Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 21:05 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 21:05 | SYDNEY

The electric car


Sam Roggeveen


7 July 2008 13:40

Alex Evans from Global Dashboard is cautiously excited about the potential for electric cars to make a difference to carbon outputs, but he has two lingering doubts: (1) plug-in cars may overstretch the power grid, and (2) if the grid generates power from carbon-intensive sources, we may not make any carbon savings.

As it happens, both issues were addressed in a quirky American documentary screened on Australian TV last night. On the first, here's a quote from the program transcript:

Our existing electric utility system could handle tens of millions of plug-in hybrid vehicles if they would be recharged during off-peak times, such as at night.

And as for number two:

Skeptics say that all plug-ins do is shift the pollution source from the tailpipe to the smokestack, but studies show that powering cars with electricity from today's mix of power plants could reduce greenhouse emissions by about 40 percent. Further reductions are possible if electric power gets cleaner.

The phrase 'studies show' is one I usually associate with toothpaste commercials, so scepticism is warranted here. But it is some comfort.

BTW, the latest Atlantic Monthly has a feature article on Chevrolet's ambitious electric car, the Volt. Well worth your time.