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Tags: C02 | Electric Car | Lithium Batteries | John Su | Stanford University

The Myth of the 'Green' Electric Car

Hans Baumann By Monday, 23 March 2015 11:44 AM Current | Bio | Archive

The electric car has been hyped up by the proponents of global warming and their government supporters, who spent billions of dollars in form of taxpayers’ money on grants or even gifts to manufacturers of electric cars and batteries, assuming of course you have the right political connections.

One of the claims advertised is that the use of electric cars does not pollute the environment. Let’s look at the facts. In order to have a meaningful comparison from one energy source to another, one has to convert the energy in a gallon of gasoline to thermal units such as kilocalories. A gallon of gasoline has the energy of 31,641 Kcal.

Assuming the electricity for the car is produced by oil-fired conventional power plant (slightly more efficient than a coal-fired plant). According to the German website Ecofis.de, such a plant has a maximum efficiency of 43 percent, meaning that 43 percent of the 31,641 Kcal worth of oil is converted into electricity. The rest escapes as heat. Unfortunately such efficiency is only possible if the plant runs constantly at near maximum capacity. This is never the case, since we have low demand at night and the plant has to throttle down when it has to absorb additional power coming from solar cells or windmills. It therefore is realistic, to use an average efficiency of 38 percent, according to Ecofis.

Thereafter, the electricity has to be brought to your home via transmission line, where some of the electric power is lost. Arriving at your house (or your charging station), it has to be transformed from alternate to direct current and to a lower voltage. Here are additional losses encountered. Each loss lowers the overall efficiency. Next, we charge the battery, which gets hot (meaning it loses energy when charged or discharged).

The loss depends on the type of battery. Lithium batteries are the most efficient, they lose only about 15 percent (equals 85 percent efficiency) of the amount stored, while the next popular type, Nickel-metal hydrate batteries can lose approximately 34 percent. Finally, the electric energy remaining has to be converted into mechanical energy i.e. turning your wheels. This costs another 10 percent of available power.

Now let’s add up:

Equip. Effic. % Comb. Ttl. Effic. %
Power Plant 38 38
Trans. Line* 92 35
Trans. 95 33.3
Batt. Lith.* 85 28.3
Elec. Motor 90 25.4

* From John Su of Stanford University, who estimated an efficiency of 29.7 percent if a 38 percent efficiency for the power plant is used. However, he omitted the transducer and electric motor losses and he did not account for the weight addition. Other efficiency data is taken from Wikipedia.

When everything is said and done we can use only 25.4 percent of the original input of 31,641 Kcal. (which leaves 8,048 Kcal.) to drive the car. This of course ignores the added weight the electric motor has to move. The battery pack of the Nissan LEAF electric car, for example, weights 480 pounds.

It can safely be estimated that this adds an additional weight of 200 pounds over an equally sized gasoline powered car. To move his extra weight takes about 1,500 Kcal. This reduces the available energy further down to 6,537 Kcal, or an overall usable efficiency of 20.6 percent.

According to Wikipedia, the average gasoline powered motor has an efficiency of 37.5 percent. This then makes the gasoline powered car far superior in overall fuel efficiency by a factor of up to 1.8. This means, if a gasoline driven car could drive 30 miles per one gallon, the electric car would reach only about 17 miles with the same amount of energy.

While the CO2 and other gas exhaust is about even between that of a power plant or the gas driven car, the overall heat getting wasted in the air is almost twice as high for the electric driven car than for the fuel powered vehicle. Remember — any energy not used mechanically, automatically converts into heat going into the atmosphere.

Even the claim by our government, that electric cars are cheaper to operate than gasoline driven ones is flawed. Using the overly optimistic assumption that gas and electric versions are equally efficient, then we have to assume that the fuel for the electric car is equal to 1 gallon of gasoline, that is 31, 641 Kcal. worth of energy.

These Kilocalories convert to 34 Kw/h of electricity. Taken the U.S. average price of $0.1258 per Kw/h (it will cost $17.5 in New England), it will cost the average consumer $ 4.27 to fill up his battery. Compare that to only $ 3.00 or less for one gallon of gasoline.

Hans Baumann is a licensed engineer in four states and a member of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society. He is an adviser to the dean of the University of New Hampshire Business School. Baumann has published manuals on valves and was a contributor to many works including the "Instrument Engineers' Handbook" and the "Control Valves Handbook." He has also published several books on business management and German history. His book "Hitler's Fate," suggests that Adolf Hitler did not commit suicide and survived World War II. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.


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One of the claims advertised is that the use of electric cars does not pollute the environment. Let’s look at the facts.
C02, Electric Car, Lithium Batteries, John Su, Stanford University
Monday, 23 March 2015 11:44 AM
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