• Nov 16, 2010
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Episode #204 of the Autoblog Podcast is awesome. Not only are we joined by David "the new guy" Kiley, but wait, there's more! Jeremy Korzeniewski got the Top Gear USA crew on the phone for a chat. After that, Chris, Dan, Zach and David talk Chrysler's pile of revamped models, the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, the Pickuptrucks.com HD smackdown, Lamborghini's new powertrain, and as always, we finish with your questions and feedback. It's a satisfying two hours and fifteen minutes this week. Thanks for listening!

Autoblog Podcast #204: Top Gear USA interview, Chrysler refreshes, LA Auto Show, HD Pickups and Lamborghini Engines



In the Autoblog Garage:

Lincoln MKS Ecoboost
Land Rover LR4
Mazda CX-9

News Topics:


Hosts:
Dan Roth, Chris Shunk, Zach Bowman, David Kiley
Runtime: 2:14:15




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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 11 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Dan - you're essentially saying that driving a hybrid or an EV doesn't do anything for the environment because of the problems associated with extracting the materials required for the batteries. You can't just go and make a blanket statement like that! Quantifying this environmental impact and comparing it to the environmental impact of fossil fuel combustion is a VERY complicated task, and if you've done this and reached as significant a conclusion as "EV = just as bad as conventional vehicle", you're gonna need to back that up and tell the world about it!

      If you did some research, you'd find that, yes lithium has only been found in a few regions around the world (it's mostly in South America, Bolivia has the largest deposit). Right now, we don't produce nearly as much as would be needed to start chugging out 15 million cars a year. That's not saying the same thing as "There isn't enough lithium in the world to make EVs". There is a LOT of lithium in the world, I recently saw a presentation (given by the company that has the rights to the only lithium deposit in the US, it's in Nevada) and their numbers were in the 100's of millions of EVs. Production simply hasn't ramped up yet because the demand hasn't required it yet.

      Now I agree whole heartedly that we need to pay a lot of attention to how we go about extracting this lithium, and I can only hope that the people of Bolivia, for example, will actually benefit from the fact that the whole world wants to buy some of their natural resources. But everything I've seen about vehicle life cycle analysis, specifically looking at battery production and disposal, has suggested that the benefits of reduced fossil fuel consumption far outweigh the drawbacks. Like I said, quantifying these impacts and comparing two very different types of environmental problems is a challenging task, but a lack of 100% certainty is a terrible reason to just keep doing things the way you always have.

      This is a common problem I see all over the place. Now I'd like to illustrate with a dramatization:

      "Hey! I've got a solution for this problem we have"
      "Wait, it's not perfect, it presents this new problem, I'm not gonna bother actually crunching any numbers, so I'll just assume it's just as bad as the first problem and not do anything about it".
        • 4 Years Ago
        Hi Jeff - thanks for the well-written and reasoned response! I think being flip on the podcast about it sent a bit of the wrong message. I'm thrilled that we're developing alternatives to fossil fuels, though storing energy in batteries that's generated by coal plants isn't exactly a net win.

        It's all shades of improvement, and I don't want to lose the nuance. Improvements are being made, they should be made, we should go down this road of exploring not only electric propulsion, but also biofuels and incentivizing the easiest solution, just plain driving less.

        I think I'm arguing more for caution. We can either strip mine sloppily and not recycle, etc, or we can carefully look at how to do this stuff with the least impact.

        I think you understand batteries and the issues surrounding them better than I - thanks for chiming in!
        • 4 Years Ago
        by the way, what I've researched has suggested that li-ion batteries are generally better for the environment than NiMH. NiMH batteries are more complicated in that there are a lot of different materials inside, including those rare earth metals that China has the monopoly on (China definitely doesn't have a monopoly on lithium). This complexity also makes it harder to recycle NiMH batteries. Meanwhile, there's already a plant in Trail, BC, that is developing their Li-ion recycling process. Tesla spoke about them on their blog at one point, you can google it.
        So all that to say, I think its fantastic that this next generation of hybrids that are coming out are switching from NiMH to lithium-ion. It's also great to see this allowed GM to have a pass through from the trunk in the LaCross!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Thanks for the response Dan. I think we see more or less eye to eye. Another thing though, about coal powered EV's... I've run some numbers myself for my studies, and I know you guys have posted a few studies on the topic as well, and while one report here or there might say otherwise, most of what I've read, and the numbers I've run myself have suggested that even a 100% coal-powered EV will be more efficient and output less CO2 than a conventional vehicle. (Argonne National Labs has a free toolkit called GREET that does full fuel cycle and vehicle life cycle analysis of overall emissions, if anyone cares to look into it themselves.) Unfortunately, a pure coal powered EV will produce more NOx and SO2 though, which cause smog and acid rain, because regular cars have cleaned up a LOT over the past few decades. That said... in the US, it's actually only about 50% coal, so it only gets better from there. And on top of that, smog is really a local scale problem, so displacing those emissions away from large populations does some good.

        Full fuel cycle emissions is another argument that is often used against EVs, and again it is very important to not forget about the upstream emissions, but it's also important to actually quantify these emissions rather than just assuming it must be equally as bad as conventional vehicles.

        If you think about it, it's a lot easier to optimize one big power plant running at steady state than it is to optimize a million little ICEs running around, revving up and down and sitting idle in heavy traffic, so its not much of a stretch to understand how even a coal-powered EV can be more efficient.

        So all that to say that yes it is more or less a net win, but I think your point generally speaking is that while EVs are great, we also need to put some effort into cleaning up the grid. I would just argue that these things both need to happen independently, and since neither is gonna happen overnight, lets not hold either of them back needlessly.
      • 4 Years Ago
      autoblog chryslercast episode #204