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Electric cars, solar power are here to stay

In his Dec. 15 column, “Why electric cars are inefficient polluters,” Seth Grossman made provocative, yet erroneous allegations.

He claimed that an internal combustion engine wastes very little energy. The truth is that in such an engine, 80 to 85 percent of the chemical energy of gasoline is lost to heat and not converted to work. In contrast, an electric car engine is about 80 percent efficient in transforming the electron flux into useful motion energy.

He further claims that electric car batteries must be replaced every two or three years. In reality, they are expected to last five to 10 years, do not contain harmful chemicals and can be recycled. Although he was right in pointing out that a substantial amount of energy is wasted to generate and transfer electric power, it’s not as bad as he claimed. In the worst case scenario of an antiquated coal-fired power station, about 35 percent of the fuel energy is recovered as electric power, 93 percent of which then reaches our outlets through the power grid.

That 93 percent initial energy content will charge the car battery with about 75 percent efficiency, meaning that the engine will receive nearly 24 percent of the fuel energy, of which it will utilize about 80 percent to perform mechanical work.


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