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A quick search reveals that ~35-50% of California's electricity comes from Natural Gas. Basically EVs in California are methane powered ICEs by proxy. I find it quite annoying that government keep subsidizing EVs when the infrastructure to make them actually environmentally friendly is not in place.

The only place owning an EV is actually environmentally friendly in North America is Quebec since 95% is generated by Hydro.




Seriously, all electricity could come from burning arsenic, and it would still not matter.

There are a few things in play here:

1. Big power plants are WAY more efficient than wherever tiny thing you have under the hood, I don't care if it is a V8. 2. Power plants are usually located away from population centers. This means less health problems in the population. 3. Once you replace the power plants, the ENTIRE CAR FLEET gets an automatic update. It is easier to replace power plants, than to replace hundreds of millions of cars. 4. Electric car engines are incredibly efficient. 5. All those cars idling in traffic jams are not helping anyone. 6. 30% != 100%. It does not follow that they are all "methane powered". By your own admission, 30% are. 7. You are not burning fuel trying to extract, refine and transport fuels. Electricity transportation is everywhere and doesn't require trucks or pipelines. 8. EVs don't require oil changes. This is another big pollution source that's often not remembered.


> It is easier to replace power plants, than to replace hundreds of millions of cars.

Then why not use this money to replace them. If it's so easy then the effects will be felt sooner and will be enjoyed by everyone not just people looking to buy a new car.


We need to do both and generation side doesn't need help.

Coal plants (the most polluting) are shutting down and being replaced by natural gas, wind and solar simply due to cost of wind and solar dropping rapidly.

Those costs will continue to drop and economics will get even better in the (relatively near) future.

Vox often covers that topic, see e.g. https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/10/19/164944..., https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/4/10/1721444..., https://www.vox.com/2018/5/30/17408602/solar-wind-energy-ren..., https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/5/18/1735973...


California also now requires solar panels on new homes. The electric generation mix will only get cleaner over time. A car purchased today will likely still be on the road until 2029; what percentage of its power will be from gas versus renewables in 2029? I think you need to think a bit more long-term.


We don’t even need to think long term—EVs (even charged with fossil power) are already cleaner than gas cars in most cases:

https://blog.ucsusa.org/dave-reichmuth/new-numbers-are-in-an...

And—to your point—they get cleaner every year.


I like the union of concerned scientists, but the study that they cite on this is hot garbage, and they should be ashamed.

https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/electric-vehicles/life...

a few quotes from the pdf

"For this analysis we expected the midsize and full-size BEV to need only one lithium-ion battery pack over its lifetime." of 179,000 miles

"Excluded from the life cycle assessments are the global warming emissions from building the infrastructure (such as factories and industrial equipment) required to do all of the processing and assembling, and the emissions from transportation of raw materials for manufacturing."

"we had limited data on the actual composition of the vehicle models"

"Comparing our results with other battery literature(. . .), the emissions (kilograms of CO2 per kilogram of battery weight) depend on the battery chemistry. These estimates are on the lower end of the spectrum for battery-production global warming emissions because they derive from process-level analyses. The alternative approach—top-down methods, which refer to how the battery production energy is assessed— results in higher estimates because the scope of the assessment is large"

and especially relevant to your point and the article you linked, which reads, "the extra emissions from making an 80-mile range EV (compared to a similar gasoline car) are about 15% higher"

from quoted report "for this study we assumed a lifetime of 179,000 miles, both for gasoline and long-range battery-electric vehicles, based on the National Household Travel Survey (FHWA 2009) data for the first 15 years of a vehicle’s lifetime. However, we posited an exception for the 84-mile-range BEV and comparable gasoline car—that total mileage would be 135,000—75 percent of the mileage of the 265-mile-range BEV. This difference is due to “range limitations” of a car with a more modest-sized battery: its driver would likely be unwilling to drive long distances very often, given the frequent need for stopping to “fill up” "

And then there is the whole mystery meat of the supply chain that produce all of the components, which don't seemed to be very shrewdly represented if at all. There is a lot more CO2 produced than just extraction>refinement. I'm really not confident in scientists ability to gauge the resource consumption of industry.


Cars generally charge overnight when solar is no longer available.


That's not a major problem long-term IMO. Solar power can be stored at home or at grid-level, charging can be scheduled to coincide with daylight hours before/after work, EV batteries are getting bigger every year so they need to be charged less often (which means more flexibility with what time they're charged), overnight also coincides with low-consumption hours for the grid which has its own benefits, V2G and V2V even allow parked electric cars to potentially become solar storage batteries for a smart grid and other neat things in the more distant future.


This is just a round about way of accomplishing the same goal. There are much better clean energy investments that will have payoff sooner and will benefit more people, not just those than can shell out tens of thousands of dollars for roof solar and a power pack.


It's expensive right now because demand is low. When everyone is buying solar, I'm sure the price will drop even further. This could still happen in parallel with any other clean energy investments as well.

There aren't that many clean energy options available to the end consumer right now, other than solar. You could have a wind turbine which could run day/night, but they're just not as cheap per watt, and has far fewer competitors on the market making that stuff.


For charging at home, yes. (But that's complemented by wind, which often blows strongest at night.)

If you install workplace chargers, though, you can charge at peak solar production.


Yes, and baseline power plants will be burning fuel no matter what. Might as well put them to some use.


Or the money could be invested in power storage making those baseline plants obsolete.


Plenty of wind at night...


Except that EVs are uniquely situated to get cleaner after they are purchased. That's already occurring, so an EV purchased in 2013 is currently cleaner per mile than it was when it was purchased [1]. You could make a weaker argument that that might apply to FCEVs. Whereas all ICE vehicles usually need to be replaced en masse to improve emissions.

[1] https://insideevs.com/us-ev-emissions/


I've never understood this argument. It completely ignores the locality of pollution effects. In an ideal world, the entire grid would be powered by renewables, yes, but I would still prefer that the cars whizzing by my face every day produce no emissions even if the power plant 50 miles away does.


Investment in (much needed) public transit does the same and tends to benefit low income people not those that have $30K to spend on a new car.


What about not buying a new car? My wife bought a pretty decent one for 5k.

But public transportation is better of course. Make it electric while you are at it.


I'm not convinced of your conclusion as even though you started by presenting data you leap to a conclusion without a process inbetween. The assumptions in your final statements are:

- More than 50% of the energy source in EVs being renewable is irrelevant towards being environmentally friendly when being compared to 0% in conventional - Renewable energy as a fraction of overall energy in California is not projected to rise in the next 5 years - An EV using electrically from a powerplant has the same overall fuel efficiency as a conventional vehicle using fuel locally.

The first two are most assuredly false assumptions at a glance, the final one I'm not aware of. I'm not saying your conclusion is right or wrong just that I don't buy we need 100% renewable electricity for EVs to make environmental sense.


He also doesn't mention that vehicles will tend to charge overnight, and at that point the amount of electricity from fossil fuels is a lot lower.

https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=16851#tabs_S....

As wind generation expands with falling costs, particularly offshore, that's likely to fall significantly within the lifetime of a vehicle bought today.

Also even if the carbon emissions are the same, there is a large benefit in shifting particulate matter and NOx pollution out of cities.


> I find it quite annoying that government keep subsidizing EVs when the infrastructure to make them actually environmentally friendly is not in place.

Why? It shifts air pollution out of urban centers.


This is completely incorrect. The four-stroke engine a car might get 30-35% efficiency whereas a combined-cycle natural gas powerplant can get 60% efficiency.

On top of that, natural gas burns very cleanly compared to gasoline or diesel.


Not true, Texas wind. 75k EV miles already. To clarify, you can choose your energy source (at least choose who gets the money for your consumption).


Centralized natural gas production is cleaner than driving around a gas or diesel power plant.

You shouldn't be upset about solving several problems in parallel.


California is on track to generate more that 50% of energy via renewable sources by 2025. CA today generates 0% from coal.


Hydro is something that depends on geography. Not all places have steady source for hydro power. Nor can you scale it up. Many environmentalists also complain about hydro power impacting fish.


>Basically EVs in California are methane powered ICEs by proxy.

The difference is, the ICE I buy today pollutes more every year (due to wear) until it leaves service. There is no way to upgrade it or decrease its impact.

The EV I buy today might not be a lot better, but as new plants and solar come online, it pollutes less as time goes on. This will almost certainly be the case in practice.

EV is the right choice for most vehicles.


>The only place owning an EV is actually environmentally friendly in North America is Quebec since 95% is generated by Hydro.

A quick check on the DOE website shows 95% of power generated in Washington is 0 CO2. And we export it to neighboring states.

Not to mention, power generation has benefits of scale. One stationary 10,000hp engine is more efficient than 10,000 mobile 1hp engines.


My bad this first tab here [1] shows a large consumption of NG but this is apparently not used for electricity generation (tab 3)

[1] https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=WA#tabs-1


> The only place owning an EV is actually environmentally friendly

Even if I buy the fact that your EV car is only equally efficient, you are changing distributed pollution of cars which is very difficult to mitigate into point source pollution at the production plant which is far easier to mitigate.

In addition, the moment your car is in stop-and-go traffic at 5mph, electric becomes a huge win. An ICE is probably idling even when not moving (that is changing somewhat in newer cars as they can start and stop the engine quite a bit quicker) while an EV (even hybrid) is effectively dividing by zero when not actually rolling (no consumption at all).


Having your vehicle's energy come from an efficient natural gas plant is much more preferable than burning gasoline and spewing PM 2.5 into city centers.


What about Ontario's Nuclear/Hydro?

But more to the point, you are right for the moment in that the source of electricity in California is 35~50% Natural Gas, but that source/dependance will most likely change. There's no reason why provisioning for this outcome is a bad idea. Especially since switching to EV has other benefits than simply not burning Fossil Fuels.


Government massively subsidizes the oil industry all the time.

If you have more EVs running, there is more incentive to upgrade the power generation structure, because it produces more environmental benefit.

Also, come on, the minority of generation comes from gas, but you are calling it "methane powered ICs by proxy". That looks like extremely motivated reasoning (to put it charitably).


> Government massively subsidizes the oil industry all the time.

Not true. Even if it were true most of the oil industry is losing money hand over fist.

But not as fast as the phony baloney "renewable" industry is, even with its insane subsidies.

People can't wrap their heads around the fact that sane estimates of the energy supply of the future do not support cars. People will be walking and biking and riding buses. The future is a place with far fewer cars.


> North America is Quebec

Or Washington, or Oregon.

Or some point in the near future as the grid transitions to cleaner generation options.


This is my point put the money into a cleaner grid. Make the near future NOW! This benefits all citizens not just those that want buy a car.


With the efficiency loss for electricity factored in are they more or less environmentally friendly than regular vehicles today?


Well, fuel also has an efficiency loss. You have to transport it. In most cases, this requires trucks. They are less efficient the farther they have to go.


What does rooftop solar penetration look like? What sort of crossover exists between these two consumers?




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