back to article Diesels greener than electric cars, says Swiss gov report

Swiss boffins have mounted an investigation into the largely unknown environmental burdens of electric cars using lithium-ion batteries, and say that the manufacturing and disposal of batteries presents no insurmountable barriers to electric motoring. However, their analysis reveals that modern diesel cars are actually better …


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  1. Martin 19


    Just for reference, 3.9L/100km is 72.4mpg (Imperial), or 60.3 miles per heathen US gallon.

    /flames for fuel

    1. John 62

      you beat me to questioning l/km

      but what about for rods per hogshead!

    2. Ian K


      What sort of unit is that to use on The Register?

      The proper value, in sanctioned units, is 6,407,355 bpsp (brontosaurii per swimming pool).

    3. Number6


      If my maths has its powers of ten in order then it's 0.039 square millimetres. That seems too small to me.

    4. Mark Eccleston

      Not even close

      The correct units are Olympic pools per light year.

  2. Danny 14


    people are forgetting the obvious. Battery cars are pretty shit. I'll keep my 224gco2 polluting beast thank you very much. I even managed to get 28mpg out of it cruising up the A1 at the weekend (damn those average speed cameras). And down to 17mpg on the M40 (yey for lack of average speed cameras)

    1. M Gale

      The only thing shit about battery vehicles... the range and refuelling arrangements. If performance is your main goal, an electric motor will give you far more power to weight than an equivalent internal combustion engine these days, with a much better response curve (as in, full torque all the way from 0 to 50,000 or more RPM).

      Sort out hydrogen fuel cells and the infrastructure for them, and believe me you'll be loving that journey along the M40 right up until a traffic cop pulls you for doing 150mph in a 70mph zone. Smoother, quieter, and with comparatively more poke out of a power plant half the size of that chunk of metal you currently have under the bonnet? Yes please.

    2. Seareach
      Thumb Up


      So you've got a Saab 9-5 Aero as well then. 25 mpg, rubbish cornering but 0-60 in 6 secs. Beat that lawnmower man.

      PS According to my chemistry instructor in Houston Tx in 1975, the correct general purpose unit of velocity is Furlongs per Fortnight.

      1. Arnold Lieberman
        Thumb Up

        My betting is on a Focus ST

        It's a bit of a bloater (probably because of safety legislation), but 270bhp with a ECU update and that noise :-)

        1. Anonymous Coward

          I bet Focus ST as well

          the 224g/km stuck in my mind as it was JUST below the 225g/km threshold of mega-road-tax

    3. Steve Todd

      Was that some sort of bizarre attempt to impress us

      with your driving skills or car performance? As it happens I was also out driving on the A1 over the weekend, in a 240BHP 3L V6 petrol automatic rated at 285g/km of CO2. I was cruising at usual motorway speeds (>70MPH) and still managed to AVERAGE better than 35MPG.

      Electric cars have a BIG advantage for town driving in that any pollution that is created in producing the energy to propel them ISN'T where the car is. Even small diesels produce NOX and particulates from their exhaust pipes, which are bad for the health of town dwellers.

    4. Anton Ivanov

      Even a beast can be economical

      Based on a 2000km trip across EU coming back from holiday last weekend a modern diesel six-seater can do:

      UK/NL - 50mpg = 5.64 l/100 @65-70 mph

      SR - 47 mpg = 6.01 l/100 @80 mph

      CZ/SK/BG/HU/A - 46 mpg = 6.14 l/100 @85mph

      DE 35 mpg - 8.07 l/100 @ 105mph (average), 95-110

      That is for a family car which is about twice the size of a golf. I have yet to see a leccy vehicle of this size and I will be surprised if it will be able to deliver an environmental footprint which is comparable. I have also yet to see one capable of keeping up with the psychotics on the autobahn. There you are either at 60mph with the trucks or at 100+. Otherwise someone will ram you from behind trying to do 150+

  3. Clinton

    Hydropower you say?

    "it is the operation phase that remains the dominant contributor to the environmental burden caused by transport service as long as the electricity for the [battery car] is not produced by renewable hydropower ..."

    All set in Canada then!

    1. benoit


      While it is true that about 58% of "hydro" (as the Upper-Canadians like to call it) is produced from hydroelectric sources, the majority of the rest is produced with some variant of coal/oil/gas fired plants with a smattering of nuclear and wind in there for completeness.

      Oh, and lets please not pretend that hydroelectricity is 0-impact... it might be _after_ operational, but certainly does a lot of damage to the environment to get that way.

      But back on topic, TDI engines are awesome.

      ... Mines the one headed to the Thorium research lab :)

      1. Charles Manning

        58% is nonsense

        What counts is the marginal impact of adding extra electrical demand.

        Most of the time hydro, wind etc are used to their maximum capacity and the extra burden is taken up by carbon fuels. If you increase electrical use by 10% then that has to be bet by carbon fuels. It is not coming from hydro.

        The impact of building a hydro dam is certainly not zero. Apart from the impact on the river etc, there is also all the building effort + concrete etc which is at least as much as the building materials needed to build a carbon burning station. The important thing to do though is to amortise these costs over the life of the power station (50 years or so for a hydro station). When you do that then the building costs are not that big.

        While we're in a pissing contest, the Canucks are nowhere near as good as us kiwis. Around 80% of our electricity comes from renewables - mainly hydro.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Swiss

    Don't they insist you switch off your engine every time you stop? And have they every considered how much fuel is used in recharging the battery to replace the charge lost in starting the car? Probably not.

    That aside I have to say I take their side on this. The problem with environmental considerations these days is that most people make them based on production of CO2 and don't consider any other environmental damage. Indeed most people are only concerned about the emission of CO2 by the vehicle. No consideration is given to the environmental damage caused by manufacturing a new vehicle or scrapping (sorry, recycling) an old one. Nor do most people think an EV is responsible for any CO2 emissions at all.

    So what? Well I think the amount of effort being put into battery fuelled EVs could be much better spent on developing other sources of motive power. And no I don't just mean fuel cells (hydrogen or otherwise) how about more money being spent on cleaner IC engines? I recall Yamaha in conjunction with Ford working on a direct injection two stroke which was supposed to be much more efficient then any other IC engine, and didn't produce loads of unburned hydrocarbons like traditional two strokes. Quite what happened to that development I don't know, it certainly sounded promising. I'm sure there's much more that could be done along those and other lines rather than rushing headlong towards the battery fueld EV.

    I also recall some time ago one manufacturer mooted a "fly by wire" sort of system which would adjust driver input to give better economy (and hence lower emissions). I certainly like the sound of that one. I recall a car magazine doing a test ages ago where they showed you could drive much more economically in an urban environment without actually adding to your journey time.

    1. Chemist

      Re : they every considered how much fuel is used in recharging...

      Far less than leaving your engine running.

      The rule-of-thumb is turn off if the wait will be >10secs.

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        Rule of thumb

        And you've researched your rule of thumb thoroughly have you? Thought not.

        It will vary massively from car to car. The bigger the engine and the higher the compression ratio the more fuel will be needed and it will be exponential. Generally bigger engines will not only take more energy to start, but they will use more fuel replacing the lost charge.

        Add to that the fact that an older battery is less efficient and not only wastes more energy starting the engine, but also wastes more energy when being charged and you'll see your carefully researched (ha!) rule of thumb is complete nonsense.

        Don't swiss vehicles spend a lot of time at high altitude? If you've ever driven at high altitude you'll know that engines are harder to start there too. My advice is that should you stop at the top of the Stelvio pass to take a photo, do not switch off the engine of your aging Beetle.

        1. Chemist

          Re: Rule of thumb

          "The bigger the engine and the....." - the MORE fuel it uses at IDLE . Many car manufacturers offer automatic stop/start in Europe - they will have researched it.

          Your evidence is .....? No, thought not

          Back of spreadsheet calculation using very rough figures.

          Starting amps 1000, time 2 secs = ~7watt.hrs - that's really not very much at all. On the other hand I can watch the fuel drop at idleon the trip computer.

          And BTW, I've a holiday home in Switzerland at 1800m (5800ft) and the car ( VW turbo diesel ) starts fine even at -15C.

          1. Chemist

            Re : Re: Rule of thumb

            And now I've finished breakfast ...

            The very conservative estimate for the energy to start an engine I gave above is equivalent to 0.5 grammes of diesel (~45MJ/kg). Even allowing for inefficiencies that's still a tiny amount.

            My guess is any starting problems encountered on the passes where the result of a hot petrol engine evaporating the petrol in the carburettor at the low atm, pressure

            1. John Murgatroyd

              Dop cars

              still use carburettors ?

              Fuel injected ones have no carburettors !

              1. Chemist

                Re : Dop cars still use carburettors ?

                Old ones do and Grease Monkey said "My advice is that should you stop at the top of the Stelvio pass to take a photo, do not switch off the engine of your aging Beetle"

          2. Matt 21

            Nice calculation but

            The trip computer says my car is using something like 0.3l per hour at tick over, so idling for a few minutes is not that big a deal.

            I think this whole issue of cars and CO2 is a bit of a dead end. Improving mpg is very good but it seems to me that governments are keen on us concentrating here so that we don't stop and look at other much bigger polluters.

            Finlay, if you consider that a modern family diesel will do at least double the mpg of an early Cortina, for example, despite weighing almost twice as much (I know it varies, but it is a lot more) then think what we could achieve if we gave up some of our safety features.... just a thought.

    2. Ian Michael Gumby

      @AC... The Swiss make good swiss chese...

      At least there's holes in their argument...

      First, I don't disagree with what they are saying. If you look at an electric car, and compare it with an equivalent gas/diesel model and not consider any external factors like the amount of energy and co2 used to make the battery and to dispose/recycle the battery, then their argument kind of holds water based on today's power generation.

      If you consider improving on the efficiency of the hydro electric plants, looking more towards nuclear energy, you may see the CO2 emissions from the production of energy drop shifting things in to the EV court.

      But that's not going to happen any time soon.

      Your best bet would be to slow the urban speed down to 15mph in cities and 25mph on suburb streets. Then tax the heck out of the highways/tollways so that people opt to use public transportation.

      Then improve the railways (US and NA) for inter city travel.

      That should help reduce our carbon footprints.

      Of course this doesn't amount to squat when you consider our environment is changing not just from CO2 output in the first world nations, but really also in the 3rd world nations and those striving to be second world nations. Biomass (people themselves) and the lack of pollution controls in those areas are just as bad.

      You want to solve the problem? Remember that Soylent Green ... ;-)

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge


        " Remember that Soylent Green ..."

        I read the book (Make Room, Make Room) and nobody ate anybody. That was purely an invention of the makers of the truly crappy film adaptation.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Grease Monkey

          True the book is always better than the movie. But that image of Charlton Heston in the end?

          Now that was classic.

          Its funny that my post got thumbs down when you consider that the only people who buy hybrids do so for the smugness effect (Ok you need to know your South Park)

          The irony is that as the western nations spend more money reducing their emissions, the nations like China and India are increasing their CO2 and waste output. So yeah its cheaper to do business in these nations.

          But the points I made earlier in my post still stand. In the US, there's the mentality of "nobody but a nobody walks in LA..."... that is to say, you want your freedom so you want your wheels. You want your single family home with your white picket suburban fenced in dream. All inefficient.

          You want to cut down on green house gas emissions, look at urban living and being able to walk to work, shopping, etc ...

          But lets not rush things. Lets take our time and come up with a more fuel efficient replacement to our car...

  5. ian 22

    Save the environment? Meh.

    Environment be dammed. I'd buy an electric car just to poke a finger in the collective eye of the despots who own all the petroleum.

    1. Rogerborg


      "I'd buy an electric car just to poke a finger in the collective eye of the despots who own all the petroleum."

      Oh noes! Whatever will they do? Oh, wait, it turns out that they also own all the coal and gas (and oil) that's burned in the power stations that are making the electricity for your clownmobile.

      If it looks like you're paying them less for electricity, you're not - most of the money we pay on petrol or diesel goes to Revenue Retrieval anyway, not the Houses of Saud and Bush.

      The only way to stick it to the despots is to get on your bicycle, or better yet, top yourself. That'll show 'em.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Which is why petrol hybrids are a joke...

    ... the new Auris Hybird for example does 74mpg - oooh, well done, you got a car smaller than a BMW 3 series to do 4.5mpg more than a BMW 3 series but 10mpg less than a Skoda Fabia.

    1. Colin 61

      I own a Hybrid

      There's not much point in comparing laboratory or government figures. Go to one of the 'MPG' sites, such as There you'll find real figures for everyday driving. The distributions of actual mpgs are a very good indication of what's generally achievable. BMWs and Hybrids return different figures because the drivers are different: not because it does "4.5 mpg more than a 3 series"

      My Prius does about 59 uk mpg (measured lifetime value over 10k miles). Today, a hybrid is needed to give a good range (say 500 miles) to a tank, reliably. Sure, there are diesels that will do better. They tend to be smaller, and manual. Mine's 1800cc petrol + an electric motor, in a 'medium' car and fully automatic. It cost quite a lot more than a smaller diesel. But the engineering is very focussed on achieving these emission/mileage figures. Some of these compromises I don't like, but overall it seems an exceptionally cheap car to run.

      Nearly 60 mpg, tyres have little wear, the brakes are hardly touched (it uses regenerative braking), the engine compartment is clean as a whistle, tax. It gets an oil change and filter for servicing. That's it.

      A car built for mileage teases you into optimising your mileage. It changes your driving style. Out go the high speed drives in a powerful car. OK, it MAY be a bit 'boring', but a quiet car and a good sound system compensate....

      1. yeehaw....

        I own an F150 Supercab....

        Seats six, 4.6L V8, automatic, gets 17.3mpg. Good family truck from Ford.

        Laughs at the Pious on the highway - they move out of the way - makes me happy.

        Emissions? It's a truck. It doan' need no emissions...

        Yup, American. lol

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re : give a good range (say 500 miles)

        My Touran weighs 1700kg, can do ~120mph, and has just averaged 47mpg to Switzerland & back. I routinely get >600 miles range. So it's not just small diesels

  7. GettinSadda

    Whole story?

    So, they researchers looked at the following:

    For the electric car:

    * The environmental impact of the fuel usage at the vehicle (nil)

    * The environmental impact of the production of the EV fuel at source (power station)

    For the diesel car:

    * The environmental impact of the fuel usage at the vehicle (exhaust)

    Anything missing?

    Oh yes...

    * The environmental impact of the production of the diesel fuel at source (refinery)

    Any guesses about that last item? And how about all the other factors such as exploration, extraction, shipping etc. There have been studies done on this, and from memory petrol and diesel end up looking pretty poor, but I'm sure there will be plenty of biased links supplied below:

    1. Brutus

      Fair enough points

      You do need to compare like for like. That would either include the feed stock to the refinery (and distribution to fuel pumps) or exclude the feedstock to the power-plant.

      I would hazard a guess that if you look at the entire production chain things probably even out somewhat once you take into account mining of coal, construction of hydro-dams and oil rigs and the whole fun and games of nuclear.

    2. Steven Jones

      biased links?

      You mean like the links you haven't provided at all...

    3. Nexox Enigma

      It's nearly free

      """The environmental impact of the production of the diesel fuel at source (refinery)"""

      Unless you presume that we cease all oil refining, then diesel will be produced, since it exists in all crudes, to some extent. If we stop driving diesel vehicles and can't use our diesel for similar purposes (Heating Oil, Kerosene, Jet Fuel,) then it'll just have to be stored somewhere, or put through energy-intensive processes to crack it down to gasoline or something.

      """And how about all the other factors such as exploration, extraction, shipping etc. There have been studies done on this, and from memory petrol and diesel end up looking pretty poor, but I'm sure there will be plenty of biased links supplied below."""

      Those are pretty well documented as being a tiny, tiny fraction of the energy contained in the fuel. There are some US DoE studies of what amounts of an energy profit ratio of various energy sources (How many joules (or BTU, probably...) does it take to get one kj of fuel,) which I'll allow everyone to find for themselves, because I don't have the patience to navigate their messy website right now. In any case, crude oil is one of the lease energy-intensive ways to get any sort of fuel, and the DoE is nothing if not thorough in their research.

      1. John Murgatroyd


        Diesel is a mixture of various petroleum products and not a specific individual refinery product.

        I can mix vegetable oil and petrol together and run a diesel on it....and even run it on straight veggie oil ! (66p/litre at Tesco (special offer))

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re : can mix vegetable oil and petrol together and run a diesel on it

          Unless it's a very old and cheap diesel it wouldn't be recommended.

          1. May cause engine coking if misused.

          2. May invalidate vehicle warrantee.

          3. Exhaust smells of chips (unless cat. converter fitted).

          4. Have to pay tax to customs and excise

          5. Harder to start the engine in the morning

          6. Will destroy some injector pumps

          7. Only useful in older vehicles.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Thats one way to read the report ...

    ... Carbon fueled vehicles are cleaner if they consume less than 3.9 L / 100 km ...

    Then for most vehicle classes, electric vehicles are cleaner even if the power is produced by gas / oil at the power station.

    1. Nexox Enigma

      Read much?

      """Then for most vehicle classes, electric vehicles are cleaner even if the power is produced by gas / oil at the power station."""

      The report considered electricity made from all non-renewable sources, presumably in ratios typically found in various first world countries. And you typically can't choose to just have the cleaner fossil-derived electricty delivered to your home / wherever you charge your car.

      Handy to dismiss an entire report with a single sentence though.

  9. Paul Gannon


    ... it costs far less to charge your car than to spend money on diesel :)

    Anyway, how often do you think the batteries will need replacing and disposing of? Not that often, I think. So where's the issue?

    1. David Kelly 2

      Battery Cost

      Actually the wear and tear on EV batteries is greater than the cost of gasoline or diesel. Teasing one to focus only on the cost of electricity is a diversion from the greater costs.

    2. Peter H. Coffin

      Re: but

      Typical replacement interval for the battery packs seems to be on the order of every 50 000 miles. And you can expect that to be some several thousand UKP to do. Estimates waved around for US models have been on the order of $5000-8000. Amusingly, this is roughly the premium for hybrid/electrics over chemically-powered vehicles in the base price for similar vehicles.

    3. Stevie


      Battery replacement?

      (Dons turban, places fingertips on temples and closes eyes)

      About every five years, on average, at best.

      Y'know, LION batteries have been known to have exciting behaviour under low-charge conditions. Let's hope there won't be any Orbital iPhone moments with LION powered leccies.

    4. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Quite often

      Lithium ion batteries are always oxidising. Probably get 5 years out of them before the capacity starts to diminish.

      Also, what is the safety like? Lithium ion batteries can explode if damaged or overheated.

      1. M Gale

        Or discharged too deeply/too quickly.

        Can you say "exothermic"?

        I think the rule of thumb for most li* batteries is 1000 charge/discharge cycles. Much less if you're putting them under a high load. Either they need to get very cheap, or a hydrogen infrastructure needs to be built. As I mentioned above, electric vehicles can be incredibly high performance, but while battery tech has improved massively in the last few years it's still not going to get you 500 miles on one five-minute charge.

        Fuel cells, however, can.

        1. xj25vm

          Fuel cells

          "I think the rule of thumb for most li* batteries is 1000 charge/discharge cycles. "

          I thought it was more like 400, with the higher quality ones reaching 600-ish.

          "Fuel cells, however, can."

          On the other hand - how many billions of dollars/pounds/euros would it cost to build a hydrogen infrastructure covering the entire country? By some studies, if electrical vehicles are only charged at night - when the electrical grid/infrastructure has very little use - the current generation and distribution capacity would cover close to 20% of cars on the road with no augmentation. That is a heck of an argument to consider when comparing hydrogen to electric from the point of view of the generation and distribution facilities.

          1. Xander Dent

            title, ffs

            I know it's lower pressure, but we've already got an infrastructure for moving gas around....

    5. John Murgatroyd

      Prius 2004

      Battery life 100,000 miles (160,000 KM) or 8 years.

  10. z0mbee

    Late to the party?

    Based on their sums, my previous car - a 1996 VW Passat diesel - was as economical as a 'leccy car. The previous owner installed an uprated engine management chip, and the thing never did less than 60mpg...

  11. blackworx


    "as long as the electricity for the [battery car] is not produced by renewable hydropower"

    If they're counting such things - and we can only assume that they should be - the millions of acres of submerged rotting vegetation in hydroelectric reservoirs around the world causes them to emit huge volumes of CO2 and methane.

    Just saying.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. hplasm


      Won't the fusion plants provide tonnes of lithium?

    2. xj25vm

      Betting on the future

      "Except that by that day we will have run out of lithium so it'll be back to diesel cars. "

      Well there is this thing called probability. Internal combustion engines are very close to their efficiency limits. After 100 years of innovation and improvements - they are close to extracting as much efficiency out of the process as they ever will. It is purely a physical and chemical limitation. While, on the other hand, it is much more likely that batteries will be made out of other materials aside from lithium in the near future (many of them already are - competing battery chemistries already exist in production and testing labs based on a variety of other materials) - or even alternative electricity storage devices will become (more) viable - such as super capacitors.

      So running out of lithium = not so much of a problem. Combustion engines getting more efficient - hmm, far less leeway.

    3. John Murgatroyd


      That's why Toyota are using NiMH now ?

  13. Tom 38


    "But if you just want to emit less carbon right away, it seems you should buy a modern eco-diesel rather than an electric vehicle. "

    You could also buy neither, and use public transport, walking and bicycling to get around, which would emit even less carbon.

    1. Mark 65


      Public transport is only more efficient if a crucial mass of people use it. Just you and the driver on a suburban bus isn't particularly efficient. Likewise for mostly empty trains running during the day. Factor in that most public transport systems outside of major cities are shit, infrequent and seldom take you where you want to go and the diesel/EV alternative looks quite good.

      1. John Murgatroyd

        Public Transport

        is only efficient if it takes you where you want to go, and sufficient people also want to go to the same place.

        Not much good if you want to go fishing in the middle of nowhere.

        And even less use if you get stuck in a tube with a person with rear-end-pollution problems.

  14. Buzzword

    Particulates and smelliness

    Diesel vehicles, even the newer ones, belch out great wafts of smelliness and particulates. These make life in city centres unpleasant, and contribute to health problems. If diesel is so safe, I'd like to see a modern-day John Gummer force his daughter to breathe in diesel fumes for ten minutes.

  15. famousringo
    Thumb Up

    It's not like we can all switch to diesel

    Since I doubt that there's enough supply of diesel to power every vehicle on the road, it's nice to know that electrics are cleaner than gasoline combustion even when the electricity is generated in the dirtiest way.

    Migrate to clean coal, nuclear and renewables and even diesel compacts would have a hard time competing, I suspect.

  16. FreeTard

    Keep these articles coming

    As I cannot decide what to replace the wife's 10 year old 1l Yaris with.

    Gonna wait another two years I reckon, but not sure the poor engine will last that long.

    It's already got 139,000 miles on it...

    When i see a 1L/100km car I'm sold.

  17. David Pollard

    V2G is the buzzword - vehicle to grid

    Electric cars are a vital part of wind power strategy, to store peak energy and feed it into the grid when needed. So they must be green.

    David MacKay reckons, "the key thing is to build up electric vehicles and electric heat pumps demand at the same rate as wind supply. Roughly 1000 electric vehicles per (2MW) wind turbine."

    I still can't see this working without also having backup power for the long calm spells. Neither can I imagine many people changing without carrots and sticks, both of which tend to end up being expensive somewhere along the line.

  18. Richard Jukes

    Sod the MPG!

    Sod the MPG and environment. Its all about the money, and not paying money to the government/oil companies is great. Im saving my money for that 640hp Electric Mini that PML are working on. It was on the Reg a few years ago, 640hp, four wheel drive and a 0-60 time of under 5s. Now thats a car, I neeeeed it.....

  19. shufflingB

    Greener, really?

    It might be possible in some specific circumstances to say diesels emit less CO2.

    However unless:

    a) diesels can be made as quiet as an electric.

    and more importantly

    b) the smelly and frequently visible clouds of soot that belch out the back of these vehicles is some sort magical health giving tonic (rather than a toxic cocktail of PM10 particulate emissions)

    then to say that they're greener than electric is quite debatable.

    There is little point in trying to achieve an incremental cut in CO2 emissions if in the process we poison the air we breathe with particulate emissions.

    1. Mark 65


      "However unless:

      a) diesels can be made as quiet as an electric."

      I'm sure that'll be helpful for all the impaired vision people crossing suburban streets (ones with sticks not dogs).

      Can just imagine it now - pollution down, pedestrian deaths up. Just saying.

      1. Jan 0 Silver badge

        Cloth ears?

        On suburban streets the loudest part of petrol/diesel cars is their tyres.

        Unless electric vehicles don't use tyres, I don't see how they're going to be stealthy.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Merkin Problem

      FAILQUOTE: "the smelly and frequently visible clouds of soot that belch out the back of these vehicles"

      Here in Europe we developed and use at least two different technologies to make a Diesel as clean as a Petrol engine:

      Your problem is either a) american ignorance (most likely) or b) a problem of american legislation not requiring clean Diesel technology.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More efficient tech good. Choosing wisely better.

    The one idea I like best about electric cars is the ability to harvest energy from braking. That re-harvesting is something we should do more, for still far too much of the energy we "liberate" to use ends up wasted as heat or sound or otherwise doing nothing useful. I read in a popsci rag years ago that a light flywheel capable of 30k+ rpm would actually be better than a heavy one. Especially if using frictionless bearings and so on. It'd be great for what wastest cars most anyway: The stop/start drudgery of city driving.

    Personally, if I wanted a car, I'd try and fetch me an audi a2 "3L" edition, which only needs 3.0 litres/100km, and is nice and roomy for the things I'd need a car for most: Carting stuff around. Otherwise I'll stick to a bicycle, which is cheaper and healthier. Doing so is mostly a mindset issue, as all but the worst weather isn't much of a problem if you come prepared. A cheap foldable raincoat or poncho would do. Or even, like I do, carry a towel.

  21. tony72
    Thumb Up


    Don't forget, diesels can also run on bio-diesel. So if they are environmentally comparable with a battery car when running on fossil fuel, they're surely light-years ahead when running on fully renewable bio-diesel. Yes, at the moment bio-fuels are made from food crops, and it isn't considered acceptable to divert too much of them to fuel production, as lots of poor people might starve due to the resulting increased food costs. But as the cost of producing bio-fuel from next generation sources (algae etc) comes down, that ceases to be a problem, and bio-diesel may well end up being the most green option.

    1. L.B

      Not just bio-diesel...

      Diesel engines can be designed to run on almost anything that will burn and can be injected.

      They are commonly used to generate electricity from natural gas sources that would otherwise go to waste, such as from old refuse dumps and sewage works.

      They can even run on alcohol...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Modern Diesels

    Of course most modern diesels have particulate filters to try to enable them to compete emission-wise with petrol engines. Fine except the filters don't work very well on short runs and tend to block and cause problems. Unless the mileage is quite high per year, diesels are not a good idea. But they're fine for motorway cruising.

    1. L.B

      Diesels NOT for long runs only.

      "Of course most modern diesels have particulate filters to try to enable them to compete emission-wise with petrol engines. Fine except the filters don't work very well on short runs and tend to block and cause problems. Unless the mileage is quite high per year, diesels are not a good idea. But they're fine for motorway cruising."

      Wrong. Diesel engines are always much more fuel efficient that petrol engines, and the filters work very well on any journey. Due to the way diesel engines work they tend to warm up quicker than petrol engines, as the temperatures achieved burning the fuel are higher.

      The first (and last) part of my week-day commute is a ~4.5 mile drive, where I typically get between 47 and 51 mpg, depending on the traffic. Between 7:00 & 7:30 (both am and pm) the roads are quiet enough that just driving at the speed limits of 30/40mph and not sitting in traffic jams gets this level of efficiency out of a 2006 VW Passat Estate.

      As a side note; when I first got the car with ~11000 miles on the clock I used to only get about 38mpg, this slowly rose as the engine ran in, with mpg in mid 40's by 25000 miles. My current average mpg (current mileage ~41000) after 610 miles on this tank full is 49mpg.

      1. NoDosh

        @diesels warm up more quickly?

        Really? Want to go and check that little factoid? Thermal efficiency in diesels is greater.

  23. Carvajal

    True mileage?

    Before a car reaches normal temperature the consumption is a lot higher.

    Many journeys are shorter than 5 miles and the car will never reach the ideal temperature.

  24. NoDosh

    Mine's the one

    with the Land Rover keys in the pocket.

  25. Stevie


    "Concrete"? Concrete is made from Portland cement, sand and stones, and the machines used to dig it out and move it around are almost universally Diesel motored. Not seeing the connection.

    1. Mark 65


      It's a CO2 reference. Specifically to do with the considering the entire energy chain...

      "Cement is made by heating limestone (calcium carbonate), with small quantities of other materials (such as clay) to 1450 °C in a kiln, in a process known as calcination"

      I'd imagine that chucks out a bit.

    2. Lunatik

      Here are some magic letters and/or digits to appease the forum faeries

      Production of 1 tonne of cement releases about 0.82 tonnes of CO2, or about 0.67 tonnes if you include the fact that concrete will reabsorb some CO2 over its lifespan (source:

  26. jake Silver badge

    Something people are missing ...

    Look to long-haul transportation, where economy makes for profits.

    Trains: Diesel

    Trucks: Diesel

    Aircraft: Jet fuel (basically, diesel)

    Shipping: Bunker fuel (basically, diesel)

    Do the math(s) & follow the money. Diesel powered vehicles are the absolute cheapest form of long distance transportation known to man, from a TCO point of view.

    1. GettinSadda


      > Trains: Diesel

      Nip on over to Google images and do a search for a modern train such as the TGV, Bullet-Train or even the Pendolino. Take a good look at the images... no, not the trains... just above them... what are those long, wire-like things doing there?

      1. Sadie

        Electric is better too

        Electric trains are also a lot more powerful then diesel. A bog standard electric loco puts out about 8-9000hp - a very large diesel can do about 4000hp at best (and weighs a lot more - up to twice as much) - but big thing with Electic trains, they don't carry their own batteries, instead having a contact wire or rail fed from the national grid.

        Then again maybe that might be the way forward. have an electric grid suspended over the road and an earthed road surface. Pity someone already owns the patant on the Dodgem :)

      2. jake Silver badge


        Most diesel trains are actually diesel-electric. The diesel engine runs a generator, which in turn powers the electric engines that move the train. Cuts out the middle-man, and attendant transmission losses.

        Side note: Your little TGVs are people-movers, not long-distance goods transport.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    How come only CO2 counts as emissions now

    Diesel cars emit less CO2 granted but they emit heaps more ODP (Ordinary Decent Pollution) than petrol cars. For example NOx emissions for a diesel are around 10x that for a petrol engine. Now NOx is what causes breathing problems and lung irritation in people particularly those with respiratory issues. Add to that PM10's, soot, SOx etc. and diesels are the biggest single contributor to dirty air in our towns and cities.

  28. Eddie Johnson

    Been Saying This For Years

    It took a scientific study to figure it out?

    Batteries do not generate energy, they are a storage mechanism just like your metal fuel tank. All they do is shift the pollution from your tailpipe to some big plant. The same goes for hydrogen power since hydrogen gas is typically manufactured thru electrolysis. The difference is your metal fuel tank has a nearly unlimited life time and a $200 replacement cost if necessary. Hybrid vehicles are a giant scam to get the average Joe paying a higher average price for his car with no economic advantage for the driver and no environmental advantage for society. Once you factor in the high cost of battery replacement and the limited number of charge cycles your fuel savings will never pay off.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @Eddie Johnson

      "The same goes for hydrogen power since hydrogen gas is typically manufactured thru electrolysis."

      No. Most Hydrogen, certainly the stuff fueling cars in California, is made by thermally cracking natural gas as are most other industrial uses. Hydrogen's supports would *like* it to be made by electrolysis.

  29. MrT

    I think they have already taken refinery emissions into account...

    The biggest difference between claimed and actual mpg is currently held by the Toyota Prius - claimed is around 66mpg, actual 48 mpg. Compare to BMW 520d, with claimed of 56mpg and actual just over 50mpg on the same run - Times online.

    And yet the Prius gets the plaudits for being 'eco'.

    So, i think there's a factor included to balance out the refinery emissions vs the powerstation emissions, giving roughly 40% increase in the economy figure for the diesel based on real-world figures (not claimed).

    Having said that, I'm not surprised by this - diesels have been getting very good recently, like the last 5 years. for example, my Vectra CDTi 150 has often beaten the official mpg on a tank average - the last time I filled up the trip computer projected a range of 974 miles, which I increased to 977 before it fell away - more realistically I get about 700 miles per tank (about 57 litres going in per time). After 100 miles the trip average was 64.4mpg by the optimistic computer (so knock off 8% or so for the under-geared and therefore over-reading speedo and I got about 59mpg - normally nearer 55mpg).

    Problem with electric cars are either one of recharge times or extra dead weight contributing to poorer performance - you can't choose to run a half-empty battery just to knock 30kg from the rolling weight. By all accounts, the Ampera drives like a diesel up to about 60mph - very torquey. The issue of recycling batteries at end of useful life is going to disappear as the technology used to reclaim the various elements improves.

  30. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Hydropower? Noooo!

    Won't you please think of the children^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H fish.

    BTW, the correct units of consumption are light-years per cubic mile of gas (my car gets 2.3).

  31. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    famed maker of cars(?) Peugeot is

    launching in 2011 a 2 litre turbo-diesel-electric "3008Hybrid4", diesel drives front wheels, 'leccy the rear ones - driving modes include 4WD when needed.

    quote/ using an already fuel-efficient diesel with 120 kW (163 bhp), the 3008 Hybrid4 manages a combined drive cycle fuel consumption of 3·8 l/100 km (74·4 mpg) and carbon dioxide emissions of 99 g/km. /quote

    but it's French!

  32. Kobus Botes

    Comparing apples with apples

    The one thing that has always bothered me about these comparisons, is that (to my mind, at least) not all polluting/damaging factors are taken into account.

    Only by taking *all* CO2-producing factors (since that is the current flavour of the month - a better indicator would be to include all polluting/damaging factors) into account over the life of the vehicle (i.e. from mining the minerals up to complete disposal/recycling of the vehicle at the end) can one arrive at the true measure of which is the environmentally better vehicle.

    For straight comparisons of vehicles (hybrid vs ic vs electric) one can obviously disregard common factors (like steel, plastic, glass, etc. production), as it would cancel out in any case.

    This method can (should, actually) be extended to the whole CO2 brouhaha^^^^mess^^^^palarva^^^^whatever (where's the strikethrough when one needs it?) if one *really* wants to know which industry/product is environmentally better or worse.

  33. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Problems with electric vehicles

    "an electric motor will give you far more power to weight than an equivalent internal combustion engine these days, with a much better response curve"

    No it doesn't. The motor itself is lighter, but instead of 100 pounds of gas (I have a 16 gallon tank in my car). The Prius has about a 100 pound battery pack, and that'll move it like 2 or 3 miles.

    So the big issues I see with pure electric vehicles:

    1) Weight of the batteries. For real, if anyone makes a car light enough to be reasonable with all those batteries in it, they could drop a gas (or diesel) engine in the same vehicle and get crazy MPGs. If batteries come out with much better power density than present types, I won't be surprised if the tide isn't turned in the electric vehicle's favor. However....

    2) Infrastructure. Overlooking the fact that most power now is generated via coal, gas, etc., the fact of the matter is that there's nowhere near enough of a power grid to transport all that extra power electrically, not enough generating plants to generate the power, and so far the charging times are unreasonable. I mean, the pipe dream "wouldn't the electrical plug melt?" claims are like 15-30 minutes. I know on a road trip, I wouldn't want to wait that long at the gas station!

    That said I'm all for hybrids. I waste all sorts of potential energy having to slow down down hills to stay within the (artificially low) speed limits here in town, have to stop almost every single block due to a love of stop signs and stop lights (which are mistimed so usually it's normal to get at least 5 or 6 red lights in a row.). For me, enough to do 35MPH-0-35MPH would cover it, I'm sure I'd get a huge increase in mileage. (Probably capturing from 55MPH would be better, to cover cities with better speed limits than we're blessed with here.)

    1. M Gale

      If you read my post...'ll see that I said the only thing wrong the electric vehicles is the batteries. I know they are bulky and limited, but fuel cells are vastly less so.

      Still, not taking range into account, even with the bulk of a battery the electric motor puts out much better power:weight. You can see this on a small scale with the more recent RC aeroplanes out there. Sure, you can get a .40 methanol engine with an 8oz tank and it'll keep you flying at a sedate pace for maybe 15-20 minutes. Or you can put an electric motor in the same airframe and get 5 minutes of truly insane performance, even with that chunky 3-cell LiPo taking up weight. Think about it.. aircraft, especially little model aircraft, are somewhat sensitive to weight. In the last few years, brushless motors and lipo technology have made them not only the equal to methanol engines, but actually surpass them in power and responsiveness. Only disadvantage is.. as already mentioned.. the batteries, in this case taking an hour and a half to charge between 5 minute flights. Or maybe, for more ground-level endeavours, you can search youtube for the RC model car that, using a similar-sized motor and battery pack, gets over 140MPH. No, not a typo or "scale speed". One hundred and forty miles per hour. That little toy goes faster than some peoples' full sized sports cars!

      Fuel cells will be the electric motor's saviour, and could transform personal transportation. There are already pipe networks travelling across many countries, and I'm sure some of them could be co-opted for hydrogen use. Even if not, building an infrastructure like that is an investment that should pay for itself once the government starts taxing the bejeesus out of electrolyzed water.

  34. Nicholas Thomas


    Article has good facts, but it's a shame about the tone in which they're presented.

    Range issues aside (and they will be sorted eventually), all-electric drivetrains are far superior to to the manual setup.

    Current diesels probably aren't at the absolute limits of efficiency, but they're reasonably close.

    Average contribution from renewables in the UK is <10% or so, if I remember correctly - so I could reduce the carbon footprint of an all-electric car by 5-10 times(!) just by switching energy supplier /today/:

    We can make 'green' diesel too - biodiesel - but the electric tech is still superior (although the diesel still beats it in range, obviously) . And generating green energy doesn't cause food prices to shoot up in the same way that green diesel does.

    Mind you, I'm still buying a petrol or diesel when I get my first car - the range is the real killer at the moment, since I'll mostly be using my car for extremely long trips.

    If you're a commuter, chances are you're doing < 100 miles a day, and if you're buying your electricity from a company with a commitment to renewables /and/ future-proofing yourself, emissions-wise, an electric car is a good way to go.

  35. MJI Silver badge

    3l car story

    There is a story that VAG heard about Renault working on a 3l Clio, they assumed that Renault were working on a car which did 100km on 3l of fuel.

    They spent ages working on this and I think the little Audi was the result (A2 I think).

    Then Renault released a Clio with a 3l V6 in the back.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nice story

      I'd still take the A2 3L though; it's far more useful. Clio V6? Might as well drive an opel manta. But then, *useful* is rarely the reason why people buy cars.

      Ironic that 3L/100km cars are becoming more popular now that A2 production has already been stopped. They really should get over it and try again quickly. And find better marketing people.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Manta - rather have a Monza thankyou

        A nice straight six hmm.

        Even though it is a bit of a boat anchor compared to the Ecotec V6s

        Still 3l cars though!*

        * Ok some Monzas were 2.8

      2. xj25vm

        Aud A2

        "They really should get over it and try again quickly. And find better marketing people."

        Not sure about that one - but I've been told the reason why they discontinued the A2 is that it was eating into the sales of the bigger and more expensive A3. I know several people who had an A2 - and they all say it was a great little car. That's only what I heard.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    OK and to mix this up a little more

    Take a reasonably economic petrol car say a 1.6 small hatchback and have it converted to LPG (cost me exactly £791.80p in March) and I regularly do the 'petrol equivalent' of over 61 mpg.

    With the added advantage that I can boot it when I want and it doesn't sufffer from the new diesel woes DMF(Dual Mass Flywheel ) and DPF issues (Diesel Particulate Filter).

    So I may not be able to completely out green the weenies in their Pious' but in monetary terms I can wee all over them. Since a normal car plus conversion is far cheaper (several thousand) to buy than a hybrid.

    LPG 64.9 Unleaded 1.19 (my local garage) MPG on LPG is 33.40 which is a Petrol Equivalent of 61.23mpg...I really should get out more! Besides petrol prices are only ever going to go up aren't they.

    I pass four garages selling LPG twice a day. I've seen the future and it's not Garlic Bread it's LPG well it was the future a few years ago...meh!

    1. MJI Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      LPG as well

      But I use it with a V6, costs the same to run as a Diseasle but a fraction of the pollution and a much nicer engine noise.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Black Helicopters

        LPG is a great way to make running a large car really economical

        We also have a 2.5litre Auto SUV which now costs the same to fuel as a 1600 Fiesta.

        Since I've owned it from new (20K several years ago) and it's only done 50K I'm bu99ered if I'm going to get rid of it while there's still lots of usage to be had from it.

        Certainly not to please the greenie weenies.

        HMG will only be happy when us peasants are shuffling round in electric beer crates subsisting on turnips. Well llamedos!

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Take a reasonably efficient petrol engined car, then change the primary fuel for one with less calorific value that will get worse mpg on lpg than on petrol and is actually just a bit of a green scam to boot. Nice the way you had to have "petrol equivalent" to skirt round this fact. And lpg pricing has been creeping up as more people had it and duty increased, although its still very low compared to actual petrol. And some petrol cars are fitted with dmf's, merc's etc...

      We ran a lpg mondeo estate about 10 years ago and my rangerover v8 was also thus equipped, however have bought diesels ever since ;)

      1. MJI Silver badge

        LPG is also a waste product

        If we don't burn it, it could just get flared off.

        So what if it is lower calorific value.

        What about the cleanliness of the exhaust, no particulates, and mainy water.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Actually it wasn't skirting around at all...

        I put petrol equivalent so that normal fuel car drivers would have a 'easy to understand' point of reference - nothing more.

        Regarding performance - true lower calorific value thats why the the kits tend to use much larger injectors to really minimise the loss of performance. Which for a heavy old 2.5litre auto SUV is absolutely so small as to be not even noticeable. Ditto with my 1.6 Hatch. In fact I think your only going to notice it perhaps with sports cars...which I don't own.

        I'm not claiming it uses less fuel..because it just doesn't. I am claiming that it costs less hard earned wedge to run it. That has the merit of being completely true.

        It is greener but to be frank I really couldn't care less about that. It's whats that phrase oh yes....FAR CHEAPER TO RUN! It does produce far far less HC's at the tailpipe as I have a readout / Certificate to prove it. Less CO2 as well. So thats no scam it is green. Especially if otherwise the LNG would have been flared off.

        I agree thats just an anomaly of the tax situation (for some years) ...long may that continue! So I'm taking advantage of a 'kink' in the tax situation. Thats what it's there for isn't it.

        I didn't know that some petrol cars have DMF's I do know that a LOT of diesels do and I'd avoid any vehicle with a DMF like the plague.

        If I have to choose between a cheaper to buy, cheaper to run petrol/LPG car and a idiotic ugly battery thing that only does 70 miles then needs hours of recharging and has Li Ion batts that wear out in five years at huge cost. Then it's really an easy choice..Bye bye leccy.

  37. scatter

    Good to see this

    The 'battery as environmental baddy' meme is already quite entrenched so it's good to see this work corroborating existing life cycle assessments.

    But as ever Lewis is spinning like crazy in order to push his belief that EVs aren't a good solution to decarbonising personal transport and reducing oil dependency.

    A significant weakness in the study, as far as I can make out, is that they've assumed constant carbon emissions from grid electricity (they've gone with the European average which is a bit lower than the UK's grid factor).

    But in reality, our electricity supplies are going to steadily decarbonise over the coming decades so while the diesel ICEV has the same emissions for its entire 14 year lifetime, the BEV emissions will steadily decrease so overall BEV lifecycle emissions will be lower even than the best diesels on the market.

  38. Irné Barnard

    There's no free lunch!

    Plainly put, anything you do is going to cost some environmental impact. Even if you're just going to walk (because making a bicycle also consumes resources and causes pollution) you're using up food (which cause quite huge amounts of pollution per Jule compared to other forms of transportation) and your exhalations are also adding CO2.

    The point is to find the types of transport which allow for the least pollution and most effective use of resources. In such case the most promising seems to be hydrogen fuel-cells: Hydrogen being the most common substance in the universe, and fuel cells using a lot less resources to manufacture than a Li-Ion battery, lifespan on fuel cells are also a lot longer than the standard 5 year battery life, and only H2O is produced as by product (i.e. WATER).

    But then nothing is said about the fact that nearly nowhere is hydrogen found in it's pure form. It's always combined with some other element (e.g. H2O). Thus to provide the H to add to your fuel-cell's tank it first has to be broken off the O by extremely high voltages ... again, we're back to using power plants. So even here we still have the fuss of coal, oil, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, etc. And BTW, if you look worldwide (i.e. not just 1st world), coal is the overall most used power plant in existence - i.e. the most inefficient, most pollutant fuel possible would be the one used to "fill-up" your H on average.

    And then there's other sources of H, e.g. through catalytic extraction from alcohol. But then where do you get the alcohol? Sugar-cane & fermentation? As if that doesn't have any impact on the environment! And what happens with the carbon residue after the H has been extracted? Landfill? Or are you going to use it in coal power stations?

    And if you find an abundant easy to extract source of H. You're in effect adding more and more H2O - water vapor to the atmosphere. Uhmm ... anyone ever seen how quickly a man-made hot-house heats up when adding more water-vapor? Forget CO2! If you extract it from existing water, at least you're keeping a balance.

    So if even petrol engines can be made to take in totality less energy and creating less pollution (used during extraction, manufacture, supply & use) than another form of energy - then that should be the preferred method between the 2. Please someone, could you find a few empirical studies to show the FULL IMPACT of comparable energy sources? This "testing with blinkers on" is causing more problems than it's solving. I can't seem to find any which even takes account of one source's total life-cycle (i.e. prospecting -> construction -> mining -> transportation -> conversion -> distribution -> usage -> by products), never mind comparing even 2 using these full-costs.

    1. Chemist

      Re : adding more and more H2O - water vapor to the atmosphere

      Take one large continent, drench in heavy rain, allow to dry in wind and sun, repeat for thousands of years.

      That's a lot of water vapour added to the atmosphere esp. if the amount the winds drag from the ocean every day is included

      1. Mark Tebbutt

        Ignorance is bliss

        Yeah just like there are billions of tons of CO2 in atmosphere and adding few more billion from the buring of fossil fuel and deforestation couldn’t possible hurt could it?

    2. Cactusweasel

      Re: There's no free lunch!

      Don't worry, that extra H2O in the atmosphere would soon find its way up here to Scotland, like the rest of it.

  39. Me Again


    Think I'll stick to the pushbike thanks - 20 miles to the office on a cup of coffee & a bowl of porridge, which I'd probably have anyway. Time from door to door? ~1h 10m give or take. Enjoyment factor 95% most days.

    Acc to the El Reg converter, that must equate to at least a sackful of Bulgarian fun bags.

    1. Steve Evans

      95% of the time?

      It doesn't rain in your part of the world then?!

  40. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

    How about this...

    Run the power plants on diesel to feed the leccy cars? :P

    Seriously though, having the offending agent (the powerplant) in one place away from towns and cities can be a good idea, especially if any of those ideas I have heard about cleaning up powerplant exhaust actually work and can be implemented. (I don't see us ceasing to burn hydrocarbons in one form or rather for a while unless some real bright spark solves the fusion problem).

    Then all you have to worry about is the leccy car tech.

    So, yes, I'm for leccy cars... But guess what? I can't bloody afford one...

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    angstroms per eon

    for speed

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Why won't anyone think of the efficiency?

    Generate electricity send it somewhere, store it in a battery, then use it. Whats that about 30% efficient? Diesel would wee all over that in terms of efficiency.

    Real green thinking is using the minimum fuel in the most efficient manner.

    Storage Batteries are NOT in any way as efficient

    1. xj25vm

      No kidding

      "Whats that about 30% efficient? Diesel would wee all over that in terms of efficiency."

      Really? How about the other equation? Get tons of drilling equipment out to sea on large ships. Assemble drilling rigs. Transport workers backwards and forwards by helicopter. Dissasemble the whole shebang when you can't find anything, and repeat again on a different site. Repeat several times until you strike oil. Assemble new equipment to pump out oil. Maybe use hot vapor or other energy consuming methods to extract the oil. Transport it to refinery - by pipe or ship or any other energy consuming method. Hire out and operate large ships to maintain the underwater pipes, complete with divers to repair them. Hire out more ships and equipment - and spend energy cleaning up when some of the oil is spilled or escapes. Spend energy refining it. Then transport it to the petrol station by ship and/or train and/or lorry/truck. Also, factor in the energy spent on building said petrol station - and operating it. Only after all that start using it in a car. How much energy have you spent already - before you even get to put into a tank? Then waste a wad of it as heat output by the car engine - and get only a fraction to the wheels. How much energy have you already spent in the process? Maybe you should redo your calculations.

  43. Richard 15

    There are other factors to consider.

    One of the benefits of having an electric car is the ability to centralize the location of where the

    electricity is produced. This allows for greater controls on pollution as well as benefits from

    efficiencies that are available at certain levels of scale.

  44. xj25vm

    A bit misleading, really

    Well, the title should really read "Some diesels cleaner then battery cars". There are only few diesels which in real life use will achieve those figures, so the title is a bit on the misleading side.

    On the other hand, I've always loved diesels and their efficiency. The fact that you can get so far on a single tank. And I agree with the other posters. A hybrid has extra complexity - which costs more money and energy to produce and to maintain. A modern and efficient diesel will be lighter for the same amount of power then a hybrid, have more interior space, be cheaper to buy, simpler to build and maintain - and achieve very similar economy figures - specially if you compare like for like (interior space, useful/working load). So between the two - my vote goes for an efficient diesel. The extra energy spent in producing the extra components of a hybrid will easily surpass the small difference in efficiency. As well as the extra money spent to buy the hybrid.

    Then again, there is much to be said about the extreme mechanical simplicity of pure electric cars compared to both hybrids and pure internal combustion engines. No internal combustion engine lubricant (with corresponding lubricant renewal intervals), no fuel pumps, no injection and ignition systems, no radiator and traditional cooling systems, smaller or no gearbox, no fuel tank. The power plant is smaller and lighter - for the same amount of power. The list goes on and on. There is also much to be said about the greatly reduced maintenance - be it in terms of financial savings - or in terms of energy savings.

    There is also much to be said about the energy processing flexibility of electric cars. Maybe today one will be using electricity generated in a coal fired plant - but just as easily electricity can come from a different source in the future - and the car will stay the same. While in the case of an internal combustion engine - the energy source and processing equation stays the same - petrol or diesel will always come from a refinery - and before that, from the ground. So I accept the fact that electricity might not come today from clean sources - but that can be changed without changing the actual cars.

    I wonder how many of these facts are correctly fed in when people analyse the environmental impact of various types of cars.

  45. Tom 7

    Diesels are a lot better in cities

    You need the pollution diesels produce to keep visibility in towns down and keep their inmates short of oxygen to prevent them rioting.

    Nothing worse than a workforce that can see blueskies and run for them. Revolutions always start with fresh air.

  46. andy 45
    Thumb Up

    All this only matters if.... believe the innocuous gas, H20, that we breath out and that plants need to survive is in any way damaging us.

    If, like me, you don't think it's a problem, you should buggar the expensive diesel and go for the leccy car which you can currently top up for free at most places where you can find a charger, and you get to skip the Congestion charge too -- Win-Win!

  47. Richard 12 Silver badge

    So why has nobody built the obvious answer?

    Diesel-electric cars.

    Electric drivetrain, small battery, small diesel generator.

    The battery can be charged from the wall, the generator and regenerative braking.

    The genny runs when the battery drops below x% charge and tops it up to y%.

    Run the genny at its most efficient output level unless the battery has dropped too low (z%), in which case rev it up to charge faster. (Size the genny and motor so this could only occur if the car is breaking the speed limit for a long time)

    Unlike a Prius, this would actually be more efficient than a modern diesel.

    So why has it not been done?

    (It might be a bit odd for your engine to appear to randomly start and stop, but you'd get used to it pretty quick.)

    For an example of a not-quite-so-modern diesel, my car is a 5-seater people carrier, and I get a genuine 47 mpg on my London commute. Long-distance, car packed to the roof, I get about 60-70mpg (depending on how much of the the M1 is being dug up again)

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Can I have a VP185 in mine?

      Or a D18-25.

      Or an RK280

      Even a 16CSVT will do.

      You did say Diesel Electric

    2. Steve Evans

      It's been done...

      It's called the Hammerhead Eagle i-Thrust

    3. MrT

      Opel were developing a diesel variant of the EREV idea before Volt/Ampera

      "The Opel Flextreme is a plug-in diesel extended range electric vehicle (EREV)—the third variant of GM’s E-Flex electric vehicle architecture—that offers up to 55 km (34 miles) of all-electric range. A 1.3-liter turbodiesel powers an onboard generator to replenish the 16 kWh li-ion battery pack and extend the vehicle’s driving range to a total of 715 km (444 miles)."

      Eventually they had to make a choice though, and the powers at GM favoured the smaller/lighter petrol IC generator - since it's developed for a world market, there's wider avialability of spark-ignition fuels that can be used in largely unmodified petrol IC units; wood alcohol and other miomass-derived stuff, regular rock oil petrol, LPG, and even good old Hydrogen - okay, some mods required for that, but BMW ran a small 'proof of concept' fleet of 750's, which caught my attention since they used the full-fat V12 IC unit and not some odd turbine or fuel-cell system.

      Before anyone pips in about biodiesel, most diesel generators need specific mods to withstand the greater corrosive power of fuel from chipfat, rapeseed oil, waste KFC stuff etc, despite what many folk say - modern high-pressure systems are not tolerant of 100% homebrew as it tends to be a bit too sticky, but blends with 'regular' mineral diesel work fairly well - most pump diesel is already a blend anyway.

      LPG blended with diesel works well too. LR Discovery Mk2 TD5 runs smoothly with very useful boosts in economy, power and a very clean exhaust - the lighter LPG helps the diesel to burn 100%, rather than 85% or so. Needs a lot longer to pay back than petrol/LPG, can't run it on 100% LPG, but a mix of 90%diesel/10%LPG is typical.

  48. Anonymous Coward

    Call It Thorium Car

    ..because that is where the leccy will come from. For at least 5000 years. In the year 3500 it will be renamed "Deuterium Car", because then Fusion will finally be ready.

    We will also have Thorium Houses, Thorium Dishwashers, Thorium Fertilizers, Thorium Plastics, Thorium Water Heaters and so on. All can be made/powered with Thorium for 5000 years.

    Thorium and U-238 (that's the stuff wasted by the USAF while perforating old Russkie tanks) can deliver energy cheaply and reliably right now. The Chinese are building nuclear plants in the dozens right now. They have plans for hundreds.

    They are using European, Candian and US technology:

    Meanwhile, Europeans and Merkins have submitted themselves to the rule of technology-illiterate Greeny Scaremongers and slide back in the Windmill Age.

    Mine is the one with the Mandarin textbook in the pocket.

  49. scatter

    Diesel-electric cars

    Mostly it hasn't been done because it's expensive - both electric and diesel drivetrains cost a fair bit. Peugeot have announced a new through the road diesel hybrid:

    I believe range extender development is mostly focusing on petrol units, at a guess because they'll be lighter?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      That's not diesel-electric

      That's diesel-hybrid. I think hybrid cars are actually a pretty silly idea now that electric motors and control gear can easily drive a car at well over 70mph.

      A real diesel-electric does not have a diesel drivetrain - the diesel engine drives a generator, and does not drive any of the road wheels.

      The road wheels are driven by electric motor(s) only - for best performance, one motor per wheel, which also eliminates the propshaft, the differential(s), the gearbox and the clutch.

      So a real diesel-electric is mechanically much simpler than any hybrid - with pancake multipole motors you could literally bolt the motor straight onto each wheel.

      Plus you get all-wheel-drive with really good traction control for free!

      1. scatter

        Yeah I know but it's the closest thing out there...

        I mentioned range extenders but they're mostly (all?) petrol and I suspect are likely to remain that way for a while yet. I believe that petrol engines operate better at constant speeds than diesels - can't remember why though.

        I seem to remember people looking at turbine extenders which would burn diesel and the guy who developed the segway was looking at stirling engine extenders which would run on just about anything. HCCI is also an option.

  50. mulder

    simple solution

    so to get around that oart put solar panels on your roof and use that to charge your car.

    you already gain the transmission losses

  51. Anonymous Coward

    Chinese Eletric Cars,1518,713699,00.html (maybe Google Translate can help those who can't read German)

  52. Anonymous Coward

    That's How They Are Going To Power The Cars

    "* Mainland China has 12 nuclear power reactors in operation, 24 under construction, and more about to start construction soon.

    * Additional reactors are planned, including some of the world's most advanced, to give more than a tenfold increase in nuclear capacity to 80 GWe by 2020, 200 GWe by 2030, and 400 GWe by 2050.

    * China is rapidly becoming self-sufficient in reactor design and construction, as well as other aspects of the fuel cycle. "

  53. Funkster

    Health-affecting diesel engine emissions

    I will be thrilled to see diesels replaced with electric propulsion, even if it's at a small cost of extra CO2, because it will get rid of the giant clouds of Stinking Black Death that come out the back of every diesel that's ever been made, yes including the ones with HC cats and particulate filters. The latter two features just make the Stinking Death less visible, they don't make it magically healthy. All articles mentioning diesels as a solution to anything should really touch on this!

    Small, turbocharged petrol engines driving generators and a reasonable-sized (say 30 mile range) battery pack would be the best solution possible right now in terms of overall benefit to everyone - good economy and relatively healthy tailpipe emissions.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Scientific Method, Please

      Could you please back up your claims with hard evidence ? Clean Diesel technology works by filtering the exhaust and then burning off the particles into non-poisonous CO2.

      They don't stink and you can't see anything. I am sure the beer you drink and the stinkers you (or the guy next to you) smoke are much, much more dangerous.

      And don't get me started on the particles worn off each and every tyre, including tyres of electric cars.


    battery or diesel

    how does that work i thought batterys or electric cars were ment to be green and friendly on the envionment diesel cars still use co2s hum strange

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Electricity Generation ->Pollution

      Most electric power is generated in power stations which burn Coal or Gas. Produces CO2 and lots of nasty stuff including heavy metal oxides, particles, sulfur oxides and acids, etc,etc.

      The Greenies hate nuclear energy and scared us off that tech, after the commies blew up Tchernobyl. A cunning plan to sell Russian Gas, my tinfoil conspiracy hat says :-)

      Burning Diesel directly in the car is cleaner than burning coal and gas in a power plant. That's what the study says.

  55. Anonymous Coward

    Hard Science

    I did a little internet research and found a German paper done by a scientist under contract for the German environment ministry. It contains a lot of english references at the end. Also, you can possibly use google translate.

    The major statements are:

    * many more detailed studies are required

    * Diesel Motors without filters are related to 18000 deaths per year in Germany. Life expectancy is reduced by about three months.

    * A certain class particles (2.5um and below) are mainly generated by unfiltered Diesel engines.

    * Modern filters and catalyzers could reduce those particles (and other stuff like CO and NOx) by up to 99%. The mortality rates would drop linearly with that reduction.

    "Abschätzung positiver gesundheitlicher Auswirkungen durch den Einsatz von Partikelfiltern bei Dieselfahrzeugen in Deutschland"

    Now that the EU has mandated particle filters, the problem seems to be addressed. 180 people killed by clean Diesel is acceptable, as car traffic kills about 4000 people per annum in Germany. (Yeah, I can hear your screams, but that's the rational conclusion, not the "crazy housewife logic").

    Every town and city in the EU is now required to monitor particle emissions and I have seen the installations in a small town. Still, more research is definitely needed.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Actually, this is a very misleading article...

    It starts off, as its report title would suggest, by looking at the environmental impact of using Li-Ion batteries to the Environment. It then quickly concludes this is of little impact so then quickly goes rather off-topic in using the generation of power as the argument that diesel engine tech is ‘greener’ than battery engine tech.

    This is not comparing the two technologies at all, and further more fails to address the balance by not including the environmental impact of generating the diesel to balance that of electricity into the equation.

    It probably has not done this since its only measure on environment impact is MPG or CO2 output, which ignores the many other environmental issues that are associated with energy generation and distribution, in particular oil. So in this environmental context, the BP oil spill for example has no environmental impact since it produced little CO2.

    It also fails to adequately take into account the local environmental impact, in which electric cars, despite being rubbish, are environmentally way ahead than their diesel counterparts.

    This whole carbon thing really does annoy me. It’s going the way of the ‘speed kills’ road campaigns, where there, as long as you drive slow you’re a safe driver, now it’s as long as your carbon footprint is low, you environmentally friendly. Now, to slowly run over an old lady before doing my bit for environment by trashing my perfectly good car for an environmentally friendly one.


  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    My 14 year old diesel BMW gets between 70-80 UK miles per gallon of fossil fuel (work out your own double decker bus lengths per Bulgarian air bag!)... I run it on 50/50 with recycled vegetable oil just mixed in the tank.

    I pity anyone on a diet who happens to be following me though... Chip shop.... hmmmm...

  58. Lars Silver badge

    Diesel and the USA

    The diesel was not invented in the USA, but Caterpillar, Cummins and other jump started the success of the diesel in the world. The diesel is still the most efficient type of engine we have.

    Everything heavy is moved by diesel, like trains ships and so on, (if not bye electricity, perhaps produced bye diesel).

    Next GM and other (fools) introduced diesel engines in cars. The most disgusting and most hopeless diesel engines ever produced (and that includes the Soviet Union) in the world.

    No wonder the reputation of the diesel engine was killed in the US like also, perhaps, luckily, the reputation of the US car industry Europe.

    I would advice every American to try a 2-3liter turbo diesel made in Europe.

    It is an absolutely fantastic engine, (and never mind its good fuel economy), just feel the spirit.

    To compare engines burning something to electrical engines is hard as it is all about how that electricity is produced, how the batteries are produced and disposed of.

    One fine solution for energy saving , he he, is the bike. Especially in the USA where the whole population could bike to the moon and back only on their obesity.

    Sorry I am not normally like this, could it be the beer, anyway, I am serious about the superiority of a diesel engine (and the bike).

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Hate To Say This

      ..but the US does not manage to build a good Tank Diesel. Instead they use a gas-guzzling helicopter turbine for the M1.

      Everybody else uses Diesels and reduces the logistics burden. AFAIK the best Diesels are made by MTU and MAN.

      MAN Diesels achieve more than 50% efficiency in slow-running ship variants. I assume a hybrid car would best be powered with such a Diesel (smaller of course).

  59. scatter

    The Register's environment & energy coverage...

    is absurdly biased and negative.

    It essentially consists of two writers with very limited knowledge about the subjects they're covering. One disses any clean tech solution that he doesn't like, the other disses the IPCC and climate science and attempts to force his personal agenda on the reader, often without the option of a public response.

    Not one story is in any way positive or contains anything approaching actual journalism.

    It would be amusing if it wasn't so pathetic.

  60. Roger Mew

    electric cars

    Roger Mew

    Electric cars

    Posted Friday 3rd September 2010 13:52 GMT

    I was an electrical engineer but electric cars, well there is an unseen problem, they should not be allowed near pedestrians, animals and the like. Why? You cannot hear them coming. My dog hears a car, goes to side of the road and sits and waits for the vehicle to pass. My cats hear a car and hide, not run etc just hunker down and hide. The local blind man makes sure he is in a safe place and waits for the car to pass.

    With the electric vehicle, dog does not hear it, nor do cats, nor does the blind man. Yes we live in the country and there are no footpaths and the roads are narrow. These cars are a menace unless an audible is on all the time, not a horn but a noticeable noise so that they can be heard coming.

    Or of course limit them to milkfloat status!!!

  61. Ben Norris


    it doesn't even take into account the ongoing replacement and disposal of the batteries which contain chemicals that are much worse for the environment and harder to process

  62. Nick Wallis

    Small and Manual not necessary

    2.7 litre German turbodiesel automatic from 2003 regularly gets over 60mpg on motorway trips, especially on cruise.

    IME whose fuel you buy makes a bigger difference than driving style. Supermarket fuel is about 5-7mpg worse than premium fuels.

  63. Mark Tebbutt
    Gates Halo

    Ignorance is bliss and spin is power.

    I have loved reading the register for years but most of the articles on electric cars and climate change seem to be extremely biased to the journalists point of view. Where has the impartiality gone?

    Has anyone who read Lewis’s article bothered even to skim read the referenced report?

    I just did and it seems Lewis has deliberately manipulated the facts to suit his preferred outcome. For instance in report there are two figures one for the each of the evaluation methods used. The first is the figure of 3.9L/100km that Lewis referenced and the second is a figure of 2.6L/100KM. The first figure only takes in to account the use of minerals and energy, while the second non reported figure also appraises toxicity to humans and ecosystems. Which is fairly relevant if you care about the health of your family.

    “GWP, CED and ADP are driven exclusively by the use of minerals and energy, while EI99 H/A also appraises toxicity to humans and ecosystems.”

    “Nevertheless, the operation of an ICEV alone causes impacts that are roughly just as high (CED, 92%; GWP, 125%; Figure 2) as the total environmental impacts of E-mobility (100%). A break even analysis shows that an ICEV would need to consume less than 3.9 L/100km to cause lower CED than a BEV or less than 2.6 L/100km to cause a lower EI99 H/A score. Consumptions in this range are achieved by some small and very efficient diesel ICEVs, for example, from Ford and Volkswagen (13, 39).”

    So that’s 72.43 MPG just to be as efficiency as a Golf converted to a BEV on the current electricity generation mix or 108.65 MPG to achieve the same levels of efficiency and air pollution as a Golf converted to a BEV on the current electricity generation mix. I for one don’t know of any current or future production pure ICE car that will get close to the figure of 108.65 MPG. I think both figures would be even higher if the report used a car built from scratch to be a BEV (Nissan Leaf) rather than a conversion. Also over time electrical generation will become cleaner and more efficient. The UK has a legal target of 15% renewable energy by 2020.

    “Propelling a BEV with electricity from an average hard coal power plant increases the environmental burden by 13.4%. On the other hand, using electricity from an average hydropower plant decreases environmental burden by 40.2%. This results in a decrease for the operation from 41.8% (UCTE mix) to 9.6% when charging the battery with electricity from hydropower plants.”

    “The Renewables Obligation (RO) is the current main mechanism for supporting large scale generation of renewable electricity. Since its introduction in 2002, it has succeeded in more than tripling the level of renewable electricity in the UK from 1.8% to 6.64%1 and is currently worth around £1.42 billion/year in support to the renewable electricity industry.”

    “Transport service affects the environment largely by contributing to global air pollution. PM10, SO2, and NOx traffic emissions contribute significantly to environmental problems such as acidification and eutrophication (SO2 and NOx), photochemical air pollution (NOx) or have adverse effects on human health, for example, cell toxicity, damage to genetic material by means of oxidative stress or by triggering allergies (PM10, SO2, and NOx). With respect to the LCI results for the pollutants PM10, SO2, and NOx, transport with a BEV leads to higher environmental burden than transport with an ICEV. However, the emissions caused by the production of the vehicle, in particular the Li-ion battery, are located in industrial areas where the population density is rather small. The releases of emissions from operation are prevalent in urban areas with a high population density. The NOx-emissions from an ICEV that originate prevalent from operation, consequently have a high damage potential to human health.”

    Lewis also makes no mention of the concluding statement of the report that Li-ion battery production does not negate the potential benefits of the higher efficiency of BEV compared to an ICEV!

    “All the facts taken together, the results of the LCA, the various sensitivity analyses, the modelling applied for EOL, the assumption for the used electricity mix, etc., suggest that E-mobility is environmentally beneficial compared to conventional mobility. The Li-ion battery plays a minor role in the assessment of the environmental burden of E-Mobility. Thus, a Li-ion battery in an BEV does not lead to an overcompensation of the potential benefits of the higher efficiency of BEV compared to an ICEV.”

    I will be trading in my 226g/km (CO2) spewing steam age based tech Audi TT for a Nissan Leaf come March next year and I for one hope it will make future BEV’s cheaper. No one will need more than 637Kb of memory for a personal computer and ICE cars will still be around in 30 years.

  64. Irné Barnard


    Yes, this feature does seem as if objectivity has become a bad word for the journalist(s). But is that any surprise? A journalist is after sensationalism, he want's to sell the story. And a lame story of there's no real knowledge of what is better is not going to cut it. So you need to take every thing which spews from any journalist's keyboard with a liberal dose of salt ... unless of course that's not "green" :) ...

  65. Irné Barnard

    Moving the pollution

    Oh yes, out of sight out of mind! It might work for the time being, since you're not seeing the pollution (unless you want to go to the country side where your exhaust pipe has been moved). But what happens when that causes climate change? Or a change in wind direction blows that over a populated area?

    This is just a form of sweeping the SHT under the carpet. Somewhere along the line it's going to squish when someone steps on it. And then the fan blades are going to throw it right back at you.

    Sorry for mixing metaphors, but what the hell? I like mixing it up ... causes a stir!!!

  66. Irné Barnard

    Other forms of energy creation?

    Yes please! If we can get something which doesn't pollute (as much) or cause as much ecological damage, then I'm all for it! Can it produce enough for what's needed though?

    More efficient burning & filtering in power stations? Maybe, if at all possible.

    Fission? It's not as clean as you're told. The mining & enrichment is extremely dirty. And then there's the waste. And to a lesser extent the accidents. We're all humans, we all make mistakes, so don't tell me accidents are avoidable - they're inevitable! Who knows, the control PC might just run Microsoft products - now that's a recipe for disaster if ever I've seen one!

    Hydro? Maybe? What about the huge tracts of land which has to be flooded? And it's not really an option for a dry climate is it? Maintenance? How many damns will be needed, do we need to swap our cars for boats?

    Wind? Again, maybe? How many "wind-mills" would be enough? Can they all fit onto the earth? Would we be able to move around between them? What's the maintenance cost?

    Wave / tidal? Isn't this much the same as hydro? Maybe not, more like wind I presume. I can just see how the greenies would hate to see a dolphin ground up in the gears!

    Photo voltaic? Certainly! If they're not producing pollution at or before manufacture. How long is their life span. And again, would we be able to see the blue sky from below this canopy of glass and metal sheeting?

    Fusion? Uhh ... maybe some aliens might say: "Here you go, that's how to do it!" Until then we've only been able to produce the H-Bomb ... not very clean IMO, and I wouldn't think you could "move" the power plant far enough! I'd also assume the worker turnover at the plant would be a bit high ;). That is until Scotty from Star Trek can finally say for real: "I'm giving her all she's got, Captain! "

  67. Irné Barnard

    H2O Balance

    Yes rain and evaporation changes the ration of H2O in the air. But if everyone starts driving cars using H-fuel cells and the H is extracted from something else than H2O (alcohol, natural gas, etc.) That means there's more H2O in totality. First off the vapor would go into the air, causing higher temperatures, much more rain, floods, etc. Ending with rising sea levels. Uhmmm how's that different from what the hot-house effect is foretelling? Oh wait, the CO2 effect simply states the balance is shifted temerature wise, causing existing water to be changed from ice to liquid. The H from other sources->H20 makes more H2O, not just more ice into liquid/gas.

    Small amount? Certainly, but multiply with 6 billion people over a century. Even a minuscule bit starts becoming a problem. There were very clean skies in general at the turn of the last century, not so much now - and that's just because of the fossil fuel burning.

    Yet still, this is simply a theory. Not established proof. There may be some other factor which may re-balance the H2O levels of its own accord -> making this concern irrelevant.

    The point I was trying to make is to show there's no definitive and comprehensive research made. No point in jumping into a path without checking if there's some stumbling blocks up ahead. There may be no paths without stumbling blocks, but we should at least check to see which path have those which we can surmount.

  68. Irné Barnard

    Leccy storage

    Apart from the very high efficiency loss of storing electricity in batteries (the Li-Ion being the most efficient yet) , there's another problem. There's very few mines in the world producing Lithium:

    Where will we get the Lithium if all goes to full-electric or even hybrid? Out of necessity we'll have to go with even worse batteries like NiCd. And these batteries all have a limited life span, after about 5 years you have to replace them. They can't be recycled, so you need to dig up more of that scare recourse and chuck the toxic waste into ... where exactly?

    So obviously another form of storage is needed. Fuel cells have been mentioned. They're not only much more efficient, but have much longer life spans, and can much more easily be recycled. My previous post points out a possible stumbling block though - which has yet to be investigated. Maybe it isn't a stumbling block of great magnitude, but we don't know since no-one's checked.

    Theoretically the most efficient storage would be a momentum wheel ... if you can get it friction free (i.e. in a vacuum with magnets instead of axles). Which means input and output is very difficult, and would probably cause their own efficiency loss as well. But you need an extremely big, heavy thing for it to be viable. Something in the order of miles in diameter. Not really feasible to put in the boot of a car is it?

    Any future discovery? Maybe, but we haven't even investigated the current methods yet. Our current fossil burning is known to be bad, it can be improved, but we don't know how this stocks up against leccy stuff - since there's not any comprehensive check done. And it's only an opinion bashing for now. But we know we need a change, where to go from here? It's certainly better to do something than nothing, unless we choose a course which is actually worse than we have as is. Thus I'm against jumping into an unproven tech.; we don't know what the cost to the future is,we can only surmise.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Superconducting Leccy Storage

      See this:

      google search and google scholar might turn up more on this. Somewhat elegant, somewhat clunky because superconduction normally appears at quite low temperatures like the boliing point of nitrogen or lower.

  69. Irné Barnard

    Super conduction

    Oh yes, and keeping it a 4 to 70K (that's -269C to -203C; or -452 F to -333 F) is not going to cost a lot is it? Have you seen the refrigerator units on trucks? And that's just to keep at or near 0C (32F; 273K).

    Sure, this quote sounds nice: "As the stored energy increases by a factor of 100, refrigeration cost only goes up by a factor of 20." But read it again, i.e. you have the capability to STORE five times as much energy as you use to decrease the temperature. E.g. if you can store 500kWh, you will use 100kW (per hour) to *store* it (not create it). So after 5 hours you're using more energy than you're storing.

    For space this may be feasible, as long as you keep your storage away from any type of heat causing radiation. In earth's atmosphere it's not even an option.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      ..for enlightening you about something novel. As you can clearly read in my posting, I pointed out the cooling requirements.

      Still it appears to be used in the US for grid stabilization purposes.

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