Linked:Energy (Energy industry expertise)

Linked:Energy (Energy industry expertise)

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Which Is The Most Energy / Environmentally Efficient Car?

Oil Industry Advisor and Scuba Diving Instructor

Phew, now the Carbon Tax debate has run its course, I want to bring you back to more mundane but fundamental matters - which I hope you can help me with.

I saw reports in the press a while ago that getting China to adopt electric cars would increase global pollution compared to gasoline powered cars as the power required would be generated by coal fired powerstations which were less efficient than todays modern gasoline engines. This got me thinking that by looking at things at the micro level we sometime miss the big picture.

So I would appreciate your input on which is the most energy efficient and environmentally efficient car between: Diesel cars, Gasoline cars, Hybrids and Electric cars?

  • Comment (299)
  • July 11, 2012
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  • Russell B.


    Russell B.

    Owner, Ruach Renewable Energy Solutions

    Thinking that electric cars will increase global pollution is inaccurate.
    One of the challenges with electricity is that we do not consume all of the base load generated 24 hours a day. Most base load power stations - however the power is generated - Coal, nuclear, etc. - cannot be switched off and usually take days to power up to base load capacity. This means that there is a significant amount of base load power that goes to waste. This typically occurs when we are sleeping. Electric cars used for commuting to and from the workplace will typically be charged in this off peak period overnight where base load electricity is typically wasted. A large fleet of electric cars is therefore one way to address one of the major electricity challanges i.e. storing electicity when it is not used.

  • Matthew M.


    Matthew M.

    President & CEO of Standard Energy Supply Company

    It might ultimately depend on the power plants - coal or oil.

    Coal is more cost effective than oil.
    But oil is more environmentally friendly than coal.
    Yet coal is more energy efficient than oil.

    So it all depends on what you're shooting for. Do you want more cost effectiveness and efficiency at the expense of a cleaner environment? Or a cleaner environment at the expense of efficiency? We might be able to avoid this problem if the electric cars would be powered by renewable energy plants.

  • Ted K.


    Ted K.

    Partner at Energy Efficiency Specialists, LLC.

    Matt, might re-read what Russell wrote and Gordon implied in his question.

    A huge opportunity exists in figuring out how to increase/level out base load across 24/7 and reduce spikes. Electric cars offer a path currently in the time they will predominantly be charged, and eventually if they can actually help absorb peaks if grid connected during the day.

    Think of the grid as a huge flywheel. Allowing it to run at constant velocity is much more efficient than changing it's speed all over the place.

    And in any event, electricity is BTU per BTU so much more effective at transport than internal combustion that I don't think you'll ever make the argument it's more efficient to have what are effectively micro power plants pulling us around.

  • Jason D.


    Jason D.

    Senior Financial Gas Trader at Oxy

    Neither. The answer is Porsche! Look up technology of the new 918.

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    - -.

    Simple. The most energy efficient car is the one sitting in your garage rather than being driven.

    Sounds trite, but it's not. It's the same principle as energy for buildings. While it's desirable to make sure that the energy is produced in as clean a manner as possible, there are huge savings to be made from simply making buildings more energy efficient.

    Similarly, getting a more fuel efficient car is a good thing (and some of the hybrids are very good, as are the better diesels. I'm looking forward to a diesel hybrid if VW ever finishes it). But eliminating unnecessary trips and changing your driving style to become more efficient is even better (and free!).

    However, to answer the question, I would suggest that the most environmentally conscious transportation would be a Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf combined with solar cells on your roof.

  • Jason D.


    Jason D.

    Senior Financial Gas Trader at Oxy

    I would agree….Just have to pray that you don’t burn your house down when
    you put them in the garage

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