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Interview

"We Drive Towards an Electric Disaster."

| Editor: Janina Seit

Almost all major car manufacturers invest billions in electromobility and many people see it as a cure-all for mobility problems. In this interview, energy-saving expert Richard Chambers explains why he does not believe this to be the case.

Electromobility as a panacea: Energy-saving expert Richard Chambers explains why he thinks that this is not the case.
( Source: Pixabay / CC0 )

Mr. Chambers, you come from a family of automobile designers. In 1902, your great-uncle Jack designed the first publicly presented car produced by Vauxhall and in 1904/1905 the first Chambers car was presented to the public. How do you assess the current developments in electromobility?

We are facing one of the greatest disasters of our time! Especially here in Germany, e-mobility is regarded as a "miracle cure" for everything that goes wrong in environmental and climate protection. This is very dangerous, because the assumption that electric vehicles do not cause any CO2 emissions is simply untrue. Frankly speaking, the whole electro-hype is a mystery to me.

But electric vehicles are emission-free, aren’t they?

The problem is the lack of or incorrect communication with the public. Many people do not know how the production of electric cars works, which materials and rare resources are used and that these resources could completely disappear within a few years. Mrs. Merkel's slogan "one million electric vehicles by 2020" can already no longer be maintained — and even if it could be, we would still have the emissions of the remaining 50 million vehicles to deal with. The government and the large corporations have chosen e-mobility as a lucrative way of maximizing profits and are now doing everything they can to present it in the best possible way — this is best done by presenting pro-environmental and price-oriented arguments to ordinary German consumers that don’t want to face the truth.

The current scientific evaluation still names some issues that need to be improved and require further research.
The current scientific evaluation still names some issues that need to be improved and require further research.
( Source: Toyota )

So, the argument of emission-free cars is only a cover?

Yes and no. The world has agreed to regard electromobility as a panacea for all environmental problems. Therefore, massive investments, research and development efforts are being made in this direction. And this despite the fact that even dedicated e-mobility advocates have to admit that this technology has some weaknesses. Take emissions for instance: Maybe an electric car emits little or no CO2 when it is driving, but production causes a vast amount of pollution and is heavily burdening the environment. And this doesn’t even include electricity production.

You mentioned "rare resources" earlier. What do you mean by that?

Almost a decade ago, it was already foreseeable that the production of electric cars would inevitably be based on resources that are not available on a massive scale. The response of the prices to the increasing demand clearly confirms this! The element lithium, which is used for example in electric car batteries, has experienced an extreme price increase in a very short time. The same applies to elements such as copper and cobalt. And, with the exception of copper, recycling these valuable materials is practically impossible!

Why are these arguments not considered when it comes to the production of electric vehicles?

The hatred against the internal combustion engine among the general public, which has already been prevalent for some time, is being stirred by exaggerating the VW exhaust gas issue and by the “fine particles debate” in major German cities. Such scandals are ideal to prevent any discussion based on facts. It is overlooked that the increase in vehicle weight due to the batteries in electric cars also generates fine particles caused by the rubber abrasion of the tires. The government is now taking a stand against the car industry: we make the decision, you implement it and in turn we support you. In this way, no honest discussion based on facts and real sustainability can take place!

What advice can you provide as an energy saving expert?

The most important thing is for as many people as possible to work towards a common goal. In other words: the media, experts, scientists, government officials and large corporations need to communicate much more clearly and also admit that the impact of e-mobility on environmental protection is actually negligible. It should be possible to have a comprehensive discussion in which everyone can participate and be informed on the basis of correct, truthful and concrete facts. Alternatives and possibly even more environmentally friendly measures should be identified, and research and further development should continue beyond the development of a possible alternative technology to the combustion engine. Good engineers are still needed for the reasonable further development of internal combustion engines or the development of new solutions, because this — together with CO2-neutral fuels — is where the future development is headed. Unreflecting action and progress purely for the sake of progress has never before led to a better, safer or more environmentally friendly world.

Is there a possible alternative to e-mobility that we should invest in in the future?

Hydrogen! Hydrogen — together with the right technology — is undoubtedly the "most sustainable" solution to the world's energy problem. However, this technology is currently only mentioned in passing, as the difficult handling of this easily flammable gas is a problem. Depending on the characteristics and specific requirements of vehicle types such as cars, buses or ships, two storage methods have been used and tested since the 1970s: Either the hydrogen had to be compressed at more than 600 bar in special pressure tanks. This posed a considerable safety risk. The second approach was to cool liquid hydrogen down to below minus 200 °C in vacuum-insulated containers. However, when the vehicle comes to a standstill, the temperature is not maintained, and the fuel evaporates.

So, this technology is also problematic?

Of course, the current scientific evaluation still names some issues that need to be improved and require further research. The whole technology is still in its infancy. However, the basic idea is a very good one — it is much more environmentally friendly and sustainable than the electric car could ever be. We must invest in this alternative technology in the future. In the meantime, there are about 30 hydrogen filling stations in Germany and in the course of the quite prestigious "H2 Mobility" campaign, even some well-known automobile manufacturers have taken up this good cause: Toyota has already done it and launched a hydrogen-powered car. But that's not enough. It will be interesting to see what happens until the "completion" of the initiative in 2023.

And what remains to be done in the meantime?

We need to think independently and not simply believe everything that is told to us by the authorities. Many seem to think that the resources on our green planet are endless and that the problems caused by emissions and greed are disappearing on their own. Let others take care of it, right? It is forgotten — or ignored — that the environment is an issue that affects all of us. Unfortunately, it seems to be difficult to find support for environmentally friendly ideas, especially in Germany. At the moment politics only considers environmental protection under the aspect of brown coal. Unless, of course, new technologies are also well received by large corporations and the government. But this only happens if these players are not afraid of losing profits. We really should all work together.

Richard Chambers:

In 1977, the Irish-born entrepreneur Richard Chambers moved to Germany, where he was initially responsible for spare parts and accessories management at Suzuki. In 1982 he became self-employed and founded the one-man business Richard Chambers GbR in Bavaria, which, supported by his family, became Richard Chambers GmbH in 1991.

In the first years of self-employment, he traded in accessories for off-road vehicles. In 1986/87 he started to sell liquid products for the automotive sector, for example PTFE for coating engines and transmissions. Still today, the efficiency expert is searching worldwide for high-quality products that help companies to reduce energy and maintenance costs.

For his ideas and innovations in the field of energy saving, Chambers was awarded the innovation prize by the business journal Süd-West and the trade fair organizer easyfairs in 2009. In 2014, he was ranked among the top 20 in the "Energy & Environment" category in the Industry Awards for his product "Save costs with more performance". In 2016, the company has been named "Best Emission Reduction Company".

This article was first published by Automobil Industrie.

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