Saturday, May 29, 2010 | 2:02 a.m.
In Tuesday’s Las Vegas Sun, Tony Seba wrote that electric cars will make cars that use gas obsolete by 2030, thus eliminating the need to drill for oil and cleaning up the environment by closing oil, gas and nuclear power plants. But he omits facts that make his premise totally without merit:
He neglects to discuss the energy required to mine and refine the silicon necessary to make the huge number of solar cells that would be necessary to accomplish his dream. Refining silicon is much like refining aluminum. It requires huge amounts of electricity, which won’t be available if coal, oil and nuclear plants are shut down.
Lithium for the car batteries is not a common element on or near the Earth’s surface. Mining for lithium is expensive and requires energy currently provided by oil.
Electric vehicles are relatively short range (100 to 150 miles at best) and hence would be used mostly as commuter vehicles. The American worker commutes during the day and hence would recharge his car’s batteries at night. Solar cells do not work at night, so if oil, coal and nuclear plants are shut down, how will all this recharging be done?
Because of their short range, electric cars will require a major change in Americans’ travel habits. Long car trips — from Southern California to Las Vegas, for example — will no longer be possible.
Long transmission lines will need to be constructed to move the photovoltaic power from where it is generated — deserts — to where it would be needed the most: that is, the Eastern Seaboard. Solar cells do not work well in cloudy, rainy and snowy weather.