By BJ Bjornson
I first saw this a couple of days ago, but it deserves wider reading.
File this one under "ammunition for future debates."
EVangelist Peder Norby, who has been having more fun driving and writing about his Mini E than anyone at BMW probably thought possible, recently wrote a most interesting post comparing electricity usage to produce gasoline to the electricity needed to drive an electric car. The short version: "It takes more electricity to drive the average gasoline car 100 miles, than it does to drive an electric car 100 miles."
Let's go over that again. If we simply count the electricity used to make the gasoline that gets burned in a normal vehicle, you need more juice than you do to move an EV the same distance. Of course, then you need to factor in the actual gasoline used (and the resulting CO2 emissions). Plus, don't forget, it takes a bunch of water to refine gasoline. Put this all together and you've got on hell of an energy efficiency argument in favor of plug-in vehicles. Here are some numbers (get more details in Norby's post).
Now, this mainly appears to be back-of-the-napkin type calculations, which doesn't mean they're wrong, and in fact are a good way to see if you are on the right track with your thinking, but does mean that there is likely some refinements necessary to see just how true the overall argument holds.
However, even at this stage, it provides a pretty decent counter-argument to many of the naysayers on electric vehicles. Some of the biggest complaints have been centered around the related ideas that electric vehicles simply shift the emissions from the tailpipes of cars to the smokestacks of power plants, and that the addition of millions of electrics to the roads would overwhelm the electrical infrastructure and require the building of numerous new and polluting power plants.
However, if it is true that the refining of gasoline actually sucks up more power than simply using the electricity to drive, both arguments immediately fall apart, as replacing internal combustion cars with electrics would actually reduce the power required and thus the pollution at the power plants, not to mention the added emissions that result from then burning the gas itself.
Further, even it the exact numbers don�t favour electrics at the moment, it is safe to say that they will in the very near future. The reason for that being that the new sources of oil being exploited through technologies such as shale fracking and bitumen mining in the tar sands are far more energy intensive than the old stick a pipe in the ground drilling that has been the major method of oil production to date. At the tar sands in particular, the use of energy and water have become the main limiting factors on expansion, with talk of building multiple nuclear reactors and diverting some additional northern rivers to the area to deal with shortages of both.
On the other side of the equation is the increasing efficiency of electric motors, storage devices like batteries, and renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics, all of which point to this equation tipping further and further towards EV�s in the near future. Certainly something to think about.