Some Things Generally Overlooked In The Electric Car Discussion

Electric cars came on the scene a number of years ago. The idea of plugging your car into the outlet in your garage rather than having to look for a gas station is attractive. Also, depending on the price of electricity vs the price of gasoline, an electric car could save you money. However, the basic laws of physics get in the way.

On Friday, The Patriots Business Alliance posted an article about electric cars. The article discussed the physics and business aspect of the cars:

Does the move to electric vehicles result in a reduction in the total energy necessary to achieve the same result? Simple answer, no. In its simplest measure, it will take the same amount of energy to move “X” number of pounds from point A to point B if all the other variables are the same. Now, is there any evidence that how that energy is applied or utilized really makes a difference? Not as far as I have found.

So, for the vehicle type that the “green” energy advocates consider to be the best result, the plug-in hybrid, where does this energy come from? We will examine only the US model at this point. This is the US electrical supply in 2015 by generating source- Coal = 33%, Natural gas = 33%, Nuclear = 20%, Hydropower = 6%, other renewables = 7% including, Biomass = 1.6%, Geothermal = 0.4%, Solar = 0.6% and Wind = 4.7%, and last but least, Petroleum = 1%. From this information we have to see that the plug-in hybrid is first and foremost a coal, natural gas and nuclear powered vehicle. But that’s just part of the equation because this doesn’t take in to account the amount of energy that is lost through the transmission process. Most people don’t understand, or even consider, that the amount of energy that is fed in to the transmission grid is reduced by the amount of energy consumed in the transmission process before it reaches the point of use. But in evaluating the “greenness” of the plug-in hybrid this must be considered because it is part of the equation. Also, the plug-in hybrid still must have a supplemental internal combustion gasoline engine in case you need to go farther than you can go on a charge.

That is a whole lot more technical information than my brain can handle, but if I understand it correctly, the bottom line is that an electric car does not actually conserve energy.

The article further explains:

Now, let’s look at a practical example, the Chevy Cruze, a standard gasoline-powered vehicle, and the Chevy Volt, the plug-in hybrid version of the same car. First is the weight- Chevy Cruze- 2835#, Chevy Volt- 3543#. WOW! The immediate thing you know is that it’s going to take 25% more energy to drive the Volt than the Cruze just because of the added weight from the batteries. Did you, or anybody, ever even consider this in the conversation? I’m just guessing the answer to that question is NO. Next is the price- Chevy Cruze- $18, 120, Chevy Volt- $33,220. WOW!! For the privilege of using 25% more energy to achieve the same result, you get to spend ~45% more to purchase the vehicle. Can you say, “What a bargain!” And we haven’t even mentioned the crony capitalism that is put in place to at least make you think you’re getting a kiss while you’re getting screwed.

The article concludes:

There is another element of this situation I would like to address in closing and that is how the plug-in hybrid in general removes you, the consumer, from the market when it comes to the purchasing of your vehicle fuel. Good or bad, with the plug-in hybrid you’re tied to government-controlled electric rates for the pricing of your vehicle fuel. In the last 24 months the price at the pump of gasoline has gone down over 40% where your price per/KW of electricity has actually increased. Just something you can think about when you have to spend more “green” to fuel your electric car. Are you feeling really green yet? Or just hosed?

Green energy is just another highway to increase government control of our lives.


About That Successful Bailout Of General Motors

President Barack Obama, with Assembly Manager ...

President Barack Obama, with Assembly Manager Teri Quigley, drives a new Chevy Volt, during his tour of the General Motors Auto Plant in Hamtramck, Mich., July 30, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the accomplishments that President Obama is citing on his ‘stump speech’ is his bailout of General Motors. So far the taxpayer has lost about $25 billion on the bailout. I have posted a number of articles about the lack of sales of the Chevy Volt during the past year (you can use the search engine at the top of this site if you want to read them). The bottom line is that even with the government paying customers to buy the car, the car is not selling. There have also been a number of fires in the Chevy Volt after minor accidents.

Yesterday USA Today reported that General Motors is shutting down its Chevy Volt assembly line for a month and retooling it to produce Chevy Impalas.

The article reports:

“We are not idling the plant due to poor Volt sales. We’re gearing up for production of the new Impala,” Chevy spokesman David Darovitz said in an email.

Maybe I just don’t understand business, but it seems to me that if a car is selling well, you don’t suspend production of that car for a month.


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The Facts Given Are True, But There Is More To The Story

The Nashville Business Journal posted a story yesterday about the economic aspects of buying a hybrid car. There are a few hybrid cars that are an economical choice after two years–Toyota’s Prius ($23,537), Lincoln’s MKZ ($33,887) and Volkswagen’s diesel-powered Jetta TDI ($25,242). There are a few that take considerably longer–the Nissan’s all-electric Leaf ($28,421) takes nine years for its owner to break even and the Chevy Volt takes 26.6 years.

All of that is true, but there is another aspect of this. President Obama’s energy department has always had the goal of making gasoline prices high–it was stated before President Obama was elected that he had no problem with high gas prices–he just wanted those prices to be reached gradually. As the price of gasoline passes four dollars a gallon on its way to five dollars a gallon, you have to wonder what the magic price per gallon is that will make these cars economical for the average buyer. What would the price of gasoline have to be in order to justify the amount government money invested in the Chevy Volt? Would that justify the crony capitalism involved?

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When Government Interferes In The Free Market

There will probably come a time in the future when we are not driving cars with internal combustion engines. I don’t know when that time will come, but I know it will come when an alternatively-fueled car becomes practical and economical. We are not actually there yet.

On Friday the Washington Examiner posted an article stating that General Motors is temporarily laying off 1300 employees due to lack of sales of the Chevy Volt.

The article reports:

The car company had hoped to sell 45,000 Chevy Volts in America this year, according to the Detroit News, but has only sold about 1,626 over the first two months of 2012.

“GM blamed the lack of sales in January on “exaggerated” media reports and the federal government’s investigation into Volt batteries catching fire, which officially began in November and ended Jan. 21,” the Ann Arbor (Mich.) News reported.

Under President Obama’s proposed budget for next year, the government subsidy for people who purchase a Chevy Volt will be raised to $10,000. I am not sure that will pass or will help if it is passed. I suspect the only way to sell them is to drop the price to about $20,000, which is about what average people actually pay for a car. Meanwhile, I wish the auto bailout money had stayed in the taxpayers’ pockets. 

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It May Be Part Of Our Future, But It Is Not Part Of Our Present

 Steven Hayward posted an article at Power Line about some recent events in the quest for green energy. On Friday, the Huffington Post reported that the lithium-ion batteries in the Chevy Volt have caught fire after being involved in crash tests. The fires did not occur immediately–in one instance the car was being stored in a parking lot of a test facility in Burlington, Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, Google has abandoned its quest for running its data center entirely on green energy.

The article reports:

Meanwhile, Google has quietly abandoned an alternative energy program that it launched with great fanfare just two years ago.  Google’s “Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal” project featured all the hallmarks of the pie-in-the-sky energy mongers, especially the “it’s-just-around-the-corner” trope.  Google’s green energy czar at the launch, Bill Weihl, predicted that renewable electricity cheaper than coal would be achieved quickly: “In three years, we could have multiple megawatts of plants out there.”

The article also reports on Google’s other investments in green energy:

“Google’s stakes in the wind farms are ‘tax equity’ investments, in which investors buy into a project and use federal tax credits granted to the project to offset their own taxes.”

Remember all the uproar from Occupy Wall Street about corporate welfare? This is what corporate welfare actually is–the government granting a tax break to a company that funds the government’s pet project. This is what crony capitalism is about. Taxes and government are being used to control the behavior of corporations. When you consider that many of the major investors in green energy companies are key players in Congress, this begins to look really ugly.

Green energy is a wonderful idea. I suspect we will see it actually work sometime in the near future. However, pouring government money into a technology before it is ready for prime time is not a wise move.


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