Electric Vehicles

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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.

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.

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


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.

Morgan EV3


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.