14 April 2007

Electric cars are evil. So are electric ranges, dryers, water heaters, furnaces, and ovens.

Okay, maybe that lede was a bit deceiving, but hear me out here. One of the things I've always had a huge problem with was the idea that heating anything with electricity was a good idea. For the uninitiated, electricity is generated by rotating a copper coil around a magnet (or a magnet inside a coil, same difference). In practice, this is usually accomplished by using steam to turn a turbine. Where does this steam come from, you ask? Unless you're in France, odds are it's done by burning coal, oil, or natural gas. The heat vaporizes the water, and the rest is history. (Wind turbines and hydroelectric plants sidestep this by using moving air or water to do the heavy lifting, and solar cells do a direct conversion. However neither of these are as effective on a large scale as fossil fuels or nukes.)

So here's my problem, if you haven't spotted it already. You're taking, say, natural gas and burning it to boil water to spin a turbine to generate electricity to travel untold miles of inefficient wires to heat a coiled resistor on your cooktop. Rube Goldberg couldn't've designed it better.

The same thing goes for electric cars. Gasoline-powered cars are, actually, wonderfully efficient. Perhaps not optimized, and somewhat polluting (although that's pretty close to zero these days), but burning gas to move a car and generate electricity at the same time is a pretty solid way to go about your business. For electric cars, you go through all that rigmarole that you do for your electric range without the pollutant-reducing car technology employed at the energy plant and with all of the inefficiencies of transmission lines.

Simply silly.

Now I never really had an argument against the Prius, other than the fact that it's small and I'm big. I also suspected that, like the electric car, the technologies that went into making the Prius were not as green-friendly as the Priusphiles proselytize.

Clearly, I was right. More info and comparisons here.

While I'm sure there's plenty of issues that one can take up with the research (100k miles lifetime?), even if the Prius gets triple that, it's still a bad bet compared to the Scion xB.

I wrote a few ages ago that the NIMBY environmental movement was potentially self-defeating. Clearly, it still is.