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Electric Vehicle Pros & Cons



  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    "I thought that we were primarily talking about CO2 emissions. In which case whether a car is rated LEV or ULEV is completely meaningless."

    My question was in regard to ALL emissions. And the data link posted by prm2000 contained info relating to both CO2 and non-CO2 emissions. Which is why I brought up the issue of LEV and ULEVs.

    You are correct. CO2 emissions are essentially a pure function of gas mileage rather than degree of emissions control. LEV/ULEV vehicles aren't necessarily any better at controlling CO2. To that end, I'd like to contribute the following data (from

    The Prius will generate roughly 3.4 tons of CO2 per year (15,000 miles/year). This equates to 0.45 lbs/mile of CO2 which translates to approximately 125 grams/km.

    The study referenced by prm2000 assumed an AVERAGE vehicle CO2 emission (composite number of cars and trucks) of roughly 250 grams/km.

    These numbers indicate the Prius generates 50% the GHG of the average vehicle from that study. And the study further states that electricity generated from coal powered sources would generate 55%-59% less GHG of the average vehicle.

    So, IF comparing a Prius to the GHG produced by a coal-fired plant for EV use, CO2 production is close to a wash. It then DOES become of interest what the OTHER non-CO2 pollutants look like.

    To achieve ULEV status, vehicles must emit no more than:
    0.04 gm/mile (0.025 gm/km) of Total Hydrocarbons (HC)
    1.7 gm/mile (1.06 gm/km) of Carbon Monoxide (CO)
    0.05 gm/mile (0.031 gm/km) of Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx)

    The 'Average car' values used in the study for these same criteria are:
    1.07 gm/km for VOC+TP (HC)
    9.23 gm/km for CO
    0.88 gm/km for NOx.

    It is further stated that a coal-fired plant would reduce these levels of non-CO2 emissions by "80-92% depending on the type of coal". Which would give the following levels of non-CO2 pollutants:

    0.086 to 0.214 gm/km of HC (2x to 5x HIGHER than ULEV)
    0.738 to 1.846 gm/km of CO (74% higher to 44% lower than ULEV)
    0.07 to 0.176 gm/km of NOx (2x to 6x HIGHER than ULEV)

    Bottom line:

    With hybrids, it is possible to achieve roughly the same level of CO2 emissions as an equivalent EV vehicle with electricity sourced from a coal-fired (a MODERN coal-fired) power plant.

    Also, an EV with electricity sourced from a coal-fired plant would generate AT A MINIMUM TWICE the HC and NOx pollutants (and as much as 5x to 6x depending on the quality of the coal) compared to a current ULEV vehicle. Carbon monoxide emissions appear to be highly dependent on the type of coal used in the plant.

    So, if an individual lives in an area served by coal-fired plants (or if additional electrical demand would be met by a coal-fired plant), does it REALLY make more 'green' sense to go EV or conventional hybrid?
  • prm2000prm2000 Posts: 17
    "For a very good reason, I will not contribute to such a discussion.

    Discussions regarding emissions comparisons and energy production can be done in a (somewhat) level-headed means. Facts and data can be presented and mulled over. Agreements can be reached (I think) without too much animosity.

    However, if some individuals simply feel COMPELED to drag politics into this discussion, it can ONLY end up with one side wanting to pull the ears off the folks on the other side.

    If your INTENT is to run me off, then by all means let's have this discussion degenerate into whining about 'Big Oil' and 'foreign wars to stabilize oil fields'."

    I'm baffled by your response. I have no intention of getting into a political debate.

    It is a fact that we are heavily reliant on foreign oil. It is not a political statement.

    It is a fact that an electric car is the most fuel flexible vehicle made. No matter what is used to generate the electricity now or in the future (NG, coal, nuclear, hydro, biomass, solar, wind, fuel cells, whatever) an electric car will use it. That is not true for an ICE vehicle.

    That is an enormous selling point, and it's not political. I am pretty confident that you have no clue what "side" I am on politically, so your "side" would not know who to tear the ears off of. I could care less what side you are on. It's not an issue I care about.

    Being reliant on unstable and relatively unfriendly countries for a vital resource puts us in a weak position. All things being equal, if we can avoid that form of reliance we would be in a stronger position which would help national security. That is hardly a partisan political statement.

    Discounting the real and very strong benefit of reducing oil consumption as "political", has been a very common ploy to discount BEVs. How about I make the claim that battery range and recharging time is a "political issue", and refuse to discuss it when comparing BEV and ICE? How do you think that ICE would fare based solely on performance and cost per mile comparisons?

    Big oil is a valid topic for discussion, but it doesn't have to be political and it also doesn't have to be here. I don't blame big oil for protecting their interests. The question is where are we going to be in the future and how do we transition from where we are now (pure petroleum) to wherever we are going to end up in 10-30-50 years. Huge companies don't go away quietly. What will their role be in the future, and what will the transition be like? It's a fair question, and it is not political.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    Okay, I'll concede that it is possible for grid electricity to be "dirtier" than the cleanest ICEs from a criteria pollution perspective. But that is somewhat the exception. For instance, California uses almost no electricity generated from coal.

    How much electricity are they assuming an EV uses per mile/kilometer? For a Prius-like vehicle it should be about .25 kWh/mile. Also, not all hybrids are low polluting. A lot of times it depends on where you buy the vehicle. According to the EPA the Honda Insight is one of the most polluting vehicles outside California.

    The same is true for Toyota's Scion XA; a non-hybrid that gets excellent mileage.

    There are plenty more examples. My point is that unless you're talking GHG emissions small, fuel efficient cars aren't necessarily clean.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    I agree 100%. Using less gas/oil is not a political issue because its one of the few areas where there is a unanimous consensus across party lines. Its like curing disease or reducing crime.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    California may not use any (much) electricity from coal, but large portions of the rest of the country do. BTW - just how much excess electrical production is available to Californians? Probably a moot point since most EV recharge demand would be at night when the current grid DOES have enough capacity.

    "How much electricity are they assuming an EV uses per mile/kilometer?"

    I wish I could tell you. Unfortunately, I haven't taken enough time to fully digest that study (particularly the electrical production side of it). To be honest, all I did was look at their assumptions for emissions from their 'average' ICE vehicle fleet and compare those assumed emissions levels to what I know is achievable with CURRENT technology in an ICE vehicle. Just my heavy-handed approach to refuting the assertion that production of electricity for EV use was always cleaner than ICE (regardless of how advanced ICEs may be, though this was not explicitly stated).

    Correct, not all hybrids are low polluting. However, since the technology DOES exist (and is currently being used in California), then it follows that all fuel efficient vehicles (which are naturally lower in CO2 emissions) COULD also be lower in other emissions.

    So, IF we are talking about the emissions aspects of hybrids compared to EVs, then my point is that the technology is currently in place and being used on a wide-scale (I consider use in all of California wide-scale) for very clean hybrids.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    Using less gas/oil = 'good' is not a political issue.

    Making the assertion that the only reason we 'fight foreign wars is to stabilize foreign oil fields' is a different matter. It basically translates to the old old old anti-war chant of "no blood for oil".

    And that IS a political issue.

    "Its like curing disease or reducing crime."

    Stating you are in favor of reducing crime is not a political issue. Stating that we should reduce crime by spending more money on (fill in the blank) Government program (or less money or whatever) makes it a political issue.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    The goal is not political. The methods to achieve that goal may very well be. I am talking about how EVs can reduce fuel consumption. I don't see anything political in that position. When you start advocating tax breaks to encourage EVs or hybrids then it becomes political. The worst criticism is that EVs might not be all that environmentally friendly. Fine. It accomplishes something positive while being neutral at worst from an environmental perspective.

    This is the Tesla Roadster thread so lets put it into that perspective. If a person was debating whether to purchase the Tesla Roadster or a Dodge Viper, IMO, the Tesla would be a better purchase from a US best interest point of view.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    Fair enough. I think we've (I've) spent more than enough time discussing the environmental aspects of EVs in general and not enough on the Tesla in particular.

    Curious about something concerning the Tesla: I know that the range is supposed to be pretty good; and the video was self-explanatory regarding the performance ( :surprise: ). My question is, what kind of range do you get if you include 1/4 mile run like that?

    A seperate question (and this gets back into the whole EV vs. ICE question): how quick is a standard Honda powered Ariel Atom compared to the EV version (Tesla roadster)?
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    I'm sure that driving style definitely impacts range. They advertise a range of 250 miles per charge but the CEO has stated that he doesn't expect to get more than 200 with the way he drives.

    As fast as the Tesla Roadster is it could be quicker. When I first heard about this car I assumed that there were 4 separate electric motors driving each wheel. This is very doable with EVs. The Tesla car has one motor driving the rear wheels. Their claim of 0-60 in four seconds is probably limited by the point wheel spin occurs. An all-wheel drive EV will be capable of unmatchable acceleration.
  • dhanleydhanley Posts: 1,531
    "Although I love the idea of having an all electric car for daily commuting, I can't get over that I also have a need for a car that I can use to take long trips with."

    As the electric car technology is refined, it will become relatively easy to add a small and very efficient internal combustion motor that will start when the batteries are below, say, 50% and start producing energy to recharge the batteries. The engine would run at WOT and at low RPMs, and would therefore be more efficient than if it were driving the wheels directly.
  • prm2000prm2000 Posts: 17
    "Thanks for posting the link to the Electric Vehicle of Canada link comparing emmissions of ICEs to that of power plants supplying the electricity for replacement EVs."

    Here are a few more interesting docs to look at:

    This is an interesting Wheel-to-well analysis for Japan. Of course it is not apples to apples with US, because their power mix is different. I find it interesting that their numbers show a large advantage for BEV over FCV, but their conclusion states "BEV is a little better than FCV both in terms of required energy and CO2 emission, but still needs total evaluation including driving range per charge.". They have to discount their own numbers because BEV comes out to well!

    This is a fairly recent large, very detailed Wheel-to-well analysis of energy use and emissions from Argonne National Labs and GM. They compare 18 different future vehicle/fuel systems. Guess which future vehicle/fuel system was not considered in the comparison? While there is some very good info here, this is the kind of government study that really pisses me off because government policy will be made based on it without accounting for the glaring omission.

    Here is a similar Japanese study by Toyota (just to show I am not biased towards GM!) It basically does the same thing.
  • prm2000prm2000 Posts: 17
    I just stumbled across something very cool. It should help with the discussion on emissions. I just loaded it up and haven't done much with it yet, but I thought I would pass it along.
  • 37453745 Posts: 152
    I've posted this link before on other Edmunds chats but I think it belongs here.

    Electric cars with their batteries charged by nuclear power stations are the only way to go. The link describes safe nuclear generating plants.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    Electric cars with their batteries charged by nuclear power stations are the only way to go

    I agree that it is a very good way to go and far superior to generating electricity from coal. My objection to expanding nuclear energy has to do with the fact that we live in a world with terrorists and that's not going to change. Nuclear plants and their waste materials are going to be very attractive to these people that want to do us harm. The cost to provide security for these facilities will be considerable and will only increase as the threat becomes more sophisticated.

    I think from a domestic security perspective we are best off generating our electricity on the most local level possible. Homeowners producing their own electricity through wind, solar, etc., being tied together in a small community grid.
  • 37453745 Posts: 152
    You forget that other less friendly countries to America are also developing nuclear power stations - see my link. Terrorists could just as well get nuclear material from them.

    Meanwhile, America lags behind. Solar and wind power can only provide a small percentage of power needed. It is also unreliable and dependant on the weather. Coal mines and their environmental impact are more dangerous than nuclear power. Coal fired power stations pollute the atmosphere. How many coal miners have been killed in America and how many people have died due to nuclear accidents in this country?
  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 13,561
    Electric cars with their batteries charged by nuclear power stations are the only way to go.

    Somewhere someone will come up with a system that charges a battery or capacitor in someones garage using solar panels which the electric car can be plugged into at night.

    2008 Sebring Ragtop, 2011 Hyundai Sonata.

  • 37453745 Posts: 152
    "Somewhere someone will come up with a system that charges a battery or capacitor in someones garage using solar panels which the electric car can be plugged into at night".

    Fact of the matter is that solar power chargers do exist. Cell phone companies use them to charge their remote station batteries as one example. Solar panels are expensive to make and the manufacturing process is environmentaly dirty. It's also no good to plug into the solar charger at night. It's just not going to work!

    Bear in mind we are talking about millions of vehicle batteries that would have to be charged if and when a change to battery power took place.

    Super capacitors are an alternative to conventional batteries and at this moment you can buy super capacitor batteries for your flashlight. There are claims that they outperform standard rechargable flash light batteries and are much lighter.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    Somewhere someone will come up with a system that charges a battery or capacitor in someones garage using solar panels which the electric car can be plugged into at night.

    Its already being done. Tesla Motors website states that they have an arrangement with solar installers to provide customers with this capability. If you live in a sunny climate like the desert Southwest this could be a very attractive way to go especially when the tax breaks are considered.

    While I'm sure the initial investment won't be cheap this represents something the individual can do to make himself energy independent. Expanding nuclear energy may be a good idea but it is something clearly outside your control.
  • prm2000prm2000 Posts: 17
    My parents just installed a PV array that will produce more juice than their electric RAV-4 uses. They did it more to make a point and to help suppport the technology than for maximim cost effectiveness. From this point forward theif driving will produce zero emissions. It will take 10-15 years to pay for itself (depending on the future cost of electricity).

    Early on, Governor Arnold talked about a grand plan to put solar cells on all new houses. I haven't heard anything about that lately, so I don't know where it stands. Once PV cells get thin, and flexible (which the new ones are), and cheap, they make a lot of sense because they distribute the generation across the grid.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630

    Well, THAT'LL certainly 'clean up' the other discussion.... ;)
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    I think that California's plan to install PV systems on 1 million homes is still going forward. Its kind of interesting because the first time this proposal went to California's legislation it was held up by the union that represents electricians. Apparently they wanted some provision that required all work to be done by an expensive, unionized electrician. Well "The Terminator" figured out a way to bypass this obstacle. He went straight to the utility companies to pay for this program so it didn't need the same legislative approval.

    Some of the current government subsidies for PV install are, IMO, somewhat misguided. The global demand for PV panels is far outstripping manufacturing capacity and these subsidies are only agravating the situation. The result is that over the last 2 years the cost per watt has actually increased. The positive side is that manufacturers are increasing capacity at a rapid pace but this might have occurred even with slightly lower subsidies.

    The comment that millions of EV owners charging their batteries is going to overtax the grid is unfounded. For one thing it will probably take at least 10 years for there to even be 1 million EVs on the road. Also, the people that operate our nation's electricity grid welcome these vehicles. I don't pretend to understand how this works but apparently it creates the potential for load levelling, which has a positive impact. Not to mention your vehicle can now be an emergency back-up power supply for your home.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    I don't know any details on California's PV plan.

    How are the PV systems being subsidized by the State? Also, are the PV systems being installed supposed to fill all of that homeowners needs (regular domestic use + EV) or just reduce daytime demand on the power grid.

    "Also, the people that operate our nation's electricity grid welcome these vehicles."

    I think I can understand this.

    Most recharging of EV's would occur at night. Typically, the demand to the system is currently much lower at night than during the day (when AC systems are running full blast, businesses are operating, etc.).

    Under the current system, the power plants are constantly cycling up during the day to meet the higher demands and then cycling back down to a reduced level to meet the lower nightime demands. Perhaps the plants don't operate as efficiently as they cycle up and down?

    Hadn't considered the possibility of using the EV as a back-up power supply for the house.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    I don't know all the specifics regarding CA's plan but this is what I've read. The goal is 1 million homes and the projected cost is 3 billion. This will be paid partly through a utility surcharge that was scheduled to expire and also through utility savings that will occur by being being able to delay addditional power plant construction/expansion. These PV systems will be primarily grid tied in that your meter will be spinning backwards when you are generating more power than you are using. This will provide credit for when you use the grid's electricity. I don't think there is any stipulation for the home's system being able to provide all it's power needs. The rebate is probably based on the cost and capacity of whatever system you choose to install.

    One of the nice things about this program is that it is scheduled to be phased out over 10 years with the idea being that is the amount of time it will take for solar energy to be cost effective. Whether or not that ends up being the case it is positive to see government programs that aren't designed to last indefinitely.
  • prm2000prm2000 Posts: 17
    Dang, has anybody seen that new Tesla? That is one sexy car. I would love to drive one. I'm surprised that nobody is talking about it here!

  • Isn't there any plan in place (or being proposed) that would require the replacement (or clean up) of the old "dirty" coal plants? It seems that both the reduction of the use of gas and emissions are critical and need to occur quickly!
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 7,961
    Yes, this is a more general electric vehicle topic, but let's keep this autiomotive related and not go off into the various ways that electricity are generated and forget about the cars please.

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  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    There's another thread specifically for the Tesla.

    I'd say my biggest concern regarding the Tesla and all the other EVs is how these new Li-ion batteries will hold up. I know they've done extensive testing regarding safety and number of cycles but what about aging? My understanding is that Li-ion batteries lose storage capacity purely as a function of time, regardless of whether they are even being used. I'm not sure how well you can test this in the lab and I haven't read of any breakthroughs along these lines. If the Tesla, which is advertised at 250 miles per charge, can only get 150 miles per charge after 3 years I suspect there will be some unhappy owners. I hope this doesn't turn out to be the case but I think that only time will tell.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    With all due respect - talking about HOW the electricty is generated is central to EV discussion. I thought that this topic WAS general enough to include this.

    If we can't talk about how the electricity is generated in an EV car discussion, where CAN we talk about it? Are you saying that one simply CAN'T talk about electrical production ANYWHERE ON EDMUNDS?
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    If that's the case then threads involving dependency on foreign oil should also be off limits.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    Re: CA's PV plan.

    Hmmm, well on the surface it certainly sounds like a reasonable plan. I'm not quite sold on PAYING for the plan through utility surcharges (in other words, millions of people who aren't seeing the benefit are subsidizing it for the other million homes who do). But, I suppose that's the nature of virtually ANY gov subsidy.

    I like having the PV system tied into the grid.

    I'm glad there's a term limit on the plan. After all the hoopla I've heard/read lately considering how PVs are supposed to get more and more cost effective, this is a good way for the industry to either put up or shut up.

    Another benefit of this plan is that should/when an EV industry starts going more mainstream, the additional power generation doesn't HAVE to be either new power plants or PV systems at the same residence as the EV.
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