Dismissing electric vehicles as coal powered - what do we think?

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reikiman's picture
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This is one of the meme's being used to slam electric vehicles - that they're just coal powered vehicles, so we should just dismiss electric vehicles as a solution for anything. I just came across this picture that really captures the sentiment.

coal-powered-EVs_0.jpg

I can think of many reasons to dismiss this dismissal, and just went through writing an initial stab at it here:- http://greentransportation.info/critiquing-the-coal-powered-ev-dismissal-of-electric-cars

The points I thought of were:-

  • Not all electricity is from Coal
  • The grid gets cleaner as time progresses, while gasoline cars get dirtier as time progresses
  • Why is the focus on electric cars, and not on other electrical gizmos
  • Gasoline production is a dirty process as well

What does everyone think? Suggestions?

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Re: Dismissing electric vehicles as coal powered - what do ...

I agree with all your points - and I hate the whole "dumbing down" of the argument that this sort of cartoon promotes. We just want a simple argument to use - it doesn't matter if it's right - just make it simple.

Some more points:
* it takes a significant amount of electricity to refine oil into petroleum. Chris X (the producer of WKTEC and ROFTEC whose last name I can't remember) stated that it takes about 3kWh to 4kWh of electricity per gallon produced. So the cartoon should show a Hummer towing a refinery that's towing a coal station.
* coal miner's generally don't want to kill us - however the second largest OPEC producer is very clear on that subject. So the Hummer better tow an Aircraft carrier and a couple of armored divisions.
* price of electricity across the nation is generally far less volatile than the price of electricity across the world. So the Hummer better also be towing a couple of Wall Street wan... sorry I mean bankers.

So:

EV = car + coal station
ICE = car + coal station + oil refinery + war machines + $$$$

Yeah, OK. I feel better now (nothing like a good bit of righteous indignation to perk me right up! ;-) )

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Re: Dismissing electric vehicles as coal powered - what do ...

that last one is supposed to be "national price of electricity" vs. "national price of oil" (and what did happen to the edit button?)

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Re: Dismissing electric vehicles as coal powered - what do ...

It's been established that even when you run an EV on 'coal electricity' you are responsible for fewer emissions than someone driving an ICE, because of the centralized, more efficient nature of the power source. And this is speculation, but I suspect that regions with mostly coal plants have the fewest EVs on the road.

My power comes from a hydro plant on an old mill dam about 3/4 of a mile from here. We also 'sponsor' wind power elsewhere in the state to replace what we use.

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Re: Dismissing electric vehicles as coal powered - what do ...

That's Chris Paine.

The figure I was given was 6kwh to refine a gallon of gasoline. Either way it's an interesting number. How many miles can you drive on 3 or 4 or 6 kwh? How many miles can you drive on a gallon of gasoline? Let's get out an envelope ..

1 gallon of gasoline = depends on the car, but say it's a 30 miles/gallon car, so you'll go approx 30 miles

Typical electric car uses 240 wh/mile, and I'm sure you can tell us precisely how many wh/mi your scooters require.

3 kwh = 12.5 mi
4 kwh = 16.666 mi
6 kwh = 25 mi

Depends on the exact electricity cost, but the electricity to refine the gasoline could have driven the car nearly as far as the gasoline. Unless I've blown it on the math.

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PJD
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Re: Dismissing electric vehicles as coal powered - what do ...

Something that is missing from this argument is the far greater efficiency of electric power transmission, batteries and motors compared to an IC engine - even when the rather low 35% of so thermal efficiency of the power plant itself is considered. So, even for the current electricity mix, electric vehicles have a far more smaller carbon footprint.

As a specific example, a couple years ago, I collected electricity consumption measurements with my e-max over about 1750 km of use, and available DOE data on carbon emissions per KWH of electricity for the eastern US. Using this data, I determined that the e-max produces just 24 grams CO2 per km, or about 220 carbon-equivalent miles per gallon - or just 36% of the carbon footprint of an equivalent 50-150cc Vespa. I'm sure the results would scale similarly with electric cars as well.

---------------------

And John, At risk of digressing, I'm really dismayed that you have bought into the US military-industrial complex's absolute bunk that Iran "wants to kill us". This isn't the place for a discussion of US foreign policy, so I cannot elaborate on this issue here, other than to suggest fellow Ann Arbor resident Prof. Juan Cole's blog "Informed Comment":

http://www.juancole.com/page/2

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Re: Dismissing electric vehicles as coal powered - what do ...

PJD, I agree that it's a distraction from the question on this thread. But it is worth keeping in our mind the carbon footprint or the energy cost of the wars required to assert the geopolitical influence required to keep oil flowing our way, and required to create the blowback that is Iran.

As for the 6kwh/gallon figure :-

I found it here:- http://gatewayev.org/how-much-electricity-is-used-refine-a-gallon-of-gasoline (And you'll see that Chris Paine commented on that page)

I summarized the 6kwh calculations here:- http://greentransportation.info/how-much-electricity-is-used-refine-a-gallon-of-gasoline

And see in the comments a reference to another model here:- http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=5046 (have not reviewed this yet)

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Re: Dismissing electric vehicles as coal powered - what do ...

Good discussion guys. I have little to add except this. Once you have a fleet of electric cars how you fuel them is variable. An ICE fleet is always and ICE fleet. Electric cars have an an advantage over hydrogen and natural gas in that there is no chicken and egg problem. An electric car is quite usable today, will get more usable as more charging infrastructure comes on line, and will get cleaner as our grid gets cleaner.

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Re: Dismissing electric vehicles as coal powered - what do ...

Good point about ICE always being ICE - except - there is the possibility of developing other liquid fuels besides the fossil fuel variety. We don't have much ethanol activity here in California, but looking at maps of Ethanol stations I see there are quite a few in the midwest, and when traveling in Wisconsin a couple years ago I came across a station that sold ONLY ethanol, and got to talk with the station manager who said their fuel came from a factory just a few miles away. Only issue is their ethanol came in E10-E85 varieties, so there was still some fossil fuel content, and it appeared that E10 was more popular than E85. Still...

Point being that while there's a lot of research going into batteries and EV's, there's also research going into developing liquid fuel alternatives, plus if there were a viable liquid fuel alternative that could satisfy 19 million barrels a day (?that's the rate isn't it?), not require huge swaths of land, and have a decent energy return on investment (EROI) then it would make some sense to do so, and it would be able to reuse the existing infrastructure for liquid fuel delivery.

However, that existing infrastructure is made of steel pipes, that rust, get leaky, and more importantly are aging. So maybe that existing infrastructure isn't worth so much now.

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Re: Dismissing electric vehicles as coal powered - what do ...

reikiman wrote:

Good point about ICE always being ICE - except - there is the possibility of developing other liquid fuels besides the fossil fuel variety.

Indeed. And I really hope something like algae or cellulose works out because they stand the best chance of being sustainable.

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Re: Dismissing electric vehicles as coal powered - what do ...

PJD wrote:

And John, At risk of digressing, I'm really dismayed that you have bought into the US military-industrial complex's absolute bunk that Iran "wants to kill us". This isn't the place for a discussion of US foreign policy, so I cannot elaborate on this issue here, other than to suggest fellow Ann Arbor resident Prof. Juan Cole's blog "Informed Comment":

http://www.juancole.com/page/2

OK, I'll retract "want to kill us" to "don't really like us very much". I may have overstated Iran's feelings towards us - but the fact remains that the true cost of oil includes the costs of protecting that supply which is a task that is often at least partially assigned to the military. Is that more acceptable? (BTW, I've not bought into the US military-industrial complex in any way - it was more based on vaguely remembered images of flag burnings and chanting crowds - which I agree isn't a fair representation of an entire country but it was meant to be a humorous response to a cartoon not a careful exploration of foreign policy!).

Hey, would it really be a forum thread without a little digression once in a while! ;-) Sorry 'bout that.

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Re: Dismissing electric vehicles as coal powered - what do ...

davew wrote:
reikiman wrote:

Good point about ICE always being ICE - except - there is the possibility of developing other liquid fuels besides the fossil fuel variety.

Indeed. And I really hope something like algae or cellulose works out because they stand the best chance of being sustainable.

Yup - my ideal future has longer range requirements being satisfied by algae based bio-diesel (with algae next to power plants to utilize that CO2!). And of course there's marcopolo's favorite bio-petroleum-thing-a-ma-jig that can be used in gas based ICE's.

Hey, a boy can dream!

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Re: Dismissing electric vehicles as coal powered - what do ...

I know I saw an article a few months ago about the electricity required to produce gasoline, but they used a 20mpg car as reference, and it was very clear that the ICE car consumed more coal-generated electricity than the electric vehicle.

And there's little doubt that both Iraq wars would never have happened if that wasn't in the middle of massive oil fields (we're ignoring much worse behavior by governments in Africa, for example, but they have no oil.) So there's a couple trillion dollars spent on military action to keep the oil flowing, even if you ignore all the people that have died.

Btw, while I'm still hoping for algae based biofuel, here's a very promising solution using giant miscanthus instead of corn, and it produces actual gasoline (chemically identical) instead of ethanol. Even better, their test produced 4,000 gallons/acre, compared to corn which produces about 330 gallons/acre.
http://www.greencarcongress.com/2012/02/cool-20120222.html

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Re: Dismissing electric vehicles as coal powered - what do ...

While poking around I found the following presentation about well-to-wheel energy for different fuel types. It was retrieved from here:- http://www.transportation.anl.gov/pdfs/TA/273.pdf

The presentation comes from 2003 ..It appears newer version of this model is here:- http://greet.es.anl.gov/

Well-to-Wheels Energy and Emission Impacts of Vehicle/Fuel System; Development and Applications of the GREE...(function() { var scribd = document.createElement("script"); scribd.type = "text/javascript"; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = "http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js"; var s = document.getElementsByTagName("script")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

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PJD
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Re: Dismissing electric vehicles as coal powered - what do ...

Quote:

BTW, I've not bought into the US military-industrial complex in any way - it was more based on vaguely remembered images of flag burnings and chanting crowds

Actually, the term "military-industrial complex", was coined by the Republican president Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower in his presidential farewell speech, not a flag-burning hippie (who was protesting his country's slaughter of millions of Indochinese). Eisenhower warned of the threat that the US economy would come to depend on the vast economic sector of military and intelligence technical services and manufacturing. This threat is now mature fact, and foreign threats that justify the existence of this important economic sector must constantly be invented through provocation or fabrication. The corporate tail wags the government dog.

And, to bring this back on-topic, this dedication of so much economic effort to military and related spying uses is why the US is behind many other countries in innovative renewable energy systems or electric vehicle technologies, or intercity high-speed rail and even public transit. For example, the PowerPoint Dave posted above shows the US DOE may still have some of the useful research programs from the Carter days, but the great majority of the DOE budget is now military - specifically managing the nuclear bomb stockpile. Most of the actual bomb work is done by private-sector contractors, who depend on these programs to stay in business. I would not be too surprised if the Current Motor Company does not end up finding a niche in the "defense" industry too.

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Re: Dismissing electric vehicles as coal powered - what do ...

I'm glad you guys are promoting electric vehicles. Sorry about the hosting problems...
Anyways, my reply is usually this:

Coal emits a little more CO2 per unit of energy than gasoline. It also wastes about 57% just in the conversion process to electricity and there is even up to 10% line loss (over long distances) however, electric motors are about 4 x more efficient over gasoline AND not every electron comes from a coal powered generator.

Therefore NOBODY can argue that electric cars would contribute more to XSCO2. (Ev's are only like 20 to 50% more efficient when all the variables are added up).
We could do much better, though, if we replaced every expiring coal plant with a LFTR or similar advanced nuclear reactor that fission ALL of its fuel and that requires NO high pressures, no solid fuels and NO water for core cooling (thus no possibility of meltdown and FAR less wastes problem than the LWR).
In the meantime, every solar panel and every wind turbine that can be used to replace the 1.5 pounds of CO2 per kWh from the grid, should be used!

The EROEI for a panel is about 10 to 1 and for a turbine, even more (thus no argument here either).

Another argument against Ev's is "The grid can't handle it!". That should be clearly displace in the name of (more) jobs opportunity (and that night time electricity is "easier").

Clearly, the most important argument is that we already have the LiFePO4 battery, proven good enough to power Ev's for thousands of cycles, thus we should NOT be burning our valuable store of hydrocarbons... future generations may need them to more easily build carbon graphine cities!

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Re: Dismissing electric vehicles as coal powered - what do ...

A very well written and well founded text on how hard it will be to produce all the (electrical) energy to fulfil our needs without fossil fuel can be found here:
without hot air

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Re: Dismissing electric vehicles as coal powered - what do ...

fivari wrote:

A very well written and well founded text on how hard it will be to produce all the (electrical) energy to fulfil our needs without fossil fuel can be found here:
without hot air

BUT in the meantime the PV-panels on my roof produce about 40 kWh on a sunny summer's day, enough for 1000 km on my e-scooter.

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