Electric Cars

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Electric Cars

Electric cars are great for the tech side. They're quiet, torquey, and if you prefer to plug-in all the time over getting gas every other week or so, then they're clearly better. They also give you HoV lane access if you live in a completely asshatted part of the country. If you have solar and charge during the day directly, energy wise might be a bit green. There's lots of upsides. Just don't get preachy about it, because environmentalism is one of their weakest points, not their strongest.

These studies come out every now and then. And they're likely true -- in total lifecycle costs, Electrics aren't that good in sanctimoneous green cred... but if you like them for other reasons, that's fine. Just don't be a douche and pretend you're better than others for driving them, and we're good. If not, then tearing apart your arguments and showing where you're wrong, is fun.


These are a few of the studies that show that if you look at the bigger picture (energy production, cost of producing the cars, costs of the batteries, etc), that electric cars are not green, and thus subsidizing them might have unintended consequences.

2019 German IFO Study - This study[1] claims that using the German mix of coal+natural gas+other sources that a Tesla Model 3 puts out more CO2 and a Mercedes Diesel. (β‰ˆ181 grams (CO2)/kilometer compared to 141). The left wing cried out in unison that it was bullshit, and their refutation is that this was using last years energy production (with lots of Coal production), and next years might be better. True, but it might be worse. Standards aren't always met, and they're claiming by raising the standards that things will get better. But that isn't always the case, sometimes people just go to driving older/dirtier cars to avoid compliance.

2018.10 Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Berylls Strategy Advisors Study - This study[2] claims that where cars (and their lithium ion batteries) are manufactured, can release far more CO2 than you save by driving them. They claim you need to drive a Nissan Leaf (with a 30 kWh battery) about 3 1/2 years to get to near break-even (using German energy mix), and it gets worse the bigger the battery and longer the range.

2018.06 Engaged Tracking (London) Study - This study[3] claims production/operation of a Tesla, using UK's power generation, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions just as much as traditional vehicles (about 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide/year). Tesla's rebuttal is that's not fair, because the Model 3 is a bigger/nicer car than the average UK car that they're comparing it to.

2018.04 Manhattan Institute/Continental Economics Study - This study[4] is a much wider projection based on energy production and number of electric cars in 2050 and what it'll take to make/operate them. And electric vehicles increase the amount of pollution into the atmosphere compared to new internal combustion vehicles. Part of the problem is that EV folks are comparing future electrics to past Gas-Guzzlers, not future, cleaner Gas-sippers (new cars produce about 1% of the pollution as 1960's cars). And it looks at the U.S. energy production cycle as it's projected to be in 2050. Even then, if you look at the big picture, EV's aren't really cleaner.

Math on Electric Vehicles - Here are some basics:
  • Each gallon of oil produces about 18KWh of electricity (about 36KWh per gallon of gasoline, which is about half of a gallon of crude oil, after refining).
  • California is one of the worst states for line-loss, β‰ˆ10%
  • Charging (using Tesla numbers), is about 90-95% efficient
  • Batteries get phantom decay about about .2 miles per hour - or β‰ˆ5 miles per day
  • A Tesla Model 3 (about the most efficient EV) is about 4.1 miles per KWh (but it varies by speed and stop and go)

Electricity is fungible, and charging is mostly at night (when Solar isn’t working), and Solar is only 2% of power in the U.S. Even if you buy "green energy" you're just getting duped and paying more for the same thing everyone else is using. Really, you're using 2% solar, 20% Nuclear, 23% Coal and 38% Natural Gas.

The fact is that 130 MPGe (less line loss, charging inefficiency and phantom decay) is still better than an internal combustion engine, but it's far from "green".

If you ignore the costs of producing the batteries+car (amortized over the lifetime of the car), and just look at the per tank costs -- each "tank" (full charge) would use about 855 cubic feet of natural gas, 18 lbs of coal, one solar panel for a entire day (8 hours), and .0001 gram of uranium (using the U.S. electric grid). And you're losing 6x that per year, even if you do nothing, just for phantom decay.

The point isn't that EV's are bad. It's that they aren't magic. Is it better to burn 300 gallons of gas, or 27,000 cu ft of natural gas + 800 lbs. of coal? You're just trading off local pollution for remote pollution. If we crack fusion, or went to more nuclear and geothermal and hydroelectic, there would be HUGE green wins with electric cars. But that's just not where we are yet. So drive them because you like the tech, silence, lack of tailpipe emissions, and so on -- but not because you think they're going to get us off fossil fuels anytime soon.

πŸ—’οΈ NOTE:
As an aside, one of the things that the anti-oil folks don’t get is that half of refining produces all the plastic, cosmetics, and other things they use. If you stopped using gasoline tomorrow β€” you’ll still have to refine the same amount of oil (more or less) for everything else we use oil-byproducts for. So then the gasoline would become a very low cost oil refining byproduct... which would't go to waste. We'd just use it in other things. (The system needs to balance). Eliminating gasoline cars, just makes using gasoline for other things, more appealing.


Of course the left screamed bloody murder at all of them, and suddenly wants to parse methodological flaws and to dodge the macro-point, that things that are promised to be green panacea's rarely are. From Ethanol, to Wind Power, etc, they all come with hidden costs and tradeoffs that the left doesn't want to look at, but still exist. They miss the point that even if the math is off by a little, that the Electric Cars are green is still bullshit, at best they're just slightly less brown over regular cars of today or yesterday, and unlikely to be greener than the Dinosaur Burners of tomorrow. (Assuming you believe the bullshit that CO2 is a pollutant and not plant food).

So yes, German energy costs (which use coal like 50%, whereas the U.S. it's more like 27%... and American coal and coal plants are cleaner) are bad, but similar studies are showing the same problems in the UK or US energy cycle. And much of the problem is in China where many of the batteries are produced... using Coal energy.

There was an earlier study that got into a car's lifespan. And those might make electric's even worse: it's certainly worse buying a New Tesla over driving a used Oil-Burner. And whille Tesla's are luxury electrics so have longer life than most electrics, city electrics like the Smart EV is a fun little shuttle car -- but they depreciate like 80% in a few years. That's a hint on their lifespan (much lower). And the greenness of the car is much more dependent on how long people use the car before recycling it, than on how clean it is when it is driven.

Personally, I think electrics are kind of neat and fun, just not that green. But YMMV.


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