Combustion

Posted by in #Blog, #Getting Around LA, #Jonathan Parfrey Posts on July 26, 2017

You’re on the eastbound 10 freeway at 5:30 after a long day at work. Look around you. There’s nothing but cars. No one’s moving. You’re in traffic hell.

Now take your scene and multiply it by a thousand. Visualize similarly clogged stretches on the 5, the 101, the 405, the 110 and so on. Google maps depicts traffic jams with red lines, and at 5:30 pm, LA freeways are red. Nothing but red.

The freeways are cooking. 98% of the cars on today’s freeways are burning gasoline, which are tiny explosions, simultaneously combusting billions of times per second, converting old liquid fossils into a live stew of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds.

Combustion releases a lot of heat. In fact, the internal combustion engine is so inefficient that it loses most of its energy to heat. As the laws of thermodynamics tell us, energy cannot be lost. Consequently, the heat from these tiny explosions stick around. The excess heat from cars — when combined with heat-absorbing roofs and streets — constitute the Urban Heat Island Effect, and needlessly warm Los Angeles some 5° to 10°F above what we’d experience naturally.

The act of converting millions of gas-burning automobiles to electric vehicles (EVs) would not merely reduce air pollution, and not only improve pulmonary health, and not only lower greenhouse gas pollution, and not only lessen reliance on foreign oil, and not only boost the local economy by keeping consumer dollars at home — EVs have the added benefit of reducing LA’s temperature. A recent study suggests that Beijing would be 3°C (5.7°F) cooler if its cars were powered by electricity rather than gasoline.

And it’s not just enviros who think the future is electric.ExxonMobil predicts 100 million EVs by 2040 and OPEC predicts 266 million EVs by the same date. Wouldn’t that be cool? I mean literally cool.