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BMW: All Models Electric Within Decade (nasdaq.com)
332 points by Doubleguitars on Aug 30, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 292 comments



Ok, it's important to note that they're not saying all cars will be true all-electric, but rather that they will all have at least some kind of electric assist to increase MPG across the fleet. Even so, that would be very difficult to pull off in just 10 years given how long car design and production cycles are. It's a commendable goal, though.


I think BMW has been working on technologies for electric cars for a very long time already, probably even longer than all-electric car manufacturers like Tesla have existed. In Munich you already see quite a lot of electric BMWs and charging stations, so the technology seems to be pretty mature as far as I can tell.

I think the main reason they did not make the transition to (partially) electric cars earlier is that they did not want to cannibalize their business with non-electric cars. Another point is the still-missing charging infrastructure and the (to my limited knowledge) lack of some universal standard for charging stations. The final point is that today potential buyers of electric cars still have many good alternatives that are as much or even more ecological than all-electric cars. If you look e.g. at the new models from Volkswagen or BMW, many of the smaller ones use 4 liters of gasoline / 100 km or less (i.e. > 71 MPG), which is pretty hard to beat in terms of eco-friendliness and efficiency considering that electricity is still much more expensive than gasoline in terms of energy / price.

One driving factor in the transition to partially electric cars might be that there are not many other possibilities left to further increase the efficiency of conventional engines. In fact, most of the increase in efficiency that we have seen in the last decade was not due to better thermodynamic design of the motor block but better control of e.g. the fuel injection through more advanced sensors and electronics. As this optimization path seems to have reached is maximum potential it probably makes a lot of sense to use electric motors to e.g. recover braking energy, which should shave off another few percent in fuel consumption (Toyota already proved the feasibility of this very successfully with their Prius series).


> Another point is the still-missing charging infrastructure

I've had two electric cars. I've only charged publicly a few times. Many parking garages have installed chargers. I charge at home in my garage. I wake up every morning with a full charge. Many people who've only owned gas-powered cars don't consider this advantage.

A Nissan Leaf or a BMW i3 can only go 80 to 100 miles on the battery. But that covers the average commute of nearly every American commuter. With a charging place at work, you'd be able to swing a 70 to 100 mile daily commute and never need a public fast-charging infrastructure. If you commute more than 100 miles each direction, an EV may not be for you.

http://www.statisticbrain.com/commute-statistics/

Installing workplace chargers: http://energy.gov/eere/vehicles/workplace-charging-challenge...

For long distance driving and fast charging, that's currently a mess. Only Tesla has a respectable offering on that front. It's worth considering that most people don't drive long distances very often.

Tesla has made a huge investment. One might speculate that their proprietary infrastructure will eventually become the standard charging network everyone is waiting for.

Tesla chargers: http://supercharge.info/

Chademo chargers: http://www.chademo.com/wp/usmap/


IIRC, Tesla predates the standard, provides adapters, and will migrate over to the standard.



There are currently two standards. Chademo has much wider adoption. SAE Combo is backed by US and European car makers.

CHAdeMO: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CHAdeMO

SAE Combo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAE_J1772#Combined_charging_sy...


Indeed they have, consider their "turbosteamer" technology.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turbosteamer


This would make for a dynamite series hybrid powerplant! By recovering the exhausted heat energy, you're getting a huge boost in thermodynamic efficiency, and in such an arrangement the engine could be optimized to be very quiet and efficient by sacrificing maximum output and throttle response.


Modern combined cycle powerplants are exactly that (exhaust from gas turbine is used to heat steam for secondary steam turbine)


Wow quite interesting, thanks for pointing this out!


BMW is making lots of money with eco-unfriendly cars: 7, huge SUV, over powered limousines, ...

In their home market in Germany electric cars have very little acceptance: expensive, low range, electricity is mostly generated with coal, no infrastructure, ...

The program of the German government to have a million electric cars is largely a failure.

Before there will be a million electric cars in Germany, there will be ten million electric bicycles.


Well even the big limousines are actually quite fuel-efficient these days. For example, the series 7 BMW 730 with its 250 horse powers uses only 5.6 l / 100 km (http://www.bmw.com/com/de/newvehicles/7series/sedan/2012/sho...).

BTW coal makes up for only 20 % of the electricity production in Germany, and most of the coal-based power plants are quite "clean" in the sense that they make good use of the available energy (in most cases the heat waste is used industrially and emissions are heavily filtered).

As I said before, adoption here is mostly a question of availability, cost and efficiency, all three of which need to be improved before customers will see electric cars as a "reasonable" choice.


> Well even the big limousines are actually quite fuel-efficient these days. For example, the series 7 BMW 730 with its 250 horse powers uses only 5.6 l / 100 km (http://www.bmw.com/com/de/newvehicles/7series/sedan/2012/sho...).

These are unrealistic industry-produced numbers. This is widely discussed in Germany that these numbers are a joke.

Also forget the massive amount of energy going into the production of these cars and the materials they use. The huge space and infrastructure they are using... we still have air problems in the cities because of the diesel cars.

> 20 % of the electricity production in Germany

Coal has a share of 43.6% of electricity production in Germany.

> in most cases the heat waste is used industrially and emissions are heavily filtered).

The filter ash is going where? The coal is coming from where?

CO2 is not filtered.


I agree, the numbers tend to go towards 10L/100km for these cars, based on typical driving habits.


Germany actually has a much larger solar infrastructure than the US, despite being much smaller in land area, having less than a third of the US' population, and getting considerably less sunlight exposure per unit of land area.

It's the US, not Germany, that is excessively wedded to coal generation.


Germany is leading many developed nations in renewable energy production. They've named their movement the Energiewende.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_Germany

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_transition_in_Germany


10-15 years ago BMW was promoting bivalent Hydrogen/petrol as the future and one of their spokespeople even mocked Toyota at a car show over the prius (according to a contemporary article in the Roundel). Glad they ate those words because I don't think the hydrogen was very workable.


I don't see the argument that EVs or even hybrids would cannibalize their traditional lines. EVs are simply impractical for most people, so having them would not hurt sales of their traditional cars. They would however offer something to buyers who might otherwise go for a Tesla or other full EV.

Hybrids are more accepted (I myself wouldn't buy one, but most car makers have hybrid versions of all their popular models) so again I don't see the problem. If anything, having hybrids would open up their markets to a larger consumer base.


The "charging infra problem" is a hoax. The "fuel" comes out of ordinary electric sockets. People have them in their own garages, no less. Even the old EV1 from the 90's got a 75% charge in only 15 minutes.


The original EV1 had a 16.5kWh battery, so to get a 75% charge in 15 minutes it would have to pull about 50kW. If by "ordinary electric socket" you mean a NEMA 5-15 or 5-20 i.e. standard American 120V socket, it would have to pull about 420 amps. Since the wiring and sockets are only rated for 15 or 20 amps respectively, this would pretty much instantaneously start a raging fire if you somehow managed to pull that much current without tripping the breaker. Even at 240V, you'd have to pull over 200 amps, which is beyond what most houses are provisioned for, beyond what any 240V plug is rated for, and far beyond what the actual charger could handle.

The actual "high speed" charger for the EV1 was 6.6kW, so a 75% charge would take a little under two hours. On a normal NEMA 5-15 socket, a 75% charge would take about ten hours.

To charge at 50kW you'd need DC fast charging technology, which wasn't available until a decade later.


Read it yourself: The EV-1 from way back in the 90's seems to have some engineering that surpasses even the latest Leaf. The last EV-1 got a full charge in only 3 hours.

http://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/how-does-gms-fabled-ev1-st...


No, I misspoke. I was certain I had read that statistic before, I was wrong. However, my original point remains: there isn't really an infrastructure problem for the vast majority of drivers. It's way overstated.


I agree, for local driving. There is an infrastructure problem for long-distance driving, which is slowly being solved now. Tesla has it solved for their cars in many areas.

I think that a lot of people don't really understand, on a deep level, how living with an EV actually works. Much of the discussion I see seems to be based on the idea that an EV works like a gas car, except you use a plug instead of a nozzle when you fill it up at the station.


From the link: "A Gen I EV1 took approximately 15 hours to recharge from a 110-volt household outlet."


OK? How does any of that contradict what I said, or support what you said?

A full charge of a 16.5kWh battery in 3 hours requires 5.5kW charging power. That's nothing special, and it doesn't come anywhere close to what you'd need to charge 75% in 15 minutes.


The LEAF has a 26kW/h battery. Takes me over 20 hours to full charge from a regular outlet and get up to 100 miles range. It's straight physics: longer range requires more time, voltage or current. For anything over a 100 mile charge you'll need a 220v charger installed, and even then you're looking at 16 hour charging for a 400 mile preferred range.


Are those numbers bad? Do you need to drive two 400mile legs without a 16hr break in between? For "road trip", yes, but those are rare as a portion of trips, and most people don't need to purchase on the need. And there are supercharger stations.


They're not bad.

I was responding to the parent post absurdly contending a useful automotive charge could be achieved in 15 minutes from a standard wall outlet.


Not everyone owns a garage. For example, I have zero possibility to charge an electric car at home, so buying an electric car right now would be infeasible.


You just need a telescoping pole with a hook on the end, that will let you pull power from the overhead power lines when you park along the street.


Like the electric buses in Soviet countries!



True. But places to plug in a car are far more plentiful than gas stations. Owners of the old EV-1 talk about how much they didn't miss having to stop at gas stations anymore. When GM took their cars back, they were amazed at how inconvenient it became to hunt for gas stations again.


I think they're saying all powertrains are going to be electric. A i3/Volt model is way more efficient because it's not wasting any energy in idle mode like traditional model.


fuel consumption while idle is quite negligible particularly when it comes to a MPG calculation. My car (and actually all european models over the last few years) have auto-idle when stopped. My stats are that over the 10,000 km I have driven since new I have extended my range by 85 km in terms of saved fuel (so approximately 4 litres saved over 10,000 km, or approximately 4/700 (700l being total fuel comsumption over those 10,000 km).

So i've saved half a percent of my total fuel consumption. Useless individually. But of course potentially enormous savings when rolled out to a fleet of thousands of cars


With a Porsche Macan S (which has terrible gas mileage) I can see a noticeable difference whereby in cold weather temperature (doesn't auto idle much) vs. warm weather I see about 2 mpg difference in city driving. Haven't done any specific calculations but that is what I have been seeing.


Great point. I go to drive in movies frequently with a Honda Odyessy, and idle most most of the time with the AC and radio on. It lowers the tank's MPG by about 3-4 miles.


Would love to see drive-ins providing a 120 outlet at the speaker box for EVs to plug in at, for using AC, radio, etc while at the movie.


EVs are great for "idling." Energy use by accessories is negligible compared to the capacity of the traction battery. Even climate control can be pretty reasonable. A Tesla can sit with the radio on and the air conditioner running and lose just a couple of miles of range per hour.


anecdotal, my z4 28i has start/stop and it functions quite well. the 2.0l engine is very efficient overall and while I have not tested the mileage with start/stop off I am pretty sure it contributes to the good mileage I get from this sporty car. The start/stop works with the car in neutral and the clutch pedal not depressed; this is a six speed manual from 2012. US numbers, I track mine on fueleconomy.gov and I do about 32-34mpg commuting and a recent 1800 mile round trip averaged 38-40 at 65-80mph freeway.

I could see electric motors taking the place of the drive shaft and trans axel arrangement. You could easily add "awd" to many cars by electrically powering the previously non drive wheels. The best use is launching as that is where my mileage dives.

I am not a fan of the i3 because of the compromises made to the iRex for CARB regulations. A slightly larger engine and fuel capacity are warranted.

Ideally what I would like to see for a car the size of mine; small 1 to 1.5l engine capable of driving the wheels direct after speed is reached with electric responsible for getting the car off from stop. Chevy does a great job with the Volt but I think batteries still have a long way to go considering the weight required for so little range most offerings have


Is the engine stopped while the car is moving? That would save even more fuel compared to only stopping the engine while stationary. A further improvement would involve starting the engine without using the starter motor when possible.

I could do all that with my old car "manually", but I only tried it a few times.


With most fuel injected engines, the injectors turn 'off' on deceleration until ~1000 rpm where they kick back on.


Do you mean they turn off while rolling in neutral or with the gear in? Sure, the injectors turn off when you're decelerating in gear, but that's true even if the car doesn't have a start-stop system.

However, I was talking about the case of decelerating in neutral with a car having a start-stop-type system. Rolling in neutral is always more efficient if the fuel is also cut off, but often even with the car running on idle.


Pretty much every single new car comes with Start/Stop technology nowadays,so it's a bit of a moot point.


I know the 5 series has stop/start idle elimination now. Does the petrol 3 series?


Yes, since 2008. Source my old car, a 318i 2008


And since at least the 2012 F30 3 series in the US, if not before then.


I rented a diesel 2014 1 series in Ireland that had it. If a rental 1er had it I imagine it's standard on all their cars.


The article specifically calls out that the 3 series will become a plug-in hybrid, so there will still be a gas engine directly powering the wheels, not just generating electricity.


The term "hybrid" does not indicate that a gas engine powers the wheels directly. A series hybrid can have a gasoline or diesel motor that exists merely to charge the batteries, as in the i3 Range Extender version.

The article specifically mentions the 3 series becoming a hybrid (not what type; the ActiveHybrid 3 and ActiveHybrid5 already exist for limited sale), but it also speculates:

"The new range of cars could be driven by separate electric motors powering the front and rear wheels, with a small gasoline engine to generate electricity to extend the range of the batteries"

So, basically, we don't know what their precise plans are, but the article does not indicate that the 3er will have a gas engine powering the wheels.


If you look at BMW's current marketing names for the i3 and the i8, it describes the i3, both with and without the REx, as "electric", whereas the i8 is a "plug-in hybrid", and does have a hybrid powertrain. Obviously it can be argued that the i3 with the REx is a hybrid, but it's clear to me that BMW intends to build an i8-like 3 series.


Whatever their precise plans are, I hope this finally means we can stop paying attention to Hyperarrogant Elon. :)


What a strange sentiment. Competition in this field will be excellent for consumers.


There will be a gas engine, but not powering the wheel, they're saying the 3 Series will be converted to an "electric drivetrain": the ICE only does electricity generation, transmission is electrical and only electric engines power the wheels (aka diesel-electric or "series" hybrid)


So pretty much like the current i3 with the "Range Extender" option or the i8?


Same principle, though in the RE i3 the ICE isn't intended to run most of the time, so the i8 is a better point of comparison: you can use it all-electric for short hops but most of the expected usage is with the ICE running and the battery serving as buffer & booster.


Could you clarify / source / double-check that?

If you've got an electric drivetrain, adding a mechanical drivetrain: gearbox, driveshaft, differential, and powered axles, is a lot of additional weight. Powering a generator and transmitting power via electricity to the electric motors you've already got in the wheels makes a lot more sense.


>> BMW is now intends to convert all its vehicles to some configuration of plug-in hybrid.

Yep, it's 'just' a "plug-in hybrid". Good for low emissions and high mileage ... on paper.


http://www.voltstats.net/

Out of ~1300 Volts tracked, 70% of the miles traveled were EV only. Keep your snark out of facts.


Those stats are likely biased towards having a larger percentage of EV only miles.


Regardless, plug-in hybrids do reduce greenhouse gas emissions and gasoline used. They were a nice stop-gap until battery tech has caught up, and now that it has, you'll see people move on to fully electric vehicles.


I'm perfectly happy with my Outlander PHEV as it reduced my real life fuel use to somewhere around 15%.

It has a larger battery than most plugins, and my daily commute is 98% electric.


In Michigan the Big 3 are still funding hydrogen car projects and making primarily hybrids. Industry guys I know are not taking battery powered cars that seriously. They passed a law banning Tesla from having showrooms in the state.

http://media.gm.com/media/us/en/gm/news.detail.html/content/...

http://corporate.ford.com/microsites/sustainability-report-2...

http://www.autoblog.com/2015/07/30/fiat-chrysler-exec-future...


95% of hydrogen is produced using natural gas reforming. Hydrogen is ostensibly a fossil fuel when you consider how we produce it at a commercial scale.

Most natural gas comes from fracking, which may be a major air polluter in addition to many other known problems.

http://energy.gov/eere/fuelcells/hydrogen-production-natural...

http://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2015/04/01/how-m...

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/12/16/frackin...


GM : Chevy Volt, Chevy Spark, upcoming Bolt

Fiat-Chrysler: upcoming Town and Country PHEV

Ford: C-Max, Fusion PHEVs.

What am I missing here?


That there (a) is clearly a demand for a clean car but (b) the hydrogen infrastructure is non existent. Hence the availability of electric cars.

GM/Ford also have hydrogen cars in testing e.g. Chevrolet Equinox. And Fiat has had a number of hydrogen cars they previous developed.


I think there's a demand for EV cars, not just "clean cars". Hydrogen cars won't give you maximum torque from the moment you press the pedal, complete silence, or the improved efficiency in using modern "smart" technologies in an EV compared to using them in a hydrogen car (the electronics can use the electricity directly from the battery, while with gas and hydrogen cars it has to be converted).

Another point that's very important, is that every single hydrogen car I've seen so far looks either dumb or ridiculous. It's been true for most EVs, too, so far, which makes me wonder if they do it on purpose to sell few models and then say "there's no demand for clean cars" or something. Fortunately Tesla came along and showed everyone else you can actually sell a "normal" looking EV car.


Who cares about maximum torque ? Is the best selling car in the world a sports car ? No. It's a Camry.

We are talking about the future technology of the masses here.

And yes car companies can make normal looking hydrogen cars: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ex09fldnr1E


There is no hydrogen fueling infrastructure, and there never will be. Electric outlets are everywhere, and where there aren't, there are Superchargers.


If you want a clean car a hydrogen car is a terrible clean car. Look at the maximum theoretical efficency of a hydrogen car. It is far lower than even current efficiency of electric cars.

Pushing hydrogen cars is insane if you want to be clean.


After years of hearing people talk about hydrogen powered cars I almost want to believe they are ruse to get people distracted from working solutions. IE, hydrogen power cars sound like a good idea, the exhaust is just water! And for entities deeply invested in the current infrastructure the idea is great because it'll never happen.


I once had a silly argument with a hydrogen fanatic (who insisted he built a working hydrogen fuel cell in his garage in the 70s, but we'll get to that) which was back and forth like this:

Hydrogen Fan: But the exhaust is only water! Me: All electric cars have no exhaust! Hydrogen Fan: Well they do at the coal plants! Me: So we are going to count electric production? What about Hydrogen production? Today it uses fossil fuels and outputs carbon and methane worse than coal plants. Hydrogen Fan: But the real exhaust is only water! And you could eventually get the hydrogen back out of the water! Me: That's not how Chemistry works. Where does the energy come from to split the water molecules?

That's about when I gave up on the conversation as it derailed into the aforementioned beliefs that the guy built a Hydrogen Fuel cell that somehow fueled on water, spit out water as exhaust, and was capable of driving a car in the 70s but then his garage experiments were stopped by a government conspiracy. (I presumed drugs were heavily involved in the actual reality of this story, this was a middle aged guy working in a hardware store.) This entire conversation felt like par for the course when dealing with people that think hydrogen powered cars are anything but a ruse. You even hear variations on it from the Big 3 car companies. ("Well we almost had hydrogen working in the 70s but the government stopped us." Yup, it was clearly the government and not, say, the basic laws of chemistry and physics.)


Cadillac ELR? :)


I am looking at apartments to buy here in Sydney and not a single one has available power sockets in the car parking garage. Likewise at work. Which obviously makes charging impossible. The problem here is the chicken/egg situation. Building owners aren't going to install per bay power without cars. And people aren't going to buy cars they can't charge.

As land becomes more and more expensive housing density is increasing worldwide. This means fewer houses will have dedicated garages/driveways and apartments are going to become more popular. This increases the chances that your car will not be within distance of a power socket.

Hydrogen doesn't have this problem. It works exactly like petrol does today. It doesn't require much education or really any change in user behaviour. It is simply another nozzle at the gas station just like when LPG/Natural Gas was introduced.


Australia seems a bit ambivalent about meeting its international obligations around carbon, but in several other countries they're solving this relatively simple issue with incentives, subsidies and planning regulations. It's really not hard at all.


No matter how much money you throw at the problem, you won't be able to solve it entirely in cities. European cities aren't really built with cars in mind and most buildings don't come with garages. So all the cars currently parking in streets, can't be charged at all.

In order for electric cars to become a good alternative, they need to be chargeable in <5min at least.


Why can't you put chargers on the street?


We do put chargers on the street. There are a couple outside pubs i drink at.

I'm not sure what would happen if you had a whole residential street wanting on-street chargers, though. At that point, we might need some new planning rules. Doesn't seem an insuperable problem, though.


They take up a lot of space on a sidewalk. If all cars were electric, charging them on my street would require putting up a charger roughly every 5m on both sides of the street to charge all cars typically parking here.

The same would have to happen for almost all residential streets in Berlin. Even ignoring the fact that there simply isn't enough space for chargers everywhere, it's also not practical financially.


Chargers aren't that big. They'd take up about as much space as a parking meter. Lots of places have one parking meter per parking space.


True. Although it would take a LOT of infrastructure work and expense to run power to such a large and dense network of chargers. And realistically, we'd need to meter and charge money for that power, too, so, we also need very smart charging stations. So basically a monumental infrastructure investment.


It's a big investment but it's also long term. It's basically a couple of thousand dollars for each new EV sold. It's not something you have to do all at once.


Not to mention that Mitsubishi and others are working on good solutions for inductive chargers that could be mounted into the street, making the parking spot itself the charger, at which point nearly every parking spot in a city has the space to be electric (it just needs the infrastructure investment).


No cabledrum robots on the streets that roll out to meet your car halfway..


In the UK you can get a government grant for 75% of the install cost of a domestic charge point; there are also a growing number of public chargepoints (1400 now, increasing to 6000 in a couple of years), and workplace garages often have them; urban gas stations are mostly closing for commercial reasons (redevelopment).


I spent years living in London and I had to find parking on the street often not near my car. Are we really expecting every house to have a power cable running from their house down the street ? Because it sounds dangerous, impractical and hardly an elegant solution for the next generation of automobile power technology.

And again my workplace in London was a big car garage. I don't see how that magically ends up with per bay power with the current chicken/egg situation.


It is now common in London to see electric only parking spaces, with a power bay, on most central London streets and these are increasing in number in the 'burbs too.

You will get a ticket if you put a liquid-fuelled vehicle in those spaces.

These tend to be filled with Nissan Leaf and cars of that kind, I've yet to see a Tesla in one (do all Tesla owners charge at home?).


Not all Tesla owners charge at home, but almost all do.

It's pretty inconvenient to own an EV that you can't charge at home. It's doable in some cases, but it's far better to have home charging.

I'm pretty sure that 90+% of EV owners of all stripes charge at home, whether Tesla, LEAF, or other. If you see them charging in public, it's usually either to get a bit of extra range because they're planning to drive beyond what a single charge can give them, or they're just taking advantage of the availability of changing even though they don't need it. Mostly the latter.

(Just in case it comes across wrong, that isn't meant to be disparaging. I plug in when there's a free charger even if I don't need it. If it's offered, I figure I might as well take advantage. I do leave my phone number on the dashboard in case someone comes along who actually needs it to get home.)


The Nissan Leaf takes 8 hours to recharge.

I just don't understand how electric cars scale out to all consumers given the housing situation. There would need to be an electric charging unit on every parking spot. Is this logistically practical ?


Remember, whatever the charging time at a residential socket is in the US, the charging time at a European socket will be half of that. (If the socket is properly used)

(US uses 110V residential, 220V industrial; Europe uses 220V/230V/240V residential, 400V industrial; Additionally usually british and German wall sockets, at least, offer up to 16 or 24A, which, again, is more than US sockets. If the socket delivers more power, you can charge faster)


US residences have 240VAC available, and standard outlets provide half of that, 120VAC, all single-phase. US electric ovens, dryers, water heaters, conventional split AC, etc run on 240V. It's fairly trivial to install a 6.6kW "charger" in most US residences. (It's not in a detached garage if fed by only a single 120VAC line.)

US industrial is variously 208VAC, 240VAC, 277VAC, and 480VAC; some are single phase; some are three phase.

If you're discussing only the "walk up and plug into an existing outlet" situation, EU charging will be faster. Not so for permanently installed chargers.

As for the very last point, the supply equipment negotiates with the car to advertise how much supply it has. Unless you can tell it to charge at 24A, it doesn't "know" and the charge will be at the slower rate. Same in the US. If I plug my trickle charger into a typical 15A plug, it charges at around 12A. If I plug the equipment into a 20A plug, it still charges at the same rate, because the equipment doesn't know that a higher amperage is available.


And European homes have 400V available (230V is the single phase). When my parents had their old three phase 400V oven replaced they had to have am electrician in to redo the outlet since the new one was only single phase 230V.


German residencies have 240VAC as standard, and 400VAC available. Normal stoves usually end up using around 18kW here.

For permanently installed chargers, this will be a lot more power.


Learned something today; thanks!

Note that the J1772 charging standard won't supply 400VAC-3phase, but IEC 62196[1] will allow that super-fast AC charging.

1-https://xkcd.com/927/


Why is it difficult to have one electrical outlet per parking spot? How many outlets do you already have in your house, for example?


It would make life interesting for multistorey car parks. It's not uncommon to have 500+ spaces. If each one of those has something between 3-50kW charge capacity, and many are being used at once, that's going to require some serious infrastructure upgrading (maxes out at ~25MW if I didn't flub the numbers). A wild ass guess would put them in the maybe-hundreds of kW for lighting, ventilation, automation, so that's a pretty big step.

Then again, they'd be in a pretty good position to monitor spaces used and already have a billing system for parking time, adding cost of power would be quite straightforward.

And it's going to be a long time before 100% electric occupancy is a real problem.


It's sort of a microcosm of the problem of upgrading the grid to handle the additional load from charging EVs. Like the grid, I think it will happen so gradually that it will barely be noticeable, and the upgrades will just be a part of regular electrical work.

Note that you'd only need to size for average use, not peak use. With a bit of cleverness (and expense) you could set a power limit for the whole garage and distribute it between the charging cars, rather than letting everyone charge full blast. Most people will drive under 50 miles per day on average and will charge overnight, so you really only need to deliver about 1.5kW per car. (50 miles at 300Wh/mile is 15kWh, assume "overnight" is ten hours of charging.) You'd want to be able to provide more for those who need it, but that's probably a reasonable number for an average.

I have 10kW charging at home for my Model S and it's major overkill for local driving. Most public chargers are about 6kW, which would still be plenty for daily charging.


Tesla already has a lot of technology in their Super Charger stations to control the total charge rate. E.g. if you park right next to another car both will charge slower, because there is a limit in power per 2 adjacent parking spots. The same goes for the total over all spots, if they are all in use, the cars will charge slower.

So having 500 spots in a garage means you'll need to have some technology that is aware of which car is in need of charging and when the owner is expected to return. You can then set dynamic pricing to motivate car owners to charge at the moment you have enough capacity and encourage them not to all request full charge-rate at busy moments in the garage.


Just in case some Tesla owner discovers this fact here, a seriously tiny nitpick: supercharger pairs aren't necessarily directly adjacent. Your best bet is to look at the label. 1A is paired with 1B, 2A with 2B, etc.

In any case, allocating power between cars is relatively easy. The cars themselves can be told how much they're allowed to draw, and this can be changed on the fly, so you don't need any fancy power electronics, just enough smarts to monitor usage and tell cars how much they can take based on that.


My Nissan LEAF takes a hair over 4 hours to charge from basically flat to full using the commonly available 6.6kW EVSEs.

6.6kW adds about 25 miles of range per hour of charging.

It's only the slow trickle charger that takes a long time (in fact can be over 24 hours).


Will a solar panel on top of the care help? Could someone do the math?


However, hydrogen fuel cell cars have another number of problems: http://ssj3gohan.tweakblogs.net/blog/11470/why-fuel-cell-car...


The limitations of hydrogen powered fuel cell vehicles are grossly underestimated by many (layfolk) who espouse the technology.

Storing hydrogen is difficult, it will leak out of steel and embrittle the steel.

The biggest drawback, as it stands today, and quoted from the article you linked is this:

"You won't even go 100 miles on current tech hydrogen tanks that are still safe to carry around in a car."

However, some of the drawbacks could very well be the reasons hydrogen wins out. Again, quoted from the article you linked:

"Even though a HFC-powered car is essentially an electric car, you get none of the benefits like filling it up with your own power source, using it as a smart grid buffer, regenerating energy during braking, etc."

Those look like good ways to maintain the something similar to the present distribution change.

It'll be interesting to see how this unfolds. People will argue over which is the better technology, but that isn't necessarily going to be the deciding factor.


I don't get the "smart grid" buffer argument why would anyonce cycle their car battery (and hence reducing its lifespan) for little to no financial gain


> little to no financial gain

Electricity here in Ontario costs twice as much during the day as it does at night (US$0.12 vs US$0.06 per kwh). If you cycle most of a Tesla battery every day that's ~$120 a month in electricity savings. Not sure if that offsets the battery lifespan costs, but it's not nothing.


You don't need to cycle to help the grid, just temporarily stopping charging for short periods and/or delaying overnight charging to off-peak times helps enormously.

And you don't do it for free, the org operating the charger can get electricity cheaper if it agrees to modulate load to match demand.


Hydrogen is not simply a drop-in for petrol, like LPG/Natural gas. It is considerably more challenging to store and pump, and its infrastructure is orders of magnitude harder to install than electric charging points.


Couldn't orders of magnitude more people use a single piece of infrastructure? I think their point was you could live and work anywhere then go to the one station in the vicinity for a couple minutes once or twice a week to top up.


It will not take much additional friction in practical usage to remove the hydrogen car from the equation. Just as steam cars were similarly discarded from the mainst[r]eam.

We didn't run out of whale oil, coal, or wood. We haven't run out of oil, but as cheap solar infiltrates as solar generation drops in price, it will make much more sense to run personal transportation on clean and simple electricity.


We didn't run out of whale oil? Weren't the relevant whales nearly hunted to extinction?


But as a customer I don't know or care how the hydrogen gets there.

I just know that I will drive to the same gas station, use the same hardware to put it into my car, wait the same amount of time and pay for it exactly the same way I do today. Only it will be clean. And I won't involving changing my life to fit my car.


I honestly don't mean to sound antagonistic, but literally every single point you make is wrong.

> use the same hardware to put it into my car

It is not the same hardware: hydrogen pumps are far more complicated, difficult, and expensive than gasoline pumps. (http://ssj3gohan.tweakblogs.net/blog/11493/why-fuel-cell-car...).

> wait the same amount of time

Hydrogen cars will always have very poor range compared to hydrocarbon-fueled cars. So for the range that you get, you will spend much more time pumping. See the blog-post series above for more on that.

> and pay for it exactly the same way I do today

Because the infrastructure is many times more expensive than petroleum infrastructure -- and this is not just a matter of relative economies of scale, but a fundamental attribute of hydrogen -- you will need to pay much more to recoup those capital costs. Again, read the blog post series above (I'll stop repeating this, but it holds true for every point).

> Only it will be clean.

Only at your tailpipe, which is a false form of cleanliness. Systemically, Hydrogen is dirty. Hydrogen production is spectacularly inefficient. The only remotely efficient way of producing it is to extract it from hydrocarbons -- in which case it would actually be cleaner to generate work by burning the hydrocarbons directly. Truly "clean" methods of hydrogen production (electrolysis of H2O) require copious amounts of electricity, which must come from somewhere, and again would be better used directly, via a battery-electric vehicle. Basically, any energy source which produces hydrogen could be used to directly power a vehicle, and would be 5x-10x cleaner by doing so.

> And I won't involving changing my life to fit my car.

You have already changed your life to fit your car -- by driving to gas stations! Home-charging is a feature, not a bug.

Besides, if you really want to drive to a remote location to get a complete top-up of your range -- that's what battery-swap is for. Battery-swap stations are far cheaper to build than hydrogen filling stations, and can give you more range, more quickly, than hydrogen pumping. And they are truly clean, not imaginarily clean.


You are missing the point. Look at it from the consumer's perspective. It will be identical to how they fill up their car today. Nothing new to learn. No change in behaviour. No finding new stations out of the way. No proprietary battery swaps that exist only at specific stations.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7xCbmkWKkw


Did you even read what I wrote, or follow the sources? Hydrogen pumping is absolutely not identical to how people fill up their cars today. And you can't simply retrofit a standard gas station to pump hydrogen: you need to build an entirely new facility. Just like a battery-swap station, except much more expensive (and therefore rarer and further out of the way).

If you could simply replace gasoline with hydrogen, then your arguments might have some merit (although it still wouldn't be "clean" by any real measure). But you can't, and therefore your arguments don't.


It's identical in that you pull up to a pump, insert a credit card, connect a hose to your car, and in about 5 minutes you are on your way.

All your other complaints are irrelevant to the consumer.


Why would you want to go to a gas station?

Batteries improve ~15% per year ($$$ / kWh stored). It appears to be some sort of moore's law for batteries. It also means we'll see way better batteries in 10 years (4x better regarding $$$/kWh).

Now with way more range and non-stop travel (2-4x) the bottleneck will be how long you're willing to sit in your car without a major break (sleeping).

Such a future would be very similar to charging your phone at night. Most people can get away with just charging at night. Even if they travel. I expect the car battery capacity to grow beyond the point where intraday charging is relevant at all.

And once we've reached that future going to a gas station will seem like a strange thing of the past. Yep, it might be 10-20 years from now. But we'll hopefully all watch this happen.


Also, gas stations make almost 0 profit with selling gas even today (at least here in Germany), so they’ll probably end up as midnight stores with obscene prices.


The same trend holds in America as well. The low margins on gas has lead to gas pumps becoming a loss leader to encourage people to go to nearby convenience stores and now increasingly entire supermarkets and superstores. The pumps that are surviving aren't really "gas stations" in the classic Americana sense and I don't think people realize that.


Then how come we haven't seen a single "gas station with a hydrogen noozle" so far, but only specialized and very expensive "hydrogen stations"?

If anything it's the electricity infrastructure that already exists, and you only need chargers installed, which are far cheaper than hydrogen stations - which is why we're already seeing thousands of EV chargers across the US and only a handful of hydrogen stations.


If you were to take every single car on the road today and replace it with an electric car overnight there would be massive, massive blackouts, everywhere.

Cars use a whole lot of energy, gasoline stores a whole lot of energy. I doubt there are many places around the world where electric power distribution systems are equipped to serve vehicles, on top of cooling, heating, refrigeration, electronics, etc.


But the conversion doesn't happen overnight. EV adoption will happen slowly over the course of decades. That's plenty of time for the grid to be upgraded in a slow, incremental fashion.

The same could be said of the hydrogen infrastructure, except that hydrogen faces a massive chicken-and-egg problem. There are a grand total of twelve hydrogen fueling stations in the US at the moment. These stations cost a ton of money to build. Who will build them if there are almost no hydrogen cars on the road? Who will buy hydrogen cars if there are almost no filling stations?

EV charging infrastructure is relatively cheap. That means it doesn't face the same chicken-and-egg problem. A person whose daily driving fits entirely within their EV's range doesn't need any charging stations except the one at his house, which can typically be installed for $0-2,000. (The $0 is for if a suitable outlet is already available and you just use the mobile charger that comes with the car.) And since the stations are relatively cheap, that means that businesses can install a few to attract EV owners without making it a major investment. Because of this, there are already over 10,000 public charging stations in the US, with more showing up all the time.

Each additional station stresses the grid a little bit more. But it also contributes money to maintaining and upgrading the grid. As long as stupid political forces don't prevent utilities from gradually upgrading over time, there will be no problem there.


> If you were to take every single car on the road today and replace it with an electric car overnight there would be massive, massive blackouts, everywhere.

Not quite true. It's estimated[0] that up to 75% of light-duty vehicles (the kind regular people drive) could be converted to electric without requiring major grid upgrades. The one major assumption is that most people would be charging their vehicles at off-peak hours (overnight) which is already the case[1].

[0] http://www.technologyreview.com/news/518066/could-electric-c...

[1] http://www.powermag.com/impact-of-electric-vehicle-charging-...


> If you were to take every single car on the road today and replace it with an electric car overnight there would be massive, massive blackouts, everywhere.

Half-credit. The DOE has shown that 77% of light vehicles could move over to overnight electric charging without adding any additional grid capacity.

If we need more capacity, we add additional renewables to the grid.


Electric cars primarily "fill in the bathtub". If you look at a chart of energy demand over 24 hours the off-peak (cheaper) hours are often referred to as the "bathtub" because that's what the chart resembles. To deal with the bathtub electric companies have to turn on/off electric generation systems appropriately. Most of those generation systems (hydro and even coal, as two examples) are more efficient if they run continuously rather than start/stop. So electric companies want to fill in the bathtub, and are already willing and eager to fill in the bathtub.

This is also where you get into discussions about the "smart grid". The thing to note is that the grid in most countries is already "smart" on the production/generation side: it has to be to deal with changes in demand over time, particularly given something like the bathtub that happens every single day. The goal of the "smart grid" is to make consumption smarter by signaling better when demand might change (my owner just got home from work for the day, your house says, so please get ready for higher power needs this evening) and electric cars are a vanguard for the "smart grid" precisely because they are programmable consumption devices with useful consumption patterns that can be smartly adjusted. An electric car (or its charger, same difference) can ask the grid for energy and adjust its energy input to the grids needs (and vice versa), charging on a slow trickle during high demands and a full blast to help fill in the bathtub. Cars use a whole lot of energy, but primarily in short bursts (trips to/from a destination) and ultimately spend a lot more time parked. With a little bit of information from the user, or a bit of inference from pattern matching, a car can predict about how long it will be parked and about how much charge it will need for the next trip (which is not always 100%; if you drive to lunch from work you probably are only planning to go a short distance because you have to return to work just after lunch). The energy grid loves this because it can better predict demand over time and better adjust consumption to meet generation and vice versa.

(This is all even before you get the "smart grid" facets that electric cars are giant parked batteries and that a truly "smart grid" could borrow energy from an electric car to meet high demand and then repay that energy (with "interest") as demand shrinks back down. It's this part that gets a bunch of interest when people talk about the "smart grid", but that's actually a less practically useful part of it than just consumption demand knowledge and preparation/time-shifting. The "battery loans" would more likely be useful and actionable merely at the scale of between your personal car and home than at the level of the grid.)


Right now I know of only one charging point in the Lansing area and that's at Kellogg Center on the Michigan State University campus though there could be one or two more I don't know about.

Tesla only has one charger and that is in SW Michigan near Chicago though they recently announced one more in the Ann Arbor-Detroit area.


According to plugshare.com there are several dozen charging locations in Lansing.


One just went live in Grand Rapids.


In reality, it would be a waste of money to install charging point infrastructure in each place as the demand is so low. Most people would prefer better appliances than a charging point. It wouldn't be that difficult to fit the charging point yourself if you purchase an apartment.


Isn't Australia still coal-powered? With coal-burning power, EVs aren't cleaner than gas vehicles.


> With coal-burning power, EVs aren't cleaner than gas vehicles.

Incorrect. Even if you run a car off coal, its cleaner than gasoline. That coal fired plant has better emissions controls, and is more efficient than the powerplant in your vehicle. And the grid will continue to become "cleaner"; a gas-powered vehicle will never reduce its emissions over the life of the vehicle.


http://www.cbc.ca/m/news/canada/nova-scotia/electric-cars-ar...

Emission controls yes, but CO2 release cannot be captured and you can't beat entropy - energy is wasted on conversion from chemical=>electric=>mechanical rather than just going directly chemical=>mechanical.


You are largely correct, but rooftop solar is fairly popular in Australia, and EV owners are much more likely than average to also buy rooftop solar. This is for economic reasons as much as ideological ones - solar pays for itself a lot faster if you're using that much more electricity - so there's a potnetial for a virtuous cycle that goes beyond whatever the current power generation mix happens to be.


Really really need nuclear power to actually make this a "clean" technology. And I hope we're paying attention to the environmental impact of lithium mining too while we're at it. And rare earth minerals.


I used to think this too, until solar started to take off unexpectedly. We will need nuclear in the long run, but at the moment, I don't think massive adoption is a necessity.

As for Lithium, even if Li-ion remains the best technology we have for the next ten years (which it might not be? [1]), we should be able to find better ways of mining Lithium [2], like electrolysis from seawater. After all, it's probably the most abundant metal in the universe.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Mirai

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium#Production


No. Given how long it takes to build a nuclear powerplant, we need them right bloody now. Yes, solar is seeing fast growth right now, but it will also hit the ceiling very fast, probably around 10-15% of the average total production, due to the physical realities of power grids. Germany is the poster boy for solar, but they've installed three times as much generating capacity in the form of new coal-fired power plants as they have in solar over the past six years.


There is a lot of misinformation and misinterpretation of what is happening with coal in Germany since the decision to phase out nuclear. This article [1] goes into a lot of detail, with charts and figures, on what is actually happening and shows that the simplistic interpretation that you are making (and which has been repeated elsewhere quite a lot) is not true.

[1] http://www.energypost.eu/energiewende-dark-side/


Interesting, especially the part about the financial situation for coal power. But there is a serious weakness: it presents the false dichotomy between "keeping nuclear and coal, no more renewables" and "reducing nuclear while increasing renewables". There's no mention of the (obviously better) option 3: "reduce coal while increasing renewables, keep nuclear the same".

And what I said about coal power is factually correct. Germany installed 11 GW in new coal power plants from 2011 to date. When you crunch the numbers, that gives you a production of ~80 TWh per year from the new coal plants.

Now, as the article you linked points out, this has replaced old coal plants being phased out. This means their argument of "nuclear power was old and needed replacing, so we might as well just scrap it" could be equally applied to coal.


Very interesting read, even as a German. Thanks.

I did not know international media would portrait it so... wrong.


There is really a lot of politics in that, not just economics. For example there was a decision to wind down all nuclear power plants, and coal was used for a while to compensate for that. Meanwhile, the parties in power changed and nuclear power pants are not being closed down as quickly as planned anymore.


> installed three times as much generating capacity in the form of new coal-fired power plants as they have in solar over the past six years.

That's wrong. Coal in Germany is stagnating and going down. There are literally dozens of fossil fuel plants for closure...


Solar is about to take a legislative beating, as the oil lobbyists have won. In the UK if you want to install a Solar array, there are no subsidies - in fact, you have to pay a levee for "taking money from oil producers".

And don't forget the subsidies for oil and gas in the UK are ~20x those of renewables.

But hey, as we all know, co2 is love, and "this green crap all has to go".


>subsidies for oil and gas in the UK are ~20x those of renewables.

I'm not saying you are wrong - but can you show me your source for this?


Depends on how broad your definition of subsidy is. Oil and gas companies operating in the UK are some of the largest direct contributors to the UK exchequer, and so the tax breaks they're able to claim for certain activities are also relatively large. (with the government indirectly getting those tax breaks back and more by taxing domestically-sold fuel at high rates by world standards)

Renewables, by contrast, make up ~7% of the UK's electricity generation and <1% of its fleet of road vehicles, so even the relatively generous subsidy schemes don't make that much of dent in the UK budget.


It's disgusting that oil and gas can receive 20x subsidies. It's like a cruel sick joke.


It's just politicians and their cronies benefiting at the masses' expense, i.e. the system working as intended.


That doesn't make it stink any less.


Of course not. We shouldn't have governments at all, because all they do is exploit us. That's why they exist.

All you need to see is that they're taking our money by force, and you can make sense of everything they do - it's all about keeping us blind to the exploitation so that they can keep on doing it.

King's had "The Divine Right" to rule over everyone else, and governments have "The Social Contract", which amounts to the same thing.


Can you quote any source on that ? Last I checked (and that was after this year's budget), there's still a 1.63p/kWh subsidy on domestic solar. Certainly no levee for "taking money from oil producers".


The levy for "taking money from oil producers" does not exist. What the OP is probably referring to is the phasing out of the roundabout renewables' subsidy mechanism whereby renewable energy suppliers received tradable Climate Change Levy Exemption certificates which power consumers could purchase to claim tax breaks against the "Climate Change Levy".


That's just part of the tapering off of subsidies for renewable energies as they become more widespread. Although the amounts can be discussed, renewables are still very much subsidised with public money, and solar is no exception.

I've been a customer of Ecotricity for a while now, and they've been able to consistently improve their mix while keeping prices stable. I don't believe the regulatory environment is working against them, and they don't make that claim either.


I never tried to argue the industry wasn't subsidised (and am a bit perplexed at attracting downvotes for posting a neutral clarification of the legislative changes?), but it's fair to say that plenty of energy firms were objecting about the unanticipated abolition of the Climate Change Levy exemption, not least Drax who saw their earnings forecast hslved.


Those are fairly strong statements, and not what I've seen of the UK market, so would be interested to see your references.

whilst the tories are indeed changing the subsidy picture, renewables in the UK can still get FiT tariffs to quite a reasonable degree, which is driving a lot of the investment in these areas.


Everytime I read a comment like this (claiming nuclear is clean, ignoring the atomic waste contaminating your land with radiation for the next hundreds of thousands of years, which is starting to become a severe problem for example here in Germany), I notice that the commenter is usually from the US. I wonder why this is?


The waste produced by a nuclear power plant is orders of magnitude less than what a coal power plant produces. Even if we only look at radioactive waste - coal power plants produce more of it, only instead of being stored in a special underground site it is dispersed into the atmosphere giving us cancer.

So yes, nuclear waste is a serious issue, but let's not forget that the alternatives have major environmental costs as well.

(not from the US)


Nuclear waste is orders of magnitude less in volume but orders of magnitude more dangerous, to the point we have to plan to keep it out of reach for literally millenia.


There are several aspects to this.

1. Nuclear waste, even when not processed, is not that large in volume and it can be stored in a space on the order of a hectare (about 2.5 acres) for the entire US nuclear waste production over several decades. Consider the comparative amount of storage needed for just coal ash, as well as the environmental hazards that presents.

2. The reason the US does have comparatively more waste is because the government forbids any reprocessing of nuclear fuel. For example, merely separating out the more radioactive isotopes, you can greatly reduce the volume. Reprocessed fuel can also be partially reused in a nuclear reactor and the French have great experience with that.

3. Even reprocessed "spent" fuel can be useful in 3rd and 4th generation reactors. Spent fuel today is still a valuable future resource, so it needn't be buried and guarded for millennia afterwards.

4. Natural nuclear fuel usage can be greatly more effective with nuclear breeding, which can turn non-fissile U-238 and Th-232 into the fissile U-235 and U-233 respectively. Right now, what's actually burned is mainly U-235, an extremely rare isotope (the minor constituent of "natural uranium") and that's comparatively as rare and expensive as platinum. Breeding can increase the energy obtained from the same quantity of fuel by 10-100 times.


The other point that we tend to forget about nuclear waste is that it is not only minuscule in term of size, but it can also be confined. When a factory releases gas in the atmosphere, we loose control of this gas.

To me the main problem with nuclear energy is not the waste, which even if we never intend to recycle is such a tiny volume that being afraid of it is like an elephant being afraid of a mosquito. The problem is rather the chernobyl/Fukushima risk.

I am not a specialist but I understand that switching to Thorium could reduce a lot that risk. Most nuclear reactors around the world have been built in the 60s/70s. I would expect that if we decide to replace them, there would be a sufficient critical mass to justify the cost of moving away from uranium.


> The problem is rather the chernobyl/Fukushima risk.

The risk from these types of accidents is less than the toll from fossil fuels in normal operation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_and_radiation_...

For Fukushima: ".. no confirmed casualties from radiation exposure.." "no evidence to support the idea.. will lead to an increase in cancer rates or birth defects".


The problem is that these accidents have actually happened even in countries that were deemed to be "serious" (Soviet Union, Japan). The cost of having a whole region devastated and becoming a no man's land for several dozen years is I think unacceptable, particularly if it is avoidable with alternative nuclear fuels.


I would not put the USSR and Japan in the same league as far as concern for environmental or human safety in the operation of nuclear reactors. Fukushima was the result of a confluence of unlikely natural events. Chernobyl was not an accident, it was caused by an intentional experiment deliberately conducted against the better judgment of the plant operations staff.


Especially because we had in Germany several reactors (which also tended to have issues) of the same design as Fukushima-1, for example Krümmel, Brunsbüttel, Philippsburg, Isar-


Except these weren't sited directly on a Tsunami-prone coast with their emergency backup generators below the line of the floodwaters.

But yes, more modern reactors would be better, but these aren't being built.


The toll from fossil fuels is however much easier to deal with. The worst case scenario for a nuclear reactor failure in Germany, is that there is no Germany afterwards.


That's a big claim. Do you have big evidence to back it up?

Take into consideration that 2 nuclear bombs dropped on Japan did not cause Japan to not exist afterwards. In fact, the damage and death toll from those two bombs was less than from the wholly conventional Tokyo firestorm.

Yes, nuclear technology is a big lever, and yes, big levers are dangerous. But it's simply not as earth-shatteringly more dangerous as people believe.

Remember that there have been no deaths so far from the Fukushima meltdown, which was about as bad as you can imagine, with bad siting, bad technology, bad safety precautions, awful handling etc. At the same time, the Tsunami that caused the meltdown did cause over 15000 deaths.


I agree with your position but comparing to bombs is not a good comparison. Nuclear reactors contain far more fissile material than the bombs dropped on Japan. Of the two, Little Boy had by far the most fissile material, with 140lbs of U235. By contrast, a nuclear reactor will contain many tons of fissile material. The possibility for widespread long-term contamination of the landscape is therefore much greater.

Again, I think you've reached the right conclusion, but looking at the lack of long-term damage from the bombs doesn't tell us anything either way about the potential for damage from a reactor.


You missed two things:

1) I wrote "take into consideration". That means that this is something to consider, not something that proves my thesis conclusively. So your criticism is misplaced.

2) You also miss the fact that bombs are designed to cause as much damage as possible, whereas reactors are designed to contain damage as much as possible. A candle contains much more energy than a stick of dynamite, yet the former is far more damaging.


It makes no sense to "take into consideration" the long-term radioactive contamination caused by 150lbs of fissile material when considering the potential damage from a reactor accident. I stand by my statement.


You can stand by your statement all day long, that doesn't make it any more sensible.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_Chernobyl_and_ot...

Referencing: http://www.iaea.org/inis/collection/NCLCollectionStore/_Publ...

Compare the section: "Chernobyl compared with an atomic bomb".

But what do the IAEA and the WHO know about anything?


Since both of those links only bring up the Hiroshima bomb to show that Chernobyl was orders of magnitude worse in terms of release of radioactive material, I'd say both of those support my point rather well.


Actually, they disprove your point, which you would notice if you'd actually read both the link and what I wrote.

First, they show conclusively that "amount of radioactive material" is not the be-all/end-all measurement that you make it out to be. Nuclear tests put a total of 100-1000 times the nuclear material of Chernobyl into the atmosphere, and yet we are also still here.

> It makes no sense to "take into consideration" [..]

Furthermore, they do exactly what you claim "makes no sense". They "take into consideration" the effects of the bombs, and they compare those effects. They do come to the conclusion that the effects are different, one factor being that Chernobyl had more material, a counter-effect being that the radiation from Chernobyl is much more low-level and thus much less harmful (in fact, there are indications that low-level radiation may be beneficial).

But "into consideration" they certainly take. QED.


That's all fine, but for example Fukushima is still not under control, and may still cause enormous harm.

That kind of stuff is why we need to get rid of nuclear power altogether. All that's holding us back is politicians and their bribes.. and of course, to a lesser extent, people who rationalize not moving away from nuclear power.


Fukushima was an unsafe design. Chernobyl was both an unsafe design and being operated in an obviously risky and neglegent way when it failed. These kinds of disasters won't happen with more modern reactors that already exist. Even if they do, making a few permanent wildlife reserves in the irradiated areas isn't a global catastrophe. The world is full of uninhabited and uninhabitable places.


> Fukushima was an unsafe design

Fukushima was a standard design. Built by European and US companies in the same style as dozens of plants in Germany.

This is not "Fukushima was unsafe". If you say "Fukushima was unsafe", then half of Germany’s reactors are unsafe.

Shutting them down was the only option.

> making a few permanent wildlife reserves in the irradiated areas isn't a global catastrophe

You are talking about Japan. A country with one of the highest population densities worldwide. Declaring a whole province – and one with lots of history – off-limits is not going to happen. Currently they’ve been digging out the ground in half of the province.

----------

EDIT: Some more info:

Fukushima was a Boiling Water Generator built by General Electrics. Reactors of the exact same design are Krümmel (Germany), Brunsbüttel (Germany), Philippsburg (Germany), Isar (Germany). Krümmel and Brunsbüttel had constant issues, including the town next to it having the highest cancer rate on the planet.

The same design used by Fukushima is described in Wikipedia as "the second most common type of electricity-generating nuclear reactor".

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_water_reactor

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brunsb%C3%BCttel_Nuclear_Power...

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kr%C3%BCmmel_Nuclear_Power_Pla...

- https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leuk%C3%A4miecluster_Elbmarsch

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_Nuclear_Powe...


>> Fukushima was an unsafe design

> Fukushima was a standard design.

The design was unsafe. The company knew this. In fact it had been known for 35 years. It was not unfixably unsafe, and in fact 5 of the 10 reactors had been upgraded. These 5 shut down properly during the Tsunami and survived without problems.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB100014240527023048879045763955...

http://www.globalresearch.ca/fukushima-general-electric-knew...

http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/03/16/fukushima-reactor-flaws-...

The main design flaw was that the vital emergency cooling equipment was sited in an unprotected building outside the protected reactor. This is especially troubling if you site your reactor on a Tsunami-ridden coast. It's less of a problem in the middle of Germany, where there are no Tsunamis. Or to put it another way: if you have a Tsunami reaching the middle of Germany, a meltdown at these powerplants is going to be among the least of your problems.


1960s design, things have improved.

Of course, it is hard to demonstrate improvements, especially when nuclear power is so demonized.


Well the way for a reactor to "demonstrate an improvement" over Fukushima would be to withstand the same kind of earthquake + tsunami that Fukushima didn't.

It doesn't make sense to say it's hard to demonstrate improvements when it's not even under our control.

But demonizing nuclear power has nothing to do with it.


> Well the way for a reactor to "demonstrate an improvement" > over Fukushima would be to withstand the same kind of > earthquake + tsunami that Fukushima didn't.

Gee, what a great idea! In fact, a slightly improved reactor was operating in the other Fukushima plant, and all its reactors were shut down safely after being hit by the same Tsunami.

More modern designs are safer still. For example, there are designs that do not require external power for a shutdown at all.


Yes, modern designs are safer – but the first lesson to be learnt from Fukushima should be to take the older designs from the grid.


I'm sure that the people behind Chernobyl and Fukushima were no less convinced that the design was safe and operated perfectly fine, than you are convinced that modern reactors are safely designed and operated correctly.


All that's holding us back is politicians and their bribes..

No, unfortunately, that's not all that's holding us back. There are still some pretty substantial, e.g., storage and transmission problems with the renewables.

Unless you want us to keep burning coal or some other nonsense like that...


There are no storage or transmission problems. Build hydro-pump-storage plants, and you fixed the storage issues.

Build power lines from everywhere to everywhere, and refit transformer stations to be up to the load of users producing more than using, and you fix that, too. (Incidentally, in Germany we’re having a huge debate about a huge powerline currently, NIMBY is one of the worst things that happened)


> Build hydro-pump-storage plants, and you fixed the storage issues.

You do realize that the largest ever energy-generation accident was a dam failure? 171000 people killed in 1975 when a dam in China failed. And overall, hydroelectric facilities claim 94% of the fatalities of energy-production accidents.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_accidents#Fatalities


What you are talking about is hydro-generation.

What I am talking about is hydro-pump-storage.

That type of storage has no dam that could fail – you take two lakes, one higher than the other, connect them with a tunnel, and place a turbine in the tunnel. Now you can push the water up (store energy) or let it flow down (produce energy).


Yes, that was a hydro-generation dam.

However, it is simply not true that hydro-pump storage never has a dam.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricit...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ffestiniog_Power_Station

In fact, when you look at the list of pumped storage stations, the vast majority of them have dams:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pumped-storage_hydroel...


And coal mines, oil/gas rigs have perfect safety records?


They don't, but when they do go wrong the consequences are less severe.


That's debatable. Coal is known to cause far more deaths than nuclear. Even Fukushima was nothing compared to the 10's of thousands killed by the tsunami.


"Far more" is even an understatement. Coal kills more people every year than nuclear ever has, and that still holds true even if you include the two bombs dropped on Japan in "nuclear."


Coal irradiates far more people than nuclear even when it's operating properly.


Yes. Perfectly working coal produces more radiation than perfectly working nuclear.

When coal has a major incident, though, it still produces the same pollutants as if it's working correctly.

When nuclear has incidents, like the plants of Brunsbüttel and Krümmel that frequently had leaks, you end up with the highest leukemia quote worldwide [1].

Krümmel had major issues, with nuclear fuel being found in the area around the reactor, outside, on the ground, with the power plant leaking coolant frequently, and more incidents. [1]

Mismanagement with Nuclear can lead to far more problems than mismanagement with coal.

More Info and Links: [1] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leukämiecluster_Elbmarsch (Sadly, only German article available).

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kr%C3%BCmmel_Nuclear_Power_Pla...

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brunsb%C3%BCttel_Nuclear_Power...


> When coal has a major incident, though, it still produces the same pollutants as if it's working correctly.

Yeah. No.

"Coal mining accidents resulted in 5,938 immediate deaths in 2005, and 4746 immediate deaths in 2006 in China alone according to the World Wildlife Fund"

So each year more deaths from coal accidents alone than the entire predicted, somewhat speculative and hard to ever prove death toll from Chernobyl over the next 20 or so years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_accidents#Fatalities


What he means to say is that a nuclear meltdown can fuck up a huge area for millenia, but a coal incident can't.


While this is how many people feel, the facts say quite the opposite.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_and_radiation_...


You forget all the people killed through air pollution.


This was a solved issue with Yucca Mountain in the US, but then fear mongering and political back-peddling caused it to be blocked at the last minute. Nuclear plants had to help pay for its development and then got screwed when it came time for the payoff.


How long does it take non-nuclear waste to decay? For many types of dangerous waste, the answer is "forever." Yet we treat the nuclear stuff as being much worse. Why is that?


From Germany here. The issue is not that nuclear is "clean" in an absolute sense, it's that the alternatives are incredibly more dirty and dangerous so relative to those it is incredibly clean.

Here are 3 articles comparing the death-rates of various means of generating power.

Nice graphical representation:

http://www.the9billion.com/2011/03/24/death-rate-from-nuclea...

For each death attributable to nuclear, 4000 are attributable to coal. 4000:1. Incredible, but apparently true.

NASA shows the deaths that have already been prevented due to nuclear, currently the rate appears to be 80000 per year. That's 80000 people alive per year who would have been dead without nuclear:

http://climate.nasa.gov/news/903/

Forbes has a nice comprehensive overview that shows rooftop solar having a higher death rate than nuclear:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2012/06/10/energys-de...

[EDIT: pulled salient points from the quoted articles into the post]


Google also turns up what appears to be the original source for those oft-repeated statics http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-so...

It's fair to say the author's methodology is interesting. Only 50 deaths from Chernobyl count... as it would be "tenuous" to count other people that eventually died from radiation poisoning (even using the figures accepted by bodies responsible for promoting atomic energy). It's apparently not "tenuous" to count ballpark estimates of a million lives shortened due to coal particulate poisoning, however, or indeed to guesstimate 1/6 of all roofing deaths are likely to be from solar. It's something of an understatement to say this is not the most intellectually honest exploration of statistics around an issue.

Compare with the New Scientist's claim - based on a study by the IAE - that the ratio should be around 14:1 for coal, and 1.5:1 for natural gas. Better than coal, certainly, but not spectacularly safe even compared with burning other fossil fuels https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20928053-600-fossil-f...


> It's fair to say the author's methodology is interesting. > Only 50 deaths from Chernobyl count...

Not sure why quoting the WHO is "interesting", unless you mean "interesting" as in "a good way to proceed".

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr38/en/

They say the death toll could reach 4000 (from the pool of emergency workers), but so far only 50 have been confirmed.

' [..] the radiation-induced increase of about 3% will be difficult to observe.'

'Poverty, “lifestyle” diseases now rampant in the former Soviet Union and mental health problems pose a far greater threat to local communities than does radiation exposure.'

'Persistent myths and misperceptions about the threat of radiation have resulted in “paralyzing fatalism” among residents of affected areas'

'Notes Vinton, “The most important need is for accurate information on healthy lifestyles, together with better regulations to promote small, rural businesses. Poverty is the real danger. We need to take steps to empower people.”'


If you're going to count a WHO estimate on lives shortened due to coal power in your fatality statistics, which the author does, it's probably not a good idea to dismiss the equivalent estimate of 4000 for Chernobyl, which the author also does. Even organizations existing to promote atomic energy aren't disputing the validity or relevance of that figure

I mean, if you're doing a sincere comparison with "people whose lives may have been shortened by coal dust" and "back of the envelope guesstimate how many people die installing domestic solar", you simply don't pick "people definitely proven to have died from radiation poisoning at Chernobyl" as your comparison point.

Coal would look remarkably safe (which it isn't) if you required similar standards of proof of coal dust rather than lifestyle factors being the cause of premature death.


While both the coal dust and Chernobyl future deaths are somewhat statistical in nature, there is a huge difference that you would acknowledge if you were sincere. The coal deaths are already occurring. They are, as far as I can tell, sufficiently statistically significant that they are not seriously in question.

The future Chernobyl deaths are just that: predictions about what may happen in the future. They think it could happen, but they don't know. And due to the extremely low level of the signal, it will be very hard to tell if they do occur, because as the WHO report states, other effects such as poverty are much more significant.

So, no, the comparison to coal dust is not unfair at all.

But, for the sake of argument, let's completely ignore the coal dust and other respiratory or global warming effects, and concentrate on just the proven accidents. Heck, let's be super unfair and leave in the estimated possible statistical future deaths from Chernobyl, but only consider the documented deaths from coal accidents. That gives us 4000 deaths for Chernobyl and 4000-6000 per year for coal. So even when being totally unfair towards nuclear, it is somewhere between 20-40x safer than coal.

When you level the playing field, you have the 50 deaths from Chernobyl and around 131 others, though that includes lots of accidents not related to power generation. Around 180. Let's double it and call it an even 400. So 10x fewer deaths than coal. Except that's per year vs. since ever. So we're talking around 500-1000x safer.

No matter how you slice and dice the numbers, nuclear power is vastly safer than existing means of power generation, even given the sorry state of the industry today.

Of course, we should still be doing as much solar as we can (just be careful when installing!), and we should improve reactor designs so they are even more safe. For example using the liquid fuel thorium reactors, or concepts such as PIUS, which uses passive mechanisms relying mostly on physical laws to shut down and cool the reactor, rather than active mechanisms that can fail as they did at Fukushima-Daiichi. And hope that one or more of the multitude of nuclear fusion projects makes a breakthrough.


> While both the coal dust and Chernobyl future deaths are somewhat statistical in nature, there is a huge difference that you would acknowledge if you were sincere.

OK then, I sincerely acknowledge that the estimate of 4000 Chernobyl casualties is much more widely accepted (including by the nuclear industry) than the WTO's more speculative guess at how many people are having their lifespan reduced by exposure to coal particle dust. I'm not sure why you would think otherwise, but then I'm also perplexed by your assumption that none of the 3940 total casualties the WHO predicts from increases in rates of cancer and leukaemia among those most closely exposed to Chernobyl radiation have happened yet.

The lack of confirmed Chernobyl deaths is because - as the report you linked to states - cancers are common cause of death among people not exposed to nuclear accidents, not because 50 acute radiation sickness victims and 9 kids with thyroid cancer are the only people living or working near Chernobyl to have died a bit young over the last 30 years. I mean, I'm not sure any individual lung cancer has been directly proven to be a result of working down a coal mine either, but it would be an unusually outspoken proponent of coal that argues that it should be discounted as a risk altogether because of that, or because of difficulties gauging the precise size of the effect when miners tend to be poor and smoke a lot.

I'm going to go out on a limb and consider a published study suggesting nuclear is around 14 times safer than coal[1] and 1.5 times safer than natural gas a little more valid than your own back-of-the-envelope exercise, or indeed a blogger whose use of statistics is rather creative.

[1]though much as with flying being safer than driving, that's to a large extent because nobody is suicidal enough to run a nuclear plant with safety standards comparable to those of Chinese coal mines.


And still, we have with Nuclear issues like this:

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leuk%C3%A4miecluster_Elbmarsch


Except that that is in all likelihood not a nuclear issue at all. If you read that article you quoted, you will see that the only study to actually look at other such clusters found that the main correlation were not geographical factors (such as proximity to nuclear facilities or air bases), but rather demographic factors.

"Im Zuge der Auswertung der Studie zeigte sich, dass nicht Umweltfaktoren, wie die Nähe zu Kernkraftwerken, zu Militärflugplätzen oder anderen häufig als Verursacher in Rede stehender Anlagen mit dem Auftreten der Leukämiefälle korrelieren, sondern dass demografische Faktoren die signifikantesten Merkmale darstellen, in denen die untersuchten Cluster übereinstimmen."


We could also start getting our shit together and build some breeder reactors that burn up >90% of what we now call "waste" and produce end-products with much shorter half-times than current reactors.


Right. Eventually uranium 238 decays down to non-radioactive lead. http://www.ccnr.org/decay_U238.html


Inasmuch as if you'd had a pound of it when the earth was formed, you'd still have half a pound of it now, sure.

Mathematically-speaking that remaining half pound of U238 will fully turn into lead approximately... never.


Nuclear is pretty clean if the waste is dealt with properly and stored safely, until we figure out how to use it.

My understanding is that the radiation problem in Germany is since Chernobyl...

I don't think people's viewpoint on this issue has anything to do with nationality.


Germany started their nuclear power phase-out in 2002, well before Fukushima. In 2010 the Merkel government decided to extend the lifetime of the existing power plants by 8 to 14 years, which was heavily criticized at that time. The only thing the Fukushima 2011 incident resulted in was that the phase out was accelerated but it would have occurred nonetheless.

> if the waste is dealt with properly and stored safely

At least in Germany, nobody figured out yet how to store the waste properly for a long-time. Remember, that the country is densely populated. For example, take a look at the Asse II mine.


Fukushima had a big impact on nuclear policy in Germany. I'm just saying it doesn't make sense given its geological stability.

There's a world outside Germany. Pay someone outside Germany to deal with it.


Nobody has yet built a storage site for high-level waste. There are three attempts, the two German ones failed. WIPP in New Mexico looks promising but is far from perfect. Even for less-radioactive waste, the current situation doesn't look too good.

The thing is: No matter how often it is repeated, there is currently no safe place to store a sufficient volume of nuclear waste securely anywhere in the world. It's not just a simple question of "paying someone else".

Developing those sites seems possible but the solution to the waste problem isn't there yet.


There's a storage site being build in Finland. Should ne ready to start accepting waste around 2020. The waste will ne stored in bedrock, around 450m below surface.

http://www.posiva.fi/en/final_disposal/onkalo


If I'm not mistaken Germany shipped nuclear waste to Normandy, France (by train) a couple of times.

It didn't fly well with either public opinions, though.


They used the nuclear reprocessing plant in La Hague but that waste was shipped back to Germany afterwards. Same with the waste that was processed in Sellafield, though nothing has returned yet from there.

Using those sites for commercial waste is not allowed anymore since 2005 though.


> waste is dealt with properly and stored safely

And how is that going ? Not good.

The biggest problem with nuclear waste that everyone keeps overlooking is the potent NIMBY issue. In democracies politicians need to do what their constituents want in order to survive. And constituents will forever be scared to the bone about nuclear waste anywhere near them.


The simple political reality in Germany is that you will not be able to build nuclear power plants and that's that. Germany is a democracy and the will of the people will not allow it. All other considerations and discussions and arguments are wasted breath. Germany will have to do without it. I don't think that's so bad, all things considered. It's an interesting experiment and I'm quite optimistic.


Because coal power releases more radiation than nuclear power, and those energy sources are what americans know best. Nuclear is the lesser of two evils, and less ubiquitous. It's somewhat of a false dichotomy.


Which is ironic to me because the US is less pro-nuclear than numerous EU countries.


It's because the U.S. is so hesitant to do nuclear that its inhabitants are so pro-nuclear. The U.S. isn't having to deal with nuclear's faults.


I'm pro-nuclear because it's one of the lowest risk forms of electricity production in terms of human lives per kilowatt, with the possible exception of utility scale solar.

The occasional wind turbine workers and rooftop solar installers have been killed doing their work; in extremely small numbers but each turbine and rooftop only makes a minuscule quantity of energy.

Hydro is usually very safe, except that the dams can fail and wipe out entire cities. When Banqiao Dam failed, 26 thousand people died. If you want to talk about the "what if" dangers of nuclear, you have to accept that Hydro's "what if" scenarios are far, far, far more deadly.

  Deaths per trillion kW hours

  170,000  Coal
   36,000  Oil
   24,000  Biomass
    4,000  Gas
    1,400  Hydro
      440  Solar (rooftop)
      150  Wind
       90  Nuclear
Source: http://onforb.es/1JpfxzR


That link seems to be unrelated, you probably put the wrong one.

I notice that Wind and Solar aren't much worse than Nuclear, though, and they don't produce highly radioactive, toxic waste we must safely store for millenia, don't take decades to set up, don't cost as much, do not require incredibly high levels of competence to be safe...


There are plenty of sources with broadly similar numbers. Google is your friend.

https://www.google.com/search?q=deaths+per+kilowatt

I'm all on board for wind and solar, we should be deploying as much of it as possible. But if we want to eliminate fossil fuels from the world economy in the next 50 years, we need more than just solar and wind.

Saying that nuclear power produces "highly radioactive, toxic waste" is extremely misleading and demonstrates a core misunderstanding of the nuclear fuel cycle. This stuff is only scary because it has been pitched as the boogie monster by anti-nuclear weapons campaigners who were completely uneducated about the difference between the two.

If you educate yourself about nuclear power, your views might change.

http://archive.wired.com/science/planetearth/news/2007/11/mo...


This statistic does not account future deaths.

If we were to stop using hydro or wind the number of related deaths would quickly drop. With a lifetime of 100.000 years, today's nuclear waste has a potential to kill tenths millions.


Your claim of future deaths has no rational basis.

You have fundamentally misunderstood the nuclear fuel cycle, and some very basic facts about radioactive material. The stuff that "kills" has a short half-life. The stuff that lasts for millennia is almost safe enough to store in your underpants.

Rather than parrot ignorant statements of others, please consider learning more about nuclear energy.


> The stuff that "kills" has a short half-life. The stuff that lasts for millennia is almost safe enough to store in your underpants.

That it is dangerous for millennia seems to be a popular belief, so a source would be valuable.


> a source would be valuable.

Seems a bit strange having to cite something I learned in secondary school science class, but okay.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_radioactive_isotopes_b...


People hear "nuclear waste" and "lasts for millennia" and they insert the implicit "is dangerous" themselves.


How does atomic waste contaminate the land with radiation? Isn't it shielded?


It should be - there is a fairly large industry that cleans up the shoddy shielding from past years.


And I wonder how you know where they're from, considering there is no city/country listed on their profile. Can you please explain how you arrived at that from OPs simple comment?


It's maybe not cleaner, but the waste is more under control, localized.


For cars we don't really need nuclear power, rooftop photovoltaics are almost as cheap as coal and getting cheaper fast. Their main drawback is intermittency, but cars can charge overnight or in the office parking when the production of electricity exceeds the demand.

Furthermore, electric cars can be used as energy reservoirs during high demand periods.


Theoretical range is pretty much worthless if the battery level depends on some unpredictable outside factor. "I can't take that detour because I did not press priority charge yesterday" isn't exactly what people buy cars for. And taking a more global perspective, it seems quite wasteful to routinely drive around heavy battery overcapacity that is only filled when the trip happens to begin at a time of energy surplus. It can surely make a lot more sense for certain kinds of commercial fleets with very predictable usage patterns, if the typical downtime is long enough.


With photovoltaics the production of electricity doesn't usually exceed the demand at night... So to charge cars at night you still need another technology for base load.


Or cheaper battery technology, but that level of cost is a fantasy.

That said, a frequent complaint about wind is higher output overnight. Wind and electric cars could be a perfect match.


How about wind? Blows almost every day – and when there’s no wind, there’s usually sunshine.


No we don't. We need solar and batteries that can provide "car charging" for free or almost free, like what Tesla is doing for Model S.

Also, nuclear is not perfectly clean either. The reactor may produce clean energy, but everything else that is needed to power it and maintain it is not clean energy.


Bullshit. Without massive subsidies nuclear energy is not economically viable.


This! People always forget about indirect cost when talking about cheap nuclear energy (risk factors aside). Nobody has never build a profitable nuclear power plant without substantial government subsidies (way higher than for all renewable energy sources). Operators need government help for security, fuel supply, waste handling and much more. There is no insurance company on earth which will cover a nuclear power plant without state guarantees (ask yourself: Wouldn't a profit oriented insurance company cover these risks, of these were really as low and controllable as people say here?).


Nobody has ever built a profitable coal power plant without substantial government subsidies either, but nobody calls them "not economically viable."

The difference, of course, is that coal subsidies are in the easier-to-ignore form of "allow you to kill a lot of people downwind from your plant without compensation."


Even if we get electric cars (with good batteries) before the electric grid catches up to be more efficient, the fact that they're plugged into the grid means that we only have to upgrade the central power plants/distribution to help. It's a much better world where each vehicle needs improvement to make improvements.


In this context it is always good to read the Economist special report on nuclear power and the future of it.

http://www.economist.com/sites/default/files/20120310_nuclea...


I agree. Though to me the benefit is not so much to have a zero environmental impact. Even the cleanest energy (nuclear power, dams) have some environment costs (nuclear waste, destroying the eco system of a valley).

To me the biggest impact of moving to electric cars is to move the pollution (air+noise) away from where people live. And that benefit alone is certainly worth significant undesirable effects on areas where people do not live (mines, etc).


Move polution away to dodge the problem?

A car is about one ton of metal. Whatever the source, it takes the same energy to move it around. Underground resources on the Earth are limited. Each new tech revolution brings us 60 years more of petrol/nuclear/(place any fantasm here), but the number of revolutions is limited, just like Moore's law.

What is happening here is that a car would be the equivalent of a 60-horse carriage in the Middle Age. What kind of kings are we to deserve such servitude from the nature? The ideal of having cars is not a good idea. Carpooling isn't even a reasonable solution.

Americans don't become aware of it because they live with very cheap petrol with low taxes. The rest of the world invents new urbanism based on the impossibility of having 1 car per person. We mix companies and residential area, so we can just walk to work. We're solving the last mile issue of food delivery. We're researching the equation of population density vs pollution. And even in my country (France), petrol isn't expensive enough to make people realize that cars are an un-solution to quality of life.

Even if supposing that we can bury the pollution and invent magical energy, there are major political side effects to digging this energy out. All this money US is spending on war shouldn't be carried by all taxpayers but integrated in the cost of a gallon of petrol. Then they'll realize what is the real cost of petrol. You may assume new forms of energy / pollution burial wouldn't create the same side effects as petrol, but I'm afraid that might be a fantasy.


I am not sure I follow this moral stance vs nature. My computer is able to calculate billions of operations per second. That's more powerful than what the most brilliant mathematicians of the middle age could ever achieve. Should I feel guilty to use all that might to watch kitty videos on youtube? Everything we do has a cost on nature. When I eat a burger, a cow has to go. When I build a house, I don't want any bug or rodent in there. Yes tigers are heading toward extinction but guess what, I don't want to have to live with them when I walk in the countryside, so they will have to stay in zoos or national parks. To me the limit on pollution is to ensure that we do not generate a nuisance or hazard for ourselves or our kids. I have no sense of "fairness" vs nature.

The problem of cars in dense urban area has more to do with pollution (which electric cars solve) and space (traffic jams) than morality.


Your computer consumes barely no energy (in Joules). I'm not making a generalized abstract comparison, I'm making an energy consumption comparison.

When you eat a 10th of a cow per year (200g/day), you consume the same energy as one seat in a Paris-NYC flight, and the same energy as necessary to heat a house for a year, and the same energy as the Earth produces per year, per inhabitant. So, choose only one of those ;)

It's not about saving tigers, kitties, noise or morality. It's that the Earth doesn't produce that much energy, so we're not in a stable situation on the long term.

There are "footprint comparators" that you might have seen on the Internet: A European has a footprint of 2.5, which means it requires 2.5 Earths of wheat fields and uranium mines to feed, cloth and house everyone like a European. It takes 6 Earths to nurture someone like in the US.

So we can only sustain this pace of spending resources as long as we keep others poor (aka as long as Middle East/China/Asia don't enter into a consumtpion society). That's where I claim: We may have to take part with our cars in the future and therefore we'd better build our cities so that we don't need to move around that ton of metal per person.

The side effects of emitting CO2, nuclear waste, wars in the Middle East or costing an unsuspected cost through taxes are just different forms of the same constraint, which can be studied through energy consumption in Joules per inhabitant.


Our relationship with nature is symbiotic, not adversarial. We work better when we work to strengthen nature, not deplete it.

To give an example, there has been some concern recently about diseases affecting bees. Beside adding to the variety of the world, bees play an important function in pollination. Could we do this pollination artificially? Probably yes, but not without a considerable amount of effort, and bees do this work very well for free.

Besides this, I don't want the world to be dominated by a single species, for me the world is far richer and more interesting from the contributions of nature (if want to view yourself as separate from it, whereas really we're part of it).


Cars are strangely enough one of the only energy usages we have right now that is not dependent on base load power. Inherently they must carry the energy they need with them, and therefore can store it from any time of day. So it'd be fine to supply them entirely with intermittent, variable sources like wind and solar, given sufficient total wattage.


The climate change deniers may be costing the US a chance to be a center an enormous future industry, clean tech.

The article says BMW's move is in anticipation of stricter environmental laws in the EU. The situation could give Europe or certain regions there a 'first-mover' advantage, if it hasn't already.

Once the 'Silicon Valley' or valleys of clean tech are established, where all the talent, capital, services and infrastructure are and where business is done over a beer/wine/etc, it's not going to suddenly shift to the US when Americans catch up on climate change issues, especially if Europe offers a large 'single market' for this technology. China could also be building an insurmountable lead.


I am going to miss the conventional engines.. getting old perhaps.


Yes. That is weird. The noise, the smell, the need for gears. Electric is so much better.


Maybe electric cars will try to fake being conventional: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8925126


Do you also miss when it was common for people to smoke in public spaces?


We still do it in Bulgaria but I hate smoking.


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