By on March 20, 2011

After Fukushima, I am not sure how any politician in any modestly democratic republic is going to sell a new nuclear power plant to any general population.”

“Would you like the job of trying to sell a new nuclear plant to your electorate?”

“There is one terrible casualty in all of this: The electric car. When they make part 2 of Who Killed the Electric Car? the answer is going to be plain and clear: Fukushima killed the electric car.”

From the LogicalOptimizer blog, just one of many that currently say the same.

Let’s face it: What is happening in Japan will set back nuclear power by at least 20 years. Haunted by the “Ghost of Fukushima,” Germany shut off seven plants. Nuclear expansion plans the world over are on ice. Even China pauses to rethink nuclear power.

What will produce the electricity needed to make and charge the millions of EVs that were promised to be on our roads real soon now? A lack of readily available, greenhouse-neutral power could be the death-knell to the electric car.

Thoughts?

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82 Comments on “Quote Of The Day: Who Killed The Electric Car, Part 2...”


  • avatar
    mpresley

    “After Fukushima, I am not sure how any politician in any modestly democratic republic is going to sell a new nuclear power plant to any general population.”

    This is probably true, especially given the generally low state of the demos’ intellect. However, inasmuch as life always has certain risk, and inasmuch as whatever is going on at Fukushima is peanuts compared to certain hydro-electric disasters (google banqiao) etc, my advice is to rebuild the thing, preferably a few miles down the road from the ocean. On the other hand, the electric car is a non-starter, unless it can be powered by its own little reactor. Which means it’s time to go back to 4 dollar a gallon gas.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      Thanks for the pointless insult.
       
      Now let’s talk about the real problem. And that is that cost-cutting has resulted in plants that are very dangerous in certain circumstances. Where was the backup power? Why were the fuel rods packed so closely together in the holding pools?
       
      The answer is simple. It cost too much to build a safe plant that could survive an earthquake of the kind that Japan suffers regularly.
       
      I’m both a “demo” and a supporter of nuclear power. It really pisses me off that the drive to save every possible dollar (the result of short-term-profit thinking) has ruined the prospects for the only high-density, climate-neutral power generation method we have at hand. And we haven’t even thought of the people who will suffer the horrors of nuclear poisoning. The miserable money-grubbing bastards who are responsible for this are the real problem, not the people who are rightly appalled at the scope of the disaster that didn’t have to happen.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      I read demos there as the unwashed voting masses.  Not backers of the socialist party.  (As we all know that Democrats’ shortcomings are less intellectual than moral.)
       
      It’s a real distortion to paint this as greedy business choosing not to spend money for safety margins.  The nuclear industry spends a great deal of money on safety margins.  Which in the face of a once in a century earthquake that caused a once in a millenia tsunami – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12740649 – compounded further by human missteps in the immediate aftermath still prevented off site release of enough contamination to get excited about.  Chernobyl it ain’t.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      the scope of the disaster

      And what is that scope? The horrible toll of zero dead? The vast amounts of radiation that aren’t spreading? The meltdown that hasn’t happened?

      Sometimes you’ve got to wonder about people…

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      “As we all know that Democrats’ shortcomings are less intellectual than moral.”

      aspade, does it ever occur to you that roughly half of the readers of this blog stop reading your posts as soon as they encounter such reprehensible drivel as you like to spew out?

  • avatar
    mdensch

    These events aren’t going to help but, frankly, the electric car has its own sets of issues to deal with before it will see widespread public acceptance.
     
    The Nissan Leaf is as close as anyone has come to marketing a viable electric car but even the Leaf can’t deliver an honest 100 miles on a charge.  I don’t think most car buyers would wander deep enough into the intellectual exercise to realize that most of the electricity — at least in this country — is and will continue to be generated from fossil fuels.  Most will see a price tag that, with tax credits, is still almost double a comparable gasoline-fueled compact car and can only travel about a fourth of the distance before refueling.  Granted, refueling is easy if you have a home charging station, but I have to think that paying constant attention to your remaining charge (which, in practice, doesn’t drop in a linear, predictable fashion) would prove to be a distraction most drivers would rather avoid.
     
    In short, the market for electric cars is currently so small that we won’t have to worry about building new power plants, nuclear or otherwise, to satisfy the demand for the electricity they will consume.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    here’s some facts… there something like 450 reactors around the world
     
    there’s something like 250 being built
    i think it is almost an impossible battle for new reactors to be built in areas like australia or the us or canada where conventional sources and land is plenty and the population adverse to nuclear
     
    but what about countries like france who have 75% of their power coming from nuclear?

    they will shrug their shoulders and go “meh”
    it won’t even rate a mention in china where development is #1
    to power the bullet trains and big industry and all the trappings of a developed first world nation you need electricity
     
    if your country is in decline and is service industry oriented well then you may not need it

    • 0 avatar

      You may have your build numbers wrong, or maybe the NPR does:

      “With 25 under construction right now, China’s building almost as many nuclear plants as the rest of the world put together. But one week on and the mood has changed. Beijing’s now suspended approvals for new plants, pending a safety review of all nuclear plants.”

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      I think the Chinese have one set of press releases in English for consumption by Western liberals like NPR and Tom Friedman, and another set of press releases in Chinese for the home folks. Then there is what they are really doing. My guess is they are really doing what is cheapest, regardless of the PR.
      What is cheapest? Coal.

    • 0 avatar
      nickaziz

      Canada is proceeding with its push to expand nuclear power. The government of Ontario even issued a statement shortly after the loons in Germany had their little conniption over nuke power, indicating Ontario will not alter its nuclear expansion plans as a result of what happened in Japan.
       
      Australia is a basket case when it comes to stuff like this, so I don’t doubt you’re right about them. As for America, one can only hope an administration will come along that understands nuclear is the only realistic/affordable energy source that doesn’t emit carbon.

    • 0 avatar

      Wind power was actually growing 4 times faster, worldwide, than nuclear, for the simple reasons that it’s less expensive, and less capital instensive. If this disaster stops nuclear in its tracks, there will be extra capital available to build more wind power, which will have greater bang for the buck. Notably, its variability isn’t a problem for charging batteries (although in a large grid system, that variability can be easily managed).

      Like others, I think the biggest problems the EV faces are still range and recharging times, and competition from high mileage cars that lack those problems, such as the Prius.

      Mind you, I’m not going to predict yet what this is going to do to the future of NP. My current guess is this accident would have to get a lot worse than it already is, or such accidents would have to become more frequent before the toll in death and illness becomes greater than that for coal.

      But there are a lot of things that can still be done to reduce per capita demand for electricity, and perhaps to reduce or stabilize overall demand for electricity in the US, the EU, and Japan. China? Probably not.

    • 0 avatar

      Also, it’s 20 years since I looked into the possibility of safer fission plant designs. I haven’t seen anything on those designs since then, and I don’t know whether or not they are promising.

    • 0 avatar
      ZekeToronto

      Thank god saner heads have prevailed here and Ontario will proceed with its new reactors.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Another often overlooked problem with nuclear power is that in order to make the insurance premiums affordable in building and maintaining these plants, the governments in Canada and the U.S. had to put an artificial cap on liability and compensation payouts. One engineering professor here in Canada noted that the sheer scale and magnitude of the Fukushima incident has made it clear that the current insurance and liability limits probably fall well short of the actual damages that would result, and hence are not a fair reflection of the risks and actual costs associated with running such plants. This is, en effect, an indirect subsidy for the nuclear industry, which isn’t paying the real operating costs (because you know that if one does actually fail, it will not be the nuclear industry that will have to pay the extra costs of cleaning things up, but governments and taxpayers).

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      This is a common misunderstanding of the Price-Anderson Act. It is a no-fault compensation statute that requires each plant operator to obtain $375 million of fist tier liability, it then requires all licensed reactors to kick in an additional $120 million a piece into a compensation fund. The total available is therefore is about $13 Billion, which is still a lot of money.
      Since reactors are owned by public utilities organized as corporations, the owner’s liability would be limited to the net assets owned by the corporation. In the absence of Price-Anderson, there would be no necessary fund to compensate victims of a malfunction, nor would liability necessarily be imposed in the absence of a showing of negligence. In the Fukushima case, it would be arguable that the disaster was an act of god, and that the plant owner had no liability. Under Price-Anderson, those considerations are not relevant.

  • avatar

    I will do that. All human activities involves risks. We are burning oil and coal and gas. We are having chemical factories and we are having a modern agriculture. Involves risks. When Union Carbide blow up in India it was probably worse than Tjernobyl. We got some major byproducts from Tjernobyl where I lived in Sweden. But you can not really prove that anyone has died in Sweden from that accident. But since that 20 000 has died in our traffic, in Sweden alone! But Tjernobyl was unacceptable. A shed in the forrest with no security. They did not inform people about the accident and children drank contaminated milk without getting iodine tabletts. Some thousands died in Belarus and Ukraine. Nobody died in Harrisburg. Considering the size of the quake, I think that the accident in Japan is acceptable. Japan has bigger problems at this moment.

  • avatar
    K5ING

    I’m not totally against nuclear power generation, but building reactors in earthquake country just seems shortsighted to me.  Maybe all of the money being spent on nuclear power can be put into renewable power sources…better solar, wind and water power for example.
     
    For those of you who are interested, I’ve gather up all of the online radiation detectors I could find and put them all into a blog where they can be accessed.  Right now, there are 8 in Japan, and 4 in the US.
     
    http://caughtatthecurb.blogspot.com/2011/03/real-time-radiation-monitors-in-japan.html
     

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    japan is in the earthquake belt
    they really have no choice but to go nuclear
    there is no alternative source

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      There are options (tidal hydro, geothermal) but nothing that can deliver the amount that nuclear can.
       
      I don’t know what a tsunami would do to a tidal system, mind you.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    Japan is likely mindful of the total costs of oil, which is not clear from the media, nobody seems to be connecting the dots on a per gallon basis.

    The last time a foreign power deliberately cut the Japanese off from their oil markets, they had an 18 month supply in storage with no hope of getting any more.  Already at war over conquesting China, they then started their own “shooting” oil war, by bombing Pearl Harbor and Clark Airfield and sending troops to the oil fields of SE Asia.  We saw how that worked out. They remember quite well.

    The Japanese plants that failed, and stayed failed, had the generators down low were they would get swamped by a tsunami which was expected to never happen. Pretty bad planning. If they were up high, they would be talking about restarts now, instead of encapsulating.

  • avatar
    jmo

    If gas hits $9/gallon we’ll be building nukes in Nursery School parking lots.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    Nuclear power is still part of our long-term energy future and the unfortunate events in Japan haven’t changed my opinion on this. Much like other nuclear accidents, we have to learn from them and do better. One thing we have to do is figure out a way to better deal with spent nuclear fuel than storing it on site or burying it. Another thing is learn to not build these things on at-risk coast lines. Remember, these plants handled the earthquakes and shut down as designed, but the plants were not prepared for the tsunami that followed and swamped the backup generators at the plants.

    • 0 avatar

      You need a large body of cooling water for nukes. FYI.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      I realize that, but were the Japanese using sea water to cool their plants to begin with or did they use some sort of coolant? I know they’ve been pumping sea water in, but I took that as an act of last resort and that once sea water is used the reactor is basically ruined.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      Here in Middle America we have enormous quantities of water that are not subject to tsunamis.

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      You need a large body of cooling water for any rankine cycle based electricity generation plant. Nuke, coal, gas, fuel-oil, etc…
       
      If you are heating water to move a turbine, a huge reservoir is needed to condensate the remaining vapor/water mix and be able to start the cycle again.
       
      No water? use HUGE cooling towers.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark out West

      “You need a large body of cooling water for nukes.”

      Explain Palo Verde Nuclear Power plant smack dab out in the middle of the desert.  Actually, three plants, with pads open for two more – the largest in the U.S.

      Actually, there’s a really smart trick they utilize.  Read Wikipedia on it.

    • 0 avatar
      johnny ro

      those plants are cooled with fresh water. They use the seawater in heat exchangers. Like an inboard marine engine.   Suck the seawater in, run it through the exchange, back out to sea. Oil fied plants do the same.
       
      In Northport, NY on the LI Sound when I lived there, there was a year-round population of striped bass, they hung around the plume from the plant. Water was like 90 degrees coming out into the sound. A lot of it too.

  • avatar
    Potemkin

    As in all things to-day it’s about the money. The Japanese reactors were built to withstand a 6.5 quake and had no Tsunami protection.   Better protection was deemed too expensive.   If you let cost dictate safety you get what you deserve.  Why protect reactors against severe quakes and tsunamis. Japan sits on a major fault line.  Duh!!

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      It is all about the cost/benefit analysis. I’m sure someone figured that the likelihood of a 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami were statistically small enough not to warrant building the plants to withstand them. Whoops.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      If you let cost dictate safety you get what you deserve

      That’s kind of funny, considering that, quite often,. if you build safety systems to cope with highly unlikely events people, and reactionary politicians, get all sorts of crazy about “how you’re spending our tax dollars”.

      No one likes to hear about failure modes analysis in the morning paper.  All they see is $X x 10e7 for power plant and stop thinking right there.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      First of all you are assuming that the reason this reactor did not have protection beyond 6.5 and no tsunami protection is because it was considered but decided not to have due to costs. That is an incredible assumption based on some very black-hearted thinking about others. From there, your assumption goes right off the tracks because once you have convinced yourself of your original assumption, you start pontificating on the problems created by it.

      Greed is not the root of all problems, but with some folks, all problems can be twisted to be blamed on greed. Greed is not as common in this world as ignorance and human error. Blaming this nuclear tragedy on greed mischaracterizes honest people striving to provide an honest product. It would be like blaming a birthday cake which makes you sick on the need to make a profitable birthday cake and those who baked it as some kind of immoral criminals. People are not as bad as you believe them to be. Greed is as unattractive to most as it appears to you. Fortunately the majority recognizes the reality of the situation while you do not.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      You cannot regulate all problems out of a system. No one or group can know everything that could happen. Believing that a government could is obviously foolish. This tragedy clearly demonstrates that government cannot regulate all problems out of a system. Japan’s nuclear energy industry and the Japanese government is not filled with corrupted dishonest people trying to cut corners and kill innocent people. They did the best they could within the limits reality dictated. The fact that you can imagine a dream world where this tragedy could not have happened, does not mean that reality could.

    • 0 avatar

      The Japanese reactors were built to withstand a 6.5 quake and had no Tsunami protection.
       
      According to Wikipedia, the plant did have a sea wall, but it was built to “withstand a tsunami of 5.7 meters, but the tsunami had a height of over 10 meters and topped this sea wall”.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_I_nuclear_accidents
       
      Also, I think building a nuke plant in Japan to only withstand quakes of 6.5 magnitude sounds kind of suspect. I seriously don’t think the Japanese are that “Duh”. They have some the highest quake proofing standards in the world!
      This is all moot thought, since it was pretty much the tsunami that did them in.

  • avatar
    philipbarrett

    For the 2nd time in a century the electric vehicle (and the seam vehicle) is killed off by a low cost fuel that burns easily & requires little mechanical finesse to be converted into kinetic energy?

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    I think dumping the salt water directly on top of the reactor destroys it, running it through a heat exchanger system is probably OK.
    Let’s face it we don’t really bother with with conservation in the US. In the name of “safety” we have millions of businesses and roads lit up during the middle of the night while no-one is using them.
    I see our dozen local sports fields lit up virtually every night. They stop playing at around 10pm but he lights are still burning at 3am in the morning.
    On my way home the other night I passed 100s of illuminated light posts (all presumably with 100-500W lights). I saw 5 other cars in 17 miles.
    If we could make those lights smart so they would turn on when people were present or maybe just revert back to using the headlights that come with every vehicle I am convinced we could charge our EVs with no problem.
    In SIngapore and Japan when you leave your hotel room for the day once you remove the key from the room the AC and heat goes into standby. Never seen that happen here, we don’t care that much really.
     
     
     

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      Yes, Americans don’t really think or care about conservation. How about burning office/school lights during daylight, with huge windows and plenty of natural light? How about all the junk mail and needless printing of office documents that goes directly from printer to trash? How about running A/C in the summer when all you have to do is open the windows to be comfortable on cool days? How about retail businesses keeping their entrance door open with A/C going full blast on really hot days? How about busing children to school when they could really just walk? How about building houses out of matchsticks instead of brick/cinder block? Etc, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Conservation gives the bast bang for buck, and it is the fastest to implement.  America has a long way to go in this regard.  It’s really sad to see such apathy towards the first step we should make.  But even with aggressive waste reduction, new generation will only be delayed.  And like it or not, the only viable source of energy for the immediate future with a minimal carbon impact is nuclear.  Yes, renewables are going to be (or certainly should) part of the solution, but they will augment more traditional means.
       
      For some reason, a lot of people are convinced that conservation means doing without or lowering your standard of living.  It can, but certainly doesn’t have to.  It simply means cutting out waste.  And sad to say, most folks standard of living has stagnated or declined anyway.  Check this out.  Sad, really sad.
      http://finance.yahoo.com/news/How-the-middle-class-became-cnnm-2876148381.html

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      @golden2husky
      The last line in that link really bugs me. “I think it’s a terrible dilemma, because what we’re obviously heading toward is some kind of class warfare.” We are already having class warfare. Read this and weep:
       
      http://www.concordmonitor.com/article/246692/plan-will-abandon-the-states-neediest
       
      Eliminate a town welfare plan that was instituted in 1791. Brilliant!!!
       
      /RANT

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I see our dozen local sports fields lit up virtually every night. They stop playing at around 10pm but he lights are still burning at 3am in the morning.

      One of the most interesting things I noticed the first time I flew is how, flying to Frankfurt, there was hardly any night-time illumination.  By comparison, flying back into Toronto was light coming down into a sea of orange well into the horizon.  I’ve since seen that duplicated time and time again.

      I don’t think we need that much illumination, but I don’t think you’d get much support for pulling down streetlights, or even hooding them (and thusly using less power) so that we’re not dumping millions of watts of light skyward.

      In SIngapore and Japan when you leave your hotel room for the day once you remove the key from the room the AC and heat goes into standby. Never seen that happen here, we don’t care that much really.

      That actually does happen.  More and more buildings are going LEED in North America, and smart metering is actually fairly common in hotels and office buildings, save for very small or very rural locations.

      The trick is extending this out to the public.  People are very reactionary about things like smart meters and/or paying the true cost of power.  I’d love to see a smart grid where your appliances communicate with your meter, which in turn communicates with the whole grid in order to keep peak power use minimal (and, thusly, obviate the need for new powerplants to handle peak demand).

      A lot of the problems stem from people being, quite honestly, change-averse and certainly hostile to having obligations forced upon them for abstract reasons they can’t understand.  That we have a very weak progressive heritage in North America only makes it worse.

  • avatar
    aspade

    In terms of the other death and damage caused by the quake and tsunami, Fukushima is a sideshow.  Nobody died.  A few people might.  Cleanup will be expensive.  Rebuilding after the tsunami will be twenty times more expensive.

    But you wouldn’t know it to hear the sensationalist press.  Who happily compare it to both TMI and Chernobyl, because they don’t know the diference and neither do their listeners.
     
    Every year that nuclear power is set back by the scientific illiteracy of the general public is another year of burning billions of tons of coal instead.  That’s depressing.
     

    • 0 avatar
      marjanmm

      Precisely. After all this plant survived an enormous earthquake and a tsunami without getting even close to the Chernobyl level of disaster.
      Now because of the sensationalist press, the world may see even greater struggle for the remaining fossil fuels and so many innocents will suffer.

    • 0 avatar
      vww12

      « Fukushima is a sideshow.  Nobody died.»

      You got it.  This was nearly a non-event.  Damn press, creating public hysteria out of a teacup.

    • 0 avatar
      redrockmullet

      http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-source.html#

      This page shows the number of deaths per TerraWattHour by industry. 

      Coal : 161
      Oil : 36
      Nuclear: .04

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    Three letters.
     
    CNG
     
    And not for the power plants, for the cars.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    “Would you like the job of trying to sell a new nuclear plant to your electorate?”

    Fufushima isn’t a new nuclear plant , it’s a 40+ year-old nuclear plant that should have been phased-out by now , since it was past its’ use-by date.Newer nuclear plants in the area appear to have survived OK.
    It isn’t as if coal-fired power generation is without risk , many many people have died trying to dig coal out of the ground.

    • 0 avatar
      Diesel Fuel Only

      Agreed.  The new plant designs have improved redundancy.  The ABWR’s have a diesel generators and a gas turbine generator unit in the turbine building and it’s on an upper level of the plant.
       
      The European PWR’s have two separate buildings outside the nuclear portion of the plant that house the diesel generators, no doubt each one of which could power the whole thing.
       
      Does that mean that there wouldn’t have been problems or an accident amidst the worst earthquake in 1200 years and a forty foot tidal wave?  Don’t know, but the severity of that accident would presumably be less.
       
      Ironically, halting new construction is exactly the wrong thing to do.  The older plants will continue to soldier on for another decade or two.  Then what will we do?  Shale gas?  Let’s focus on nuclear’s risks and forget about the shortcomings of every other form of energy.  Not a winning strategy in my book.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Keep the nuke power plants away from subduction zones is a good idea, if possible.
     
    Strike-slip type faults best avoided but in my opinion not as potentially dangerous as subduction zones.
     
    Plate spreading ridges perhaps safest earthquake-likely area to place nuke plant.
     
    Mid-continent “shield” areas atop bedrock likely best.
     
    Or……… I root for the aboard-ship solution.
     
    Too many positives to mention.
     
    But, as mentioned…. when dealing with general muddled mass of humanity the greatest influence upon the human herd is emotions.

  • avatar

    It depends how stupid politicians and the public are. If I was selling a modern pebble-bed reactor (which can’t have the problems of Fukushima and are a lot more inherently safer) I’d stand on the back of a 1971 Chevy LUV pickup and ask them if a Silverado is the same truck.

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    Now everybody are getting a knee jerk reaction. Even in Canada iodine tablets are flying off the shelves – a yearly supply was gone in a week!
     
    Worst comes to worst, I hope it will lead to faster development of hydrogen vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      dcardno

      Hydrogen is not a fuel – it is a battery, Bimmer, since you can’t fund the stuff in its raw form. And we know that we need an electric supply to charge a battery, right?

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      And the hydrogen comes from where? Natural gas? Might as well just skip the hydrogen step and use the natural gas directly – it’s more efficient. Electricity? Better off using the electricity to charge a battery. The process of charging and discharging a battery is vastly more efficient than all the gyrations involved in producing, storing, and utilizing hydrogen. Hydrogen solves absolutely nothing, it is a thermodynamic and technical and logistical dead-end, and there is actually no purpose in investing (wasting) one red cent further in it. In fact, had the billions already invested (wasted) in hydrogen research thus far been put to productive use – by insulating buildings, by using smarter street lights and building lighting, etc – we’d be a lot further ahead than we are now.

  • avatar
    mazder3

    Nukes were dead before this catastrophe occurred. Even though recent polls have shown nukes to have a 71% approval rating, at $10+B a reactor, the cost is far too great. Even with the Obama administration putting up guaranteed loans, nobody wants to take the risk.
    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2059453,00.html

    • 0 avatar

      Envirojerks and NIMBYs shut down all power plant projects in U.S., nukes are not any worse off than anything else. I remember how they killed an air-cooled coal plant in the middle of effin northern Nevada. Heck they even shut down green power projects like Cape Cod off-shore wind turbines.

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      They shut down Cape Wind? So that’s why they’re trying to put a wind farm in my town! Seriously. The locals don’t want them because they’re really big and they cause “light flicker”.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    I actually think this panic will pass quickly, even the environmentalist movement has started to embrace nuclear, and for good reason.  It really is the best option for clean energy.  If you want a future with electric cars, you need nuclear energy, period.
     
    Solar and wind are a joke (even if you covered entire states with them, it wouldn’t be enough) especially if you’re talking about a world with millions and millions of new electric cars.  Coal is filthy, and dangerous to mine.  The second best option is natural gas, it’s cleaner than coal, but still has emissions, and is non-renewable.  It’s also not as cheap.
     
    All energy production has danger, but nuclear energy far and away has the best safety record, the problem is people don’t understand it and panic.  If you want clean, affordable energy to usher in electric cars, you need nuclear.  If “filling up” an electric car cost the same as filling up with gas, and has nearly the same environmental impact, it’s going to be a tough sale for consumers.
     

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    Renewables such as solar and wind, when combined with smart metering, would be good for private vehicles that are parked most of the time.  The car could tell the grid that “I would like to be charged up by 7:00 AM, nothing urgent, but if you have any spare electrons between now and then, send them my way”.  Perhaps the price of a KW/h could vary depending on how much spare capacity was available, and the car could be programmed to charge if it was possible for less than a certain price, otherwise it would just run on the ICE.
     
    This approach would work better for range extended EVs such as the Volt, rather than pure EVs such as the Leaf – that way if the car is not charged because the wind didn’t blow over night, the driver is not stranded.
     
    If we are looking for an alternative to conventional ICE powered cars, I doubt that any one technology will work for all applications.  A “right tool for the job” approach makes more sense:

    Stop and go, always in operation (e.g., taxis) -> Ford / Toyota type Hybrid system.
    Private car, parked 90% of the time -> Volt type range extended EV.
    Long distance highway travel -> ICE, perhaps running NG or Biodiesel.

    I really don’t see much of a place for a “pure” EV such as the leaf, except possibly as a second or third city car.  The limited range and the fact that it *has* to be charged to be mobile are pretty major limitations – especially without plentiful cheap electricity.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    In the 50s and 60s there were a good number of commercial airliner crashes as the reliability of aircraft evolved.
     
    I’m convinced that if we had today’s mentality back then, we’d all be riding trains and ships.  Aircraft would be strictly for the military.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      I’m convinced that if we had today’s mentality back then, we’d all be riding trains and ships.  Aircraft would be strictly for the military.
       
      At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I sometimes wonder if such a move is not afoot in today’s TSA-driven regulation of passenger air carriers.

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      We have buildings burn down, every damn day of the WEEK.  People die with distressing regularity.  But, somehow, we don’t abandon living in buildings.
       
      Cars crash.  Bridges collapse.  Power lines go down.  Yet we shrug all these off, and go on.
       
      This…is agenda-driven.  Ban nuclear power; as they want to strictly control burning of fossil fuels for power.  Wind and solar are VAPORWARE – unfeasible for basic problems.
       
      As for the premise of this post:  this event didn’t kill the electric car.  It just drove home, that the electric car is like the Emperor’s New Clothes.  Nothing there…issues that make it incredibly impractical, except for industrial and very-short-trip uses…even if there were no limitation on available electric power.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    So Germany turned off their nukes. Great idea, now if a 9.0 earthquake followed by a Tsunami hits the Germans won’t have anything to worry about.
    Think about how truly baseless their decision was, and exactly what is the plan to replace the lost energy? Solar panels? Dams on the Rhein?
    Just about every object made in Japan in your house and garage was created with nuclear power. Take away that source of energy and Japan goes dark. 130 million people living there don’t have the luxury of a choice like many do. And as the days go on the rest of us are facing the same situation. When the US has 500 million people demanding electricity on top of a few million plug in electric cars you best believe we will see cooling towers all over the place. Wind and solar just are not economical nor reliable enough.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Bertel,

    One thing not discussed much regarding EVs and this disaster in Japan: If the power goes out or is in limited quantities as it has been in NE Japan for over a week now, your EV isn’t going very far.  The portability of gasoline/diesel makes the use of an ICE much handier during a disaster.

    An ironic detail in all this is that the backup coolant pumps for these nukes are powered by diesel (until killed by the tsunami, I believe), and I would bet the power lines now being run to the nukes are coming from non-nuclear plants.

    As for the future of EVs, I think it’s much more dependent on car battery technology and town-to-town wiring infrastructure upgrades than large-scale power generation itself.

    Most people don’t want the power lines within sight, and the licensing and expense to run them is a nightmare for the utilities.  Around here in western PA, some communities have run organized campaigns to prevent power transmission lines being run through their neighborhoods, yet they complain when the power goes out or the rates go up due to the expense of maintaining older lines with long runs.

  • avatar
    Tommy231

    “What will produce the electricity needed to make and charge the millions of EVs that were promised to be on our roads real soon now?”
    http://www.blacklightpower.com/

  • avatar
    George B

    “After Fukushima, I am not sure how any politician in any modestly democratic republic is going to sell a new nuclear power plant to any general population.”
     
    If nuclear power and the electric car were less expensive than their fossil fuel equivalents, there would be no need for politicians to sell them.  It appears to me that both nuclear power and the electric car have been heavily subsidized for decades to try to get them off the ground, but neither is capable of standing on its own.

  • avatar

    Perhaps when these plants were built someone should have asked the question “Should we build a Nuclear plant on a plate tectonics version of an Etch-a-sketch?”

  • avatar
    DasFast

    An understandable but illogical reaction, given the ongoing crisis in Japan.
    The resistance to a nuclear future will (and should) continue until people are informed about a fuel source that is plentiful, peaceful, much more safe, and potentially the magic energy bullet many dream of.  One word to get anyone with interest underway:
    THORIUM!
    Google it, YouTube it, learn about it; it’s our energy future. Also give “LFTR (lifter) reactor” a try.
     

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Where is my windmill powered Volt?
    Isn’t that the next silly demand to come from “experts” who consider the average person too stupid to know what is best for them or their families, and lives in a dream world untouched by reality?

    Disrespecting your neighbors cannot be the foundation from which you begin debating your views, because your neighbors know more than you collectively. For each “banjo-playing ‘tard”, there are a hundred with college degrees in some useless social science claiming they hear banjo music whenever they begin discussing a social issue and claiming you are the one playing a banjo in order to make themelves sound informed on the issue.

  • avatar
    chitbox dodge

    I work in the nuclear power industry, so I will be biased in my opinions obviously, but with good reason. I can tell you that anyone who seeks to use wind power as an alternative for power has to be nuts. You would have to clear many miles of land just to begin to put the windmills. Something along four square miles of wind generators will give you as much power as one emergency back-up diesel at anyone of the nuclear plants would. One diesel gen-set gives you enough power to safely shut down one nuclear plant such as the PWR I work at. We have four to handle safe shutdowns at my plant, two per unit. How enviromentally friendly is clear-cutting thousands of miles of land just for effectively the return of one nuclear plant? Daiichi had similar gensets, but lost them by two feet of water intrusion from the tsunami, or so I have been informed.

    The costliness of solar in both terms of its fragility and its manufacture of the panels to actually create pwer in the size we need is much similar to wind, infeasible in large markets.
    The only true alternative would be gas turbine, but there again, you it the fossil fuels isssue in the face.

    Wether you like it or not, nuclear is going to be the answer. I will say though that most of these antiquated Boiling Water Reator plants will be heavily scrutinized at this point. This very well could also be the end for GE BWRs (and possibly GE altogether). The cooperative I work for has three plants just like the Daiichi GE BWRs. There are already groups being put together on how to defend their continued operation, just in case of such backlash.

    Nothing is going to stop the electric/semi-electric car. So long as people think it is a viable alternative it will proceed.

  • avatar
    MrBostn

    The US probably won’t build any new nuclear plants due to what’s happening in Japan, but it’s somewhat moot if we are surrounded by countries to the east, west and north building them.

    Similar to the US forcing US industies to adopt green technology and the rest of the world polluting it as they see fit.

  • avatar

    @GS650G: No, they “haven’t turned off their nukes”. Just the 7 oldest ones (of 17) were temporarily shut down by the government, in order to win the next elections. So, this decision was in no way “baseless”.
    Then we will see…
    Regarding the question “what is the plan to replace the lost energy?”: solar panels will have a tough time to find an empty barn roof. From what I can see here in the south of Germany, almost every barn is already fitted with solar panels now, thanks to subsidies. Dams on the Rhine are no option. There is a whole lot of traffic on the Rhine.
    Of course, neither Germany, nor France, nor Japan (not to forget the US, China, India, Russia) currently have an option to forget about nuclear energy. Besides, even if all nuclear power plants could be shut down immediately, we and the following generations will still have one problem to solve: what to do with the nuclear waste to keep it safe for next several thousand years. Still no cure…
     


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