When Ideology Gets In The Way

Thanks to greencareports.com for the image

Since I took the plunge and decided to buy an electric vehicle as my next car from Better Place, I’ve been following news on various green energy and driving web sites: not a corner of the net I’d spent much time in before. I’ve seen no good reason to believe human activity is wholly responsible for the slowly varying climate that was slowly varying long before man started burning stuff in vast quantities a few hundred years ago. I’m not saying we have no impact, but I am saying that we can’t work out what impact (good or bad) we have so we’re better off investing our amazing inventive talents in adapting to change as we’ve done throughout sentient human time on the Earth.

So the news that Volvo has made an innovative step with a sophisticated combination of fully electric car for driving and some small use of a liquid fuel (ethanol or petrol) for heating up the car is a great example. I see plenty of non climate reasons for driving down our use of petrol (gasoline): the main one is to reduce our transfer of vast wealth to the OPEC rulers who hold the swing production today.

Green Car Reports: Volvo C30 Electric: Keeping Car And Occupants Warm In The Cold.

Using either petrol or bio-ethanol, the liquid fuel system works in concert with the electric heaters when the car is first started to quickly reach a comfortable temperature for the occupants.

Once the cabin temperature has risen, the car’s electric heaters turn off, using only the liquid fuel tank for heating.  According to Volvo technicians, its 3.17 gallon tank can provide enough energy to heat the car for 24 hours at an impressively efficient rate of around 0.13 gallons per hour.

From a technical point of view, what Volvo has done is eminently sensible. Electric cars are practical today but they have a dramatically reduced range (20% or even more) in cold winter climates because running electric heaters is huge drain on batteries. Interestingly air conditioning is not such a big drain. Burning stuff, however, is very efficient so the combination of using the elctricity to drive the car and an almost insignificant amount of fuel to heat the car’s vital parts (battery and motor) and warm the occupants, is perfectly sensible.

This is where ideology bites: green ideological purists will now say the car is no longer zero emission! It might have trouble getting the tax breaks or the ability to drive in California’s sought after High Occupancy lanes. The solution is technically correct but falls between extremes.

What it represents is a moderate electric car in a world screaming for extremes.

About Brian of London

Brian of London is not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy. Since making aliyah in 2009, Brian has blogged at Israellycool. Brian's interests include electric cars, world peace and an end to world hunger. Besides blogging here, Brian of London now writes at the Times of Israel. Brian of London also hosted Shire Network News

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  • Jim from Iowa

    I mostly agree with you, Brian. We the need to move to alternative energy sources. But in this country, our political system has once again failed us miserably. Neither the Republicans or Democrats have managed to develop a comprehensive energy policy that serves the long-term interests of the American people. “Drill, Baby, Drill” is not an energy policy, it’s a political slogan. Advocating for higher gasoline prices so that alternative energy sources are more economically viable is not only bad public policy, it is bad politics. Our current political debate is depressingly simple-minded and short-sighted.

    • Shy Guy

      No. “Drill, baby, drill” is indeed an energy policy, which would grant the US a tremendous amount of energy independence for a very long amount of time.

      The market will correct itself for alternative energy sources but not by the government showering half a billion here and half a billion there to private companies. Practically everything the hand of the US government has touched has turned into lead or was going to anyway. Witness the Chevy Volt, Tesla and others.

      • Jim from Iowa

        Our differences on the role of government in how best to promote the general welfare of the people is manifest. To save a lot of time and energy, let’s just say I’m right and you’re wrong. The real value of basic research has a lot to do with demonstrating scientifically what doesn’t work. This is expensive, but necessary to advance technologically. This is best done by government with knowledge gained converted to technology transfer to the private sector.

        • Ber

          But even if we say that you are right, the government investment into alterbative energy should be parralel to the “drill baby drill” philosophy.
          Keep costs down while researching alternatives. Artificially driving up costs in order to make people feel better about that investment seems wrong to me.

          • Jim from Iowa

            Domestic oil production has increased under Obama, largely due to policies implemented by George W. Bush. How is it not the case that Obama has supported domestic oil production while encouraging development of alternative energy sources? Obama can be criticized for not doing all he can in the area of energy independence (Keystone pipeline is one example) but it is a fact that domestic production is up and oil imports are down.

            • Ber

              I think that President Obama can be criticized even with regard to domestic oil production. As you said the increase is largely due to Bush’s policies. Future production is projected to decrease and I think that is due to obama’s policies.

  • Ber

    How is a fully electric car zero emission? Does the electricity just appear out of nowhere?

    • http://www.israellycool.com/author/brianoflondon/ Brian of London

      Zero emission at the point of use. I’m happy enough that the emissions will happen somewhere other than next to my kids faces.

  • A F

    There is a reason why they are called “Alternate” energy sources and not “replacement” energy sources.
    Take for example the automobile in the 19th century.
    For a long time, it was an “alternate” form or transportation to the horse. It took a mass adoption in the 20th century before it was a “replacement”. This adoption took place because consumers decided to do so, not the government.
    The same logic should be applied here. As of now, an electric car is an alternative. Wind/solar power is an alternative. It is not a replacement yet, nor will be for a very very long time.

    • http://www.israellycool.com/author/brianoflondon/ Brian of London

      A long time ago the main preservative for food was salt. You couldn’t go to sea without salted meat. People fought over salt supplies.

      Today we use more salt than at any other time in history yet normal people do not know or care about it’s price. That’s because the alternative food preservation technique of electric refrigeration decimated it’s use for preservation and we found many more sources. Still you can’t beat a nice piece of salt beef on rye :-)

      We don’t need to eliminate use of fossil fuels. We need to eliminate Oil’s unique monopoly on transport and supplement other uses so that no one system dominates.

  • Jawbone of an Ass

    The solution is obvious and simple. Allow Obamus Maximus Gaius Caesar Agrippa to decree that henceforth no Americans (or anyone else on the planet) live where it’s cold or where heat is a requirement. Or He could simply mandate that all heaters shall be illegal.

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