Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another Try at Nuclear Energy and Electric Cars

tama-electric-car-1947 Below we have a quote from the BBC about nuclear energy and electric/hybrid cars. It almost makes the point we wanted, but not quite, and it’s a little silly about where wind and solar fit into the equation. We poked around to see if someone has addressed this topic and stayed a little more on-point and found this from Halbert Fischel in the Weekly Standard:

At the risk of some cross-border envy, Canada's Bruce Power Co. operates an eight-reactor plant on the shores of Lake Huron that produces 6.4 gigawatts. By upgrading our own 100-plus plants to that level, we could produce enough cheap electricity to competitively replace gasoline and charge the batteries of every potentially electrified car and light truck in the United States. An additional 40 such plants would be sufficient to power all our buses, heavy trucks, and trains.

He goes a little pie in the sky after this, but why not?

With 200 plants, augmented by existing and upgraded hydropower, we could replace all hydrocarbon-based power-generating plants and virtually eliminate the U.S. carbon footprint. If this seems too big a task, one need only look at France which gets 80 percent of its electrical power from nuclear plants.

With 400 plants, we could teleport elephants from Paris to Peoria. But we can’t fault the enthusiasm and France certainly did make the transition.

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Don’t think industry, both automotive and electricity related, haven’t noticed the opportunities. Here’s your car guy:

Bill Ford, chairman of Ford, on the history of the auto industry: "We haven't had a lot of revolutions but boy are we now. I love it."

More from Ford, on how times have changed: "When I joined the (Ford) board, I was asked to stop affiliating with known or suspected environmentalists." Ford now works with Paul Hawken and Environmental Defense Fund.

And your nuclear guy:

David Crane, the CEO of NRG Energy, another utility guy who likes electric cars: "The electric car is our savior; it is the air conditioner of the 21st century."

More from Crane: "I'm convinced that there will be three nuclear power plants built in the U.S. in the next 10 years." Whether they will be anomalies (supported by a limited pool of federal loan guarantees) or lead to a nuclear renaissance remains to be seen.

Crane also opines on the current Congressional tilt away from nuclear energy and toward clean coal.

"Right now the dominant wing of the Democratic Party knows they need to accommodate the coal wing of the Democratic Party in order to get energy and environmental policy passed."

We would just add that clean coal also has a tougher row to hoe ultimately than nuclear energy.

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We suspect that electric and hybrid cars will move into the mainstream faster than we can anticipate and will spur energy policymakers to find a way to accommodate them. To be honest, Congress should look forward to at least that approximate moment in time, whether it’s five or so years before hybrids become broadly acceptable, if still too expensive, or a decade or more for them to gain critical mass. Industry is doing its part – to be cynical, there’s profit to be found there – but now’s the time where government direction will dictate how and even whether this industry blossoms.

And that’s where nuclear fits in. It’s hard not to imagine emission free electricity powering emission free cars. Dreams of using wind and solar power as enablers fits a Planet Green utopia, but leads to ridiculous scenarios in which cars have to charge up at night because that’s when the wind blows. No market will develop around such onerous strictures. Certainly, wind and solar belong at the table, but they don’t bring a full set of silverware with them.

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Hurrm! We suspect we’ll be visiting this topic a fair amount.

Nissan’s Tama Electric Car – from 1947!

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