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Comments 8
  1. Shaun Williams    May 05, 2006 06:04 AM    #

    Mmm. I’ve seen this Smokestacks paper a couple of times before but I’m afraid it doesn’t “stack” up for me.

    When I embarked on my EV conversion a couple of friends held me accountable to make sure I was driving a truly ZEV. It didn’t take make research to show that recharging an EV with coal-fired electricity (95% of Oz electricity) was MUCH worse than the original ICE on gas.

    The figures are simple enough (even though they’re metric!);

    This paper paints a better picture than my calculations but mine are real-world calculations.

  2. Shaun Williams    May 05, 2006 06:05 AM    #

    I realise that this blog is a very friendly one and this isn’t a very positive post but it’s important that EVers understand that it is very important to use “green” energy, if your reasons for a conversion are environmental.

    The good news is that, here in Oz, green energy (100% certified ZE) only costs 20% more than the black stuff. I pay my utility $60 extra a quarter for green power which gets me 5,000 km of ZEV travel! (And because I pay in blocks it doesn’t matter where I fill up.)

    Once again, I apologise for this controversial post but we need to have our facts straight for the debunkers!

  3. Jerry Halstead    May 05, 2006 07:32 AM    #

    Hi Shaun,

    No need to apologize.

    I realize that there’s a big difference in shooting for ZEV vs. just making an EV and hoping for the best. That’s part of the beauty of driving an EV is that you can make such choices and even endeavor to generate your own electricity should you have the means to do so.

    I’m curious which part(s) of the article you take exception to. I realize he tends to paint an overall optimistic view on EV electricity use, even with coal fired plants. I followed the link to the Seikei University article from your page and even they show that EVs (using coal powered electricity) check in at slightly better overall emissions than a gas powered car. Not much, mind you.

    My neighbor, an engineer, repeated the “EVs cause more pollution than gas cars” line that spread through the media a number of years back. He’d heard it, didn’t think about it, and repeated it as fact. He couldn’t even say who it was that conducted the study, who paid for the press release, or where he’d heard it from.

    I think all to often these issues are summarized in black and white terms, losing all of the subtleties (shades of gray) and exceptions. People like simple answers and so I think that some of the EV folks are also trying to break their message down into a nice, clean “sound bite.” It loses all of the caveats and nuances, but it does communicate the overall message.

    Of course not everyone makes an EV to cut down on pollution. I regularly get emails from folks who want to make an EV and hook up a gas or diesel backup generator (off the shelf) to produce the electricity. They simply want lower gas bills and think that adding an electric motor somehow ensures this.

  4. Shaun Williams    May 05, 2006 18:17 PM    #

    Okay, firstly I guess I’m a little sensitive about the coal fired thing because I live in a country that exports way more of the dirty black stuff than anybody else and I’m a little desperate about that.

    You’re absolutely right, the Seikei University paper has similar results but in my opinion it paints a more balanced picture.

    However, the fact is that my conversion would have been a major step backwards in terms of trying to reduce my CO2 emissions, had I blindly used the standard electricity available to me. The real-world figures show that my CO2 output would have more than doubled; this is something that I would not have even considered possible had I read the Smokestacks paper.

    I just want to make sure that people understand this. Because I’m a bit of a global warming zealot I would have been absolutely devastated if some sceptic had suggested I do the CO2 calculations after I had already done the conversion and no renewable energy was available for me to switch to.

    I can’t explain the differences between the Smokestacks paper and my real-world experience but it exisits and people should know about it.

    Thanks for having this terrific site which allows me to tell them!

    (You know that this is all just an attempt by me to try and get some hits at my website!)

  5. — James May    May 06, 2006 05:41 AM    #

    Hi Shaun

    I think it’s necessary to have this debate out in the open. One thing I read on a website recently, can’t remember where, is that your electric car is likely to become greener throughout it’s life as less polluting generating technologies come online . This is, of course, assuming that we don’t go wholesale to coal.

    I am paying for wind power and one day hope to do some micro generation. The point is, the Smokestacks paper shows the green viability of EVs today. I think if we are going to upgrade a system holistically so that we use less and pollute less, we have to start somewhere, and changing a fixed pollution fleet asset like old cars to a relative polluting one (to our generating sources) is a good place to start. As we advance in clean energy or decentralise power, all those ICE cars will still be polluting and running down our chemical resource.
    Another bonus is that we can diversify to locally available power sources and won’t be dependent on a resource that has to be shipped so far and sparks resource wars.
    BTW Shaun, in your energy comparisons, have you included the energy used to mine,ship,refine,ship and distribute fossil fuels vs that for centrally generated electricity. I haven’t seen clear numbers anywhere but I should thing that a lot of CO2 is emitted bringing fossil fuel to forecourt pumps, I thing the EROEI (energy return on energy invested) on oil mining is averaging about 10/1 currently. That indicates a minimum of 10 percent extra CO2 per barrel and it’s getting worse.
  6. Shaun Williams    May 06, 2006 07:25 AM    #

    Thanks James,

    I understand and agree with everything you’ve written. As long as people are fully informed, I’m happy and hence my post.

    I’ve found many sources for the CO2 figure of 2.3kg / litre on the internet, unfortunately none of them say whether or not that’s well-to-wheel. I remember reading once that the wtw figure was 2.6 kg / litre (which would line up with your 10%) but because I don’t recall the source I don’t use it, particularly as it wouldn’t make much difference to my calculations anyhow.

    This really is the friendly EV blog; if I’d posted this on GreenCarCongress or the EVlist I’m sure I’d have some bruises by now :)

  7. — JohnG    May 08, 2006 23:27 PM    #

    We should not forget that the pollution due to energy consumption is only part of the total equation.

    Other pollution streams for a vehicle with an ICE are: Lubricants, filters, belts/hoses, coolants, tune-up items, exhaust parts, plus the time and resources needed for “emissions testing”.

    When you consider ALL the millions of parts that will NOT be replaced due to wear, the amount of total resources saved – time, money, raw materials, and the energy required to transport it all is simply mind boggeling.

    When you factor in these “externalities”, EVs stack up very well.

  8. Jerry Halstead    May 09, 2006 08:26 AM    #

    Speaking of which:

    1. Refinery Reform
    2. How oil refining works
    3. Shell says Oil spills up 50% in 2005
    4. Coal pollution
    5. Tomorrow’s pollution free plant?

    With just a few seconds of googling you can uncover a vast array of opinions/studies/suppositions supporting about any stance you’d like to take.