Welcome to Tesla Motors Club
Discuss Tesla's Model S, Model 3, Model X, Model Y, Cybertruck, Roadster and More.
Register

UCS Update: EVs Cleaner Than Ever and Model 3 Cleaner Than 50 MPG ICE Vehicle in 99% Of US

EinSV

Active Member
Feb 6, 2016
4,341
21,888
NorCal
New Data Show Electric Vehicles Continue to Get Cleaner

The Union of Concerned Scientists has updated its Cradle-to-Grave EV emission report.

The good news continues: EV emissions continue to decrease quickly and now are better than a 50 MPG ICE vehicle in 75% of the US.

Even better, the cleanest EVs like the Model 3 have lower lifetime emissions than a 50 MPG ICE in 99% of the US.

The report emphasizes an important point that often gets overlooked on this issue — when you buy an EV it continues to get cleaner over time. When you buy an ICE, you lock in a lifetime of high emissions.

A great example is Colorado. In 2009, it was one of the worst states, with EVs emitting on average the same as a 34 MPG vehicle (still better than most ICE vehicles).

The latest data (from 2016) showed a 35% improvement to 46 MPG for the average EV (60 MPG for Model 3 LR!).

Recently, the largest Colorado utility (Xcel) received wind or solar plus storage generation bids that are cheaper than continuing to operate most of the existing coal plants feeding its grid. So it is just a matter of time before the grid there is much cleaner.

In Colorado, a glimpse of renewable energy’s insanely cheap future

This latest report from UCS makes EVs’ carbon emission advantage over ICE as clear as ever. And with rooftop solar, it is even better.
 
To give you an idea on how electricity is cleaning up in the US

Solar is outpacing all other forms of net electricity generation in terms of growth.

We have (2014 to 2017 increase or decline) in order of most produced to least produced

  • nat gas +13%
  • coal -24%
  • nuclear +1%
  • hydro +15%
  • wind +40%
  • All solar +167%
So coal is on a decrease at a significant rate.

Nuclear is at a standstill, will drop as a percentage in relative terms but not by much absolute production.

Nat gas and hydro are increasing at similar rates to each other but not very fast.

Wind is growing at a faster rate but is a small percentage to begin with and will be overtaken by solar.

Solar is growing way faster than anything else but starts from a very small percentage. Will have to overtake others on the list one or two at a time.

from: www.eia.gov/electricity/data/browser start=2014 end=2017

Using the same 2014 to 2017 growth rates (assuming linear growth which isn't accurate but is easy to compute)

Solar overtakes Wind and Hydro by 2023. Then overtakes Nuclear and Coal by 2026. Then becomes the number one source by 2030.

It's totally invalid as by that trend the Solar portion is more than 100% of production. It'd take a non linear curve to cover any sort of even half way serious "what if" factor, let alone being an actual prediction. Still, I wanted to play with the numbers.

fwiw the linear growth puts the 2026 numbers at

Nat gas 48% (from 32%)
All Solar 39% (from 2%)
Nuclear 22% (from 20%)
Wind 18% (from 6%)
Coal 14% (from 30%)
Hydro 12% (from 7.5%)

but those are not realistic numbers, just a simple extrapolation of a 3 year trend extended out another 9 years.
 
  • Like
Reactions: EinSV
I'm gonna bring some things over from the main investor thread into this thread because this looks like the closest match (a Model 3 is being discussed and it heavily discusses the latest UCS study)...

Well, I am just a new Model 3 owner. I cannot afford to go off grid like that. Re read my original comment. I said as much. No, I did not miss the point.
FWIW, you don't have to go off-grid to go renewable. If your utility is AEP, Dayton Power & Light, Duke Energy, Ohio Edison, The Illuminating Company, or Toledo Edison, you can switch to a 100% renewable generation plan through Ohio Energy Choice. (If you're through a co-op, Ohio Energy Choice isn't available due to the member-owned nature of a co-op meaning that you can get representation of energy choice through elections, but you might advocate for buying more renewable energy credits.)

I'm on a 100% wind plan right now, which is the only way I'd be able to do renewables in an apartment.

You seem to be getting quite a bit of flack for this. For the record, you're right (UCS says EV emissions is equivalent to 50mpg car, because of high levels of coal power plants), but only for today. As the grid continues to green (Ohio's emissions equivalent used to be 44mpg just 2 years before!), your model 3 will pay back it's CO2-debt sooner, so it will actually produce less pollution relative to a hybrid.

Keep in mind that the UCS study had one major flaw in the study. It assumed the electricity to produce the batteries also came from coal. But the model 3's batteries are built in a factory that sources all its power from renewables (Nevada has a considerable amount of hydro and solar), with no natural gas provided to the factory at all. So that CO2-debt isn't as high as what the study assumes. Enjoy driving your car!
The original UCS study didn't include manufacturing emissions in the CO2 equivalent MPG, just in the payback period. I don't believe the updated studies discuss that at all?

Did the study include in the costs of gasoline the extraction, transportation and refining costs of crude oil as well, which process wastes another ~30% of the raw crude oil input?

Plus a 40 mpg gascar is NOT driven with an efficiency of 40 miles per gallon - this is especially true of luxury cars: 20-30 mpg on average is more typical in everyday driving - while EVs get much closer to their factory efficiency.

I.e. these studies tend to systematically overerestimate the efficiency of gascars.

It's the Union of Concerned Scientists, so they would've included extractions costs, but were probably conservative with it to make a compelling case. The problem is that Mr.T is in the middle of coal country. Here's the most recent study using 2017 data: New Data Show Electric Vehicles Continue to Get Cleaner

... and here's their study using 2015 data: Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave (2015)

The significance, was how much better the grid got in just 2 years. I'm sure the 2019 data will show that EV's currently ARE cleaner than hybrids, even with a coal-powered grid! But we don't have the data to prove that ... yet.
UCS used eGRID and GREET data to get their emissions, and those include well-to-plug and well-to-tank emissions, on top of the tank-to-wheels emissions for ICE cars.
 

EinSV

Active Member
Feb 6, 2016
4,341
21,888
NorCal
Colorado is not a reasonable example anymore. They now have a sensible governor, which makes them an unusual case.

Colorado Gov Polis unveils roadmap to 100% carbon free by 2040, signs 11 clean energy bills

First order of business: Additional 26% reduction in GHG by 2025

I disagree -- it's a perfect example.

The grid gets cleaner every year across the U.S., so an EV bought now will continue to get cleaner over the years (vastly cleaner if it ends up in a home that installs residential solar, which is also increasing rapidly).

As explained in my earlier post, the cost of solar dropped so low that it was a no-brainer for the Colorado utility to adopt it and phase out more expensive coal plants. In Colorado, a glimpse of renewable energy’s insanely cheap future

This is a dynamic that is happening essentially everywhere as solar and wind power have become extremely cheap -- cheaper than continuing to operate existing coal plants in many cases.

If someone had looked at purchasing an EV in Colorado a couple years ago based only on the current state of the grid they might have concluded that a hybrid was a better choice. They would have been wrong because they did not factor in that the grid would improve, quickly.:)

The same is true across the U.S. and all indications are it will continue if not accelerate due to cheap renewables and policies that favor them over fossil fuels that accelerate global warming.
 
Last edited:

EinSV

Active Member
Feb 6, 2016
4,341
21,888
NorCal
One more quick thought. One of the biggest challenges tackling the climate change problem is overcoming short-term thinking. With that in mind, the best way -- I would argue the only reasonable way -- to think about greenhouse gas emissions from electric cars is to factor in that the grid will unquestionably get much cleaner over the lifetime of the car, so emissions will decrease over the life of the car.
 
Last edited:

SageBrush

REJECT Fascism
May 7, 2015
13,275
18,039
New Mexico
I disagree -- it's a perfect example.
I wrote my comment a little tongue in cheek, but unless a state has a governor as progressive as Polis the improvement in the grid is not going to be anywhere near as rapid.

Colorado also extended its $5,000 EV tax credit until 2025, and requires the PUC to add a $46 (per ton ?) CO2 emissions climate change cost to all resource planning for future power stations.

At this stage Colorado may well be unique.
 
Last edited:

EinSV

Active Member
Feb 6, 2016
4,341
21,888
NorCal
I wrote my comment a little tongue in cheek, but unless a state has a governor as progressive as Polis the improvement in the grid is not going to be anywhere near as rapid.

Colorado also extended its $5,000 EV tax credit until 2025, and requires the PUC to add a $46 (per ton ?) CO2 emissions climate change cost to all resource planning for future power stations.

At this stage Colorado may well be unique.

Having thoughtful policies that encourage renewables or try to factor in social costs of fossil fuel generation will definitely speed up the rate of improvement and is sorely needed to move fast enough to limit damage from climate change.

But solar and wind are now cheap enough that economics alone will drive improvements. For example, the operating costs of most existing coal plants in the U.S. already are more expensive than installing NEW solar and/or wind, and the vast majority will be soon. Analysis: New wind, solar cheaper than operating most existing coal plants
 
Last edited:

SageBrush

REJECT Fascism
May 7, 2015
13,275
18,039
New Mexico
But solar and wind are now cheap enough that economics alone will drive improvements. For example, the operating costs of most existing coal plants in the U.S. already are more expensive than installing NEW solar and/or wind, and the vast majority will be soon. Analysis: New wind, solar cheaper than operating most existing coal plants
For coal yes, and also peaker NG. But not higher capacity NG. That remains "price competitive" if AGW is is not priced in.

As you imply, a lot of the political progress is just green-washed market forces that have a host of externalities. Polis is going much further by regulating the cost of AGW.
 

Oil4AsphaultOnly

Active Member
Supporting Member
Mar 14, 2015
2,173
6,225
Arcadia, CA
I'm gonna bring some things over from the main investor thread into this thread because this looks like the closest match (a Model 3 is being discussed and it heavily discusses the latest UCS study)...


FWIW, you don't have to go off-grid to go renewable. If your utility is AEP, Dayton Power & Light, Duke Energy, Ohio Edison, The Illuminating Company, or Toledo Edison, you can switch to a 100% renewable generation plan through Ohio Energy Choice. (If you're through a co-op, Ohio Energy Choice isn't available due to the member-owned nature of a co-op meaning that you can get representation of energy choice through elections, but you might advocate for buying more renewable energy credits.)

I'm on a 100% wind plan right now, which is the only way I'd be able to do renewables in an apartment.


The original UCS study didn't include manufacturing emissions in the CO2 equivalent MPG, just in the payback period. I don't believe the updated studies discuss that at all?




UCS used eGRID and GREET data to get their emissions, and those include well-to-plug and well-to-tank emissions, on top of the tank-to-wheels emissions for ICE cars.

It's on page 3 of the full report (linked from the article that I provided earlier): https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/defaul...ner-Cars-from-Cradle-to-Grave-full-report.pdf

"Under the average U.S. electricity grid mix, we found that producing a midsize, midrange (84 miles per charge) BEV typically adds a little over 1 ton of emissions to the total manufacturing emissions, resulting in 15 percent greater emissions than in manufacturing a similar gasoline vehicle."

So yes, the UCS study is good to rely on, but it did make the flaw of using the emissions of the average grid in calculating the CO2-debt of the model 3.

Edit: As for the UCS factoring in extraction/distribution costs, does the GREET data not factor in those costs?
 

srs5694

Active Member
Jan 15, 2019
1,291
1,631
Woonsocket, RI
The report emphasizes an important point that often gets overlooked on this issue — when you buy an EV it continues to get cleaner over time. When you buy an ICE, you lock in a lifetime of high emissions.

Just to be a little contrarian here, I'll point out that, IN THEORY, ICE cars can be run on carbon-neutral bio-fuels. This is most easily done with diesel engines, since bio-diesel is fairly easy to make, although it's still not quite cost-competitive with petroleum diesel. (There's also a practical problem that bio-diesel tends to gum up modern diesel engines over time, but I'd be surprised if new engines couldn't be made to work better with bio-diesel.) In theory, gasoline could be made from modern plant sources, too, but AFAIK it's nowhere near to being cost-competitive right now. A gas engine could be modified to run on ethanol, though, and that might be cost-competitive in some scenarios.

The really big problem with any of these fuels is that our current technologies for producing them are impractical when applied at scale; we'd need to add so much agricultural land that it wouldn't work, or we'd need to let a lot of people starve to death to produce all the diesel, gas, or ethanol required to run our cars, trucks, and airplanes. Given current technologies, EVs, or even hydrogen vehicles, look more promising. (Using waste food, and especially oil, to produce bio-diesel might still be worthwhile for some purposes -- but the amount of bio-diesel you could get out of this would power a fraction of our transportation needs.)

I'm really only mentioning this because there's always a chance of technological changes making bio-fuels a reasonable choice in the not-too-distant future. About five years ago I looked into the technology of producing bio-diesel from algae, for instance. The algae could be grown in vats in places that aren't useful for agriculture, and algae grow quickly enough that you wouldn't need a lot of land to produce a lot of fuel. Thus, algae-based bio-diesel looks practical, but at the time, researchers hadn't nailed down an optimal process (there are a lot of options that hadn't been fully researched, and I suspect that's still the case), and the estimated cost was still in excess of petroleum-based diesel -- but not by a ridiculous amount (maybe about 50% more, IIRC). Personally, I think this might make more sense for replacing jet fuel than for running cars, especially given the problems automakers have had getting diesel engines to produce reasonable amounts of NOx and particulate pollution. If and when we as a society start to ramp up diesel-from-algae to produce a "greener" aviation industry, we might find other ways to use that technology. Looping back to the post I've quoted, producing algae-based bio-fuels could help clean up the emissions from older ICE vehicles, even if (as I anticipate we will) we move to EVs for new car production.
 
  • Informative
Reactions: SageBrush

EinSV

Active Member
Feb 6, 2016
4,341
21,888
NorCal
Just to be a little contrarian here, I'll point out that, IN THEORY, ICE cars can be run on carbon-neutral bio-fuels. <snip>

The really big problem with any of these fuels is that our current technologies for producing them are impractical when applied at scale; we'd need to add so much agricultural land that it wouldn't work, or we'd need to let a lot of people starve to death to produce all the diesel, gas, or ethanol required to run our cars, trucks, and airplanes. <snip>

I'm really only mentioning this because there's always a chance of technological changes ... <snip>

For someone considering the GHG impact of an electric car v. fossil fuel car now, the speculative possible future existence of biofuels is not really relevant. As you note, they don't exist at scale in a useful form (ethanol from corn/sugar cane is a terrible fuel choice), and there is no practical process for making them that exists -- certainly none better than generating electricity from solar and wind and using it to power EVs.

It's a bit off-topic but as far as energy sources, solar, wind and storage are already here, available at costs that are relatively low now and dropping rapidly. IMO that's a far better bet for the future than biodiesels or other biofuels. Mark Jacobson of Stanford has put together a good critique of reliance on biofuels to combat climate change (including from speculative future sources like algae) that you might be interested in. https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/BiofuelVsWWS.pdf
 

srs5694

Active Member
Jan 15, 2019
1,291
1,631
Woonsocket, RI
For someone considering the GHG impact of an electric car v. fossil fuel car now, the speculative possible future existence of biofuels is not really relevant. As you note, they don't exist at scale in a useful form (ethanol from corn/sugar cane is a terrible fuel choice), and there is no practical process for making them that exists -- certainly none better than generating electricity from solar and wind and using it to power EVs.

I absolutely agree, with the possible exception of people who can easily use bio-fuels already (say, if they live near a bio-diesel fueling station). I simply wanted to note this as a possible area of future developments, especially in non-automotive fields. Aviation, in particular, is unlikely to get very far with current battery technologies -- the batteries are far too heavy. To get those emissions under control we'll need a carbon-neutral replacement for jet fuel, a shift away from aviation (maybe high-speed rail could take up some of the slack), or a reduction in how much we rely on air (or high-speed generically) travel. Researchers have produced bio-diesel from algae in the lab and in small-scale commercial operations, so that technology is close enough to viable commercialization that it's worth watching, although as you say, for somebody buying a car today with an eye to minimizing CO2 emissions, an EV makes far more sense.
 

SageBrush

REJECT Fascism
May 7, 2015
13,275
18,039
New Mexico
I absolutely agree, with the possible exception of people who can easily use bio-fuels already (say, if they live near a bio-diesel fueling station). I simply wanted to note this as a possible area of future developments, especially in non-automotive fields. Aviation, in particular, is unlikely to get very far with current battery technologies -- the batteries are far too heavy. To get those emissions under control we'll need a carbon-neutral replacement for jet fuel, a shift away from aviation (maybe high-speed rail could take up some of the slack), or a reduction in how much we rely on air (or high-speed generically) travel. Researchers have produced bio-diesel from algae in the lab and in small-scale commercial operations, so that technology is close enough to viable commercialization that it's worth watching, although as you say, for somebody buying a car today with an eye to minimizing CO2 emissions, an EV makes far more sense.
I find it easiest to understand these technologies as variations on chemical reformations.The important details are which source energy and conversion efficiency, not which molecule A or which molecule B.

For source energy the two leading candidates are heat and electricity.
Electricity wins when suitable (cheap, plentiful, and reliable) catalysts are identified.
 

EinSV

Active Member
Feb 6, 2016
4,341
21,888
NorCal
I absolutely agree, with the possible exception of people who can easily use bio-fuels already (say, if they live near a bio-diesel fueling station). I simply wanted to note this as a possible area of future developments, especially in non-automotive fields. Aviation, in particular, is unlikely to get very far with current battery technologies -- the batteries are far too heavy. To get those emissions under control we'll need a carbon-neutral replacement for jet fuel, a shift away from aviation (maybe high-speed rail could take up some of the slack), or a reduction in how much we rely on air (or high-speed generically) travel. Researchers have produced bio-diesel from algae in the lab and in small-scale commercial operations, so that technology is close enough to viable commercialization that it's worth watching, although as you say, for somebody buying a car today with an eye to minimizing CO2 emissions, an EV makes far more sense.

Getting pretty far OT but existing biofuels are a terrible fuel source for cars for many reasons, especially compared to EVs. Future biofuels, including those in the lab, don't look much more promising. Here is a quick summary of some of the many problems with biofuels of all types.

"(1) nearly all biofuels are combusted to generate energy, resulting in air pollution similar to that from fossil fuels; (2) liquid biofuels do not reduce CO2e emissions nearly to the extent as WWS [Wind-water-solar]-powered battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles do; (3) some liquid biofuels increase CO2e emissions relative to fossil fuels; (4) many biofuels require rapacious amounts of land; (5) many biofuels require excessive quantities of water; and (6) many biofuels are derived from food sources, increasing food shortages, food prices and starvation (Searchinger et al., 2008; Jacobson, 2009; Delucchi, 2010). Because liquid biofuels cause greater climate, pollution, land, and water problems than do WWS technologies, biofuels represent opportunity costs." https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/BiofuelVsWWS.pdf

Flight is WAAAAAY OT for this thread, but there are many exciting developments in electric planes for short and medium length trips. The future of flying is electric planes With improved battery energy density, longer distance electric flight may become practical; if not battery/hybrid options seem most promising. Elon has said on multiple occasions that Tesla might build an electric plane once battery energy density improves enough. Tesla Electric Plane: Latest Acquisition Could Make Elon Musk’s Machine Fly | Inverse

Since this is OT for this thread, if you want to continue the discussion it would be better to create a separate biofuels thread (or find an existing one).
 
Last edited:

Products we're discussing on TMC...

About Us

Formed in 2006, Tesla Motors Club (TMC) was the first independent online Tesla community. Today it remains the largest and most dynamic community of Tesla enthusiasts. Learn more.

Do you value your experience at TMC? Consider becoming a Supporting Member of Tesla Motors Club. As a thank you for your contribution, you'll get nearly no ads in the Community and Groups sections. Additional perks are available depending on the level of contribution. Please visit the Account Upgrades page for more details.


SUPPORT TMC
Top