Friday, August 04, 2006
Let's Go EV
Oh dear. Where to begin? Okay, first we are comparing brand new, cutting edge, designed for efficiency, small, niche vehicles to the 8.8 year old average US automobile (23mpg) in this efficiency comparison. Second, don't fall for the lie of omission in comparing electricity to chemical fuels. Only 31% of the energy used to make grid electricity actually gets to the customer. When that electricity is used to charge a battery this can be 60% but never less than 20% losses. So, getting useful work out of an EV is about 25% efficient. the claims of 0.3-0.5 kW-h/mile is 1000-1700 BTU/mile. For conventional vehilces 1.58 kW-h/mile is 5,400 BTU/mile or 23 mpg as calculated but the equivalency ignores passenger loads. While there is no definitive information it is highly likely that EV useage resembles the average occupancy of the commute segment of road users; 1.2 passengers while the US average is 1.57 passengers.
You see where I'm going with this, EVs are not anywhere near as efficient (yet) as their proponents claim. Within the next few years as solar comes down in price and/or increases in efficiency and as technology improves maybe but not yet. Oh, and it is important to note that a huge portion of the claimed transportation efficiency derived from EV designs can be applied to IC primary movers; low cD, narrow tires, limited capacity, range, advanced materials energy recovery, etc.
In short, every bit of advancement helps but there's no magic bullet here swithing to electricity from hydrocarbons.
Californians use 414.4 gallons of gas per capita per year (8th lowest in the US). 14.5 billion gallons. How much electricty is that? 530,982,417,478.593 kW-Hours. California can generate at present 46,000 Megawatts. We'd need and additional 61,000 Megawatts of energy to make it into the battery. Let's not mince words, we'd need 3 times as many power plants as we have now. Too hard to grasp? How about 28 new Diablo nuclear power plants (2x9.5 million mW-H reactors). Actually more like 40 Diabos. [insert lame ; "better the Diablo you know" joke here] And what would that cost? Nukes cost about $2000 per kilowatt to build. $122 Billion dollars. How much does that gas we Californians guzzle cost? $47 billion. Surprised? Gets better. Anyone here doubt that an order for 40 nukes could garner a volume discount? Yeah, like half price. A 50 cent per gallon surtax would pay the capital construction costs in 7 years. And what would the electricity cost? Remember we don't have any capital costs to amortize. 1.5-3 cents likely. We pay 14 cents now.
We could do it and it would make sense but we won't do it because of a combination of boiled frog syndrome and the cognitive dissonance of the eco-warriors.