Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) (TM), General Motors Company (GM), Ford Motor Company (F): Is This the End of the All-Electric Vehicle?

Page 1 of 2

Battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, get a lot of credit for being “zero-emission” cars. However, that designation isn’t entirely accurate. BEVs are only “zero-emission” if you disregard emissions from charging the battery and exclude manufacturing emissions. If you include those — and you must, to factor in the overall climate impact — BEVs, in large part, are worse for the climate than hybrids.

So what does that mean for the future of BEVs?

2011 F-CELL. Photo: media.mbusa.com.

Science vs. what’s popular

The push to find a “green car” is a worthy venture. Cars have a negative impact on the environment by producing a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Right now, BEVs are seen as the next big thing, and on the surface, they’re great. They don’t use gas, thereby reducing our dependence on foreign oil. They can be charged with green energy — where available. And when they’re running, they don’t produce emissions like a vehicle with an internal-combustion engine.

Unfortunately, if you look at the lifecycle of a BEV, you’ll find some concerning facts. First, it’s true that BEVs are only as green as what charges the battery. But that’s only part of the picture, as battery manufacturing produces a 10,000- to 40,000-pound carbon debt, which, according to Climate Central, can only be overcome by charging the car on green energy, and driving it for tens to hundreds of thousands of miles.

Second, according to the National Academies of Science, lithium-ion batteries are “the battery of choice for electric vehicles for the foreseeable future” because of technological difficulties facing other types of batteries. That’s a problem, because lithium is an alkali metal and isn’t naturally occurring. Consequently, it has to be refined after being extracted through salar brines (the most common approach) and mined hard rock.

Furthermore, the European Commission on Science for Environmental Policy states: “Although there is no immediate shortage of lithium, its continued use needs to be monitored, especially as lithium mining’s toxicity and location in places of natural beauty can cause significant environmental, health, and social impacts.”

What’s the alternative?

Two possible solutions are to shift the entire grid into running on only green energy, or to find an alternative to batteries. There’s already a push to use more green energy, such as solar, wind, and hydro power, which will definitely help cut down on CO2 emissions. But even if the grid did go entirely “green,” it still wouldn’t get rid of the initial carbon debt from batteries — and there’s still the issue of lithium.

The second solution — finding an alternative to batteries — has a number of promising options. Recently, the University of Colorado at Boulder developed a way to split water into its hydrogen and oxygen components using sunlight. That development is a major breakthrough for hydrogen, as it makes the process of obtaining the element much more efficient.

Bring on the hydrogen

The Department of Energy has estimated that the lifecycle emissions of future hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, or FCVs, powered by natural gas will be less than those of hybrid electric vehicles, or HEVs. Climate Central estimates that an HEV’s lifecycle emission is less than a BEV. As such, it stands to reason that an FCV powered by hydrogen that’s obtained through sunlight will have fewer lifecycle emissions than BEVs. More good news? A number of car manufacturers are actively pursing hydrogen fuel cell technology.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL, has teamed up with Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:TM) to test the Highlander fuel cell hybrid. Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:TM) also teamed up with BMW and announced that they’ll unveil a new hydrogen fuel-cell car at the Tokyo auto show in November — and it’ll go on sale in 2015 with a price of less than $70,000. Meanwhile, Daimler (OTCBB:DDAIF) AG‘s Mercedes-Benz and Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) have teamed up for a “practical approach” to fuel cells, and General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) and Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:HMC) — which have the most patents for fuel cells — are working together to jump-start the hydrogen infrastructure. According to CNN, “virtually every major carmaker is preparing to launch hydrogen-powered models in the next few years,” which means FCV may be a viable alternative to batteries sooner than you think.

Page 1 of 2
blog comments powered by Disqus
Insider Monkey Headlines
Insider Monkey Small Cap Strategy
Insider Monkey Small Cap Strategy

Insider Monkey beat the market by 52 percentage points in 24 months Click to see monthly returns in table format!

Lists

10 Most Influential Papers In Economics

Top 8 Biggest Charities in the US

10 Worst Celebrity Career Moves Ever

Top 10 Best Paid Tennis Stars in the World

10 Cities with High Demand for Nurses

6 of the Worst Greeting Card Messages Ever Crafted

6 Ways to Make Money in ArcheAge and Build Your Empire

10 Foods To Eat To Lower Cholesterol Levels

The 10 Most Hated Television Characters of All Time

The 30 Worst Halloween Costume Ideas Ever Brought to Horrible Life

10 Vocational Skills in Demand Today with Jobs Waiting to be Filled

10 Best Places to Visit in Central and South America

The 10 Greatest Empires in History Which Nearly Conquered the World

The 6 Cheapest Boarding Schools In America 2015

5 Clear Reasons LoL is Better than DotA, Continues to Rule MOBAs

The Only 9 Teams with a Chance to Win the Super Bowl

The 15 Most Common Phobias in America that Induce Fits of Panic

Top 6 Least Expensive Tourist Destinations in 2014

Jim Goetz, Peter Fenton, Jim Breyer: Top 6 Venture Investors for 2014

Top 15 Billionaires in 2014

5 Pitfalls To Avoid When Buying a Franchise

Top 20 Medical Schools in the US – 2014 Rankings

4 Business Strategies that Turned Jamie Oliver into the World’s Richest Chef

6 Qualities That Make You A Good Team Player

10 High Paying Seasonal Jobs in America this Holiday Season

The 10 Busiest Shipping Lanes in the World

5 Most Valuable Brands in China

The 10 States with Highest Substance Abuse Rates Crippling Their Populace

The Top 10 Things to Do Before You Die That Will Echo for Eternity

The 10 Best Selling Items on Etsy

Top 10 Things to Do in Tokyo, the Greatest City in the World

10 Mistakes on Social Media that Can Harm You and Will Probably Get You Canned

The 10 Best Cities to Find Jobs in 2014

The 10 Most Controversial Songs Of All Time to Hit (and get Banned from) the Airwaves

The 20 Biggest IPOs in US History

The 10 Best Places to Visit in Mexico that Are Beautiful and Safe

7 Bad Habits that Age You Beyond Your Years

The 40 Best Fortune Cookie Sayings That Will Leave You Bemused, Befuddled, or Beguiled

10 Foods to Eat Before a Workout to Make Every Drop of Sweat Count

The 5 Best Documentaries On Netflix You Must See

The Most Heartwarming and Inspirational Story Of This Halloween Season, It Will Make You Cry and Jump For Joy

10 Best Party Songs of All Time to Bring the House Down With

5 New World Order Conspiracy Theories that Will Strangle the World

The 10 Highest Rated Movies of 2014

The 10 Largest Container Shipping Companies in the World

The 10 Largest Armies in the World: Who Should We Be Afraid Of?

Best Warren Buffett Quotes on Money You Need to Hear

The 10 Highest Suicide Rates by Profession

The 20 Most Underrated Movies of All Time

The 10 Fastest Growing Companies in America

Subscribe

Enter your email:

Delivered by FeedBurner

X

Thanks! An email with instructions is sent to !

Your email already exists in our database. Click here to go to your subscriptions

Insider Monkey returned 47.6% in its first year! Wondering How?

Download a complete edition of our newsletter for free!