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CLEANER AIR AND CLEANER CARS – IS THIS THE FUTURE?

CLEANER AIR AND CLEANER CARS – IS THIS THE FUTURE?

If we believe the internationalist view electric cars are inevitable and the whole system will be powered by solar cells – along with vast networks of wind turbines, where not one Watt is generated by use of oil or coal. When we consider South Africa, this vision is about as useful as buying a F1 car for a spot of off-roading.

The same internationalists have one market where the electric revolution is underway. Norway had a cumulative total of 2 823 543 cars as of the end of 2020, of which 340 002 are powered entirely by electricity.

As of March 2021, Norway has 5 398 804 citizens. It is a small country, blessed with hydroelectric power due to topography and climate, a huge fortune collected in huge tax revenue from North Sea oil as well as gas, and an idea: subsidised transition to a less oil dependent transport system.

A citizen in Norway faces criminally high import taxes on new and used vehicles, historically set to discourage mass imports from neighbour Sweden, near-by Denmark, Germany or Poland. Add to this the movement to reduce or eliminate inner city vehicle emissions to improve air quality, and the scene is set. Move the tax in the right direction for EVs and suddenly any internal combustion engine powered vehicle is effectively penalised by tax. Tax for purchase, tax for fuel, tax for use of the roads.

The UK uses the very same share of oil as well as gas tax revenue to prop up the economy of a country 14 times bigger than Norway, and has almost nothing to show for it. So, next time an eco-warrior arrives with a made in China tablet, wearing the finest imported clothes and shoes, having parked up an EV dragster, and launches in ‘Norway’ – do say ‘I wish them well, but what the hell has that got to do with us?’

The warning to eco-warriors. Do they think the EV tax breaks are forever?

A better future for South Africa

A few months ago, the glorious editor of this very magazine sent me a YouTube clip of a company based in Canada who stated they could produce fuel for internal combustion engines – and a whole lot more – by extracting carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air. I looked and the video, and checked out the company website, which seemed to be very orientated to sales and had content that had been uploaded some time ago. Odd.

Then, recently I received another article about…. extraction of CO2 from air. Of course, as we want to be able to discuss this with Greta T, the right term is ‘carbon capture’. The process involves pushing air through a liquid or powder, which allows the carbon to be retained and the air with reduced CO2 passes back into the atmosphere. The issues arise:

  • It takes energy to move huge quantities of air through a capture system.

  • It takes more energy to extract the ‘carbon’ molecules from the powder or fluid.

  • It takes yet more energy to extract or produce hydrogen.

  • It takes a little more energy to combine the ‘carbon’ molecules with hydrogen to replicate the types of fuel or oil that are required – i.e., into something we could use.

Some time ago before many countries decided coal was best left in the ground(!), there was such a thing as flue gas cleansing. It is possible to extract components from air, and this involves electricity. The whole process really becomes more viable if it is gathering CO2 from an industrial complex chimney. Just gathering CO2 from a lower concentration of air increases the required energy.

In addition, CO2 is a required component of our atmosphere and vital for photosynthesis along with water as well as sun light, not that global warming artistes would ever admit that.

A future for South Africa, not Europe or North America

This carbon capture scheme has many shortfalls as of now, but there is something that Europe and North America is ignoring here. South Africa will probably continue to generate electricity with imported coal or oil, and a scheme such as this literally recovers cash from the chimney. There can be no doubt extracting a useful product from flue gas makes huge sense for the economy.

This is in stark contrast to the ever-hopeful politicians in Europe and North America, who hope that planting enough vast wind turbines will meet the required energy demand, and they force their economies to be more dependent on electricity than ever before. For example, the comfortably insulated political elite talk openly about banning cars, banning internal combustion engines before a commercially viable alternative exists, and banning burning of gas to heat buildings – again before commercially viable alternatives are available.

How does this affect collision repairers?

The collision repair sector needs people to use personal transport, and cheap energy to repair vehicles. There is much economic pressure to reduce use of vehicles, and energy prices rise faster than the rate of inflation. The former situation is possible for a strong economy, and the present situation is not sustainable.

We have to prepare and be strong for the decade ahead, as international movements affect the type of vehicles that are built and so the types of vehicles offered for sale in South Africa. There will be a push for South Africa to become one of the few oil-based economies, quite simply because the roll out of solar energy solutions is by private individuals and primarily to serve buildings – there is little excess energy from this source to use for those who don’t have such systems.

The truth is the political push for one vision – which is economically unsustainable – and the evolution of the present system will end up with a combination of oil/coal-based energy sources for fuel. The idea of an electric vehicle running from central Africa to Durban, for example, is crazy given how diesel-powered trucks with very little maintenance do this job right now. In contrast, the electric vehicle does have a future for those wealthy enough to purchase one (roughly twice the cost of an equivalent internal combustion engine powered alternative, plus cost of the charger), who have enough solar panels both at home as well as work, and do no more than 250 km per day. The flip side is the vehicle is able to store excess energy, and release that back to the building if required.

For our sector the future is primarily petrol internal combustion engine powered cars, cars with a supplementary hybrid drive, and diesel internal combustion engines for trucks/coaches/buses. Since no money is put forward for electricity powered rail systems to transform urban transport, and no money is really put forward to bridge the gap between pure electric vehicle’s price when compared to those with smaller or no battery, the future is clear. For South Africa, EVs really don’t figure at all.

Auto Industry Consulting is an independent provider of technical information to the global collision repair industry via EziMethods, our online collision repair methods system. For more information please visit the website: www.ezimethods.com

By Andrew Marsh

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