I'm sorry, but I see absolutely no benefit to an electic car that plugs into a COAL based power system for power. Just because you do not see the pollution as you drive does not make your new car virtuous nor is it carbon neutral.
Evidently out of sight out of mind is acceptable to the deluded.
Just my opinion.
1. Is not using a drop of foreign oil a benefit?
2. Even with 100% of the electricity coming from coal, an EV is still cleaner.
Why do you guys keep bringing out this tired old outdated and inaccurate argument???
NOT a fair point at all in my opinion....
Actually no, assuming you buy into the notion that CO2 generated by human beings is the cause of global climate change.
Coal produces more CO2 than gasoline, which in turn produces more CO2 than natural gas, for a given amount of heat output.
So generating electricity from a coal burning plant does not help, compared with a gasoline powered car, if you're talking about CO2 being a "pollutant."
This assumes that the coal burning, electricity generating, electricity storage in a battery, and the eventual conversion of that back to mechanical energy to move the car is not a more efficient process than just running an internal combustion engine. Which seems to be the case.
ICEs are about 30 percent ewfficient optimistically, and perhaps 20 percent realistically. I would prefer some other scheme, like in-car reformer to convert a hydrocarbon fuel to H2, and then run a fuel cell and electric power train with the H2 produced on board.
But that's a separate discussion.
The fact remains, a coal-fired plant generating electricity for a battery EV becomes more polluting than using an ICE in the car. This has been published by many sources. Like:
"The problem with electric cars using coal to generate the electricity needed for batteries is the pollution that coal smokestacks produce. A report by Natural Resources Defense Council in USA Today shows that significant increases in soot and mercury will likely be the result of burning more coal. Soot is a breathing hazard, and mercury is toxic. Heavy coal states are not good areas to produce electric or hybrid cars, according to Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center in the USA Today article.
"Another problem with plug-in electric vehicles is that they produce more sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide than other vehicles do, according to a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Study in the USA Today article. ..."
Why don't we look at a real study rather than some silly webzine. EV's win handily in most environmental metrics, tie in a few, and only lose on SOx. The SOx issue will go away as we phase out coal, which is long overdue.
"Why don't we look at a real study rather than some silly webzine."
Because your glossy brochure did not address the specific point at issue here: whether EVs powered from coal-fired plants are less polluting than ICE cars. The Webzine, as you call it, referred to direct sources. And the information is no secret.
The article we're commenting on was good because it wasn't the same old generic propaganda piece.
Sorry dude.... You are stretching the truth to its breaking point...
You're totally ignoring the fact that EV's are 1/3 more efficient than ICE's and that electricity from the power plant is made "in bulk", and that most charging is after hours, when less coal is burned to make electricity and that in many states (especially out west), very little of the electricity actually comes from coal. In California, where the bulk of EV's are purchased, less than 10% of the electricity comes from coal.
Plus... EV's will only get cleaner over time..... As we continue to replace coal power plants with CNG (and alternatives like wind solar geothermal, nuclear etc.) , and as we continue to develop clean coal production methods, the pollution for all EV's continues to go down. A cleanup effort at one power plant can reduce the pollution of thousands of EV's that are already on the road.
But. Like I said. Pollution is only one issue..... Foreign oil dependency is also a big issue, and its not even a discussion as to whether EV's use less foreign oil. EV's use 0.0% foreign oil as all the electricity is made from domestic energy sources....
You'd actually be surprised, there's a lot of technology that goes into making cars clean, and part of it is combusting precise amounts of fuel mixed with air. Also coal is a very dirty fuel where as petrol and much more so LPG are much more pure. There is coal gasification, but you still have a lot of impurities that are harder to scrub
"I'm sorry, but I see absolutely no benefit to an electic car that plugs into a COAL based power system"
There is plenty of data out there on that. Generally, even the dirtiest US electricity still comes out ahead.
In places like China, where the electricity is even filthier, this is not the case.
A stationary power plant, unfettered by weight and size constraints, can be more efficient than a mobile power plant using the same fuel. Then again, transmission costs whittle into that.
Nevertheless: According to Consumer Reports, 3.5 cents per mile in a Nissan Leaf vs. ~12 cents per mile in a similar-profile pure-gasoline car. That's around $12K saved over a 150Kmile life of a car. Will that compensate for the purchase-price difference? Probably, but will you keep the car that long? I buy a car and drive it into the ground, so "yes" for me, but perhaps not for others.
Will range limits ruin the driving experience? Possibly. I personally think that a battery-EV currently is only viable as a second car, or more accurately, as a first car. That is, rare is the day that I drive more than 80 miles per day (or between charges), but not nearly rare enough.
Will battery life be an issue? Not clearly known. That's a very complex question.
It also depends on how much engine noise annoys you. In my Prius, hardly anything pleases me more than to sit at an intersection with the loudest noise being the idling engine - of the car next to me! On the other hand, some people really love a hot-rod sounding car. Not me; I want a car to be as nearly silent as possible.
Also, it's not necessarily a coal power plant. Wind energy is growing rapidly. It could also be hydro-electric, or nuclear, say. But yes, that's certainly still a small percentage, so far.
Interesting article. The first one I've read that tells it like it really is. Which is to say, as fuel economy of regular cars goes up and up, the advantages of making the vehicle a hybrid go down. Especially if you introduce schemes like engine stop-start. A 1 KWh battery pack is what you'd see in a "mild hybrid," if that.
This article is also the first I saw that showed the diminishing returns, when you increase fuel economy in the range beyond 40 or so mpg, even for someone who drives a reasonably high number of miles per year.
I had thought that hybrid vehicles would be the only choice of vehicle, in a few years. But I don't think that's where the trend line is pointing, in fact. For privately owned vehicles. Car companies seem more into going to those high mileage figures without the hybrid tech. But I agree with the article, commercial applications are an entirely different matter. Think of buses, in particular for local mass transit, delivery vans and trucks, garbage trucks, and the like.
This article talks only of the financial side of this issue.
It ignores the joy of driving a vehicle that is more than just a cramped up little eco-box with no acceleration.
It also ignores the desire to use less foreign oil, something patriotic consumers would be will to pay a little more for...
If price was the one and only factor, we would all be driving tiny little hatchbacks made in China and India...
Very true. This article is specifically discussing the financial payback aspect only and the types of alt vehicles and driving applications that might have financial payback. The article does note that there are several other attributes affecting choice and benefits.
I own a Chevy Volt. Many issues to address. 1)regen braking saves much energy.
2) idle energy saving.
3) my performance is very good with a 140HP electric motor. A kick to drive!
4) the vehicle will -never- pay for itself in saved gasoline/maintenance. Period.
5) 50% percent coal is also 50% other things. and the us is now down to 35% coal...
In response to your points:
1) Regen braking is not unique to plugin vehicles such as your Volt.
2) Idle energy saving is also available with start/stop technology on an ICE vehicle at far lower cost.
3) Congratulations on getting a kick out of your car. I personally get a kick out of white water kayaking. I just don't expect anybody to subsidize it for me because it uses less energy than water skiing.
4) You are correct on this point.
5) The reason that we use less coal to generate electricity now is because of the emergence of cheap natural gas. It would be less expensive, simpler, and at least as environmentally benign to run your vehicle on natural gas directly than to use the natural gas to generate electrity, transmit the electricity to a charging point, and then store the electricity on heavy and expensive batteries that must be lugged around with the vehicle.
jmsthurber, in response to your point:
1.Regen braking uses the electric motor to capture the breaking energy and stores it in the battery. It doesn't offer much to a non-hybrid car.
2. Start/stop was first introduced by VW with the Rabbit decades ago. It wasn't popular because starting was sometimes rough, which makes stop and go driving painful. With a hybrid, the car can run off electricity while the engine is starting up, so the roughneess is hidden.
4. The whole point of this article is that hybrids can pay for themselves in some situations. It doesn't even bring up the ecological aspect.
5. In California, I think coal is down to a few% of electricity sources (less than wind!) and dropping. In any case, I'm all for natural gas cars. Where are they?!!
I, too, am for natural gas cars. I would prefer hydrogen fuel cell car (hopefully long-term that's where we are going). I'll even take the hydrogen from natural gas since there is an infrastructure in place (even though the carbon footprint is not 0). However, the all-electric platform still needs perfecting and the Volt/Leaf for example, are starting places. Get my H2 fuel cell, toss the 500kg of batteries and now we're getting somewhere. Until then, I have my Volt.
I don't know about USA, but here in Australia many cars are fueled by LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas). We have good supplies of natural gas (we are a major exporter of it) and LPG presently retails for half the price of petrol (gasoline). Regular petrol-engine cars can be converted to LPG-only or dual-fuel (2 tanks + changeover switch) for a couple thousand dollars. This is economical for high usage vehicles - taxis, delivery & fleet vehicles, large family cars and SUVs. Some major car models are also offered with a factory LPG fuel option.
LPG is a practical choice for high fuel consumption vehicles.
I hate to bring this up, but patriotism and price are poor metrics when you consider the long term implications of a carbon future. It really doesn't make a lot of sense to have a big pickup truck for a trip down to the local McDonalds or other short trips, so downsizing is not a bad thing. That said, diesels can achieve close to 50% efficiency and diesel hybrids better still and may be one of the over all better solutions as a I fear a lot of plug-ins will burn out the grid, We say they charge overnight, but 100e6 cars charging overnight with an average storage of 100kW is going to be a killer.
And so some people have this absurd demand not to use electric vehicles because of Coal Power Plants - there are Clean Coal Power Plants that are very efficient - NOTWITHSTANDING - Nuclear is Cleaner , Wind, Solar and HydroElectric - there are alternatives that will also come to market. So Lets quit the Nay Saying and move past Desert Oil. If you are looking for utopia - it isn't here. Everything has a downside including Solar - like the land it uses, the resources to build the plant etc.. Windmills the most mesmerizing hallucinagenic eye sores invented. Electrics get us a way from Oil and that is Great.
We have enough oil and gas in this country to last over a hundred years, provided we have the political will to use it. Obsessing over the air quality of today is ridiculous - it has never been cleaner - look at the 1940s, 50s and 60s for comparison. Trying to force using electric cars long before they are ready is a waste of effort and money. The current solutions are simply not worth it. This freakish concern about hydrocarbons is scary - the hydrogen-carbon molecular bond is the marker of life. Check inside your own body - we are full of the stuff.
One hundred years of oil is just ONE lifetime. Your child born today will likely see the end of available oil.
Then with the exponential growth of population along with more countries entering that growth curve, that hundred years of oil won't lat that long.
It's time to panic and work hard on renewable energy sources now.
Strange argument, drink a glass of most hydrocarbons my guess is you won't see the next election let alone the end of oil. Sure we need carbon in our bodies and food, but history has taught us what atmospheric carbon at the 500ppm level looks like.
No-one has mentioned Solar power - use solar to charge EVs while they're sitting in your work's parking lot all day. As Solar PV gets more efficient this will become more of a possibility, though at the moment it can only partly contribute to gas saving.
Heh heh, he says as he looks out on a cold and cloudy day.
I'm all in favor of workable ideas. For example, gasification of coal, which is then reformed into H2 on board and runs a fuel cell car. Even better, natural gas, reformed into H2 on board and running a fuel cell.
Storing H2 is not very practical. It has a way of depleting itself from high pressure tanks at least as fast as a battery runs low, and in ANY EVENT, making H2 in practice is also not a "carbon free" process. Not unless you use only hydroelectric, solar, or wind power and electrolysis. But to get the volume production, H2 in practice is extracted from reformers.
I'm amazed at how many people think that in order to stop using foreign oil, we must go to battery electrics. There are far better ways.
The things that have been left out of the discussion are the impact of battery replacement on the economics of all electric vehicles, hybrid or not. And the distance killer for all EVs is air conditioning, which would cut the range by more than half in city driving. Nobody else mentions that unfortunate reality. The addition of a driver initiated "coast" mode to the start-stop vehicle can easily provide a large increase in MPG at a very small additional price. But it would depend on driver skill because a computer is not able to adequately perceive the driving situation, and that is not likely to change in the next decade.
Natural gas would be a good fuel, but the logistics of distribution would be a real problem, and the general public is no way ever competent to do natural gas fueling of a vehicle. That is the downside of all kinds of gas fuel options.
I agree that both the battery and AC issues are also drivers against financial payback on some applications. Battery replacement is certainly an issue; more so on full EVs, which run through a larger state of charge (SOC) range in operations. The charge sustaining HEV class highlighted in the article use a narrower SOC band (like the original Prius') and have less severe issues with battery life.
In addition to AC with PHEV and EV applications; there is also a winter driving issue that impacts economics. As the temperature has started dropping my Volt now runs the engine for several minutes on every drive to prevent operating the pack at low temperature. This also is less of an issue on basic HEVs where the engine is always operating.
Can you say why a "coast" mode would be better than active regen to bring the vehicle to stop? Maybe I misunderstood what you were driving at there. Zero pedal position can certainly be observed in a control system to indicate coast and an opportunity to recharge a pack.
Excellent addition to the discussion (the A/C and battery replacement issues.) On the natural gas front I would like to advise that New Zealand actually has a very successful natural gas (CNG) program, with a lot of vehicles taking advantage of tax reductions, and in Australia they have a petroleum gas program (LPG) where 100% of taxis, a lot of regular drivers (about 500,000 vehicles or about 4% of the fleet) and there are no issues with driver refilling, it is safe. Check this Wikipedia link to see how globally successful these programs are http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autogas
Yes, I do have an idea. It is an insignificant amount. It has become fashionable to cite statistics claiming that refining uses large amounts of electricity. That is flatly wrong. The statistics that are cited indicate the energy equivalent of electricity that is used in refining. The energy used in refining is in the form of natural gas, not electricity.
There is a very interesting technology that was described in the scientific press some 10 years ago about a system that runs water over a catalyst the liberates the H2 from the water at a sufficient rate to run a fuel cell which in turn produces water as well as electricity. The claims were that water losses were less than 1 litre per 1000kms. Where's the catch? the catalyst obviously expires over time and needs to be exchanged, but they envisaged this to be done at a service station as a "refueling" process. The used catalyst could then be recycled using solar energy. The real advantage of this is that 1. there is not a lot of hydrogen avaliable at any one time reducing explosion risks. 2. it becomes a "solar" cycle using entirely renewables. 3. Far less chance of fire in an accident.
The only downside I see is keeping the catalyst blocks dry in a "Sandy" or "Katrina" situation (although this can be done) and what happens when a car ends up in the drink?
I had a quick look and can't find that article, but I think it was New Scientist.
2012 Prius Plug In, delivered April 2012, now with 8.5K miles and drive about 20K/yr. The reason I got the PHEV was to try to reduce the overall operating expenses (e.g., higher gas mileage with ability for EV mode) and the CA car pool lane sticker.
30 mile one way daily commute charging 3.1 KWH into the 4.4 KWH battery with 120V at home then also at work (free electric) – MPG range is 90 – 100 MPG using combination of EV mode and HV mode (start in EV, switch to HV greater than 65 MPH on freeway and then go back to EV mode in time to fully deplete battery before arriving at work). I get 51-53 MPG just in HV mode and 58 MPG when driving to work in same speed profile as when in EV mode (e.g., slow traffic and/or less than 65 MPH).
Breakeven for the Prius is about $0.30 per KwHr (I get about 12 miles EV range per charge). I have moved to the CA PG&E E-9A time of use electric rates (one meter for home and EV). Since the charging rate is 8 amps at 120V and the Prius needs only 3 hrs to fully charge I will not get a 240V home charging station. Average about 15 KwHr/day total usage with 30K KwHr on laundry days, monthly about 440 KwHr ($68). Payback from gas savings will be about 10 years
The optimum PHEV would be the new Ford Energi. It is about the same price as the Prius PHEV ($3750 federal credit and $1500 CA rebate) but nicer inside. Gas mileage is 47 MPG with 21 miles electric range.
The two key things are: 1) ability to go up to 85 miles per hour in EV mode in the Energi vs 65 MPH in the Prius since 2/3 of my commute is on the highway; 2) the 120V charging time is 7 hrs vs the 3 hrs in the Prius (battery is 7.6 KwHr vs 4.4 KwHr on the Prius) which is the same as the midnight to 7 AM lowest rate time of use period and also about the amount of time parking at work so I can maximize the usage of the lowest cost electricity.
Thanks Steve for your detailed account. It would be interesting for everyone here I think if you could post followups over the life of the car, TCO is often an individual experience. I'm especially interested in your experience with the batteries. It would be also nice to look back at some later stage as to how the eco-economics look
I think the discussions here is far more interesting than the article itself. To some viewpoints that I agree - EV or PHEV should still be investigated in order to achieve a long term green vehicle. Without consumers' support, the development will be easily in dead end as the hurdle - say battery technology - is very difficult and costly to overcome. The result then is that our future generations will not be benefited when coal or oil are still a limited resource.
I think the best EV in the world is the Tesla Model S. It's fast and comfortable with an incredible mile range! If I have $80,000 I would definitely buy one for myself!