Physical Insights

An independent scientist’s observations on society, technology, energy, science and the environment. “Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Many passengers would rather have stayed home.” – Carl Sagan

Electric vehicles: A quantitative look.

with 4 comments

For argument’s sake, I’ll start with an assumption that the fuel economy of your average petrol-fuelled ICE passenger car is about 7 L per 100 km under conventional conditions.

7 L / 100 km corresponds to about 15.1 kg carbon dioxide emissions per 100 km.

(You can use the above expression in Google Calculator, and just substitute in any alternative figure for the fuel consumption for your particular car, if you like.)

(In the above calculation I’ve used the assumption that petrol is basically pure n-octane in chemistry terms, in terms of its density and carbon content.)

Obviously, better fuel economy means better CO2 emissions economy and vice versa.

(For readers in the US (or elsewhere) who would prefer the Imperial units, try this link instead. Fuel economy of 30 MPG will correspond to about 0.6 pounds of carbon dioxide per mile.

The Blade Runner Mk. II BEV, for example, (which you can buy in Australia now), requires a charge of 95 amp-hours at 240 V, and has a range of 120 km, corresponding to an electric power consumption of 190 Wh (Watt-hours) per km.

(Similarly, if we know the charger’s current draw, voltage, charge time, and the vehicle’s operating range for a single charge, then the electrical energy required to run the car for a given range is straightforwardly calculated for any EV.)

The tech specs for the Tesla Roadster claim that its electric power consumption is 110 Wh/km.

The specifications for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV correspond to about 154 Wh/km average.

In Australia, the average GHG emissions intensity for electricity generation is 1000 gCO2/kWh. (In Victoria, it’s obscene, about 1300-1400 gCO2/kWh.)

Therefore, the equivalent CO2 emission for the BladeRunner is 19 kg CO2 per 100 km, for the i-MiEV it’s about 15.4 kg / 100 km, and for the Tesla Roadster it’s about 11 kg CO2/100 km.

So, for electricity generation like Australia’s, the i-MiEV is about the same, in terms of its indirect greenhouse gas emissions intensity, as an average, reasonably fuel efficient, petrol-burning ICE car. The BladeRunner is significantly worse than an ordinary car, and the Tesla Roadster is significantly better – but I guess the Tesla represents what is essentially a top-of-the-line EV, with a price tag to match.

At the moment, in Australia, there is absolutely nothing to be gained at all, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions reduction, from electric vehicles. (Unless you get a Tesla). (In fact, choosing an EV over a new, relatively efficient petrol or LPG fuelled conventional ICE vehicle, which you could easily get for the same kind of budget, could very well represent a significantly worse choice, in terms of GHG emissions.) For that to change, what is required is a large reduction in the greenhouse gas intensity of electricity generation – replacing coal-fired generators with nuclear power or other clean electricity generation.

However, the greenhouse gas intensity of Australia’s electricity supply is very bad, by global standards. Ontario (in Canada) is an example of a place where extensive uptake of nuclear power, and extensive access to hydroelectricity, have almost completely displaced coal-fired generation, and provide electricity with extremely low greenhouse gas emissions intensity – about 200 gCO2/kWh, or 20% of the Australian average. In Sweden or France for example, you’ll see much the same.
In the US, for example, on the average, it is somewhere in between.

Thus, under these conditions, the BladeRunner has equivalent GHG emissions of about 3.8 kg CO2 per 100 km, 3.1 kg/100 km for the i-MiEV, and about 2.2 kg/100 km for the Tesla – all of which are far superior to any ICE vehicle.


Written by Luke Weston

August 10, 2008 at 4:37 am

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Another nice post Luke.

    Any information or links regarding an expanded, comprehensive, life-cycle analysis of EVs vs. ICEs [including manufacturing energy input and residual wastes at end-of-life / disposal as well as all inputs and outputs from each during operation – more than just petrol: motor oil, transmission fluid, radiator coolant, batteries [chemicals and heavy metals], etc. etc.]?.

    I think it would be a very interesting analysis, but it maybe tough to set the boundaries. How much energy and carbon does it take, for example, just to get a container of motor oil on the shop shelf?


    August 10, 2008 at 11:11 am

  2. Also the use cycles of electric vehicles are not directly equivalent to petrol vehicles. The averages of ICE powered vehicles are based off an average of very poor low speed economy and high medium speed economy. Electric cars are the opposite, using the least energy at the lowest speeds and the most at the highest speeds. Since electrics don’t have the range and speed to be used at highway speed for any length of time, its not really fair to compare average power use between the two.

    The question is not “Are electric cars less polluting per kilowatt?” The question is “Are electric cars less polluting per 30 min trip” Which is certainly yes. (The first 7 minutes of operation an ICE is running very dirty.)

    But your overall point that large scale vehicle electrification will require an increase in plant capacity is true. And you are correct that we need cleaner technology to provide the electricity. However there is a far, far simpler answer that goes an enormous way to reduce pollution: Zoning.

    A properly zoned city reduces the need for vehicles by orders of magnitude.


    August 10, 2008 at 3:27 pm

  3. Really interesting

    Number of other dimensions

    Electricity grid emissions intensity is declining – from 1000 kg / MWh to about 810 kg by 2020 and by 2050 will probably be at 100 to 150 kg / MWh.

    If you purchase greenpower, emissions intensity is near zero.

    Because you are using off-peak electricity, less embodied energy in infrastructure (won’t cause more power lines to be built).

    Tackles fuel affordability head on.

    Huge benefits in terms of air quality and noise.

    This would be a huge win for making our cities more livable.

    Just need to get capital cost down, and range up.


    September 8, 2008 at 12:40 am

  4. Hello Luke, you really a scientist??
    Perhaps you can really help me..Contacting govt is really an impossible type of mission for a little guy like me..Any ideas??

    Can you help get my note to someone in the Whitehouse thats really serious about FIXING the Financial Meltdown?

    I can redefine the clean energy system of US, in a way that will give you high levels of power, that will offset your oil dependance. Every single aspect of your economy, is guided by energy affordability,and availability..and right now, US does not have that. It bugs me to see millions losing their jobs..because its avoidable, but each day that goes by makes starting a fix harder. Help me, and you can look back knowing that you did something to help your nation…and the globe..Help me reach where I cant at the moment..To put my stuff on the table, I need to scale the red tape and bureaucracy that is going to kill your nation. Help me, and I can come through on all this note says..whether its health care, education, or any other social need, nothing can happen if the tax base shrinks. Tax cuts mean nothing to people that have no job, or salary. Your administration can provide NOTHING, if people there do not start working again, in a big way..Im saying..Can do. If you want to see US off foreign oil dependance in 10 years..Im saying – It can be done. But current known alternate methods will NEVER do that, neither will the taxpayers survive under the cost. Your utility bill surely tells you the tale. Just look at the thousands losing their jobs daily..It is so so sad to watch..I see my own clients across US going into paralysis slowly but surely..

    I am saying Bio-Fuels will become a non-entity , just because that eats up food, and drives up costs..If it were viable, I’d say thats ok. In effect, I’m saying that because its possible to produce more electricity under one single concept, there is no need to actually inject trillions into lesser, more expensive methods of power generation. I can put US on a world first footing, but I need to do a deal direct with the Fed. There is also a reason I refer to intergovernmental – agreement, as opposed to patent/copyright etc..All that will become clear if I get the intended agreement, and when I present the concept.
    Between Paulson’s 3 pages ,and mine..I say I can regenerate US, and other countries across the globe by $ trillions. Every move the Fed now makes, just destroys US further.

    To produce more than 1000x the power of all known alternate energy sources may seem impossible sounding..but it IS possible…and to do it at a fraction of your current costs, might seem even more unbelievable..but its possible.
    Stock markets only revive on solidity,and unwavering confidence. I can provide a catalyst for US to start manufacturing, from the ground up again, with the offshoot spinoffs being millions of jobs, throughout every sector of your society.

    T Boone Pickens – is on a mission that will fail..I tried writing him..perhaps he thinks he’s too witty, or perhaps his people in charge of comms don’t READ. Warren Buffett, is just another billionaire, but he can lose his fortune.

    If you have a contact in the US me get there..I tried most of your state depts…all you have are autoresponders.
    I tried the EU President you know what I got ? ‘Good luck with your idea, Thanks for your interest in EU issues’ Thats what happens when the communications levels for important stuff, becomes a comedy.

    I tried contacting the US Federal Govt, with a runstart FIX to the financial meltdown. Among others, the UN, World Bank,some economists, US Energy Depts, Gordon Brown ,Barosa etc..So, these people all say they are doing all they can..but failing miserably as the world economies tank. I should tell you..the combined brainpower of every world leader, cannot concept a SOLUTION, and neither can the most sophisticated economics teams, anywhere on the globe. Read carefully- I am offering the US govt the biggest, most powerful,abundant, clean energy capability on the globe, unknown at this time. Paulson is in over his head..I don’t blame him, but really all he’s doing is causing US to slide deeper. The stark reality..This time, this market will not just recover. There is no quick cash vaccine that can shore up things. One cannot just slosh around in an oil puddle in economics, but that is what the Fed is doing. Economists can only work with what they have..they are now playing in the dangerous arena, or spending money they dont have , in ways that are unrecoverable. Millions of people, are going to be hurt really badly, and I would hate to see that..but its what’s coming at the current rate of Fed activity. I’m not a politician, and I don’t give a hoot about political correctness..but I give anyone a straight shot, whether it hurts or not, if necessary.

    My question would be: I contacted them all, with a runstart FIX to the world economies : Why did no world leader reply?
    I can wait until all their bailouts, and acts of lunacy all fail…but that would mean trying to repair totally devastated markets. Who would have thought information of such dire consequence can go unheeded..perhaps thats the state of world communications now. Your best teams of economists will all fail dismally, because this is not a problem of liquidity, its a problems of mass and rising unemployment, across the globe, throughout every sector. Every day, you can continue to ask economic questions, but the answers from the market will get scarier. Ok, so now I’m beginning to get a bit angry..because the suffering of millions does not make me feel forgive me if I rant, and have the urge to stuff a boot up the behind of every world leader…you’ll understand why I find politicians disgusting..they talk a thousand words a minute, but say SQUAT!

    Perhaps its necessary to challenge the entire intellectual community, every scientist , engineer and professor on the globe. I do. Perhaps to be bold, I need to say ‘I CAN FIX THE GLOBAL ECONOMIES’.

    All they have is hoo haa comments, predictions and their version about where the ‘bottom’ is. The simple answer is ‘rock!’…and it will be very crushing, and painful..for many. Anyone can analyse the meltdown all you want – no economist will be able to do a thing. You cannot keep people in their homes, if they have no jobs. You cannot tailor mortgage repayments, if people have no money. For every $ the Fed puts in, it will now lose $5, and they will LOSE taxpayers money. The retail sector is already showing the beginnings of problems, and I don’t need to spell out what comes when the retail sector falls.

    I can start a FIX to the global financial crisis, as soon as someone begins to listen. Of course, as each day passes, the pieces become more difficult to fix..some co’s will be nonexistent soon. NO world leader, or economist can do a thing to kickstart the economy. When your astute panel of ‘experts’ comes out of denial, to realise that massive UNEMPLOYMENT thats rising at an hourly rate is the ROOT CAUSE of problems, then they will understand that an entire world is becoming unemployed at the same time – A ‘FIX’ means that people have to start WORKING.

    I can follow all the lines of red tape, and bureaucracy, but the financial systems of the globe will be fully paralysed soon. The retail sector will be next, so lets see what all the experts say then..What happens when the US treasury becomes paralysed?? Its really looking bright..Lending billions that the fed doesnt actually have ( Lending borrowed money?? companies that are showing NO active sales)..Its an act of lunacy…you dont even have to be in economics to know that you cannot lend, what you do not have…and if for some freak reason you cannot get that money back, from someone that is not working, or producing nothing of value. Step away from the extreme bs of this entire situation..step away from the lies, and deception of whats going on..and take a clear look. You just saw Amex ‘become’ a bank..whos next? Mastercard? Visa?

    If you can route me direct to the Federal US Govt will help..

    Help me to get where I need, to help your nation, and the globe. Help me, and you’ll see I can come through on everything contained in this note. If you’re a bit religious, you might understand that in less than ordinary situations, more than ordinary solutions do come around. Ignore all the economic commentary on every daily thing..If you simply understand that people have to WORK, to get credit , and do any other thing..then you know economics well enough.


    I tried contacting some economists, the UN, some US State Dept, congress people etc..since Mar 2008 .Everyone has pretty good autoresponders. Red tape, and bureaucracy will make sure that major companies suffer collapse.When you see the world markets collapse fully, in a few months because all you are seeing now is all the liquidity being sucked in, then understand that its not because solutions dont exist..Its because there are too many self proclaimed ‘experts’. Neither Obama, or any new team of economists can fix whats in process at the moment. I offered US a NEW system of national power generation. As you guys are in economics, when you do see the financial system collapse, it might interest you to know why…Like many other catastrophes, a full disaster is avoidable except nobody LISTENS.

    I offered a SOLUTION, to ensure that co’s like GM/Chrysler/Ford etc dont close down. Response- zero. I can start a full on FIX to your economic meltdown, of which you are now only seeing the tip. I offered the recreation of the JOB market , that is in turn responsible for the economic wheels turning.The entire US financial deficit, is based on rapidly rising unemployment that causes the lack of ability to repay loans, access credit or afford anything else.

    Hindsight is always a pretty cutting teacher. When you see US fully crippled soon as the retail sector becomes paralyzed,and the rest of the world markets follow then you might refer to my note. Before 9/11 US was warned, and nobody acted. Again now, a runstart FIX to the global financial crisis is repair the damage under 7 years – a message is communicated, but again..US does not act…So, in a while, when you see the meaning of ‘full financial system collapse’ materialize, then you may have a pretty good idea of how that happened. People’s hearing does seem to improve when a full scale disaster occurs…thats usually the time when no ‘experts’ can be found to comment.


    Please read my note carefully re:

    Energy Solution to FIX the financial crisis. The global economy rests on its ability to produce energy – every other sector of industry and retail, follows that. I can provide a NEW direction in energy, that is more affordable than wind,solar or biofuels , and will exceed the output of all known alternate power by more than 1000x. Impossible you may say? Its possible. No economists can fix this situation, and neither can any degree of liquidity, or stimulus packages.

    In its simplest form, people have to work, to earn a living. If people are unemployed – nobody can access credit,and neither can anyone repay a loan. While economists mickeymouse around on ‘root causes’ being credit crunch,housing correction, subprime mortgage crisis, troubled assets etc..the true root cause is simply rising unemployment. People look at probs as arising from the GB era. It started the day US opened its doors to UNREGULATED trade. The prosperous years people look at, was actually US drinking the wine of its own destruction..the crisis you see today, started with President Clinton – perhaps not what people like to hear, or understand, but nevertheless a fact. America can only recover, if it starts manufacturing again, and when people start working again. I can provide the catalyst, creating jobs for millions in all streams of the US economy, and also across the globe.

    Regarding OIL – US cannot really drill much, and neither can it suck out all its natural gas. Oil ,and gas are part of the earth’s natural buffers of the continental plates. Desperation, makes people ‘drill baby drill’ sounds pretty good..and so does other ludicrous talk about natural gas..Reality is harsh – that gives you earthquakes. Truth, is easily covered up, when mankind wants to do something, at the expense of life. World reserves, are depleted..and the oil barons live on borrowed time..Those in the Middle East know it too..its why you dont see them burning their own oil to electrify their nations..they’d rather people lived in the rocks, and have a few oil sheiks..and portray wealth..but the real truth is, most see no benefit from the oil $$.

    US made the fatal error of starting ‘bailouts’and the rest of the world just followed suit. No degree of ‘liquidity’ staves off rising unemployment across the US, or across the globe. A Global crash, is now imminent. No treasury is infinite. I will just take the simple example of GM:
    They want taxpayers money, but are not making sales, neither can they compete globally. Closure is inevitable, and the loss of taxpayers $$ is guaranteed, because all that ‘bailout’ money, will get eaten up in corporate expense, and wage bills with no growth to show. They cannot suddenly ‘become competitive’..What I present, allows a future in electric fuel cells, and also affordable energy, lowering overall costs of everything. You and I know, that ‘ego’ alone, is no reason for GM to stay open. Its a big American brand..but it cant afford its keep at present. The situation, is avoidable though.

    This is not just some economic speedbump you are seeing, its the collapse of a world system. Between you and I, no treasury can sustain this action, globally or on your doorstep. All you will see, is governments bankrupt themselves,as all internal industries grind to a halt. It is slow, systematic, but inevitable.

    I refute the EU commissioner’s statement, that the age of affordable energy is over. He speaks only from the level of finite thinking, but considering what is currently known, his despair, is understandable.

    That said: I am saying that the global financial crisis can be FIXED.

    I would like to present my concept to the USA Federal government , under a pre-agreement NDA regarding my terms/ payment etc. I approach US first, because they have the capacity, and the world still takes a cue from US. Below is basically, what I am offering the US in the way of 2 stages of developments, that will be world first.
    An entire new energy system IS possible, and I offer the building blocks of something entirely new.

    Can you assist me, in approaching the senate? World leaders can meet indefinitely, but solve nothing. I don’t really like politicians, but I do care for people across the globe.

    In the light of global warming, carbon emissions, and high oil dependance being a global problem, I am suggesting US host an international energy summit to launch the concept globally.

    1- I will need a pre- agreement with the US Federal Govt signed by the President, regarding the cost, payment, and adherence to my terms/conditions.
    2- On signed agreement, I will tender the details of the concept. US engineers, electrical engineers, structural engineers will then verify its workability,and report on the validity under top level clearance. This will be done at top level – secret. ( Necessary if US hosts the summit as details need to be secret)
    3- On the decision to use the concept – payment will be transferred as pre-agreed. Following my suggestions, US can then launch the concept globally, and earn by intergovernmental agreements. Each country can then run ahead with its own developments, or rely on the more developed countries to provide technology..All those aspects can be worked out as governments do.

    I am offering US this: America and other countries can be repowered by clean energy, in a NEW, cost effective way that produces more energy than the combined output of wind/solar/biofuels. I am offering USA the building blocks to an UNKNOWN energy system. The engineers of USA will fully develop the concept, and work out the various dynamics that will draw from numerous technological departments, even creating absolutely new ones, creating jobs for MILLIONS of people, guaranteed. The ‘installations’ will require unique developments every single time, so there will be no static and stagnant single boring one track developments. The conditions attached to the concept use, are to ensure that a minimum of 80% of the work takes place IN the US. I am guaranteeing that US steel plants, and engineering firms nationwide, will work again. I am saying that the entire manufacturing, and productivity capability of US will improve nationally, throughout every sector of society.
    I am saying that dependance on foreign oil, will decrease. I am saying the financial crisis, will have a new solution, and that the stock markets will stabilise. I am saying that investments and stocks will re-ignite in a new stream of developments. All these, are just a few aspects that new energy takes care of. The fullness of things, requires thousands of pages, if I have to go off on every aspect of society that is affected by energy.
    High investments in Solar,and Wind power – Its a waste of taxpayers $$, because the cost of energy will never be affordable, neither can those forms of alternate energy provide much actual energy.

    At present, I shall say the stock markets may suffer a full collapse within 4-8 months. Rise in shares is all based on FALSE balance sheets, with declining growth, and unemployment is rising fast globally. No liquidity injection, will fix this .

    NEW Concept- World FIRST: The generation of unlimited ,daily, clean electricity into the national power grid, in volumes that, with implementation, will outstrip the combined power output of wind and solar energy – Concept currently UNKNOWN as alternate energy provider.

    Here are a few aspects :

    Type: Clean,non nuclear solution with guaranteed power outputs, and minimal loss due to intermittent supply.
    Method: Currently UNKNOWN among the known methods of alternate electricity generation.
    What I am saying : The entire energy generation methodology of the globe will change.
    Oil Dependance : Guaranteed to drop systematically
    Emissions : Guaranteed to drop systematically as less use of petroleum, automatically reduces carbons.
    Cost Effective: In comparison to what is now being spent on wind, solar, biofuels – implementation costs are MUCH less. Models can be flexible for developed/developing countries.
    Development: Because of the flexibility, it gives developers entire new direction , unlimited to a single standard.
    Environment: Minimal impact. Carbon emissions will be reduced on a large scale.
    Economic impact: Basically, the economies of the globe will be able to regenerate within 7-10 years. Low cost electricity, available daily and abundantly allows all sectors of societies to progress.

    One aspect is not possible to implement in wartorn areas with damaged or no basic infrastructures.This drawback does not apply in developed countries like US , UK or EU.
    Richer countries will need to assist poorer countries with some developments.
    Monopolistic govts, who are always quick to see ‘profits’ will have the ability to still charge high prices, so it will need possible international regulation .
    Developers, who are also quick to hike prices for installation of even affordable stuff, will want to be quick to exploit the concept for financial gains, rather than implement with a reasonable margin, for the actual purpose of unlimited electrical generation to be realised..and their reasoning will be because of what it provides, in terms of generation capability,and profits .
    Because of the sudden demand, even the producers of affordable components and materials will try to exploit the concept.
    Pre- legislative work is required in congress to ensure that 80% of the work happens within US, or greed will ensure that unlegislated, US citizens will be marginalised in the face of greed, searching for cheap components.

    The energy output is guaranteed,daily.
    Energy is possible from what I shall term a partial ‘cyclic’, and full cyclic.
    Surplus can be channelled into storage too as the capability to store powergrows, especialy in remote areas.
    Only govts have the capacity to really roll out the concept,and how it should happen it is possible for them to regulate all departments/private sector/industries aligned etc beforehand.
    Only govts can allow the basis of implementations.
    Only govts can oversee maintenance/upgrades/technology advancements because power generation is a matter of national security.
    US will meet its emissions targets.
    The above are just basics..I can list it all in much greater detail .

    1- Launching the concept requires a global energy summit. Only UN or a specific govt has the power to command that.
    2- The concept payment is to be made by strict pre-agreement with the US Federal Government.
    3- All developed countries can utilise it, and even developing countries ..but it is not possible in wartorn regions like Darfur etc, unless they stabilise . Its possible if the installations are secure.
    4- The scale of the concept, has a global application, and can allow meeting the unrealistic targets now set, in 7-10 years. At current, you know wind,solar,hydro and biofuels combined cannot reduce oil dependance.
    5- Concept implementation, is guaranteeing daily renewal of electricity into national grids, with minor fluctuations of maybe 3-10% ,with the capability to expand implementations with minimal environmental impact, and flexible modelling.
    6- I am saying: If eg.1GW is the rated output from one installation, then that 1 GW is guaranteed with only a small fluctuation , daily. This is the secondary output capability. In the main installation capability, power is produced on a continuous ,uninterrupted basis .
    7- In 7-10 years, it will allow approx 60% of petrol powered vehicles vehicles to be totally removed. Electrical fuel cell will be a simple reality, because the electricity is fully available, by clean power.
    8- Oil will still be necessary , but not as it is now, in such high global volumes.
    9- There are different stages of developments- The main installations will deliver totally uninterrupted high energy , and the second stage developments offer determined periods of guaranteed output. The environmental, architectural, structural , technical and related capabilities of the concept implementation ensure many different co-operative developments.

    Help me to help your nation,and people across the globe. I expect skepticism, because no engineer, scientist, or expert on the globe, can offer a solution, but every one may be fast to laugh at the content of my note, declaring that ‘impossible’.
    It’ll take engineers a few minutes to verify what I present though :)..So, there is a no risk agreement, with everything to gain,and nothing to lose. Take me up..and you may find I can show you something major, about high power electrical generation,clean and abundant, that is unknown to anyone on this planet. Skeptics always fall flat in the face of unrefutable proof.

    I hope to get a response from you…and hopefully, you can direct my note to someone in govt…preferably someone that has a mind, and ears. Remember what Kennedy said about being mistaken about trusting the ‘experts’? Help me reach the President or someone in the senate that can assist me.


    November 17, 2008 at 11:58 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: