Beware The Misinterpreted Study: How Electric Cars Are Yet Again Being Miscast as Heavy Polluters

It’s a trope we’ve heard many times before and we’ll probably hear it many times again in the future: the headline-grabbing proclamation that electric cars are worse for the environment than gasoline cars.

Electric cars: cleaner or dirtier, depending on the fuel you use to generate the electricity.

Electric cars: cleaner or dirtier, depending on the fuel you use to generate the electricity.

This time, the claim comes courtesy of a new study from a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota, which states in its opening paragraph that cars powered by corn-based ethanol, coal-based or ‘grid average’ electricity actually “increases monetized environmental health impacts by 80% or more relative to using conventional gasoline.”

Published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, the study and its abstract have already lead many headlines claiming that “Your all-electric car may not be so green” among other things.

But while the headlines have focused on the first paragraph of the study, most have failed to look deeper into the paper, which clearly states that when electric cars are powered by low-emitting electricity from natural gas, wind, water or solar power, environmental health impacts are reduced by 50 percent or more.

In addition to being a fact completely ignored by most outlets covering this story, it serves as the following timely reminder to anyone looking at scientific study in the form of a short-form article: it’s almost impossible to accurately distil the essence of an entire scientific study into a few short sound bites.

The study, Life Cycle Air Quality Impacts of Conventional and Alternative Light-Duty Transportation in the United States, uses what it calls a ‘spatially and temporally explicit life cycle inventory model’ to estimate the total fuel supply chain air pollutant emissions for 10 percent of all total predicted U.S. mileage for the year 2020, repeating the model for eleven different fuel generation methods.

These include conventional gasoline vehicles, gasoline hybrids, diesel vehicles, compressed natural gas, corn-based ethanol, and electric vehicles. For scenarios where the fuel can be generated in different ways — as in the case of electricity, for example — the study examines each separate generation method.

It then tallies the total environmental and social effect of each fuel type, examining particulate emissions, greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, climate change, and even the financial cost to society due to changed health care costs.

It really does depend where you get your fuel from. (Image: Life cycle air quality impacts of conventional and alternative light-duty transportation in the United States.)

It really does depend where you get your fuel from. (Image: Life cycle air quality impacts of conventional and
alternative light-duty transportation in the
United States.)

It concluded that by making 10 percent of the U.S’s predicted 2020 fleet mileage operate on coal-based electricity, the impact of that on society due to poor air quality, reduced health and increased greenhouse gas emissions will be far worse than continuing to use gasoline, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths per year from reduced air quality alone.

Even at using current grid power mixes, the study says that electric cars are worse than gasoline vehicles and on par with corn grain ethanol vehicles in terms of overall emissions and health problems.

Yet the study also points out that electric cars aren’t the big bad wolf of the automotive world. The way in which the electricity they use is generated is. Run electric cars from wind, water, or solar-generated electricity (WWS), and there’s a dramatic improvement in health and social benefits all round.

“The difference between the least- and most-polluting electricity generation options for EVs increases almost sixfold when air pollution damages are considered alongside climate impacts, instead of when climate impacts are considered alone,” the report’s authors conclude. “Our findings thus reinforce the benefit of pairing EVs with clean electricity.”

It's all about the net effect

It’s all about the net effect.

Despite the headlines claiming that electric cars could be worse for the environment than gasoline cars, the reports authors finish their discussion by stating that the study isn’t designed to pick winners or losers in the alternative fuel market, but rather should be used as a study of how things could be shifted to increase or reduce pollution based on our choices.

“Results given here should not be taken as a final statement that environmental improvements are best achieved by existing light-duty vehicles with less-polluting light-duty vehicles, nor that EVs are the best technology for every need,” they state. “Instead, these results can be seen as an indication of how light-duty transportation fuels could shift to reduce increase pollution, and as an encouragement into the research of less polluting, more sustainable transportation options for the future.”

As for the purpose of our article? We’re not picking sides either — but we do implore our readers to note one very important fact.

When making academic papers and studies palatable for the masses, important facts are nearly always left by the wayside. Only by reading the paper yourself will you gain the full picture, because every outlet — even this one — will add some form of spin, even if we try hard not to.

————————————

Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

______________________________________

Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInDigg thisShare on RedditEmail this to someonePin on Pinterest

Related News

  • Jeffery Lay

    The final paragraph makes a VERY important point that’s often overlooked in our pre-digested soundbite cultureu2026 the “Daily Mail” effect. Make a headline that shocks, and don’t bother with the most important part of the article (the context).

    • Joseph Dubeau

      click bait?

  • Stephanie Lay

    “When making academic papers and studies palatable for the masses, important facts are nearly always left by the wayside. Only by reading the paper yourself will you gain the full picture, because every outlet u2014 even this one u2014 will add some form of spin, even if we try hard not to.”nn*Thank you* for making this a key message in your article – I find it endlessly frustrating when complex ideas are reduced to (often biased) soundbites in a rush to get a point across. Current media make it very easy consume massive amounts of information at breakneck speed – and very hard to slow down, filter and evaluate the points that are being made: it might not be a malicious attempt to jump to a wrong conclusion, but as you’ve described, it’s very easy to misrepresent or mislead. And it’s not even hard to read the source text when journals make their articles freely available like this. If you want to understand a scientific argument, going back to the source is always going to be crucial – I wish more journalists would take a leaf out of your book 🙂

  • Robert Moffitt

    We’ve seen these type of reports from Jason Hill before.

  • Tom Wick

    A Union of Concerned Scientists study came to different conclusions:nhttp://www.ucsusa.org/publications/ask/2014/lifecycle-emissions.html#.VJBKismLWfsnThere is a short blurb here discussing some of the difficulties of such studies:nhttp://www.ucsusa.org/publications/ask/2014/lifecycle-emissions.htmlnThe results depend on the assumptions. In general you should read as many the original journal articles as possible on a subject to gain insight into the pitfalls and difficulties in drawing conclusions. One article isn’t enough. Of course most people don’t have the time to do this, so it is easy for people to misrepresent results. There are also a small number of “mercenary” scientists/technologists who will twist things to obtain the results their benefactors desire as described in “Merchants of Doubt” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway.

    • erth64net

      That USC link is only the opinion of a single scientist, and it broadly sweeps over numbers with complete disregard for supporting references. How could anyone take that article seriously?

      • Joe Viocoe

        This 2012 UCS report cited 33 supporting references.nnhttp://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/clean_vehicles/electric-car-global-warming-emissions-report.pdfnnNot just “one scientist”.nnEven though the report was authored by two engineers of the UCS Clean Vehicles Program….. the entire body of work must be reviewed and vetted by the UCS. nOtherwise, it couldn’t be published from the “UNION of Concerned Scientist(S)

        • MarcDaniel Erasmo

          Here’s the 2014 updatennhttp://blog.ucsusa.org/how-do-electric-cars-compare-with-gas-cars-656?_ga=1.31391357.398606314.1413071865

        • erth64net

          I was responding to the link that you posted twice in your comment:n http://www.ucsusa.org/publications/ask/2014/lifecycle-emissions.htmlnnClearly, a published paper requires a vetting process. Whereas the link you provided to “Ask a Scientist”, does not.

          • Joe Viocoe

            The link was simply a blurb about the UCS report.

          • erth64net

            No, it wasn’t.nnIn fact, the original link only casually referenced the UCS report, once, near the end of its 4th paragraph.

          • Joe Viocoe

            That is what I meant by ‘blurb’… a short mention.nBasically arguing against an “ask a scientist” article, is not much more than arguing against a strawman.nnI think the Union of Concerned Scientist’s conclusions are much more accurate.

      • Joseph Dubeau

        “That USC link is only the opinion of a single scientist”nJust like your opinion which no one takes serious.

  • BenBrownEA

    I wish the news source I first heard this from had at least referenced the youtube video that would have at least been informational rather than confrontational.

  • erth64net

    Without a shift towards nuclear, or a fission breakthrough, it’s wholly impractical to consider the possibility of generating sufficient electricity to meet existing and/or emerging energy needs, without using coal and other CO2 producing fuels. This reality renders the “….but, coal…” argument moot: the core problem is that we’re consuming far more energy than we can responsibly produce, and we’re lying to ourselves by focusing on toys such as EVs, and abysmal math failures such as MPGe’s completely unrealistic claims.

    • There is a shift of EVs to using fusion energy u2026 ie: harvesting energy from our Sun’s fusion power source in the form of solar and wind.nnPS: EVs are no longer toys used in experiments, they evolved to being full featured vehicles for pratical transportation.

    • Mark Benjamin David

      The whole idea of a “fission breakthrough” is just looking at it all wrong. Why do we look at the sun and say “we need to make something like this here on planet earth, this would solve our energy use problems”. Actually, you’re looking too far away, even with the reduction from earth’s atmosphere, we have barely tapped into the energy the sun itself sends our way, we just need to harness it! Solar PV is developing and could be developing faster if “other interests” weren’t against it.

      • erth64net

        “… Solar PV is developing and could be developing faster if “other interests” weren’t against it…”nnMeh… You’re not going to effect true change with conspiracy theories.nnAlthough, you are right on a point: we just need to capture, store, and deliver all that wasted sunlight above our atmosphere (nevermind the energy required to get up there). Just like we need better hydrogen storage tanks for our cars, and just a few more billion will put helium-3 power plants in our backyard, and who can forget about the thorium car…and…nn*ahem* The reality is, production-grade solar PV has only doubled in efficiency once during the past 50 years. Fundamentally, related technology has barely changed, despite billions having already been thrown at it. We need real solutions, on far larger scales, than what solar is capable of delivering with its multi-centuries away pipe-dream.nnThe fact is, public hype has us largely burning money, just to chase wildly-unrealistic PV industry claims. All while simultaneously shunning far more practical, safer, and less toxic energy sources that, today, already easily outpace PV’s capacity.nnWith any luck, public perception of today’s solar hype will shift towards the hydrogen/thorium/H3 crowd…hopefully sooner than later. Hopefully…

        • Mark Benjamin David

          to quote: “Meh… You’re not going to effect true change with conspiracy theories.” It’s not a “conspiracy theory”, big corporations have lobbyists and protect their investments. When someone is a threat to their profit margin, they fight back. i.e. Tesla is a threat to the auto industry because they are presenting a different business model, one that is for the consumer and not for the company, and car dealerships don’t want their business model threatened, and they have gone to the government.nn”…we just need to capture, store, and deliver all that wasted sunlight above our atmosphere…” THAT IS NOT WHAT I WAS SAYING: “… even with the reduction from earth’s atmosphere, we have barely tapped into the energy the sun itself sends our way, we just need to harness it!”, “even with the reduction from earth’s atmosphere” is referring to capturing the energy from the sun on earth, INSIDE the effects of the atmosphere. We all know NASA uses solar in space, I’m talking about the fact there is so much energy available from the sun, here on earth, that we just need to capture it. We don’t need to make a little sun here on the earth (fission), when you think about it, it doesn’t make sense.nnThe FACT is, of all new energy installations, meaning natural gas or coal or whatever power plant for electricity, commercial solar PV installations beat them all, and have been for a couple years now.nn”All while simultaneously shunning far more practical, safer, and less toxic energy sources that, today, already easily outpace PV’s capacity.” Are you crazy? hydrogen/thorium/H3 are not “safer” as you claim!

          • erth64net

            LOL, you seem to have confused Solar PV with “solar”. Wind, hydro, solar-thermal, and even biofuels are all harnessing a form of solar energy as well – and I didn’t harp on those options for good reason: they’re FAR more viable, safer, and scalable. While solar PV subsidies greatly skew numbers in PV’s favor…that doesn’t mean PV is a better option, it just means it has more .gov funding, for now.nnPVs are wholly impractical at the scales we need. For instance, if we can’t even keep manufacturing plants open, how are we supposed to even begin producing sufficient quantities: http://www.theleafchronicle.com/story/news/local/clarksville/2014/12/17/hemlock-closing-clarksville-plant-permanently/20536529/nnHave you even begun to think about the scale of production necessary to manufacture sufficient solar PV parts? Clearly, you haven’t: for PVs to even approach more than ~10% of the world’s energy needs, we’ll need to have mining and manufacturing plants built alongside massive PV installation sites. Right now, all “solar” (as per EIA’s definition) accounts for barely 0.6% of the US energy supply:nhttp://www.eia.gov/electricity/data/browser/ nnWhile PV accounts for a small fraction of the US energy supply, PV also demands far more resources than other more viable options.nnAs for PVs beating everything. That’s certainly a bold statement, and one I’d expect to lack a verifiable source. It’s awfully clear you haven’t done any whole-lifecycle math: mining, manufacturing, and PV site outputs.nnSerious question: do you have a calculator phobia?nnAs for hydrogen/thorium/H3, I sure hope solar PV is added to that list of unrealistic energy sources sooner than later; we really need to focus on solutions, not toxic toys.

          • Mark Benjamin David

            comments on articles is not the place for this, you want to debate find another more appropriate place for it.nnnI am not a debater. I am not an energy expert, and won’t do the math because that is not my passion, clearly it is yours.nnnSolar PV manufacturing in the US fails because the government let’s it, along with anything else that is competitive to fossil fuels. Same with battery electric vehicle tech, they have been trying to slow the obvious by pushing hydrogen, which, if you look behind the curtain, is something fossil fuels is doing. And someone buys up these companies that go or are about to go bankrupt, can you guess who?: China. They aren’t stupid buying up failed companies, they know exactly what they are doing, and aren’t too distracted trying to save their old ways like we are.nnnYou implied previously Solar PV not being safe nor viable, yet it is. So is Wind, Passive Solar, Geothermal, Micro Hydro-power where the conditions are such they are viable alternatives, and are also being built out. Micro-hydro is the most efficient, and I think wind is 2nd, but these need the right conditions, (where I currently live there is not enough wind for it to be useful.) nnnWhat I have a passion for, as far as home energy, getting off the grid as much as possible, that is why I am for Solar PV, as it is one that can be used just about anywhere. If one lives on a property w/a creek or other moving water, Micro Hydro is the most efficient.nnnAs far as solar PV installations, in checking, it looks like, as far as new generating capacity goes, Solar PV is at 36%, 2nd only to “natural gas” (seia.org)nnnThis is my last comment here. I am not into politics, and this is way too political for me. The problem is, I’ve been waiting decades for BEVs to go mainstream, and those that are against it (large, bit profit companies), make it a political issue, (by using lobbyist powers), when, for me, it is not. It also is not as complicated as this study makes it out to be.

          • erth64net

            You’re willing to make lifestyle changes Mark, a large portion of the American public is not. That’s what differentiates you and I from the general public’s trend of increasing energy consumption. My wife and I are on a similar path as you; tiny home, sustainable garden (only ~30% of our annual food, so-far), energy consumption reductions (~11.2kWh/day), etc. These changes cost us a small fortune; to upgrade all insulation (doubled R values), electrical (100% LEDs), roof (TPO membrane, white), windows (from 1950’s aluminum to vinyl), siding, plumbing, landscaping/garden, etc. This is not an easy nor simple path, and without financial help and/or essential technical guidance, we simply cannot expect everyone to follow suit…it’s just not going to happen.nnStudies are consistently showing, there is a far greater cost/benefit in upgrading existing homes and vehicles towards something more efficient. Such benefits are far more positive, than a rip/replace message which universally accompanies “drive an EV”, or we “need more sustainable power”, or even “what about solar PV”.nnToday’s problems are not going to be solved, by the thinking which got us here today. That past “thinking” includes an attitude that we need just a little more time/money/resources/technology, and we’ll have solved our energy crisis, or arguments that The Man is slowing progress down. Our solutions are already sitting on a shelf, this shelf doesn’t necessarily need more government support, nor fewer lobbyists, nor less friction from The Corporate States of America.nnIf you want to clean up the air, then we need to increase fuel efficiency of existing vehicles, not rip/replace them. Off-the-shelf technology already exists, to essentially accomplish this overnight; no fancy technology, billions into wishful R&D, or evolutionary energy/battery improvements necessary. Cut in half existing vehicle fuel consumption, tomorrow:nhttp://www.epa.gov/otaq/technology/research/research-hhvs.htmnnWant to reduce coal toxins and emissions from other dino-power plants, then this is where the government could help, and where corporate america could benefit: help homeowners remodel (e.g. approachable loans), and in-effect reduce household energy consumption to half of today’s levels.nnVoila, you’ve now just cut the average individual American’s energy consumption in half. It’s at this point, that solar (PV and otherwise), might just make sense to again pursue, but if we keep chasing a 10%-per-decade increase in energy consumption, all the renewables in the world are not going to save us…they’re not even going to come close.

  • Great post pointing out facts and context from the paper not cover by the AP article, and to pointing out inaccuracies stated in AP article.nnThe geographic location of EVs, their owners and public chargers was ignored by AP article. While a map of current PEV registerations for all states is not publicly available, a few other good maps can be referenced:nnMap of “Electric Charging Station Locations” by State, from Dept. of Energy:nhttp://www.afdc.energy.gov/data/mobile/10366nnMap Top-10 US Nissan LEAF Sales Markets (Top-15 markets are also referenced) :nhttp://insideevs.com/nissan-leaf-top-10-us-sales-markets-in-september/nnFrom @Edmunds: a Map of @TeslaMotors Model S distribution by state (data is from 2013, so numbers are dated, by relative ratios are still representative): http://edmu.in/1ffCA0Ynhttp://twitter.com/edmunds/status/428656319709872128/photo/1nnOf note is concentration of PEVs (ownership, sales, and public chargers) along westcoast where coal energy is scarce, and renewable energy use high. Overlay PEV map over coal energy, and you’ll find 60% of PEVs. are located in areas of cleaner grid energy.

  • Joe Viocoe

    Don’t rely on OTHER PEOPLE to do analysis… they always make undisclosed assumptions. For instance, what region of the electric grid? What year? Coal percentages have gone down, and is much lower than the years in which these “studies” are commonly done.nnAlso, does this study factor in the fact that air quality from a remote coal plant matters much worse than pollution being emitted 5 feet away on a crowded street?nnhttps://greet.es.anl.gov/nDownload the official Argonne National Laboratory’s GREET program and start n=======nnBut if you don’t want to calculate for yourself, here is the summary of what I found:nnhttps://greet.es.anl.gov/nDownload the program and start comparing GHG grams/miles… based on the different regions.nhttp://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/documents/egridzips/eGRID_9th_edition_V1-0_year_2010_NERC_regions.jpgnn*** All calculations done using Argonne National Laboratory’s GREET analysis which uses comprehensive data from a variety of official sources. Each calculation was done using each region’s reported mix of energy sources and known WTW emissions for both gasoline and power generation for EVs***nn———————————————–nn— A 114 MPGe EV (i.e Nissan Leaf) powered by the following, has equivalent GHG emissions to the following: —nn2010 US Avg. Mix (@ 41.4% coal, 27% NG) ~= Prius that gets 61 mpg combined.nnNY and New England – NPCC (@ 4.3% coal, 46% NG, 30% Nuclear) ~= Prius that gets 119 mpg.nnCalifornia Mix (@ 6.5% coal, 55% NG) ~= Prius that gets 97 mpg.nnAny Western state – WECC (@ 27.3% coal) ~= Prius that gets 79 mpg.nnFlorida – FRCC (@ 24% coal, 60% NG) ~= Prius that gets 61 mpg.nnPlains states – SPP (KS, OK) ( @ 43.4% coal) ~= Prius that gets 61 mpg.nnTexas – TRE (@ 37% coal) ~= Prius that gets 58 mpg.nnSouthern-central states – SERC (KY, TN, VA, NC, SC, MO, IL, AL, LA, etc) n(@ 46% coal) ~= Prius that gets 58 mpg.nnCentral states – RFC (NJ, PA, WV, MI, IN, etc) (@ 55% coal) ~= Prius that gets 54 mpg.nnMid-North states – MRO (WI, IA, MN, ND, SD, NE) (@ 64.3% coal) ~= Prius that gets 51 mpg.nnAlaska (@ 3% coal, 60% NG) ~= Prius that gets 68 mpg.nnHawaii (@ 96.3% Oil, 0% coal) ~= A gas car that gets 34 mpg combined.nnThe fictional 100% Coal (no region ever uses 100%) ~= A gas car getting 34 mpg combined.nn———————————————–nnSo the only place where driving a Nissan Leaf produces more GHG emissions than a Prius, is Hawaii because of all the imported Oil… but everywhere else (even heavy in coal), would do MUCH better with an EV.nn=======nnBut don’t take my word for it either, download the GREET program and do the calculations based on where YOU live.

  • Erocker

    If electric cars should not use coal power who should use this power. I think nobody should. We need to close these coal power plant is my conclusion after reading this article.

    • erth64net

      Agreed on closure. I presume you have a proposed alternative too?

      • Erocker

        Currently I understand we are a wash in natural gas

        • erth64net

          So, you propose building natural gas plants?

          • Erocker

            Da

      • Mark Benjamin David

        Actually, Solar PV installations have been leading new energy in US for a couple years now (big commercial “plants” called solar farms). Also, Walmart and IKEA and others have been installing solar panels on their rooftops for at least a couple years.nnnAnyone that makes a graph like that with EVs being charged by coal power plant supplied electricity is using old data. It’s a weak point at best. Exaggeration is key when using a weak point like this.

        • erth64net

          Approximately 0.6% of US energy comes from solar, and that’s after accounting for all these “solar farms”, including some of the newest farms…which are currently demonstrating grossly lower-than-estimated outputs.nnThe fact is, before PVs could possibly hope to produce sufficient energy, we’ll need to start covering the cumulative equivalent land masses of entire (smaller) states. During this process, estimated costs outpaces the US’s current national debt by a factor of ten. We’re decades away from that being any form of a reality. Decades…and we need solutions far sooner than that.nnDuring this time, PVs will still be contributing more environmental CO2 per kWh, than biofuels, wind, nuclear, and other far more economically viable, environmentally friendlier, and (in many cases) far safer, option.nnI understand, and can fully sympathize with your desire to see more BEVs…but when the math behind PV’s promises just doesn’t make sense (or cents), why the persistence? The laws of physics and economics are not going to change, just because we want them to.

  • Katherine Walton-Elliott

    As I’ve not read it, out of interest, does it include the energy required to refine the gasoline? Given the opacity of oil companies on the amount of energy required to produce one litre of petrol I’m intrigued to know…

  • Joseph Dubeau

    And if charge your EV on a windy day in Scotland?

    • erth64net

      What does Scotland’s wind power initiatives have to do with solar power on the US energy grid?

      • Joe Viocoe

        We have much more wind power in the US than Scotland.nThe point is that “relying” on solar is unrealistic. The report in question even acknowledges that “WWS” Water, Wind, and Solar will all play a huge part in reducing coal power dependency. 38% and dropping fast.nWind is growing much faster than solar.

        • erth64net

          According to NREL, Wind turbine’s throughout the continental US could generate a maximum 37 PWh/year:nhttp://www.renewableenergyfocus.com/view/7446/potential-for-us-wind-energy-is-10-5-gw/nnCurrent US energy consumption is pegging 9.7 quadrillion BTU:nhttp://www.eia.gov/beta/MER/?tbl=T02.02#/?f=A&start=1949&end=2013&charted=2-3-4-10-12-14nn9.7 Quadrillion BTU equals roughly 2.84 PWh. This means we could eadily meet 100% of today’s energy needs on wind alone, while touching only a fraction of our total possible generation capacity. Accomplishing all of this, without the impractical wishful thinking of solar advocates. Although I do worry about the costs of a wholesale replacement, which reasonable estimates puts costs at roughly $184 Trillion for the equipment alone. That’s about ten times our current national debt…I don’t think we can afford this anytime soon…certainly not within my lifetime: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power#Electricity_cost_and_trendsnnI like wind turbines – they have a far less toxic manufacturing requirement than solar, they’re far safer than solar, and energy generation potential is huge. Cashflow for deployments is something we cannot overlook though…alongside other hidden costs, such as upgrading an already heavily-strained infrastructure (here in the Pacific NW, we’ve effectively stopped building wind turbines, because we’re already at risk of melting main feed lines): http://greeneconomypost.com/wind-turbines-shut-pacific-northwest-15566.htm

  • Joe Viocoe

    Also, nnYou are way off. It is more like an area 1/10th the size of Arizona can power the whole US indefinitely.nnAnd 1/3 the size of Arizona could power the whole world, even at much higher consumption levels of the year 2030.nnAnd that is with current PV efficiencies at a modest 20%. The record breaking high efficiency PV cells are at 44.7% efficiency.nnhttp://landartgenerator.org/blagi/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/AreaRequired1000.jpgnnAt 0.6266 kilowatt-hours per module per day, a square mile will deliver 1,164,574 kWh per day on average, or 425,069,510 kWh per year. Back to our goal of 4,000,000,000,000 kWh, divided by 425,069,510 kWh per year per square mile, it looks like we need about 9,410 square miles of surface to meet the electrical needs of the U.S. Thatu2019s a square area a bit less than 100 miles on a side.nnhttp://www.terrawatts.com/PV-production.html

    • erth64net

      Way off? Umm, NO.nnMy initial statement effectively matches the document you linked, regarding specific land mass. I said 475,000 sq-km today, and they said 484,000 sq-km by 2030.nnWe could split hairs on timing and estimated energy requirements, by playing games with efficiency numbers. Fact is, their numbers are far too low, and my numbers are based upon well established facts (hint: US energy consumption increases by about 10%/decade): http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy13osti/56290.pdfnnEither way, let’s play with that map’s number for a moment. According to Google, the land mass of California is in-fact 423,970 sq-km…that tiny little square used on your linked map is grossly misleading http://lmgtfy.com/?q=land+mass+of+californiannWhen you can show me a production ready PV capable of those high-ball efficiency numbers, we can explore those numbers. Until then, depending upon anything other than real world numbers is flat-out SciFi.

  • FUD u2026 a Nissan LEAF can be leased for ~$200-$250 a month today. The area of solar cell to charge a LEAF on a daily basis will fit on an average American home. nnThere is nothing more exotic about the technologies in a LEAF (or any other PEV) than a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

    • erth64net

      Care to share a link to your specific Nissan LEAF lease package? I just visited https://www.truecar.com/prices-new/nissan/leaf-pricing/ and the lowest priced lease I could come up with, for my 97210 zip code, is $378/month (36 month) or $371 (60 month)…and that’s a pretty stripped-down option.nnConsidering that a standard vehicle lifespan estimate is 12 years, let’s assume we lease a LEAF (or something similar) for 12 years. That’s an outlay of roughly $54,000. Since we’re going to power this with solar, let’s add solar panel costs too. This brings your 12 year LEAF lease costs up to a grand total of $84,000. That’s based upon only 1/2 the costs of a 60kWh/day solar system, average energy (add another $30,000 for whole-household system cost): http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/solar.html This of course assumes just one vehicle. Add $84,000 in 12-year costs for each additional vehicle, per household.nnWhen someone can just outright buy a biodiesel powered car at easily 1/4th this price, with significantly lowered up-front costs. Their biodiesel vehicle will easily outlast a 12 year lease, and the owner isn’t tied-up in lease constraints. Where exactly is the cost-benefit of an EV shining through here? After-all, a vehicle running B100 would have a profoundly lower carbon footprint, than even a dino/coal-powered EV. In fact, given the almost carbon-neutral nature of B100 fuel, carbon emissions during solar panel manufacturing starts to look bad.nnAs for solar cells. You seemed to have overlooked the 30% energy conversion losses, as typical vehicle usage patterns would have your EV away from your @home charging station during peak solar times. Which means you’d need to store the collected energy. Standard electro/chemical conversion losses are 15% in, 15% out: 30% total. When the typical American home uses 30kWh/day, a LEAF will add at least an additional 31kWh to the household’s typical 30kWh load (charging the 24kWh battery & 30% losses). Production/mass-produced solar panels are about 15% efficient, which means you’ll need about 80 sq-meters of panels, which translates to about 860sq-ft of required roof space…and that’s just one vehicle + a typical household demand: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=average+solar+panel+efficiency Add an additional 430sq-ft for each additional vehicle. How big is the sun-facing portion of an average American roof (hint: it’s nothing close to 800sq-ft)?nnAssume we somehow double solar panel efficiency over the next 10 years (a feat we’ve only accomplished once during the past 50 years). That still only enables you to halve the above space requirements, with likely minimal differences in overall cost. How again does this present a positive cost-benefit?

      • James

        It is not clear if you are making an economic or environmental argument. In either case your math is off. If you are going to factor in replacement cars and total fueling for an electric car you should do the same for the diesel. A 12 year lease assumes that you will drive a new car every three years. For the prices you list for the lease you can purchase two Leaf outright. Forcing the solar panel decision instead of opting for grid energy seem like an environmental argument, but be aware that bio-diesel still releases CO2 and while eliminates sulfates is estimated to be somewhere between 20% and 50% cleaner than gas. Regardless there are many regions where you can lock in renewable energy rates. Regarding the TrueCar lease rates, leasing directly from Nissan is much cheaper than the rates listed at TrueCar. I can send you a LMGTFY link if you are unable to find any more real world rates.

        • erth64net

          Sigh…nnWhen you said “…a Nissan LEAF can be leased for ~$200-$250 a month today…” I interpreted that as a statement of an average realistic lease price, not special holiday or end-of-year sales. Considering such time-limited deals exist primarily because business is really slow this time of year, is it really fair to cherry-pick such prices? For example, using your rules, we should also adjust numbers for B100 vehicles. Shall we go there? I propose we keep this simple, and fair, and just stick with my original numbers.nnFurther, if we’re going to point out what I omitted, especially in the context of emissions, then wouldn’t it be fair to include solar PV lifecycle GHG emissions? An NREL Life Cycle Assessment Harmonization, looking at over 400 studies during the past 30 years, pins median Solar PV lifecycle emissions at 44 gCO2/kWh: http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/sustain_lca_pv.htmlnnWhereas the median for biofuel lifecycle emissions is pinned at 40 gCO2/kWh: http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/sustain_lca_bio.htmlnnThis is a very handy site, to easily visualize and understand the study’s numbers: http://en.openei.org/apps/LCA/nnNow, according to the US-EPA, 33.7 kWh equals one gallon of gasoline. Which means for every gallon of gas not burned, requiring the same amount of energy through solar PV will still produce 1,483 gCO2 (that’s of-course before you factor in electrical energy transmission and storage losses, which is currently at approximately 36%). Whereas biofuel’s numbers show a 10% lower GHG emissions median than solar PV.nnWhich energy source produces more emissions?

          • James

            Firstly, I never mentioned the cost of a Leaf lease. I was simply replying to your post. Although it should be noted that Nissan has had almost the exact same lease deal since mid-2012 so I wouldn’t exactly call it a time limited special offer. nn”Shall we go there?” Yes, we really should. You claimed that “someone can just outright buy a biodiesel powered car at easily 1/4th this price.” But the price in question was for a convoluted 12 year Leaf lease plus the up-front infrastructure cost for generating all the electricity. To perform a proper differential analysis you should include the cost of infrastructure for manufacturing your own biodiesel. Being you are also making the carbon emissions argument I am assuming that you intend to limit your B100 to 100% surplus vegetable oils, otherwise the pollution argument becomes a bit more difficult.nnFor the records, I do not completely disagree with the premise of your argument, but you are cherry picking examples and pulling things out of context. For example, when you stated that “After-all, a vehicle running B100 would have a profoundly lower carbon footprint, than even a dino/coal-powered EV.” You are taking the best case B100 measures against the worst case EV numbers. Please note the quote from the study you sited:nn”In countries with coal dominated power generation electric vehicles do little to reduce carbon emissions when compared to petrol vehicles. In countries with a broad fuel mix they are equivalent to the best petrol hybrids or efficient diesels. In places with low carbon power they are more than twice as good as the best combustion engines.”nnI can see that you have invested a significant amount of time and effort into your arguments and your research is very interesting, but you should dial your passion back a bit. I think that some of your valid points are getting muddied and lost in your shotgun spray analysis.

          • erth64net

            Thanks for the thoughtful feedback James – I updated my earlier comment to clarify that the price assumptions were based upon prices stated by others in the thread we’ve replied within. If you can provide links to substantiate lease pricing claims, that would be wonderful. So far, nobody has provided this, and Google just doesn’t seem in the mood to share either.nnI can’t agree on incorporating a full up-front capital cost of B100 production though. As that’s a cost I can spread over time, without any inherent capital costs: B100 produced from 100% waste-oil is readily available commercially. In hindsight, to be fair, I should have compared such a fuel’s purchase cost. I can do that now:n$3.45/gallon * (180,000 miles / 40MPG ) = $15,525 in lifetime fuel costs. …or about 1/2 of what a suitably-sized solar panel array would cost.nnPrice source: http://www.iowadot.gov/purchasing/fuelprice.pdfnnThis estimate of-course overlooks a few numbers, such as oil changes for the ICE vehicle, and energy storage requirements (e.g. storage batteries, their periodic replacements, and a 30% energy-storage/conversion loss) on the EV side, vehicle maintenance differences, etc. Ultimately, we’re working within the constraints of shortish comments, and even shorter attention spans 🙂 nnSpeaking to specific vehicle pricing. Earlier in the thread, the implication was that a lower-priced lease option made a LEAF more economically approachable. My contrast was comparing to an outright purchase instead: no cherry-picking was intended. While I did use a Coal-vs-PV extreme to drive a point home, we really shouldn’t overlook how solar has a nearly 50% higher gCO2/kWh footprint than biofuels.nnThe coal vs non-coal countries are also difficult to fully qualify here, hence my focus on the US only. As we’d also need to control for other variables as well, such as consideration of electrical energy transmission losses that can exceed 50%, depending upon the country. Among other factors.nnHonestly, through my childhood, and up until a few years ago I was a staunch supporter of solar PV, EVs, etc…until squawking from conspiracy theorists began increasingly drowing-out the voices of reputable sources. At that point, I started digging for supporting facts myself, but kept coming up short. Genuine transportation evolution is the focus of this site, so I imagine that specific numbers & their supporting citations are the most appreciated contributions.nnEither way, its nice to bounce these numbers around the mostly-constructive feedback loop amongst commenters here.

  • For all the PR Tesla gets in mainstream media, it only accounts for a small percentage of PEVs in the U.S.nnThe data does exist, but to access PEV data for all states would be fairly expensive due to number of state data sets and how sets of data are made available.

  • heltonja

    I wonder if the study considered that most people are charging overnight when there is excess capacity on the grid and therefore they are not causing any increased emissions that wouldn’t already be there anyway. Also as long as it cuts my fuel bill per mile by 80% I really don’t care where the electricity comes from. (unless they are burning soylent green to generate the electricity, because that just causes food prices to skyrocket. )

  • heltonja

    Personally I think covering the entire land mass of California with solar panels would be a great idea. however since most charge overnight there are massive amounts of excess capacity on the grid I think we are in a long long way away from the point where electric cars require more electric power generation than we would already be producing for our daytime needs.

  • Mark Benjamin David

    In the US, school programs are funded by corporations. “This time, the claim comes courtesy of a new study from a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota”. I would be curious where the idea of this research came from and who is funding it. …but, then, it might be called something like “Citizens United”.nnIf I seem cynical, it is because I have been waiting DECADES for mainstream BEVs!

  • Pingback: Is anti-EV propaganda manipulating consumers? - GM-VOLT : Chevy Volt Electric Car Site GM-VOLT : Chevy Volt Electric Car Site()

  • Pingback: Est-ce que les consommateurs sont manipulés par un agenda anti voiture électrique? | DanyEVLab()

  • Studying the right concepts of electricity is very efficient and was great aspects of individual to promote or to have their skills in learning which is ideal beneficial to individual into their field of learning. Thanks that you have posted a lot of helpful insights here regarding this research.