Vehicle Electrification Myths Dispelled

If you’re part of the mass of people supporting vehicle electrification, you’re in good company. Although not too many consumers appear ready to embrace electric vehicles citing cost and convenience as two major reasons not to jump in, there may be enough customers to get this segment rolling as we move through 2011.

Vehicle electrification isn’t new, but it has been modernized for contemporary driving. Henry Ford and his friend Thomas Edison were involved with vehicle electrification in the early days of mass produced vehicles, but that effort died as cheap fossil fuels made gasoline the better choice.

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Today, fuel prices are fluctuating as demand from emerging nations puts a crimp on supplies. Some people believe we’ll soon run out of oil, while others think that there is enough fuel to last us for a full century. In any case, the auto trends is that mostly everyone wants to limit car-based emissions which can be harmful to humans and to the environment, perhaps contributing significantly to climate change.

There are some myths about vehicle electrification desperately needed to be dispelled including:

Energy Pollution — I hate to say it, but electric cars pollute. No, not so much when they’re on the road, but when they’re hooked up to the electric grid. Coal burning power plants are huge pollution contributors regardless of their supposed “clean” status.

Manufacturing Pollution — No one is measuring the impact of building electric vehicles and for good reason: it takes a lot of energy to build a car, with manufacturing plants constructing hundreds of parts just as you would find in any vehicle. These plants also consumer plenty of electricity and fuel to build cars.

Limited Resources — Rare earth metals are in limited supply and include materials essential to powering electric vehicles. Terbium, dysprosium and neodymium are used in EV motor magnets and lithium, although not “rare earth,” is produced in countries not especially favorable to the U.S. including Bolivia, China, Chile an Afghanistan.

Disposal Issues — Some car manufacturers have gone to great lengths to ensure consumers that battery packs are fully recyclable. However, these batteries include toxic chemicals such as lead and nickel. Unless each manufacturer is required recycle spent batteries you and your loved ones could be at risk of increased exposure to carcinogens.

Energy Usage — Just how much energy will electric vehicles use? That isn’t completely certain yet as these cars have yet to hit the road. When they do, customers will be the best sources for engineering feedback, offering information on how long batteries last and how often they need recharging. Costs will not be stable, however as electric rates could skyrocket in the face of increased demand on an aged electric grid.

With this information in mind, should consumers avoid electric cars? No, but many will want to wait especially as production costs drop and sticker prices fall with it.

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