It ain't about the money

I just finished reading todays: Car Talk in our local Gazette. Fuel economy requires advanced math degree. I laughed as Ray discussed “the cost of operation” on a 2018 BMW. My guess is, he will get “HOT” calls from environmentalists. It isn’t about saving money, it’s about “Saving the World”. It saves 4.17 gallons of smog generating, climate changing fossil fuel and replaces it with some wind or solar generated electricity. I run an old Buick so I obviously don’t care as much about that as some. :o)

For those who aren’t familiar, here’s the column referred to:

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Thank you so much for correcting my assumption that every Car Talk fan would have read that in the paper. This will mean so much more not that you have updated, with details. :o) oldbuck

If the electricity he uses is from wind or solar then I agree. But 39% of our electricity is generated from Coal. Not very clean.

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We seldom hear how much energy it may take to turn corn into electricity? Another part of the “puzzle”.


Sorry about that.

I assumed Car Talk was a nationally syndicated column

and would be published in every paper the same day.

I also assumed, all Car Talk “fans” read the column?

What can I do to correct this? oldbuck

Cartalk is a nationally syndicated column, but not all newspapers publish it and not all the same day. I see it here a couple of days before it make our paper. Nothing for you to fix.

As far as plug in hybrids helping to save our environment I don’t see how. All green forms of energy together are insufficient to meet our home, office, and factory needs so any additional loads, like for electric cars has to be generated by fossil fuel.


electric/plugin hybrids won’t save the environment on their own. We need to stop pretending that there’s some one thing we can do that will get us out of this mess. There isn’t. We need to do a lot of different things which together can turn it around.

As I said the other day in another thread, even if the power company shuts down all its fossil fuel generation and only outputs renewable environmentally friendly energy (and yes, this could be done, especially if we’d stop being afraid of nuclear plants and let them be built and used again in a very strictly regulated framework), the guy driving the gas car is still going to be polluting.

Meanwhile the guy driving the electric car is no longer getting his “fuel” from environmentally unsound sources.

Arguing (and I’m not saying that you are making this precise argument, but many do) that because the grid is currently energized with fossil fuels, we shouldn’t bother with electric cars is like going back to 1902 and arguing that because horses currently eat hay and cars can’t run on hay, we should just forget about this whole car thing. We have to be more forward-thinking than that.

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By your logic, when the Cugonot self propeller wagon was invented in 1769, everyone should have rushed out to buy one, even though a practical car for the masses didn’t come along until after 1900. Until we have non polluting electric sources, buying electric cars are not helping the problem and as far as nuclear power plants being non polluting, I would think Three mile Island and Chernobyl would teach us differently. There is no political entity that can police the worlds power plants.

Now that we’re off topic, nothing new under the sun. There was a Senate hearing a few years ago where a Washington Post story was read from 1922. Ice was melting, seas rising, catastrophe in a few years, etc. Almost 100 years ago. So just be wise and not stupid in using resources.


Not a ‘thing." Corn is used to make ethanol which is added to gasoline to power cars and trucks. It is not used to make electricity directly. Now the energy required to make corn into fuel… THAT will make your head hurt! Diesel fuel is used to run the tractors and harvesters to grow the coal. More energy is used to distill the corn to make ethanol (like makin’ moonshine no one drinks) to add to gasoline to reduce the net carbon output to offset the energy to MAKE the ethanol in the first place. Some studies say this is a net GAIN of carbon, others a slight net reduction.


As someone from farm country, it also takes a lot of water to make the ethanol. Sorry relatives, I know this is a money maker but still, not everything we do thinking to save the planet makes any sense or will have any impact at all. As usual though the end consumer will end up paying for all the folly from people that mean well.

Yeah, I have changed my tune over the years on ethanol. I was in favor because it was a way to become self-sufficient and thumb our noses at the Saudis. Now that we don’t need it, it’s a different story. The real issue might be the financial interests that Saudi money bought.


Electricity is not pollution free, to think there is no environmental impact for producing the power to charge your car will depend on where your electricity is produced. And just to add nuclear may not be a bad pollutant, but handling the waste is imhop a future disaster.

Nuclear power is really the only carbon free alternative to fossil fuels if you ask me. Wind and solar is intermittent. There are ways to store this type of power called pumped storage where you basically pump water uphill during periods of low demand and then generate power by allowing it to run down through turbines in periods of high demand. It is like a giant battery. Sure, it isn’t 100% efficient but is the only way to store large quantities of power economically.

Since this is a car forum, I did see something where electric cars charging from the grid could be tapped and used as a storage device if there was a sudden spike in demand. Some type of smart meter is installed and the owners allow this with a reduction in the rate charged for the charging of the electric car. Basically some small reserve is allowed so they can drive home if needed.

Some areas have A LOT of electric cars so this method of storage makes sense. So, your car is plugged in and charging. It gets hot out and everyone turns on the AC. Then they start taking power out of the car to make up for the demand.

I have also heard about storage banks of used and degraded but still serviceable electric car batteries being used to store energy in mass quantities as well.

Solutions like this will have to be used of truly green sources of power are to be practical. Then there are people who don’t like hydro because of dams or wind because of bird kills, etc. Nothing is without consequence.

Our local power company has a switch box on my air conditioner. When they run low on energy, they shut off my air conditioner. Sounds like as we get more electric cars, I may have less comfort. :o)

With regard to Oldbuck’s cycling air conditioner, most electric cars are charged at night, so the only possible conflict there is around 5 to 7 PM when it is still hot outside. I set the ap on my phone to start charging the car about 9 PM when our local rates go down.

In most places, running a car on electricity is cheaper than running on gas primarily because there is no highway tax on electricity. Some jurisdictions have electric vehicle surcharge on registration fees to recover some of the difference, but electricity is still cheaper if you drive very far in a year.

With regard to the greenhouse gas footprint of charging electric cars with electricity from coal fired power plants, it turns out that the footprint favors the electric/coal combo over gasoline engines because coal fired powerplants are really efficient. The exception to that rule is powerplants that burn soft brown coal such as the ones in parts of Australia and Germany. If your local utility is burning soft brown coal, you can do the world a favor by driving a conventional hybrid or even a standard gasoline car.

Yes, there is on peak and off peak power. The great thing about electric cars is that they charge at night when power demand is low.

I would LOVE to get an electric car but the range is still not quite there for a typical day in my life. They have 200 mile range Nissan Leafs but I really think I would want a 200 mile range car in the worst case scenario such as when the heat or AC is blasting. It can get pretty hot and cold here. So probably 300 miles on an ideal day is more like it. I think the Teslas do this but I would want something more basic than that.

I recently purchased an electric chainsaw and couldn’t be happier! This stuff is really coming into its own.

Bing mentions getting off topic. I apologize for even bringing this to a group discussion. I had only meant to tease Ray about sticking his foot in it when he tried to help the guy figure his costs. You can see from this “discussion” how “fragile” this topic can get. My 2 cents worth is, my generation may have screwed things up but it may be too late for us old timers to fix it. I’ll drive my old Buick until I can’t buy fuel or when it or me stops. Good luck to our grandkids and their kids. :o( oldbuck

There are several reports that deal with the overall carbon caused by electric cars. If you live in a state that generates all of its power from coal, such as Wisconsin, your carbon footprint REMAINS THE SAME when you go electric. If the majority comes from hydro electric or nuclear there are considerable savings.

In Canada there are 3 areas that are 98% or so hydro generation, and in those jurisdictions an electric car makes sense. In others that are all coal powered the saving is zilch! The main advantage there is less urban air pollution.

In the first place, not all electric sources are polluting. Currently my power happens to come from about 20% solar. That’s supposedly going to rise to 40% in the next few years. There’s some wind power in the mix too, but I don’t recall what the percentage is. But that means that if I buy an electric car right now, 20% of my “fuel” is coming from renewable, environmentally friendly sources. I also have the option of installing solar panels on my roof. I’m lucky - because of my roof layout and orientation, I could generate more than my power needs if I covered the roof in panels. Were I to do that, 100% of my vehicle’s fuel would come from environmentally sustainable sources. And I would be kicking some clean energy back onto the grid, to boot, and therefore slightly increasing the percentage of my Tesla-driving neighbor’s clean fuel sources for his car.

So buying an electric car, right now, gives you options that you would otherwise not have to fuel your car in an environmentally-conscious way.

Both of those were caused by shoddy procedures carried out by poorly-trained technicians who got in over their head. That can be remedied.

There is no political entity that can police the worlds power plants.

Says the guy who lives in a world where one of the most dangerous activities we can possibly dream up – hurling hundreds of people at a time through the air at 600 miles per hour in what is essentially a big beer can - has become so safe that the world is all atwitter that the fatal accident rate for commercial aviation has risen worldwide to 1 in every 3 million flights. And that is entirely because of a strong governmental entity (several, actually) that have worked very hard for decades to make it that safe.

By comparison in the 3-Mile Island days, the nuclear industry largely regulated itself, badly, and it showed. It can be done safely, it’s just that it wasn’t.

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