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Old 01-16-2009, 11:05 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Plug-in cars are not necessarily greener than conventional cars

The unveiling of the new Prius, and its half-mile range EV-mode, brought this topic to the front of my mind. More electric range means carrying around more batteries, which isn't always greener:

Green Car Congress: Study: Meaningful GHG Benefit from PHEVs Requires Low-Carbon Electricity

I attended a lecture given by one of the authors of that paper. The additional weight of the batteries drives up the car's energy consumption, and the environmental impact of manufacturing the batteries is also a consideration. Worse, the CO2 emission from (American) electric generation means that you're hardly reducing your carbon footprint by plugging in your PHEV.

I think we should pursue all research avenues, but it's clear we should focus on reducing the carbon intensity of our electric generation (in America, at least) before we spend a lot of money on plug-in and electric cars.

Once the electric car becomes a commercial reality (within ten years), the electric SUV will follow. If we respond by installing more coal-fired power plants, then we've taken a big step backward.

Abolish gasoline taxes. Replace them with carbon taxes. Only then will the market make an educated decision about which technologies are the best choice.

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Old 01-16-2009, 11:26 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I concur, sir. Carbon taxes would probably work, if implemented gradually (START NOW!!!).

I pay a bit extra on our electric bill for our utility to buy electric output equal to my consumption from a wind farm here in MO. Last year the people and businesses participating in the option bought electricity equal to the annual output of 8 of their utility scale wind generators. (they have like 54)
I look at it as investing in the future, on everyone's behalf. The extra cost isn't that much for us, since we conserve electricity it only costs about $120 per year extra, an average of $10 per month.
We recently passed a law in MO that requires the utilities to get 10% from wind power within 10 years. A good step. The bummer is they put a price cap on it, no more than 1% higher electric rates. I think 2-3% would be more do-able, without putting them out in the cold. Now I fear the utilities will just fight it.
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Old 01-16-2009, 11:46 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Yeah, that is true. But with things like the link below happening. I'm hoping this won't be the case for too long.

U.S. is Now the Biggest Wind Power Generating Country | EcoRenovator.org
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Old 01-16-2009, 12:09 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I would believe this when someone gives me the average carbon output of a power plant per kwh required to drive a car a mile and compares that to the average carbon output of that same car if it had no batteries and a gas motor. I'm thinking the electric car is still better to be powered by the utility than a gas car powered by a poor efficiency motor... but that's just speculation.
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Old 01-16-2009, 12:28 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Hi,

I have always heard that even with the coal generation plants, and with transmission losses, that electric cars are still more efficient than ICE cars. Obviously, it would be much better to use local PV or wind or something like biogas -- any renewable resource would greatly improve things.

This is a chicken-and-egg situation -- we need to get the electric cars into place, and also work to get off of "old carbon" energy. Both are important, and just because one is "ahead" of the other, does not mean that we should not do one until the other catches up!
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Old 01-16-2009, 01:17 PM   #6 (permalink)
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why point to coal as the power source? why not Nat Gas? cleaner than coal - we have a lot of it.
we cannot make 1 step to 0 carbon - have to make gradual steps.
I would venture that if you could look at the CO2 output of a Gas car and the same "per mile" of an electric car . Electric wins.
move to more Nat Gas / Wind / GASP even Nuke and the gap gets bigger.

plus if you look at Ratings for the PHEV's - just compare to the "ratings "of what we drive now and compare to what we actually get.
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Old 01-16-2009, 01:27 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I definately agree that we need both vehicles that use LESS energy (more efficient) and create less carbon.

The downside to coal generation is that it DOES make lots of CO2 and mercury gets put into the atmosphere. I am also not real comfortable with strip mining and other techniques that wreck the countryside.

My electric car is powered by renewable energy from landfill gas and wind generation.

Coal-powered SUVs at NOT the answer!

We all need to work towards both conservation AND renewable options.
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Old 01-16-2009, 02:04 PM   #8 (permalink)
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It's just wrong. Even if all electricity was generated from coal, it'd still be more efficient. An electric generating plant has thermodynamic efficiency around 50%, line & charging losses are about 10%, while you get some energy recovered from regenerative braking. Compare that to the maybe 20% average (because it rarely runs at the most efficient point on the BSFC map) of a typical straight-IC engined car, and you come out ahead.

Then figure that only about 50% of US electriciy comes from coal. About 20% is from somewhat cleaner natural gas, while the rest is nuclear, hydro, wind, geothermal, solar, and so on - all CO2-free sources, and you're even further ahead.

The most important point, though, is that having a bunch of electric cars (either full electric or PHEV) out there is going to create a need for new generation. Individuals will do things like install solar panels to charge their electric cars, and excess can go to the grid to displace existing fossil plants. Anything done to reduce fossil generation automatically improves the transportation sector.
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Old 01-16-2009, 04:08 PM   #9 (permalink)
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A gridlock line of cars on the freeway with no engines running or emissions sounds way better than a bunch of autos idling and going nowhere.

Electric is 90% efficient, much more than gas.

Vehicles need to be made smaller and lighter with better aero's.

Consumers would demand this with the correct education.

Unless someone decides to crush them all, and keep propagandizing 'safety' .
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Old 01-16-2009, 04:12 PM   #10 (permalink)
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greener

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobertSmalls View Post
The unveiling of the new Prius, and its half-mile range EV-mode, brought this topic to the front of my mind. More electric range means carrying around more batteries, which isn't always greener:

Green Car Congress: Study: Meaningful GHG Benefit from PHEVs Requires Low-Carbon Electricity

I attended a lecture given by one of the authors of that paper. The additional weight of the batteries drives up the car's energy consumption, and the environmental impact of manufacturing the batteries is also a consideration. Worse, the CO2 emission from (American) electric generation means that you're hardly reducing your carbon footprint by plugging in your PHEV.

I think we should pursue all research avenues, but it's clear we should focus on reducing the carbon intensity of our electric generation (in America, at least) before we spend a lot of money on plug-in and electric cars.

Once the electric car becomes a commercial reality (within ten years), the electric SUV will follow. If we respond by installing more coal-fired power plants, then we've taken a big step backward.

Abolish gasoline taxes. Replace them with carbon taxes. Only then will the market make an educated decision about which technologies are the best choice.
As I understand it,the long-term vision is Lithium-ion,with very high energy density( greater range or lighter weight/mile/kilo.),in abundant supply,totally recyclable,and powered eventually by renewable energy.---------- Eliminating current waste do to inefficient electric loads reveals that the US already has extreme over capacity,so no new plants actually need to be built if we go after waste.---------- Between coal and tar sands there's about 260-billion barrels of crude oil equivalency within US borders,and as tension grows over roller-coaster oil prices,there will probably be great political pressure to exploit it,with dubious regard to environment.The EPA can say all they want,but when the middle class starts setting up guillotines on the Washington Mall,legislators are probably going to back off.------------- Taxes and limits don't work 'til there's a Pearl Harbor,Concord Bridge,USS Maine,USS Vincennes,or something.-------------- Electric plug-ins can immediately take advantage of off-peak generation,lower dependence on foreign oil,displace pollution to generation facility,provide zero-emissions potential when alternative-renewables are involved in grid.I think they will be part of the bridge into emerging capital markets.I'll remain optimistic about them.Many challenges.

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