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Study: Comparative EV to ICE environmental impact

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by efusco, Nov 1, 2012.

  1. efusco

    efusco Moderator - Model S & X forums

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    It's interesting, but I won't pretend to understand the details of the paper and I read it as they're coming into it with a bit of a negative bias in that they draw some conclusions that don't seem to be part of their analysis. I also question their vehicle lifetime. Even their upper limit of 200,000km is just 124,000 miles...I can't imagine that is going to be the average lifetime of an EV, or any car for that matter. Further, even though their analysis covered "crade to gate" as they called it, there was never any mention of recycling of the battery components which is a major possibility. Lastly, their suggestion that EVs are not ideal in places where coal is a primary source of electricity is extremely short sighted and, I believe, fails to take into account the potential for conversion to non-fossil fuel energy sources with an EV. But thanks for the article, I always enjoy seeing these sorts of studies and will share it with the EV community.

    Comparative Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Conventional and Electric Vehicles - Hawkins - 2012 - Journal of Industrial Ecology - Wiley Online Library

     
  2. doug

    doug Administrator / Head Moderator

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    Heh... probably written by non native English speakers. Of course they meant cradle to grave. Martin Eberhard would use the term cradle to cradle. I.e., taking reuse and recyclability into account with the total life cycle analysis, as you suggest.

    I've only read the conclusion you quoted, but I too disagree with the main thrust of it. Sure the benefits of EVs are increased with a cleaner grid, but these problems can be approached independently. We need a cleaner grid regardless. As a nascent industry, there's no reason not promote EVs or stunt their progress while waiting for a cleaner grid.
     
  3. markwj

    markwj Moderator, Asia Pacific

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    BBC Coverage:

    BBC News - Electric cars

    Robert Llewellyn, the truth will out:

    The LlewBlog - Electric Cars - The Truth WillOut.

    My summary:

    The study the BBC news site referred to with such enthusiasm was from the NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology).

    Turns out it is funded by Statoil (big oil in Norway).

    When they calculated the materials that went into making electric motors for cars (the main framework of the report's argument), they accidentally used a static electric motor (the sort of thing you’d use to drive a large milling machine or industrial lathe) instead of a small, compact motor that would be found in a Nissan Leaf or similar car. Their calculations were for a *1,000 kg* motor, the motor in the Nissan Leaf weighs *53kg.*

    The report also ‘casually misjudges’ the size, weight and copper content of the frequency inverter, the bit of an electric car that transforms the AC current fed in from the electricity supply, into the DC current stored in the battery.

    They then analysed battery chemistry which no EV maker uses, battery capacity that no plug in car uses, then skewed the figures of how much coal is burned to generate the power to charge the non existent batteries in the mythical car.

    As Robert Llewelyn puts it: the report is trash from start to finish.

    The beauty of the academic process is founded in 'pure research' and 'peer review' - neither if which were upheld in this 'report', before being picked up and the lies disseminated by the anti-EVs BBC.
     
  4. doug

    doug Administrator / Head Moderator

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    Ahh... I had heard about that "study that used the wrong type of motors" a few weeks ago. Didn't realize this was the same one.

    So maybe they really did mean "crade to gate."
     
  5. Robert.Boston

    Robert.Boston Model S VIN P01536

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    Yep, this study was discussed thoroughly on the Anti-EV thread, starting about HERE. Thanks for summarizing the issues with the study, @markwj.
     
  6. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Active Member

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    Well, at least it's not Dust to Dust. Although the headline was "Ooh scary" even though the report had major errors that skewed results against EVs powered by coal it was actually saying "run EVs on the mix we have right now, or natural gas or renewables". But then of course the media spun the headline to get more traffic. And this is why I really hate journalism. Sadly, for all the flaws of the report, it's not the real problem in this case.
     
  7. dpeilow

    dpeilow Moderator

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    We discussed this in the "EV gibberish" thread.

    If another honest report comes out and concludes EVs are cleaner on a normal grid mix, without the sensationalism, feel free to contact the editor of the BBC and ask when they will run the pro-EV headline... @jornmadslien
     
  8. aznt1217

    aznt1217 Active Member

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    There's no logic to that argument. The way it is now is manufacturing dirty cars and cars that run dirty or would you only have one part of the equation and manufacture dirty and have cars run clean. On top of that the efficiency of manufacturing are typically higher than the burning of gas in ICE's.

    What really bothers me is that it's not just oil burning that Is taken out of the equation. Tesla takes so many other dirty non green products out of the equation. Transmission fluid, motor oil, differential fluid, and reduces usage of brake fluids. Solar panels will come but you can't solve all the worlds problems overnight, but at least Musk & Co. Are doing something that the status quo is too lazy and too scared to do.
     
  9. luvb2b

    luvb2b Member

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    i went deep into some of his "research".

    what i found is that his conclusions were based on studies using much smaller battery packs. those studies were then scaled by factor of 15-30x to reach some conclusions about teslas. the problem is even small errors in the initial study would get magnified up 15-30 times by the time they compared to tesla cars. so the range of error at the end would be gigantic and you couldn't draw intelligent, or even statistically valid conclusions from such results.

    several of his other articles i found to have very questionable foundations as well.

    people argue about him on other threads, i am convinced he's nothing but a resume. he was advocating people buy exide and short tesla when exide was at $2 and tesla around $30. both sides went hard against him.

    the moral: paying attention to jp can be hazardous to your financial health.
     
  10. JRP3

    JRP3 Hyperactive Member

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    Since I literally have thousands of responses to Mr. Petersen's articles and have the distinct honor of being the only person he's ever had banned from further comments I can assure you most of his arguments are not backed up by facts. As luv pointed out he uses "data" from "studies" of questionable accuracy and reaches equally questionable conclusions. Example, in his piece where he claimed the 85kWh S pack required something like 40,000kWh's of energy to produce he ignored the fact that the energy density of the S pack was at least twice that of the pack used in the study, which means the energy to produce the 85kWh pack was at least half of what he claimed. Cherry picking and twisting data to suit his agenda is what he does best.
     
  11. markwj

    markwj Moderator, Asia Pacific

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    Here's my take on the Norwegian study:

    EV Myths: #3 EVs are not environmental in the long-run
     
  12. Nicu.Mihalache

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    #12 Nicu.Mihalache, Apr 13, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2013
    Nice, level headed view of that article and the problem in general. Thanks.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Even with the 20 MWh (of course the truth will be somewhere in between, just like JP, you are taking extremes to prove your point; almost nothing scales linearly in this world), if you add the energy to produce about 1.2 ton of Aluminum, at about 15 kWh / kg,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium
    you get to about 38 MWh for the battery and the frame alone. That means the equivalent of 114 000 miles driven. Even if you don't change your battery after 10 years, you are nowhere near an efficient and ecological wonder solution - in the other case, it just gets very bad.

    Just read attentively markwj's take (see the first part of my answer): there is no way moving 2 tons to transport one person and leaving it unused 95% of the time could ever be economical, efficient or ecological. It may be a bit better than the other solution in some aspects. The debate would be much saner if ideology would be left aside and we would recognize we love driving, Tesla builds wonderful driving machines which have a chance to improve things somewhat sometime in the future.
     
  13. DonPedro

    DonPedro Member

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    As interesting as the debate about current tech EV vs. current tech ICE is, I think it nevertheless misses the point. To preserve the biosphere upon which we are completely dependent (not just in terms of climate change, but also in terms of ocean acidity), we need to rearrange our society to keep more carbon from entering the atmosphere. This will never happen as long as personal transportation relies on fossil fuels. So non-carbon vehicles must replace ICE. Whether or not the first and second generations of EVs have optimized carbon footprints is detail - the important thing is that they show the skeptical majority the way to EVs.

    I am not saying that I don't care about the carbon footprint of the Teslas, because I really do. But I would buy it for environmental reasons even if the current footprint were twice that of an ICE. The assumption is that lower-carbon electricity generation and so forth will have to evolve in parallel with the EV market.

    If you think this is an interesting topic, I cannot recommend enough the book The God Species by Mark Lynas. I've been interested in climate change and the environment for almost 30 years, and this is THE best book I've read. You really really want to make the time to read this book, and if it doesn't change any of your current strongly held opinions then you should ask for your money back (you won't).
     
  14. SebastianR

    SebastianR Member

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    THIS. If you want to do 'no damage to the environment' during transport, walk bare feet over a non sealed grass surface but spread your steps not to cause corrosion i.e. don't follow any path. Try avoiding stepping on any animal and take care to not disturb the wild-life with your talk or movements. Everything else - shoes with rubber soles walking, paved roads, bikes and of course cars all damage the environment to some extent.
     
  15. Nicu.Mihalache

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    #15 Nicu.Mihalache, Apr 13, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2013
    It's not about no damage. It's about solutions like public transport that are available today which are 2-10x better than EV will ever be. I admit that 1h saved every day makes me take my Prius instead of using the metro for going to work. I know I cause damage, but not much more than a beef meal, keeping one of the rooms in my house warm or many other activities.

    Somehow nobody dreams about efficient public transportation (or other solutions - like bike that are used extensively in some part of Europe and many places in Asia).

    I do not have "current strongly held opinions" as DonPedro says, a few years ago I was indistinguishable from you guys. It's just that in the meantime I had more access to numbers and I could have a better big picture as depicted by cartesian point of view, rather than ideological point of view: reasoning with philosophical concept instead of numbers (energies, efficiencies, population size and dynamics) and time scales.
     
  16. DonPedro

    DonPedro Member

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    I don't know if there is any disagreement.

    Personally, I try to think differently on the personal and the societal level. Personally, I do my utmost to cause minimal damage (incl. such stuff you mention - eating less meat, using public transport/bikes, putting on sweater rather than turning up temperature and passing on avoidable consumption). On the society level, however, I think it would be neither right nor realistic to expect everyone else to do the same. So on that level, I think EV is the solution, because we can have our cars and save the planet at the same time. Any solution that does not achieve both of these will not do the job.
     
  17. Nicu.Mihalache

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    Indeed, there is no fundamental disagreement. My only gripe is with the overhyped "save the planet" thing. I agree that long term EV have a chance to become more efficiently built (the largest contributor would be better batteries, for several reasons like total weight and accessibility of the tech to the lesser car manufacturers, not only the pack itself) and the electricity could become easier on the environment. But it will take longer than most people think / hope and the results will be lesser than anticipated.

    And obviously, if you want some new tech to take over, it has to be definitely better than the previous one, otherwise people never put up with the change.

    You can check my articles about Tesla here - my opinions did not change much in the meantime:
    Nicu Mihalache's Articles - Seeking Alpha
     
  18. JRP3

    JRP3 Hyperactive Member

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    No I'm not. I'm taking the numbers from the study Petersen used but instead of the 75Wh/kg pack density they used I took the 150Wh/kg pack density of the Model S. That was my estimate of pack density based on the 250Wh/kg of the cells used, backed up by two calculations that Stoppcrazy did which came to slightly higher numbers. Hardly extreme.
    Why would you do that when we are talking about the battery? Besides the S is not the only car built from aluminum so you'd need to apply the same metric to those cars.
    You're having a different argument, one that ultimately has nothing to do with comparing the Model S with other similar vehicles powered by petroleum. Frankly if you take a long term look at the energy used to create the Model S and consider the potential longevity of the platform the car could last 2 to 3 times as long as your average steel bodied car with good maintenance and a new pack and interior every 10-15 years or so if needed, making it's lifetime energy use much lower. Unless it's in an accident an S should never end up in a scrap yard. Of course if it is scrapped the energy used to recycle it into a new S would be much lower than using new aluminum.
     
  19. SebastianR

    SebastianR Member

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    I think we are not necessarily too far apart here

    But that's really my point: Take my situation, I live in a home that has about 2 times the space my family would "need" if you take what is the "accepted average space required per person". Is that wasteful luxury? I leave that up to others (and I indeed got some comments). But NOBODY said: well if you have all that much space available, why don't go you for single glass windows instead of your double glass windows, too? It doesn't make sense: Just because I like the space, does not mean I buy the most energy wasting appliances, heat with the windows open, never switch lights off etc.

    Nevertheless, that's what people seem to suggest with regards to BEVs: "Oh you would like to drive a luxury car? Well, why don't go for the biggest gas guzzler you can find"...

    I think many people do. But then again, that's a bit off-topic here :)
     
  20. DonPedro

    DonPedro Member

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    I take it that what you mean is overhyped is Tesla's ecological credentials, not the notion of saving the planet.

    I understand your views and I agree that they are valid to a point. However, it is easy to get lost in incremental carbon footprint analyses. From a top-down point of view, we only know of two ways of powering cars that could be part of a zero-carbon or even carbon-negative future: EV and biofuels. Biofuels on that scale would be disastrous for global land use, biodiversity, the nitrogen cycle and cause massive human starvation. That leaves us with EV as where we need to go. So the only two questions remaining are how fast we get there and how well we execute (in terms of technologies, energy sources, political regulations etc.). So if Tesla is bringing that about 5-10 years before it would otherwise happen, that is doing the planet a great service.

    The book I quoted - The God Species - convinced me (to the amazement of people who knew my views on the topic) that nuclear energy is necessary to replace coal and gas. Assuming that the energy to produce and drive the EV cars comes from nuclear, the carbon footprint can be what it needs to be.
     

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