Electric Cars' Appeal Waning In Japan After Nuclear Disaster?

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Nuclear power taining electric cars' image in Japan?

Nuclear power taining electric cars' image in Japan?

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March 11, 2011 changed Japan forever. Just before 3pm local time, a magnitude 9 earthquake created a Tsunami that devastated a large region of the Eastern coast of Japan, killing thousands.

It also triggered meltdowns in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing explosions in three reactors, with the surrounding area now likely to be contaminated for decades.

Such instances are rare, but the disaster turned the tide of opinion against nuclear power in Japan. It may also have shifted customers' opinions of electric cars, reports Detroit News.

As zero local emissions vehicles, electric cars are immediately cleaner than internal combustion vehicles. However, they typically rely on power stations to generate the electricity they use. The cleanliness of this varies depending on how the power is being generated.

Renewable sources like solar, wind and hydro are ideal, and many would say idealistic. Coal, gas and oil, as fossil fuels, aren't so good. Nuclear is a compromize that many accept, with the generation being essentially clean, but with dubious longer-term issues.

In the event of a catastrophe rendering some of your country uninhabitable, even the short-term benefits of nuclear power become moot. The Japanese government had intended to increase nuclear power from a third of Japan's energy mix, to a half.

The image of electric cars has become a further casualty of the disaster. With Japan currently relying mostly on fossil fuels for electricity generation, their green image has suffered. Now that nuclear also has a tainted image, even EVs run on nuclear-generated electricity have an unfortunate association in the country.

Ryuichi Kino, an author who has written books on nuclear power and hybrid technology, told Detroit News that if nuclear remains a key power source, "then the green image of the electric car will get bashed to bits, maybe to the extent it will be irreparable."

Sales of electric cars have still been relatively impressive in Japan. Nissan has sold 12,000 Leafs in the country since its launch in late 2010. Compare that with the 10,000 sold in the U.S. since launch, despite a population over twice that of Japan.

That's clearly illustrative of Japan's suitability to support an electric car network, but while the country finds its feet in the years following the Tōhoku earthquake and Fukushima disasters, the rise of electric cars may be a little slower than manufacturers were hoping.


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Comments (15)
  1. Worth adding that all but one of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors are off-line. Showing that the source of power for EVs in Japan, for the moment, are NOT nuclear-energy-based electrons.
    Japan has the opportunity to re-envision its sources of power for cars and building alike. The also have the economic and technical ability to lead the world.

  2. So are they going to stop using electric lights and go back to candles? Are they going to give up television and go back to books? The answer is probably no, it is so stupid to wrap up EVs in their disgust for nuclear power because if they were really worried about it, they'd be weary of all things powered by electricity.

  3. Simply put, at this time, EV's are a non-essential. Given the situation [includes timing] and the energy draw by EV's, the safer bet is not to purchase an EV.


  4. TV is a non-essential, and so are electric lights people used to go to bed when it got dark. And if they are using fossil fuels that means electricity is being used to power fuel pumps so no matter what powers their cars they're going to continue to use electricity.

  5. I'd guess you did not read the memo that TV's were made essential in the late 70's because of their pervasiveness. Lights being pervasive also meet that criteria. When EV's become pervasive, they will be essentials.

    Couple that with mass transit (electric), current personal transit availability, and other issues, EV's are on the chopping block being at the end of the line. When conditions change to pre-meltdown status regarding electric energy availability, EV's will get their chance.


  6. Transportation is an essential so you can earn money and buy food to live, and an electric car is transportation just like any gasoline car is transportation. Tv is mostly entertainment, you don't need TV to live. Lights have more importants yes, but not TV. But basically you don't see the electric car as a car.

  7. You are obviously not seeing the big picture. Yes, transportation is essential. However, cars are only a part of transportation. [private part] Mass transit is what most of the population uses, which a lot of is electric. But the bigger point is a loss of part of their electricity generation when they were planning to increase that part of their power generation, and you want them to continue on as though nothing happened. [What horse do you have in this race?]

    A car is a car no matter what the power plant. However, it does not matter what I see or you... what matters is their situation regarding nuclear plants and how to address it. Again, when conditions change to pre-meltdown status, then EV's will get another chance/look.


  8. Japan is now emitting almost 30% more carbon due to the switch to
    fossil fuels, and is paying a lot more for that energy, enough to threaten the country's economy. The Japanese before the accident were irresponsibly overconfident about nuclear power - now they are just as stupidly fearful of same. But the first stress tests have begun on several plants, which will resume production in the following months. The rest of the world is moving ahead with nuclear power - only the Japanese seem to have misread the lessons of Fukeshima : make sure you have fail safe backup power. It would only have cost a few thousand to have done so. It's a pipe dream to think the world can viably reduce carbon emissions without nuclear power.

  9. changing the subject - a local city is purchasing some electric buses from the following company


  10. Here's another new subject, anyone else hear about the gas rig spill in the North Sea?

  11. video with jay leno about the bus

    they are already on the road in california


  12. The Fukushima disaster really is a disaster on a global scale. Not because of the death toll (0 so far)but because it means that perfectly functional nuclear power plants are shut down, and no new ones will be build in western countries. Along with the CO2 hype this could lead to an energy crunch that could heat up this planet more than CO2 ever could.

  13. Lets try to get the facts right about Fukushima. The were no explosions in the reactors. There were hydrogen explosions not in the reactors, but in the reactor buildings.

    Also, the "dubious longer-term issues" associated with "spent" nuclear fuel are issues that we impose on ourselves. Most of the long-lived radioactive isotopes in the "spent" fuel could be used to fuel other reactor. There is also generally a large amount of un-fissioned uranium contained in the "spent" fuel from comercial reactors that could easily be recovered. This waste occurs because our government has decided that reprocessing (recycling) this "spent" fuel is not a good idea.

  14. Thanks for your comments William, I should really have clarified "reactor buildings" rather than "reactors", but in the scheme of the article it wasn't too important to the narrative anyway.

    And yes, it's unfortunate that more isn't done after the fuel is "spent". Like many other things, governments carry out a cost/benefit analysis and in the case of nuclear fuel have decided that reprocessing isn't cost-justifiable.

  15. What a shock. Detroit News running an illogical (electricity=bad) story against EVs. This industry has the foresight of the entertainment industry = just keep pretending it's not going to happen and it will go away. Symptomatic of the US at the moment. "It's all too complicated. Can't we just close our eyes and go back to a time before all this change." How's that working out for you?

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