Electricity 6: Electric cars for private use vs. Electrifying public transportation

Continued from Electricity 5: My reluctance towards building electric cars for private use

1. Electric cars as private transportation – not really the “Green Guardian”

There are four main arguments which make me consider that Electric cars may not be the ideal solution environmentally and towards the general aspect of “Driving”. The latter applies not just to electric cars, but in general to all modern cars.

Firstly the electric cars have diverse issues and the biggest of it is the “Energy mix” factor. The automakers show enormous push and I assume “Lobbying” too to secure their market presence sooner, but is it really worth it? They propagate it as being environment friendly and sophisticated. A first world country like Germany can imagine of using electric cars in a healthy way as it’s constructively working on its energy mix. By 2038[i], it has planned to completely phase out it’s coal usage and I’m very confident that it will do so. It has already been showing its actions for nuclear to have it phased out by 2022 positively.  Expecting this behaviour to the rest of the world countries puts the “environmental friendly” tag of an electric car as questionable and miserable.

Secondly the infrastructure needed for charging stations and battery disposals and additionally the funding needed to convert the current petroleum (diesel & petrol) set-up to electric is unimaginable for an implementation on global scale. Can this infrastructure be developed for the whole world in a foreseeable amount of time and fast? Unfortunately the issue of CO2 does not pertain just to the first world countries. We need a world solution and immediate. Looking from this angle, the push from the automotive companies merely looks like a withdrawal symptom for them to give up their current revenues. A move to electric will just secure their revenues and would not help the world in any way.

Thirdly when so much money is anyways pumped into research of intelligent systems, why insist on the concept of a “Driver” still? Better scrap all the private transportation which in modern cars anyways are increasingly driven by the software. Rather let the software take over the whole “Driving” aspect. Yes! I’m talking about driverless cars. The last post discussed on the topic as an ethical issue in terms of accidents. Driverless cars wouldn’t have this issue and me as a beer crate user Gen 2.0 who is struggling to change my habit from manual cars, I can perfectly imagine being driven than being asked to be friends with an intelligent system. At least I have the hope of developing the habit and accepting to drive a modern car. My dad who never used a smart phone, will never be able to adapt to the modern driving which increasing needs us to interact with the software systems. A driving license in his case wouldn’t be applicable anymore to this case. A new driving license should not just teach “Driving” but also “Interacting” with the software systems.

The Fourth and final is the disagreement over “Drivertainment”. When so much focus is put towards increasing the entertainment quotient of the passengers and the drivers in the car, the risk of having the awareness reduced towards the surroundings increases. This is a safety critical issue and might lead towards much regulation for the drivers. The whole aspect of driving would turn out to be safety critical and very stressful which is exactly the opposite feeling of driving a manual car.

Google-Ergebnis für httpsfm.cnbc.comapplicationscnbc.comresourcesimgeditorial20190107105663571-1546874988249auto4.jpgv=1546875131

Picture 1

On these grounds, I argue that Electric cars may not be that solution that will gain acceptance and may not be the ideal solution what we are looking for. Moreover I would argue that electric cars are a type of transition products or a temporary solution which will eventually lead to the real solution

2. Rationale behind “Electrified” Driverless cars – 

Refer to my blog post on where I discussed about “Transition products”. In a product spectrum life cycle, you also have crests and troughs of how a product variant is accepted in the market. It can split into three types – Standard products, Transition products and failure products. If a launched product fails, usually it will be removed completely out of the catalogue or fixed for its issues and will be re-launched in a different brand name – These are “Failure products”.  Meanwhile “Standard Products” have the longest life cycle in the market as people have accepted it. People are able to connect to some feature in the product that they find it hard to give up. Examples here are our standard petroleum cars. I would categorize Electric cars as a “Transition product”, as it has the capability to make the people change their habit, but does not promise universal acceptance. Usually such transition products facilitate the route to a completely new “Standard product”! In my blog post, I would have discussed on how tooth powder acted as a transition product helping people switch from lemon twigs to tooth brush and tooth paste concept.

The new Standard products given the current development could logically be the “Driverless cars”. The nature of driverless cars tackles issues software interaction and “Drivertainment” inherently. The issue of energy mix and Infrastructure will remain the same for this issue too. But rather than focusing the development of infrastructure for electric cars, developing it for driverless cars makes sense on the long run. A transition product like an electric car will be short lived. The infrastructure developed for this electric car will have to be partially scrapped and only a part of it can be carried over to the next spectrum which in this case is a “Driverless car”.

Google-Ergebnis für httpsbokbluster.comwp-contentuploads201803180321uber.jpg - Google Chrome

Picture 2

3. Classic Public transportation – Still a viable option!

All the fuss of the automotive industry is still over “private transportation”. Electric cars wouldn’t change much if it still will be sold to private customers. The usual argumentation for private transportation is the sense of privacy, flexibility and the ability of reaching places not covered by the public network. All are valid and there is one more argumentation above all – Status symbol! I will avoid discussing on Status symbol as it’s a cultural and psychological issue and is out of scope here. A friend of mine from Rome mentioned that the Italians in Rome avoid public transportation as apparently it makes them perceive to be lower in class.

Apart from status symbol, to address the other three issues, let’s assume a locality with 1000 people. On today’s standards, this place will have easily 500 privately owned cars. Can privacy and flexibility be covered with less than 50 cars which can be rented as necessary? It is imaginable. Either a start up or the government can organize to own and maintain these cars and rent out as needed. The village where I live in Germany has a train connection to a bigger city 40 km away every half an hour. But there is no connection the nearby villages. Only possibility is a car! We have the necessity to drive to these villages at least 2 times a week. We can imagine renting a car for these purposes.

The third point is that the public network does not cover all the places. I made a simulation on what if public transportation is organized to cover the entire network available in a city. I took a city approximately the size of Stuttgart. Stuttgart has about 1500 km of roads and roughly half of its population of 0.63 Million people own cars.

Electric cars part 2 - Microsoft Word

Picture 3 – Stuttgart Stats

I took references from multiple websites to estimate infrastructure, operational and overall costs of trains, trams, buses and cars. I wanted to calculate two numbers – the cost of ownership per person for privately and publicly owned transportation units and their respective CO2 Emission profiles. The final result is shown below. I have published a simplified version here. If any of you is interested in the details, please write in the comments. I can forward you the detailed excel calculations behind.

4. Electrifying Public transportation – Numbers show real promise!

Under classic public transportation I assumed getting rid of private transportation i.e. private ownership of vehicles completely. In this section, I made an assumption on what if such a wholesome public transportation uses “electrified units” exclusively! This may be driverless in the near future. If the push should happen in this direction, it may be a win-win situation for the automotive industries and the governments too.

Automotive companies can diversify into building infrastructure for driverless cars and compensate for their loss with petroleum cars. This will be an amicable solution on the long run too. All their efforts to vigorous lobbying for electric cars can be saved. After all, if their pitch for electric cars is being environment friendly, we need a better product. Which leads me to ask why not “electrifying public transportation”?

Government cannot restrict movement of population! It has to facilitate it in a way that it both cost-effective and has the least environmental footprint. The table below compares four logistics systems through which movements can be facilitated.

PrtScr capture

Picture 4

(1) Calculations based on a reference network of 1500 km – Comparable to Stuttgart city 

(2) Cost per person per month. Including all costs – capital, operational, Maintenance & Infrastructure, disposal or recycling

(3) Private cars – costs are per person owning a car/ Public transportation – cost per capita i.e For a 3 person household with 2 cars – a car will cost 1072€ and Public transportation will cost 402€ 

(4) Emissions in Million tonnes of CO2 per year; including gray energy & energy for disposal/ recycling; Assumed population 0.63 Mil people; No.of cars: 1 for 2 people i.e 0.315 Mil cars. For calculations, the gray energy for electric cars are assumed to be the same as petroleum cars. There exist arguments which claim that the battery production for electric cars consume high energy and they increase the overall Gray energy for electric cars, This claim needs validation and thereby ignored for the calculations above.

(5) The operational costs includes the same cost of labor as with drivers too. As the programming needs for driverless cars might be higher, a future driver might be a costlier resource who is just a monitor sitting somewhere like in an Air traffic control. If cost of labor can be reduced by a certain extent, this will decrease the cost per month too


As you can see in the above simulation

  • Electric cars do not make sense financially for a private use, but will have about 32% emissions reduction in a country like Germany
  • Phasing out all the “private option” and switching to public transportation would reduce the financial burden per person or household till up to 75% and emissions can be reduced up to 81%
  • Having a combination of “Public transportation” and “electric units” will better the financials by 83% and emissions can be reduced till 94%

Point 2 can be technically implemented immediately on the governments’ will. In the blog post on CO2 emissions I have mentioned that we are emitting 30 billion tonnes of CO2 every year. Of this one-fourth are just contributed by vehicles i.e. about 8 billion tonnes CO2. Switching to public transportation completely could reduce the emissions 1.5 billion tonnes. That’s 6.5 billion tonnes CO2 lesser on a Global scale!

If you are already using the public transportation, you are really the “Green Guardian”. You buying electric will not make you one. You are already one!

Given the option, walk and bike wherever possible! – That’s really “Going green” and “Going healthy” too!

No to private Electric Cars! Yes for Electrifying public transportation!


If you like my posts, please acknowledge your motivation by Following/ Liking/ commenting on this blog. Thanks for reading

Credits: This topic over electric cars owes much to the discussion with my friend Mithun Kashyap. “Electrifying public transportation” was his terminology

Recommended Reads:

1. https://electrek.co/2019/03/20/chinese-electric-buses-oil/

2. https://business.inquirer.net/267764/how-europe-is-faring-on-renewable-energy-targets/amp




Electricity 4: C02 Emissions: the Endgame

Continued from Electricity 3: CO2 Emissions: a floor report

Fun fact: this man-made disaster is just for all the living beings. Earth will live on! And cockroaches probably!

1. Tackling CO2:

There are six ways of how we can tackle CO2 release into the atmosphere.

  1. Switching to Nuclear power! But it has other grave issues. Not sure if chances are being explored to make it safe.


Source: http://www.pictureisunrelated.com

  1. Shut down Coal and Natural gas plants which have the highest emissions. This will have really high repercussions on world economy. Phasing them out overnight will lead to heavy loss of jobs and will send a deadly shock through the system if an alternative is not planned.


CO2 Emissions per source[i]

  1. Make all energies renewable which will lead to 0g emissions. To do this it is estimated that a 100 Trillion$ should be invested over the next 20 years[ii]. The world income is 80 Trillion $ and concentrated on just few hands. If you divide the cost per consumer, it will be too costly for an individual consumer to pay. You might just have to give 55 billion dollars from your monthly income of 2000$! Unless world powers are trying to co-operate and make at least investments bit by bit towards this goal, an individual consumer can’t do anything about it. This is where the importance of Trump’s exit from Paris environmental agreement lies in. He influences about 23 Trillion $ in the world (USA’s GDP)


  1. Invent a technology which will imitate a tree. Suck out all the CO2 and convert it to something human friendly: best case: Oxygen. There was interesting article on this topic. They call it “Negative emissions”[iii] and show there is hardly any research on this topic. They also warn if some policy maker should cite this as a solution, probably he/she is trying to deceive, as hardly any investment flows into this field. Quoted from the article: “Keith concurs.”As of today there is extraordinarily little research on it,” he says. “The number of scientists funded to do work on carbon removal globally is seriously small.”
  1. Plant trees! One mature tree can absorb 22 Kilos per year or about 1 tonne CO2 in its lifetime[iv]. For the same 1 trillion goal, if we want to tackle them by planting trees, we just have to plant about 4.5 trillion trees more. Currently, there are about 3 trillion trees[v] in the world and they absorb about 40% of the 30 Billion tonnes emitted every year. It’s fine even if we don’t plant new trees, but cutting down existing trees is disastrous. It is estimated that yearly 15 billion trees are cut out of deforestation or urbanization[vi]. Only about 5 billion are replanted, but it will take some years for it to become mature to absorb CO2 effectively.


Life cycle of tree cultivation[vii]

  1. Reduce household electricity consumption and support to bring down the CO2 emissions to acceptable level. This will be the focus of this article as this is something where you and I as common man can take actions independently without having to rely on governments or global leaders. Planting trees as in point 5 counts too


2. Switching to Eco Electricity! But does it make us Eco-friendly?[viii]


My energy supplier is EnbW Company. They are located about 40km away in a town called Heilbronn. On 6th August 2011, in response to the Fukushima catastrophe, one of their nuclear power generation units had been shutdown[ix] along with 7 others all over Germany[x]. Now they are carrying on further with the remaining nuclear unit and a coal firing unit. Additionally EnbW also has a hydro unit nearby. I have a 100% Eco-Electricity plan, which theoretically would mean that EnbW sends me the power only from the hydro unit. In reality it is not. It will be too costly for EnbW to make a separate electricity grid just for my home. Any energy generation unit therefore normally feeds their supply into to the public grid. Electricity mix is the appropriate term to be used. The electricity power grid in our region thereby would get a mix of electricity from these three sources, as once the electricity from any type of power generation unit gets fed into the grid, you cannot differentiate the electricity. What EnbW promises me is that for the money I pay, an equivalent clean power is fed into the grid somewhere else in the world grid. It’s a good thing that you can do by switching to Eco Electricity. As of 2019, Germany’s renewables mix has become 40% and has overtaken coal production which is at 38%[xi].

3. Yearly 20% reduction in your electricity bill can help reverse the climate change!

To see the relevance of the above claim that I can save 20% in my electricity bill and at the same time improve the environment, we need to see the role of my home in the context of the surroundings. It’s very similar to the argument over electric cars. Although the cars are electric, the recharging stations which supply energy to the cars are fed by coal and other non-renewables. By this setup, are we really going environment friendly by buying an electric car? Likewise by conscious electricity consumption, I can impact 20% of my electricity bill, but do I really impact the environment?

How does my 20% electricity bill saving fit in the whole picture?

As discussed above, the electricity mix that my house receives is a mixture of nuclear, coal and hydro. What I had learnt in my electricity lecture was that the energy generation units are controlled by smart systems. The units can only produce so much power as is needed in the homes. The public grid cannot be over burdened or under burdened. The smart system makes sure that this balance is always present, else the whole system will shutdown. What it means to us is that the electricity that we save at home by not running a device is really an energy not generated at the plant too. Lesser energy generation is lesser CO2 emitted in the air. This is the link to the environment and the air we breathe. In the table above in Section 1 point 2, you can see how much CO2 is emitted per source.

In Germany, an average house consumes about 6600 kWh[xii] per year. If I can reduce it by 20%, I will have reduced 750 Kilos of CO2 emitted just by my action! Meanwhile an Indian home uses only about 1100 kWh[xiii]. Let’s say that a person in the first world or having more electrical appliances at home will have a higher individual impact. A person in the city will have much higher impact, as urban sector consumes about 70% of the whole world electricity produced[xiv]. If you are living in a city and are on the higher end of the kWh scale, you are a high impact person. On the other hand, the total population of such high impact people are less, the bigger slice of the cake are those humongous number of small homes. That’s why I say regardless of whatever individual impact kWh you are making, a discussion or a goal setting in “Percent” is more reliable than an absolute number. A person in Germany should aim towards reducing 1200 kWh and meanwhile the person in India should try for reducing 220 kWh.

What does one person’s effort into reducing 750 Kilos of CO2 per year make?

To understand this statement, we need to switch to the global scale of electricity production. In reality, homes are not the only consumers of electricity. There are three other types of consumers and residential is just one of them. More or less, all the three of them almost have an equal distribution: Residential, Industrial and Transport


World energy use[xv]

Total electricity use in the world is about 100,000 tWh (Tera Watt Hours is kWh multiplied by 1,000,000) Given that the topic of discussion is Residential, we are talking about impacting 36% of the electricity as per the above table. Imagine if all the homes could save 20% year by year, the 750 kilo equivalents per home gets translated to an impact of 1.06 billion tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere year by year. Totally 30 billion tonnes of CO2 and upwards are released into the atmosphere year by year.

The contribution of each home could reduce total CO2 emissions by about 4%!

You can be sure that every effort of yours really counts. We have to proactively set a goal and run towards it. You can use my blog post Electricity 2 to cut down your energy consumption. If my wife and I would do our work well, by the end of first year, we should have consumed 1900 kWh less and 1280 kWh less in the second year and so on. Whether we will really achieve it or not is a different question and is up to the individual’s commitment. More important is to have the consciousness active!

Change begins from self!




How wild can my dream be to ask for my Coimbatore back?

To be continued: Electricity 5: Electric Cars and solar panels – Are they really viable?

If you like my posts, please acknowledge your motivation by Following/ Liking/ commenting on this blog. Thanks for reading.

Recommended Reads:

  1. https://www.dw.com/en/green-energy-solutions-youve-probably-never-heard-of/a-47731808
  2. Wetland mud is ‘secret weapon’ against climate change
  3. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-07/trump-said-to-again-seek-deep-cuts-in-renewable-energy-funding
  4. https://www.dw.com/en/co2-emissions-to-hit-historic-highs-in-2018/a-46606292
  5. https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-spot-530-000-potential-pumped-hydro-sites-to-meet-all-our-renewable-energy-needs/amp
  6. https://business.inquirer.net/267764/how-europe-is-faring-on-renewable-energy-targets/amp

















Electricity 3: CO2 Emissions: a floor report

Continued from Electricity 2: Understanding my home: How to reduce my electricity bills?

Coimbatore: a floor report

I hail from Coimbatore and since 2009 I live in Germany. Coimbatore used to be a heaven with moderate temperatures of 20°C and cool breeze all throughout the day. It used to be a pleasant place to live and was convenient to walk around. In fact, my friend and I used to walk 5km on a daily basis for about 10 years. Switch to 2019 now, average temperatures have gone above 35°C with dry and skin piercing winds. The infrastructure of the city is not equipped to survive the heat. Population explosion and drastic increase in number of vehicles aren’t helping the situation either. Given the cluster and chaos, building a green infrastructure is going to be very difficult. Vehicles have spoiled the air and the number of moving objects on the land has increased the dust. I could feel my lungs being filled with exhaust gas and I was choking. My eyes were having an irritating sensation too. There is hardly any government intervention. This was my experience visiting Coimbatore the last time in 2018. The whole time was so overwhelming that I felt like sitting on a stack of card castle and someone was just about to remove the bottom most foundation card. Whenever I think of bringing up kids in the city that I grew, it feels like running against a wall. The city is simply going out of hands. I don’t need numbers or scientific studies to prove that environment is being harmed. India in the recent years has started seeing deaths from heat waves. A person in Germany might not understand this yet, as the air is still fresh, but the situation is changing there too.


Source: Our World in Data[i]

In Germany, the last four years seem to make a statement. Winters aren’t that cold anymore and couple of summer months are unbearable with temperatures going above 40°C. Moreover the houses are not built for summer which makes it difficult to sustain the summer heat. The trend is alarming in a way that every New Year is unpredictable than the year before: Temperature swings are terrible. Soon world over, this trend might reach a tipping point and the next “Black plague” might result.

Why is CO2 harmful?

The strange thing in our world, which applies to many things, is that a healthy reality or a solution is in most cases in the middle. There is a saying “Too much of anything is good for nothing” – the contrary is also true “Too less is also too bad”. Reality is about striking that equilibrium. This setup basically summarizes the issue for CO2 too. Currently we are having too much of it. Too much of CO2 increases Earth’s average temperature and too less of it will freeze us[ii]. (Read Greenhouse Effect[iii])

How much of CO2 is released in the atmosphere today?

As of 2010, yearly over 30 billion tonnes of CO2 and upwards are released year by year into the atmosphere, with the energy sector contributing to about 50% of it.


Source: Our World in Data[iv]

What level of CO2 is permissible in the atmosphere?

All those 30 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted, increases the number of particles of CO2 in the air. It’s called parts per Million. Before 2014, the acceptable limit was defined at 400 ppm[v] which is already crossed now. Now a maximum tolerable level is pegged at 600ppm[vi]. As of  Jan 2019, the world ppm was at 411ppm[vii]. The cities will be the first one to die. A latest report says that Seoul, South Korea; Guangzhou, China; and New York City have the three highest carbon footprints of cities worldwide[viii]. Only Seoul emits about 30000 tons per year and a specific study says that in Seoul Metropolitan Subway (SMS), the indoor CO2 levels could reach up to 4000ppm[ix].

PrtScr capture

Source: http://www.CO2.earth

To avoid climate change scientists say that the ideal limit is 350 ppm[x].

The year 2050 is a global phenomenon for Global-warming. To avoid atmospheric temperature increase by 2°C we need to cumulatively emit less than 1 trillion or 1000 Billion tonnes by 2050[xi]. Since 1750 till 2009, the world had already added 0.5 Trillion tonnes C02 into the atmosphere, of which about half of it 234 tonnes was added just between 2000 and 2006.

Today in 2019 the total CO2 emission in the atmosphere is about 800 billion tonnes!!


Source: Statista.com[xii]

We are just 200 billion tonnes away to cause a disaster!

This is the reason why many scientific communities are showing Red flag! With our speed, we will cause the problem in just about 5 years! To reverse the trend, we have to reduce our usage by so much that we need to make this 200 billion tonnes CO2 emission span out for the next 31 years! Sounds like fantasy right? That exactly is our problem!

To be continued: Electricity 4: C02 Emissions – the Endgame

If you like my posts, please acknowledge your motivation by Following/ Liking/ commenting on this blog. Thanks for reading.

Recommended Reads:

  1. https://ourworldindata.org/co2-and-other-greenhouse-gas-emissions
  2. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/limits-on-greenhouse-gas-emissions/
  3. https://www.dw.com/en/where-air-pollution-hits-hardest/a-47907072