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Back in September I wrote a rebuttal titled:
Securities Lawyer Mocks Electric Vehicle Enthusiasts--Gets Mocked Back
Here I rebut that author's latest critique of electric cars which he titled Alice in EVland Part II; The Hall Of Mirrors.
Instead of mocking electric car proponents, he questions their integrity:
Mark Twain reportedly said that "Figures don't lie, but liars figure." Truer words were never spoken.
Both stickers [for the Leaf and Volt] were heralded as the dawn of a new age in transportation [which isn't true]. Unfortunately, they were outrageous lies that account for the distance a car can travel on a kilowatt-hour of electricity but ignore the energy needed to make a kilowatt-hour of electricity in the first place. [my emphasis]
What got this securities lawyer's boxers in a bind this time? Well, apparently it was the revelation that the Leaf will use about ten percent more life cycle energy than a Prius. Not to suggest that this is his revelation. He's just parroting other internet blog articles (without attribution) that pointed this out last month when the EPA first released its new mileage sticker for electric cars:
He thinks he has stumbled onto something new and that the EPA sticker is trying to deceive consumers because it does not account for life cycle energy use. Here's an article I wrote on equivalent MPG back in August of 2009.
However, every study I've read on this subject for the last several years has pointed out the fact that electric cars use slightly more life cycle energy (and produce slightly more GHG) than an equivalent hybrid when their electricity comes from non-renewable sources like coal. But, they have also pointed out that electric cars use far less life cycle energy and produce far less GHG than the average car, of which there are over 300 million in this country.
What is life cycle energy? Well, about 60-70 percent of the energy in the coal used to make electricity is lost. Only about 30-40 percent of it gets into the wires as electricity. More energy is lost in the wires, the charger, and the electric motor.
Even though and electric car is three times more efficient than a normal car, in the end, the Leaf will actually use about 10 percent more total energy than the most efficient car ever mass produced, the Prius, but about half the total energy of the average car.
EPA mileage stickers have never used life cycle energy. That would be complicated, and confusing. For example, it takes about 20 percent more oil to make diesel fuel than gasoline. So, using life cycle energy, you would have to reduce that mileage on the Jetta sticker 20 percent, but the diesel Jetta will still go a lot further on a gallon of fuel than the gasoline Jetta, in large part because diesel engines are more efficient.
Is that what consumers are interested in or do they want to compare how efficiently different cars use the energy stored in their tanks or batteries? That is why the EPA came up with MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent).
The sticker also rates GHG emissions out of the tail pipe, of which electric cars have none. Life cycle green house gas emissions are not part of the deal either. If your car gets its electricity from a coal plant, it is in theory increasing GHG emissions more than a Prius. In reality, until there are enough electric cars to be noticed, the power plant will not be throwing any more coal on the fire and if you have solar, or hydro, or wind, or nuclear making your power, your life cycle GHG is going to be lower than a Prius. So again, why try to convey that kind of complexity on a window sticker?
You have to start somewhere and consumers can start with a low emission, highly efficient vehicle. Cleaning up power supplies is happening in parallel.
Not to say that total energy consumed (from coal mine to wheel turning) isn't important. I'm saying it is not the only metric that's important.
A solar panel only captures about 8 percent of the energy that strikes it. Solar energy is far less efficient than coal but who cares if we have to waste 92 percent of the sun that hits it to get solar power? A similar argument holds for nuclear power (and lets face it, solar collectors are essentially fusion powered).
If we can displace coal and natural gas with solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and nuclear, we will have a carbon and oil free transportation system and it does not matter if that takes more overall energy use. It's an engineering trade off that's well worth it.
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