2016-07-07 Thu

Clear Thinking

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An article by Gwyn Morgan in the Globe and Mail of Monday, July 04, 2016 points out that just because a car is an electric car doesn’t necessarily make it “greener” than, say, a gasoline or diesel powered internal combustion engine driven car (Phew! That was a mouthful!).

I would agree with his stance, his statement, and I have no grounds for disagreeing with his figures.

However ...

For some months now I have considered that electric-motored cars have two distinct advantages over internal combustion engine cars:-

(1) Electrical energy is relatively easy (in an engineering sense) to re-create from kinetic energy. With an electric motor, a reduction in speed can be achieved by making the car drive a generator. In a simple sense, instead of electrical energy flowing from a battery through a motor to drive the wheels, the wheels treat the motor as a generator and course energy, electrical, back into the battery.

It is difficult to reconstitute petroleum chemicals from kinetic energy in a device as small as a family car.

(2) Changing the source of the electrical energy can take place independently of the vehicle that uses the energy.

This is I believe an important counter-argument to the lack-of-charging-points argument.

Suppose you had a region – perhaps the province of Ontario – where all electrical energy was generated from coal-fired power plants. Boo! Hiss!! Shame!!!

You can replace all gasoline-powered vehicles with vehicles that tap directly into an electrical source.

Now all the vehicles on the road are running on electricity, and we don’t breathe exhaust fumes when vehicles are stuck in traffic.

It is true that over at Nanticoke and down by Long Branch we have huge buildings emitting towering columns of smoke, but those sources of electricity can be replaced by flavour-of-the-year (wind, solar, nuclear etc) as time goes by without changing the fleet of vehicles.

The big thing will be getting people to abandon gasoline-powered vehicles for electrically-powered vehicles and setting up a well-knit network of recharging stations (or battery-swap stations) so that we can drive electrically-powered cars as easily as we do today.

Then in the background, serious engineers can convert shameful sources of electricity to truly better sources.

Observations

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Possibly the worst thing about Toronto is its premature- or even non-ejaculation.

Two weeks ago this little lane was blocked off to vehicular traffic. Pedestrian traffic is allowed, so you’d expect that something interesting was going to happen such as pot holes filled in.

I walk this sequence of back lanes from Allen Gardens all the way to Parliament Street, and I walked it again on Tuesday. There are two very shallow pot holes, and no sign of a work crew.

Toronto is studded (or blighted) with what appear to be work sites with no work going on.

I know from experience that projects often get hiccoughs, key items have not arrived, and so on, but truly the number of blocked off sidewalks, laneways, roads that are evident every week of the year leads one to believe that planning is a lost art at Toronto City Hall.