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25. September 2017

Vince Ebert: What would it be like, if we in Germany all drove electric cars?

Vince Ebert: What would it be like, if we in Germany all drove electric cars?

What if we all drove electric? Wouldn’t it be nice, to be free of the emissions? Is this possible? And will we have to do without Saarland? Vince Ebert takes a look into the future.

My neighbor recently bought a Tesla. A very cool car! From 0 to 100 in three seconds. The only drawback: You have to recharge it every few hours. And that takes time. Even with a supercharger, the tank is only half full after 20 minutes. There are not many of these charging stations yet. "There must be cordless cars," he said to me the other day. "With a fuel that is available everywhere, and with which you can travel 700, 800 kilometers..." But that, of course, is still a dream.

Some politicians are so enthusiastic about the electric car, that they want to ban the dirty petrol and diesel engines by 2030. But does the electric car really solve our energy and environmental problems?

Let’s start slowly and imagine that the politicians’ wishes are realized; that by 2020 one million electric cars will be driving on Germany’s roads. According to the federal government, modern rapid-charging stations of 350 kilowatts each will be installed throughout the country. It is 8:00pm, and ten percent of the one million electric car owners want to recharge their vehicles. In addition to the normal power requirement, an output of 35,000 megawatts is required. This would correspond to the output of about 23 medium-sized, coal-fired power plants. Or 35,000 windmills, if you want to make them more sustainable, however, this only works when the wind is blowing. If it is summer and the sun is still full in the evening, you could also recharge the cars with a solar-energy system the size of 350 square kilometers.

If we were to replace all 60 million combustion engines in Germany with batteries, and assume that every vehicle owner is charging his car only every two days for half an hour each; And if we continue to assume that the charging process could be spread evenly over the entire two days by a smart system, we would need almost 140 new power plants or 220,000 additional wind turbines or a photovoltaic system of the size of the Saarland (2570 km²) to cover the additional electricity demand. Admittedly, in the case of Saarland, many Germans are thinking: "It’s worth it ..."

100 years ago, the biologist Thomas Huxley once said: “[It is] the great tragedy of Science – the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact."  Millions of Germans at the outlet.

At this point it is by no means a question of demonizing the electric motor. On the contrary. I personally find electric cars pretty cool. They have a higher efficiency than a combustor and do not simply blow a valuable raw material into the air. However, they are not an ecological panacea.

To replace 30 kilograms of gasoline, you currently need a modern lithium ion battery that weighs around 900 kilograms. And in the case of millions of planned electric cars, you need a very nice pile of lithium, which, together with the rare earth metal neodymium, is not particularly sustainable. In addition, the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics concluded that the production and recycling of a modern battery had a negative impact on the overall eco-balance compared to the internal combustion engine.

Not to mention the organizational problems. Even if the required electricity would be ecologically correct for massive recharging, one can only imagine the traffic jam when millions of Germans hit the road for their holidays with their electric cars at the same time, and at the service station Spessart they don’t stand at the fuel pump for a quick two minutes, rather block it up for an hour.

The politicians suggest that driving with electric cars is possible without any significant environmental impact. But to move a vehicle from point A to point B, you need a certain amount of energy. And you have to generate that energy somehow, whether with electricity, gasoline, or muscle power.

If we replace the gasoline engine with electric, we only shift the resource and environmental problems. Usable energy is not available free of charge. You always have to pay a price for it. The sun does not send us an invoice. But the solar power provider does.

If you would like to know more about the science cabaret, artist, and best-seller author, visit his website www.vince-ebert.de or Facebook at www.facebook.com/Vince.Ebert

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