To Preserve Economic Sanity and Power Grid Integrity, transportation will rely on fossil fuels for many years. However, air pollution is ruining the health and killing unknown millions now.
This in an addressable problem! EPA standards for vehicle emissions need to focus on the pollutants. The EPA needs to move from an emphasis on regulation and punishment to one of full disclosure and incentivizing. If it is worth subsidizing renewable energy providers to reduce CO2 (the truly hazardous pollutants are also reduced); then, in the same measure, users of fossil fuels (such as Internal Combustion Engines (ICE)) should be incentivized to compete with the cleaner energy solutions. The EPA could measure pollution and net life-cycle energy cost, then publicly promote the results along with level of subsidy. Buyers can then make their decision. We need to reduce pollution ASAP but the transition to truly green alternatives to gasoline/diesel fuel is many years away. Dramatic reduction in ICE emissions can be accomplished very quickly with the proper incentive/pressure to do so.
There is no incentive for automobile companies to increase costs by investing in more advanced engines especially when the government is subsidizing the competition. Certainly, the fuel suppliers are not interested in reducing the demand for their products. Both are not including the fact that they are severely damaging the health of the world in their business decisions. Higher goals generally result in greater achievement. Set the "prize" high enough and offset investment expenses, then engine manufacturers, universities, and independent laboratories will produce some amazing results.
IMPROVE EFFICIENCY AND REDUCE POLLUTANTS:
CO2 is not toxic, and the ozone level is a byproduct of sunlight striking the pollutants! NOx, CO, hydrocarbons (particulate matter) are toxic. Eliminate the "N" at the air intake and remove moisture/dust and then engines (modified to run with the new intake "air") would be up to x4 more efficient! There would be no NOx, and CO/particulate matter virtually eliminated (hotter temperature and more complete combustion). Tradeoffs can be made for increased power, less engine weight, greater fuel efficiency, and cost. Each with greatly reduced air pollution.
Vehicle exhaust gas temperature is 1300-1500o F. This means that CO2, N2 , NOx, CO, other toxic gases, water vapor, and particulate matter are very hot and will cool in the atmosphere by transferring or radiating the heat. The heat from the engine/exhaust can be used for secondary purposes such as creation of electricity (thermoelectric, steam ) to reduce alternator engine load or to power active exhaust pollution reduction.
MEASURE AND PUBLISH TOXIC POLLUTANT RELEASE VERSUS OPERATION TIME vs City MPG.
MPG/fuel taxes are concepts which were never truly reflective of a vehicle's wear on public roads, nor the amount of pollution they contribute to the air. As we move toward EVs or alternative fuels they become less meaningful. Without challenging the methodology for computing City vs Highway mileage ratings, it is easy to see that engines in the City operate with 30-50% less efficiency. Based on the urban growth rate in the last 10-20 years, it can be argued that actual urban driving mileage is likely much lower than published due to slower, more congested traffic patterns.
This is recognized manufacturers when they use mechanisms that shutoff engines if they are idling for 10-30 seconds. This cuts down gas usage and, for periods longer than about 10 sec., the restart pollution will be less than the idling pollution. However, this is not a good reflection of actual congested driving conditions. These trips are very slow speed, brief stops, and brief rapid acceleration. Less efficiency means higher pollution for a given vehicle. Big plus for EVs.
For an urban driver, the time spent in the vehicle is much more significant than the MPG for their 10-20-mile round trip. I know, "Use public transportation!" OK, but it is not as convenient, nor pleasant as sitting in my own space. The trip is made less pleasant by the poor air being breathed and the haze and heat that accompanies it. It is more than just unpleasant. It is unhealthy.
Based on pollution maps, this type of driving produces most of the toxic pollution. We can change this dramatically by changing how we measure ICE performance under these conditions and adopting a new comparison rating. Some ways to improve efficiency under these conditions may be:
Maintain a minimum idle speed and change how we engage the drive train.
Reduce "N" as mentioned. Possibly a retrofittable option at low speeds.
Forced air input at low speeds.
Active particulate matter removal from the exhaust.
More use of AI/adaptive engine controls.
Each of these would likely raise the initial vehicle cost. Some could increase operating cost. All would improve air quality and save lives.
CO2 IS AN AFFECT/CARRIER AND NOT THE CAUSE OF GLOBAL WARMING
Air pollution and heat generation from man's daily activity are what impacts surface temperatures and CO2 levels. As Chart A below shows, the increase in population directly tracks the temperature increase. In fact, during the last decade the per capita temperature increase has declined due to better emissions control and greater efficiency.
World Population vs. Global Temperature
If you look at air pollution as indicated by NO images from satellites you will see urban concentrations of pollution. Try to find the location of coal fired power plants. It is hard to do so!
Global temperature is directly correlated to population increase. Unless we are going to suggest a draconian approach to reduce the population (such as abortion), we need to reduce our "heat creation" and pollution per capita. CO2 is not a pollutant and it does not "trap or block" heat! It is hotter when created and remains so until it cools. The more we put into the atmosphere the warmer it gets, and it stays warmer longer because the thermal gradient is smaller. This affect cools rapidly if the driving force (more hot gases/particles) is removed. Hotter climates cool slower than cool ones. You can observe this in the desert where very hot days can become very cool nights when the sun goes down.
Water vapor/CO2 increase represents more humidity and CO2. This increase is an overall benefit for plant growth. It is especially favorable for our food supply. All "stuff" added to the atmosphere will convert some sunlight (IR) to heat. The concentration in the atmosphere tracks the heat sources producing it.
GHG theory alarmists claim there are catastrophic, unrecoverable temperature points coming quickly as these gases accumulate in the atmosphere. They use the so called "hockey stick" global temperature increases as their evidence. The theory says that as the GHG accumulates the rate of temperature increase accelerates. CHART A shows that this is not what is happening. The evidence for this can be seen in CHART B as well. If temperature increase were due to an accumulation of GHG then the recent reduction in emissions by 20-30% should not result in a significant temperature drop. There was one. Subsequently, there has been a CO2 drop. Further, evidence that CO2 is a result of the process that produces the temperature increase and not the cause.
April Average Global Temperatures
If you put aside the alarmists cry for immediate destructive action, you need the same remedial actions to improve air quality and to functionally replace our dependence on a non-renewable resource for our energy needs. In needs to be made clear that replacing one non-renewable source with one that depends on non-renewable, toxic materials that have functionally finite lives is not a very good solution.
The fossil fuel measures needed for pollution reduction have been known for many years. It is long past the time to make the investment to change the way we build the internal combustion engine. There has been an evolution in material sciences and onboard computing power. There needs to be a concession between automobile company investment and oil/gas companies to accept the drop in demand for gasoline that will follow due to greatly improved efficiency. This is not an economic issue so much as it is a health issue. The pandemic has shown the increased risk of living a lifetime in high pollution areas. At the same time, it has debunked the concept that there is an accumulation of gas which is causing warming! We have been lulled into inaction because the visible levels of pollution are so much less than they were in the 50s and 60s. The same is true for water pollution. The pollution is still here and doing its damage, but humans have become too accepting of it.
Time to impact is a major factor when we look at any transition strategy. We had a good example of how critical "supply chains" are based on the challenges we faced to provide needed PPE and equipment to combat the pandemic. Design, evaluate/test, build manufacturing capability and the production equipment, train workers, procure needed materials/components/sub-systems, build, test, package/ship, install, and train operators (if needed); each step requires time and takes investment.
A sober analysis shows that there is a system in place which has met the needs for energy throughout our industrialization. The analysis also shows the consequences and limitations if we simply continued with the same system. Wherever you heart or wallet is on the issue of what changes and how quickly they need to be made, there are realities that need to be faced. There are also "unintended consequences" to be considered.
I think everyone can agreed that we need energy solutions that protect our environment from pollution and wholesale destruction of the character/beauty that we have been blessed with. This means better physical and mental health. We can additionally agree that overuse of material resources that cannot be replaced will result in scarcities that will cause rationing and/or prohibitive price increases at some point in the future.
Without trying to do a critical evaluation of the pros and cons of the paths to an alternative paradigm to meet our energy needs there are certain givens that constraint the transition timeline.
Distribution/delivery infrastructure for any electrical power solution is under capacity, antiquated, unreliable, and not sufficiently resilient to meet the needs of an EV world.
Ignoring the issues of the renewability, toxic production and disposal, and inefficient charging of batteries, there is a woefully inadequate number of charging locations, aside from the home-base.
The original input point to the grid remains largely fossil-fueled and is likely to remain that way from an extended period. Hence EVs are not truly "green." The increased demand to transition to EVs will more than offset current projections for the addition of new renewable sources.
The load-leveling reliability of wind and solar power on a very large scale is currently dependent on battery technology. If this does not change then we will create a worse dependency on yet another a limited supply of non-renewable materials.
Solar panels are so inefficient (15-25%) that they put more heat per KW of electricity generated into the atmosphere than do coal-fired power plants. They are a poor choice for reducing global warming.
Hydrogen and other alternative fuels still have many hurdles to overcome.
Based on these factors alone, there is going to be a long-period of time where we will be dependent on fossil fuels for the majority of our vehicle applications and, barring rapid expansion of hydroelectric power and pumped-hydro storage, the concept that EVs are "green" and non-polluting is a myth. The pollution points have just shifted from point of use to point of origin.
This is not to say that; "The development of alternate renewable energy sources should not continue." It does put into perspective that infrastructure and dependent technologies need to track the development. Mammoth investments in renewable energy without resolving the challenges first is likely to be a huge waste. Invest in pollution elimination and do not waste money developing carbon capture technology! Total energy use puts about 5% of the CO2 into the atmosphere relative to the carbon cycle. All the CO2 from fossil fuel was once in the atmosphere and vegetation and animals flourished. The pollutants were not present except from wildfires and volcanoes. California wildfires put more pollutants into the air in 1 week than the automobiles in California do in a year. Invest in preventing them.
LOOK BEFORE WE LEAP!
The first step in a transition is to take a close look at where you are at. Take an inventory of assets in terms of not only financial worth, but their role in the energy cycle from raw material to end-use. Do not underestimate the workforce and its knowledge base. As we focus on the ICE, there are several comparison factors that come to mind relative to potential alternatives:
- Vehicle performance related:
d. Pollution (including creation/generation)
- Fuel related
a. Cost per energy unit used.
d. Pollution from production/distribution
- Vehicle cost related:
a. Initial cost
b. Maintenance cost
c. Repair Cost
d. Residual value over time.
e. Retirement Cost
These factors are changing daily and according to the competition. However, there is a common element which is the path from source to vehicle. All processes have inefficiencies and points of conflict with the environment. The supporting infrastructure availability has boundaries. In mobile fuels you have competitors like gasoline, NG, biofuels, and hydrogen. For electric power generation, you have solar, wind, biomass, fossil fuel, geothermal, hydroelectric, … . Each of these require a distribution network to move the energy (fuel) from its ultimate creation point to the vehicle for storage and use.
It is easy to understand that, if the fuel has bulk, the process requires physical movement by some transport mechanism (truck, train, pipeline) to a re-fueling location. If the "re-fueling" process is electrical then there needs to be an electrical connection from the creation point to the vehicle.
Each energy source has its "weaknesses." Production, distribution, and re-fueling each have inefficiencies/losses. In addition, mobile fuels have significant pollution risks along the distribution path. Spills, fumes, and transportation accidents all occur. Power lines have another set of issues.
There are many other ways to ease the transition of our power generation/distribution system, besides just cleaner more efficient vehicles. However, that would be a good start. The next step to a mass mobile energy source should not be based on a non-renewable, toxic, low-capacity, inefficient battery-based storage system. Hydrogen, biofuels, high-efficiency fossil fuels/engines … ??? Current battery technology for mass vehicle usage is not realistic and sufficient supplies of critical elements are not in our control. Other battery technologies are under development. They need to considered using the same factors.