Green Transportation

Moving toward a transportation system that fuels healthy people and a healthy planet.

MAX Update No. 39: Who Smoked the Electric Car?

1/5/2010 5:26:54 PM

Tags: 100 mpg, MAX, electric cars, electric car hype, Auto X Prize

I’ve had people ask why I’m even bothering with an internal-combustion engine car, since electric cars are so much more efficient. There’s a heap of promo going on to sell the public on electric cars. I hate to say it — because electric cars may be the salvation of transportation someday — but much of that promotion is smoke and mirrors.

There are significant political and financial reasons to push electric cars right now, but their promoters don’t talk about them much. Instead, they talk about energy efficiency and greenhouse gasses and saving the planet by saving fuel, but many of them know better. Every time you see an advertisement with a plug-in electric car parked in front of a wind turbine farm, you’re getting smoked.

Electric BriquetteElectricity is not a fuel. We may think there’s a marketing and technological battle between internal-combustion engine cars and electric cars, but there’s not. The battle is between internal combustion and external combustion.

The most recent electric power report from the U.S. Department of Energy showed that a bit more than two-thirds (69 percent) of our nation’s electricity comes from burning fossil fuels: coal, natural gas and petroleum. About 10 percent comes from renewable resources (hydro, wind, solar, geothermal and biomass). The rest comes from nuclear energy. Yet we still read about electric cars as “zero emissions” and how converting to plug-in electric makes a car “equivalent” to 100 mpg or more.

When I was young, “air pollution” meant “smog,” and from a smog standpoint, electric cars are a wonderful thing. Electric cars get the pollutants out of the city, and out to the country where they belong. Besides, some pollutants (nitrogen oxide and unburned hydrocarbons) are more easily controlled in a few big power plants than in millions of car engines. Grid power wins over petroleum power for pollutants ... unless you consider carbon dioxide a pollutant. If you think manmade greenhouse gasses effect global warming, promoting electric cars takes some fancy footwork.

The Automotive X Prize competition has become a prime example. When it was announced, it was going to be a fuel efficiency competition. But as the rules developed, it became a Battle of the Batteries. Now the only fuel limit for grid-powered electric cars is they can’t exceed 200 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. Well, that’s 44 pounds of carbon dioxide per 100 miles — about 45 mpg if you compare it with gasoline’s carbon dioxide output. As the X Prize Foundation points out, that’s less carbon dioxide per mile than the national fleet average, but “better than average” isn’t setting the bar very high.

The other smoker is when fuel equivalency is determined by retail price. Go to the government’s fuel economy website to see how the EPA calculates mileage for electric cars. For example, look at the entry for the 2002 Toyota RAV4 EV (no longer manufactured), and you’ll see it is rated at 112 mpg. 

How did they figure that? That’s easy, the RAV4 EV went 100 miles on $2.40 worth of electricity when household electricity cost 8 cents a kilowatt-hour and gasoline cost $2.71 a gallon (including federal and state road taxes, which are free for electric cars). $2.71 divided by $2.40 equals 112. Ta-dah!, a 112-mpg SUV.

Electric cars can reduce our dependence on foreign fuels, and that would be a good thing. Electric cars also will help our economy, but I don’t see that they’re helping the planet right now — they won’t until their efficiency catches up with their hype.

To quote Jory Squibb, "Once our electricity grid becomes more Earth-friendly, this technology may surpass all others," but at present, the grid meets increases in demand by shoveling more fossil fuels on the fire. I'd hate to see electric cars go down the same primrose path the petroleum cars once trod, when cheap fuel justified inefficient design.

 


Photo: Can electric cars run on coal? Most of them already do. Photo by Jack McCornack. 

 


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Jack McCornack
1/15/2010 3:10:20 PM
Wrote me to Paul Scott: >So let’s swap household power bills for 2008... (Blush) I meant 2009. Last year's power bills. Man that year went fast.

Jack McCornack
1/15/2010 2:43:05 PM
Hi Jason, Those are points of interest and a subject worth getting into, how about if I write MAX Update #41 (the one after next) around the subject? I answered your earlier question re how do I justfy building MAX etc because, as they say on Law And Order, It goes to the credibility of the witness (me). Your observations are intriguing--even challengin--and I’d enjoy an open discussion of them. Let’s do that soon; but for now, I’d like to stay on the subject of electric cars and their environmental impact relative to IC cars. Note you can use a stationary generator to charge an electric car, it’s even legal to manufacture a production car to be charged with a stationary engine and all you have to meet is the EPA stationary engine standards. Wrote Paul Scott, >I find it hard to believe that anyone claiming to be an environmentalist would be >making these claims against using an EV because of the supposed pollution from >generating electricity, yet blithely go about using that same dirty energy in his house. I suppose this too goes to the credibility of the witness, but I felt it was off topic and should be examined in another blog. >As an energy advisor, I get to see people's electricity bills all the time... As an environmental journalist, so do I. :-) So let’s swap household power bills for 2008 and see if my house (no PV but very conservative of electrical power) uses more or less grid electricity than you PV-equipped house does.

Jason Hinton
1/14/2010 5:37:15 PM
Jack, Max is legal at the state level but illegal at the federal level. You are in violation of the Federal Clean Air Act because you are using an engine that was EPA certified for stationary or agricultural (they are different)in an on-highway vehicle. You are also in violation of the Clean Air Act because in tuning your engine you have changed emission related components. It is illegal to modify an engine in any way or to replace any component unless that new component has been EPA certified with the specific engine you have. Your comparison of the EPA certification for your agricultural engine to an EPA certification for on-highway vehicles ignores the fact that the test cycles are completely different. The test cycle for a stationary engine consists of a cold start followed by intervals of running at steady loads. http://www.dieselnet.com/standards/cycles/iso8178.html There are multiple test cycles for on-highway engines consisting of a cold start followed by many variation in road speed and acceleration rates. http://www.dieselnet.com/standards/cycles/#us-ld No amount of tuning will make your agricultural diesel with manual injection and no emission controls meet current EPA on-highway emission standards. Diesel engines require common-rail EFI, EGR, NOx catalysts, and particulate filters to meet current EPA emissions.

Darell_1
1/13/2010 11:15:41 AM
>> buyers who want to "...own an Escalade without worrying about the environment..." << Yeah, I think this right here sums up your stated concern! And sadly, this sort of thinking is way too pervasive. In fact, take Prius drivers (and please understand that *I* am also a Prius driver) to task who make statements like, "I'm driving a Prius to clean the air." To their credit, they're leaving behind cleaner air than if they instead chose to drive a more polluting car. But driving a gas car of any description does not "clean" anything. Not the air, not the water, and not ones' conscience. Neither does driving an EV. The best we can hope for is to make the air less dirty. At the same time, I try not to dampen anybody's excitement in trying to be part of the solution. It is a fine balancing act between the cold hard facts, and encouraging the transition to where we truly need to be.

Jack McCornack
1/12/2010 10:47:21 PM
>You are fearful that somebody's going to build a battery-powered Escalade. They aren't: ask GM >what's on their drawing boards. It isn't there. This is going to crack you up. Hot off the press release heap, straight from Cadillac, today (January 12, 2010) "The concept showcases Cadillac’s emerging top-of-the-line Platinum series of models, emphasizing new expressions of luxury and technological features, including a plug-in hybrid propulsion system..." http://media.gm.com/media/us/en/news.brand_cadillac.html XTS concept press release You can find other fun stuff in their press kits... media.gm.com/media/us/en/press_kits.brand_cadillac.html ... like what Bob Lutz has to say about "...how GM’s revolutionary electric propulsion technology – called Voltec – can power a luxury coupe with a typically Cadillac “no compromises” design. The technology enables up to 40 miles of gas- and emissions-free electric driving with extended-range capability of hundreds of miles." Other press kit materials describe "Cadillac’s extended-range electric vehicle (E-REV) concept." By the way, Cadillac sales people told me the Escalade Hybrid is bringing in buyers who want to "...own an Escalade without worrying about the environment..." and I presume that pitch will work even better with the Escalade EV or whatever they end up calling it. It'll likely have on-board IC charging plus be chargeable from a wall plug, so you can top it off at work and drive home without using the IC.

Jack McCornack
1/12/2010 5:42:02 PM
Regarding my claim that... >> Most of the EV green guys say EVs are so efficient that it doesn't matter which EV you get Darell wrote: >So I'm not sure which one of us talks to more "EV green guys" but I can tell you with certainty >that this is not the case with "most" of them that I talk to... Darell, you're right. You talk with more EV green guys than I do, and I have no right to claim I know what most of them say. I apologize for shooting my mouth off. From my communications with EV greenies who are living the dream (that's homebuilders and RAV4 EV owners, for the most part) y'all are a very responsible and thoughtful group throughout. When forced to drive a gasser. I would expect you to choose the smallest one that will do the job for you, as is demonstrated by your rental habits. Regarding my solar charger on the roof comment, I think providing your own zero emissions power justifies you driving anything you want. I think RAV4 EV owners would be a terrible market for Escalade EVs (I won't call them Electric Escalades any more because GM already licensed that name to a NEV manufacturer). I think few RAV4 EV owners would want one. I'd be as surprised seeing a RAV4 EV owner move up to an Escalade EV as if I saw a RAV EV driver throw a sandwich bag out the window. I think I've been sensitized a bit by the new wave of EV marketeers; as an "Ex Prize" guy I've rubbed elbows with a number of them. I apologize for tarring the low impact EV promoters with the same brush.

Darell_1
1/12/2010 3:48:50 PM
Jack wrote: >> Most of the EV green guys say EVs are so efficient that it doesn't matter which EV you get, as long as you get one, and you should put a solar charger on your garage roof and be truly zero emissions << So I'm not sure which one of us talks to more "EV green guys" but I can tell you with certainty that this is not the case with "most" of them that I talk to... and I said that in an earlier post. When the EV folks that I know go on vacation, they desperately try to rent the smallest care available - even in the face of the rental agent offering all kinds of free upgrades - usually from a car that is already too big! The last time they didn't have the little 4 cyl car that I wanted, they were going to immediately make it up to me by handing over the keys to a full-size 8 cyl car... I wouldn't let them get away with it, and of course they thought I was just CRAZY for giving up a free "upgrade." I know that I'm not the only one who thinks that the Tesla S sedan is way the hell too big. I'd love to have a Tesla, but can't use a 2-seater (roadster), and have no desire for a full-size vehicle of any description (such as the S). Sad really. The Leaf is about the perfect all-around EV size for a family. Pretty much an electric Prius. It will be the ideal Rav4EV replacement. And I've not heard a single EV driver complain that it is too small... or that they'd rather have an Escalade! I do agree with the other bits (about how the sales will be pushed) no question

Jack McCornack
1/12/2010 2:52:36 PM
Wrote Darell: >The person who today drives an Escalade is the one who is going to drive an EV Escalade. >And the Geo driver of today will be driving the micro EV of tomorrow...in the case of the >Escalade EV, we've taken a driver out of a terribly oversized gasoline vehicle, and put them >into a terribly oversized EV. Sounds reasonable. However, I called a Cadillac dealer, introduced myself, and asked about the Escalade Hybrid sales. I figured the demographics of Escalade Hybrid buyers compared with the traditional Escalades might give us a clue how a hypothetical Electric Escalade would be marketed... "Right, the Escalade Platinum." Pardon? "Hold on a minute, I need to talk with my manager..." do do doo de do la la please hold your call is very imp"Thanks for holding. No, there isn't any information on that yet, there hasn't been an announcement." I put the phone down. I looked up a couple more Cadillac dealers. I asked for Escalade sales. "No, I hadn't heard about that. I've only been here since Monday." Oh well. Click. The next guy I talked to is a sales manager, and has been at his dealership a decade, ever since the Escalade came out. We chatted a while, and then I popped the question. Is there an Electric Escalade in our future? "...they're working on that, absolutely. They're working on a lot of green things at Cadillac..." I'll follow it up. Meanwhile, I'm told that Escalade Hybrids are going about half-and-half to former Escaladers and to newbies.

Jack McCornack
1/12/2010 1:39:14 AM
Yep, I think EVs are about to go mainstream, for the second time in a hundred years. I think this is the last year for EVs as a fringe market (could Toyota have sold twice as many RAV4 EVs as it did? You bet. Ten times as many? Maybe, but ten times as many wouldn't have been enough to keep them in production--the gas RAV4s outnumber the electric RAV4 EVs by a thousand to one) which means this is the last year before professional promoters drown out us amateurs. All the gasoline green guys say if you're going to buy a petro-powered car, get one as small and efficient as your needs allow. Most of the EV green guys say EVs are so efficient that it doesn't matter which EV you get, as long as you get one, and you should put a solar charger on your garage roof and be truly zero emissions. The professional promoters say, Ours is Faster! Prettier! Cleaner! Buy our car and save the world! Get rid of your guilt without lowering your lifestyle! Why bother with solar panels when you're paying two cents a mile for grid electricity! And if the dealer has (I'm going hypothetical on you again) an Electric Metro and an Electric Hummer on the lot, they're going to steer you toward the Electric Hummer because they make a lot more money selling big cars than small cars. From Michael: >You are fearful that somebody's going to build a battery-powered Escalade. They aren't: ask GM what's on their drawing boards. It isn't there. Heck no, I'm fearful that if GM makes it, somebody will buy it.

Jack McCornack
1/12/2010 12:49:30 AM
Darell, I'm glad I finally made myself clear. The blog concerned only one aspect of EV vs. IC, the aspect I found worrisome, and I'm sorry that... > It definitely came across as, "EVs aren't nearly as good as people say they are, and here's why..." Paul Scott wrote: >as others have already pointed out in the comments, there are other reasons to go EV that have nothing to do with the environment, but are just as important. I fully agree. There are significant political and financial reasons to push electric cars right now...oh there I go repeating myself (second paragraph, first line, just above the charcoal briquette). And Antonio Bettencourt, who observed that... >The writer overlooks (or chooses to overlook?) so many points that are in favor of EVs ...I'll have to say that for the writer (me), for this blog entry (#39) it's "chooses to overlook". The maximum word count for my blog is 600 words, not enough room to sing the praises of PVs -and- offer my point regarding the hazards of overpromoting EV efficiency, not in a single post. I would encourage the mass adoption of EVs even if they didn't have any efficiency advantages at all, but the details will have to wait for another blog. I think we'll see economical and efficient EVs on major showroom floors this year, cars from major manufacturers and marketed to the mainstream. I hope we don't see high status behemoth EVs ever, but car manufacturers are financially motivated; hey, we bought Hummers, why not HummEVs?

Antonio Bettencourt_1
1/11/2010 8:04:23 PM
The writer overlooks (or chooses to overlook?) so many points that are in favor of EVs. I'll try to summarize them as briefly as possible. point 1: Even if fossil fuel power plants are the source for the electricity in your EV, it is far more efficient to use the fossil fuel in a power plant than in an automobile engine. Auto engines run very inefficiently because they are continually being asked to start and stop, and are constantly operating at less than optimal speeds. Whereas power plant equipment is able to operate under much more controlled and efficient conditions. Point 2: Waiting until we've got more "green" electricity BEFORE we start to encourage the use of EVs is like putting the cart before the horse. If we can get the EVs available, then as we develop our "green" electricity infrastructure, we will have already made the transition with our vehicles. (This is one of the big advantages of using electricity instead of hydrogen. The electricity supply infrastructure is already in place) Point 3: Increased reliance on the electrical grid will NOT mean "shoveling more fossil fuels on the fire." Fossil fuels will simply be redirected from use in automobiles to use in power plants. And since the power plants use those fuels more efficiently, there should be a net gain in efficiency. Of course, there's going to be "hype" along the way. But please maintain a higher level of analysis in future articles. This one is definitely half-baked.

Darell_1
1/11/2010 7:46:43 PM
Jack wrote: >> I ihink this is a dangerous belief. If enough people believe this, we'll have Electric Escalades (Cadillac's "full size luxury SUV") in our future, and the owners will believe they're driving green cars...<< OK, I now understand what I think your point of the article was. Though I do have to say that it didn't come across that way. It definitely came across as, "EVs aren't nearly as good as people say they are, and here's why..." And the good news is that I can partially put your mind at ease about the Geo vs. Escalade bit. The person who currently drives a Geo is not going to be driving an EV Escalade. The person who today drives an Escalade is the one who is going to drive an EV Escalade. And the Geo driver of today will be driving the micro EV of tomorrow. The reasons don't really matter. What matters is that in the case of the Escalade EV, we've taken a driver out of a terribly oversized gasoline vehicle, and put them into a terribly oversized EV. If you compare size for size, you're going to do way better in an EV than the equivalent gas car. So the worry of having EVs that are too big is still there.... but we aren't going to have people moving up from a Geo sized car to an Escalade sized car just because it is EV. At least I'm not aware of a single case of that happening. Most of the Rav4EV drivers that I know actually complain that the car is too big! And this car is smaller than the Prius, though it is shaped like a cute little SUV.

Jack McCornack
1/11/2010 7:46:12 PM
Wrote Michael, >see, you're talking only about some imaginary bleak future Let's keep it imaginary. I'm sure not recommending a future of Escalade EVs, I'm warning that it could happen if we lose sight of why us greenies want EVs in the first place: because we care about CO2 emissions and the environment. If the American public is convinced that an electric car is way more efficient than any gasoline car, no matter where either's source power originates, they will be satisfied with inefficient electric cars and the car manufacturers and the gridmongers (hey, I made up another word!) will lead them down the same path trod by the ICE car buyers--to excess, to bigger-is-better, to cars that show personal status at the price of general environmental degredation. So, is an EV way more efficient than any gasoline car? >Studies say, even with the dirtiest generation, yes. Not by much, really, but certainly not worse. Yep, that's what my studies say too. For electric cars to use more resources and/or pollute worse than gasline cars, the generation has to be extraordinarily dirty. I estimate on the current grid, the current batch of electric cars are 25% more efficient--based on their fuel use--than equivalent IC cars, and since it's a complicated question, I figure I could easily be wrong by 25%. But I argue hard when people tell me they don't think EVs save any fuel at all, or when people tell me EVs are twice as efficient on grid power as IC cars are on petroleum.

Paul Scott_3
1/11/2010 6:34:02 PM
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Back up that Excalade, Jack! You wrote, "And I'd go PV ASAP." You mean to tell us that all this time you've been parsing the numbers on CO2 output from the kWh on the grid and you don't already have PV on your house? You clearly haven't signed up for a utility renewable energy program, or you wouldn't be making these comments either. Wow! I find it hard to believe that anyone claiming to be an environmentalist would be making these claims against using an EV because of the supposed pollution from generating electricity, yet blithely go about using that same dirty energy in his house. As an energy advisor, I get to see people's electricity bills all the time. I can assure you that a large majority of American's waste more kWh in their houses than they would use in an EV. So let's please stop kvetching over the details of whether an EV will enable you to reduce your footprint over a Geo Metro. It will, and by a big margin if you take the effort to stop using dirty power for your home, and stop wasting kWh. And besides, as others have already pointed out in the comments, there are other reasons to go EV that have nothing to do with the environment, but are just as important. When you drive your Geo Metro, you're not only pumping poisonous gasses into our air, but your giving money to the oil companies and by extension, the Saudis. They in turn fund the terrorists who use your money to buy the bombs and bullets that are killing our soldiers.

altexbird
1/11/2010 10:43:44 AM
This is typical stupid thinking. Nothing stays the same. Do you really think gasoline will remain at it's current price? As the cost of gas rises, the financial incentive to switch to electric cars will rise. Istalling home solar and/or wind systems will pencil out much quicker because you can then not only power your home but avoid paying another penny at the gas pump. Prices for solar panels have dropped dramatically and hopefully new battery technology will reduce the price of batteries and lower costs on EVs and home energy systems.

Michael_93
1/11/2010 9:35:19 AM
"I think this is a dangerous belief. If enough people believe this, we'll have Electric Escalades in our future, and the owners will believe they're driving green cars..." see, you're talking only about some imaginary bleak future. I'm talking about an existing-Present that is already a clear beacon to a better future. In reference to my assertion that (existing!) electric cars take less ultimate juice to run than ICEs, you ask "even if they recharge from the grid and even if all their electricity comes from coal?" Studies say, even with the dirtiest generation, yes. Not by much, really, but certainly not worse. It's regrettable that your errant fuzzy math presents otherwise. That being said, that lone focus overlooks the other main point: people who drive electric cars think differently (read: better) about energy consumption. That's a somewhat ethereal reality that may be difficult to quantify statistically, but it's pretty much true. "That's why I wrote this blog." Actually, "why" is not so clear. It would appear that you are writing more to raise fears and apprehensions, rather than to shed light on real solutions, some of which exist today, right now. You are fearful that somebody's going to build a battery-powered Escalade. They aren't: ask GM what's on their drawing boards. It isn't there. Of course if you do want to talk about rich folks indulging in high end performance cars, then by all means let's talk about the Tesla: Faster. Prettier. Cleaner.

Jack McCornack
1/10/2010 5:27:47 PM
>On the asphalt, mile for highway-mile, on its worst day an electric car is way more efficient than >any gasoline car on its best day, no matter where either's source power originates. Michael, although I disagree with you, I appreciate your clear presentation of this widely held belief. I'm surprised it took 46 comments before somebody spelled this out. I ihink this is a dangerous belief. If enough people believe this, we'll have Electric Escalades (Cadillac's "full size luxury SUV") in our future, and the owners will believe they're driving green cars... >no matter where either's source power originates. ...even if they recharge from the grid and even if all their electricity comes from coal. Readers, raise your hands if you believe this hypothetical Electric Escalade would be use less fuel and generate less CO2 than a Geo Metro. Gosh, lots of hands in the air. Do you believe EVs are so "way more efficient" than gas cars, that as long as you drive an EV, it doesn't much matter to the environment what EV you drive? (Okay, for the last question on the quiz, let's assume a RAV4 EV has a 40% efficiency advantage over the hypothetical Escalade EV--pretty likely in my opinion) Would you pay an extra penny a mile for you electricity (a total of 3.4 cents a mile versus 2.4 cents a mile) to drive an Electric Escalade rather than a RAV4 EV? Would the Cadillac SUV's "Iconic Presence" and "Luxury Performance" be worth an extra ten bucks a month? That's why I wrote this blog.

Michael_93
1/10/2010 10:19:39 AM
This article mistreats two very salient factors: 1) On the asphalt, mile for highway-mile, on its worst day an electric car is way more efficient than any gasoline car on its best day, no matter where either's source power originates. For propulsion, there's nothing quite as efficient as an electric motor, and there's nothing quite as inefficient as an Internal Combustion Engine. Its heat-losses are massive, just to get the thing idling. Which it does a lot. 2) Electric cars are game-changers. I don't know of anyone who drives an electric car who hasn't either already gotten solar power, or doesn't seriously yearn for it. More like, happily driven to it. This game-change is hard to explain to somebody who doesn't drive an EV but it's a reality. Ask anybody who drives one. It changes how you think about getting from one place to another. It becomes FUN to do it in the most efficient way. It engages your brain. Don't ask me why that's true, but it is. Finally, a third and admittedly site-specific point: those of us who are fortunate enough to have hydro power supplying the grid: they don't turn off the water at night, when usage is low and coincidentally when most electric car owners charge their batteries. It's a nifty balance. Of course it's important that people not simply relocate Smoke from their own backyard to some other place where they don't have to think about it, but that's about it: in every other respect battery-powered cars win, hands down.

Jack McCornack
1/10/2010 2:02:56 AM
www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/page/co2_report/co2report.html#electric says the grid puts out an average of 1.315 lbs of CO2 average per kwh--or did in '99, which is the most recent official figure I could dredge up, so I'm going to round it down to 1.3 (which makes the math a lot easier). At 30 kw per hundred miles (from fueleconomy.gov) times 1.3, we get 39 pounds of CO2 per hundred miles. Gasoline gasps out 19.5 pounds of CO2 per gallon, divide that by 39 and we get 50 mpg equivalent, balanced for CO2 emissions. There are some generous assumptions in that 50 mpg figure, but if EV promoters were saying "Electric vehicles are 66% easier on the atmosphere than equivalent internal combustion cars, and here are two models of the 2002 RAV4 to prove it," I doubt I'd quibble over the fine points. Instead I've heard "Fuel cars are dirty, electric cars are clean," when it really depends on the power source and the overall efficiency of the vehicle (weight, size, rolling resistance, air resistance), and being something of a freak regarding efficiency and conservation, I thought I'd bring it up. A RAV4 EV is a whole lot nicer car than a Geo Metro, but if it's plugged into the grid, the best I could say about it from the greenhouse gas MPGe standpoint is it's a tie. Now if Toyota had built an MR2 EV back in '02 (the MR2 is Toyota's entry level sports car) I'd be checking craigslist every day for a used one, a factory built EV to call my very own. And I'd go PV ASAP.

Jack McCornack
1/10/2010 1:35:01 AM
Happy Darell Day! It's good to see you back. Darell observed... >You seem to imply that the "fuel economy" number for the Rav4EV is way off base because of the >seemingly random way it was generated. It's not random at all. There are many ways to generate "fuel economy" numbers, depending on one's needs. The government way is also the salesman's way: if you want to draw the public to EVs, show them how much money they'll save at the pump. Your way is valid too, providing you want to show car efficiency rather than fuel efficiency--and in our childrens' childrens' world of 100% renewable energy, that will be the only way to compare vehicles (which might all be electric by then). But with today's grid, those who are driving (or considering) an EV as a way to conserve the planet's resources, or to lower their own carbon footprint, should consider what comes out of the smokestack as well as what comes out of the tailpipe. IC cars waste most of their fuel energy under the hood, plug-in electrics waste most of their fuel energy far, far away, at the powerplant.

gardener_3
1/9/2010 8:24:00 PM
The big advantage of electric cars is if they are recharged between 11 pm and 5 am when there is little residential demand for electricity. Coal fired power plants must be run around the clock and a lot of night time electricity generation is presently wasted. Utilities encourage office buildings to have the lights on all night as load levelers. Electric cars could use this power so we could turn off the office building lights. The environmental and health damage from mining more lead for lead acid batteries is not a sane option. Lithium looks better. The stirling external combustion engine has twice the efficeincy of a gasoline internal combustion engine. Until the lithium battery is affordable we could follow Kamen's idea of having only a few batteries and a stirling motor generator to supply juice for traveling more than 15 miles. Most econo box cars can be economically converted to this hybrid power option. It will be a long time before a Chevy Volt will be affordable.

Darell_1
1/9/2010 6:34:19 PM
Jack writes: >> I've read that too, it's amazing the stuff you can read on the internet. It seems unlikely, but if true, then EVs are the clear winner in every category. You'd be surprised at how much time several of us have spent researching this. It is a VERY slippery number. The energy inputs to make gasoline are HUGE, but they consist of many sources. Some will say that to even the playing field, you need to consider all the energy inputs that go into making gasoline, and figure them in as if those fuels were instead used to make electricity for an EV. Let's say a bunch of NG was used to make gasoline - that NG could have been used instead to generate electricity that could have powered an EV. Either way, making gasoline consumes a HUGE amount of electricity. From the drilling to the pumping to the refining to the distributing. We may never arrive at a hard, defensible number for now much "electricity" is used for this process. I think it is more valid to consider the gross energy input, regardless of the form of that energy. A strong case can be made that the energy going into making gasoline could easily power an EV the same number of miles as the resultant gasoline would have allowed a comperable ICE car to travel. And of course the EV doesn't have to then burn the actual gasoline. In this way we can see that an INternal combustion automobile isn't even in the same ballpark with an EXternal combustion vehicle.

UncleRice
1/9/2010 6:19:59 PM
quoting davisonh: >Lithium is not mined per se,it is synthesized from other materials,such as potassium chloride and such,not mined Lithium is an atomic element. #3 to be exact. Potassium chloride is a salt created from mixing of potassium , atomic element 19, and chlorine, atomic element 17. I'm not just sure how synthesizing potassium chloride into lithium could even be possible. Have we finally figured out how to synthesize lead into gold? In a serious discussion of practical electric cars, the "words lead acid battery" have no place. The energy storage to weight ratio and cold weather performance of lead acid batteries is too pathetic. Always has been. The "cleanest" car fuel I've seen so far is the developing technology that uses algae to create vegetable oil. It doesn't affect food crops, produces thousands of times more oil per acre than standard sources, and does it by consuming existing waste. Vegetable oil and biodiesel both have cold weather issues as well, but that should be solvable through further development of both the fuel and the engine.

Jack McCornack
1/9/2010 6:10:44 PM
Some comments at random. >I've read, but not researched, that the production of a gallon of fuel consumes more electricity >than the electricity to propel an electric car the same number of miles that the gallon of fuel >would provide. I've read that too, it's amazing the stuff you can read on the internet. It seems unlikely, but if true, then EVs are the clear winner in every category. >You have the option of using green energy to power an EV. You don't have that option with a gasoline car. If by "green energy" you mean "renewable", then currently, about 10% of the fuel in the national gas auto fleet is biofuel. And of course MAX is a biofuel diesel. I won't be as green as Darell and Paul Scott and Claudine until I'm growing canola in my front yard, but I do have the option. >Still think we should stick with internal combustion? Nope. I don't much care for external combustion, either, such as performed at fossil fuel electric plants. If we're going to use combustion to power our cars, we should use it as efficiently as possible. That means both IC and EC drivers should consider their environmental impact, and neither a gas-guzzler nor a coal-guzzler be. You folks charging your cars from PVs and wind generators? The sooner we follow in your footsteps, the better.

Darell_1
1/9/2010 4:11:20 PM
Mark wrote: Cool. Please post a link to a study you consider fair. (this was in response to pollution comparisons from ICE and EVs). I can do that! Sherry Boschert studied all the peer-reviewed studies she could find, and painstakingly distilled it all into one report. These aren't just "hey, I found these on the internet, so they must be real" situations. They are the best studies available at the time (2007). http://www.sherryboschert.com/Downloads/Emissions.pdf Her report includes references, of course. I'd also like to comment on EVs not fairly being compared average ICE cars. I may not have stated that well. The nice thing about the Rav4EV is that we have the gasoline version of the same car to compare to. Apples to apples doesn't get much better than this. And the gasoline version of this car definitely produced more pollution (and C02 if we're calling that a pollutant) than the EV version being plugged into the grid. And yes, I do still follow your point about the worry of making inefficient (too big) EVs. And in a fashion this is exactly what happened with the Fuel Cell folks. They contend that all the energy to make H2 will come from green sources, so it doesn't matter than they'll use 4x as much of that energy as a battery car would. I mean it'll all be free and green! :sigh: (as an aside, these same FC folks contend that EVs will all run on coal, while FCVs will run on rainbows and the laughter of children). - Darell

Darell_1
1/9/2010 2:14:17 PM
Welcome to Darell day on the blog... >> I gave you a link and procedures for finding the gov's fuel economy figures on the RAV4 EV. I'd meant to take you to task for this earlier. You seem to imply that the "fuel economy" number for the Rav4EV is way off base because of the seemingly random way it was generated. Of course there are several ways to make this conversion, and I'll give you another just so you don't feel so bad about what the EPA did: In its batteries, my Rav4EV holds a bit less than then energy contained in one gallon of gasoline. So if we assume that my full tank is one gallon of gas (regardless of price) and I can drive that car 130 miles on the EPA test at the time (my longest distance is 135 miles) then you can see that 120 mpg is quite reasonable even in this scenario. I normally say 100 mpg since it is VERY easy to defend no matter what metric you use. If we do it per pollution produced, then I get infinite miles per gallon.

Darell_1
1/9/2010 2:10:39 PM
>> Not sure I want to be one of the first or if I'll wait for 2nd Generation at least Well, you don't have to worry about being one of the first. That ship has sailed, as many of us are driving production EVs from many years ago. :) Seriously though... it truly is sad that we're rolling out a whole new batch of "first gen" EVs when by now we could have been on the second and third generations of production EVs if we hadn't taken the Hydrogen Holiday as I like to call it.

Darell_1
1/9/2010 2:05:06 PM
>> here is a large element of the electric car that is not being discussed and that is electro-smog. The electromagnetic field generated from an electric engine and battery in these cars are of high vibration and intensity Yikes. Before worrying about stuff like this, or posting it, I'd suggest you learn up a bit on it. While your conclusion may seem logical, it doesn't pan out in the real world. We've tested the EMF levels in the passenger compartments of standard gas cars, hybrids and EVs. And if you're worried about EMF from EVs and hybrids, you should stay the heck out of gas cars - because many of the gas cars tested higher for EMF than the ones with electric propulsion. This simply isn't something to fret over. Now those scary TV signals are something else. I'm gettin' my tinfoil hat!

Jack McCornack
1/9/2010 3:40:39 AM
Jason Hinton asked... >You are concerned about the pollution caused by generating electricity to charge electric cars. >How do you justify building a car using a agricultural diesel engine that cannot legally be >used in an on-highway vehicle? An excellent question, and I thank you for the opportunity to answer it. MAX's engine (a Kubota D1105-T) meets the EPA's Interim Tier4/Stage lllA standard, which doesn't have a mileage component because it's for engines that don't travel much (such as stationary engines and agricultural engines). In parts per million of exhaust, it's not the equal of automobile standards, but in grams per mile, it looks like MAX's engine will meet current EPA auto standards if I can break 80 mpg. That's the main reason I'm resistant to doing engine modifications; I don't know enough about this engine to be assured it would meet Interim Tier4/Stage lllA after I'd messed with it. All that aside, don't assume this engine "...cannot legally be used in an on-highway vehicle." MAX is an on-highway vehicle and MAX is legal. I probably couldn't build a thousand MAXes without some engine tweaking, but if I ordered a thousand engines, I think Kubota would help with the tweaks. The difference is the quantity. I believe every state has a program where an individual can build a car for his or her own use, without requiring EPA certification.

Jack McCornack
1/9/2010 2:51:35 AM
Paul (not Paul Scott) revealed that... >That's a piece of charcoal in your picture, not coal! A hit, a very palpable hit. In my defense, I'm in Scottsdale Arizona at present, and it's not easy to find coal in Scottsdale. Claudine (10th comment from the bottom) got it right. She wrote... >By all means, adjust the photo to reflect its light-hearted spoofing of >the problems associated with generation of electricity. That photo was meant to be whimsical, and purely symbolic. It isn't coal, and you can't get electricity out of coal by sticking wires in it. Here's how you get electricity from coal. First you dig a big hole, or else slice the top off a mountain. Then you dig the coal out of the ground, with a mix of electrical- and diesel-powered machines. Then you use more electric and/or diesel machinery to load the coal into train cars. The a diesel engine pulls the train to the powerplant. After the coal is unloaded, it is burned under a boiler. Steam from the boiler spins a turbine, the turbine drives a generator, and electricity comes out of the generator. That electricity gets to your wall plug through a series of transformers and along a number of high voltage and low voltage lines and wires. Most of the energy available from the coal is lost as waste heat. It's more efficient than internal combustion, but not by much. Coal's big advantage over petroleum--and it's a huge advantage--is that coal is a whole lot cheaper.

Jack McCornack
1/9/2010 1:58:02 AM
Hi flyingfish2, I'm back. You wrote... >I happen to have 5KW PV system at my residence and find it insulting that >you think if I get an electric vehicle that I am still polluting. I wasn't thinking of you personally. I was thinking more of the 300,000,000 Americans who don't have 5KW PV systems. I applaud those (Darell, Paul Scott, and Claudine come to mind) whose EVs are powered by PVs (and I've done so in my comments, e.g. "...your car is off the grid and putting a truly minimal load on the planet. You are a living example of what electric cars can be and how they can reduce the use of fossil fuels") but whether you'd still be polluting depends on what EV you choose and where you live. According to www.alterisinc.com you should see an annual average of 17 kwh a day if you live in the Northeast and I'll let that be my guess for the sake of argument. Alteris also says "This would be approximately 62% of the average house," and while I doubt your house is as extreme as mine, I'll guess it's better than average and uses only 62% of that average. So I'll guess that you break even and have no load on the grid. If you get an electric car that can meet your household's daily transportation needs on 17 kwh, you can get all the electricity for your car from your solar power system...but then you'll have to use grid electricity to power your house. In this example the electric car isn't polluting, but now the house is.

Bob Simpson
1/9/2010 1:01:45 AM
Jack, You are really distorting this topic with very little consideration to the other sources of electric power that that currently make up our grid. I am a Rav4ev owner commuting 40 miles daily on 77 cents of electric power, which is entirely from renewable sources because I charge the vehicle late night when it is 100% hydro power. We also pay a bit extra to buy our power from renewable sources anyway. This misperception of creating more CO2 emission by charging an EV from coal power is incorrect. Because of the large differences in efficiences between internal combustion and electric vehicles, you still come out with less CO2 emitted per mile when charged completely off coal (or briquettes, as in your photo joke). Dont forget service aspect: Electric: tires and windshield fluid Gas Vehicle: (we all know the consumables here) Part 2 of my project is installation of grid tied PV array that will net zero my commute. Right now, the cost of PV solar is 50% of actual from grants that are currently available and state and federal incentives. So this array will cost less than a small kitchen remodel. Part 1 of my project is a fun and fast conversion, see it at evdrive.com By the way, it is really easy to take the mileage numbers you presented and make sense of them. Forget miles per gallon when trying to compare and think simply dollars per mile. Rav4ev: $2.4/100 miles = 2.4 cents/mile A gallon gas: $2.71/30mpg = 9 cents/mile EV is 4 times cheaper!

Jack McCornack
1/8/2010 11:37:05 PM
flyingfish2 writes: >Jack, this article blows me away! :-) Thanks (blush) >First off "$2.71 divided by $2.40 equals 112. Ta-dah!, a 112-mpg SUV." Seems >to me like it maybe equals 1.12 Right you are. Are you merely pointing out a typo, or do you feel the conclusion is in error? Let me fix it. "$2.71 divided by $2.40 equals 1.12. Ta-dah!, a 112-mpg SUV." The number looks funny that way, it looks like it has two decimal points, but you're right, 1.12. is more technically correct. I figured readers would combine that with "...the RAV4 EV went 100 miles on $2.40 worth of electricity..." and connect the dots. I was cramming too much info into too little space... Aw, no excuses. I was a lazy writer. If I had it to do over, I'd write... "$2.71 divided by $2.40 equals 1.12 and that times 100 miles equals 112. Ta-dah!, a 112-mpg SUV." As to you being insulted by what you think I think, I'll have to think about that...but as the Governor of California used to say, I'll be back.

flyingfish2
1/8/2010 6:34:34 PM
Jack, this article blows me away! First off "$2.71 divided by $2.40 equals 112. Ta-dah!, a 112-mpg SUV." Seems to me like it maybe equals 1.12 2nd, I happen to have 5KW PV system at my residence and find it insulting that you think if I get an electric vehicle that I am still polluting. How about promoting more folks to install PV cells and hook to grid.

Jack McCornack
1/8/2010 3:55:22 PM
Scott Powel wrote: >This article is embarrasing. You think it's embarrassing to read, imagine how embarrassing it was to write! :-) But seriously, I'm not embarrassed. It has people discussing a rarely considered aspect of electric vehicles: are EVs so inherently wonderful that efficiency no longer matters? Are EVs so efficient we can have our cake and eat it to (big fast flashy cars with insignificant impact on the planet), or should we encourage EV manufacturers (and buyers) to improve EV efficiency the same way we MEN-folk encourage petroleum car efficiency (the right size for the job and the right weight for the job, with as steamlined a body as is practical for the task). >Did you ever think that the electric car can be charged by solar or wind power >located at home? Yep. I did. People justify coal-guzzling EVs (hey look! I made up a word) on the grounds that they -could- build a solar or wind charger to power their cars. Those that do, have my respect and admiration. Those that could, well, they usually don't. How many Chevy Volts will be sold on the basis that the owners -could- set up their own home grown rechargers, vs. the ones sold to people that do? >Doh! ...a deer, a female deer, Ray! A drop of golden sun...

Jack McCornack
1/8/2010 3:16:25 PM
From Darrel: >If you count CO2 as a pollutant, then an average EV charged from the national >grid mix is cleaner than the average gas car. That's probably true. There haven't been a whole lot of factory-built EVs in the mix yet, and thanks to limits of battery technology back in The Day, most of them are small and efficient. As a rule, homebuilt EVs are small and efficient as well, most of them are two-seaters (Mother readers have been building electric cars out off Opal GTs and Fieros and the like for thirty years) and all of them I've seen would be more efficient than the "average" car even without the electric conversion. The "average gas car" squanders fuel, in my opinion. The "average gas car" is twice as big and four time as powerful as it needs to be for the "average" drive. From my observations, I believe the "average" drive has 1-1/4 people on board and could be performed with 60 horsepower. The current fleet of EVs are closer to the true needs of driving than the current gas fleet. My concern is that cheap electricity will hurt the development of efficient EVs, just like cheap gas hurt the development of efficient gas cars. >By quite a bit, provided you take into account the upstream emissions >for both "fuels." I don't know about that. I've never read a balanced comparison. >This has been studied extensively. Cool. Please post a link to a study you consider fair.

Jack McCornack
1/8/2010 2:31:28 PM
Hi Dave, >I find this article misleading and inaccurate. Your statistics seem oversimplified and >somewhat biased. Well it sure wasn't meant to be. The oversimplification comes partially from the limitations of the medium, this blog is supposed to be around 300 words and I got permission to double that this time, but (as you can see) there's lots more to say. As far as inaccurate goes, I quoted my sources and you can check them yourself. I gave you a link and procedures for finding the gov's fuel economy figures on the RAV4 EV. I should have done the same for the DOE, but if you google Department of Energy’s Electric Power Monthly for December it'll be right on top, it's http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/epm_sum.html and it's wordy enough for anybody. The DOE may have a bias, but it ain't mine--my stats on the grid's fuel sources came straight from the text. Interesting point re the nocturnal energy discount, I'll have to look into that--it's a hard one to find statistics on. >Please try to think outside the little box here. :-) Will do, or at least I'll try to find a bigger box. Re the rhetorical questions, I'll give them thought.

Roger Dobronyi_4
1/8/2010 2:12:11 PM
You folks are talking like there is a choice. We are just about to embark on a very exciting journey down the back slope of the peak oil curve. If people would just comprehend this.... then maybe we might just have a shot at survival. People standing around now with their denial hanging out, will be the same folks standing in line to buy 5 gallon rations of gas for $9.00/gal wondering why the scientists or Obama hasn't done something about this before then!I am so sick of hearing the obstructionists denying there is a problem with oil or global climate change. It costs 90 barrels of oil to produce 1 new car. Why not remanufacture what is already on the road into hybrids and total electric vehicles. It is already being done on a small scale! Why not go large scale? I have to laugh at Toyota's Prius! All that money and all that technology and my 97 Saturn gets 42 mpg on the Hwy and my 1985 Chevy sprint Got 55 MPG. We sure have come a long way! Electricity can come from coal(finite resource), nuclear(Finite resource and dangerous)hydroelectric, wind generators, solar panels, wave generators, etc. Oil comes from a well that we are losing lives defending our access to it! We buy 15% of our natural gas from Canada. That represnts more than 50% of their production so that will be gone in the near future as well. Still think we should stick with internal combustion?

Maxine_5
1/8/2010 1:32:41 PM
I have installed 4kw solar array ($40K initial, but "only" $10K after Fed, State and County grants/rebates. First yr saved $1K in elec costs and sold Solar Renewable Energy Credits for another $1K, so as you see my payback will be less than 5 yrs as elec prices increase and I've also locked in 100% wind power at today's price to cover the grid elec I use, I continue to save). Part II for me is an elec car. Not sure what my buy-in point will be. There are several articles out yesterday and today leading up to Monday's Auto Show in Detroit and I'll be watching very closely. Not sure I want to be one of the first or if I'll wait for 2nd Generation at least, but I know I want to leverage my solar investment. As I continue to find ways to save energy around the house I'll have more solar avail for this future car. It may be at least 100 mile per charge but it will most likely also be way less than $40K for the car. And then yes, I'll drive it for 15 years or more if the technology and mechanics hold up. I realize not everyone will think or act like this, but it lessens my footprint doesn't it? I'm trying.

J. Robert Barnes A.I.A.
1/8/2010 1:25:49 PM
There is a large element of the electric car that is not being discussed and that is electro-smog. The electromagnetic field generated from an electric engine and battery in these cars are of high vibration and intensity. A person driving a hybrid car or electric car is encapsulating themselves in the highly disruptive environment for long periods of time. Our human cell growth is affected by these continuous artificial waves and will create disfunction in cell growth. Our human energy field is being bombarded 24/7 by wireless waves, power line emission, wiring in our homes and offices and the equipment we run. There are plenty of reports from studies which point towards the detrimental effects of this man made pollution. for those that would like to further their insight go to www.BioGeometry.com This is not my web page but of someone I have studied under. J. Robert Barnes

Jerry_1
1/8/2010 12:36:12 PM
People! From what I'm reading I am getting the impression that you want it both ways. You are complaining about “Dirty” Coal, “Dirty” electricity and “Dirty” fossil fuels. You simply have to try and pick out the best way for doing something that has the least harsh consequences. Some years back it was proposed that solar satellites be put up and beam the energy to a receiver antenna grid in the dessert. This was squashed by a bunch of environmentalists that complained that it would hurt the birds. You get more energy pollution in a big city from all of the radiated power there than you would get at the receiver antenna grid. Don’t try and put a boot down my throat about the energy satellite. I do know that it isn’t going anywhere at this time. I still think the idea behind it is a good one. You have no burning fossil fuels to promote green house gasses and the energy is pumped into the national grid. You also get rid of the oil imports because you could plug your EV into the grid to recharge. Basic message: you have to choose the lesser of two or more evils.

Frank DVM
1/8/2010 12:10:03 PM
OK, so what we need are better models for comparisons between electric and gasoline cars, taking into account things like... - How is the electricity produced? eg. natural gas produces about 1/2 the CO2 of coal. Does your utility allow you the option to buy renewable power? (Mine does!) - Effeciencies of car's powerplant: eg. electric motors are MUCH more effecient than gasoline. - Actual costs of fuel: How much of our foreign oil is being "subsidized" with military costs, etc. - Benefits of encouraging electric power over petroleum based power: eg. The higher the price of electricity compared to gasoline, the more solar and wind electric become competitive ways to produce power. Thanks for the great discussion...

Jason Hinton
1/8/2010 11:55:20 AM
Jack, You are concerned about the pollution caused by generating electricity to charge electric cars. How do you justify building a car using a agricultural diesel engine that cannot legally be used in an on-highway vehicle?

Jack McCornack
1/8/2010 11:38:44 AM
Man, what great comments! Wrote Darrel: >...so nice to see the author participating in the comments. It so rarely happens. Usually it is >more like a drive-by shooting. ;) Hey, I wouldn't miss this one for the world! I'll admit I'm being a bit of a devil's advocate in this discussion, and presenting a position I know is unpopular, but if we all agreed about everything we'd have nothing to talk about. I don't think I'm a drive-by shooting kinda guy, but I'll confess to the occasional drive-by pie-in-the-face. I usually withdraw from on-line discussions when/if they get too nasty for my tastes, but this group is terrific. Nobody's writing in all caps, nobody has pointed out that I'm an idiot (though it has been implied) and we've yet to read the dreaded Muzzle That Idiot Or Cancel My Subscription comment. This subject is emotional as well as technical, and I primed the discussion with some emotional statements (e.g. "I don’t see that they’re helping the planet right now — they won’t until their efficiency catches up with their hype") but the blog comments are rolling along by themself now. I could drift away and I think the discussion would keep going, but I'm having too much fun to quit now. So unless y'all think I'm hogging my blog, I'll keep posting.

Paul_68
1/8/2010 11:23:15 AM
That's a piece of charcoal in your picture, not coal!

Tim Nelin
1/8/2010 11:18:01 AM
The problem's solution is at hand, and the only way we can access the resources necessary to implement immediate change is to have access to the obscene excess of profits, upper management salaries, and wasteful expenditures that are considered an American right to possess, and actually strive for. Well, kids, we are now past the time for these ideals to continue. We are not reducing pollution at this point. We are simply slowing it's acceleration. It's a start. but it's far from the solution. At some point in the near future, we will not be able to slow pollution at all, and it will continue to accelerate uncontrollably. If we can't fix it, then we have to stop breaking it! We must all become, on an idividual basis, responsible for our own individual space on this earth and the resources we use to exist. THAT'S THE POINT!!!

Neil Larkins
1/8/2010 11:12:35 AM
Above that, Jack, is the battery recycling issue -- which all the electric car promoters and makers tread lightly upon and which some here have already addressed. All batteries eventually wear out and will either be trashed or recycled. If trashed, then we know the problem there. If recycled, then we have a greater problem. Recycling of batteries is a dirty business in anyone's book. Most of that will likely be done outside this country and in the same way that computers and other electrical devices are currently handled: dangerously. So with batteries we are and will be essentially exporting our pollution. One may say that we need more laws to prevent that but we already have laws that prohibit the sending of electronics outside the U.S. for recycling and it happens anyway -- at a tremendous rate and at a tremendous cost to the health of third-world people. Glad you opened this subject for discussion. We need this sort of thing.

fred_dot_u_2
1/8/2010 11:09:11 AM
I hope I can contribute a bit of a viewpoint to the "dirty" electricity involved in running an EV. As already noted, most EV charging is done during off-peak hours and the utilities in my area just "throw it away" if it's not being used by the consumer. Directly related to the use of electrical power is that refining that foreign oil (or domestic, obviously) requires electricity, more electricity than that consumed by charging an EV. I've read, but not researched, that the production of a gallon of fuel consumes more electricity than the electricity to propel an electric car the same number of miles that the gallon of fuel would provide. That makes it seem to me that EVs come out ahead in the math.

Jim Johnson_1
1/8/2010 10:44:21 AM
How many of you drive an EV?? live in a city and have the cash to do this, do you have the $40.000.00 to build a whole house PV. system, another $40.000.00 to buy a EV. have you consider the difference in the cost of insurance? ever consider that EV. will not work well in all climates, it was -32 here a few days ago, Have any of you stopped to consider the added danger an EV. is to EMS. and other rescue personnel in the event of a accident if the battery is not properly "turned off"? Are EV's a good thing ? yes, but they are only part of the answer to a cleaner environment

Scott Powell_1
1/8/2010 9:36:24 AM
This article is embarrasing... Did you ever think that the electric car can be charged by solar or wind power located at home? Doh!

Dave_62
1/8/2010 8:43:43 AM
I find this article misleading and inaccurate. Your statistics seem oversimplified and somewhat biased. First, electric cars currently use excess grid capacity to charge. Due to efficiency losses, grid-powered electric cars are taking advantage of heavily discounted low-demand electricity. Electrical power plants are built to manage peak daily power demand. Balancing that lop-sided day/night difference in power consumption increases efficiency and thereby cuts CO2 production substantially, even in coal-fired plants. You focus on single-passenger cars as well. You should add information about mass transit, where simpler methods of electrical transmission cut CO2 production dramatically. Please try to think outside the little box here. Here are other examples of how battery-driven vehicles can and will clean up the environment: What costs more CO2, an engine foundry or a battery facility? Which uses less energy in production, plastics or metals? What's the cost of recycling a hundred gallons or so of highly toxic automotive fluids over the life of a gas-powered car? What's the cost of distributing gasoline to retail stations in comparison to a preexisting distribution grid? Which mass transit choice is cleaner, electric trains or diesel buses?

Darell_1
1/7/2010 11:26:13 PM
>> True, if you don't count CO2 as a pollutant. I'm not sure I understand. If you count CO2 as a pollutant, then an average EV charged from the national grid mix is cleaner than the average gas car. By quite a bit, provided you take into account the upstream emissions for both "fuels." This has been studied extensively. In fact it usually goes the other way where the gasoline proponents whine that CO2 isn't the only pollutant that we should be worried about. Yes coal is bad. Yes we need to clean up the grid. But even if we freeze in time everything like it is right now... EVs beat gas cars for pollution. And every year you drive an EV it gets cleaner as the grid gets cleaner. Every year you drive a gas car it gets dirtier as the emissions systems wear and slowly fail. You have the option of using green energy to power an EV. You don't have that option with a gasoline car. - Darell

Jack McCornack
1/7/2010 7:30:59 PM
Hi Paul, >Of course there is pollution associated with the generation >of electricity, but the question should be, "is it less >than with a gas car?". The answer is yes, quite a bit less. True, if you don't count CO2 as a pollutant. As you've noted (and I've alluded), getting the pollution off the street improves air quality for cyclists and runners (and car drivers as well). Will your kids grow up breathing clean air? Cleaner, perhaps, but if electric cars increase CO2 output at the powerplants more than they reduce CO2 output at the tailpipe, then you're betting global warming is a myth and if you're wrong, your kids may need some extra sunscreen. >If you have a problem with dirty electricity, and you >should, you shouldn't be running your house on that dirty >power. Perhaps we shouldn't, but most of us do. I'm on the grid, I run my house on that dirty power...but not very much of it. I live in a 130 square foot house (not counting the loft), the walls are 4" thick, I sleep upstairs in the winter and downstairs in the summer, and I doubt my house wastes enough power to run an electric skateboard. Reducing power consumption is its own reward, it's not license to waste power somewhere else, such as by driving a bigger/faster electric car than you need. >A magazine such as MEN should back this technology 100%. Hey, this blog is my own. Do you think MEN should cancel my blog as a sign of their sincerity? Should we "back this technology" with more coal fired powerplants?

Claudine
1/7/2010 5:06:09 PM
By all means, adjust the photo to reflect its light-hearted spoofing of the problems associated with generation of electricity. I have adjusted my lifestyle in accordance with my financial ability to buy 1) a solar array 2)a RAV4 EV (couldn't buy my GM EV1), and I also do as much as I can to mitigate my (unhealthy) presence on the planet. I believe many would do the same if the cars were available, and yes, they should be thoughtfully produced.

William Korthof_1
1/7/2010 4:41:29 PM
Let's not miss the forrest through the trees here. Electric cars wean our transportation off oil with clear and convincing benefits. When we "dump the pump" in favor of the plug, we cut our ties to hostile regimes and environmentally sensitive oil extraction... We cut the need for refineries, which pollute about as much as dirty power plants. We cut tailpipe pollution, which chokes cities and disproportionately punishes the owners of older, dirtier cars. When we plug in with electricity, it's produced from a range of sources that we do control. Unlike oil, we CAN reasonably produce some, or all of our electricity without carbon, without air pollution, and without supporting hostile regimes.

Paul Scott_3
1/7/2010 2:15:26 PM
Further to the point of a cleaner grid powering our cars. The amount of renewable energy coming on line is measured in the hundreds of megawatts each year. It will be well over a decade of bringing new plug-in vehicles to market before we come close to using that much energy. So, you could say that for years to come, all of these EVs will be running on renewable energy. Like Darell, our family has been driving a RAV4 EV and running it on sunlight. This is such a no-brainer for enviros to get on board with. Remember what the oil companies (and the Saudis!) do with your money. Stop giving it to them!

Darell_1
1/7/2010 1:34:04 PM
Jack - so nice to see the author participating in the comments. It so rarely happens. Usually it is more like a drive-by shooting. ;) I have "owned" (or leased) an EV1, a Ford RangerEV, and I now drive a 2002 Rav4EV that we purchased new. I have a 2.5 kW solar system on my garage, and that takes care of 11,000 EV miles per year PLUS it takes care of 80% of my home's electricity use as well. The Rav4EV was the most expensive car I've evern purchased, and it has been the cheapest car to own. To your point - yes we'll still have lots of wasted energy in pushing too-big cars down the road. And yes we'll have coal burning plants for many yeears to come. But even that is far better than sitting around and watching the gasoline Escalades do their damage now. We can't acheive anything if we don't start somewhere. And we get started by using whatever technology we have that is "good enough." And then we improve it. We get cars to run on the grid mix that we have today, and then we work dillegently toward cleaning up that grid mix. We can't make gasoline clean. We CAN make the grid ever cleaner. Will it ever be totally clean? Of course not, but it can be better than it is today, and it is already better than the status-quo choice of continuing to burn gasoline. Paul Scott makes some great points. If we're worried about dirty electricity, why are we worried so much about switching from gas to electric in our cars, when our homes already use more electricity than EVs do? - D

Jack McCornack
1/7/2010 1:28:22 PM
+1 what Darell said! Darell, your car is off the grid and putting a truly minimal load on the planet. You are a living example of what electric cars can be and how they can reduce the use of fossil fuels. Better is the enemy of good, and the good one can do today trumps waiting for better/excellent/perfect in the future. My concern is that factory-built electric cars may go the way that factory-built gasoline cars went 'twixt roughly 1980 and 2005. The efficiency gains (and there were many) went into making cars quick and fast and comfy instead of going into saving fuel and energy. If GM brings back the EV-1 I'll be jumping with joy--that was a very efficient car. If GM introduces an Electric Escalade, well, most of the folks who'd buy them would plug them into the wall rather than put solar cells on the roofs of their garages, which means more coal to generate more grid electricity. If there's a significant national fleet of Electric Escalades, there will be a significant increase in demand for electrical power, so more powerplants will be built. Will the majority of those powerplants be wind generators, or coalburners? Well, which one gives the biggest short-term bang for the buck? Which one has the quickest return on investment? Efficient electric cars are good for the planet. Inefficient electric cars are not. The electric car industry doesn't distinguish between the two. Please write another comment, I'm curious if your car is a homebuilt or a storebought.

Paul Scott_3
1/7/2010 12:37:25 PM
Of course there is pollution associated with the generation of electricity, but the question should be, "is it less than with a gas car?". The answer is yes, quite a bit less. As an energy auditor, I find that most Americans waste more electricity in their homes than they'd use in an EV. Just stopping your waste means you can drive your EV and you still don't use any more electricity than you did when you drove a gas car, but now you're not using any gas. If you have a problem with dirty electricity, and you should, you shouldn't be running your house on that dirty power. Either get a solar PV system, or sign up for your utility's renewable energy program. If they don't have one, become an activist and persuade them to offer it. Electricity is domestically produced. This is a big deal since you'll never give your money to the oil companies again. How do you think that will feel. Those of us who drive EVs can assure you that the readers of Mother Earth News will LOVE this! If you are a runner or cyclist, just think how much more pleasant your exercise will be when those oil burners are not spewing their filth into the air you breathe. Your kids will also enjoy growing up breathing clean air. A magazine such as MEN should back this technology 100%.

Jack McCornack
1/7/2010 11:55:10 AM
Excellent points, davisonh. I agree re the improvements in mining and processing--recycling is critical to low (global) impact manufacturing, and in half a century, lead acid batteries have gone from poster child to shining example. I don't know of any recycling program that holds a candle to it, there is more "post-consumer waste" in car batteries than in anything else I'm aware of. A far as fuel-to-mechanical-energy conversion goes, burning fuel in a big powerplant has efficiency advantages over burning fuel under the hood, though I don't know exactly how much and estimates vary. It's my understanding that it's difficult to beat 30% efficiency with small internal combustion (that's about what MAX gets) and it's difficult to beat 40% efficiency with external combustion electric plants (which is about what the big coal plants get). Transmission losses vary, but by the time an electric car battery is charged, then dischargeed, then converted to mechanical energy by a motor, it's pretty close. I'd put a smart alec caption with my smart alec photo (Can electric cars run on coal? Most of them already do) and I'll add to your comment... (one might as well use a steam engine to push us down the road) ...that most electric cars already do. Just 'cause that steam engine is a long way away, in some coal, gas, or nuclear powerplant, doesn't mean it's not there. Electric cars may be the salvation of transportation someday (and I think they will), but we can't rest on our laurels yet.

Darell_1
1/7/2010 9:39:40 AM
I wonder when "good enough" is good enough? Is the perfect the enemy of the good? I'm an EV driver. I've been driving an EV as our main family car for ten years now. And my car is powered from the energy of the sun that lands on my garage roof. This article (and comments) point out that EVs aren't that good because they're maybe only a little better than gas cars. And in the worst-case scenario where everybody uses the average grid mix, and the grid never gets cleaner, it is true that EVs are only a little cleaner than gas cars by some metrics. So I have to ask: Is a little better worth shooting for, or should we stick with the status quo and wait until there's a perfect solution? The potential for EVs to be *significantly* better for us cannot be overlooked!

davisonh
1/6/2010 6:39:39 PM
To the comment above most batteries these days(even the modern nicads and Li-ion have synthetic sources),indeed 85% of the lead used in batteries is recycled lead,nickel,etc.Easier for manufacturers to reuse than it is to process new ore.Lot cheaper too.Lithium is not mined per se,it is synthesized from other materials,such as potassium chloride and such,not mined.Alright about electricity.Indeed all depends on how you generate it,and you are right it's not a 'source'.But 10% as you have stated above is generated from 'green 'sources and in the US 10% of the total country's supply is a lot of power.And with more coming online daily,not to mention other electrical sources available to us (refer to my comment on geothermal energy below)that we have'nt even touched yet,i.e hot nuclear fusion (or star power) tidal generation and a myriad other ways to spin a turbine I would say that using electrical power in the future as a replacement for the poor 12% thermal to mechanical energy conversion ratio of the internal combustion engine,(one might as well use a steam engine to push us down the road) the future has to belong to electrical power.

UncleRice
1/6/2010 4:02:24 PM
Add to this the not so green manner that battery minerals are mined around the world and electric vehicles aren't so green.







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