done so blatantly they had to red sticker it. See, when you've foreshortened the vehicle life by 67% and underestimated battery use by, say, 40%, and then overestimated emissions by 40%, well... gosh if that doesn't mess the resulting numbers up a bit.

    As for your bit about "maintain the status quo," I just think you don't understand what status quo means. Because if switching from 20 mpg cars to 100 mpg cars, and thus reducing oil use and its associated emissions and geo-political problems by 80% is your idea of "status quo," then I'd suggest you're status quo is barmy.

    The LowCVP ( ) was established in 2003 to take a lead in accelerating the shift to low carbon vehicles and fuels in the UK and to help ensure that UK business can benefit from that shift. It has approaching 200 organisations from the automotive and fuel industries, the environmental sector, government, academia, road user groups and other organisations with a stake in the low carbon vehicles and fuels agenda.
    Here's a quote from LowCVP Managing Director Greg Archer that shows how much they hate non-ICE vehicles:
    “Drivers will need to embrace ultra-low carbon technologies like electric and hydrogen vehicles as one of the measures to avoid dangerous climate change. But for many drivers to switch these cars must be both appealing and no more expensive to own. This study indicates that the cost of electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will fall substantially and with modest tax and other incentives could be as cheap to own as conventional cars within the next 15-20 years.”
    Yeah, sounds like they really have it in for hybrids.

    1 - EV batteries are subject to much deeper depletion cycle than hybrid batteries, so performance of hybrid batteries does not predict that of EV batteries. People do stupid things to their cars now - batteries will be less forgiving.

    2 - The 2020 emissions are a target and were based on new, privately-funded nuclear plants, and renewables. Is anyone still building nukes? NGas power can reach that target, but coal power can be as high as 900 grams per kWh. UK still uses coal (as does the US). From what I've read actual decreases in CO2 have more to do with the recession than anything else. 

    3 - I have no idea why they used 50%, but perhaps it was to account for cold weather declines in battery performance. The UK is not the warmest spot.

    As for your insults, not everyone is going to agree with you about stuff. Grow up.

    How do you like it?

    I know the LCVP well, as I've briefed the top politicians in the UK, in London and Transport for London, as well as speaking and researching at the top universities, in the think tanks, and directly with the EV manufacturers there. 

    So yes, when I say you're quoting a deeply biased report, coming out of a country that for many reasons opposes these vehicles, I actually know what I'm talking about.

    Whereas, to put it bluntly, you don't. You don't "debate." You have a fixed position, and when confronted with facts, you gargle with words.

    Look at this -- "The UK is not the warmest spot." Holy shit. Have you ever been? Did you even bother to look it up? The UK, from stem to stern, is vastly warmer, even in its coldest bits, than the entire Northern Tier of US states. London freaks out when they see ANY snow. They would die, en masse, under a Minnesota Winter.

    Your other points were similarly hauled out from south of your belt-loops. Batteries may fail. Wow. How very scientific. Clearly, the world has no experience with LITHIUM-ION BATTERIES, other than the billions already sold, the millions of miles put on test vehicle units, and the billions of dollars placed at stake in warranties by major auto makers. 

    Same as when you say, that certain power plants may not get built for 2020. See, what I was saying was that you cannot do a report where only the future progress in GAS-powered cars is assumed to take place. I'm sorry, but when laws are passed, and car makers commit to things, you kindof have to treat the various laws and commitments equally, not set gas at 2015 levels and electricity at 2020. 

    As for your 2nd quote, your own bias is shown in that you don't even recognize how outrageously biased IT is. It's almost a comedy, how biased it is. Try this. This guy says EVs and Fuel cell cars will be cost competitive in the next 15-20 years, with incentives --- and you actually think this is good. Thing is, the guy is saying this in a country where gas already costs $9.00/US gallon. And where almost everyone has such short daily trips that a PHEV or a small-batteried EV can fully handle their daily needs. Which is to say, anyone doing the math in the UK today, and looking at something like a new Plug-In Prius or even a short-range EV, will find they're close enough to break-even already.... without waiting 15-20 years.

    Then they lump in EV's with the economics of Fuel Cells. Which - if you're paying attention - is a bit of a give-away that someone is an EV/PHEV/hybrid-hater as well. Because Fuel Cell prices are $120-$200,000 today - completely out of the league of the $25-$45,000 EV/PHEV/Hybrid line. To lump in EVs with FC's is to show your bias AGAINST the EVs.

    So, Donal, I give up on this. I step in from time to time, because I know some of the people who read here, and I know this field. Your views are - and there's no other way to put it - quite simply biased as hell. And worse, you have no learning curve. You just don't give a shit about learning, you just want to trot out whatever your latest schtick is against EVs and hybrids and such - the co2 thing or rare earths or what your car dealer said or they're part of the status quo, doesn't really matter. when you blog on them, you don't bother to put in the effort to do a comprehensive or balanced survey, you just pull up some article or "study" that you've found that fits your pre-set views. And when I confront you, as here, you have no ability or desire to take any of it on-board. What you do is this weird little thing where you throw up quotes from your local car dealer or - in this fabulous case - just toss out something blaringly, over-the-top wrong (the UK's weather being cold.) You don't care. you just have your views, anf that's it.

    Wherea (and I know you don't give a shit about how I came to this issue, but I'll recount it for others), I haven't even owned a car since 1990. When I wrote a major energy strategy as late as 2002, I left the transportation alternatives section blank, arguing that there were not, as of yet, any serious, large-scale, alternatives to the automobile in the circumstances we were facing that would enable large numbers of people to change over. And from 1997, I had been testing and trying. In the UK, oddly enough. I worked direct with the engineers of 3 of their EV manufacturers, seeing what we could do through redesigning their existing - lead-acid-based - small freight vehicles. But what was clear was that the country had absolutely NOTHING that resembled the capability to put an EV or PHEV on the roads (and in fact, their engineering in this sector was woeful.) And yes, actually, dozens of the vehicles I redesigned made it onto the streets, and worked just fine.

    By 2003 though, I had kept researching, and I changed my view, and wrote it up, talking about PHEVs as the step beyond hybrids, and this when they were only a twinkle in a small handful of people's eyes. And I went to work, across North America and Europe, discussing their potential, and more - getting people to actually build, buy, convert, operate and monitor as many early models as possible, so we could test them, in the real world, and get the data. I'm happy to say I helped get 3 of the largest PHEV trials in the world on the road from 2005-2010.

    So, I know, people don't like the fact that I have - over time - gotten more and more pissed at you over this stuff. But the thing is.... you just ARE biased on it. And maybe you'll decide to learn something in the future, I donno. But as it is? You talk nonsense, and when confronted, you show absolutely no desire to learn anything. England - cold?

    I'm done here. 

    So you mistrust LowCVP and you're somehow committed to the EV industry, but I'm the one who is biased. Got it.

    Yes, other places are frostier, but the UK is often cold and damp. EVs do lose range from running the heater, which certainly could be a factor in the UK.

    It is somehow appropriate that both you and Resistance responded to my comment with more insults.

    It is somehow appropriate that both you and Resistance responded to my comment with more insults.

    Speaking for myself:

    It is appropriate how? Is it because I reciprocated for the aggressive behavior, you displayed towards me on another post?

    Appropriate because you agree, you purposely went over the line to seek to insult with what I thought was a deliberate smearing innuendo; so it’s appropriate for me do onto you?

    STOP sowing the seeds, , and I'll not need to defend myself, from your misleading attacks.

    Maybe it was your choice of words that affected me, I hate the practice by those who find sport in spreading lies to attack the person.

    Unless I misunderstood your comment; then please accept my apology.

    I used to work in the UK and, when I first got there, was surprised at how good their roads were. Compared to here, very few potholes or breaks in the asphalt. It was explained to me that they didn't have the vast fluctuations in temperature that we have here in the States. By rights, I believe, the UK should be colder (I believe it's in line with Hudson Bay) but the Gulf Stream keeps it relatively temperate.

    Cold is a relative thing, of course. Naturally, the Eskimo thinks it's laughable that anyone would think of England as cold. I grew up in Georgia, where two or three flakes of snow would result in a school closing. (We actually had a snow day once because the meteorologists thought there'd be snow. There wasn't.) Naturally, I don't think it's crazy to talk about cold winters in England. (That said, today's forecast for London is actually warmer than today's forecast for Atlanta, but that is an exception, as one can tell from looking at the current weekly forecast.)

    Yup. Some examples.


    Record All-time Lows and Average January lows.

    Chicago -27F and +16F

    New York -15F and +26F

    Dallas -8F and +34F

    Seattle +0F and +35F

    Atlanta -8F and +34F

    Charlotte -5F and +32F

    Winnipeg -54F and -9F

    Toronto -27F and +19F

    London +14F and +36F

    Manchester +8F and +35F

    Glasgow +5F and +35F

    Hard to imagine these major British cities, North and South, never even coming close to going below 0 F, and their Winter nights average about that of Dallas or Atlanta, but never reaching peak lows nearly as cold. 


    Interesting. I've been to the UK a few times, and it always felt colder to me (maybe it's the humidity), but these two sites back you up:

    I used to go around Christmas time, and it almost always felt bitterly cold--but I think it was the dampness that did it. As I recall, it was never freezing.

    Here's another thought: those "average" temperatures are presumably means and not medians. Judging from the fact that the extreme temperatures are actually much worse for Atlanta (for example), I think it's quite likely that the median temperature in Atlanta is higher than the median temperature in London while the mean temperature is lower. Just a thought, and it has little to nothing to do with the original reason that Q and Donal were talking about relative temperatures in the UK.

    Main reason Britain feels cold is that their housing stock - and even public buildings - were historically incredibly poorly put together. I had a bedroom one year in a building where every single door swung "closed" leaving a full 3" gap between the door bottom and the floor. Many are completely uninsulated. They lose thousands of extra old people every Winter to the cold. Plus, when you're around water, it just FEELS bloody colder. 

    Yes to your last point.

    My memories are of what it was like out in the street, not so much inside.

    Of course, inside everyone wore sweaters anyway because, I was told, the British like to keep the heat down-:)

    The cold just went through you even when it wasn't all that cold by our standards.

    I think we'd be smarter to put our efforts into driving less now.

    Perhaps, but how?

    You know how our towns and cities are laid out...the suburbs and exurbs?

    Telecommuting helps some, but there's still shopping, lugging kids around to friends and games etc., to contend with.

    Yes, there are cargo bikes (thinking of getting one), but if people aren't going to go to the gym, are they going to go shopping with their bikes?

    Mass transportation? That should help. But here in NoVA, we already have HUGE funding fights for things like the Metro. And everywhere you look new roads are being built and old roads are being widened.

    Getting everyone onto the "drive less" page...without massive increases in the cost of gas...will be very tough. Sort of like turning a fleet of aircraft carriers...worse.

    But since the market is already committed to hybrids and they've been accepted, why not just try to improve them to reduce their CO2 embed?

    I think your quote about the 100-mile commute is a false move. The guy ALREADY commutes 100 miles. Do we want him commuting in a normal car, or doing it in a hybrid? Once he's committed to the later, he will want to save even more gas and reduce his footprint even more (I think).

    I think part of the struggle is getting to THINK environmentally and to factor that into their buying habits. The first step is always the hardest.


    Good question. According to the Triple Pundit article, I'm supposed to stay away from, "guilt-provoking messages" and convince people that not driving is, "a fun experience."

    I enjoyed driving when I was young because I had a sneaky fast Delta 88 and was usually the only one on the rural roads around where I lived. But encroaching sprawl turned driving into a chore, always someone in front of you and always someone on your rear bumper. Other people seem to live with it. I still like cars as objects, but I got tired of driving several decades ago.

    Walking or biking to work is often fun, and it is usually less stressful. Weather can be a challenge. Riding the light rail is a varied experience.

    I don't think the market is committed to hybrids. I think auto manufacturers are committed to whatever technology keeps our obese fannies in their car seats—and they're hedging between hybrids, plugins, EVs, fuel cells and optimized ICE. I think they realize that fewer of us will be able to afford driving, and want to capture the market that does remain.

    There is a hybrid with a very low CO2 embed and life cost: the Twike. Twike UK claims that embedded energy for a Twike is one-fifth that of a conventional car, so presumably one-seventh of a Leaf or Tesla-S. If you get the Twike Actif, you can pedal to extend the 25 - 150 mile battery range while you travel. With a top speed of 53 mph, the $35K Twike is quite a bit faster but twice as expensive as one of those 25 mph/$17K MyCars or Gems. I'd love to test drive one, but I'd have to swim to Europe.

    Nissan charges around the same price for a Leaf, which embeds far more CO2, but drives faster and farther like conventional cars.

    I don't think the market is committed to hybrids. I think auto manufacturers are committed to whatever technology keeps our obese fannies in their car seats—and they're hedging between hybrids, plugins, EVs, fuel cells and optimized ICE. I think they realize that fewer of us will be able to afford driving, and want to capture the market that does remain.

    I agree on the fun part. When I biked to work, I started the day much more refreshed. That ended when I gave in to my wife's fears that a car was going to kill me. Arlington has done a lot to create bike lanes, but they aren't much protection. Getting REAL bike lanes, like they have in Amsterdam, for example, will be necessary to convert a lot of people, I think.

    What you say above, though, is a stretch. The physical layout of our entire society simply demands cars, so I don't think the manufacturers are that worried. They probably are responding to what appears to be permanently higher cost gasoline (just as they started making smaller cars after the oil crisis in the 1970s when Japan showed them that lots of Americans would buy small cars).

    They are also responding to a heightened "green consciousness," as more and more people are concerned about global warming.

    But we are a LOOONG way off from the moment when anything close to a majority of people will give up driving because it's too expensive. Yes, gas prices bite, but most people don't feel they have any choice. Plus, the convenience is too great. They've built their lives around the fact that they can hop in their cars and get to XYZ in XYZ minutes or hours directly, without stopping or detouring for other passengers. Go out to where distances are great and public transportation is infrequent and it's cars all the way. Christ, even in NYC, where cars are a PITA, the streets are bulging with cars.

    I guess you could be right, but I think it's a weak thesis. Plus, Americans don't like exercising as a rule, so the warm-cool, safe rolling couch with great sound that is the car has a huge appeal that pumping a bike or walking--day in and day out--does not (for most people).

    I guess my other question is: are these embed figures one-time environmental costs which, when amortized over years, decrease?

    So, if a car embeds X CO2 is that a one-time figure which effectively decreases the longer you keep and drive the car because you aren't adding more CO2, as you would if you drove a car that kept throwing off new CO2 every time you drove it?

    The first number was CO2 emitted due to manufacturing, so that's a one-time cost, even if you never drive the car.

    The second number was anticipated CO2 emitted over the first 150,000 Km, and was an estimate of CO2 emitted by whatever power station generated the electricity. If you get all your power from fossil-fuel-fired plants, it gets complicated. Charging overnight is better—much better—because many of the plants run all night with a lot of the generated power going unused. Coal is dirtiest, then oil, then natural gas. Hydro, wind and solar are cleanest, but do have some embedded emissions.

    I don't think it's that long off. I ride light rail with a lot more people that head for the bus station instead of the parking lot. I also see more and more folk riding bikes. And a lot of people have no jobs, hence no commute.

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