Electric Vehicles

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Volkswagen bets on electric cars after 'dieselgate' scandal Alan Tovey; The Telegraph; 17 Jun 2016

Emissions

Environmental Benefits from Driving Electric Vehicles? Stephen P. Holland, Erin T. Mansur, Nicholas Z. Muller, Andrew J. Yates; National Bureau of Economic Research; Jun 2015 : (full paper paywalled)

Electric vehicles offer the promise of reduced environmental externalities relative to their gasoline counterparts. We combine a theoretical discrete-choice model of new vehicle purchases, an econometric analysis of the marginal emissions from electricity, and the AP2 air pollution model to estimate the environmental benefit of electric vehicles. First, we find considerable variation in the environmental benefit, implying a range of second-best electric vehicle purchase subsidies from $3025 in California to -$4773 in North Dakota, with a mean of -$742. Second, over ninety percent of local environmental externalities from driving an electric vehicle in one state are exported to others, implying that electric vehicles may be subsidized locally, even though they may lead to negative environmental benefits overall. Third, geographically differentiated subsidies can reduce deadweight loss, but only modestly. Fourth, the current federal purchase subsidy of $7500 has greater deadweight loss than a no-subsidy policy.
article based on paper at Where Electric Vehicles Actually Cause More Pollution Than Gas Cars Eric Jaffe; CityLab; 29 Jun 2015, also published as There Are Places Where Electric Cars Pollute More Than Gas Guzzlers Eric Jaffe; Mother Jones; 9 Jul 2015)

Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave (2015) Union of Concerned Scientists

Since we first published our State of Charge report in 2012, the environmental benefits of electric vehicles (EVs) have continued to grow. Two-thirds of all Americans now live in areas where driving an EV produces fewer climate emissions than almost all comparable gasoline and gasoline hybrid cars—a fact attributable to more efficient EVs and an increasingly clean electricity grid.
But what are the global warming emissions of electric cars on a life cycle basis—from the manufacturing of the vehicle’s body and battery to its ultimate disposal and reuse? To answer this, the Union of Concerned Scientists undertook a comprehensive, two-year review of the climate emissions from vehicle production, operation, and disposal. We found that battery electric cars generate half the emissions of the average comparable gasoline car, even when pollution from battery manufacturing is accounted for.

Electric Cars Are Not Necessarily Clean David Biello; Scientific American; 11 May 2016

Your battery-powered vehicle is only as green as your electricity supplier

Life cycle air quality impacts of conventional and alternative light-duty transportation in the United States Christopher W. Tessum, Jason D. Hill, Julian D. Marshall; PNAS; 30 Dec 2014

Commonly considered strategies for reducing the environmental impact of light-duty transportation include using alternative fuels and improving vehicle fuel economy. We evaluate the air quality-related human health impacts of 10 such options, including the use of liquid biofuels, diesel, and compressed natural gas (CNG) in internal combustion engines; the use of electricity from a range of conventional and renewable sources to power electric vehicles (EVs); and the use of hybrid EV technology. Our approach combines spatially, temporally, and chemically detailed life cycle emission inventories; comprehensive, fine-scale state-of-the-science chemical transport modeling; and exposure, concentration–response, and economic health impact modeling for ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). We find that powering vehicles with corn ethanol or with coal-based or “grid average” electricity increases monetized environmental health impacts by 80% or more relative to using conventional gasoline. Conversely, EVs powered by low-emitting electricity from natural gas, wind, water, or solar power reduce environmental health impacts by 50% or more. Consideration of potential climate change impacts alongside the human health outcomes described here further reinforces the environmental preferability of EVs powered by low-emitting electricity relative to gasoline vehicles.

Cleaner than what? Why an electric car may be much dirtier than a petrol one Economist; 20 Dec 2014

DRIVING an electric car confers a badge of greenery, or so the marketing departments of their makers would have you believe. Yet a report which analyses the life cycle of car emissions (ie, all the way from those created by the mining of materials for batteries, via the ones from the production of fuel and the generation of electricity, to the muck that actually comes out of the exhaust) presents a rather different picture. A battery-powered car recharged with electricity generated by coal-fired power stations, it found, is likely to cause more than three times as many deaths from pollution as a conventional petrol-driven vehicle. Even a battery car running on the average mix of electrical power generated in America is much more hazardous than the conventional alternative.

Non-exhaust PM emissions from electric vehicles Victor R.J.H. Timmers, Peter A.J. Achten; Atmospheric Environment; Jun 2016 (paywalled)

Particulate matter (PM) exposure has been linked to adverse health effects by numerous studies. Therefore, governments have been heavily incentivising the market to switch to electric passenger cars in order to reduce air pollution. However, this literature review suggests that electric vehicles may not reduce levels of PM as much as expected, because of their relatively high weight. By analysing the existing literature on non-exhaust emissions of different vehicle categories, this review found that there is a positive relationship between weight and non-exhaust PM emission factors. In addition, electric vehicles (EVs) were found to be 24% heavier than equivalent internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs). As a result, total PM10 emissions from EVs were found to be equal to those of modern ICEVs. PM2.5 emissions were only 1–3% lower for EVs compared to modern ICEVs. Therefore, it could be concluded that the increased popularity of electric vehicles will likely not have a great effect on PM levels. Non-exhaust emissions already account for over 90% of PM10 and 85% of PM2.5 emissions from traffic. These proportions will continue to increase as exhaust standards improve and average vehicle weight increases. Future policy should consequently focus on setting standards for non-exhaust emissions and encouraging weight reduction of all vehicles to significantly reduce PM emissions from traffic.

Life cycle air quality impacts of conventional and alternative light-duty transportation in the United States Christopher W. Tessum, Jason D. Hill, Julian D. Marshall; PNAS; 30 Dec 2014

Commonly considered strategies for reducing the environmental impact of light-duty transportation include using alternative fuels and improving vehicle fuel economy. We evaluate the air quality related human health impacts of 10 such options, including the use of liquid biofuels, diesel, and compressed natural gas (CNG) in internal combustion engines; the use of electricity from a range of conventional and renewable sources to power electric vehicles (EVs); and the use of hybrid EV technology. Our approach combines spatially, temporally, and chemically detailed life cycle emission inventories; comprehensive, fine-scale state-of-the-science chemical transport modeling; and exposure, concentration–response, and economic health impact modeling for ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). We find that powering vehicles with corn ethanol or with coal-based or “grid average” electricity increases monetized environmental health impacts by 80% or more relative to using conventional gasoline. Conversely, EVs powered by low emitting electricity from natural gas, wind, water, or solar power reduce environmental health impacts by 50% or more. Consideration of potential climate change impacts alongside the human health outcomes described here further reinforces the environmental preferability of EVs powered by low-emitting electricity relative to gasoline vehicles.

Electrocuted Euan Mearns; Energy Matters; 10 Jul 2017

Electric cars are very much in the news. The Tesla bubble looks like it may just have burst with static instead of exponentially rising sales, France has declared it will phase out diesel and petrol cars by 2040 and Volvo is to convert its whole model range to all electric or hybrid electric by 2019. The World is now gripped by ultra left wing Green politics driven by production quotas set by the policies of The United Nations and Green NGOs. The USA has awoken to this reality and plans to walk away while France just voted for it. Expensive policies with neglible benefits for the public at large that require subsidies instead of paying taxes can only end in economic tears.

CO2 Intensity of Electric Cars Euan Mearns; Energy Matters; 17 Jul 2017

Electric cars (or EVs) are more expensive than internal combustion engine (ICE) equivalents and return little tax revenue on their fuel use in the UK.
In the UK electric cars are subsidised to the tune of £4,500 and in the USA by $10,000+. These subsidies are paid in the belief that reducing CO2 emissions is worth paying for and it is alleged that EVs have low to zero CO2 emissions.
Analysis of the CO2 emissions embedded in their manufacture and in the fuel mix used to generate electricity suggests that electric cars produce at least as much CO2 as diesel equivalents and perhaps twice as much CO2 in high coal countries like India.

Shades of Green: Electric Cars’ Carbon Emissions Around the Globe Shrink That Footprint

The carbon emissions of grid powered electric cars in countries with coal based generation are no different to average petrol vehicles, while in countries with low carbon electricity they are less than half those of modern hybrids. The scale of this variation implies that the climate benefits of going electric are not evenly shared around the globe.

The ‘electric cars aren’t green’ myth debunked Shrink That Footprint

Using coal powered electricity electric cars do nothing to cut emissions, using natural gas electricity they’re like a top hybrid and using low carbon power they result in less than half the total emissions of the best combustion vehicle, manufacturing included.

Economics

Economists are from Mars, Electric Cars are from Venus James Bushnell; Berkley Haas; 14 Dec 2015

I am also an economist. The research coming out of the economics community has pretty consistently demonstrated that electric vehicles currently have marginal (at best) environmental benefits. I run into a lot of economists who are perplexed at the hostility these findings have generated from pockets of the environmental community.

Within a decade, electric vehicles could be cheaper than gasoline vehicles. Then, watch out David Roberts; Vox; 4 Mar 2016

To date, electric vehicles have mostly been a curiosity, a means for the wealthy to display their eco-credentials. In most big markets (the US, the EU, China), they amount to less than 1 percent of new vehicles sales. Consequently, most people, notably oil industry people, treat them as a sideshow. But that's going to change, soon, according to a new research brief from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. (The report is accessible to clients only, but there's a write-up that draws on the research here.)

Here’s How Electric Cars Will Cause the Next Oil Crisis Bloomberg on falling cost of batteries & projected rising share of electric vehicles

Incentive for electric cars increases CO2 pollution

Electric car investment could yield £51bn for UK economy Jack Loughran; IET Engineering and Technology magazine; 11 Apr 2016

Government investment in electric car infrastructure, including charging stations and repair garages, could boost the UK economy by £51bn per year according to a report from the Institute of the Motor Industry.

How much more electricity do we need to go to 100% electric vehicles? Roger Andrews; Energy Matters; 19 Oct 2016

the EU is drafting legislation to mandate the installation of electric vehicle charging stations in new homes while Germany and the Netherlands are considering legislation requiring that all cars and light vehicles sold after 2025 or 2030 must be 100% electric. None of this legislation has as yet been approved, but if it is how much extra electricity will be needed to power the millions of EVs involved, and how much will it cost? I’ve seen no numbers on this, so in this post I present some, starting with Germany, the Netherlands and the EU and adding a few more countries – and the world – as we go. Because of the uncertainties in the data and assumptions used the numbers should be considered as ball-park estimates only.

Mercedes B-Class Electric and Diesel Cars Compared EuanMeartns; Energy Matters; 7 Aug 2017

This post compares the price and performance of the Mercedes B class all electric and 180d diesel cars. In this summary the subsidies and taxes have been stripped out. The all electric costs 39% more and has only 14% of the range of the diesel. Using these metrics, the diesel is 10 times better than the electric car. The 104 mile range of the electric car really confines its use to a daily commute or city runaround which somewhat devalues the 8 second 0-62 mph acceleration. Stripping out taxes on fuel, the running costs per 100 kms are 249p (electric) and 159p (diesel). Contrary to popular belief, electric vehicles (EVs) are considerably more expensive to run. Zero tail pipe emissions (NOx, PM2.5 and CO2) is the clear advantage that the all electric version has. The question then is zero tail pipe emissions worth the extra cost and reduced performance?

Electric vehicle realities Izabella Kaminska; Financial Times; 3 Aug 2017

Electric vehicles (EVs) are all the rage. But they’re also fast becoming the sacred cows you can’t criticise for fear of being shredded by the EV, renewable, and tech lobbies.
Questioning the cost structures of the industry in general is not allowed in public forums. My colleague Jonathan Ford discovered this recently when he dared to question the economic realities underpinning the renewable sector.
So what are the EV champions failing to tell us? Is it all good news? Or is there an element of public relations deflection to consider as well?
In the spirit of non-consensus thinking, it’s time for FT Alphaville to ask just how green electric cars really are. Are policies to ban diesel and gasoline cars at some arbitrary point in the future likely to unleash a barrage of negative externalities that no one’s yet even thought about?
Brian Piccioni and team at BCA Research offer a good starting point to our questions on Thursday, in a report entitled Electric Vehicles Part 1: Costs of Ownership.
The bad news for EV fans is their work determines that the cost of ownership of an EV still far exceeds that of an internal Combustion Engine Vehicle (ICEV), even after subsidies are accounted for.
With numbers crunched, a comparison between the Chevy Bolt EV and two equivalent ICEVs, the Chevy Sonic and the Open Astra, over 100,000 miles, shows that there’s no denying EVs are still more expensive than ICEVs.
Three points come up in particular.
1) Excluding subsidies, the net expense difference is about $16,000 in the US, $18,500 in Germany and $13,200 in France.
2) After subsidies, the difference is about $6,600 in New York State, $13,900 in Germany and $6,000 in France.
3) Even if electricity were free (which of course it isn’t), after subsidies, the difference in cost of ownership in NY would be $3,400, $3,200 in Germany and $600 in France.
With respect to the Bolt specifically, the analysts note GM believes it’s losing some $9,000 with every Bolt it sells. The automaker would need manufacturing costs to be cut by about $14,750 — 34 per cent — to make the vehicle competitive with GM’s Opel Astra in France.
The numbers above can thus be adapted for a “What If…” scenario, wherein GM actually begins selling the Bolt at average corporate profitability.
In that case the numbers get even more bleak. Excluding subsidies, a Bolt would be $26,900 more expensive in the US than the equivalent ICEV, $29,300 more expensive in Germany and $24,000 more expensive in France.
So where’s the cost coming from?
There are additional manufacturing costs for “Pure Play” EV vendors like Tesla, meanwhile, because unlike integrated auto manufacturers, they can’t use many of the same components from ICEV production, limiting economies of scale.
But the common denominator for all EVs is the cost of batteries, say the analysts, since that’s a commodity. It’s also the key factor behind the faster rate of depreciation of EVs versus ICEVs.
Here, arguably, some significant issues are being overlooked. For example, while the consensus view is that EV battery prices have been experiencing price declines over the past few years (in the order of 8 to 14 per cent), the analysts themselves could not find any evidence to support that position.
Some confusion is probably also occurring on the comparables. While some reports claim battery cells cost $145/kWh, the analysts stress this is not the same thing as a battery pack, which comes as a fully assembled unit with wiring, electronics and a cooling system. In the case of the Bolt, GM lists the cost of its battery pack as $15,734, so about $262/kWh.
From the report:
Peer reviewed research suggests the cost of the battery pack is about 50% greater than the cost of the battery cells, however, we note the same article suggests that ratio will remain the same as battery prices drop. This is unlikely as there is no reason to believe the largely mechanical battery pack will decline proportionately any more than the cost of an engine or transmission will decline. Most likely, the battery pack assembly, excluding the cells, will decline only slightly.
The analysts further suspect it may be part of GM’s commercial strategy to subsidise the battery packs so as not to show EV buyers that a replacement battery is overwhelmingly expensive.
Given the Bolt comes with a 100,000-mile guaranty and an 8-year warranty on the battery, however, the analysts believe it’s highly unlikely many consumers will spend $15,734 (plus labour) to replace the battery on an eight-year-old EV. This allows GM to sell them below cost, since it’s unlikely to sell many replacements. Accordingly the analysts note: “We believe that most likely the actual cost of the battery pack of the Bolt is much higher than $15,734.”
Nevertheless, when it comes to degradation, GM’s own expectation is that depending on use, the battery may degrade as little as 10 per cent to as much as 40 per cent of capacity over the warranty period.
Battery durability is at least as important as price when it comes to the overall cost of ownership.
Overall, batteries currently don’t last much more than 100,000 miles and yet 18,300 miles per year is the average UK mileage for a company car. Assuming a normal distribution, the BCA analysts predict up to half of all EV drivers may experience degradation sooner than the eight year guarantee because of surpassing the 100,000-mile limitation on the warranties.
On the battery degradation issue specifically, BCA’s analysts suspect the industry is being far too optimistic about how much better batteries are getting year to year. The view that batteries are getting longer lasting, they say, flies in the face of what every consumer has experienced with mobiles phones, notebook computers or any other cordless device.
Frustratingly for the EV industry perhaps, if durability did indeed get significantly better, there would still be a cost: prior-generation EVs would plummet in value.
Battery demand risk
But the biggest threat to the economics of batteries may, ironically, come from increasing demand for EVs.
This is a really important point.
The counterintuitive logic is based on the assumption that large scale manufacturers — the sort that have lots of access to cheap labour and cheap dirty fuel (China ahem) — will rush to compete in the sector for political strategic reasons. But rather than driving down costs by way of innovative practices or technological shifts, they’ll do so because of their access to cheap resources (both human and energy) and general willingness to undercut competitors by selling batteries at a loss.
This is a path, BCA points out, China already took with the solar industry, one reason why solar companies across the board are having trouble keeping afloat. If China were to follow a similar route with batteries — mass producing at a loss for the sake of gobbling up market share — the strategy could result in heavy losses for battery manufacturers leading to even bigger expenses from sunk costs.
The other ghastly consequence is that a race to the bottom on subsidisation is likely to encourage the opposite of innovation — flatlining innovation rather than accelerating. To the contrary, carbon-intensive industries and sectors currently being penalised by taxes are likely to innovate far more quickly, leading to a perverse scenario wherein the rate of innovation in the fossil fuel sector (on emissions, costs and overall harmful consequences) begins to outstrip that of the renewable or electric sector.
Credit where it’s due
Batteries aside, BCA note, it should be slightly cheaper to manufacture EVs versus similar ICEVs, due to the reduction in complex moving parts. This cost reduction is slightly offset, however, by the need for more robust chassis and suspensions due the weights of the batteries,the requirement for electric powered air conditioning and regenerative braking. (On the suspension front, here’s a fun catalogue of Tesla cars with broken suspensions).
But beware the impact on government finances
Nevertheless, most people are encouraged to buy EVs because of the fuel subsidies or free parking promises. Yet is difficult to assess how long EV subsidies will persist. Fundamentally, the economics dictate that they can only really be affordable to governments as long as the number of vehicles sold remains small. If EV sales accelerate swiftly, these subsidies would get very costly for government coffers very quickly — straining public finances if not creating massive implied contingent liabilities.
To wit:
For example, about 2 million new passenger cars are registered in France every year. If only half of those were EVs, subsidies would total $7.2B. Money for roads, infrastructure maintenance, policing, and so on have to come from somewhere, and if ICEV sales decline substantially, European governments’ huge gasoline tax revenues would also deteriorate; in such an environment, it is reasonable to assume that EV subsidies would eventually disappear and be replaced by taxes.
On that basis, when electric car subsidies start eating into the funding that’s available for other vital government services, public perceptions of EV efficiency will change markedly.
And we haven’t even ventured into issues such as the carbon-burn transfer to power plants (the electricity has to come from somewhere, whether it’s on or off-peak); lithium mining energy and pollution costs; infrastructure costs; reduced public accessibility and convenience for those who don’t own a dedicated parking spot; haulage inefficiency costs; barrel displacement costs for the EV subsidising states (for as long as planes need jet fuel and ships need fuel-oil, gasoline will still be produced as a byproduct, and its discounted rate will be a boon to nations who don’t encourage electric vehicle policy) and last and not least, the productivity costs associated with longer refueling times.

Morgan EV3

bicycles

The Copenhagen Wheel electric bicycle conversion

heavy vehicles

Mack To Demo Garbage Truck With Wrightspeed Turbine Plug-In Hybrid Powertrain Sam Abuelsamid; Forbes; 7 Jun 2016

The Wrightspeed Route 1000 powertrain is the brainchild of Ian Wright, one of the co-founders of Tesla Motors ... Wright’s approach is to size the batteries for about 30 miles of electric driving and then use a range extender to keep the truck going for the rest of the route. Unlike something like the Chevrolet Volt which uses a conventional gasoline four-cylinder engine, Wright found the most efficient type of range-extender available, a small gas turbine. This is paired with a motor/gearbox unit mounted at the drive axles to provide propulsion and regenerative braking from all the stops these vehicles typically do. Wrightspeed has been testing its system for several years now with a variety of companies including FedEx FDX -0.05% and plans to enter regular production by early autumn of 2016. Earlier this year, Wrightspeed announced a deal to supply powertrains to NZ Bus in New Zealand.

public transport

First-ever electric double-decker London red bus Tim Brown; The Manufacturer; 21 Oct 2015

The first ever all-electric double decker iconic London Red Bus has been unveiled to the public by Chinese company BYD. Unveiled at Lancaster House in London as part of a celebration of UK-China business to mark the state visit to the UK by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the new electric London red bus is one of five to be operated by Metroline which will enter service on TfL’s (Transport for London) Route 98 before the end of the year. The new bus can carry 81 passengers and is fully air conditioned. It will be able to complete up to 190 miles in city traffic conditions on a single charge, allowing recharging (which takes just four hours) using cheap off peak electricity.

Ugandan engineers have built a solar-powered bus for Africa’s roads

a 35-seater that can run for up to 80 kilometers on two power banks that can also be recharged by solar panels installed on the roof of the bus.