Vive La France!!


This hasn’t been getting a lot of play in the US media, presumably because they think that it’s one of those plans that is designed to change in the 20+ years before it takes effect.

France has announced that it plans to end the sale of gas and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040. This is not a joke: Volvo has announced it is phasing out gasoline engines, and Norway and India are likewise planning on phasing out gasoline and diesel. They’re serious: what will happen is that it will become increasingly difficult to find gas stations, and increasingly difficult to find parts for gas-powered cars, and eventually use of combustible fuel will become inconvenient and more expensive. Which do you think has a bigger effect on consumers?

Convenience, of course.

Right now, in the US, electric cars are somewhat dependent on finding charging stations, compared to gasoline pumps.

Source: Idaho National Labs [inl]

I like the way the INL chart illustrates the situation: it’s pretty clear that electric vehicles have a good way to go before they cross over to the cost of gasoline vehicles, not even factoring in the secondary costs of gasoline vehicles such as environmental damage.

source [rsvlt]

I had a “skeptic” once explain to me that the number of charging stations was going to kill the electric car. But actually, it looks like a pretty good evolution, to me: the stations are densely clustered where they’ll do the most good. And electricity is available everywhere; you don’t have to store viciously toxic and potentially explosive chemicals in buried tanks, and haul the stuff back and forth on the roads with semitrailers. My prediction is that the next financial shockwave that hits the US will cause Detroit to finally, fully, collapse if the car companies need another bailout and haven’t stopped making gas guzzlers.

I got broadsided by a Buick Skylark at 40mph and it folded in half.

Back in 1986 I bought my first new car, a 1985 Honda CRx HF. I ran it with low profile tires that were inflated to be pretty hard, so it rode like a go kart, but, since I was mostly doing highway driving (commuting from Baltimore to University of Maryland, College Park) I got about 50mpg on the average. You can imagine my surprise when I learned that the new hybrids don’t get gas mileage anywhere close to that. It’s as if Detroit has spent all of its time trying to make cars cheaper for them to build, rather than better for us to buy: after all, if you can get profit margins up by squeezing efficiency out of the tool chain and work force, you don’t have to make better cars, you can make gas guzzlers. And congress and the lobbyists are in on it, of course. Again, when I used to drive my little car 400 miles on $9 worth of gas (gas was cheaper, it’s true) it seemed like laissez les bon temps roulez, toujours!

What I think a lot of Americans don’t understand is that the European economies are more closely managed than the US’ – in most of Europe, the governments are not largely owned subsidiaries of the corporations. For example, when I was a kid I remember the Paris metro was full of ads for Gauloises cigarettes, and everyone smoked so much that as a kid I used to refer to them as “Stinky Frenchmen” because of the ashtray reek most French denizens brought into a room with them. It’s still pretty bad – 19% of French men die of tobacco-related causes, but when the government decided something had to be done, they were quick to cut advertising even though the government was a large stake-holder in tobacco sales, in the form of taxation and industry partnerships. Large changes in French smoking have been visible in 20 years of my lifetime and I expect that if the French government is serious about cutting sales of gasoline-powered cars to zero in 20 years, they are going to be pretty dramatically reduced.

The metaphor of fossil fuels as an addiction is a pretty good one, actually.

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I could never understand how a country like France that prided itself on its great taste in food, could smoke so damn much. But then, I’ve never understood how a country like the US that has perfected mediocre food, can eat so damn much of it.

Comments

  1. sonofrojblake says

    What surprised me was that the French went, overnight, from a situation where smoking for anyone over the age of 14 was practically compulsory, to banning it completely in all enclosed public spaces. That’s a thing I do admire about the French – when their government decides to do something, they don’t mess about asking the people whether they approve – they just get on and do it.

    Former Tory energy minister David Howell asked his French counterpart how it was that France had managed to build so many nuclear power stations without public outcry. The French minister replied that, ‘If you’re going to drain the swamp you don’t consult the frogs’” – Lord Howe of Aberavon talking about the role of the public inquiry, recounting an anecdote heard during the Sizewell B inquiry.

  2. Brian English says

    But then, I’ve never understood how a country that has perfected mediocre good, can eat so damn much of it.

    Quoi? Je ne comprende pas.

  3. says

    Brian English@#2:
    Quoi? Je ne comprende pas.

    Merde! I meant “food” – fixed it in the posting.
    Arrgh, usually I queue postings a day ahead so I can rescan for typos before I release it.

    Our quality assurance department has been sacked.
    etc.

  4. Brian English says

    OK, that makes sense. Are we talking about the USA and food being mediocre? The French are supposed to be quite good at grub.

  5. says

    sonofrojblake@#1:
    That’s a thing I do admire about the French – when their government decides to do something, they don’t mess about asking the people whether they approve – they just get on and do it.

    Yeah, it’s that left over “Make France Grand Encore!” from Louis XIV (he wore a red ball cap that said “L’etat, c’est moi”…) they’re used to getting things done. Just ask the Vietnamese.

    ‘If you’re going to drain the swamp you don’t consult the frogs’”

    Now, that’s a tumbril remark if I ever heard one. Or is it #toosoon ??

  6. says

    Marcus:

    Or is it #toosoon ??

    No, it isn’t. I applaud all the countries looking at phasing out gasoline powered cars, they are doing what is necessary, and that’s how to get great changes done, just fucking do them. That’s why it will never happen here.

  7. says

    Caine@#7:
    No, it isn’t. I applaud all the countries looking at phasing out gasoline powered cars, they are doing what is necessary, and that’s how to get great changes done, just fucking do them. That’s why it will never happen here.

    Not too soon for that; never.

    I apologize – I was trying to be clever: “is it too soon to call it a ‘tumbril remark’ when referring to France?” As Scalzi says, the failure mode of clever is asshole. Sorry!

  8. jrkrideau says

    I could never understand how a country like France that prided itself on its great taste in food, could smoke so damn much.
    It was the quick cigarette between courses in the restaurant that got me.

  9. sonofrojblake says

    it’s pretty clear that electric vehicles have a good way to go before they cross over to the cost of gasoline vehicles

    I don’t understand this. To me, that chart appears to be trying to shows that electric vehicles are already much cheaper than gasoline vehicles. But then, it’s
    – intentionally confusing
    – doesn’t supply context (what IS the cost of gasoline and electricity in the US right now?)
    – is obviously aiming to sell EVs.

    My (gasoline powered) Honda does about 50mpg – so why does the graph only show lines for stupidly low mileages like 18 and 22? Since I’m driving it in the UK, where gas is currently about $5.70 a gallon, my costs don’t even appear on that graph. They’re way off the top… but interestingly almost vertically above where the Tesla would be, since my current electricity cost is about $0.15 per kWh. I’m paying about four to five cents a mile to run my seven year old gas car… which I can fill up basically anywhere in five minutes AND carry a can of fuel to if I run out.

    The proposition with an EV is that I spend something like four times what I bought my current car for to get a new vehicle, lash out more on a home charging station (assuming I have a driveway and garage) and end up paying about the same per mile for energy as I’m paying now. This is not the way to persuade me. (But then I’m inconveniently not bamboozled by that graph).

    The change is inevitable… but the tech will have to improve. If the alternative is forced upon us before it does, all it will do is make a lot of people’s lives worse. I’m confident that won’t happen.

  10. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Curious. I’ll have to look at this. For commuter traffic, electric vehicles seem to work. However, for trucking, I recall electric vehicles being not quite good enough. I wonder if this is just more bluster from anti-science green-movement Luddites who recently won government elections in France. ~sigh~

  11. Raucous Indignation says

    Why couldn’t all-electric vehicles tow a small generator or fuel cell when thay go on long trips? Small generators are very efficient and could burn anything: ethanol, biodiesel, whatever. And no one would need to own one. You could rent one from U-Haul whenever you go on a long trip. It would give unlimited range when needed with a minimal carbon footprint.

  12. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Why couldn’t all-electric vehicles tow a small generator or fuel cell when thay go on long trips?

    Uhh… What? That’s a contradiction in terms: As soon as you add a combustion engine, then it’s not an all-electric vehicle. I don’t care if the combustion engine is “under the hood”, or in an attached trailer. Ditto for vehicles that run on hydrogen fuel cells.

  13. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    France’s government is stating a policy goal: Only electric vehicles will be on the roads at such and such date. Under this policy goal, “electric vehicles” that actually run on combustion engines or hydrogen fuel cells would not be allowed on the road. That’s what the policy goal means, in any sane discussion. This seems like an extraordinarily silly game of semantics: The location of the combustion engine, hydrogen fuel cell, or alternative energy store, whether it’s under the hood or in a trailer, is entirely irrelevant, as long as it’s being moved somewhere in the total vehicle system.

    The fundamental difference between an all-electric car and something is: The all-electric car has an electrochemical battery, which is used to power an electric engine. If you throw on another energy store, then it’s no longer an all-electric car. It’s something else.

  14. John Morales says

    EnlightenmentLiberal:

    Why couldn’t all-electric vehicles tow a small generator or fuel cell when thay go on long trips?

    Uhh… What? That’s a contradiction in terms: As soon as you add a combustion engine, then it’s not an all-electric vehicle. I don’t care if the combustion engine is “under the hood”, or in an attached trailer. Ditto for vehicles that run on hydrogen fuel cells.

    Terminological nitpick.

    Clearly, here “all-electric vehicles” → ‘vehicles powered only by electric motors’.

  15. John Morales says

    PS

    The fundamental difference between an all-electric car and something is: The all-electric car has an electrochemical battery, which is used to power an electric engine. If you throw on another energy store, then it’s no longer an all-electric car. It’s something else.

    Fatuous. What do you imagine powers the power grid?

  16. John Morales says

    chigau, proximate vs. ultimate. You burn firewood, you’re using solar energy.

    Burn coal, same thing, once or more removed — but fossil fuels are definitionally sequestered until they are exploited.

    Solar power is about as close as one gets to all-electrical; photons excite electrons generating electromotive force. Most power generation is once-removed from that; it’s thermal energy to kinetic energy to electromotive force.

    Noteworthy is how

  17. fusilier says

    A major barrier is the sheer size of the US.

    Daughters #1 and #2 both live in Boston, and we are in Indianapolis. For a visit, that’s 2,000 mi (3200 km) round-trip driving. At 70 mph (110 km/h) it takes approximately 16 hours. Filling a tank with gasoline takes about 10 minutes, add another 10 minute for LaTrine breaks, total 20 minutes, every three or four hours.

    Of course we split things up into two days to keep our butts from going numb.

    A Tesla doesn’t have the range of our CR-V, and requires about 90 minutes re-charging time, again every three or four hours.

    THAT puts travel time into three days.

    I believe it was here that someone pointed out that rail-lines are owned by the freight companies, so we’ll never see high-speed passenger trains like the TGV or Shinkansen

    fusilier
    James 2:24

  18. says

    fusilier@#20:
    I believe it was here that someone pointed out that rail-lines are owned by the freight companies, so we’ll never see high-speed passenger trains like the TGV or Shinkansen

    Yes, change would have to happen for there to be change.

    Arguing “under the status quo, this is the best way to do it” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The problem isn’t that electric cars aren’t great for 2000mi trips, in that case, it’s that the US’ public transportation infrastructure is terrible. In part that’s thanks to goodyear and firestone buying up municipal railway systems and shutting them down, but it goes much deeper than that.

  19. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To John Morales

    Fatuous. What do you imagine powers the power grid?

    Dishonest or lazy asshole with limited reading ability, as always. Do you even bother to read the OP before you reply, or the person to whom I was talking with?

    This is in the context of the OP, which (purportedly) says that the political goal is only all-electric cars will be driven on the road. My posts were about stating the very simple, plain, and obvious meaning of “all-electric car”. Of course the energy for those cars will come from the grid, which will come from sources other than electro-chemical batteries. However, again, if the car itself has a hydrogen fuel cell, or a combustion engine, then it is not an “all-electric car”. It would be a hydrogen fuel cell car, or an (internal) combustion engine car, and so forth. Or it would be a hybrid, but I must point out again that it inclueds the word “all” in the phrase “all-electric”, meaning “only electric”, meaning that hybrid options are precluded.

  20. John Morales says

    EnlightenmentLiberal:

    Dishonest or lazy asshole with limited reading ability, as always. Do you even bother to read the OP before you reply, or the person to whom I was talking with?

    To answer your not-at-all dishonest question: yes, I did. Which is why I noted the status of your claim that “Why couldn’t all-electric vehicles tow a small generator or fuel cell when thay go on long trips?” is a contradiction in terms. If you want specificity, clearly that which is towed is not the vehicle towing it.

    I’m particularly amused by your distinction between electro-chemical batteries and (electrochemical) fuel cells.

  21. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    If you want specificity, clearly that which is towed is not the vehicle towing it.

    So, if I put an engine with substantial emissions into a “trailer”, do you think that I could claim that my vehicle doesn’t have any emissions, and the emissions from the “trailer” don’t count because it’s not part of the vehicle? This is asinine. No regulator on the planet is going to buy your rules-lawyer argument.
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RulesLawyer

    I’m particularly amused by your distinction between electro-chemical batteries and (electrochemical) fuel cells.

    It is my impression that “all electric vehicle” as a term of art does not include vehicles with hydrogen fuel cells. Perhaps I am mistaken on this point. As a term of art, surely it excludes vehicles with a combustion engine.

  22. John Morales says

    EL:

    So, if I put an engine with substantial emissions into a “trailer”, do you think that I could claim that my vehicle doesn’t have any emissions, and the emissions from the “trailer” don’t count because it’s not part of the vehicle? This is asinine.

    It was you who contended that an all-electric vehicle towing a small generator or fuel cell from which it recharges electrical power is no longer an all-electric vehicle.

    It is my impression that “all electric vehicle” as a term of art does not include vehicles with hydrogen fuel cells.

    I refer you to my #15; electric vehicle generally means electrically-powered vehicle.

    (cf. ion thrusters)

  23. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To John Morales

    Terminological nitpick.

    Clearly, here “all-electric vehicles” → ‘vehicles powered only by electric motors’.

    God damn you. Look again at the OP:

    France has announced that it plans to end the sale of gas and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040

    Look again at the poster whom I was responding to:

    Why couldn’t all-electric vehicles tow a small generator or fuel cell when thay go on long trips?

    Emphasis “small generator”. You are not going to evade France’s proposed ban on “gas and diesel-powered vehicles” by putting a gas generator in a trailer, and attaching electric cables to an electric motor in your car.

    You’re masturbating over asinine semantics, and purposefully missing the point. Do you get off on this? Is it some sick sexual pleasure to butt into a conversation, take a term out of context, assert that someone is wrong, in a way that colossally misses the entire point of the conversation? Does it make you feel good to put others down by scoring cheap rhetorical tricks?

    At least be correct when you try to make corrections. God damn.

    I am completely sick of you. You’re a miserable human being. Die in a fire. And as a survivor of near third degree burns, I know what that means.

  24. lanir says

    Semi-random trivia: I own a Honda CR-Z which is basically the redo of the CRx. I bought it new a few years ago. Mine is a hybrid with a standard transmission and for the life of the car I’ve gotten around 38mpg with it. So if you need a comparison that’s about as close as you’re going to get.

  25. John Morales says

    OK, that didn’t go well.

    EnlightenmentLiberal, I don’t want to dissuade you from commenting.

    I’ll henceforth endeavour not to address you either directly or indirectly.

    Sorry.

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