I have long been skeptical about electric or other alternative-fueled vehicles as truly green technologies because they all consume vast amounts of life-giving open space to transport comparatively few people and goods, drives more sprawl, which does likewise, and incurs air-killing construction and upkeep and requires hydrocarbon-based paving materials.
Peter Foster, a columnist in Canada's National Post, along with associated commentators have come up with a few more points to consider, in his column Wednesday subtitled 'Today's alternative vehicles are all profit graveyards or subsidy pits'.
Mr. Foster correctly pointed out one of the fallacies behind assuming that people will buy electric vehicles (EVs) and that is it isn't the average amount of driving per day that matters but the farthest that one usually wants to go.
"Apparently, Americans on average drive their cars less than 35 miles a day, but to suggest that this supports the viability of short-range electric cars is like suggesting that a five-foot tall person should be in no trouble if forced to spend alternate one hour periods in water six feet deep and two feet deep. After all, the average depth is only four feet. What is critical is not the average but the farthest distance you want to travel.
"With gasoline-powered cars or hybrids there is no distance limit, since there is a vast network of gasoline stations at which you can fill up in minutes. With electric cars, you have to plug in for a matter of hours. Battery exchange depots are an obvious idea but likely an impractical one.
I can attest to Mr. Foster's point. I work from home and the farthest I drive is 15 miles and that is on those days when I have to pick up my wife late at night from her part-time job, when the buses stop running. Yet we live in a small city in a rural area, so when we need to do shopping or conduct other business in a larger metro, or to just get out of town for something to do, our journeys are 100 miles to 150 miles round trip.
Mr. Foster's column also points out about controversy over ethanol whose fuel-driven demand has sparked starvation and food riots. And one of the commentators said that they had once read that a Prius has 37 pounds of copper wiring. A standard gas powered vehicle has 25 pounds of copper. "Did copper start growing on trees or is it ok for us to feel green while some guy works in a hole in South America?" asked the respondent.
What would be handy is to have a reasonably objective report from a well-respected organization (by environmentalists and industry alike) that cuts through the greenwash and the charges and PR and compares the total direct and indirect green impacts of transportation and transportation alternatives: i.e. private vehicles, transit, and telework. That way consumers and government decisionmakers spending their money would have a fair basis on which to choose the greenest option, weighing that factor against cost, need, and convenience.