Odds and Ends
A very snowy hill
29 7, 4:15pm
Well, electric vehicle are globally less wastefull than thermal ones. I once thought like you because I thought something along those lines: "Ok so to use an electric vehicle, you have to first transform coal/oil into heat then heat into movement then movement into electricity, then transfer that electricity into your vehicle then transform that electricity into movement again. To use a thermal vehicle, you just have to convert coal/oil into heat then heat into movement. So less transformation = less losses right ?"
And actually it's wrong for one simple reason, in all those transformation, there is one particumlar conversion that is particularly wasteful and that is heat into movement. The other losses are quite negligible in front of this one. And the difference between electric vehicle and thermal vehicle is that when you transform that heat into movement in a power plant you are doing it in the best way possible, because the only job of your power plant is to do that. But with a vehicle it's quite different, first this has to fit into your car, and though well designed, you can't build your combustion engine as you like. But the major problem comes from the pace at which you are running your engine, while a power plant can maintain the optimal pace in which it was designed to work, the car has to work in several different paces, from urban conditions to highways hence the transformation is always suboptimal. To turn this into numbers, the efficiency of modern coal power plants is around 40% while the efficiency of an average modern combustion engine in a car is around 20%.
"so starting from greener power plants is where we should focus"
Actually it really depends on the country. In a country like Iceland, Norway, Sweden or even France where electricity is already mostly "green" (i'd prefer the term "carbon free", "green" gives the impression that everything is flowers and rainbows, but in reality it's not, every way of producing electricity carries his own form of pollution, from dams to nuclear plants...), starting to tackle the transport, agricultural, housing and industrial issues should be the focus, but for countries like Poland, China, India or even USA, yeah, the focus could be electricity. That being said, the clock is ticking and I'm not sure we have the luxury to tackle the problem one issue at a time (again, I'm pretty pessimistic about our chances and I do believe in a global collapse of civilization in the century to come).