2948: Electric vs Gas

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Electric vs Gas
An idling gas engine may be annoyingly loud, but that's the price you pay for having WAY less torque available at a standstill.
Title text: An idling gas engine may be annoyingly loud, but that's the price you pay for having WAY less torque available at a standstill.


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Internal combustion engines (ICEs) have long been the most common technology used to propel motor vehicles (usually in the specific form of reciprocating "piston" engines). In US vernacular, the most common vehicle fuel is known as "gasoline", or "gas" for short, leading to these engines being referred to as "gas engines". Gasoline is a product of petroleum refinement, leading to the name "petrol" being used in other dialects.

Electric motors would seem the more well-suited method for propelling a vehicle, and as early as 1885 were an actual form of motor car engine with which the fledgling internal combustion engine had to compete. Despite this early popularity, over most of the 20th century electric motors were sidelined in everyday car design, as supplying the electricity was considered to be impractical for most forms of transportation. Modern forms are rapidly rising in popularity, and now constitute 18% of all global vehicle sales. Randall is a strong proponent of electric vehicles (EVs).

In this strip, White Hat claims to be comparing the pros and cons of electric motors and gas engines. The joke is that every point he makes goes in favor of electric motors. Despite it being posed as a dilemma, it may be very clear which side of the debate White Hat is promoting. On the other hand, it may indicate that one of the things we might consider a pro in electric motors (the instantaneous power now available, exceeding that of many non-electric engines) he would consider a problem — perhaps more accurately, a problem with the drivers of such vehicles — recklessly using the enhanced capabilities to accelerate to high speeds at all opportunities, whether safe to do so or not.

The strip offers the following points in favor of electric motors:

  • "Cleaner and more efficient". ICEs produce and vent harmful combustion products and toxic chemicals, while electric motors produce no emission byproducts at the point of use. The efficiency of both gas and electric motors vary, but the typical ICE vehicle in the US converts around 25% of available energy into motion, while the typical electric vehicle is in the neighborhood of 80%. Even when considering inefficiencies in the source production and transmission and storage and release of energy, battery-driven electric vehicles are generally more efficient than internal combustion propelled vehicles[1].
    • It should be noted that all of this refers to the motors only, and ignores how the fuel and electricity are produced, or the wider environmental impact of the vehicle.
  • "More powerful". Electric motors are able to deliver a lot of power from a small motor if an ample energy supply is available, and can do so 'on demand', often far quicker than a fuel-powered engine that has to put its power through a gearbox in order to service a wide range of road velocities, from standstill to the eventual top speed. Due to battery limitations, short or partial runtime use cases (such as dragsters, hand tools, yard tools, toys and electric scooters) net the most benefit from the small size of a high-powered electric motor.
  • "Annoyingly loud". ICEs, by their nature, produce significant noise. Despite noise attenuation measures such as mufflers, they contribute significantly to urban noise. Properly designed electric motors are nearly silent (even if the rest of the vehicle is not). In particular, turbocharger blowoff valves make particular noises that are completely lacking in an all-electric vehicle being driven at a similar performance level. This might legitimately be considered a problem, though, when everyone is used to a rapidly approaching vehicle providing a very noisy warning of its approach. EV makers have sometimes added fake ICE noises to appeal to older drivers, and in the U.S. and some other countries, EVs are required to have warning sounds at low speeds for pedestrian safety.
    • At highway speeds, the noise of tires against the road is much louder than a properly muffled ICE, so the intrinsic quietness of an EV's motor is irrelevant in that context.
  • "WAY less torque available at standstill". ICEs need to continually operate within a specific range of rotational speeds for best power and fuel efficiency (although the reciprocating engines used in most motor vehicles are still better than some others, such as gas turbine engines, in this regard), which means that a complex system of transmission gearing is needed to convert this motion into the specific speeds needed at the wheels. When starting from a standstill, this means that torque must be applied to the wheels relatively gradually to avoid stalling the engine. In addition, when a vehicle is standing still, the motor is typically idling at (very) low speed and must be sped up before it produces significant acceleration. Electric motors, in contrast, generally produce their peak torque when at a standstill. This results in electric vehicles having significantly better acceleration and engine responsiveness. Again, this could cause a legitimate problem with drivers changing from ICE to electric motors, because the new cars accelerate more than the driver is used to and provide different feedback. The audible clues of gear changes, whether from automatic or manual systems, are part and parcel of what many people have grown up with and come to rely on in anticipating what might need paying attention to.

It should be noted that White Hat is deliberately confining his arguments to electric vs gas motors rather than electric or gas-powered vehicles. Doing so ignores the basic reason why internal combustion vehicles have long dominated transportation in certain specific countries: hydrocarbon fuels are a very dense and fairly easy to handle form of energy storage. Providing electrical power to a moving vehicle requires either that the vehicle remain in contact with a power line (as with an electric train or a tram) or else to carry a high-capacity battery (and the ability to recharge that battery in a reasonable amount of time, while stationary). More popular in the USA is a hybrid system, where a combustion engine provides at least some of the power to an electric motor, which was impractical until comparatively recently. Other methods, such as hydrogen fuel cells (a form of "combustion" that can be used more directly to form electricity), have been proposed, but remain experimental or niche, due to various barriers to adoption.

A more comprehensive comparison would include many more factors, both against and in favor of electric cars.

Issues raised with electric vehicles typically include:

  • Higher cost of purchase (primarily due to the cost of batteries and, in the USA, now a 100% tariff on Chinese EVs), although partially offset by lower costs of operation
  • Long charging times compared to refilling a gas tank (there are some approaches which mitigate this by operating either very high-powered chargers or a battery swap model, rather than charging in-car, but these are not widely adopted)
  • Relatively limited range (200-500 miles per charge as of 2024, though this limitation applies to most gas vehicles as well, where 300 mile range is typical)
  • Shortened range in hot weather and significantly shortened range in cold weather (while all vehicles have this problem, it's more pronounced in EVs compared to ICEs)
  • Limited charging infrastructure compared to the prevalence of fuel stations
  • Higher vehicle weight, and resulting higher particulate emissions (from tires, but not brakes, because EVs use of regenerative braking reduces wear on their traditional brakes)
  • Reliance on some mineral and metal extraction industries (e.g., lithium) with capacity that lags the recent increased demands for EVs
  • Increased demand on electricity production
  • Lower reliability(data possibly skewed by the newness of EV models).

Other real pros of electric cars are also not mentioned:

  • Lower total cost of ownership (TCO)[2]
  • Can "fill" them at home or while parked without having to stay with them (partially negates the "long charging times" con)
  • Lower carbon footprint, and reduced dependence on the fossil fuel industry

Rapidly evolving technologies, government policies, and economic realities are changing the relevance and seriousness of these points over time. As of the publication of this strip, the "pros" of EVs do not seem to be universally convincing, as ICEs remain far more popular than EVs in most countries (EVs constitute a majority of new vehicle sales in only four countries: Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Finland). That said, EVs didn't exist as a viable industry 20 years ago, so the current reality reflects rapid and ongoing growth, suggesting that the advantages of EVs are gaining increasing recognition and understanding.

The degree of adoption is also likely to impact the viability of different vehicle types. Infrastructure in most countries has long been built around an assumption of ICEs, so things like fueling stations and ICE-qualified mechanics have traditionally been widely accessible. As EVs becoming increasingly dominant, this could shift, with EV charging infrastructure becoming easier to find than ICE fueling stations, and ICE mechanics potentially becoming more difficult to find. There's typically a certain level of inertia in the adoption of any new technology.

In the EU, the sale of new ICE cars is banned from 2035 in an effort to move to EVs, and other jurisdictions are adopting similar policies.

Especially in the United States, this topic is highly contentious for political, economic, engineering, and tribal reasons (as a quick look at the edit history of this page will confirm).


The etymology of "gasoline" (commonly abbreviated to "gas") is disputed: it may refer to the gaseous state of matter as, though gasoline itself is generally liquid, it readily emits volatile vapours. Otherwise, it has been suggested to have derived from "Cazelin"/"Cazelline", originally a lamp-oil, sold by a man called John Cassell in the 19th century and much copied (including by the "Gazeline" brand) as the market and supply of such fuels expanded. In non-American english, the octane form of motor-fuel (i.e. non-diesel and excluding aviation fuel) is called "petrol" (derived from "petroleum", or 'oil of the rock'), with similar "electric vs petrol (vs hybrid)" comparisons. The registered brand name "Petrol" (sold as a solvent, before being repurposed for use as vehicle fuel) could not be trademarked as it was already the common generic term for equivalent products. The unrefined crude mineral oil from which many different hydrocarbon products can be refined is still more widely known as petroleum. Vehicle fuel may now be partly or wholly composed of non-fossil-fuels to distance them from some of the traditional arguments against petrol/gas consumption, leave other considerations unchanged but possibly introduce further issues.

While ICE vehicles have, to date, proven more popular than electric equivalents, worldwide, bicycles have been outselling cars since at least WWII.


[White Hat, with his palm raised, is talking to Cueball.]
White Hat: Electric motors and gas engines each have their pros and cons.
White Hat: On one hand, electric motors are cleaner and more efficient. On the other hand, electric motors are more powerful.
White Hat: So it's hard to say which is better overall.

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Now I'm not a fan of gas engines, but that argument is in bad faith. Gas engines have one very big advantage over electrics: Energy density, and by extension, range. Batteries can't come close to the energy density of hydrocarbons, despite the latters' overall lower efficiency. --Coconut Galaxy (talk) 17:22, 19 June 2024 (UTC)

I think that's one of the main arguments for hybrid systems. Using a gas engine to charge an electric motor, and then using the electric motor to actually power the appliance, enables significant efficiency gains. If anything, combining the technologies enables even greater usable energy density from hydrocarbons. Hybrid electric vehicles for example are extremely efficient. Eunakria (talk) 17:43, 19 June 2024 (UTC)
Energy density, and the ability to move large amounts of stored energy from one place to another quickly and easily (aka pump gas, vs charge or swap a battery), from a thermal and maintenance perspective. (Which is not entirely unrelated to energy density.) 18:08, 19 June 2024 (UTC)
Swapping batteries (and slowly charging the batteries in the swap station) could offer comparable "charge" times to gasoline refuelling times, while also being better for battery lifespan, but would require industry coordination and standardisation re: battery packs and install location that, sadly, simply does not exist. 19:54, 19 June 2024 (UTC)
Plug-in hybrids have been superior since 1904, but the incremental capital cost is still an issue while oil is under $100/bbl. 19:16, 19 June 2024 (UTC)
A litre of gasoline provides 31.5MJ of energy, and in the US a pump transfers 38 litres (10 USgal) per minute, or 0.633 litres per second. That's an energy throughput of 31.5MJ/l x 0.633 l/s = 19.95MW. And US gasoline pumps are, by law, slow. In the civilised world, petrol pumps can deliver 30% more (50l/minute). Hi-flow diesel pumps used to fill trucks and buses are much faster - between 80 and 120 litres per minute. 120 litres per minute of diesel fuel is an energy transfer rate of about 76MW. By comparison, the fastest 3-phase AC chargers for the Tesla model 3 charge at 11kW; Pumping gas is about 2,000 times faster at getting energy into a car than this. The fastest single phase chargers are 7.4kW; While a standard wall socket charger can manage a paltry 2.3kW, (around a ten-thousandth of the energy transfer rate of a gas pump). The "super" DC charging stations achieve an "impressive" 250kW, making pumping gas at a regular gas station about eighty times faster than using one of these. 07:00, 21 June 2024 (UTC)
Except of course that this isn't quite as simple as this. A Honda Civic (one the most popular US petrol cars) will go about 400 miles on a full tank, about the same as a Dodge Ram. Also about the same as a Tesla Model S. There's a pretty good reason this isn't a coincidence - people don't want more much more range, and a bigger tank is more weight. A Chevy Silverado full tank will go about 500miles. If you really want range, you need to look at a hybrid car. As the comic points out, the torque on a standard otto cycle engine is poor, but that cycle is deliberately designed to give more torque. Hybrids use an Atkinson cycle which is far more energy efficient, but could not provide enough torque - so you use the electric to do that. A Prius has a range in excess of 630 miles, more than any popular petrol car. So if you want range, you still want an electric engine, just store the energy in hydrocarbons. For similar reasons, diesel trains use the diesel to run generators which then power the electric motors on the wheels, and have done for decades. (talk) 20:47, 19 June 2024 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Which brings us back to energy density: The Honda Civic has a similar range to the Tesla – at 10% the weight for its fuel (vs. the Tesla's battery), and one-third the volume. The comparison gets even worse for long-haul cargo, but that might be beyond the topic of this conversation. --Coconut Galaxy (talk) 13:06, 20 June 2024 (UTC)
How about we make an actual list, then?
Electric v. Gas Engines
+/- of Electric Cars +/- of Gas Cars
-Energy Density/Range +Energy Density/Range
-Battery Life -Fuel Efficiency
-Toxic Rare Earths -Fossil Fuels
+Cleaner -Motor Power
-Decrease Efficiency in Winter +Lower Vehicle Weight
Fephisto (talk) 13:45, 21 June 2024 (UTC)
Isn't the comic just making the claim that electric motors are superior to gas engines? It's not saying anything about how easy it is to supply energy to the motor/engine, or anything about their use in transportation. Given that, I don't think there's anything particularly contentious here? Syperk (talk) 04:56, 22 June 2024 (UTC)
Motors without fuel are all equally useless. --Coconut Galaxy (talk) 08:19, 23 June 2024 (UTC)

On the other other hand, in a lot of cases an electric motor is just a gas engine with extra steps due to the current state of the power grid. 17:24, 19 June 2024 (UTC)

Not here in Washington State it isn't. Most of our electricity comes from hydroelectric dams. RadiantRainwing (talk) 23:10, 19 June 2024 (UTC)
AFAIK, no new dams are being built, and I reckon that the probability is vanishingly small that any new dam that is mooted will survive the inevitable storms of protest and get built. The trend, rather, and the political pressure, salmon fans, is to remove dams (e.g. those on the Elwha River). The existing dams are aging, their impoundment volumes are dwindling due to sedimentation, and the water for those impoundments is increasingly bespoke and is, in at least some cases, declining in volume due to climate perturbations. The population, and its energy use, is increasing. As of 2022, I read, WA was a net exporter of electricity. I would not be taking that status for granted. A few years ago, a study was published, finding that, in states where the electricity grid was dependent on fossil-fuel-fired plants, electric cars had a greater carbon footprint than gasoline/petrol cars - and this was before the major gains in gasoline fuel efficiency contributed by advances in computer tech (2007 Honda Civic hybrid gets the same city mileage, ca. 35 mpg, as a 2021 Honda Civic petrol engine, in my hands). I do not know what current assessments say about this. 04:23, 20 June 2024 (UTC)
I'd say an electric motor powered by a hydrocarbon grid still usually makes better use of gas than a typical gas engine. Gas engines that don't always run at full throttle (as in, a gas engine in an appliance) have dramatically worse efficiency than electric motors that don't always run at full throttle. It depends very heavily on use case, though; always take measurements and run the numbers before coming to a specific conclusion. Science would be nothing without empirical data. Eunakria (talk) 17:50, 19 June 2024 (UTC)

Should this have Category:Climate change? I can’t decide. Usb-rave (talk) 17:40, 19 June 2024 (UTC)

Yeah, it's better with it for people looking though the category later on, they will want to see it. 19:13, 19 June 2024 (UTC)

Honestly, with this argument the thing gas engines have going for them over EVs is the refueling time and availability. 18:58, 19 June 2024 (UTC)

That's fair. It would be nice if electric cars had been more focused-on ten years ago than the trend (trend? craze? idea? whatever.) starting now. I refuse to buy a Tesla, though. Elon is never getting my money. I'm waiting for an electric Volvo. P?sych??otic?pot??at???o (talk) 13:27, 20 June 2024 (UTC)
As in...you've ordered one, or you hadn't realised they exist?Yorkshire Pudding (talk) 21:00, 20 June 2024 (UTC)
Wait they're real? Need. P?sych??otic?pot??at???o (talk) 08:26, 22 June 2024 (UTC)

It's really remarkable how uninformed and unintelligent this comic is, to the point where I now doubt the veracity of his entire What If? series. (talk) 19:13, 19 June 2024 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

To be fair, there’s sort of an agenda here, while I don’t believe there’s one in What If? I can’t independently verify the accuracy of What If?, of course, but there is that. Usb-rave (talk) 19:18, 19 June 2024 (UTC)
I'd like to know more about the "uninformed and unintelligent" assessment. Given that not all of Randall's characters copy his exact thinking. I don't think he'd espouse much of what he has Black Hat say/do. And clearly many of his Cueballs, even being often accepted as Author Avatars, can be clearly being dumber than Randall (who is 'writing them as dumb') is. What we have is parody. And maybe you just don't see the parody in the way intended (or understood by others). Perhaps you have a completely different mindset, or are just inclined to be anti-Randall> (Even in things he's actually right about...) I don't know where the mismatch may be here, but if you're seriously thinking that there remains not one useful take-away from anything Randall has ever said, just from the possibility that his cartoon characters don't completely mesh with what you perceive as a correct worldview, then this needs looking at from a different perspective than just reassessing the whole What If? corpus. 23:15, 19 June 2024 (UTC)
The tagline for the xkcd comic does include the word "sarcasm", which should warn against over-serious or over-literal interpretations. Not infrequently, I find, xkcd ventures into the realm of the sarcastic, the opinionated, even the polemic (cf. the Hilary Clinton campaign ads), and this one states a clear opinion in favor of electric cars ... with which one is free to debate (as here, exhaustively), or disagree. All of which brings the cartoonist to the attention of the world, and thereby supports him in his chosen line of work, which, in the current state of cartooning as a profession, is no small accomplishment. As for the opinion, consider the following question: "I have a four-mile commute to work. Which is the most eco-friendly option? The electric car? The hybrid? The gas/petrol car?" Answer: the foot car. Walking the four miles is the only minimum-carbon solution under all circumstances ... except perhaps ones that allow the questioner to keep deir job. 05:39, 20 June 2024 (UTC)
I would suggest that the foot car is *not* the minimum carbon solution in all circumstances. Riding a road bike at about 10 mph, you'll travel a mile in 6 minutes, and burn about 20 calories. Assuming a basal metabolic rate of 80 calories per hour, that's 8 calories in those six minutes, and 12 calories burned for the exercise. Walking at 3 mph, you'll travel a mile in 20 minutes, and burn about 100 calories. That's about 25 calories of basal consumption, and 75 calories due to the exercise. So the "foot car" is 6 times more carbon than the bike, assuming you already have a bike. You can talk about wear and tear on the bike components, but you also have wear and tear on your shoes; I don't know exactly how that shakes out, but I'd be surprised if the bike doesn't win in the end. 18:48, 25 June 2024 (UTC)
What about the basal calories still to be burnt in the 'time saved' of 14 minutes (walking time minus cycling time)? Bike calories would be better given as 8+12+18(+⅔), by your figures, or over 38 calories. Not counting what additional effort you'd expend in that free time that you wouldn't have without it. (I'm also not totally sure about your various calorific figures, but that's much more open to interpretation.) 22:53, 25 June 2024 (UTC)

Ohhh... OK. I had poor signal so this one took a while to load, and I only saw the "Gas vs. Electric" title. I thought it was going to be about kitchen stoves - ones that burn actual "gas", vs. electrical heating elements. Yorkshire Pudding (talk) 19:45, 19 June 2024 (UTC)

I actually experienced the "cons" of a less limited degree of power and not being noisy at all, today. Someone in an electric vehicle (could have been a Tesla) pulled out of a sideroad, accelerating at what seemed like a reckless rate (it was advantageous to do so, but a petrol-powered vehicle that might have taken a bit longer to switch up the gears would still have been up to speed soon enough to not get into contention with any other vehicles). And with barely more than a whine, and perhaps a bit of road-noise that might have included at one point a bit of grit-splattering. I was watching this, and knew they were pulling out of the junction (and knew for certain, moreover, that there was no traffic coming up or down the road, nor anybody crossing the road anywhere in my rather long sight). Had there been someone actually about to cross the road (within the next 50 yards or so), however, it would have been entirely possible that they would have been caught be surprise by this near-silent and suddenly fast-moving vehicle. If it was a Tesla, then maybe its inbuilt forward 'radar'/whatever would have helped bring the vehicle to a stop, or at least slow it down/stop if from speeding up enough, before any actual accident might have happened... but this is theoretical, as it just happened not to happen anything like this on this occasion... But it could have. And the paradigm for crossing the road that I learnt several decades ago of "Stop, Look, Listen, Think" has probably now started to lose out on the "Listen" bit, and possibly degraded even the "Look" and "Think" until we start to retrain ourselves to anticipate vehicles whipping around random corners that are far more silent-and-deadly then what we've all become used to. Ok, so this is not necessarily the total fault of the electric vehicles (or even the drivers, but they must have some hand in the matter), but in changing the dynamics and situational awarenesses of road traffic so much it might be considered a relatable problem. 23:51, 19 June 2024 (UTC)

I drove an electric motorcycle for a while, which put me quite exposed and aware of safety and my driving environment. The concerns about EVs being too quiet don't come across as grounded in reality. Modern ICE vehicles typically have minimal engine noise already. There are really two cases: out on the road, where half the people (exaggerating) have their earbuds in, and any engine noise is swamped by tire noise anyway. No difference between ICE and electric here. Then in a parking lot, where tire noise is not significant, and maybe pedestrians could get extra auditory cues about the vehicles around them from ICE engine noise. In that context, I personally would flip open my visor and make eye contact with pedestrians. It would be nice if drivers of full-sized cars and trucks, no matter their power source, would do more of that. Driving while inattentive is unambiguously bad. 02:40, 20 June 2024 (UTC)
Rolling noise becomes more than enough for safe audibility by about 30 km/h (below which speed collisions are relatively less dangerous anyways, though most urban streets really should have a speed limit of 20 km/h for numerous reasons including safety), and actually dominates engine noise by about 55 km/h. ICEs are loud enough to have like a dozen deleterious health effects even while idling, though the noise of a bicycle, if sufficiently constant, is enough to reach the WHO threshold. In short, electric cars only need to make additional noise below about 30 km/h for safety, and even then only 55dBA, quieter than typical speech, and even then only if there's already a lot of noise polution to drown them out. 07:23, 20 June 2024 (UTC)
Although really what they mostly need is drivers who look where they're going, and don't assume that people will just get out of their way when they hear them coming. 08:44, 20 June 2024 (UTC)
Which is best accomplished using narrower streets, bollards, and other traffic easing mechanisms that make people want to slow down and pay attention rather than putting up a lower speed limit sign and just expecting people to obey it. That goes double in the US where most speed limits are assigned by looking at the speeds people are actually driving in good conditions and setting it where 10% of people woulld be speeding (and then rounded to the nearest 5 mph), meaning the sign is literally irrelevant to almost everyone. Oh, also, we desperately need to stop combining streets, which are destinations, with roads, which are thoroughfares, into "stroads" that fail at being both; that's an actual majority of your traffic easing taken care of basically in one step. 10:01, 20 June 2024 (UTC)

I wonder if the current explanation is missing the forest for the trees. My impression was that White Hat was parroting a ChatGPT-style response -- noncommittal and logically incoherent. (In fact, I missed the logical non sequitur the first time I read the strip. The style just screamed to me ChatGPT, though.) 00:55, 20 June 2024 (UTC)

I agree about missing the forest for the trees. Everyone's so focused on the opinions being expressed, they're totally missing what to me is the whole point of the comic: poking fun at similar kinds of pro vs. con comparisons but where some/any/all of the points are actually on the wrong side of the argument. So while on the surface the comparison appears balanced, it's actually incredibly biased. Sure all of that stuff is interesting for those wanting to know more about the actual pros and cons of the particular subject being discussed; but that's just the vehicle Randall happened to choose for delivery. Now I'm not sure if ChatGPT / AI plays into this, aside from it probably being more likely to produce this kind of unintentionally biased comparison; but I'd assume given the absence of cues implying as much that this comic is not related to AI. 19:06, 20 June 2024 (UTC)
Forgive me, but I believe "where some/any/all of the points are actually on the wrong side of the argument" has been well covered. Stating a couple of IC-Cons/EV-Pros as if EV-Cons/IC-Pros (and possible reasons why they could reinterpret things that way). Or is there yet another objection, and you aren't also meaning that? 20:08, 20 June 2024 (UTC)
It's touched on, barely; but most of the explanation (and commentary) is so focused on rehashing the arguments for/against the different types of vehicles that it's easy to miss. I'm sure those topics are already well covered elsewhere, do we really need to go into so much detail here? 18:19, 21 June 2024 (UTC)

This comic was posted yesterday and I'm already seeing people typing essays. I'm scared. (also electric rules gas drools nyehh) P?sych??otic?pot??at???o (talk) 13:22, 20 June 2024 (UTC)

Not too shabby a result from a stick-figure drawing posted on the Internet. Jealous? As for 'electric', nice to see your unqualified support for slave labor in the Congo and elsewhere. Get a horse! 13:40, 20 June 2024 (UTC)
Isn't a horse also a form of slave labour? 13:52, 20 June 2024 (UTC)
PETA would likely agree with you, to the point of sabotage if widespread re-introduction of bestial labor looked like being a thing. So, if we shut down the electricity grid to quell the AI revolt (if resource limitations don't compel that shutdown sooner), and we are denied fossil fuels for reasons of climate destruction and, again, resource limitation, this time-honored path to civilization will likewise be refused us. At least initially ... 01:47, 21 June 2024 (UTC)
There are several things wrong with your assessment, (although I do wish my comics got this much attention). The first is your assumption that I know the exact methods used to gather battery materials (I don't). The second is saying I support slave labor, which I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT. The third is your assumption that I have the space, money, resources, skills, and time to purchase and take care of a horse. I don't! Slave labor is appalling, the DRC is a nightmare, and horses have more needs than I could fit into a week. Back to electric cars, though: they're generally better for the environment, they're quieter, they're more powerful, and their engine systems are really cool and fun to look at and see in action. Gas(oline) engines are loud, smelly, pollution-heavy, and subject to violent explosions in a crash. Electric is better in general. It's a good idea to manufacture them, but I agree with you on the need for changing battery material-harvesting methods. P?sych??otic?pot??at???o (talk) 17:26, 20 June 2024 (UTC)
I argue that knowing the state of the electric-economy supply chain, the resources needed and the limitations on their availability as well as how they are procured, is necessary for any informed stance. I argue further, if you and I are wantonly snapping up electric gadgets, and, as is typical, are scouring the Internet for the cheapest possible prices for those gadgets, then you and I are screaming our support for human slavery in the only term$ that matter. The cry "Get a horse!" was a catcall aimed by horse owners at owners of early 20th-century automobiles, which were orders of magnitude dirtier and smellier than today's machines, were essentially non-functional, and took insignificantly less labor to maintain than the horse. You are absolutely correct about the maintenance needs of a horse, and indeed most people in the "horse and buggy days" couldn't afford either the cost or the time to own one. They were symbols of the 1% - who had slaves, be they chattel or hireling, to maintain their stables. From where I sit, the issues associated with actually realizing the fantasy of an electric economy are far more existential than changing battery-material harvesting methods, and I no longer accept that We the People will, or even can, face up to, never mind resolve, the issues. 01:47, 21 June 2024 (UTC)
Sounds like selective outrage to me. Do you have a clue what kind of disaster the fossil fuel industry has wreaked (and continues to wreak) upon the world? 06:22, 21 June 2024 (UTC)
Damage from the Industrial Revolution has been plain in lake sediment cores from northeastern North America dating from the 1850s. To name one; picked this one because of peripheral (taxonomy of the organisms used in the assessment) association with the work and its lead researcher. My beef is with those who think that the technology that got us into this mess will somehow pull us out, in the absence of evidence that people will stand the financial and standard-of-living sacrifices necessary to make it happen - witness, for example, the lot of us arguing pointlessly about this on our carbon-belching computers. 22:10, 21 June 2024 (UTC)
I read a press account, recently, about how a group of scientists and engineers plan to deploy a giant umbrella to shade the Earth from incoming solar radiation and thereby interrupt global warming; the latest in a series of such ideas. It immediately called to mind the Road Runner cartoon, in which Wile E. Coyote, despairingly, put up a tiny, tattered parasol to protect himself from the anvil that was descending on him. 22:23, 21 June 2024 (UTC)
It is, as I'm sure that wikilink says, an old, old idea (and a bit discredited in the eyes of those who think that putting a sticking plaster on won't stop us from the juggling with knives, and having more fumbles, for which the sticking plaster is supposed to be a treatment for). I'm surprised it's been seriously brought up recently, not least because you'd have to deploy a truly massive shade (not Earth-sized, perhaps not even Moon-sized, but certainly orders of magnitude larger than we have any current experience, or hope, in constructing) to produce a significant effect, and only doing that by denying a significant part of the Sun's energy from both natural and man-made solar-energy receivers in selected areas of Earth. (Imagine the uproar, as certain countries get 'shaded' and neighbours do not, by adjusting the largely Sun-synchronous (or full-on Lagrangian) orbit. And it is in the power for the shade-operators to change which one(s) are effected, hence they could be considered/accused culpable for any unwanted effects, or just from perceived disadvantages and cultural objections.)
But it would be better than an 'anti-anvil parasol', because any worthwhile attempt would have to be effective enough to actually produce a measurable effect (which is all that might be needed to go over the tipping point, or not, at present), whereas Wile. E.'s attempt is instant fail. 07:55, 22 June 2024 (UTC)

and now i know why xkcd doesn't have a comments section. youtu.be/miLcaqq2Zpk 07:35, 21 June 2024 (UTC)

That the argument is fallacious is the point. It is hardly a first for white hat. It shouldn't be seen as a serious "pros and cons" argument, it would be obvious to anyone reasonable, including Randall, that there are real cons to EVs (how important they are is up to debate). But as evidenced by previous comics, white hat is not particularly reasonable. 11:27, 21 June 2024 (UTC)

Rather than "not particular reasonable" (more the realms of Black Hat), I'd have said "not particularly rational"/similar is White Hat's schtick. But I do agree with you in principle, and don't understand half the 'objections' above, if serious. 13:29, 21 June 2024 (UTC)

I think that the real meaning of this comic is that the author of XKCD now makes enough money to afford an EV. Must be nice. (talk) 14:58, 22 June 2024 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

...yeah, but no. I don't know where you get that. (If he can afford a new car, good on him, but I doubt it'll anything related.) 21:06, 22 June 2024 (UTC)
It could be that he can now afford an EV but not an ICE (which is significantly more expensive to operate, unless you buy it to keek all the time in the garage).
Seriously, it's more likely that he wants to make the point that nowadays almost all supposed problems with EVs are really not relevant anymore. What is ironic is that some readers of XKCD try to propagate some myths against EVs.
A very good starting point on the subject is the 2018 report by the European Environmental Agency (https://www.eea.europa.eu/highlights/eea-report-confirms-electric-cars) which in 2018 clearly debunked any myths about EVs not being really green. We're talking about vehicles, here, not just motors. Also, they emit way less particulate, because of regenerative braking, no fuel burning, absence of particulate-generating parts such as clutches. Modern researhc on particulates, as cited by EEA, is almost unanimous in describing lower particulate emissions, even though the rate of diminution varies according to the scenario.
Battery recycling is often cited as a "problem". It should be considered a problem in the mathematical sense, such as the "two body problem" which is called a "problem" despite having been solved. We currently know perfectly well what will happen to used car batteries, and the solutions are already available.
Finally, EVs are much more reliable than modern ICEs because mechnically they are much simpler. Problems can happen more easily in software, which is a problem with all modern cars. Diesel cars can have larger software, with functions such as emission-cheating which aren't needed on EVs and aren't really desirable.
-- 22:40, 22 June 2024 (UTC)

Do you suppose it's coincidence that this comic came out just six days after Will Prowse (DIY Solar Power youtube channel) put out an opinion video [3] on EVs? 08:05, 23 June 2024 (UTC)

Friendly Reminder[edit]

I'd like to remind everyone here that we want to explain _the comic_ and NOT the pros and cons of EV vs ICE. I'll admit the explaining the points White Hat is making might be in order, anything below that is not necessary for explaining _the comic_. Also, the comic is, as others already pointed out, about engines and NOT about vehicles in general or cars in particular. The etymology of gas(oline), albeit already in trivia, is entirely irrelevant here. As are sales statistics for bikes. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 10:24, 24 June 2024 (UTC)

Given the "oh, this isn't electric vs gas cookers" comment, it's probably good to explain that it's gasoline fuel, not natural gas (ethane, mostly)/propane/whatever. I don't know how Leftpondians swerve the confusion between the productand the general state of matter (there'll be times when context doesn't make it abundantly clear, I imagine), and for the sake of the English speaking world who might not yet have have an internal autotranslate between Amercanized terms and Anglicised ones, it seems like someone thought it was useful. As for the etymology, I always understood it as being originally gas-condensate (i.e. heavier molecules, falling out of suspension) of cyclic organic compounds (-oles, though not necessarily as in strictly "azole"-like) with a fuzzy final suffix (-ine ) that might be either a commercial, nominatve or chemical-name rooted tack-on. Given that gasoline isn't gaseous (or really shouldn't be, to any great degree, during most relevent handling/storing!) I think naming it after its fumes (not exactly obvious, not compared with things like bromine) sounds like a stretch.
But being entirely a tradename (or corruption/mutation of one) covers a multitude of possibilities. Because tradename-namers aren't known for their strict logic in putting together technobabble phonemes to 'sound good', whilst buffing up (or sneaking in) whatever key surname/etc is investing in the product's retail. So long as kt sounds good/sounds a bit like various competitor names and yet doesn't sound so much like another product as to cause 'problems' (legal or commercial, depending upon what's the biggest issue). 13:05, 24 June 2024 (UTC)
I could tell you the whole tale of a particular confusion between "gas and air" (the breathable mix used to numb the pains of childbirth) and "gas and air" (two things available to top up vehicles at a roadside facility) and how, for the longest time, the teller and the listener were on completely different pages of the reciting of a mad dash taking the teller's wife to the hospital when her waters broke... But it wouldn't do justice to the actual experience of seeing the misunderstandings roll out. We'd heard the tale already, and weren't chipping in, meaning we could pick up on the confusion of the newest listener. 20:53, 24 June 2024 (UTC)
Frankly, I don't want to offend anyone here but the very first words in the comic after the title are "electric motors and gas engines". We cannot teach basic reading skills here. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 07:17, 25 June 2024 (UTC)

I completely agree that the explanation should be cut down substantially. Most is unsubstantiated opinion and not related to the comic at all.

The joke is that White Hat says that A and B each have their pros and cons; he then lists only the pros of one of the options and none of the cons of either. His final line is thus completely correct: it's hard (impossible) to compare two things when you only have the plus points of one of them.

The explanation for the title text goes off on an irrelevant tangent. An internal combustion engine has zero torque at standstill (remember we're talking about the engine here, not a car). Which means that the engine must idle (run without providing power to anything) before you use it to drive, producing noise even though it's not doing anything useful. An electric motor does not have this limitation, which is why electric motors are used to start gasoline engines. (talk) 18:32, 20 July 2024 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)