NZ Green Party
Test drive the new Tesla Model S

I confess, I haven’t owned a car in almost eight years. I was weaned from my V8 days decades ago, but my head has been turned by a simple four door sedan. It’s the Tesla Model S.

TeslaModelS_Blog

It’s electric. It’s cool. The Model S can make the sprint from zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, crossing the quarter-mile stripe in 14 seconds flat. Give the Model S a longer track and it will top out at 120 mph. I’m old enough to know what that means.

I want one. Poor consumerist frog. Some tendencies are hard to break, even after years of abstinence.

The reality is, this is as close to a test drive as I’ll get in the next 5 years:

Electric cars are not going to magically replace their petrol brethren in time for the oil crunch that is coming in 2015 or the IEA’s prediction of peak oil in 2020, if it hasn’t happened already.

The shock to our cheap/subsidised transport dependent culture in the near future is going to be massive. But, just like cinema didn’t kill the radio and TV didn’t kill the cinema, cars we will always have with us. They will just return to being the luxury item they always really were. (That’s why we really don’t need any more roads, it’s enough to improve/maintain the ones we’ve got)

Still, I can look longingly through the showroom window as I did all those years ago, and dream of my fancy new wheels…

70 thoughts on “Test drive the new Tesla Model S

  1. “..They will just return to being the luxury item they always really were..”

    um..!..no..!..countries like india are producing cheap electric cars..

    that will only get more so..

    and i see the biggest new industry in converting petrol/diesels to electric..

    cars/personal transport aren’t going away..

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  2. Frog
    SOME roads. eg. Building transmission gully replacement for SH1 because when sea levels get higher and the path’s of Typhoons alter southward, we’re going to lose the use of SH1, and as I observed earlier, the ROUTE is important… more important than the road.

    This is not going to be an isolated case, though there will be additional problems as we have to relocate entire cities full of people. Slowly enough I think, we’ll have a century or so to do it, but if we have to build roads to reach the back-blocks we’re going to be in trouble.

    What to do with the Beehive and Te Papa is an interesting question. One I would like to save. The other appears to have little useful purpose.

    respectfully
    BJ

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  3. BJ,
    I would suggest sending them up to Palmy as it is not in a volcanically active area, far from the sea, on a plateau, a central transport hub for both road and rail, plenty of local energy generation potential, etc, etc. The thing is though, I wouldint want those things here!
    Send them to the south or build some dikes :P

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  4. Sapient

    I reckon Palmy is still too close to the Volcanoes. Much as I like the area.

    I was figuring to leave the Beehive. It’ll be at least 200-500 years for it to turn into an island… but Te Papa is way too nice to give up without a fight.

    Consider what happens when the Ice lifts off the WAIS and the mass redistributes because of the water going into the oceans (somewhat lopsided distro) … I reckon we get vulcanism to beat hell.

    BJ

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  5. Not soon I hope :-) – but there’s no reason to say it can’t. People who aren’t engineers have a distressing habit of asking us to fix stuff after they’ve broken it so badly that the only sane answer is to start over.

    Doing that to our environment is probably not their brightest idea.

    respectfully
    BJ

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  6. Follow the link panda! Do I have to re-print everything? ;-)

    “Tesla says Model S customers will be able to order the car with a 160-mile, 220-mile, or 300-mile battery pack.”

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  7. Hasn’t the Tesla got a 500KG lithium battery? So it is just a large bomb with an horrendous environmental impact.
    I see that the Nats think that letting electric cars off RUC for 4 years is going to encourage people to buy Electric cars. Do they really think that people can’t work out that after that they will be back to paying 5 times as much as a 4 ton diesel truck!
    I they were serious about wanting a decent number of electric cars they would drop the RUC permanently and make parking free for electric cars under 1000kg.
    On second thought I don’t think even this would be enough. Let electric cars use bus lanes as well.
    And make the WOF fees $1 for a 12 month period.
    And make the alcohol limit 50% higher than for other vehicles if the car has an auto collision avoidance system.
    Any other ideas for making electric cars popular?

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  8. Any other ideas for making electric cars popular?

    Your first point would seem to indicate that you aren’t so keen on making them popular?

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  9. Make the recharge fee half the normal electricity charge.

    Anyone got any figures on how much electricity is required to charge a battery and what the cost per charge is?

    If it is ballpark with petrol, there will be few serious takers until petrol runs out.

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  10. Meh, Palmy will be fine until taupo goes up in smoke again; but then again we have no idea when that will be. The lake be bulging though, I dont fancy the aforementioned mass redistribution.

    It occured to me after that post that I have the perfect place for the behive and all its inhabitants! Theres this beutiful, and naturally warm, lake in the middle of the north island, almost 3Km up; the Maori called it ‘the pit of noise’. Great view. I can see it from my house even. Suits the politicians me-thinks.You know they wold lovebeing visable 24/7 to all of the north island.

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  11. Wasn’t the estimate that we’ll have about 20,000 electric cars in the country by 2020, or was that 2030?

    My worry is that electric cars are a huge red herring put out there by government to justify a stupidly roads-focused transport policy. While electric cars are certainly “cool”, there are a few issues with them:

    1) They’re reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally expensive. And unlikely to become affordable to the masses for a few decades yet.
    2) In the longer term, there may well be scarcity issues with the material for their batteries. Just as you have peak oil, you can have “peak lithium”.
    3) Electric cars still get congested.
    4) Private-based transport policies are still inefficient. Your average American city spends twice its wealth on transport than your average Japanese city. Electric cars won’t change this.
    5) Roads-focused cities suck. Phoenix or Vancouver – which is nicer?

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  12. cars we will always have with us

    Call yourself a green?

    Personal transport may always be with us but cars probably won’t be. Electric cars are unsustainable, just like petrol cars. Drooling over an unaffordable Tesla shows that you simply haven’t really switched your mindset to green.

    Yes, cars will become luxury items for a while, but they will become untenable artifacts of a society that yearns for growth and quick access to all parts of the country and world.

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  13. Who here owns a laptop or a cellphone?

    One of the bigest pains is the battery is not much good after about two years, only holds about half the charge if you are lucky and carefully drain it every time you use it. (I know modern batteries are not supposed to hve a memory effect but they do)

    There have been billions spent on battery research and your laptop and cell phone benefit from it. And they last two years max.

    So, yea, an electric car would be cool. But that $10,000 battery will have to be replaced every two years.

    Still the technology is not ready. There is no sign that electric car technology will ever be ready.

    peace
    W

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  14. bliss – I agree, as highlighted in posts above. To replace one failed technology with another which has no real redeeming features ( roads,parking,congestion,etc) is foolhardy. However I believe that electric vehicles can be a useful transition technology.
    Perhaps then, by the time the s**t really hits the fan, we will have come to our senses & be willing to give up personal road transport to a large degree. Perhaps take to the skies in electric, personal, auto-controlled, ‘helicopters’. Ah well, dream on.

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  15. small practical electric cars could be the saviour of cities. A form of transport and not a fashion statement, I would buy one tomorrow! I’m not a fan of Lithium batteries.

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  16. I don’t think electric cars would be good as a transition technology. To do it properly, there’s need to be an infrastructure to support it. More generating capacity (I’ve seen calculations of about a third increase needed), charging stations, specialised battery centres and manufacturing, and probably a few other things. Why put together a parallel infrastructure as a transition technology? A better transition is to use cars less and less, living more locally. That gets us in the right direction from the word go instead of delaying the move to sustainability with electric cars.

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  17. I´m from Germany. We´d like to have a comparable car, but it isn´t so. I love the Tesla Cars an think about to import an exemplar of them. But when I see the price I think it will be a Prius, not a Tesla ;-)

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  18. I disagree that electric vehicles aren’t sustainable. Batteries can be recycled. The electricity to charge them can be generated from renewable resources and indeed there is discussion about using the storage in plugged in electric cars to smooth out the fluctuations between electricity supply and demand.

    Electric vehicles require less energy per kilometre than other vehicles, so they are more environmentally friendly in that regard too.

    I regard the hybrid plug-in electric vehicle as the transition technology.

    Trevor.

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  19. I saw an article recently about using electric car batteries as a form of energy storage for the electricity grid to provide power in periods of peak demand or when renewable energy sources temporarily drop off. Of course this would require lots of people to have electric vehicles. The general idea is not only would charging of car batteries happen in off peak times, or when there was excess electricity generation, but in other times, plugged in vehicles could be used to provide power (I guess it would be necessary to provide electric car owners with an incentive to do this, because there would be times when their car would not be fully charged when they needed it).

    I saw a similar idea using fridges to even out periods of peak electricity demand. Basically there would be a controller which switched fridges on and off in such a way to make use of temporary spikes in electricity generation from wind farms etc, and also to ensure fridges were off when there were spikes in electricity usage. The controller would be overridden by the fridge’s thermostat if the fridge got too warm.

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  20. I beleive the proposal highlighted by samiuela also calls for the ownership of the batteries by the power companies, meaning the cost is not borne by the car owner but by the company whom benefits the most from the system. I imagine there would be a minimum charge before the power can be drawn from the cars so that the cars remain useful.
    Having the batteries owned by the power companies would probally also have benefits because it relies on several big bodies very interested in storage efficency rather than a million or so small bodies with only a marginal interest in such.

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  21. Charging only at night or at times of low demand (otherwise) would be very difficult to implement, as I’m sure many, even most, people would not be that compliant. It would also take a lot of new infrastructure to provide charging points for those who can’t get their cars into a garage overnight, including those who aren’t at home.

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  22. Im not sure how it works but isint something similar done with our hotwater cylendars?

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  23. Are posters here not generally sympathetic to green ideas? Do they not want a sustainable society? It is ultimately pointless trying to make electric cars work, as some kind of panacaea for our ills. We’d be better off banning all new car sales and slowly moving to more local economies and public transport for occasional essential longer journeys.

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  24. I don’t think that’s similar at all. Hot water cylinders are usually fixed. I think you’re referring to water heating usually being put on a separate meter, on a controlled tarrif that allows the power company to turn off that supply first, if they need to conserve during heavy demand or supply distruptions.

    Whilst many electric car owners with a garage, and space in it, might well develop the habit of plugging in at night, or plugging in to a controlled circuit, I would be very surprised if most motorist could, or would, do that, without some form of coercion. But surely most cars aren’t parked in a garage with power at night? I think that is part of the dream of electric cars; that we can continue to have high car ownership, just with electric cars supplied from renewable power and everyone following a strict regime.

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  25. It seems to me that if such a system of temporary storage using the electric cars were to be introduced then one would be much wiser to run it off a seperate circuit. I think the ‘coercive’ influence of next-best-option-forgone would be sufficent. If a battery is so expensive it would certainly appeal to most users to have the electricity company bear that cost rather than themselves.
    An electric car needs to charge reguardless of where or when it receives that charge. The car could charge most of the day, the batteries being used only for peaks, esspecially to get around weaknesses in the grid. Such a system would work rather well in concert with local generation and would decrease the transmission costs associated with such. I remmember seeing a ceramic ‘battery’ under development which would lend itself well to this system due to its long-life, high efficency, extremly rapid charging or discharging, and its lack of reliance on the materials our present batteries need.

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  26. If the electricity company paid for or owned the battery, they would certainly demand assurances of access to the power in the battery. In those circumstances, I doubt that many drivers would want to sumbit to fairly restrictive terms of use. I think this continues to be wishful thinking in trying to maintain business as usual but in some apparently green way.

    I’m not sure about the ceramic batteries. There were some stories about 3 years ago but not a lot of information since then. Apparently, some secretive company called EEStor was developing one and made fantastic claims about them. There are some rumours that they will be in some electric cars later this year but it seems impossible to find out. Fantastic claims are almost certainly false, however, or at least over-hyped.

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  27. sofistek
    Many posters here are pragmatic. We know that there will be a lot of opposition to restricted movement, so we are looking at compromises.

    With modern computer technology and internet and/or cell-phone connections, most electric car users will be able to program their requirements into their car once and forget it. The only thing they may have to remember is to plug in the car when they get home. The car will decide when it should charge, based on price signals, the state of charge and when it will next be required.

    The electricity price will give the car owners an incentive, as the car will charge when prices are low and only feed back into the grid when prices are high and the car has spare charge. It is not necessary for the power companies to own the batteries.

    Trevor.

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  28. Frog… I sympathise… this is awesome and I want one! It actually looks good too!

    Is this just a prototype? Or something that is currently in production? Anyone know when they are rolling them out…

    Joe

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  29. Trevor,

    I understand that people are looking for compromises. However, nature doesn’t compromise; if we aren’t living sustainably, then our way of life must end. The electric car dream is an example of how people are longing for some magic elixir that allows unsustainable societies to be sustainable. Look at how you describe the perfect electric car, as though your description is a foregone conclusion and will happen in a timely manner (as well as being miraculously sustainable).

    Reality can be harsh sometimes. What people would like and what is possible are often different things and only one of them meshes with reality.

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  30. I would make the point that even if all of our transport infrastructure was converted to electric and the rates of private transport use were to remain the same rather than decline then it does not neccassarily follow that such would be unsustainable. The electricity could be provided through renewable means and the storage devices could be made of readily recyclable and plentiful materials. The second is well on its way and the first is just a matter of economci incentive. Even if we were to exceed the global potential for renewable enery we would still be able to go with the solar satilite option.

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  31. And all the myriad of factories that make the various parts of those cars and transport infrastructure, and the energy used to extract the thousands of raw materials, can those be renewable too?

    Electric cars just push the limit out a bit further. There’s still a limit.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like this stuff. I own an electric scooter. But I am under no illusions as to how green it really is. It’s less bad than an SUV, but that doesn’t make it good.

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  32. Rimu,

    And all the myriad of factories that make the various parts of those cars and transport infrastructure, and the energy used to extract the thousands of raw materials, can those be renewable too?

    Factories: Incredibly easy to make renewable through extension of relying on electric power for most, if not all, applications. Materials used for car production are almost all easily recyclable and those that are not are easily substituted for some which are.
    Energy: Electricity is the primary form of energy that would be needed and is renewably generatable and for forms which are not electric; electricity is readily convertable.
    Transport infrastructure: Gravel materials are so plentyful as to be essentially limitless in the lifetime of the species. Likewise, the asphalt we use for asphalt concrete on roads is availible in the renewable form of bioasphault from biologically sourced bitumen.
    Roading and electric vehicles can be very green, its just a case of the extent of the network and even then that is only assuming that that extra energy dedicated to the network is better spent somewhere else. Something a energy-based market would soon sort out.

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  33. Hello Joe – the video is a public test drive of vehicle number 1. It gets formally released at the end of 2011, but this party is the beginning of the ‘production’ phase. In software terms I’d guess you would say they went from alpha to beta/release candidate status with this party.

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  34. I agree sofistec, but the reality is that many of our fellow humans won’t want to let go that easily. As I said in my post, cars will always be with us. I suspect that most of the infrastructure will end up in the garages of the wealthy, because I do believe that cars in the future will be genuine luxury items, except for a few trades. They will also form part of smart grids, but not to the extent that many of the comments here suggest, IMHO.

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  35. Trevor, I agree that the plugin is the true transition technology. I also believe that EVs are far more sustainable than their ICE counterparts. Where we part company is with the notion that EVs are sustainable in the long run. Luxury item of the future, IMHO.

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  36. Sapient,

    When renewable electricity infrastructure can be built and maintained using only renewables, and at no more than the renewal rate of those resources, then you’d be able to claim that renewable electricity is sustainable. But then we have the cars, charged by that renewable electricity. Of course parts, including batteries, can be recycled but that can never be 100% efficient. So even keeping the same size of fleet (which is another big assumption) is not sustainable. But what will all these cars be on the road for? What will the roads be made of?

    If you want sustainability, you have to get your head around what that means. If you don’t want sustainability, then you have to accept collapse is inevitable, in that scenario.

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  37. Frog, you did say that cars will always be with us but you never gave any reason why, other than people’s desires, even if the number of people decreases. Desires don’t make things true. Although you have some good intentions, you seem to be caught, at least to some degree, in what Daniel Quinn might refer to as mother culture’s story. If there is a wind down to who has cars and who can move freely, do you honestly expect society to remain stable in that environment? Will there still be motor companies selling EVs only to the fabulously wealthy? Will there be a society that is a recognisable semblance of what we have now?

    This is a problem I have with the Greens. They appear to want a sustainable society and world, but they can’t bring themselves to tell the hard truths about sustainability. It could be a ploy in the hope that enough people will support a watered down message that the message can be filtered through slowly. But this is a blog and surely we can talk freely. A sustainable society will look nothing like today’s society. Drooling over a hugely expensive EV is hardly sustainable behaviour.

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  38. If EVs are not sustainable then they can’t even be a luxury item of the future. An unsustainable item doesn’t become sustainable just because few people can have it, unless it is built, delivered, run and maintained completely from renewable resources, at or below their renewal rates.

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  39. Soflstek,
    The absolute renewal you cite does not necessarily follow from sustainability. Sustainability is all about practices which are sustainable; a function of resources over time. We live in a solar system which has many times more resources than we could ever use even assuming exponential population growth continues. Recycling mearly becomes more economic than obtaining that next ton of raw material at a certain point. So your argument that recycling is not 100% efficient is irrelevant as the role of recycling is only to make higher levels of consumption more economic and even excluding that that same argument applies to the inefficient processes of life. The important thing about sustainability is not that everything is fully renewed but that the buffer is not fully depleted in the time allotted. We have a buffer larger than we could ever use in the life time of the our solar system: 100% efficient recycling is not needed at all, in fact if we don’t care about cost it is not needed at all assuming a sufficiently large buffer

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  40. Sapient,

    The solar system will not be large enough to supply our resources if exponential growth continues. Some people claim we are already using all the resources the Earth can provide sustainably (for this argument it doesn’t really matter if this is not true). Lets assume growth continues at 2% per annum. The following table shows how many Earths would be required to support 2% growth per annum:

    100 years: 7
    200 years: 52
    500 years: 20 000
    1000 years: 398 000 000

    Maybe a fixed amount of economic growth can be obtained with less increase in the use of resources, so in 1000 years we might not need 398 million Earths to support the economy. Nevertheless, this simple example demonstrates that exponential growth cannot continue.

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  41. Wrong, the discussion relates to materials used for the production of infrastructure and vehicles and as such we presently use not even a small fraction of what earth has to offer. Especially once substitution is taken into account. After that there are plenty of asteroids and planetoids and even other planets.
    Food production is an entirely different subject but growing area can readily be created should it become economic to do so, so even that arguement is wrong.

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  42. Though exponential growth is extremly unlikely, all things considered. And admitedly if it did continue there would be a point where space simply could not be made fast enough. It would probally be better to assume a, still unlikely, linear progression.

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  43. Sapient, I’m not quote sure what you’re saying here. Clearly, we live on a finite planet. Clearly, there are more resources on other planets in our solar system. What is certainly not clear is that those other planets will ever be accessible to us, as a resource base.

    So, the only thing we know for certain is that the earth is currently habitable, for humans and has a finite amount of resources. We don’t know if that resource base can ever be expanded. So sustainability only currently makes sense on this earth. As recycling can never be 100% efficient, it is impossible to have a zero growth economy just through recycling. Consequently, it follows that a growth economy is also impossible through recycling.

    Sustainability is quite simple, really, consuming resources beyond their renewal rates is unsustainable. In addition, damaging our habitat is unsustainable.

    You mentioned a time period. What time period would be acceptable to you, for sustaining our lifestyles? Why do you pick that time period and why do you think we can sustain the unsustainable, for that time period?

    The following links might be of interest:

    Earth’s natural wealth: An audit

    How our economy is killing the earth

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  44. Sofistek,
    Yes, clearly we live on a finite planet, but we also live, as a species, with a finite allotment of time and as such what behaviours are sustainable for us only require that we have sufficient resources throughout that finite time.
    Think of it this way:
    Say you are stuck on Mars and your only hope of returning home is to survive on your limited food, air, etc. supply until the rescue crew arrives in 10 time units. If you have a food supply of 20 consumption units and require a minimum sustenance of one consumption unit per time unit to survive then you can survive the 10 time units to rescue so long as your consumption of consumption units remains bellow an average of 2 consumption units per time unit. This is sustainable for you because despite the fact that you are depleting the consumption units it is done in such a way that you will survive.
    Alternatively, if you were in the same situation but had only 9 consumption units (your buffer) you would be in somewhat of a problem state unless you were able to recycle those consumption units such that at least 1/9 of your consumption units are able to be re-consumed. If you had only 5 consumption units then you would need to have a much higher recycling efficiency as your buffer is much smaller.

    Now, to relate this to the original point; our star has a limited lifespan and as does the universe. Our consumption of materials in this solar system is only relevant so long as this solar system exists so therefore any consumption units left after the time units run out are wasted and is no more sustainable than if we had used them all. So, even considering that recycling cannot be 100% efficient, the usage and production of cars can be sustainable given the absolutely massive supply of materials here on earth (the earth does after all consist mostly of the used materials or substitutes of such) and throughout the solar system.
    The materials for this purpose and for the construction of off-world habitats is entirely possible. We are capable of launching to space and returning from space, with some proposals, such as the launch loop, being able to be built with present technology and offering the possibility of space access at a few cents per Kg. While we have yet to construct a fully self-sufficient space habitat we have built habitats in space which have endured for prolonged periods of time and are able to grow foods hydroponically, a closed-loop habitat is simply an extension of these technologies on a necessarily larger scale once the right chemicals are obtained for the habitat. From memory there are hundreds of asteroids in just past Mars which if excavated offer the same effective surface area as the actual surface area of earth; and a wealth of materials close-by. Even with present consumption levels we can continue sustainably if we really wanted, its just a matter of price and substitution. We can even grow far more than we presently have, it just means that more efficient recycling would be needed; which for the common metals involved in motor-vehicles we don’t even need as of yet, recycling is just potentially more cost effective than acquiring it from off-world or other mining options.
    The only thing that we really need to recycle is our atmosphere (and even that is debatable), something done presently by the flora of the planet, but there is nothing to suggest that at some point in the future it will be more feasible to use the space dedicated to flora for another use and instead replenish the atmosphere using man-made means. We could increase the carrying-capacity and surface area of the planet several times over, as is done in most cities to a certain extent, by making a Asimov-style global multi-layer city and growing food within towers such as the vertical farm, we would only need a larger energy input such as can be obtained by harnessing more geothermal energy or a massive array of solar satellites which effectively increase the profile of the earth for the purposes of collecting solar power. It is still sustainable, perhaps not green, but sustainable.

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  45. Sapient,

    You are a supreme optimist.

    You redefine sustainable as sustainable over small chunks of time, with your example, but then appear to define it as over the lifetime of this planet. However, we clearly aren’t living sustainably even over a much shorter time span than several billion years.

    You think this or that is possible but there is no way of knowing that, without time travel. Of course many people believe that mining other planets or living on other planets is feasible but that doesn’t mean it ever will be (not that living on other planets sounds inviting).

    You fling phrases like “absolutely massive” around almost as if to convince yourself that resources are not a problem, since humans have incredible ingenuity. Did you read those links? Even if the resource base is massive, the reserves of individual resources is limited, as is substitutability. It is wishful thinking to believe that the earth can sustain our profligate lifestyles if only we switch to electric cars. It is also wishful thinking to believe that we could grow far more food than we do, without the inputs currently needed from fossil fuels. It may be possible but, again, it is by no means certain, especially as much topsoil is now little better than an inert growing medium. Hydroponics is not a panacea either since plants still need nutrients from somewhere.

    On our current trajectory, based on the bizarre notion that the economy is a superset of the earth, rather than the other way round, collapse is certain. It becomes more certain the longer we ignore limits to growth.

    Suppose we successfully find a way to mine the rest of the solar system. How would that help the humans yet to be born, at that point? You think we can retain a habitable planet (by the way, plants do a hell of a lot more than recycle our atmosphere) by expanding our resource base out the the rest of the solar system? That is in the wishful thinking category also. Why don’t we just try to live sustainably on the one planet we know we can live on and within the minimum resource budget that we know we have? If we could achieve that, it would be the greatest achievement for the human race.

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  46. >>>Sapient,

    You are a supreme optimist.

    Yes. The Great Divide between those who believe in a cornucopian utopia and those who are wedded to the precautionary principle.

    The former view human ingenuity as not only limitless but also somehow able to follow a path of discovery and technological advancement that does not exterminate our species. Homo sapiens sapiens is to become more and more godlike.

    The latter, in questioning this supposed feature, are in danger of stultifying any changes that humankind could bring to bear on our environment.

    Perhaps we should be prepared to not only admit to but discover our limitations and work within those: There may be, for instance, a stage at which the production of a unit of energy costs more to produce than not to produce it. On another front, we may reach the limits of our knowledge: our very structure may ensure that it is physically impossible for humans to know or comprehend certain facets of reality. Technological limits, epistemological limits … Or do we have infinite capacities?

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  47. Kjuv,
    By no means would I say that our capabilities are unlimited, I would stress just how limited they are.
    That which I have proposed here though requires no additional technology, though more would certainly benefit the pursuit, only adaption socially and culturally.

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  48. Sofistek,
    On the contrary, I am a pragmatist.
    My example was exactly that: an example. It was made simple so that the concept you seem to have so much trouble grasping was more readily swallowed. The vast amount of time and the size of the consumption, regeneration, and buffer are of far different magnitudes but the same principle applies in full.
    As to the present feasability of such mining; this is irrelivant. The point is that it is possible; and it most certainly is. The feasability depends on the economics, if recycling is sufficent to support us and our growth stops then it is possible such practices as off-world mining may never become feasable/economic, but if our growth does not stop and recycling is taken to the point that it is cheaper to aquire the materials from space then it is, by its very definition, economic and thus feasable.
    Fertilisers can be synthesised, as can nutrients, with present technology provided that we have the energy to input. Energy we already have the technology to tap. The only problems arises with the rare elements which life uses remarkibly little of. It is possible that we could synthesise these elements in the future in practical amounts but even lacking such technology there is still a wealth of such elements compared to the present, and any reasonably foreseeable, human population.
    I am aware that plants perform many functions other than recycling the atmosphere, if you would actually consider my point you would probally see that I was refering to tha subset of their functions specifically for a reason.
    My point remains that electric cars and our present society is not necassarily unsustainable, what is unsustainable is our present substitutions and our energy sources. Switching to other energy sources and more readily availible/recreatable substitutions would still be sustainable, just not ‘green’.
    We can choose to live on the one planet we have (perhaps not the smartest idea in terms of survival though) with a minimum resource budget and I have not argued that we shouldint, what I have argued is that that is not the only way of living sustainibly; there are many many different options. Basically: You are wrong, electric cars are not inheriently unsustainable.

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  49. Sapient, I realise that your example was an example. It was an example of how one can state X is sustainable, provided a time period is attached to it (X is sustainable for Y years). That means that the behaviour must end after Y years, either willingly or by force (usually of nature). If your imaginary space traveller was not rescued in time, it doesn’t really matter if his way of life was sustainable until it wasn’t.

    In the same way, our lifestyles are unsustainable and so we must stop. One way or another. Your patch up is to capture resources from other worlds and hope technology can prevent us creating an uninhabitable planet. However, contrary to your belief, it is by no means certain that commandeering resources from elsewhere in our solar system is feasible. It may be that you’ve read someone explain exactly how it could be done, probably using existing technology. Thus you are convinced. But that does not make it actually possible on a meaningful scale and meaningful rate. It also assumes that society remains stable enough for the technological advances to be made and that enough spare resources exist to progress your dream.

    By the way, elements cannot be synthesised, although some elements decay into others. Of course fertilizers can be synthesised and that is exactly what we do, polluting our waterways in the process. Your belief seems to be that, with enough energy, anything can be accomplished, along with a belief that such energy can be harnessed without any consequences.

    In your prior post, you wrote, “there is nothing to suggest that at some point in the future it will be more feasible to use the space dedicated to flora for another use and instead replenish the atmosphere using man-made means” but now you are stepping back from that and, somehow, splitting off one function of plants and have it done by machines. How do you propose to separate that function and how would you utilise the “resource” thus freed up?

    Studies that try to estimate the number of earths required for our lifestyles suggest that an increasing number are required. The last one estimated it as 1.3 earths. But you seem to think that our lifestyles are sustainable. Why do you take a different view to those studies? Cars, whether electric or petrol, are a feature of that unsustainable lifestyle. A desire to retain that lifestyle doesn’t make it sustainable. Very different arrangements are needed for sustainability. Let me spell it out again, since you seem to be having trouble with the notion of sustainability. Consuming resources beyond their renewal rates or damaging our habitat is unsustainable. For a more in-depth look at sustainability, go to:

    Five Axioms of Sustainability

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  50. sofistek

    Elements can be synthesised. It takes a nuclear reactor or similar. Plutonium is probably the best known element that can be made this way. Whether any elements will be valuable enough to create this way is debatable, but it could be done.

    However this whole argument is about degrees of unsustainability. If recycling is not 100%, then ANY lifestyle is not sustainable in perpetuity.

    Trevor.

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  51. Trevor, I’m aware that some elements naturally decay or that bombarding something ceaselessly with neutrons might have an effect but that is a long way from saying it possible to synthesise any element. Of course, even if it were possible, it would have to be done not only with enormous amounts of energy but also at the expense of consuming other elements. It doesn’t seem likely that elements can be synthesised out of thin air – except near a black hole, maybe.

    Can any lifestyle be sustainable? Well, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle was, I think, though the total number of humans would have to be limited. Not that I’m suggesting a return to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle (it would, IMO, be impossible with 7 billion people) but maybe, if we can limit our procreation, a lifestyle built almost entirely on renewable resource would be pretty close to sustainable.

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  52. soflstek,
    Plants can be used for many things, food production and atmosphere regulation among them. But it does not necassarily follow that the plants used for food production will necassarily be sufficent for regulating the atmosphere or visa versa; it doesint ballance out so easily. Because it is unperfect it means that there may be plants that serve no purpose other than to regulate the atmosphere, if this is the case then it could be more effective, assuming the correct incentives, to level the growing area and fill it with another industry and instead rely on machinary to do the job of the leveled trees. It is basic economics.

    It is true what trevor says about degrees of unsustainability. The time in my space-man arguement is relivant because after he gets picked up it doesint matter what happens to the plants and if he doesint get picked up he will be dead eventually anyway due to the inefficent nature of recycling. We have a very real limit in this solar system due to our aging sun and possibly a universe which is contracting or suffering a heat death, the time limit is thus crucial to the arguement lacking it is him just staying there until he starves which is what you are proposing; problem is that when the space ship leaves the planet blows up (prehaps I should have chosen an asteroid :P ) as in this instance the end signaled by the space-ship is the expansion of our sun and the decimation of the inner solar system and latter the outer solar system.

    Yes, I think any physical resource problem can be solved with energy and technology. Everytihng around us, the matter of which you are made included, is energy. Every element of which we consist, with the exception of several of the lighter elements in some instances, was made through stellar synthesis and novae. It is therefore possible to synthesise any element, if we ever become able to do so is another matter entirely.

    As to the hunter-gatherers: no, it is about as close to sustainable as one can get but ultimatly it is not sustainable. Assuming that everything were to continue as it was, including geological and solar processes, it is possible that it could outlast the universe but ultimately you can only produce so many arrow-heads before there is no stone left sufficent to do so. As more and more nutrients take up a biologically inaccesable form (e.g. coal or diamonds) the system will stall, and that is still assuming that geological processes continue to remake the crust. In all reality the core will cool. The solar winds which already depleate our atmosphere will do so to a stronger extent as out magnetic feild weakens and we become like the moon and mars. The sun will die. Though before all of those we would probally be rendered extinct from an asteroid impact. Only technological society and survival on multiple planets, indeed multiple solar systems, realy offers us any decent hope of survival in the long run.

    On the 20th of July 1969 the first men landed on the moon, the had a little play around and picked up afew rocks which they then stored away and eventually they returned to the earth with those rocks. This was the first instance of humans taking minerals from another celestial body. We have done similar things with space dust and asteroid tails using unmanned space craft. It is possible, no one in their right mind would debate that. If it is feasable is therefore a factor of the cost of getting those minerals compared to the perceived benefit. If you were to build a moon-base you could relativly easily extract metals from the regolith and send them back to earth using moon-made capsules. This would be feasable if the demand is as high as you seem to think it would become if society continued. The value of helium-3 is so highfor research purposes, considering its rarity on earth, that it is one of the most important moon-economies talked about. If the value goes high enough anything physically and technologically possible becomes feasable. At anyrate, if the population ontinues to grow it is more than likely that the development will be off-world rather than on.

    Having acknowledged trevors second paragraph your entire arguement falls to peices as your ‘sustainability’ must eaither fall into my definition or show itself as totally ideological and without point.
    As per my origional point electric cars are not sustainable in the present environment but can be made so and are thus not always sustainable.

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  53. I should also add to my first paragraph that plants/animals also are not necassarily needed for food/subsistance production and as such they too could be absent, prehaps swaped for some future-tech grey-goo if it is economic to do so or socially desirable.

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  54. “…and are thus not always sustainable.”
    should be
    “…and are thus not always unsustainable.”
    I should use preview more often.

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  55. Your remark on the function of plants is rather pointless unless you can show which ones can be replaced in each situation. I very much doubt that you or anyone else would be able to do that. It took nature billions of years to evolve our current mix of species, which have given us our current relatively stable environment, and here you are suggesting that humans can now pick and choose which plants can survive so that we can continue our unsustainable ways. All plants have multiple facets/functions. We’ve already messed with that and can see the results.

    I don’t think it’s worth continuing this any longer as your comment on technology and energy solving any resource problem shows that you have complete faith in the magical ability of humans to cheat nature. Given such a belief, it’s impossible to counter that, since any problem I might describe could be solved with the application of technology and energy, in your world.

    I would say, though, that a time period for sustainability is a fool’s game. Assuming that loving unsustainably is sustainable for any time period that you choose to impose, is wishful thinking. When a lifestyle is unsustainable, resources and environmental damage can kick in at an unpredictable time (since complete data is never possible). So an unsustainable lifestyle may not be able to be sustained for the desired time period. However, as you have complete faith in the genius of humans, then I don’t suppose this will make any sense to you.

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