Saturday, March 5, 2016

Electric Vehicles Still Do Not Make Sense, Six Years Later

Dexter Wright makes a point that has been known since the all electric vehicle made a splash in the imaginations of people who have forgotten history. The history most people forget is that all electric vehicles have been tried before. See History of Electric Vehicles here. Wright calls his point The Dirty Little Secret About All Electric Vehicles Of course, it isn't a secret at all. But most do not want to hear it. However, Wright blurts it out for everyone to see:
As Elon Musk doubles down with the debut of new and more affordable models of his Tesla all-electric vehicles at the Geneva Auto Show, there is a dirty little secret that once exposed, will burst the mythology of the all-electric car. There is a myth that the all-electric vehicle is more efficient than conventional vehicles and that big oil hates the all-electric niche carved out by Musk and others. The reality is that the all-electric vehicle is less efficient, and has a larger carbon footprint than a Ford F-150.
Yes, I know that you know this, since those who read this blog are a pretty informed group of people, yet the degree to which the all electric vehicle suffers in efficiency compared to gasoline and diesel engined vehicles is shocking.  There are losses, significant losses, all along the chain that produces the electricity that we use. Fossil fuel is burned to produce steam, the steam spins turbines, which in turn spin generators. The electricity is sent out at high voltage, and at several stages is stepped down, until we get to your household voltage. Adding up all the losses results in an efficiency of less than 15% of the energy contained in the original fossil fuel reaching your house as usable energy.

Years ago I confronted a fellow engineer about this, and his reply was that while the efficiency analysis is true, the pollution itself was contained at the power plant site, and therefore more easily controlled. So, if our goal is to contain specific pollutants, he is right. A centralized facility emitting pollution (power plant) can be outfitted with scrubbers and other pollution control devises, and can afford to fund these devises, far easier that putting them on thousands of mobile pollution emitting devices (cars and trucks). Furthermore, maintaining these devises is more easily achieved on a centralized power plant than on thousands of cars and trucks. On the other hand, if we grant the global warming assumptions are true for this analysis, then if our goal is to stop global warming, the all electric vehicle makes things worse.  Carbon Dioxide, in any case, is not technically speaking, a pollutant, since it is an essential part of the life cycle on this planet.

Hybrid technology has been proven with actual buyers making the decision to buy hybrid vehicles despite the premium price paid.  For example, a Ford Fusion MSRP cost is $23,000, with EPA rating of 22/34 MPG city/highway.  The hybrid version costs $30K, buy achieves 44/41 MPG.  Depending on your type of driving, and your analysis of future gasoline prices, the hybrid may be the best option.  But the all electric vehicle does not make economic sense any way it is analysed.  As my earlier post, The Volt is a Joke pointed out that the Chevrolet product was at best an expensive toy, and Tesla's offering is at best a rich man's toy.  I'll stick with my Trailblazer, thank you.

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