The New York Times has a piece today on barriers to the replacement of internal combustion-powered vehicles to an all-electric fleet in the United States. It talks about production costs, the availability of key minerals and the need for a charging station infrastructure, but it oddly passes over the most obvious impediment, at least from the perspective of climate change, the large increase it would require in electrical generating capacity.
If the goal is, at it should be, rapid decarbonization of the economy, conversion to electric powertrains is worth doing only if it results in the replacement of petroleum by renewable energy sources, so lets look at the arithmetic.
According to the latest version of Lawrence Livermore’s invaluable energy spaghetti diagram, 25.7 quads of energy, in the form of petroleum, were used as inputs to the transportation sector. (A quad is a quadrillion BTUs, approximately the amount of energy in eight billions gallons of gasoline.) Electric vehicles vary in their efficiency, and there might be improvements on this front in the future, but lets use the common assumption that EV’s are four times as energy efficient as ICV’s; that means we are looking at about 6.4 quads of added electrical demand.
Do you know that electric vehicle owners are now considering an electric car home charger installation?
Electricity output in 2016 was 12.6 quads, which implies we would need a bit over 50% more capacity to accommodate an all-electric fleet. Of course, the actual expansion would be less than this because EV’s could take advantage of off-peak capacity. Nevertheless, from a decarbonization perspective, the critical constraint is not capacity as such but energy inputs as fuel. A natural gas plant might be able to put out more electricity over a 24-hour cycle without additional capital investment, but only by burning more gas. Those with greater expertise than I can summon can tell us how much efficiency we can squeeze from existing and prospective electrical generating technology.
So somewhat more than 50% additional electricity is needed; how much of this can come from non-carbon sources? The most optimistic scenario is one in which nuclear energy is included in this (non-carbon) mix, so assume the goal is simply to zero out coal and gas. These two sources currently account for 62% of inputs into the electrical generating sector. No doubt we can get significant reductions simply through efficiency measures; think of all those electrically-heated buildings leaking energy through poor insulation. If for convenience we lump together increases in non-carbon inputs and efficiency savings, this would need to total 23.3 quads, the current delivery of coal and gas to US electrical power stations, if the services provided by electricity use were to remain constant. If a shift to EV’s boosts electrical demand by, say, 40%, the need for renewable sources and efficiency savings would go up to 38.3 quads (23.3 current carbon input plus 15 new input), an increase of almost two-thirds. It is difficult see how this could be achieved in the space of a generation or so, which is the timescale we face if we are to meet our declared carbon goals.
The bottom line as I see it is that, while a shift to electrical powertrains is necessary if we are to have motorized vehicles in a post-carbon world, realistic scenarios for the electrical sector require a massive shrinkage of the number of such vehicles we’ll be able to operate, at least for the foreseeable future. This is unfortunate on two counts—it will make it more difficult to sustain living standards across the transition ahead of us, and it will increase the political barriers to getting the job done—but we won’t make it go away by not seeing it for what it is.
The myth that EV’s solve or even can have a material positive effect on GHG reductions on a global basis is indeed predicated on all additional required energy being supplied by renewables (zero carbon emissions sources). E.g that all surface transport energy now reliant on fossil fuels will be replaced by renewables, excluding ocean transport.
Unfortunately for the fantasy there is no (absolutely no) theoretical scenario by any gov’t agency on the planet, nor any credible academic scientific analysis which shows this is even physically possible without the predominant global implementation of nuclear energy production… and then the consequent unresolvable problem of safely storing nuclear waste ad infinitum.
The ipcc reports, every 4 year’s, describe 5 or 6 scenarios of which only 2 or 3 can reduce GHG emissions to thresholds sufficient to maintain the global temperature rise below acceptable levels… and “acceptable” has continued to increase over the years of the ippc reports (predominantly because the published reports require gov’t agents to sign off first… effecting purely political interests).
Unfortunately (again) none of these 2 or 3 scenarios has ever been able to be shown as practically possible, again however only with magic asterisks (carbon capture & storage) & massive increases in global nuclear energy production.
Even under those perfectly idealized conditions however there is no solution to the global costs and funding required to do this, which is not even possible without amortizing the costs of implementation by the present two generations over multiple future generations, and that has no actual or imagined solution at all… and it still has no solution for nuclear energy waste disposal ad ifinitum on this planet or even shipping it off to outer space (as has been proposed by some fantasies dreamers).
In other words the entire myth is founded on assumptions for which the means & methods have never been shown to be possible without simply assuming “we’ll figure it out along the way”.
While this is the reality it is still imperative that the global community of humans try with all effort to do the possible.
Unfortunately (again) all available evidence is that the global community is absolutely fully dependent on fossils fuel sourced energy to even maintain standards of living, much less improve them for the bulk of humanity that lags far, far behind the OECDs.
The reality is that the global population will have to be cut by at least half to realize a future planet inhabitable under the conditions that have prevailed for moder humans. This will in fact occur in due course by starvation, the wars that will ensue as a result of conflicts of interest as warming continues unabated, and increasing disease based deaths as warming continues.
I know this isn’t the desired outcome of the myths that have been created to counter this reality.. what human wants to contemplate it as real if they can avoid it by assuming it won’t happen. What government wants to tell it’s people & the rest of the globe’s people that our future progeny is collectively fucked, while we collectively decide to fuck them to maintain our own comforts & conveniences, and fail to decide that to save our progenies semblance of enjoying life as we know it because we’ed have to sacrifice now and refuse to do it.
One of the “nice “ things about this approach is that none of us will be around to have to deal with it… perhaps a few of the generation now just being born, but only those from the third world, as the wealthiest nations continue on their merry path to maintain and improve GPD and standards of living (albeit at increasingly greater levels of inequality),,, all of which requires continued increases in fossil fuel consumption & GHG emissions
Gee I hope this comment wasn’t a downer.
Of course one of the effects of the “demand smoothing” that charging cars overnight has is that coal becomes more competitive for supplying that power. And switching the power source for transportation from hydrocarbons (which gets energy from the creation of carbon dioxide and water) to coal, (which gets energy from the creation of carbon dioxide alone) might well worsen the carbon footprint of transportation.
Yes, moving away from fossil fuels is a big jump, and no one expects 100% replacement in the next 10 or even 20 years.. If electric vehicles are four times as efficient as fossil fuel powered vehicles, then overall energy use would drop by 19.3 quads from 25.7 quads to about 6.4 quads. Even if we continued to use fossil fuels for another generation or two, that would still be a massive savings and one well worth pursuing.
If we assume a 30 year transition, one commensurate with the planned life span of the typical power generation facility, we can imagine continuing the transition from coal to natural gas which cuts energy demand nearly 50%. (This is why we used 2.5 quads less energy for power generation in 2016 as opposed to 2010.) This would give us lots of time to add that 6.4 quads of renewable power. We’re talking about adding 0.22 quads of capacity a year. That’s about ten 1-gigawatt solar power plants a year. It’s an ambitious goal, but not an outrageous one.
One advantage of renewable power is that there has been a demonstrated learning curve. When the Chinese government decided to build a solar power industry, for example, they brought costs down dramatically. Wind has worked similarly, though less dramatically. We’re even seeing the first large scale power storage schemes.
I really don’t think that it will be energy issues that limit the number of motorized vehicles we’ll have on the roads in 2050. The more likely limits will be traffic capacity and population growth issues.
We can get the Chinese and the Germans to electrify us — like we and the Germans wired Britain a hundred or so years ago while the Brits made money with their money. Last I heard firing generators with gas to charge vehicle batteries has a multiply lower carbon foot print than burning gasoline in engines — we can just get on the good side of Vladimir Putin for the gas.
Would any of you dreamers be willing to provide the credible source that shows real wold EV’s are “four times more energy efficient than ICE’s”?
Molten salt reactors?
However to make things work this does require putting solar panels over all parking lots at work places so that the cars can charge when the solar energy is maxed out, And/or putting a second car type battery in the home and much larger roof solar panels.
If pushing nukes, consider T=thorium reactors, more available and safer than uranium ones.
As for zeroing out fossil fuels, this seems an unnecessay chimera. Go for substantial reduction with shift to cleaner nat gas than coal and oil.
The information you cite states up front that the data are estimates from models & lab test cells, with nothing citing any, not one comparison with real world tests on an extended variable population driving in variable traffic over time.
Further more the data states up front that it is based on a Nissan Leaf EV model estimates, which is far, far from real wold anything, now or in future especially.
Like I said, can any dreamer cite real wold data showing a “four times energy efficiency” (per mile travelled per year on average).of EV’s relative to ICE’s?
Even the modeled data uses highway average speed of only 48 mph, which might apply in congested hiway travel, but is otherwise not near real wold average highway speeds for miles traveled proportioned to total miles traveled, even in the U.S. At real world highway speeds wind resistance consumes 80% of energy applied at the engine / motor, and at those speeds EV energy consumption increases relative to ICE’s when at at lower speeds.
It should be fairly simple to find real world tests of several EV’s driven by average drivers in annual driving uses (not just daily commutes) conducted over a 2 or 3 year period, no? I mean EV energy input at the plug is easier to track than iCE’s total gasoline consumed over n miles since every EV on the planet keeps on-board data (kWh input).
So where’s the data showing real world “4x energy efficiency per mile travelled” than ICE’s? Good luck.
Them most comprehensive real world EvpV data has been conducted by Belgium on several EV models over two years.
“Electric vehicles and energy consumption based on real world electric vehicle fleet trip and charge data and its impact on existing EV research models”
It compares the NEDC model (New Europen Driving Cycle — the equivalent model estimating tool as used in the U.S.) to real world energy consumption for EV’s.
It concludes real world consumption for EV’s ranges from 30% to 60% more than the NEDC estimates, which means the U.S. DOT estimates Lyle cited for an idealized Nissan Leaf at relatively slow U.S. hiway speeds which gave a factor of 3.5x the energy efficiency of EV’s relative to ICE’s is overstated by at least 50%!
So that the real world factor is no more than 1,75x… less than half the fictional “four times” being propagandize by dreamers.
The actual average energy consumption was 0.213 kWh/km (approx. 0.35 kWh/mile (I use the close enough approximation of 0.6 miles/km for quickie calcs), & even these average speeds reflected lower speeds than the U.S. composite real wold averages.
BTW, I was familiar already with other real wold tests also conducted by Belgium earlier on fewer vehicles. I would cite those tests as well, but my laptop disk drive failed the other day & my data recovery is taking time, though I think I might also have a copy referenced in one of my emails of a couple of yeas ago. I’ve been using the wife’s damned IPad with its hunt & peck pop-up keyboard… a real pain, since i’ve been a touch typist since 8th grade.
In any event all real world comprehensive tests all show far lower energy efficiencies for EV,s relative to the same models applied to ICE’s since the U.S. & Europe have decades of experience developing models that are in very close proximity to real wold energy consumption, but nearly none yet on real wold EV’s use.
You can google the above title to get the .pdf file.
The data is based on several vehicles totaling 94.7k km (approx. 57k miles) over two years. The most miles & most EV’s, with the most number of drivers to date.
Also BTW, I know several Tesla owners. They say that if they drive far more conservatively than normal, they get energy cinsumptions close to, but still higher than Tesla says in their literature. If they drive normally however their energy consumption is over twice the advertised values, and for longer distance highway trips at 70 to 80 mph it’s even less efficient per mile so that have to plan carefully to be near a charging station, & then have to wait in a line for 30 minutes or more, plus another 30 minutes or more to charge…. since the other Tesla EV’s all have about the same range coming from the same origination area.
Energy consumption is the familiar e = mc^2 where c = acelleration due to gravity & m = mass.
What most don’t know however is that vehicle wind resistance at constant speed v requires the vehicle to acttually be constantly acellerating to overcome the wind resistance.
So since the energy consumed increases by the square of acceleration then traveling at constant velocity means you are consuming energy at the square of acceleration just to maintain that velocity against wind resistance.
And over approx. 30 to 35 mph wind resistance exceeds rolling resistance & increases dramatically at each increment of velocity after that… at an exponential rate.
Thus almost all your vehicle’ss energy consumption is due to the acceleration, rather than its mass. The crying shame of it all is that general driving habits include the highest rates of acceleration from stop at a stop sign or stop light, not to mention stop & go traffic congestion.
The acelleration energy consumption is one reason that in the future you will see pure autonomous vehicle use (no private drivers) with the same designs so that they can travel in a train at say 120 mph and consume nearly the same energy as traveling at half that velocity.
This requires both near bumper to bumper separations AND body designs tailored to minimize wind resistance of any following vehicle in the train. The only vehicle using most of the energy is the lead vehicle in a train to break the wind resistance.
Thus in future (sometime) autonomous vehicles will all travel in trains of say 20 vehicle minimums at constant velocities of over 100 mph to maximize road capacities while minimizing energy consumption, & this will be by law of decree… either that or everybody will travel on mass transit vehicles. Say bye-bye to privately owned vehicles & individual drivers— this will be mandated to maintain the planet’s habitable temperatures to acceptable levels.
Why the high speeds, you ask?
Assume a 20 mile segment of roadway between accessing & egressing it. Vehicle capacity is dictated by how many vehicles can occupy the road, which is a direct function of vehicle separation distances, so separation distances must be minimized to maximize vehicle capacity (road carrying capacity).
Next consider that there’s zero value if all vehicles are not moving, so road vehilce capacity is then zero in function, even though the max number of vehicles occupy the road.
Now consider that a vehicle operating at 20 mph occupies a space on that 20 mile segment for 60 minutes, but a vehicle operating at 120 mph occupies a space on that 20 mile segment for just 10 minutes. Thus 6 times as many vehicles can occupy the 20 mile segment traveling at 120 mph than at 20 mph, hence the road’s vehicle carrying capacity increases linearly with velocity.
Moreover the vehicle traveling at 120 mph can now be put to use for another set of passengers or packages 6 times every hour rather than just once as with the vehicle traveling at 20 mph, thus carrying 6 times as many people or goods per unit time.
This means demand for vehicles is 1/6th compared to vehicles traveling at 20 mph. So far fewer vehicles required for a given size population, & far less roadway (lanes), while spending far less time in transit, thus far more productive in every regard.
If you require efficient use of energy, time, & resources then that’s the future, so bye-bye “individualism”…. it’s only a matter of time, and time is running short.
You can do the calcs yourself for any difference in train vehicle velocities. I just used 20 & 120 mph to make the illustration more intuitive.
The population will continue to grow, densities of people will continue to increase, & distances required to travel to/from places of productive endeavors will continue to increase, all the while consuming more & more energy / person to even just maintain standards of living, much less improve them.
The only real solution is to dramatically increase efficiencies of resources & energy per person with increasing human densitities.
Note that I was saying that it takes using the most optimistic set of facts from the surveys to get to 4x. Also the surveys did not assume cold weather which will drastically hurt the electric vehicles as the electric heat will kill the range (or we can go back to the no heat no cool model of the model T.)
No. It takes the most optimist set of pure assumption, without regard to the actual facts at all, to get to 4x.. eg pure fantasy.