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A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?

4/4/2011 02:26 PM EDT
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yalanand
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
yalanand   4/4/2011 6:28:05 PM
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Its really sad to know that United States will miss the mark by about 160,000 vehicles because of events that happened in Japan. Lets hope production of lithium-ion battery production starts soon in Japan.

_hm
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_hm   4/4/2011 6:31:33 PM
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This may look daunting task. But USA has power to accomplish this and everyone should make their effort to achieve this.

Magic79
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Magic79   4/4/2011 8:38:30 PM
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No thanks!

R WOOD
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R WOOD   4/4/2011 6:35:53 PM
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Wait a minute. On November 2, 2008, didn't Obama say "Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket"? Methinks this is all socialist baloney.

goafrit
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
goafrit   4/5/2011 12:50:45 PM
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Do they pay more in Norway for electricity?

mat9000
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mat9000   4/4/2011 6:41:24 PM
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you miss an important aspect... Batteries need to be charged...guess how the Energy is generated? Nuclear Power plants. not sure if this is the way to go. Japan should make us to think it over.

elPresidente
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elPresidente   4/5/2011 5:09:15 AM
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It has made the informed think it over and we have come to the conclusion that it is our best energy technology. The Fukushima reactors ALL survived a 9.0 earthquake and were indeed successfully shut down. The idiot who put the backup diesel generator fuel tanks near sea level, to be washed away by a tidal wave whose name comes from the Japanese word for it, was the problem - no cooling of hot fuel, even in the spent fuel bays. You people need to stop regurgitating the spoon feed from Big Coal and look into the facts for yourself.

SCI.1
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SCI.1   4/6/2011 2:11:09 PM
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Ther are better ways to do this that are sae, nonpollutting, unitized, NOT connected to the grid,good for the economy and small business, etc. Check out "FAST-POWER"(c)TM @ SCI (Synergy Concepts Inc)

lcovey
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lcovey   4/4/2011 6:57:29 PM
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If we put the target for hybrids and Electric vehicles, we might have a shot. Americans buy between around 11.5 million cars a year. 2.4 percent of those were hybrids last year so we are talking about 250,000 cars on the road, this year alone that meet the mark. If we go with electrics only, then we have a problem since current projections for all makers is 10,000 a year only, and that was before production got shut down in Japan. Could we se a 100X ramp in production between now and 2005? Possible, but not probable.

Me2
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Me2   4/4/2011 7:06:31 PM
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I think an equivalent thought to this goal is "Give peace a chance". Nice thought, but considering the realities involved, good intentioned but not very well thought out. The solution is going to bring with it a whole new set of problems. Clearly wind and solar power are not going to supply the energy needed (as Europe is discovering). Therefore nuclear and oil will still be needed to energize the go-carts. Furthermore, this past winter has proven electric vehicle impractical in hard winter driving. Not sure how people that farm and make their living in the wide open spaces are going to justify go-carts for their livley hood. So, keep dreaming...

Chrisbaron
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Chrisbaron   4/4/2011 7:09:41 PM
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Exactly how is this supposed to happen with ZERO affordable decently performing electric vehicles available now in 2011($40k Volt don't make me laugh) and no charging infrastructure in place and no plans to actually implement it? These kind of grand pronouncements of lofty goals disconnected from any reality are the stuff of Soviet 5-year plans. Makes a good speech but without a lot of hard work and societal determination it ain't gonna happen.

km6xu
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km6xu   4/4/2011 10:50:14 PM
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Chris, somebody nearby here got a Nissan Leaf that (after the government incentives, ugh) was about $22K. The power grid is darn near everywhere, and charging stations are popping up all over the place thanks to both governmental and private efforts. With a little help from google, you should be able to find maps showing many, many charging stations. You are right that much more than cute speeches are necessary; societal will is needed to wean us Americans from Middle-East oil.

selinz
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selinz   4/4/2011 7:10:17 PM
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This data does not make sense to me. CA had a HOV program that allowed 85,000 cars to have stickers. That ended in around 2006. I have seen dramatic increases in the number of hybrids since then. These numbers for the US seem low. It seems like the 1 million number should be EASY. I'd have guessed there are close to 1 million already.

Robotics Developer
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Robotics Developer   4/4/2011 7:14:43 PM
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Unless and until personal electric transportation (cars) become cost effective and physically supported (charging stations at work, along highways, or really long run times) the electrics will not take off. The limited range (I am not including hybrid gas/electrics) is just than limited and if caught short (no pun intended) of power - how do you walk to the "gas"station and get some power for your dead car? The infrastructure needed will be costly to install and run (someone has to pay for the electricity to charge); without government money (read here more our our tax dollars funding another "good idea") the will not be support for a low to minimal return on investment. We should be looking for more efficient cars (gas/diesel/whatever)and continue to work on the storage problem (large,costly batteries). Perhaps we should be re-looking at LP? This has been both tried and worked, there is enough range in the vehicles, and there is a support structure in place currently.

elPresidente
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elPresidente   4/5/2011 5:13:57 AM
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That family trips three weekends a year to the ski hill is why Americans sit in traffic the other 340 days a year with their 12MPG 4WD Excursions. The reality is that most American daily trips are 35 miles or less. There's always an "if" and "but" as far as not enough range. Like you are too stupid to plan for it and take the Excursion that one day?

steveEV
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steveEV   4/5/2011 10:52:01 PM
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I am one of the fortunate few who already own and drive a highway-capable EV as my primary transportation. My American-built 1999 Ford Ranger EV provides safe, clean, quiet, and low cost transportation for many thousands of miles each year. My electricity (as solar power) falls from the sky all day long. Every sunrise shines on a fully charged EV ready to go again. So far this year I have had to stop only once for a booster charge with my lunch (the charger attracts my regular business) instead of just waiting to get home. My solution has been on the road for twelve years, no government incentive required. How long have you been driving that hydrogen or LP car?

jreisenbuckler
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jreisenbuckler   4/4/2011 7:18:37 PM
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EVs are only part of the solution. Natural gas cars, hydrogen cars should also be factored into the mix. Individual creation of energy should also be promoted. Incentives should be in place for individual home owners to generate their own electricity through wind and solar generation. Whatever they don't consume, is converted to hydrogen, which can be stored and used later to power their car, heat their home, etc.

georgie
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georgie   4/5/2011 3:57:13 AM
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I am with you - the hydrogen is the solution with no pollution as long as it is generated from renewable resources - solar and wind. Both of those are intermittent and hydrogen can ideally serve as energy storage (buffer). As soon as a reliable high density storage is developed (along the metal hydride approach or similar) hydrogen coupled with fuel cell is ideal solution for transportation. Never mind poor efficiencies of the current solar cells - even with today's generation of cells there is 150W/m2 power available. Consider vast areas of the desert in SW US: an area of 50 mi square could with current solar cell technology supply the entire generated power needs of US (while sun is shining). Improving the efficiency of solar cells in the future will make the picture even better as will using the heat (IR) part of the spectrum for running conventional steam power plants. All this without any contribution to greenhouse gases.

subman
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subman   4/5/2011 5:12:08 AM
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Hydrogen storage in homes? Hydrogen in cars everywhere? There are pretty serious risks associated with storing a high pressure explosive gas. As my handle implies, I served on a submarine. We generated our own oxygen from water using electrolysis. This also produces hydrogen. The nickname for the machine that produced the oxygen and hydrogen was "the bomb", with good reason. It required very careful and constant management from highly trained operators. I find it pretty fanciful to picture an average (or any!) home with a hydrogen generator, cranking out the hydrogen from the excess solar electricity. Factor in the risks of handling hydrogen and managing it in vehicles...and Ralph Nader can start producing "Unsafe at any speed, the Ford Hindenburg." - Gasoline is also certainly flammable and dangerous, but it is generally not stored under pressure and requires vaporization to explode.

georgie
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georgie   4/5/2011 3:47:54 PM
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You don't generate hydrogen at home but rather in safe industrial facilities. Storing it in metal hydrides avoids the high pressure. Also, it might be handled in proper pressurized containers, similar to natural gas which is not generated at point of use either.

subman
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subman   4/6/2011 6:05:41 PM
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I believe most scale-produced hydrogen is currently made from natural gas. I take it the concept here of storing grid power via hydrogen involves electrolysis. Are there any industrial-scale plants generating hydrogen now (I don't think so)? Has storing it in metal hydrides moved past the concept phase?

Tiger Joe
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Tiger Joe   4/4/2011 7:28:58 PM
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This argument should not even be on the table. It puts the cart before the horse. It presupposes the Ion Battery solution is the way to go, when all evidence points towards the contrary. Battery production is not a cheap or green process. And it is far too expensive, even with incentives. Takes too long to charge up, and the range isn't there. Electric cars lost out in the early 1900s to the Internal Combustion Engine for these reasons. The current technology requires most people to have a second car anyway. Someone else mentioned the additional power stations required for the added Grid loads. So much for that. Some other technology will be the solution, in which case the effects of the Tsunami won't matter. The only green I see in Obama's ultimatum is the color of the cash being transferred to the wallets of the rhetoric makers.

Ron Wilson, Embedded.com
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Ron Wilson, Embedded.com   4/4/2011 8:12:31 PM
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I believe the underlying problem here is that the personal EV is not a transportation solution: it is yet another instance of our environmentalist NIMBY. If you take into account the generation, transmission, and distribution of electric power under any plausible scenario of infrastructure investment in the US, it becomes very hard to argue that either (a) we can deliver all that charging current to the clusters of EV users that will develop in urban neighborhoods, or (b) there is a net savings in hydrocarbon emissions, even over the life of the car and added generation/distribution equipment. Nuclear is off the table in the near-term for both political and capital-cost reasons. Renewable sources can't meet the added demand. So what the EV really amounts to is a vision of a million cars powered mostly by coal and natural gas, with the efficiency degraded by hundreds of miles of transmission lines and complex local distribution networks. Do we really want to switch from gasoline and diesel to coal? I might breath easier, but what about the low-income people who get to live next to the generating facility? Oh, right. They are NIMBY ... ron

elPresidente
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elPresidente   4/5/2011 5:20:46 AM
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There will be no infrastucture/renewables installed without demand. In America, that translates to promises of utility revenue. There will be no EV without energy supply. In America, that translates to promises of automaker revenue. One must come before the other. Sadly, without a glut of power, the demand side must be forced (or stated as a toothless "vision"). Had the Obama Adminstration had any sense, they'd sanction and pay for the building 1TW of distributed nuke plants instead of paving perfectly good roads and bombing people in tents.

Rob Dekker
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Rob Dekker   4/7/2011 9:20:06 AM
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Ron, I respect your opinion, but I think that market forces will determine if plug-in hybrids and EVs will be economical or not. EVs run at a factor of 2 - 3 lower cost per mile than gasoline ICEs, and there is no NIMBY opinion that can do anything about that.

old account Frank Eory
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old account Frank Eory   4/4/2011 8:20:30 PM
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There is a critical difference between hybrids and pure EVs that doesn't seem to be a matter of concern to our national policy-makers -- hybrids do not add to the load on the electric power grid, and EVs do. Over 90% of U.S. electric power generation is accomplished with non-renewable fuel sources -- either the burning of coal, natural gas or oil, or by nuclear fission, which is almost 20% of the total). If we could completely eliminate the consumption of petroleum by cars & trucks, and replace them all with plug-in EVs, would we even want to? What would be the cost -- and not just the investment cost to expand our electric power generation capacity and create a nationwide system of charging stations, but more importantly the environmental cost of adding that many more tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, or expanding the nuclear waste storage problem by bringing new nuclear plants online? The hybrid gasoline-electric vehicle helps us reduce our energy consumption by increasing the the miles per gallon of the vehicle. The fact that rechargeable batteries are involved is besides the point -- a more efficient gasoline or diesel engine that could achieve the same efficiency without needing batteries would accomplish the same thing. But a plug-in EV simply transfers the form of the energy consumption from one fuel to another, with consequences to our environment as well as costs to our economy. I fully appreciate the political motivations for wanting to make this transfer, to reduce U.S. dependence on mideast oil imports. But it is wrong to couch the debate in terms of "going green." Plug-in EVs are even less "green" than today's petroleum-powered vehicles.

darelldd
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darelldd   4/5/2011 8:36:41 PM
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Frank said: hybrids do not add to the load on the electric power grid, and EVs do. (end quote) In fact this is incorrect. Not only do oil refineries generate gobs of their own electricity, they are counted among the largest consumers of grid power. It takes LOTS of electricity to make gasoline. Don't keep fooling yourself into thinking that gasoline has insignificant upstream baggage. If we took all of our refineries off line now, but got to keep all the electricity that was used for those refineries - we could power our entire fleet with that input power alone - without burning the resulting gasoline. Just because we've always done it this way doesn't mean it is the best way.

steveEV
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steveEV   4/5/2011 11:04:41 PM
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So if I understand correctly, you advise against using the solar power I generate on my roof every day to power an EV. My sister in Portland should not buy a new EV because the Hydro power she uses for her home will somehow increase air pollution when used for a vehicle.

Rob Dekker
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Rob Dekker   4/7/2011 8:46:37 AM
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Frank, Thank you for confirming that hybrids increase efficiency, and will reduce our petroleum usage. The million Priuses that are driving around are a great start. The plug-in hybrid would be a natural extention of the hybrid, but if you feel they add no purpose, then that is fine with me. Market forces and the price difference between electricity and liquid fuel will probably decide for us, regardless of your or my opinion.

Magic79
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Magic79   4/4/2011 8:34:31 PM
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Government mandate has NEVER been the key to innovation. If the manufacturers are left alone, or incentivized, the WILL come up with a vehicle that is affordable, but not likely in the next couple of years. After all, the Volt will only go 40 miles/charge. I have to drive 37 each way, so it would be pushing the technology just for me to get to work. And just because the vehicle is electric, doesn't mean we aren't burning a lot of fossil fuel to charge them! Just another issue that Obama is ignorant on. He continues to believe it he says it, it WILL happen, despite the fact he knows next to nothing about technology and engineering.

PJames
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PJames   4/4/2011 9:13:39 PM
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"despite the fact he knows next to nothing about technology and engineering" I was very impressed by the McCain Palin paper at last year's SAE conference. It's such a shame that we were deprived of their engineering leadership.

darelldd
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darelldd   4/5/2011 8:37:10 PM
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@PJames - that's the best post I've read all day. ;)

kkersey
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kkersey   4/4/2011 9:10:32 PM
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Ron Wilson and Frank Eory have it right. Once the grid is mainly powered by renewable sources, then EV's could make sense, but not NOW. Best-case, this will take decades. Today, the grid is 50% coal and nearly 25% natural gas (and 20% nuke). EV's use just as much energy (at the power plant) as a hybrid burns fuel, and coal actually produces 1.5X the CO2 per energy unit. Therefore, TODAY EV's make NO sense, not even considering the high costs, convenience tradeoffs, and lack of charging infastructure. Hybrids or efficient turbodiesels are practical today, and save equivalent amounts of energy. Longer term, biofuels or solar synthesized fuels (www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/dec/23/reactor-fuel-sunlight ) can power today's vehicles with renewable and net-zero-CO2 fuel. As a stop-gap measure if oil sources get too unstable: LNG works OK, and synthetic gasoline can be made directly from Coal, of which the USA and Canada have large amounts (the Chinese are doing this - see: http://www.exxonmobil.com/Apps/RefiningTechnologies/files/article_CoaltoLiquids_HydrocarbonEng.pdf ). EV's are only one way to get off of oil - and are probably not the best way, at least for now.

km6xu
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km6xu   4/5/2011 5:42:52 AM
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While it is true that burning coal (to produce electricity) and distributing that energy produces a little more CO2 than the burning of conventional gas (ignoring the losses of refining and distribution) *per BTU*, it is a mistake to not also mention that an electric motor is *vastly* more efficient than *any* gasoline engine. That's why the MPGe ratings of electric cars are so high, and are even double those of similarly-sized cars with nice turbodiesel engines (VW TDI, etc). Yes, government research dollars could be spent researching all sorts of alternatives, even those odd synfuels that were interesting so many years ago. Reagan put a stop to that about as quickly as he tore Carter's solar panels off of the roof of the White House, and we never got back at it. Sadly, many synfuels do not address the CO2 issue. Oh, regarding Ron's comment, Time-Of-Use (TOU) metering and the resultant incentives from electric utilities can strongly encourage those with electric cars to charge them during off-peak hours, reducing or even nearly eliminating the need for additional transmission and distribution facilities. Yet another "reason to be" for the smart grid.

old account Frank Eory
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old account Frank Eory   4/4/2011 9:27:07 PM
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Here's more food for thought: The Chevy Volt consumes an average of 36 kWh per 100 miles in all-electric mode. According to the U.S. DOE, it takes 2.1 lbs of coal to produce 1 kWh of electricity. Transmission & distribution losses in the power grid are estimated at around 7%, lithium-ion battery charging is about 98% efficient, and let's be generous and assume that the losses in the cable connecting your car to the electric outlet are only 1% -- that's a total of 10% in losses between the power plant and usable energy stored in the batteries in your all-electric car. So the power plant needs to generate close to 40 kWh of electricity -- by burning over 80 lbs of coal -- to enable your Volt to drive 100 miles. That 80+ lbs of coal burning will add about 49 lbs of CO2 to the atmosphere, or about 4.9 lbs of CO2 per mile driven. The U.S. EPA's calculation for CO2 emissions by gasoline-powered cars is 19.4 lbs of CO2 per gallon of gasoline. Even a gas-guzzling SUV that only gets 19.4 miles per gallon will emit just 1 pound of CO2 per mile -- 5 times less than the supposedly "green" Chevy Volt. The real trade-off in the move to EV's is American coal vs. Middle Eastern oil, but at a cost of much higher greenhouse gas emissions.

km6xu
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km6xu   4/4/2011 10:33:42 PM
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Frank, given that the MPGe rating of an SUV is about half that of the Chevy Volt, I suspected a mistake in the analysis, so I gave it a second look. If the Chevy Volt produces 49 pounds of CO2 per 100 miles, that equates to 0.49 pounds per mile, about half that of the SUV.

old account Frank Eory
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old account Frank Eory   4/5/2011 12:45:59 AM
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You got me! Alas, no editing capability on these forums. Note to self, always double-check the math before pressing the Submit Comment button. Notwithstanding my order-of-magnitude error, the fact remains that purely electric EVs contribute significantly to greenhouse gases due to increased demand from the power grid and the need to burn fossil fuels to meet that demand. Compared that with hybrids like the Prius, which gets around 50 mpg. Let's see if I can do the math right this time: 19.4 lbs CO2/gallon / 50 miles/gallon = 0.39 lbs of CO2 per mile for a Prius or similarly efficient hybrid. Not so dramatic, but still less than the 0.49 lbs of CO2 per mile for the Volt...and without building new power plants or charging stations, mining more coal, etc.

darelldd
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darelldd   4/5/2011 4:36:52 AM
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Frank Eory - I'll start with just one basic question: Why are you accounting for all the upstream emissions of an EV and NONE of the upstream emissions of a gas car? You do realize what a hugely polluting process it is to create and distribute gasoline, yes? Do you realize how much *electricity* is used in the production of gasoline? Gas doesn't magically appear in the tank. It is a filthy, destructive process. And that's before it is even burned in a car! After we deal with that issue, we'll move onto the fact that my EV doesn't use any coal power, and instead uses sunshine. I make my electricity on the roof of my garage. I have much more after that, but that can get us started in the right direction. If we're going to compare pollution from various automobiles, let's not be selective. At least not if you want to make a valid point. This very thing has been studied to death. And the short answer is that your math is still wrong. Well, the math is right - just that the assumptions are wrong.

elPresidente
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elPresidente   4/5/2011 5:01:05 AM
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Classical ameican shortsightedness. What is, shall be. Coal WILL BE offset by zero Co2 for solar, wind, and nuke. Your Ford Excursion spews the same. Hydrogen was a joke put forward by Bush - his Texas buddies were sitting on a glut of natural gas they couldn't get rid of due to stable demand (H2 is made industrially from natural gas). Alexander Graham Bell was told there wasn't a hope in hell the phone would ever succeed. "No infrastructure...."

Rob Dekker
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Rob Dekker   4/5/2011 6:52:52 AM
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Hi Frank, A Volt and a Prius are two different vehicles, so you cannot directly compare them (for CO2 emissions). But we know that a Volt (running gasoline only) gets 32(city)/36(highway) mpg, which means it emits some 0.6(city)/0.54(highway) lbs CO2/city-mile when running gasoline only. This means that the Volt emits less CO2 in electric mode, even when it is powered by a coal-fired power plant. Not to mention the reduction in other, more traditional, pollutants when driving electric.

old account Frank Eory
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old account Frank Eory   4/5/2011 3:45:07 PM
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Indeed the Volt and Prius are different vehicles -- one draws electricity from the grid, the other generates it's own power, effectively extending the mpg of its gasoline engine. I am not opposed to pure EVs at some future date when we are ready for that transition. kkersey (above) said it best -- "Once the grid is mainly powered by renewable sources, then EV's could make sense, but not NOW. Best-case, this will take decades." Sure, decades from now, we might be generating a large percentage of that required electricity from solar, wind, or even nuclear fusion. But not today, and not by 2015.

Rob Dekker
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Rob Dekker   4/5/2011 8:21:37 PM
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Frank, I just showed you that your own numbers suggest that the Volt emits less CO2 in electric mode than in gasoline mode, even for the worst-case scenario when the electricity come 100% from coal-fired power plants. So I fail to see how you rationally can validate your opinion (to wait). Besides that, the real argument in this blog post relates to the role of EVs and PHEVs in reducing the dependance of our economy on foreign oil and the volatility in oil prices. Surely we can all individually choose to buy or not to buy a PHEV. But for the nation in general your statement in general of "not today, and not by 2015" does not seem to have much rational motivation when looking at the arguments.

steveEV
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steveEV   4/5/2011 11:20:02 PM
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Technology already made the transition ten years ago. I drive a real live example built in 1999 every day. Chevron stalled things when they bought the Nickel Metal Hydride battery patent and sued to keep it out of EVs. Now I use renewable energy to boycott Chevron and bypass every gas station. I am so relieved you are not opposed to it.

Rob Dekker
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Rob Dekker   4/6/2011 8:18:23 AM
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Steve, really cool that you post here. There are only a few people that managed to retain their EVs after GM made a significant effort to squelch the EV market when they shredded all EV1s. Would you care to share with us some of your experiences over the past 12 years ? Like how much you are paying per mile, and if you ever had to replace your battery pack since 1999, and if you would buy an EV again ?

steveEV
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steveEV   4/28/2011 11:02:57 PM
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I cannot imagine buying something that would force me to pay more than about two cents per mile and add the extra effort of stopping at gas stations. I wake up with a full battery every morning and just drive until I get back home and plug in. If I need more power during the day I stop for lunch and plug in while I eat. And sacrifice performance? I went to the Chevy "Main Street in Motion" event to test drive their selection. It really made me appreciate the advantage of a direct drive with no transmission. There is no delay from the EV accelerator peddle to action, and no shifting. I was glad to get back into my truck, even after the Camero and Corvette.

_hm
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_hm   4/4/2011 9:33:02 PM
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GM, Nissan, Toyota, Ford and other car manufacturer put in so much of effort for this next generation EV vehicles. They must have evaluated overall scenario and taken the plunge into it. Can these car manufacturer's spokes person explain their logic behind going for EVs and hybrid technology?

subman
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subman   4/5/2011 4:40:41 AM
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The public is snapping up EV's almost as fast as they can produce them. There were 87 Nissan Leaf sales in January in North America, and then 67 in February! That is not a typo or order of magnitude error, I double-checked my math... Seems unlikely the Japan earthquake has anything to do with the fact that hardly anyone in the US wants to buy an EV. It is not a supply problem here. The government simply needs to mandate that everyone buy an EV, and we will have our Sputnik victory. http://green.autoblog.com/2011/03/01/gm-sells-281-chevy-volts-february-nissan-67-leafs/

elPresidente
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
elPresidente   4/5/2011 5:02:34 AM
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$8 a gallon gas will fix that problem very quickly

subman
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
subman   4/5/2011 4:55:46 AM
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I went back and checked Nissan's website. They sold 298 Leaf's in March. Really on a roll there, more than 4x the February sales. I think we've turned a corner on EV, and the public really does want expensive cars that only go 40 miles. http://www.nissannews.com/newsrelease.do?id=2364&mid=

km6xu
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
km6xu   4/5/2011 6:39:15 AM
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That website is reporting North American sales. As Leaf production ramps up, most of them are being sold in Japan, and availability here is stifled. For the record, the car is advertised as having a 100 mile range, and real-world experiences are in the same ballpark. The car is expensive when only up-front costs are considered, but it comes through when operational costs are factored in.

Rob Dekker
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
Rob Dekker   4/5/2011 7:16:07 AM
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subman, I'm not sure if you have ever tried to buy a Nissan Leaf, or a Chevy Volt for that matter. Last year, 13,000 people paid $99 each for a reservation, and that was within one month (May 2010) after Nissan announced the vehicle. I've been on the waiting list for a Volt for half a year now, and there is no indication I'll get a Volt this year. Your statements that "it is not a supply issue" and "hardly anyone in the US wants to buy an EV" are laughable and frankly rather ignorant of the demand of EVs and PHEVs that the US population has shown time and again starting with the EV1. When you buy a new car, you have to think about the price of gasoline over the next 10 years, and it seems that more and more people are aware that the time of cheap oil is over, and the time to drive on an alternative power source is upon us.

subman
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
subman   4/5/2011 2:26:46 PM
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No, like most people in north america I have not tried to buy a Leaf or a Volt. Thank you for your lecture on what I should consider in buying a new car, I never thought about the fact that I'll have to buy fuel for it! Here is some math...if you drive 10,000 miles in a year and have a vehicle that gets 18 mpg (like my SUV), at $4/gal you'll spend an extra $1100/year on gas over someone driving the same miles in a 36 mpg mini-car. It is absolutely worth $1100/year to me to drive an SUV. A $40k nissan leaf is going to cost an owner something like $3,000/year in depreciation, and when you factor in buying a new ($10,000?) battery pack every ~7-10 years, the price gets steeper. There is more to a transportation cost equation than the price of gas.

brianhooku
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
brianhooku   4/5/2011 5:50:31 AM
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darelldd
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
darelldd   4/5/2011 3:02:45 PM
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Why are we so scared of change in this country now? Scared enough to report the Leaf's range as less than half of what it is? Scared enough to imply that EVs will depreciate while gas cars won't? And certainly scared enough to ignore all external costs of gasoline, and pretend that all we pay for gasoline is what it costs us at the pump. Our way of life, our standard of living... they're both dependent on our supply of oil coming from outside our borders. We can ignore the pollution aspects of our fuel - there's enough to worry about just from the political and economic aspects of driving around on imported fuel. 45% of our trade deficit is spent on oil - the largest transfer of wealth in the history of our country. But we don't care. We like driving our 18 mpg cars. And we do what we like, not what's best for us. When did we become a nation of "can't do?" What happened to the resolve we had back in the Sputnik era? Back then we wanted to be the best nation in the world. Today we're happy to sit back, get fat, and stick with the status quo until that's no longer an option. Meanwhile, other nations eat our lunch.

subman
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
subman   4/5/2011 8:00:43 PM
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Range reported by the EPA (at least via what wikipedia says) is 73 miles, so I stand corrected on the 40 mile range. My SUV has a ~$70 battery as opposed to a ~$10,000 battery pack of an EV. My experience is that batteries wear out over charge-discharge cycles. This will be a hefty maintenance cost unlike any cost on a gasoline vehicle. You can factor that in the depreciation, as it will affect the resale value. My current SUV depreciates at ~$1500/year. Add in the extra gas I spend vs a car with twice the gas mileasge and we are equal, and that equation gets worse if you pull out the $5-$10k government subsidy/credit on purchase. I'm not implying depreciation doesn't matter, I am saying that gas savings is often offset completely by the upfront cost/depreciation of buying a pricey hybrid or EV. Efficient choices are best rooted in economics, not ideology and government regulation. It's not about can do or can't do, its about making the right choices. If EV turns out to be the right economic choice, then let it stand on its own in the marketplace.

darelldd
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
darelldd   4/5/2011 8:15:45 PM
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(quote)Efficient choices are best rooted in economics, not ideology and government regulation. It's not about can do or can't do, its about making the right choices. If EV turns out to be the right economic choice, then let it stand on its own in the marketplace. (quote) Oh, we agree! However, you are missing a large part of the puzzle. If money is what talks... let's talk money! Oil is subsidized massively. Our tax incentives given to the oil industry total over $80 billion per year. A RAND Corp. study concluded we spend a further $75 billion for military costs protecting our access to oil. Those who buy gas pay nothing at the pump for any of these things. We ALL pay for them through deficit spending and taxes. Further, the economic hit we take because of oil is enormous. When you buy gas, 90% of your money leaves your state. A full 60% leaves the country. The country loses about 2 billion dollars every day! So yeah... if we want a level playing field, we need to start with actually paying for the cost of oil up front. I fully agree we should take away incentives. If you were paying $10 per gallon at the pump instead of taking advantage of the oil socialization, would your outlook be different?

subman
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
subman   4/6/2011 6:36:46 PM
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Let's take your $75B/year number at face value... The US uses something like 21 million barrels of oil a day (wikipedia). Annually, that equates to 7.7 billion barrels/year. So the price of military protection of our supply lines is a little under $10/barrel. 42 gal/barrel means that 75 billion in military spending is subsidizing our gas to the tune of 25 cents a gallon. Is my math off? 25 cents a gallon seems very low... -

Rob Dekker
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
Rob Dekker   4/6/2011 7:51:47 PM
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subman, Interesting way of thinking. One note : That $75 billion military cost is needed to protect only the 'imported' part of our oil supply. We import some 12 million barrels/day, which translates to $17/barrel, or $0.40 per gallon. Also note also that that $75 billion is paid for by the US tax payer, and thus is a subsidy paid by all of us to gasoline users. And in that cost we did not include the cost of sustaining (for life) the 10s of thousands that come back from these wars with limbs blown off, their mind messed up, or the ones that paid the ultimate price... Would you care to include that cost as well ?

darelldd
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
darelldd   4/6/2011 10:26:53 PM
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Great followup, Rob. One wonders what cost we put on human life as well? That cost is also not reflected in the price of gas at the pump. The cost of the wars we wage that are arguably for oil are also not included the $75b number nor in the price at the pump. The specific numbers can never be nailed down perfectly. What matters here is the understanding that gasoline is subsidized. I get so tired of people saying that solar and EVs need to compete on a "level playing field" while they make the assumption that gasoline pays its own way.

subman
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
subman   4/7/2011 2:57:26 PM
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I served in the military for 10 years, and I was proud to project US interests around the world. Did you serve in the military? If not, then please don't speak for the sacrifices of those who have, the vast majority of the military do not appreciate or support environmentalist posturing over what their sacrifice supports. Our military is an all-volunteer force, and is the only force in the world at this time capable of keeping worldwide sea lanes open for world trade. This benefits the US, and the world, in many ways beyond energy trade; the net gain for the economy outweighs the cost. As far as the 0.40/gallon... Another way of estimating the cost is looking at the consumption of motor fuels in the US. It is roughly 175B gallons/year. $75B/175B gallons gives about 0.40 cents/gallon. The order of magnitude is important here, if you buy into the $75B/year cost, that translates into well under a $1/gallon subsidy. That does not take us to $10/gallon.

darelldd
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
darelldd   4/7/2011 3:52:18 PM
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To be clear: You've determined that the patriotic move here is to drive one of the most inefficient, polluting vehicles so that "projecting (protecting?) US interests around the world" will continue indefinitely? And that we can continue to send $2B out of our economy each day?! The "environmentalist posturing" that I'm doing (driving an EV that is fueled by sunlight) results in less need for the military to protect our interests - and in theory fewer people who need to die. You've served, and I thank you. I have not served, though my father died in active duty. I would like that to happen less. That doesn't happen less if we continue the actions - like consuming foreign oil - that require more military conflicts. I have never said nor implied that the $75B/year cost of military protection would increase the cost of gas to $10. That 75B is just a small fraction of the subsidies that gasoline enjoys. If we paid the full cost of gasoline at the pump it would likely be somewhere in the $15/gallon range today - but as I said before the exact numbers are impossible to nail down. What cost to you put on people's health and on their lives? This whole string started only to prove that gasoline is subsidized (since that was totally ignored in your calculations about how cheap it is to drive your Sub vs a more efficient car). Somehow we got off track, and the "I served in the military" card was played. That action usually stifles any further conversation on the subject since folks like me who didn't serve aren't worthy to make any decisions about how our (socialized) military is used.

kkersey
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
kkersey   4/5/2011 5:44:37 PM
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Frank - sorry, both swags on coal/KWh and CO2 are incorrect. Using real figures (too involved to show) result in a Nissan Leaf (if charged by only coal plants) has ~23% more CO2/mi vs. Toyota Prius. In reality the grid is a mix, result: EV's have slightly more CO2/mi on avg. (10%-20%). I am not bashing EV's, but please don't believe the bogus numbers the EPA and others are showing. CO2 output is not the top comparison anyway, IMO. The point is - we need to focus on powering the grid with renewables before EV's can have their day. It's a sequence thing, a cart before horse, not that EV's are bad. km6xu - Electric motors are indeed efficient but you need to include the entire energy stream from fuel-to-wheels (or well or mine -to-wheels, which gets murky). Coal plants are ~32% efficient, natural gas a bit more (avg ~35%, with some new ones up to 58%). A prius's gasoline burning engine or a VW TDI can also be around 35% thermally efficient. Don't believe the 20% efficiency used by EV proponents - this is for old V8's. If you take the Leaf's EPA 99 MPGe (based on KWh out of the plug) and adjust for avg grid efficiency - 99 x 35%-50% (depending on assumptions) = 35-48MPGe, you can see that the energy used is about the same as a prius or VW TDI. No free lunch. Net-Net, the total energy used, total fossil fuel usage, CO2 output, and overall efficiency of EV's is about the same than the best hybrids and turbodiesels (using USA avg grid). Shifting from oil to coal+nat gas has merit - but the URGENT need is to get moving on changing our grid to renewable sources, and until then EV's are mainly a costly distraction. At least plug-in hybrids allow the best of both worlds - albeit at high price. Also, as my prior posting mentioned there are other ways to make fuels for cars that are renewable and net-zero-CO2 and can leverage today's cars and gas stations - and not burden the electric grid infastructure with it or have huge convenience trade-offs.

km6xu
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
km6xu   4/6/2011 9:26:58 PM
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The 32 percent figure for coal-fired plants' efficiency is a world-wide average. Those in the USA are better, and the makers of some modern plants (which is what we would get if we had to build more) claim in excess of 50 percent. The 35 percent efficiency of the turbo-diesel is only true at full-load, a rare driving modality. At less than full-load, the pumping losses become significant, hence the 20 percent real-world figure. Over-powered clunkers are worse than that. I agree that the need to get moving on renewables is indeed urgent, and someday in the future, we will be thanking the early adopters of EVs for getting the kinks worked out for the rest of us. One more thing that is bugging me. There have been all sorts of calculations tossed around in support of various points of view, and they all seem to ignore something far more significant (and costly) than the cost of gas: climate change. Those folks with their 20 MPG barns on wheels complaining about $4/gallon gas are completely ignoring their disproportionate contribution to the continued rise in atmospheric CO2.

darelldd
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
darelldd   4/6/2011 10:35:56 PM
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Indeed! Oddly enough, I try to leave the climate change part out of my discussions since there are always those who will immediately shut down communication when that is brought up. There are countless reasons why we need to switch to more efficient transportation and away from oil without even bringing up climate change - even if I do agree with you! Of course the whole concept of "I can afford to drive my beast, so I will continue to do so" violates the rights of the rest of us. Why are the rights of car buyers more valid than the rights of people who want clean air and water and who wish to turn back the tide on climate change?

kkersey
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
kkersey   4/5/2011 5:49:16 PM
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To the guy who charges his Volt from solar panels - kudos! However, please be clear that the "green benefits" would occur whether or not you have the Volt. The grid would still receive your solar-generated electricity regardless. So...again my point is that powering the grid with renewable sources is what is most important at the moment - and EV's do little (today) to help the situation, except to shift fuels from oil to Coal+NG.

darelldd
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
darelldd   4/5/2011 5:59:23 PM
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kkersey commented: If you take the Leaf's EPA 99 MPGe (based on KWh out of the plug) and adjust for avg grid efficiency - 99 x 35%-50% (depending on assumptions) = 35-48MPGe, you can see that the energy used is about the same as a prius or VW TDI. No free lunch (end comment) Should we not take the average "gasoline distribution inefficiencies" into account when we speak of the gas cars then? I can never figure out why people are so quick to assume that gasoline just magically appears in the gas tank, but we need to climb way up stream to figure out how electricity gets into the batteries. And as for powering the grid with solar (as I do, to offset all of my house's usage as well as my EV's usage) - why are we so concerned with how much electricity is used in our cars while we give our homes with AC units, pools, extra feezers, etc a free ride? Fact of the matter is - as the grid gets ever cleaner, then EVs get cleaner as they age. As a gasoline car ages, it gets dirtier

kkersey
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
kkersey   4/5/2011 7:06:38 PM
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darell - I fully agree with your sentiment - but to be fair: coal and natural gas don't just appear at the power station either! The most valid analysis would include all upstream stuff - but this adds huge murkiness and complexity and (from my reading) the results change something like +/-20%. I'm attempting to look at the bigger picture and longer term. I 100% agree with your statement that "as the grid gets cleaner, EV's get cleaner" - but what timeframe are we thinking of? It will take many decades (at today's pace) to have the majority of the grid powered by renewables...esp. if nuclear power gets nixed due to current events (I'm not in favor of nukes anyway). You are 100% on-the-mark with your "lifestyle" comments. "Negawatts" (efficiency improvements by behavior & lifestyle changes) such as carpooling, mass transit, better home insulation, efficient lighting, etc.) are the quickest and easiest way to "green" the grid. The reason that cars get so much focus is twofold: A) The amount of energy used is large. If one takes their monthly home KWh usage, multiply by 2x or 3x to get the fuel energy used (power plant eff =33% to 50%). Compare this to the number of gallons of gas one's car burns per month times 34 KWh, and I think most people will find that their car's energy usage is between 1X and 3X of their home's energy usage. note: I have not researched this comparison in detail. B) cars burn oil, which is definitely problematic and getting more rare and expensive than coal and natural gas. However I think we would agree that the best course is to get off of fossil fuels altogether, and green the grid.

kkersey
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
kkersey   4/5/2011 7:13:00 PM
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Now, to throw in a curveball - if we were to deploy only solar panels and wind turbines - we come to a point (at say, 30%-40% of grid total power) that we cannot use more without energy storage, because these sources are so variable and the grid needs to be perfectly reliable. The grid needs to stable "backbone". So (a friendly challenge for us engineers) we need to come up with large-scale, cost-effective energy storage before a green grid can be fully deployed. Solar thermal seems currently the best match, but solar-synthesized fuels would also work (and maybe can be run as a substitute in natural-gas fired power plants). Some people also think that everyone's EV batteries, with a "smartgrid" control system might be a way to do this too (I'm skeptical of this one due to costs and practical issues). Anyway - these are the BIG challenges of our generation, and unfortunately while there is progress - the US Government is not promoting the right things to get us there as quickly as possible. Green the Grid now, EV's (maybe) later...

darelldd
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
darelldd   4/5/2011 8:03:51 PM
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kkersey - As I have had solar power for nine years, and an EV as our main vehicle for over ten, I am intimately familiar with the power requirements of house and car... and how they relate. You are in the ballpark for sure. For my situation, it is about 1:1 with 10,000 miles of EV driving per year. Other homes in my area waste more energy than they would need to power their cars, so their homes would use 2-3 times more energy than their car would. (And please note that this is an important part of the puzzle - we truly do waste more energy in our homes than a 10k miles/year EV would consume. Conservation is mostly free... but we don't do it. We don't do it because energy is cheap, and we really don't care about anything until it hurts us - financially or otherwise. This is the same reason we're happy to commute solo in SUVs.) One thing to consider (that obviously can and will never happen) is that if we suddenly switched every passenger car in the country over to EV tonight, and we got rid of the gasoline infrastructure that wasn't needed, and added the grid infrastructure that we *would* need - that tomorrow our country would use significantly less energy than it is using today. And the reason is because of how much energy we put into making gasoline. An energy input that is overlooked far too often. If we took just the energy that is put into making a gallon of gasoline, and instead used that energy to charge a car's battery - that car would be able to travel about 20 miles (more if we include the energy our military uses to protect our oil rights). 20 miles without having to pollute by *burning* that gallon of gas. But we're here today where we stand. And we need to fix it. We only disagree a bit on how to fix it. continued...

darelldd
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
darelldd   4/5/2011 8:04:37 PM
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...continued (quote) "as the grid gets cleaner, EV's get cleaner" - but what timeframe are we thinking of? It will take many decades (at today's pace) to have the majority of the grid powered by renewables (end quote) The part I don't get is the idea that we should wait on EVs until the grid is perfectly clean. It will take what? 20 years to turn over the automobile fleet at the quickest? If we wait a couple of decades before we start perfecting EVs, then we keep trying to play catch up forever. Why not advance on both fronts now while we have the cheap energy to do so? Yes, EVs are not as squeaky clean as we'd like them to be (well, mine are but we'll pretend that they'll all be charged from the grid). But we don't need to wait to deploy them until everything is perfect. The perfect is the enemy of the good in this case. EVs today have many benefits over ICE vehicles... and those benefits will grow as oil gets more scarce, as it gets more expensive, and as it gets more energy-intensive and polluting to pull out of the ground. If we keep depending on oil, we keep destroying our economy, and we are dependent on other nations for our way of life. Though we disagree on some points - thanks for the civil discussion. Somewhat refreshing!

kkersey
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
kkersey   4/5/2011 9:19:04 PM
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darelldd - some very good points. Also I am very impressed that you seem to "walk the walk" instead of just talking about it. As always, I'm open to learning new perspectives, esp. when they are well thought-out like yours. We are indeed more in agreement than not...esp on the end goal. The main area we diverge a little is probably my feeling that since there are only finite resources we need to focus them urgently on the things that bring the quickest improvements in the energy mess in which we currently find ourselves. The other divergence is a feeling that the scale of the existing infastructures (gas stations, cars, electric grid) is so huge that to require wholesale changes to all of these to acheive the "green goals" is a whopping hurdle. My hope is that biofuels or solar-synthesized fuels can allow cars to transition to renewable sources without requiring as much change (change = cost + time). Admittedly, this is unproven technology and therefore may or may not pan-out optimally. cheers.

Rob Dekker
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
Rob Dekker   4/5/2011 9:35:05 PM
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kkersey, Couple of comments : First, we can 'green' the grid all we want, but without EVs and PHEVs we won't get a drop of oil less dependant on foreign oil and price volatility (the main concern expressed in this blog post). Second, when contemplation efficiencies and power requirements, the following graph from EIA is illuminating of the issues : http://www.usablemarkets.com/images/USEnFlow02-quads.gif Notice that the transportation sector (our vehicle fleet) stands out as the least efficient part in this picture (20% efficiency), and it is powered exclusively from oil. Also notice, that if we were to switch, hypothetically, 20% of our vehicle fleet to EVs and PHEVs, we would increase the load on the grid by only 9% (1.1 quads) only. Meanwhile, we save 5 quads of oil (or 2.7 million barrels per day). Third, with a bit of "smart grid" technology (smart meters on EV and PHEV chargers) the EV/PHEV batteries can even out peaks and valleys in grid power usage, and thus provide actually an important service to make our grid more stable. Overall, EVs/PHEVs are an increadible opportunity which address multiple significant energy problems at once.

kkersey
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
kkersey   4/6/2011 1:38:41 AM
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Rob - that's a great energy chart! Very intuitive...and sobering. What you say is true, that we can deploy lots of EV's and shift some of our oil use to coal. I get this viewpoint, and understand the comments "don't ignore the good while waiting for the perfect". But isn't this just kicking the can a little down the road ?...like jumping from the pot to the frying pan? Like changing from heroin to methadone - I'm a little healthier but still addicted to a non-sustainable future. In my opinion, per the "sputnik moment" in the title of the article - we need to think "bigger", and cut to the core issues and really clean up our energy act. Lets see a million solar collector farms, let's see a Manhattan Project for bio or solar fuel synthesis. A million EV's are OK...but don't really change enough in my opinion. The coal, natural gas, and power industry lobbies would like you to believe otherwise, of course. They want the new business. Am I too idealistic ? Maybe.

darelldd
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
darelldd   4/6/2011 4:12:11 AM
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@kkersey - I hear you... and agree. Except for the part where EVs aren't "enough" better. For the moment, just ignore the pollution aspect. Concentrate only on where your money goes when you buy gasoline, vs when you buy electricity. We don't deploy our military to protect our electricity, for example. We don't make foreign policy based on our electricity needs. 45% of our trade deficit is spent on oil! Even if we totally ignore the pollution part of the equation, there are plenty of compelling reasons to switch away from gasoline. No, it doesn't have to be for EVs. EVs may not be the endgame. But they're technically ready now, and proven to work now. It is what we have available to us. We no longer have the luxury of waiting for the perfect solution. Here is where it sounds like we may agree: I'm a firm believer that the private automobile is something we need to get rid of as "not good enough." All the arguments I'm making for EVs are made with the stipulation that American's can't get by without the private auto. If we must keep the car, then we have to power them with something other than oil.

Rob Dekker
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
Rob Dekker   4/6/2011 8:02:46 AM
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kkersey - thanks. Yes, the EIA graph is indeed a reality check on energy supplies and demand in the US. I use it often to put some rational context into energy discussions that are otherwize often driven by preconceived beliefs and ideology. Apart from the fact that the current political climate probably inhibits any large scale government involvement in 'greening' our electricity supply, it also would not address any of the colossal short-term issues surrounding oil, such as our trade deficit, dependance on foreign countries for an essential product, national security, economic stagnation due to price volatility and effects of Peak Oil on our economy and our way of life. If we want to solve these issues, we need to significantly reduce our oil consumption. We can do that by producing alternative liquid fuels (biofuels and CTL and such, with 30-40% conversion efficiencies) and then burning these fuels in our 20% efficient ICEs, or we can choose to power our vehicles with 95% efficient electric motors (which by the way also recover braking energy in city traffic), from a grid powered by a diverse portfolio of energy sources which is kept competitive and ruled by market forces. Guess which option will be more cost effective ? Point is : EVs and PHEVs are the most effective and efficient way to clean up our energy use and reduce our dependance on that single liquid fuel that is tainted with unpredictability, high prices and short supply in the decades to come.

Rob Dekker
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
Rob Dekker   4/6/2011 8:40:53 AM
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One more comment : Increased use of EVs and PHEVs (moving away from oil) would be benificial to electric power generation companies, including the coal industy and nuclear power, and alternative energy industries. It would damage the oil industry, including Exxon and Koch Industries, so let me predict that there will be significant lobbying from the oil industry and Koch against moves to increase PHEV and EV automotive usage, even though such a move would benefit the US as a nation, as an economy, and the US tax payers in cost per mile driven.

Kinnar
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
Kinnar   4/6/2011 9:23:54 AM
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It is a very extraordinary initiative taken by President Obama, but it will be too early to forecast any figure based on the limited figures we have as on today. The cost and the lifetime of the batteries will be the extreme bottle neck for this.

emmsys
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
emmsys   4/6/2011 8:54:35 PM
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Gas hit $1.394/litre CDN here in Montreal yesterday which is around $5.30/gallon. Given that I paid my Mazda3 $2000 a few months ago, gas prices would have to increase dramatically before I spend $30-40k on an electric vehicle. I still think the fastest way to get a dramatic reduction in fuel consumption comes by changing our driving style and habits. I was able to get better fuel economy on my previous V8 BMW than my friend was in his 4-cylinder Mazda6 simply by adjusting how I accelerate and how I approach stop signs/traffic lights. I'm not talking about hypermiling here. When people floor it to reach the next red-traffic light I just facepalm. Synchronized traffic lights can help reduce fuel consumption as well when you happen to catch them on the right cycle. These aren't long term solutions, but they can make a difference...RIGHT NOW. We can't expect everyone to just drop their ICE vehicles and buy EVs in the next year or 2 (or even 5). They are way too expensive and are impossible for people who live in apartments or highrises without charging stations, or those in the suburbs who need to travel long commutes. EVs are an inportant part of the longterm solution though and I'm excited about the technology. But I bet if everyone eased off of the accelerator pedal a little across the continent we would notice huge drops in consumption instantly.

kkersey
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
kkersey   4/6/2011 11:27:32 PM
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km6xu: you may want to research a bit more, as you have confused some data. ~32% (give or take ~1%) is the USA avg coal-fired eff. Worldwide avg is much lower. The very best coal plants are ~38%. The 50%+ plants you refer to are all "combined cycle" natural gas plants, and are just now starting to be deployed. Google "heat rate" of power plants and divide 3412 (BTU/KWh) by that heat rate (in BTU/KWh) to get efficiency. Regarding ICE efficiencies - I stand by the ~35% figure (cruising) for the Prius's atkinson engine and the best turbodiesels. Diesels are actually less efficient at full throttle (running rich) and have no throttle plate, so therefore have very low pumping losses. Diesel's efficiency "sweet spot" is more forgiving than Otto engines. The Prius's hybrid control system is able to keep its engine optimized. In fact, some (huge) turbodiesel ship engines are ~50% thermally efficient. The 20% overall efficiency may be correct for the net aggregate of all existing cars (including the bozo jackrabbit drivers, old V8 cars, etc.) - but is not representative of a modern engine's performance. The point is that modern car engines are approx. as efficient as coal power plants at converting fossil fuel to work. That's one reason why I think it would be better to focus on making solar-synthesized fuels (or even in the short-term make gasoline from coal, like the chinese) than just building more coal power plants. For new power plants - let's build renewable ones (solar / wind).

kkersey
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
kkersey   4/6/2011 11:31:54 PM
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Another EV weakness that the zealots don't like to think about is the brittle nature of the system. What happens when a power failure or a natural disaster takes out the entire power grid of a city - and noone can drive anywhere, including emergency vehicles? The military definitely won't be going electric! Gasoline represents about 45% of petroleum imports, but trucks, ships, most trains, airplanes, cannot go electric in the forseeable future. Therefore, if we were to create a biofuel / solar synthesized fuel system - all of these things can go "green" right away with today's vehicles, whereas if we go EV, the addressable market is less than half, and we need to wait for the "smart" power grid and car infastructure to change, and build more fossil fuel power plants. So...2 things make sense to me if you look at the big picture for the long run - A) power the grid with renewable sources B) create a renewable liquid fuel system. Nothing else needs to change, and the conveniences and robust performance of today's system remains.

darelldd
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
darelldd   4/6/2011 11:49:22 PM
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Why do so many people think that EVs can't run when there is no power? Two weekends ago, there was a huge power outage in Marin County, CA. All of the businesses in town were dark. No traffic lights. None of the gas pumps could function - yet there I was driving by all of them in my EV, on my way home to fill up with sunshine. Why can't EVs drive during a disaster, exactly? They can't charge - just like a gas car can't fill up with gas. Surprisingly the military is putting HUGE effort into electrics. Reduced noise and heat signature are huge pluses fro military vehicles. And of course we already have huge trucks and trains that are electric. Switching engines are a perfect fit for electrics, and they've been in use since the early 2000's. There are 6,000 miles of electric train track across Siberia! Electric rail makes WAY more sense than liquid fuel. Today's "robust" system that relies on huge tanker trucks (that we have to share the roads with!) to deliver liquid fuel to gas stations is not something I see as the future of transportation. On these points, this EV "zealot" definitely disagrees.

kkersey
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
kkersey   4/7/2011 12:30:28 AM
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Darell, OK - I guess my answer was a bit too sharp and a little off-the-mark... sorry. You've got a $30,000 "charging accessory" on your roof, so of course you can charge up any day the sun smiles on you. On a personal level - you've already implemented my proposed "step A" - great! Now if we can just convince everyone else to buy those panels with each EV! I had not heard that the Trans-Siberian railway was electric - that is indeed pretty cool from an engineering standpoint. I'm not clear why it makes "WAY more sense" than liquid fuel, other than it burns coal (in power plant) vs. oil. Most trains use diesel / hybrid-electric drive, and are therefore pretty efficient. Hypothetically, if petroleum-based diesel were to be replaced by renewable-diesel...I think it would be an interesting comparison, esp. considering the significant costs, risks, and losses of 6000 miles of high-voltage tracks. Can you elaborate on the relative merits? Huge trucks that are electric? I haven't seen one. I guess for short-haul urban delivery it makes sense, but for long-distance freight? I think not. I'm sure the military could use electric Cushman carts to deliver stuff on the bases..but in a combat situation? (incoming ! Wait.. while I charge-up my jeep for 2 hours...gives a new meaning to "shock and awe"). Just joshing...kind of.

przemek
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
przemek   4/13/2011 9:07:50 PM
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Re. military, supplying fuel for armor and aviation is one of the toughest logistical challenges, and a primary consideration in military planning. If any of the solar/electric/hydrogen schemes, such as the Nocera's photodissociation hydrogen fuel cell, pan out it would have a huge military importance.

Rob Dekker
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
Rob Dekker   4/7/2011 8:29:02 AM
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kkersey, If I understand you correctly, then you prefer a move towards alternative liquid-fuel sources (by synthesis), as opposed to a move away from liquid fuel (such as with EVs and PHEVs). I respect your opinion, but I'm not sure that you will have economics on your side. For example, you mention synthesis of liquid fuel from coal. This is typically known as CTL (Coal To Liquids). The CTL process starts with converting coal to syn-gas. After that you can use the hydrogen in syn-gas to create hydrocarbons and burn them in 20% efficient ICEs, or you can use that syn-gas in a dual-stage Rankine gas turbine and generate electricity at 50% + efficiency, and power EVs/PHEVs with it. What would be more cost effective ? You mention that 'modern' engines are more efficient than the average 20% of our vehicle fleet, but I'm not convinced that even the most modern vehicles like the Prius (hybrid, with an Atkinson cycle engine) even come close to the efficiency obtained in syn-gas dual-cycle Rankine turbine power generators. Also, there are only 1 million Atkinson-cycle Priuses running around, and more than half a billion Otto-cycle engines. So your synthesized fuel just goes on the pile of the 13 million barrels/day we use for transportation. Also, if you have a fuel (like coal, or wind energy, or nuclear) it is much more cost-effective to generate electricity than it is to try to convert it to a liquid fuel.

Paul Scott
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
Paul Scott   4/7/2011 7:50:16 PM
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Wow, some great back and forth here. I'm siding with Darell and Rob since I, too, drive an EV and power it with solar. The economics are strongly in my favor since my electricity bill averages a mere $100 per year. I calculate the payback on my PV system to happen some time this year. I'll have free energy for the rest of my life. I do want to touch on the national security issue again since subman tried to squelch discussion by telling us he served in the military so he knows what the military's thoughts are on the subject. No one so far has mentioned the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as external costs of oil. These wars have cost us $1.5 trillion and counting. Both wars would never have happened if it weren't for the oil in the middle east and our need to have access to it. These are real costs and must be accounted for in all calculations comparing EVs and ICE. To leave out the dead soldiers from these calcs is even worse. Those men and women died so we can have cheap gas so people like subman can afford to drive a grossly inefficient vehicle without paying the full cost. I think it's shameful he doesn't consider that when wasting this precious resource. If you think we should wait till the grid is clean before committing to EVs, then we'll continue spending money for foreign oil when we could be keeping that money local. The U.S. has added some 27 GW of wind and about 2 GW of solar to our grid in the past 2 years. This is enough new renewable energy to power about 25 million EVs. We've also closed several old coal plants in the past few years reducing our gris mix from 53% coal to today's 45% coal. The trend is clear, we'll continue adding more renewable energy to the grid much fast than the introduction of EVs could ever use, and we'll continue closing coal plants till they are all gone some decades from now.

Charles.Desassure
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
Charles.Desassure   4/7/2011 8:57:28 PM
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Wait a minute. Now everything is the Obama Administration responsibility. Where was the idea of Secure Energy Future during previous administration? So now Obama has to clean-up past administration mess and solve the world problems. That is too much to ask of any administration. We just have to continue to work hard to solve problems as a team.

kkersey
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
kkersey   4/7/2011 9:35:14 PM
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Rob: If you haven't already, pls read my prior comments to see my view. Although individual postings may appear otherwise - I'm not anti-EV. I am against distorting facts to suit agendas (not saying you are). I'm using my most brutally honest judgment on the most practical path to get from where we are to a green future. There can be various valid viewpoints. I think that we would not be far apart on the goal...but paths and timing vary. Let me clarify: Path#1: build a million EV's ASAP. Result: we use less oil (good). We use more coal (bad) and more natural gas (a little bad). We are still dependent on fossil fuels, but have shifted away from oil (good). Cost: ~$7.5K govt incentive (tax dollars) plus approx. $10K price premium per car vs. what a conv equiv. car would cost. 1Mcars=$17.5B. For additional cost (~$30K per household) individuals can achieve fossil-fuel independence. Now we can incrementally convert the grid to renewable sources. Path#2: Leave cars ICE for now, but push hard on efficiency improvements. If we need to reduce oil consumption quicker, consider stopgap of coal to gasoline conv. Take the billions of dollars that would have been spent on early EV's and building more Coal power plants and instead divert it to building renewable grid sources NOW and renewable liquid fuel sources. At this point, if the green fuels happen - we didn't even need to convert to EV's and put up with the big trade-offs. The grid will now be at a much greener state. At this stage (30+ years hence), EV's can indeed offer significant benefits (because the grid will be largely green). EV's and renewable fuel ICE cars can coexist, as well as airplanes, long-haul trucks, etc. which couldn't have changed to EV anyway. Does this make some sense; can you see how it gets us faster down the road to fossil fuel independence? I guess the weakest point is that the solar-synthesized liquid fuel technology is not reality yet.

kkersey
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
kkersey   4/7/2011 9:44:01 PM
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Some reading materials: 1. a more recent version of USA energy flows www.llnl.gov/news/newsreleases/2010/images/energy-flow-annotated.pdf 2. Interesting info on the amount of processing gasoline takes. Also shows what Chemical engineers can do (relevant to solar syn fuels): http://fatknowledge.blogspot.com/2007/02/how-many-gallons-of-gasoline-in-barrel.html 3. EV's aren't necessarily cheaper per mile. California's energy is very expensive mainly because we have lots of renewables content (but Washington has tons of hyrdro power: http://vator.tv/news/2011-01-14-ev-costs-in-ca-outweigh-gas-prices# I think we all agree that we need to get off fossil fuels, and coincidentally reduce CO2 emissions - the big question is: How ? Given that we are so deeply addicted now.

kkersey
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
kkersey   4/7/2011 10:49:10 PM
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Sorry for more blab - but I need to clarify a few things from my prior 2 posts: 1. "For additional cost (~$30K per household)" = buying home solar panels. 2. When I said "push hard on efficiency improvements" - I mean USA policies that encourage both behavioral / lifestyle changes as well as higher car MPG. 40-50 MPG is easily available NOW without much cost premium (Prius / VW TDI), and can be further improved (esp. with better aero car bodies and slower freeway speeds). Compare to 20 MPG fleet avg now...this can save 50% oil usage right there...without a single EV. 3. Since 50% of the grid is powered by Coal (and won't be changing significantly soon) - then my mentioned alternate of coal-to-gasoline conversion accomplishes nearly the same thing as an EV does today....without requiring new cars at all. (possible short-term stopgap only). see: www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a3SIXbVZ8JiE

kkersey
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
kkersey   4/8/2011 9:23:05 PM
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Rob: Yes, combined cycle plants are very efficient (up to 58%) I hope all new plants are like this. There are currently only a few out there. They are costly and burn only natural gas. Theyíre essentially 2 power plants Ė gas turbines+steam turbines running off the exhaust heat. To drive home my prior points in more simplistic terms Ė take Darellís situation. He has solar panels and an EV, and is basically 100% off-grid. This is nirvana vs. fossil fuel usage - kudos! If everyone did the same (assuming solar power was practical everywhere), we would be in good shape. It also presupposes that every consumer would pay ~$30K for panels plus $10-20+K premium in car price. Letís analyze this scenario more deeply. Take away the EV. The solar panels still give the grid the same amount of fossil-fuel-free energy. Great, the benefits are still there. Now, instead, take away the solar panels: your EV shifts your carís energy from oil to mainly coal+NG. This is OKÖbut youíve paid a large car premium and made huge practical concessions and not reduced fossil fuel or CO2 footprint hardly at all. The ďbenefitsĒ are mainly from the green power sources, not the EV. The EV makes little difference in how much fossil fuels are used, until the grid (or your ďpersonal gridĒ) is powered by things other than fossil fuels. The only way to get off of fossil fuels is to have BOTH the green grid sources and either EVís, or alternately cars that burn green fuels (future success tbd). The corollary point is that about 50% of current oil consumption could be rather easily cut by more vigorously pursuing efficiency enhancements in our transportation system and lifestyle. We can get halfway there without even worrying about EVís at all. All this hype about EVís is the cart before the horse, and is a waste of money at this time. Most people wonít pay these huge lump-sums, but some visionaries and zealots will choose to.

darelldd
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
darelldd   4/8/2011 9:34:26 PM
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kkersey said: "Most people wonít pay these huge lump-sums" Likely correct. Even if it saves them money in the long-run, most folks don't look at finances beyond next month. And while most won't pay the huge lump sums, they also are not willing to change anything about their lifestyle for conservation. EVs give people a way to keep their fast-paced, sit-on-the-couch lifestyle while leaving a smaller footprint (one that gets smaller every year as the grid is cleaned up). For the record, I paid $40,000 total for a new car and a solar system that will provide my fuel for the rest of my life. This was in 2002-2003. My PV + EV was probably my best investment ever. When we had no income last year, we were still able to motor around when we had to - at zero fuel cost... and able to use our electric devices in our home, with zero electric bill. What a blessing that was!

Rob Dekker
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
Rob Dekker   4/9/2011 7:31:57 AM
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kkerney, Thanks again for you notes and insights. I share your commitment to remove distortions of facts to suit agenda's. In fact, I'm very much a technologist, and have been blamed for having no opinion nor ideology at all. This particular post reports Obama's commitment to reduce imported oil usage, and is not about CO2 emissions, nor cleaning the grid, nor climate change. With that objective in mind, increasing vehicle efficiency helps, but one would have to quantify how much that helps the goal of reducing oil imports. For example, when you purchase a modern diesel vehicle (instead of a gasoline powered one) you increase your efficiency by some 25%, so you help reduce oil consumption by 25%. When you buy a hybrid, you reduce oil consumption also by some 25%. If they were available, diesel hybrids would actually reduce oil consumption by 50% compared to standard gasoline ICEs. But when you buy an EV, you reduce oil consumption by a full 100%. So for Obama's objective to reduce oil imports, EVs have the highest value. Now of course, you can have the opinion that we should reduce carbon emissions (to reduce effects of climate change), but that is a different agenda, and one that is probably better supported with a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. The latter failed to pass last year, and thus cleaning the grid is now left up to market forces alone. Incidentally, if you accept the DOE studies that powering and EV from coal based emits approximately the same amount of CO2, and you accept that the grid is currently only 50 % coal based, with the remaining 50% (nat gas, nuclear, hydro etc) much lower in carbon emissions, then EVs will also help reduce our CO2 footprint by some 50%. Even more when these EVs will run in California, which relies only 15% on coal power. So EVs help on two sides. Not just do we reduce oil consumption, but also we reduce CO2 footprint by more than other alternatives (such as diesel or standard hybrids).

Rob Dekker
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re: A million EVs: Our generationís Sputnik moment?
Rob Dekker   4/9/2011 7:34:07 AM
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And once more 'general' comment : I believe that market forces are the strongest incentive to directions in behavior, and the government can only have limited influence in that. That is why certain 'solutions' to certain 'problems' will simply not be implemented, no matter your or my opinion. As engineers, all we can do is recognize that liquid fuel is more expensive than solid (or gaseous) fuel when it comes to creating 'work'. With that in mind, moving vehicles away from liquid fuel and towards to grid (like EVs) makes a lot of economic sense. Besides, with oil being the first of the big three fossil fuels to peak (and then decline), it's time we start working on a vehicle fleet that can has an alternative fuel source besides oil. That's a third incentive to start working on converting our vehicle fleet to the grid. Thus, when seen from a fincancial, foreign oil dependence, economic, long term strategic and even carbon footprint point of view, Obama's plan to stimulate EVs and PHEVs make a lot of sense.

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