The Inconvenient Truth About Electric Vehicles

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Gary Novak via Science Errors blog,

An electric auto will convert 5-10% of the energy in natural gas into motion. A normal vehicle will convert 20-30% of the energy in gasoline into motion. That's 3 or 4 times more energy recovered with an internal combustion vehicle than an electric vehicle.

Electricity is a specialty product. It's not appropriate for transportation. It looks cheap at this time, but that's because it was designed for toasters, not transportation. Increase the amount of wiring and infrastructure by a factor of a thousand, and it's not cheap.

Electricity does not scale up properly to the transportation level due to its miniscule nature. Sure, a whole lot can be used for something, but at extraordinary expense and materials.

Using electricity as an energy source requires two energy transformation steps, while using petroleum requires only one. With electricity, the original energy, usually chemical energy, must be transformed into electrical energy; and then the electrical energy is transformed into the kinetic energy of motion. With an internal combustion engine, the only transformation step is the conversion of chemical energy to kinetic energy in the combustion chamber.

The difference matters, because there is a lot of energy lost every time it is transformed or used. Electrical energy is harder to handle and loses more in handling.

The use of electrical energy requires it to move into and out of the space medium (aether) through induction. Induction through the aether medium should be referred to as another form of energy, but physicists sandwich it into the category of electrical energy. Going into and out of the aether through induction loses a lot of energy.

Another problem with electricity is that it loses energy to heat production due to resistance in the wires. A short transmission line will have 20% loss built in, and a long line will have 50% loss built in. These losses are designed in, because reducing the loss by half would require twice as much metal in the wires. Wires have to be optimized for diameter and strength, which means doubling the metal would be doubling the number of transmission lines.

High voltage transformers can get 90% efficiency with expensive designs, but household level voltages get 50% efficiency. Electric motors can get up to 60% efficiency, but only at optimum rpms and load. For autos, they average 25% efficiency. Gasoline engines get 25% efficiency with old-style carburetors and 30% with fuel injection, though additional loses can occur.

Applying this brilliant engineering to the problem yields this result: A natural gas electric generating turbine gets 40% efficiency. A high voltage transformer gets 90% efficiency. A household level transformer gets 50% efficiency. A short transmission line gets 20% loss, which is 80% efficiency. The total is 40% x 90% x 50% x 80% = 14.4% of the energy recovered before the electrical system does something similar to the gasoline engine in the vehicle. Some say the electricity performs a little better in the vehicle, but it's not much.

Electricity appears to be easy to handle sending it through wires. But it is the small scale that makes it look cheap. Scaling it up takes a pound of metal for so many electron-miles. Twice as much distance means twice as much metal. Twice as many amps means twice as much metal. Converting the transportation system into an electrical based system would require scaling up the amount of metal and electrical infrastructure by factors of hundreds or thousands. Where are all those lines going to go? They destroy environments. Where is that much natural gas going to come from for the electrical generators? There is very little natural gas in existence when using it for a large scale purpose. Natural gas has to be used with solar and wind energy, because only it can be turned on and off easily for backup.

One of the overwhelming facts about electric transportation is the chicken and egg phenomenon. Supposedly, a lot of electric vehicles will create an incentive to create a lot of expensive infrastructure. There are a lot of reasons why none of the goals can be met for such an infrastructure. The basic problem is that electricity will never be appropriate for such demanding use as general transportation, which means there will never be enough chickens or eggs to balance the demand. It's like trying to improve a backpack to such an extent that it will replace a pickup truck. The limitations of muscle metabolism are like the limitations of electrical energy.

Electrons are not a space-saving form of energy. Electrons have to be surrounded by large amounts of metal. It means electric motors get heavy and large. When cruising around town, the problems are not so noticeable. But the challenges of ruggedness are met far easier with internal combustion engines. Engineers say it is nice to get rid of the drive train with electric vehicles. But in doing so, they add clutter elsewhere, which adds weight, takes up space and messes up the suspension system. Out on the highway, the suspension system is the most critical factor.

These problems will prevent electric vehicles from replacing petroleum vehicles for all but specialty purposes. The infrastructure needed for electric vehicles will never exist when limited to specialty purposes. This would be true even with the perfect battery which takes up no space and holds infinite charge.

*  *  *

1. Historical Perspective on Electric Cars, by A. Jones

2. Comparing Energy Costs per Mile for Electric and Gasoline-Fueled Vehicles.
http://avt.inl.gov/pdf/fsev/costs.pdf

3. Electricity Emissions. U.S. Department of Energy. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center.
http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/vehicles/emissions_electricity.html

4. Electric Power Industry 2007: Year in Review. Energy Information Administration. U.S. Department of energy.
http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epa_sum.html

5. Electric Power. U.S. Department of energy. Energy Sources.
http://www.energy.gov/energysources/electricpower.htm

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roadhazard's picture

It's here and it's not going away.

NoDecaf's picture

"Electricity is a specialty product"

 

anyone else having trouble getting passed that statement?

knukles's picture

es.  I kinda thought of it as fungible in various wattages and voltages; like Easter bonnets and gowns
A buddy of mine with a Tesla challengeingly stated to me the other day that his Tesla could go faster than my Jag.  I gave him a Gallic shrug and said; "Not for long."

BigJim's picture

Household transformers work at 50% efficiency? "There is very little natural gas in existence when using it for a large scale purpose"?

This is one of the dumbest articles I've read at ZH, and that's saying something, given the slippage in quality around here.

When was this published? April 1st?

zeroDirkHedge's picture

Yeah thats when I stopped reading. Its total crap.

Occident Mortal's picture

This reads as if it was written by a high school student.

 

There are lots of hurdles for EV's to overcome, but all of them are down to scalability.
It is plain to see that it IS possible to manufacture 100,000's EV's and sell them at near market prices.

But does the cost stay low when building 1 million EV's or 10 million or 50 million?

Everyone assumes that the price of new technology converges on zero, but this is wrong. The price will converge on the cost of the raw materials (including labour).
But at some point as the manufacturing capacity continues to scale up the supply of those raw materials becomes scarce. With EV's the raw material ceiling is totally untested. One of the greatest things about petroeum fuels is that the world has so much of the stuff that cost curve is very very long, this means the world can manufacture and operate 1.2 billion ICE vehicles without the price of oil getting to stretched.

But that doesn't mean the earth has the same accessible supply of lithium, cobolt or a host of other raw materials that are critical to EV's.

 

The cost of EV's will go down and down, but then it will level off and after a while the price will start to go back up. At that point EV's will be stuck with whatever sales volume they have. That might be at 1 million, 10 million or 50 million. Nobody knows. 

pugilist's picture

old man yells at electricity.

peippe's picture

""....get off my grid!"

(cane shake)!   : )

Stuck on Zero's picture

This whole article is a sham. We should start revolting. Watts that you say? This guy is not staying current with technology and needs to be juiced up a bit.

HopefulCynical's picture

There are three pieces of machinery which will NEVER be powered successfully by electricity, and without which our current civilization cannot survive.

• Harvesting Combine

• Cargo Jet

• Tractor Trailer

The weight ratios and horsepower requirements make it physically impossible that battery powered electric drive trains can ever run those items.

Physics. It's a thing.

virgule's picture

Since no one seems to be willing to discuss actual physics, instead of criticising, here is the truth about transformer efficiency:

- a normal, household or industrial transformer, will have an efficiency of 95-98% (household) and up to 99% (large industrial) efficiency **at full load** (ie when the transformer losses become negligeable compared to the power output).

- The same transformer will have terrible efficieny **under no load**, when the only thing it does is dissipate heat and magnetic loses while connected but not supplying power (ie when it is NOT recharging your favorite Tesla).

Which leads us to the very well known dilemma: should you design / select your transformer for maximum output, or for minimal losses?

If it is going to be used 90% of the time, then aiming for maximum needed output is probably most efficient. If on the other hand you will be using it once in a while only, then it makes sense to use a smaller design and a longer period of use. Conclusion: expect big, efficient transformers in cities with lots of electrical vehicles that need quick charging, and much longer charging time in the country side.

virgule's picture

Since no one seems to be willing to discuss actual physics, instead of criticising, here is the truth about transformer efficiency:

- a normal, household or industrial transformer, will have an efficiency of 95-98% (household) and up to 99% (large industrial) efficiency **at full load** (ie when the transformer losses become negligeable compared to the power output).

- The same transformer will have terrible efficieny **under no load**, when the only thing it does is dissipate heat and magnetic loses while connected but not supplying power (ie when it is NOT recharging your favorite Tesla).

Which leads us to the very well known dilemma: should you design / select your transformer for maximum output, or for minimal losses?

If it is going to be used 90% of the time, then aiming for maximum needed output is probably most efficient. If on the other hand you will be using it once in a while only, then it makes sense to use a smaller design and a longer period of use. Conclusion: expect big, efficient transformers in cities with lots of electrical vehicles that need quick charging, and much longer charging time in the country side.

Schlump's picture

Just more ZH crap, fits perfectly with the climate denial garbage

DownWithYogaPants's picture

Globull warming is a hoax.  If you had any scientific or mathematic talent you would see it as clearly as we who do see it.

The basic thesis of the article is true.  The only caviat is if local generation ( at night ) takes off for any reason.  Additionally if coal is used to generate in the power station then we're using a cheaper more plentiful feed stock for the power.

Schlump's picture

You go, Einstein. It's just you and the ZH deniers against all the world's climate scientists. Yeee-ha!

Arrow4Truth's picture

Only 36 percent of geoscientists and engineers believe that humans are creating a global warming crisis, according to a survey reported in the peer-reviewed Organization Studies. By contrast, a strong majority of the 1,077 respondents believe that nature is the primary cause of recent global warming and/or that future global warming will not be a very serious problem. Guess they weren't on the payroll. Is that you fuckster? ZH a new platform for you to spook? Yeee-ha!

Schlump's picture

Only 36 percent of geoscientists and engineers believe that humans are creating a global warming crisis, according to a survey reported in the peer-reviewed Organization Studies

Link please. Every time you aments claim this, it turns out to be bogus.

pmurgs's picture
Schlump
Member for 1 week 2 days
Socratic Dog's picture

Agree the author's basic thesis is correct.

But shit like "halving transmission losses would mean doubling the amount of metal in the lines"  doesn't help his cause.  Transmission losses are proportional to line resistance, which is a function of cross-sectional area of the lines.  To double the area you have to square the amount of material used, not double it.  So four times the metal, not two times.

DownWithYogaPants's picture

True dat

R=rho * Lenth / Area =rho * Lenth / ( pi * r^2 )  

for you global warming SJWs who never had a physics class.  It is WORSE than the author depicts.  However if we assume hollow high tension lines being used to avoid wastage due to skin effect it would sort of be linear.  No need to bicker over the details.  More copper is definitely needed and best case there is a linear relationship with current consumption.

You know you liberals should really refrain from trying to pretend you're the smartest dude in the room.  We all know you partake in useless university degrees like Womenz Studies.  Worse yet since you don't know me portraying me as stupid is clueless.  Science always has and always will be my first love.  Perfect SAT scores, MENSA membership and taking calculus as the local university while still in high school suggests a bit of a precocious lad be me.  Believe me if I had been in your high school graduating class I would have been the guy to beat to be Validictorian.  Hint:You would have lost unless your mother and dad were both satellite engineers.  The only way you can display you believe in science is by having scientific integrity.  That you do not have.

RAT005's picture

Congrats sir.  Hope that isn't fake news. You were 1 of those guys that made it difficult for me to stay in the top 10% of a highly nationally ranked high school.  I guess it was good training for college but it seemed like too much work at the time.

And of course global warming (man made) is a hoax.  just about as much obvious proof as the fake birth certificate.

Schlump's picture

R=rho * Lenth / Area =rho * Lenth / ( pi * r^2 )

Bwhahahahaaaaa! So you're the highly educated, high IQ genius climate denier who cannot even spell lenGth, are you?

Too funny!

DownWithYogaPants's picture

Keep trying.  Maybe someday you'll make a point.  They say if monkees type on an infinite number of type writers they'll recreate Shakespeare.

If you must know I'm passing a kidney stone about now so proof reading has gone a bit by the boards.

Schlump's picture

LOL I believe you. Kidney stone, eh? Heh.

Rory_Breaker's picture

NO!

You only have to double the amount of material used.

Cross Sectional Area X Length X Density = Mass of Metal

If you double Cross Sectional Area you end up with double the Mass of Metal. Not four times.

DownWithYogaPants's picture

Ya is true. Passing kidney stone.  Please forgive the parameter overlook.

TuPhat's picture

Go Schlump yourself and stop reading ZH.  Or if you must read because you really like it, stop commenting.

Schlump's picture

Hold on! I thought it was only the "Left" who are against free speech? Apparently not....

DownWithYogaPants's picture

Well Einstein!  He didn't offer to beat you up if you continued.  He merely suggested you stop embarrassing yourself.  Silly libtard....thinking is for the talented.

bankerbackbacon's picture

Nothing discredits a statement more than saying climate change denial (Climate change is normal and cannot be denied) as a substitute for Carbon warming (which is also normal). It makes more sense to tax turds, they require more tangible capture :)

Schlump's picture

"The climate always changes" is the oldest denier meme in the book. Update your spiel.

https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

DownWithYogaPants's picture

There is no good evidence that CO2 causs climate change.  Much more evidence points to it being the result of warming which in the highest likelihood coming from changes in planetary, solar and galactic conditiions.  These lefties believe in a god they just don't know it.  Their god is the supposed constancy of solar output which of course is likely a physical impossibility.

Your comment about turd capture is a good one.

Tallest Skil's picture

Hey, cuntrag. Global warming isn't happening. You're a mentally defective piece of shit. Even your masters admit it. James Hansen himself says there has been no warming from 1880 to 1990, and we have satellite data that shows no warming from 1990 to 2017. You don't have a leg to stand on.

Schlump's picture

Bullshit! Stop reading the right wing denial blogosphere. Your head is so far up your ass that you're chewing on your own larynx.

The blind leading the blind ..... Sad!

DownWithYogaPants's picture

You must be a paid shill.  Registered for 2 weeks.

Why would you come to a site like ZH to make your ill thought out comments when you are going to agree with nothing put forward.  You don't have the intellectual running gear to manage.

You're certainly not a troll.  Trolls have talent. That we see you are completely lacking.

No.Fifth.Turning's picture

No, this was originally in German, translated to English by Korean students.

DogOfSinope's picture

I'll miss the rumble of a V8, purring of a boxer and clacking of a diesel like any petrolhead.

But, a friend from MIT told me that all of the science for the fusion power generation is solved as well as most of the engineering obstacles. He reckons that within 5 to 10 years comercial fusion power generation will be viable.

Once that happens - it's game over for internal combusion engine vehicles. But, they'll become a wonderful hobby!

On the upside, Saudi Barbaria will be back to carpet business.

MEFOBILLS's picture

Nautilus engine is interesting.   Stated claims are fuel combustion improves by 30% while lowering emissions.  It would be ideal for a series hybrid.  It is also simple.

http://articles.sae.org/14731/

 

DogOfSinope's picture

Yeah, would be good as a range extender generator, like in BMW i3.

But, once fusion power statitons arive producing hydrogen by electrolysis will become comercially viable/cheap and then fuel cell powered cars will become a practical solution. Electric, but you just fill it up on (this time literaly) gas station when out of juice. :-)

DownWithYogaPants's picture

Fusion power is the power of the future.  Always the future.  If they have a real solution in 10 years it will be the surprise of the century.  If they can deploy it to sufficiently make a difference in another 10 years after that you should be surprised again.

Mandel Bot's picture

Thorium (LFTR) is already a reality. No need for fusion hot or cold.
However, the article is correct. Even neglecting the lower efficiency argument, the cost to upgrade the electricity distribution network to power even 50% of the vehicles on the road would be completely impossible.
IMO the answer is a combination of Thorium nukes making fuel for hydrogen powered vehicles. But we had better get moving. We already burned 50% of the oil that ever existed in the last 50 years. What is left will be way, way more expensive.

aurum4040's picture

You are correct and anyone that downvotes you is simply ignorant. Fusion is the safest and most efficient form of energy. Fusion will be the primary source of energy and electricity. Electricity will be cheap and it will become the 'speciality' it is 'supposed' to be....one of the specialties being a primary source of transportation energy. 

TuPhat's picture

I have heard that about fusion power many times over the years.  Fission power is much easier than fusion and I wouldn't say that all of the fission power problems are solved.  Your MIT friend does not live in the real world.  The only thing to come out of MIT lately is practical jokes and second rate contenders in robot wars.

tunetopper's picture

And also Jonathan Gruber - came from MIT (Obamacare Salesman)

aurum4040's picture

I suggest you educate yourself first of all and 2nd of all stop living in the past like too many of todays slackass Zhers who think they know everything regardless of whether or not they thoroughly vetted a topic. And in 2017 I've never seen more morons on this board. It's just not the same here. Read below. 

https://www.google.com/amp/amp.dailycaller.com/2017/03/21/scientists-are...

land_of_the_few's picture

Why don't you go and work at ITER then? I'm sure they would welcome an extra pair of hands.

MEFOBILLS's picture

lithium, cobalt, copper, etc.  will be recycled.  It will go into steady state supply with reuse.  For example, steel tends to be recycled scrap today, rather than new from ore.

The authors wheel to well conversion factors are biased.  Also, he didn't mention roof top solar cells.  Roof top energy flips the equation to positive.

There are other benefits too, like telling the Saudis to F- off.  

Remember, the world illuminist government depends on dollar as reserve, which in turn is bolstered by petro-dollar.  Petro-dollar in turn, came into being with the 73 Kissinger agreement with Saudi Arabia.

edit addition:   It is hard to recycle lithium ion batteries.   Somebody suggesting using older used inefficient car batteries in a secondary role, as for storing solar cell energy

TuPhat's picture

I guess you didn't know it but it is hard to recycle copper and cobalt as well.  In fact a lot of copper in transformers and motors ends up in the pot with the steel because it is so difficult to separate.  The real world is never as easy as the make believe world.

DownWithYogaPants's picture

It's not economically viable to recycle copper into high enough purity for electrical uses.  Electrical uses need to be the first usage of copper.