electric vehicles

Electric Vehicles Need Fossil Fuels

It seems that all Democrat candidates for president want to get rid of fossil-fuel-powered automobiles and have us all drive electric vehicles. But guess where the electricity to charge those vehicles comes from – mostly from burning natural gas or coal.

The other main problem with pure electric vehicles is their limited range. That problem has been solved, sort of.

In Australia and New Zealand, they are deploying small, diesel-powered generators. See photo below.

Another solution is to tow a generator behind your EV. Unknown to me, this option has been available for some time and for several car models. See Cars with Cords for photos of several models. Of course, this option turns your pure EV into a hybrid.

See also: Low-Emission Range Extender for Electric Vehicles, a 10-page analysis of the pros and cons of towing a generator. The article begins:

“Typical auto trips are within the driving range of efficient electric vehicles (EVs), but typical vehicle use also includes occasional trips that exceed EV range. EV users may face the necessity of maintaining a second car, or renting a car, for such trips. An alternative is the use of a range extending trailer (RXT), a trailer-mounted generator that, when towed behind an EV, effectively converts the EV to series-hybrid mode for long trips.”

Back in 1896, Thomas Edison told Henry Ford to forget about electric vehicles and stick to his gasoline engines. (source) Is this advice still relevant?

My article from 2010 gives a history of electric vehicles:

The Chevy Volt, Just the Latest Expensive Toy





Electric cars not doing well in Ireland

I like Ireland. Since my most recent trip there several years ago, the Irish government has established a campaign to make at least 10% of the cars on the road electric vehicles by 2020, that’s a goal of about 230,000 electric cars. Their goal for the end of 2012 is to have 6,000 electric cars on the road.

To encourage use of electric cars, the Irish government has committed to installing 1,500 public charging points and making 2,000 home charging points available. So far, more than 700 charging points have been installed around the country, including public charging stations and installations in homes and businesses.

So how are they doing? In 2010, 48 electric cars were registered, in 2011, just 23 new electric cars were registered, but that number has exploded to 121 new electric cars registered this year so far, making a grand total of 192 electric cars on the road according to the Irish Examiner. This means that government installed charging stations greatly outnumber the government promoted electric cars. Hybrid cars are doing better with 559 registered this year. So far this year over 71,000 new gasoline or diesel powered cars have been registered.

These poor sales figures for electric cars are occurring even though the Irish government is offering grants of up to €5,000 ($6,459) for purchase of private electric cars and €3,800 ($4,909) for purchase of commercial electric vehicles, according to The Journal.

Perhaps these underwhelming results show that Irish consumers are smarter than the government.

And that’s the luck of the Irish.

See also:

Production of electric vehicles has twice the global warming potential of fossil fuel powered cars

Nissan Leaf battery degrades quickly in hot climates

Does the Chevy Volt produce more CO2 from its battery than from its gasoline engine

The Chevy Volt, just the latest expensive toy

Production of electric vehicles has twice the global warming potential of fossil fuel powered cars

A new Norwegian study, “Comparative Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Conventional and Electric Vehicles” published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology (full paper here) found that the “use phase” of electric vehicles (EVs) “powered by the present European electricity mix offers a 10% to 24% decrease in global warming potential (GWP) relative to conventional diesel or gasoline vehicles assuming lifetimes of 150,000 km. However, EVs exhibit the potential for significant increases in human toxicity, freshwater eco-toxicity, freshwater eutrophication, and metal depletion impacts, largely emanating from the vehicle supply chain.” The authors call that “problem shifting.”

The global warming potential in the “production phase” of electric vehicles is double that of internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs). “In contrast with ICEVs, almost half of an EV’s life cycle GWP is associated with its production. We estimate the GWP from EV production to be 87 to 95 grams carbon dioxide equivalent per kilometer (g CO2-eq/km), which is roughly twice the 43 g CO2-eq/km associated with ICEV production. Battery production contributes 35% to 41% of the EV production phase GWP, whereas the electric engine contributes 7% to 8%. Other power train components, notably inverters and the passive battery cooling system with their high aluminum content, contribute 16% to 18% of the embodied GWP of EVs.”

The authors of this paper have tried to base their estimates on a typical use scenario, but they realize that conditions vary. They discuss many caveats in their estimate in an effort to be transparent. Read the full paper for details.

See also:

The Chevy Volt, just the latest expensive toy

Does the Chevy Volt produce more CO2 from its battery than from its gasoline engine

Nissan Leaf battery degrades quickly in hot climates

Which Vehicles Are Most Energy Efficient?



Tax Dollars to Build Charging Stations for Electric Vehicles

Tucson is the guinea pig for a project run by ECOtality of North America to install chargers for electric vehicles in 16 cities throughout the country. Tucson will get 240 chargers. The company hopes, during the next few years, to install 14,650 level 2 (220V) chargers and 310 DC fast chargers. The level 2 chargers can replenish batteries in 4- to 6 hours, while the DC fast chargers can give at least half a charge in 30 minutes. The bulk of the money, some $114.8 million, comes from government grants, your tax dollars. Other funding comes from “partners” such as Tucson Electric Power, Arizona Public Service, the Pima Association of Governments (using tax dollars), General Motors, and Nissan.

ECOtality will use information gathered from Tucson to help plan arrays of chargers in other cities. Phoenix will also get an array of chargers and there will be charging stations along I-10 at Picacho Peak and Casa Grande so that electric vehicles can actually travel between Tucson and Phoenix.

The partnership with Nissan and GM will allow ECOtality to provide home chargers and installation free of cost to purchasers of the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, if the owners sign up with the program.

The Tucson array of chargers will be placed at businesses and other venues. ECOtality president, Don Karner, was somewhat evasive when I asked him at a press conference Friday about the charging cost to vehicle owners. From my understanding of what he said, the businesses will provide the electricity to customers free of charge under the theory that the businesses will get more customers by providing the service. There will be a fee for charging vehicles along I-10, but ECOtality has not yet worked out what that will be.

Electric vehicles were popular in the U.S. about 100 years ago as toys for the wealthy. But they were soon displaced by the much more versatile gasoline-powered vehicles. It remains to be seen whether or not arrays of charging stations will attract customers. It’s like the “Field of Dreams.” If they built it, will customers come?