Electric Cars Aren’t Pollution Free and They’re Not Always Practical

Bob Tomaine
Automotive Writer


Electric cars are no panacea. They have their place but are completely impractical in some situations and raise other issues such as those subsidies.

California and New York are delightfully good at making news that those in other states find somewhere between baffling and laughable. The bonus comes when the two states unconsciously tie their stories together as in de-energization and effectively eliminating conventional gasoline-powered cars.

electric cars

An electric vehicle in traffic can look much like any other vehicle. There are, however, ways to make it noticeable.

Assume for the sake of discussion that the California Public Utilities Commission, the state’s various utilities and the other entities involved have done their homework well enough to determine that de-energizing is truly necessary in a particular case and that it’s being handled correctly. We’ll give California the benefit of the doubt even if it seems likely that residents and businesses impacted by the de-energization might be less understanding.

Meanwhile on the opposite coast, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York has unveiled his plan to provide federal subsidies to encourage drivers to trade their gasoline-powered cars for electrics.

While some must surely be applauding, there’s reason to be skeptical beyond the cost that varies among accounts of Sen. Schumer’s proposal, beyond the fact that the senator’s New York Times opinion piece seems to target only individual vehicle-owners, beyond the idea of federally funding the charging stations that would compete with privately funded gas (and, one would hope, charging) stations and beyond the impact on the individual’s freedom of travel by the electric vehicle’s limited range and lengthy charging times. But we’ll give the senator the benefit of the doubt, too, and set all of that aside for a moment.

Now, let’s consider a hypothetical situation in which Californians have overwhelmingly embraced electric cars made affordable by taxpayer-funded subsidies and are suddenly faced with a situation that requires widespread de-energizing for more than a short time. All of their chargers have instantly become useless and their electric vehicles will soon follow.

Gasoline and diesel fuel tanks can be filled by a hand-pump or a generator-powered electric pump far more quickly than the individual solar-powered chargers can recharge the electrics’ batteries. For that matter, gas and diesel can be delivered directly from a tank truck and those early adopters whose vehicles run on compressed natural gas are equally lucky.

The electric cars’ owners could use gasoline- natural gas-, propane- or diesel-powered generators for recharging, of course, but that pretty much defeats the whole point of buying an electric car in the first place.

Electric cars absolutely do have their role to play and it’s a valid one, but they’re not pollution-free and they’re not universally practical. To subsidize drivers into relying on them exclusively would be poorly thought out, completely wrong, breathtakingly expensive and apparently, the only way to arm-twist those who don’t want electrics into buying buy them. Tax breaks for purchasers of new electric cars have already been introduced, but other than saving money for those wealthy enough to afford electrics in the first place, they haven’t been particularly successful. Sen. Schumer did, after all, write in his opinion piece that “the transition to electric vehicles … is happening too slowly.”

Text and photos: Copyright 2019 by Bob Tomaine.

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3 thoughts on “Electric Cars Aren’t Pollution Free and They’re Not Always Practical

  1. For all practical purposes if you are not utilizing electric cars as fleet vehicles or to be used for special purposes, then look for a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle… commonly known as a PHEV. PHEV’s use both a battery and an internal combustion engine. The latter could run on gasoline, diesel, natural gas or even hydrogen but in order to be practical and be able to use it for a variety of scenarios, then stick to one that runs on gasoline or diesel fuel.
    Having the ICE on hand as a back up generator eliminates distance anxiety. Even though there have been advances in the rechargable battery technology as of late, until charging ports are widely available, can charge a battery as fast as a conventional fueling station and not publicly subsidized, then it is fruitless to believe that all electric vehicles will be available to the “unwashed masses”.
    The Elitist “greenie-boppers” can purchase all electrics to their hearts content, after all, it’s their money. However, to shove this down our throats without looking at the Big Picture on how much environmental damage is actually caused by these “toys” for the ever virtue signaling wealthy, you are simply shoveling *poop against the tide!!

  2. Can someone please do the math. How much energy is used by gasoline and diesel and natural gas powered cars each day in the US? Now take that energy and convert it to electric power sources. How many new electric generation power plants would the US need to build to supply all that power that was formerly supplied by fossil fuels. In other words the current electric grid can not even support the conversion of all heating systems from fossil fuels to electric. Where is the electricity coming from for all the cars that no longer use fossil fuels?

    Only one source makes sense. SMR’s Small Nuclear Reactors. Look them up. Wind and solar are cavemen technologies next to what SMR’s can do, without killing birds, bats, impairing humans and destroying habitats and every scenic site in the US.

    PS Roads are funded by a tax on gasoline and diesel. The electric cars are getting a pass. But once they hit a certain threshold, we will all be taxed on every watt hour we download into the Electric vehicle. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

    • Hey, even Dr. Emmett Brown had a “Mr. Fusion” installed in the now flying DeLorean /time machine towards the end of “Back To The Future”!! 🙂

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