Here’s one way to get more use out of a retired Volt battery …
As General Motors works on secondary uses for the Chevrolet Volt battery a recent opportunity came up to nab a Guinness World Record in Canada.
At the Pan American Games in Toronto, from July 17-27, a record 4,739 people pedaled bikes to generate electricity into a Volt’s battery.
The record title: the most number of people generating electricity in one week.
The purpose: participants at the Chevrolet Power of Play exhibit in CIBC Pan Am Park raced family and friends head-to-head on a 1,038 foot competitive marathon slot car track. Participants controlled the speed of the cars and charged the batteries by riding on six stationary bicycles, generating electricity with their own pedal power.
The 4,739 people generated more than 13,000 watt hours over the course of the week. That amount of energy is enough to power a Volt for (just) 37 miles (60 km), but the idea was to draw popular attention to an otherwise serious topic.
“We wanted to use our Power of Play demonstration not only to offer a fun, interactive way for fans to have their own friendly competition, but also to put our technology in the record books,” said Hossein Hassani, Director of Enterprise Marketing for General Motors of Canada. “Power of Play has been an illustration of the potential secondary uses for the batteries in Chevrolet Volt electric vehicles, as well as a means to test how renewable energy sources can generate stored electricity while minimizing environmental impact.”
We more-often hear of what’s happening in places like the Milford Proving Grounds, but this application of Chevrolet’s secondary use battery technology is part of work taking place at General Motor’s Canadian Engineering Centre in Oshawa.
The Volt batteries used were ones that have exceeded their eight-to-ten-year lifespan on the road – obviously not in a lineral chronological fashion, as the Volt is only 4 years old.
Perhaps these were hammered test batteries? GM of Canada does not say in a statement observing the record.
What is said is even after the end of that lifespan, they have 50 to 70 percent capacity remaining.
“That capacity can be used to provide backup power, peak rate shaving and renewable energy storage for both commercial and non-commercial uses, and it can deliver waste reductions and economic benefits on an industrial scale,” observes the automaker.
Beyond fun applications, GM and others are working on what to do with batteries that are naturally expired from road use. Included in these are energy storage and backup aqppliications.
“Building sustainable modes of transportation is vital to moving to a low-carbon future. We are pleased to see that Chevrolet and GM of Canada are taking a leadership role in developing electric cars and sustainable battery technology through engineering work done right here in Ontario,” said Glen Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.
Is this a cultural thing? Do they take it as a point of pride when they can nearly copy a known product? Do you suspect the quality is as good as a Tesla?
It’s not identical, but we know who it is copying.
Has anyone seen a copy of a Volt?
By Sarah Shelton
If imitation is the best form of flattery, then Tesla Motors should be pleased when it sees the new electric sedan from Chinese-carmaker Youxia Motors.
But it’s doubtful that Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, will see the new Youxia X as a compliment. This new sedan goes beyond being a just a battery-electric competitor, with an appearance that closely copies Tesla’s Model S.
The side profile, the similarly-shaped front “grille” and the tablet-sized infotainment screen positioned in the middle of the console on the Youxia X are almost exact matches to the Model S. Even the exterior handles recess into the doors, like on the Model S, and the carmaker’s logo on the front of the grille appears very Tesla-esque.
Tesla Model S.
Youxia’s performance claims will also sound familiar, with statements this electric sedan can go from 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds. Tesla just released an upgrade for its high-performance Model S P85D, which engages “Ludicrous Mode” to run a sprint in the exact amount of time.
The P85D achieves this supercar performance with two motors: a 259 horsepower motor in the front and a 503 horsepower motor in the rear. However, the one electric motor powering the Youxia X peaks at 270 kilowatts (362 horsepower).
Also similar to the Model S are the three different battery options available: a 40 kilowatt-hours pack offering 137-mile range, 60 kwh with 205 miles or the 85 kwh pack for 286 miles. On its website, Youxia said its battery’s chip sampling rate is eight times better than both the Tesla and BMW i3.
The Youxia X does have a few features that distinguish it from the Model S. While Tesla uses its own proprietary operating system, Youxia’s software is based on Google Android 5.0, which is supposed to be compatible with Android and Apple phones.
Not the first time. The Chinese are notorious for this sort of thing. Whole Honda or Harley motorcycles other products, and this F-150 by JAC have been among the products with questionable usage of other people’s intellectual property. Image: Carscoops.
And the front end features a programmable display, allowing drivers to change from the carmaker’s logo to a Knight Rider-style light display or any other design (including the Batman logo, as suggested by Youxia).
Tesla wasn’t the only carmaker that Youxia copied for this electric sedan. If drivers want to supplement the sound, the Youxia X can imitate any number of sports cars. Lamborghini, Porsche, the Ferrari 488 GTB and the Jaguar F-Type are listed as some of the sound options.
Not a copy! The real Volt, imported from Detroit.
Production of the Youxia X is scheduled to begin at the end of 2016 – about six months earlier than the Tesla’s economy-priced Model 3 – with pricing estimated to fall between $32,000 and $48,000.
Are you one of those who are looking forward to battery chemistry “beyond lithium ion” before EVs can seriously challenge gasoline-powered counterparts?
That won’t quite be needed, said Tesla Motors’ JB Straubel, rather it’s inevitable battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will soon be cheaper to own than and this will lead to their market domination.
It will take advances in battery development sure enough, but the company’s chief technical officer and co-founder is only talking about one general battery type: lithium-ion.
This revelation came as Straubel addressed attendees last week during the opening ceremony for Intersolar North America’s annual conference. He explained that battery advancements are going to lead to two major changes: they will make battery electric vehicles (BEVs) more affordable to drive than gasoline cars, and they will support the shift to renewable energy sources.
As part of the “High Energy Lithium-Ion Batteries” (HE-Lion) project, BASF is conducting research into a new generation of lithium-ion batteries. The aim is to significantly increase the batteries’ energy density to specifically extend their use in electrically powered vehicles as well as in computers and cell phones. Photo courtesy of BASF.
The shift to BEVs will involve more powerful packs with higher energy densities and finding cheaper manufacturing solutions – which are occurring at an exponential pace, according to Straubel. They are a key ingredient behind the growing success of BEVs.
“It’s soon going to be cheaper to drive a car on electricity — a pure EV on electricity — than it is to drive a gasoline car,” Straubel said. “And as soon as we see that kind of shift in the actual cost of operation in a car that you can use for your daily driver, you know, from all manufacturers I believe we’re going to see electric vehicles come to dominate the whole transportation fleet.”
“Lead acid was basically the status quo for batteries for 100 years,” Straubel told conference attendees. “Going from nickel metal hydride and lead acid to lithium-ion, suddenly we could jump almost 100 percent in improvement in energy density.
“And this was the turning point that really created a new market for electric vehicles.”
One of the significant advantages of the lithium-ion battery, said Straubel, was it allowed carmakers to build a car with acceleration and handling that was comparable to a conventional gasoline-powered car.
“Suddenly an electric vehicle wasn’t a golf cart. It was something that was fun to drive,” he said. “It could handle because the battery pack didn’t weigh 1,500 pounds. It created a vehicle that sort of surprised the automotive industry and I think launched a huge amount of other interesting and great electric vehicle programs all around the world.”
As more powerful lithium-ion batteries are developed for BEVs at lower costs, these same gains translate into better power storage in the grid.
Improvements in lithium-ion batteries “also helps enable the synergy between photovoltaics, or wind, or renewables in general, and cars,” Straubel explained. “Because our fundamental goal is how do we get sustainability into transportation.
“We don’t want to just make cars electric. We need to link electric cars all the way back to where the energy comes from. It has to be renewable energy to really make the difference that we want to do.”
By connecting BEVs with renewable energy, Straubel said lithium-ion batteries become a vital solution in the equation of lowering carbon emissions.
“There’s going to be much faster growth of grid energy storage than I think most people expected. You suddenly get to have energy that’s 100 percent firm and buffered from photovoltaics that’s cheaper than fossil energy. And we’re within sort of grasping distance of that goal, which is very, very exciting.
“Because once we get to that, and there really is no going back, it will make sense to do this economically without any environmental consideration whatsoever. So that’s the amazing tipping point that’s going to happen within I’m quite certain the next 10 years.”
If anyone is manipulating the voting system, please have more respect for your fellow posters, and do not do that. Running up votes is gaming the system, and renders votes meaningless. It is stuffing the ballot box.
A green car.
Electric cars are presented as a solution for society’s needs to curb emissions and reduce petroleum consumption, but are they really environmentally friendly?
The way researchers try to answer this question is by a “cradle-to-grave” life cycle analysis. This normally takes into account three phases – 1) the manufacturing process, 2) a car’s life in the hands of the consumer, 3) and what happens to it post-consumer.
Compared to gas and diesel vehicles, electric cars are yet under a microscope by skeptics, policymakers, others, and studies sifting various aspects of these three phases have sought to quantify just how clean they really are.
After all, we frequently hear how coal remains in the U.S. electric grid that powers electric vehicles (EVs), and concerns over batteries are also repeated.
Beyond greenhouse-gas emissions, analyses may also assess impacts from acid rain, ozone pollution, algae blooms, water and materials required, and total energy demand.
Sunderland UK plant.
The short answer is accepted science sides with EVs as impacting the environment less overall.
“We examined six peer-reviewed academic studies and found that in every case, electric vehicles win by a substantial margin, with estimates ranging from 28 to 53 percent lower cradle-to-grave emissions than conventional vehicles today,” wrote the National Resources Defense Council as published by Grist in August 2013.
This fall the Union of Concerned Scientists expects to release new findings updating previous work. It will use assumptions about vehicle lifetime and updated facts on the getting-cleaner U.S. electricity mix to reflect current U.S. lifecycle environmental impact values.
“I think our results will still show the general trend that EVs generate more emissions during manufacture but the savings during use are much larger,” said Dave Reichmuth, senior engineer, UCS Clean Vehicles Program.
Polite Science Versus Ugly Truths
Typical analyses between cars that run on electricity versus those that run on petroleum agree on parameters of what to analyze.
Step outside that for a minute in your imagination, and one could open a Pandora’s box potentially proving EVs a winner over internal combustion by a much larger margin.
Often unquestioned are some of the hidden costs society now accepts – what economists call externalities – to a petroleum-dependent way of life.
For example, cradle-to-grave analyses do not normally factor the sum total of all military involvement to protect petroleum, defend against terrorists angry over America’s oil-related foreign intervention, and other such things to maintain the petroleum paradigm.
The U.S. Department of Defense knows it has a carbon footprint. It is spending on all sorts of research into alternative energy.
While the U.S. is now producing more oil than it has since the early 1970s, oil remains a global fungible commodity with price not controlled by the U.S.
The U.S. has been to war and remains involved to maintain peace in oil producing regions. These factors have an environmental impact – not to mention dollar and life cost – but this does not usually count in electric-versus-internal-combustion analyses.
EVs do not need oil-supply protection in regions where terrorists hate America. They run on domestically sourced energy whose price is locally controlled.
Of course, if you do think in these terms, you open a can of worms of infinitely more variables, and where does it stop? Counterpoints could also be raised, and these too would need to be weighed.
But at this point, this is an abstract notion. The only point here is there are actions and consequences that transcend many a cradle-to-grave discussion which agree not to look at a proverbial man behind the curtain holding up the transportation sector.
It is what it is. Duly noted for your consideration. And with that, following are highlights from generally agreed-upon science.
Manufacturing – EVs Are Dirtier
The Union of Concerned Scientists does concede that all told, making EVs is more environmentally harmful than making gasoline cars.
“Building an electric car produces more global warming emissions than a conventional gasoline car, largely due to battery production,” writes the UCS’ Don Anair echoing other such admissions by his colleagues.
A study by Argonne National Laboratory examines “Energy and Environmental Impacts of Lithium Production” combatting the commonly held notion lithium mining is so harmful, but the net impact from battery manufacturing is still a factor.
Before EVs ever get to a consumer they are like a lot of college kids – in debt – but EVs start to make up for their carbon debt as soon as they are put to work.
“However, these emissions are dwarfed by those from using a gasoline car,” continues Anair comparing emissions of driving EVs versus driving internal combustion cars.
His comment came in a rebuttal article countering an electric car critic who has used influential media outlets to write opinion pieces posed as science. Articles like “Green Cars Have a Dirty Little Secret” published March 2013 in the Wall Street Journal present what Anair termed “cherry-picking data, bizarre assumptions” to allege EVs are a boondoggle.
Anair this time was answering the same writer who published this February in USA Today what EV advocates have called misinformation, and willful spreading of fear uncertainty and doubt.
“It is time to stop our green worship of the electric car,” wrote the author in USA Today. “It costs us a fortune, cuts little CO2 and surprisingly kills almost twice the number of people compared with regular gasoline cars.”
The Union of Concerned Scientists posted this graphic in one of its many rebuttals of a critical article taking what it sees as an anti-environmental stance against science.
Sounds scary! In response, Anair noted that a Leaf should last much longer than a mere 50,000 miles suggested as a low-point possibility. If a Leaf died in 50,000 miles it would not pay back the manufacturing costs. The electric car critic also picked on the emissions believed resulting from a 90,000 mile lifespan to make another point which Anair batted down.
“[M]ass-market EVs are in an early stage of deployment and new EV models with different technology approaches (e.g., range, battery chemistry, body design and materials) are rapidly entering the market,” wrote Anair. “Manufacturing processes are likely to evolve and mature over the coming years, as are recycling processes that could change the amount of EV materials being recycled, reused, or scrapped.”
Consumer Use – EVs Make Up The Deficit
While an EV may come to the consumer in environmental debt, it starts to pay back quickly. The Union of Concerns Scientists in its updated 2014 State of Charge report found since 2012 the number of Americans who live in regions where grid emissions to power EVs are cleaner than a 50 mpg Toyota Prius had increased from 45 percent to 60 percent.
On the flip side, other studies have found regional fluctuations. One such study was “Life cycle air quality impacts of conventional and alternative light-duty transportation in the United States” by the University of Minnesota.
Arid-climate friendly yard and environmentally friendly car.
This pointed out deficiencies in the U.S. grid yet needing to be addressed.
“Our research found that the source of electricity matters very much in determining how “environmentally friendly” an EV is,” said researcher Julian Marshall. “If EVs are powered by coal-based emissions, they are much dirtier than if they are powered by renewable-based electricity; coal-based EVs are dirtier than conventional vehicles.”
Today there are no grids that are 100-percent coal powered, but variances between the cleanest and the dirtiest are marked. For example a Nissan Leaf charged in Southern California is EPA rated at 120 grams/mile effective upstream greenhouse gas emissions. The same car in the dirtiest region of Denver, Colorado nets 290 grams per mile.
This fact is an indictment of the U.S. energy grid, not the car, which itself is zero emission, but as a proposed alternative to gas, it does vary in its effectiveness. The EPA says the national average car is 480 grams per mile, so the Leaf still wins in greenhouse emissions. It’s only a question of how much.
The EPA data however also does not factor more than greenhouse gases, and environmental impacts from both internal combustion tailpipes and upstream gasoline refining, as well as electricity production do involve other toxins and particles.
Generally, EVs are still cleaner, but they have room to improve – or the grid does that is.
“We absolutely need to be ramping down our use of coal,” writes Anair contary to suggestions it merely be cleaned up.
In just two years from 2012 to 2014 the number of Americans living in “best” regions increased from 45 percent to 60 percent. A “best” region is one in which an EV is responsible for less upstream greenhouse gas emissions than the most efficient hybrid sold, the Toyota Prius.
Meanwhile the EPA is developing national power plant standards, he observes, which may be stronger than proposed. In January, California committed to 50-percent renewable energy by 2030 and existing renewable rules are already in place in a dozen states.
What this means is EVs stand to be cleaner over time. The electric grid actually emits 10-times the greenhouse gases petroleum production does, so has much more potential to clean up its act, which is expected.
Gasoline tailpipe emissions meanwhile are also getting marginally cleaner and federal rules in place through 2025 mandate it.
As for production of gasoline and diesel, with increased reliance on shale oil as well as Canadian oil sands, these are not getting as much cleaner as the production of gasoline and diesel stands to, but the Argonne national Lab suggests it has potential.
“Gasoline and diesel well-to-wheel GHG intensity remains about the same,” said Argonne’s Michael Wang, Senior Scientist – Energy Systems, of emissions over the past few years. “The Canadian oil share has increased but appears at a very decelerated pace recently. Future share of oil sands in U.S. crude remains unclear because of U.S shale oil production increase. The U.S. shale oil shale has increased significantly. Bakken shale oil has high well-to-wheel GHG intensity because of gas flaring. North Dakota has plan to reduce gas flaring in the future. The pace and magnitude of flaring reduction remain to be seen. Thus, my opinion is future gasoline and diesel GHG intensity will probably change little, with upward potentials.”
Post Consumer – Probably No Worries
The jury is partially out as first-generation mass-market EVs are only four years old and not many are worn out yet.
That said, post-consumer re-use of batteries is being explored and recycling is an option too.
[A]dvanced vehicle batteries are unlikely to be simply thrown away; they’re too valuable,” writes the UCS’ Rachael Nealer. “Even once they’re no longer suitable for automotive use, they retain about 80 percent of their capacity and can be re-purposed to provide grid energy storage to facilitate the integration of variable renewable resources, such as wind and solar.”
Nealer observed 95 percent of conventional auto parts are recycled so this should apply to EVs.
“It is worth noting that conventional lead-acid car batteries are consistently the most recycled product for which the EPA provides data [PDF], with a recycling rate of 96 percent,” wrote Nealer.
In short, EVs will end their life differently but their environmental impact should not be much worse than internal combustion vehicles, if at all. The most potentially damaging compared to conventional vehicles, their lithium-ion batteries do have value, are expected to be capitalized upon, and research is ongoing to maximize this potential.
If a report is correct, the next Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid may offer 30-35 miles rated all-electric range, or close to the first-generation 2011-2012 Volt.
It could also net 55 mpg, build on the reputation of a fourth-generation regular Prius, and Toyota still has fans for that car which sells 140,000 units on a good year.
By present standards, this electric range would rank it second among plug-in hybrids by that important metric and it would build on the new Prius platform.
This could therefore be a very significant car to plug-in enthusiasts as that much range also would mean it’s more capable of using like a part time all-electric car for longer daily driving trips.
Whether this comes to pass remains to be verified officially by Toyota. The source is “an executive in the auto industry who’s deeply familiar with the current and future universe of battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles,” says Green Car Reports.
Green Car Reports also explains it is normally reluctant to publish just any anonymous source, but says without revealing who it is that this one is trusted.
That the plug-in Prius could have as much as 30 miles range also fits a more-questionably sourced rumor by a Taiwanese automotive webite which said the new Prius plug-in would double its effective range. That article did not even hint who its source was leading journalists to stand back even while reporting it for what it was worth, along with full color images representing the new Prius.
Now with at least two unverified sources reporting they know of a significantly improved Prius plug-in hybrid, plug-in supporters including Green Car Reports have already said “bring it on.”
Since its launch in 2012, the first generation PHEV has met with mixed reception due to an 11-mile EPA-rated range, maximum speed in EV mode of just 62 mph, and potential for the gas to kick on if the accelerator is pressed too hard.
In short, its utility as a plug-in hybrid was dead last in the eyes of plug-in enthusiasts. As of June, it had globally sold over 71,000 copies, technically one of the top sellers, but compared to sales volume of mass market cars, it’s a slow mover.
Cynics have opined what success it has had is mainly because it rests on the laurels of the already respected Prius. Underlying the Prius Plug-in Hybrid is a known-reliable vehicle that even if EV mode is dead last, the rest of the car is believed of high quality.
Toyota has also caught criticism due to its retracting from plug-in vehicles in a greater measure, and shifting its focus to hydrogen fuel cells.
But a “30-35” mile range Prius plug-in could change all that. Basically, if it was one of the world’s best selling PHEVs despite its being weakest in the EV range, imagine what an evolved second generation might do if its range becomes very competitive.
Of course new plug-in hybrids are due out as well, so the market mix will be improved in any case over the next year and a half. By 2017 there are also believed pending new all-electric cars with 200 miles range.
Within its price for performance class however, a “30-35″ mile range PiP still appears like it could be a strong contender.
This comes after a spate of what are tantamount to negative articles casting doubt. As you all know, consumer polls show the general public is not crystal clear on electrified technologies and issues. Many are on the sidelines meaning the jury is effectively out.
If something walks, talks, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. If something has all the earmarks and effects of propaganda, what else can it effectively be called even if it poses as news?
Nobody has proven electric cars unequivocally less environmentally friendly overall than conventional cars but that does not stop people from throwing what they can on the wall to see what sticks.
It’s effectively propaganda, and you the general public are the target. Of course it does not declare itself as propaganda, but you may see it presented as new information about potentially negative environmental impacts of electric vehicles (EVs).
The underlying message: Think twice! Policymakers and environmentalists may be on the wrong road dragging others along with their hyped green religion.
Since mass-market EVs were introduced in late 2010, anti-EV arguments have varied from baseless to getting in a few good jabs. Sources have been opinion pieces to studies to – worst of all – re-reports of studies taking researchers out of context to justify eyeball-grabbing headlines.
Why this is happening also has opinions – such as “Big Oil” or other interests are back-door funding research or media to play the unsuspecting public which is otherwise a revenue source. Short of conspiracy theories, less sinister motives may be attributed to careless writers who merely want to jerk your attention to what they have to say.
Clearly, like too many hot-button issues to count, the U.S. is divided on the topic far more than, say, Norway, which is approaching 25 percent of all new car sales being plug-in electric because a majority there believe they are cleaner.
Nor is this to say EVs are clean as daisies growing in a meadow.
It is certain that they do involve environmental costs as does any consumer good. At issue is whether they are worth it for society to pursue – and subsidize even – in the effort to curtail greenhouse gases and petroleum dependence.
EVs are still in their first generation, and are a measured compromise, but what can stick out to Jane Q. Public is a de facto thumbs down. That is, the takeaway message from sensational words later toned down after the reader has been hooked is EVs are not ready, may never be, gas cars may be cleaner, and so forth.
Whether deliberate propaganda or inadvertent, when this happens it sows confusion in a public that already is unclear on issues and new technologies. And, it does so despite other peer-reviewed science declaring EVs a good solution.
Following are highlights of stories that portray EVs from askance. We won’t point-by-point refute them as that would take too much space, but if others have tried to bat down any false assertions, we’ll link what we can.
1) ‘Study: Your All-Electric Car May Not Be So Green’
This savory headline was written late last year by an AP writer who cherry picked a study co-author’s words to portray EVs in a worse-than-represented light. Other outlets dutifully grabbed the AP news feed, and re-spun or reprinted it whole in all of its incorrect glory.
The inaccurate story by the AP opens saying: “People who own all-electric cars where coal generates the power may think they are helping the environment. But a new study finds their vehicles actually make the air dirtier, worsening global warming.”
The juicy opening quote: “It’s kind of hard to beat gasoline” for public and environmental health, said study co-author Julian Marshall, an engineering professor at the University of Minnesota. “A lot of the technologies that we think of as being clean … are not better than gasoline.”
Marshall later said his quote referred to the life-cycle for ethanol, not EVs, but this does not give EVs a blanket pass as environmentally friendly.
“Our research found that the source of electricity matters very much in determining how “environmentally friendly” an EV is,” said Marshall. “If EVs are powered by coal-based emissions, they are much dirtier than if they are powered by renewable-based electricity; coal-based EVs are dirtier than conventional vehicles.”
He also reportedly said if he’d written the headline it would have been along the lines of EVs (powered by electricity from natural gas or wind, water, or solar power) are best for improving air quality.
Beyond this, he sent us the following video to partially correct the record, and provided further details below:
My comment to the AP reporter was that of the vehicles we studied, the cleanest ones were EVs running on clean electricity, including renewables (wind, water, solar) and natural gas. Other than those options, it’s difficult to beat gasoline: conventional ethanol is worse than gasoline, EVs running on dirty electricity (coal) also are worse than gasoline.
The reporter elected to lead with the second part of the quote (“EVs can be dirty”) and then introduce the first part (“EVs can be clean”) later in the article.
The AP and other re-reports never wrote a correction, but several did get an earful in the comments section by readers tearing the hit piece apart.
2) Are electric cars damaging YOUR region? Maps reveal how EVs can be WORSE for the environment than gas-guzzling vehicles
This headline in June from the UK’s Daily Mail was one of several reports on a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The Daily Mail based its re-write on a story by CityLab that wrote: “In oversimplified terms, the researchers determined the emissions produced by gasoline car tailpipes and the emissions produced by electricity grids that power EVs for every U.S. county. “
They did dive down deep, and to be sure there are regional and hourly variances in grids across the country. The researchers focused on five major pollutants: carbon (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen (NOx), particulate matter (PM 2.5), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
These go beyond the basic greenhouse gases the EPA accounts for on fueleconomy.gov, but omitted were upstream emissions involved in getting the gasoline to the pump.
Rather, EVs’ upstream emissions for cars like the Ford Focus and Focus Electric were factored as “smokestack,” but emissions the EPA associates with sourcing, refining and transporting gasoline to the pump were not factored.
For this reason, Internet commenters have called the research flawed, but a source involved with the study who asked not to be named observed also omitted are further upstream electric emissions, such as mining coal and shipping it to power plants.
What commenters don’t realize, the source said, is that if coal extraction and shipping plus production of EVs were considered, they’d have fared even worse. So if anything, goes the reasoning, results are slightly biased in favor of electric cars.
That argument could be countered by those observing many more upstream costs involved in oil that could lend themselves to higher GHG than the EPA conservatively estimates, but this is what you have.
As it is, the researchers say tailpipe versus EV smokestack emissions data is fair.
And, it’s used to color maps into veritable no-man’s lands for EVs which would not have changed if upstream-for-gasoline info was factored, says the source.
The Union of Concerned Scientists last year updated its 2012 study showing the grid is already markedly cleaner and EV friendly, with 60 percent of Americans living in the “best” region where an EV is always cleaner than a high-mpg hybrid.
Meanwhile, EPA data does factor upstream gas versus smokestack. It says emissions for a Ford Focus Electric and conventional gas Focus shows one of the worst coal-intensive grids named in the study – Grand Ford, North Dakota – nets GHG of 270 g/mile for the EV versus 351 g/mile for the conventional Focus.
Whether the economic working paper makes valid points is unquestioned, but the sensational takeaway message by reports was inaccurate, and the researchers – economists – justified statements including that the $7,500 federal tax credit is a poor investment.
In response to the working paper, the Union of Concerned Scientist’ Dave Reichmuth wrote a thorough analysis to point out shortcomings.
3) Each EV is to blame for 60 lifetime metric tons CO2 and 6,700 extra gallons of gas burned
OK, we’ve heard arguments that EVs are responsible for upstream CO2, but if you’re scratching your head over the gasoline, this bit of logic takes some explaining.
The above is not a headline, but is the summary of an unequivocal statement made by research published by Carnegie Mellon University Engineering and Public Policy.
As the name implies, it offers recommendations to federal policymakers to think twice about Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules for now through 2025. Why?
“Federal fuel economy standards allow automakers that sell PEVs [plug-in electrified vehicles] to meet less-stringent fleet fuel efficiency standards through 2025,” says an abstract. “So, when one consumer opts for a PEV it allows other consumers to purchase higher-emitting vehicles, and net U.S. emissions and gasoline consumption increase.
“Each time a PEV is sold in the United States, net vehicle fleet greenhouse gas emissions increase by up to 60 metric tons of CO2 and U.S. U.S. gasoline consumption increases by up to 6,700 gallons,” says the abstract.
That’s right. What it says without qualifiers is federal rules allow automakers to sell gas guzzlers in other states that don’t need to sell any electric cars at all. Therefore, it is reasoned, consumers who buy a car like a Nissan Leaf are complicit with the twisted policy, and thus indirectly responsible for guzzlers purchased. The authors thus unequivocally assume that every PEV equals guzzlers that will wipe out any benefit offered by car like a Nissan Leaf.
This would seem to indicate a national policy challenge that now needs to be tackled, but not any issue with the typical electric car being sold.
Alternatively, EV advocates might say a PEV displaces a guzzler, but the authors invert that possibility and make a recommendation:
To achieve the best outcomes, PEV adoption should typically be focused on HEVs and PHEVs by city drivers in mild-climate regions with a clean electricity grid, such as San Francisco or Los Angeles. And drivers should not be encouraged to charge at night in coal-heavy regions. However, because of federal fuel economy policy, even in the best scenario U.S. PEV adoption may result in increased emissions and gasoline consumption – at least through 2025.
And why does Carnegie Mellon think most should drive a hybrid or plug-in hybrid and not a battery only EV? Because as you can see a video by Jeremy Michalek, director of its Vehicle Electrification group, CMU’s (now somewhat dated 2011) research shows that a big battery EV with 150-plus miles range isn’t currently the best choice on average for reducing pollution.
But that’s a far cry from the anti-EV stance that their research has been cherry picked by other papers and articles to appear to support, as is the case with the study referenced above by the Daily Mail. The original source is needed to see the whole picture.
In this video, Professor Michalek goes in depth on the research that supports the smaller battery plug in hybrid EV recommendation:
Meanwhile again, in the worst coal-intensive “RMPA” grid region, a Nissan Leaf’s electricity is responsible for 290 g/mile of CO2, less than the average 24-mpg car’s 480 g/mile, and much better than a guzzler.
Many More From Where These Came From
We could triple the length of this article just summarizing a few more studies and resultant re-reports and rebuttals, but maybe it is clear mixed messages are being disseminated?
In a time of the 30-second soundbite, some media are catering to this ethos, constrained also by readers who won’t sit for more. However, when discussing complex nuanced topics like carbon footprints for emerging technology, it can be a disservice to truncate the message too much. Details are lost, messages are skewed, and so on.
A few years ago, what EV supporters considered anti-plug-in hit pieces focused on other issues like expensive batteries, short range, high prices, political implications, worry over fire, and more.
Fox News’ Neil Cavuto went so far as to tell millions of viewers the Chevy Volt was simply “stupid,” an “Obamamobile,” and spouses who failed to remember to plug it in at night would get a divorce over the car.