The Cleanest Way to Power Cars

Question: How efficient is the electrical production of energy?

Felix Kramer: Electrical production is pretty efficient when you compare it to a gasoline vehicle. If you look at the conventional emissions for instance it’s much easier to clean one power plant’s smokestack than a million tailpipes. In terms of CO2 emissions the electric motor is about four to five times more efficient than a gasoline engine and so for that mile that you’re driving you’re using a lot less electricity. You’re using a lot less fuel to drive that mile. Now if you take for instance, some people say we should have… be fueling our cars from ethanol. If you power a car by ethanol you’re still using an inefficient gas… If you power a car by ethanol you’re still using an inefficient internal combustion engine vehicle, but if you take that ethanol and put it in a power plant and make electricity out of it and run it into a battery for the car, an electric motor you’re getting twice as efficient a process. So the… basically power plants into car are cleaner than any other way of getting power into cars.

Question: Are there any fears that the lithium used to create so many batteries is an unsustainable resource?

Felix Kramer: Lithium is one of many chemicals used in…. Lithium is one of many… Okay, lithium is one of many materials used in batteries. You can also have nickel, metal hydride and there is other technologies in the future, but right now it looks like the auto industry is settling on lithium. It’s very plentiful. It’s mined in various places. It’s also in sea brine. It’s a benign element. It’s safe for landfills, so it’s not going to poison us when it’s disposed of. In fact though lithium batteries when they’re no longer used for cars can be recycled and reused as secondary use in stationary facilities. You could take those used lithium batteries that maybe are only working at 80% capacity and put them in the basement of office buildings and pump them up at night with cheap power and use it in the day for another decade or two. Eventually then you can extract the lithium and reuse it, so there is… Some people say we don’t have enough lithium, but the carmakers seem very confident we have enough lithium for billions of cars.

Question: What are the advantages of hydrogen fuel cells?

Felix Kramer: Hydrogen for cars has been around the corner or five to ten years away for about twenty or thirty years and it looks like it’s going to continue that way because the hydrogen car no longer is competing against the gasoline car, but against the plug in hybrid and against the flex fuel plug in hybrid, which is maybe all the local driving is electric and the extended range driving is 85% cellulosic ethanol and 15% gasoline, so the…. It gets higher and higher a goal for hydrogen to be better than that. We don’t have a hydrogen infrastructure and hydrogen is not a fuel. It’s an energy storage. It’s a carrier, so you have to get the hydrogen from somewhere and you can get it from two places. You can get it from water and you electrolyze the water and split it into H2 and O and you use… you waste about half the energy to do that or you can get it from natural gas and then you’re starting with a fossil fuel. So in either case you end up with something that is inferior to a battery.

Is the electrical production of energy all that efficient? What are the limits of lithium for battery powered vehicles? Will hydrogen fuel cells take over the market? The Founder of Cal Cars explains why the automotive world will never be the same.

Compelling speakers do these 4 things every single time

The ability to speak clearly, succinctly, and powerfully is easier than you think

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee rally at the Anaheim Convention Center on September 8, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Barbara Davidson/Getty Images)
Personal Growth

The ability to communicate effectively can make or break a person's assessment of your intelligence, competence, and authenticity.

Keep reading Show less

This 5-minute neck scan can spot dementia 10 years before it emerges

The results come from a 15-year study that used ultrasound scans to track blood vessels in middle-aged adults starting in 2002.

Mikhail Kalinin via Wikipedia
Mind & Brain
  • The study measured the stiffness of blood vessels in middle-aged patients over time.
  • Stiff blood vessels can lead to the destruction of delicate blood vessels in the brain, which can contribute to cognitive decline.
  • The scans could someday become a widely used tool to identify people at high risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's.
Keep reading Show less

Preserving truth: How to confront and correct fake news

Journalism got a big wake up call in 2016. Can we be optimistic about the future of media?

Videos
  • "[T]o have a democracy that thrives and actually that manages to stay alive at all, you need regular citizens being able to get good, solid information," says Craig Newmark.
  • The only constructive way to deal with fake news? Support trustworthy media. In 2018, Newmark was announced as a major donor of two new media organizations, The City, which will report on New York City-area stories which may have otherwise gone unreported, and The Markup, which will report on technology.
  • Greater transparency of fact-checking within media organizations could help confront and correct fake news. Organizations already exist to make media more trustworthy — are we using them? There's The Trust Project, International Fact-Checkers Network, and Tech & Check.
Keep reading Show less