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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).