Coal Powers New Car Models, But They Aren't Steam Powered!

tesla
roadster

#1

Electric Vehicles:

I see that some EVs are promoted as environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional gas / diesel powered cars, even giving the impression that they are “zero emissions” vehicles.



I could be interested in the simplicity of an EV, but according to my local Electric Company, almost 79% of my electricty comes from coal fired power plants.



My Electricity Sources:

78.5% Coal

12.4% Nuclear

5.1% Gas

0.1% Oil

0.4% Hydro

3.5% Total *Renewable

*(Bio, solid waste, wind, wood,solar)



If I bought a new Volt or Leaf (charging it at home) and parked my current car, would I be helping or causing more harm to the environment ?



Please explain to me why EVs are currently cheaper (more economical) to run on electricity than other cars are to run on gasoline ?



CSA


#2

I don’t have anything on top of my head, but the numbers are out there - EVs are wildly more efficient than ICEs. The coal mix in your area is also higher than the average for the US.

No one but a marketer or ideologue will claim that EVs are ZEVs. But they absolutely create less pollution in lots and lots and lots of different ways.


#3

Cigroller, Can You Explain What Makes Them Wildly More Efficient ? I Know That Conventional Cars Create A Lot Of “Waste” Heat With Their Fuel, Compared To Electrics (Although They Create Some).

I wonder if anybody’s got the numbers that would help me understand how much energy is used and how much is wasted.

CSA


#4

I can’t explain it - but hey. I’m a social scientist. We have actual engineers around here.

I have to move on to my day right now but later I’m going to read this: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/mythbusters/projects/4264025

since you have me thinking about it.


#5

Study on EVs/PHEVs/hybrids/gas cars a while ago in Scientific American said EVs are better option if the power’s from other than coal, but that hybrids are better that coal-sourced electricity, IIRC.

Latest news from Japan will be a MAJOR setback for nuclear electricity, the only ‘green’ power source that could make a major medium-term contribution.

Here’s a link to it, it varies widely from area to area:


#6

Please explain to me why EVs are currently cheaper (more economical) to run on electricity than other cars are to run on gasoline ?

In part due to the current cost of oil and the problems in the so many oil producing countries. In part it is due to the fact that someone has to pay to build and maintain roads for you to drive on and coal does not help pay for the roads.

Prices for each source varies from place to place and time of year.  Each has different pollution problems and the cost for that pollution is not properly distributed to the various energy sources.  

And of course there are all those political forces at work.

#7

So, That’s “The Dirty Truth.”

Electric cars and plug-ins are only as green as the electricity that powers them.

You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your relatives.
You can choose your vehicle, but you can’t choose your electric company (at least I can’t).

CSA


#8

You also have to take into account the massive difference in repair & maintenance costs. EV motors have many fewer moving parts and don’t require nearly the same system of controls & sensors etc. No more oil changes, coolant flushes, transmission services (very big environmental gains there in addition to your own wallet), and no more O2 sensors, EGRs, exhaust work, fuel injectors, spark plugs, temp sensors etc. The whole propulsion thing is just way simpler.

Now I’ll just leave people to argue about whether the battery issues balance all of that out. In general, the skeptics tend to greatly overstate the extent to which batteries are a major issue.


#9

[b][i]I’m All In, Providing The Thing Can Go 100 - 150 Miles / Day, Provide Adequate Heat / Defrost, And Do All That In My Cold Climate Region. I’ve Always Subscribed To KISS -

Keep It Simple, Stupid ![/i][/b]

CSA


#10

Pollution wise, it’s easier to control pollution at one power source than with all the individual pollution makers with ICE.

IMO, we are not ready to buy EVs on a large scale as a primary vehicle and have not priced it low enough for a secondary vehicle. We are still in the stage of trying to figure out how to use this superior technology (though older) in a way that does not disrupt the automotive profit structure. It has NOTHING to do with engineering.

That electric motors are far more efficient is born out by their long term use in everything from nuclear powered vessels to locomotives where ever you need trouble free extended operation with a minimal amount of maintenance and maximum efficiency.

They are a no brainer traction motor but having things like speakers installed (on the new Leaf) so the sighted impaired can hear them coming. This is a new experience and we’ll make up other stories about their “poor performance” just to keep the prices up and the polluters with that great “here we come, look at me” sound with us for quite a while.


#11

I would think that something with a propulsion system with one basic moving part and a propane heater in the cab would be up your alley.


#12

We seem to be confusing two issues here. First why is electrcity cheaper than gasoline as a power source? The overall efficiency is slightly higher (not “wildly”) with coal powered electricity that with gasoline. Due to engine warmup, and overall lower engine efficiency, we have more losses, so a gas powerd motor may have an overall efficiency of 25% maximum, while coal fired electricy from a large plant approaches 42%, with an electric motor efficiency of 95% in the car. So we are comparing .95x.42=39.9% for the electric with 25% for the gas engine.

At this stage we’re not counting the regenerative braking, which can further increase the electric car’s efficincy if it had a large battery.

As for cost, coal is a very cheap source of power, and there is no road tax on electric power for your car. Where I live nearly all power is generated from coal (at about 12 cents per kilowatt-hour) and an electric car would cost about half as much as a gas powered car to fuel and operate.

However, if we do a “source to wheels” analysis of carbon dioxide generated, we get MORE CO2 with an electric car using 100% coal generated power. This fact is conveniently ignored by uninformed environentalists, and informed ones, such as Al Gore. In other words, the US public is being lied to by the Sierra Club, Green Peace, and others as well as politicians. The Coal Lobby strongly supports electric cars, for good reason. Most US power is still gerated by coal and that will be true for many years to come.

Just went to a car show where they had 4 electric cars, and no one manning the displays had a clue as to how much Carbon was saved, if any by buying an electric car.

But, if you live in Washington state where most power comes from hydro sources, you can drive an electric car with a clear conscience. A big benefit of electric cars anywhere is the lack of URBAN pollution, since the pollution, if any, is generated far away and better controlled, at the power cource.


#13

Coal is MUCH cheaper than imported oil and an electric motor is much more efficient to operate than an ICE.

Power plants can be located in areas where their emissions have little impact on population centers. The air in the city where you LIVE and work stays much cleaner.

In many areas of the country, solar power CAN be used to produce the power needed to charge an electric cars battery…It’s just that burning coal is, at the moment, much cheaper and today, cheap trumps green…


#14

EVs are typically charged at night when the demand for electricity is lowest. The power plants are burning coal (or whatever) anyway, so it is an efficient use of the electric power available. Power plant pollution is easier to control than autos because there are so few of them. It is easy for the EPA to assess compliance with regulations at a half dozen power plants in a huge metropolitan area. That is not the case with the millions of vehicles in the same area.


#15

Cigroller, Can You Explain What Makes Them Wildly More Efficient ? I Know That Conventional Cars Create A Lot Of “Waste” Heat With Their Fuel, Compared To Electrics (Although They Create Some).

Coal plants can use a number of techniques to generate power. Most use a “thermal” appraoch that relies on boiling water to drive steam generators. Using some energy saving tricks these plants can achieve 45-50% efficiency.

Better efficiency can be achieved by using whats called a “combined cycle”. The way this works is that they use the expansion/pressure of the burning fuel to generate energy with a gas turbine. They then take the heat that was produced by doing that, use it to boil water, and then use the pressurized steam to run a steam turbine. A combined cycle plant can hit 60% efficiency.

Your car engine on the other hand probably averages out to something like 20% efficient (the theoretical limit for a steel car engine is something like 37%, but cars generally arn’t run in their most efficient state).


#16

“But they aren’t steam powered”

Perhaps you’re on to something here. Maybe they could be.

Back in the early days of automobiles a steam engine was the sole means of moving the vehicle.
BUT , now
As an alernative to the I.C.E. to turn the generaotor to provide electricity to charge the batteries in hybrids.
Let’s invent a different means of on-board electrical generation . A new source to spin that generator.

– Think “Mr Fusion” From the Back To The Future movie —

Insert the lump of coal you got for christmas ( or some fuel pellets much like those for a pellet stove ) into the ‘generator’ and away you go.


#17

I wonder if anybody’s got the numbers that would help me understand how much energy is used and how much is wasted.

Well, since you asked, let me bore you with the math.

The most well-known EV, the Nissan leaf, has an EPA combined rating of 99MPG(e). Meaning, the car goes 99 miles on one “gallon” (energy equivalent) of electricity. As it turns out, that quantity of energy is roughly 34 kWh. (You’ll either have to trust me there, or look it up yourself!)

That means, 1 kWh gets you 3 miles down the road. Look up the per-kWh rate for electricity where you live; here, it’s just under 8c/kWh, which means the fuel cost of the Leaf would be 2.5c/mile, which is pretty good in my book.

Actually, though, electricity production, transmission, etc, is only about 36% efficient in the US when using coal-fired boilers. Thus, the Leaf ultimately uses roughly the same number of BTUs to get somewhere as a fuel-efficient small car. The savings really come from the fact that gasoline is a very expensive source of fuel, on a per-BTU basis. (Which is why you never see gasoline-powered electric plants).


#18

But, if you live in Washington state where most power comes from hydro sources, you can drive an electric car with a clear conscience.

See, this is what bothers me when pro-EV types talk about environmental benefits. Sure, hydro doesn’t produce CO2…but it kills salmon by the truckload. Not exactly what I’d call a “clean conscience.” CO2 isn’t everything, or even necessarily the biggest thing. My conservationism–such as it is–was influenced largely by reading Edward Abbey while growing up, who made a strong argument that diversion and damming of rivers in the SW US was irreparably harming the ecology there.

Thus, every time somebody calls hydroelectric “green,” the ghost of Edward Abbey gets up and rattles his chains a bit.

A big benefit of electric cars anywhere is the lack of URBAN pollution, since the pollution, if any, is generated far away

I don’t think you can say “outsourcing pollution” (which is what you are describing) is an environmental good.

When i was living in central PA, landfills would buy NYC trash and leave it in the Nittany Mts. Whether that’s “good” or “bad” depends, I suppose, on whether you live in NYC or State College.


#19

“The savings really come from the fact that gasoline is a very expensive source of fuel, on a per-BTU basis. (Which is why you never see gasoline-powered electric plants).”

That’s how I had it figured. The question is, “How long is electricity going to remain relatively, quite a bit cheaper ?”

My electric company says there are many government “Red Tape” increases coming. New regulations on carbon dioxide and coal mining, and natural gas exploration, etcetera, are going to be increasing electricty costs to consumers.

CSA


#20

No, plants run to supply the energy needed, with minimum waste of capacity. During low demand plants cut back. No ‘free energy’ out there. Major move to EVs with night charging will ramp up coal use just about 1:1.