Bad Karma? Obama promotes electric cars, but they still fall short

clip_image002

Guest post by Steve Goreham

Originally published in The Washington Times

Last Friday, President Obama once again pitched electric cars during his presentation at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. At one point, he called for an end to gasoline-powered vehicles, “…but the only way to really break this cycle of spiking gas prices…is to shift our cars entirely―our cars and trucks―off oil.” The President has a remarkable faith in the value of electric cars, but this trust is not well supported by science or economics.

The very same day, Henrik Fisker, the chairman and co-founder of Fisker Automotive, announced he would be leaving his company over issues regarding “business strategy.” In 2011, Fisker Automotive introduced the Karma, a luxury plug-in electric car with a $100,000 price tag. The Karma was named “Luxury Car of the Year” in 2011 by BBC Top Gear magazine.

In 2010, the US Department of Energy (DOE) awarded a $529 million loan to Fisker Automotive for the development and production of hybrid electric cars. Former Energy Secretary Stephen Chu praised Fisker, “Not only will the Fisker projects contribute to cleaner air and reduced carbon emissions, these plug-in hybrid cars will help put American ingenuity at the forefront of automotive design and production.”

But lately things have not been so rosy for Fisker Automotive. Last year the DOE froze the loan after Fisker had received $193 million. The firm’s battery supplier, A123 Systems, declared bankruptcy in October of last year, after also receiving a DOE loan of $249 million. The Karma was recalled several times and Fisker has not manufactured a car in six months.

Plug-in electric vehicle (EV) sales are growing, boosted by government incentives and a consumer desire to purchase environmentally-friendly vehicles. EV purchasers receive a $7,500 tax credit from the US government and ability to drive in the High Occupancy Vehicle lane of most freeways. Charging stations are being installed in California, Nevada, Texas, and other states, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer.

Global EV sales are still a tiny part of the market. President Obama set a goal in 2008 to “put a million plug-in hybrid cars…on the road by 2015.” But US electric sales last year were only about 53,000 units. About 120,000 EVs were sold worldwide in 2012, only 0.15 percent of the 82-million global car market.

While President Obama would like to eliminate gasoline-powered vehicles, such vehicles still provide major advantages for consumers. Pound-for-pound, the energy stored in the chemical bonds of gasoline is about 100 times the energy stored in today’s Lithium-ion batteries. This translates into about a ten-to-one advantage in driving range for gasoline vehicles.

clip_image004

If electric cars succeed, look for magazine lounges at charging stations. Gasoline fill-ups require two to three minutes for small cars and four to five minutes for SUVs. The best 440-volt commercial charging stations require a driver to charge an EV for 30 minutes or more.

Electric car owners who drive every day are in for a surprise. Their battery pack will need to be replaced. Batteries are based on a chemical imbalance, a separation of charge that produces the electrical potential. The day an electric leaves the showroom, chemical reactions are at work to remove the charge from your lithium-ion battery. Faster charging, frequent charging, warmer temperatures, and storage at full charge degrade the battery more quickly. Either the owner or the manufacturer will need to pay $10,000 for a battery replacement about year four or five.

But can’t an EV purchaser take pride that his car reduces global warming? Well, not really. A study last year by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that, for a vehicle with a 100,000 kilometer lifetime (when batteries would need replacement), EV environmental impacts were “indistinguishable from those of a diesel vehicle.” The reason is that manufacture of an EV emits about double the carbon dioxide required to manufacture a diesel or gasoline car, primarily to build the metal batteries of the electric.

The study also found that “EVs exhibit the potential for significant increases in human toxicity, freshwater eco-toxicity, freshwater eutrophication, and metal depletion impacts, largely emanating from the vehicle supply chain.” In other words, production of electric car batteries may become a major source of pollution. Suppose we go slowly on promoting electric cars, Mr. President?

Steve Goreham is Executive Director of the Climate Science Coalition of America and author of the new book The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism: Mankind and Climate Change Mania.

Advertisements

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
pat

Whys doesn’t he climb in a Honda and motorcade around to give us all an example.

A C Osborn

It took as long to drive the length of the UK in an Electric car as a 1700s Stage Coach, that is progress for you.
However I think a Petrol or Diesel charged EV like the Volt is a far better bet.

Gene Selkov

Visits like this just give Argonne a black eye. He could use a less vulnerable site as a tribune for his hate speech.
There is a lot of good stuff being done at Argonne, almost none related to Obama’s green agenda; almost all of it underfunded and at risk of being closed down. For example, their diesel combustion research is top class.

John Tillman

I see lots of natural gas powered cars in South America. We should use them here, given our vast supplies & their greater energy efficiencies over liquid gasoline & diesel. But how would governments tax us, when we could refuel from the gas pipes to our stoves & furnaces?

Bob

Overall, considering the price and the full cost of ownership, an electric golf cart seems to be a better EV.

rogerknights

Last Friday, President Obama once again pitched electric cars during his presentation at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. At one point, he called for an end to gasoline-powered vehicles, . . . .

IOW, “Alles Volk vil haf a Voltsvagen!”

One thing that struck me when I heard Obama’s Proclamation was – what next? Are we to go back to whale blubber for lubricants? Oil (refined as fuel) is but one use in a car. It is also used in all the plastics and more importantly, as the engine lubricant. This has nothing to do with its use as a fuel. Moving parts require lubrication, or they do not move for very long.
I think we should start a new slogan – Save the Whales! Lubricate with Petroleum!

Sean

President Obama would like to ban gasoline-powered vehicles from America.
Maybe instead the government should ban President Obama from America.

rogerknights

Here’s a link to Bloomberg’s story on the resignation of Fisker:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-13/fisker-automotive-co-founder-resigns-as-chairman.html

Bloke down the pub

Never let logic get in the way of an environmentalist.

MattS

“A study last year by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that, for a vehicle with a 100,000 kilometer lifetime (when batteries would need replacement), EV environmental impacts were “indistinguishable from those of a diesel vehicle.” The reason is that manufacture of an EV emits about double the carbon dioxide required to manufacture a diesel or gasoline car, primarily to build the metal batteries of the electric.”
You also need to account for the fact that world wide the vast majority of electricity is generated by burning coal. Coal will produce more CO2 than gas or diesel per unit energy produced.

Resourceguy

It takes a lot of nerve to promote the use of more taxpayer dollars for programs before the smoke clears on all the other failed programs for batteries and electric cars and other start-up firms with the standard line of “we don’t pick winners.” This includes the string of recent company failures and takeovers of assets by Chinese companies. Clearly, this special interest appearance-driven waste of money and time is driven by something other than results in the normal sense. Rational due diligence would focus on sector leaders and what makes them different and what they need to achieve breakthroughs like the process in recent years that perfected and scaled up the shale gas and oil boom on private lands. The Prez is campaigning every day for brownie points with no intention of solving problems like energy or the environment. You can almost see the strings hanging down that control his mouth and limbs.

OssQss

Some dirty little secrets about electric cars>>>>>
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324128504578346913994914472.html

wwschmidt

Fisker’s problems would explain why they staged a public relations meltdown a couple weeks ago when an automobile review drove the car and reported some troubles recharging. Overall it really wasn’t a bad review – he loved the car, but found it took a lot of logistics and thought to plan a successful trip.
Fisker’s chairman exploded in a public attack on the reviewer in a way (how many times has this happened on the web?) that caused far, far more publicity to the negative review than ever could have happened if he had left it alone.
I’m thinking that Fisker knew that one more piece of bad news, anything at all, could push them over the brink of solvency. Well when you’re that tight and that high strung, you pretty much guarantee your own failure.
I’ve looked at the Fisker auto – it could be a damn fine car if they could just put a regular IC engine in it.

Allencic

In all of human history has there ever been a scam that has affected more of the world’s population than convincing them that carbon dioxide is a poison and pollutant that will destroy the world? With every breath you take in you then exhale carbon dioxide. With every blade of grass that grows carbon dioxide is taken in. It really is the staff of life. Besides the obvious get rich scheme of the environazis hating carbon dioxide how can so many people hate something so essential to life? As long as people such as Barack Obama and billions of other scientifically moronic people believe this we’ll be wasting zillion of dollars on nonsense like wind turbines, solar panels, electric cars, curlyque light bulbs, climate research and God know what other useless crap. I despair that the people are so stupid that this con game will never end until modern civilization is ruined. Electric cars are for the terminally insane and scientifically illiterate. Or those with more money than brains.

RB

“Fisker’s problems would explain why they staged a public relations meltdown a couple weeks ago when an automobile review drove the car and reported some troubles recharging”
This wasnt the Fisker, it was the Tesla and the articles appeared in the NYT here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/automobiles/stalled-on-the-ev-highway.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Also use Google to see the response of Tesla’s CEO and various other comments.
I had a recent opportunity to inspect a Tesla Model S closely at their store in the Fashion Square Mall in Scottsdale, AZ. The display included a body-off chassis so that one could get a look at the internals. Over all, not so impressive. A bit crude on the fit and finish side as compared to other cars at this price point, but perhaps this is to be expected given that IC powered cars have had 100+ years to mature. I quizzed the sales rep at length and the story concering range, recharging time, and battery life was pretty discouraging. IMHO, the only way pure EV’s will become mainstream is with a near instant (less than 10 min) refueling (recharging) capability – either a breaktrough in battery technology, or a system for quickly exchanging a depleted battery for a freshly charged one. The latter however depends on the existence of an infrastructure of “battery stations” not unlike the current network of gas stations.
Based on what I have seen so far, Fisker and Tesla are for very early adopters only; I dont expect either company to be around five years from now.

William Wilson

“Batteries are based on a chemical imbalance” Well, that explains their obsession!

CodeTech

I found it interesting that the Fisker Karma is the only car credited on the second Atlas Shrugged movie. I was only able to see about 3 seconds of screen time for it.

SasjaL

Obama, the natural sinker for the US nation and the rest of the western world …
Go China, Go! [/sarc]

Mac the Knife

Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it.
Ayn Rand
By this standard, Obama and his followers are invincible. We argue from logic, fact, and reason. Our opponents react to emotional appeals and proven propaganda methods to make those emotional appeals effective. For all intents and purposes, our ‘reasoned speech’ is a foreign language that they do not understand. State the facts – Yes! But use emotional appeals that strike to their emotional cores, to convey that well reasoned position.
MtK

SAMURAI

Another obvious flaw in the EV concept is that the majority of electricity is produced by coal and natural gas, so they aren’t really “green” once you get past the propaganda.
Environmental wackos always counter with the need to replce the grid with wind/solar, but then you get right back to energy density issues and costs/kWh, which are an order of magnitude higher than conventional energy generation systems.
The way around these problems are: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs), which would make power generation about two orders of magnitude cheaper than wind/solar 2) next generation batteries capable of much quicker charging times and roughly 3 times the range.
One idea would be that all car batteries are uniform multiple units and that could simply be automatically switched out with charged units as needed at charging stations and then you’d leave depleted battery unit(s) to be recharged and used by future customers once recharged.
If it were an automated system, the batery exchange could possibly be done in seconds rather than waiting around for 30 minutes.

Gary Pearse

wwschmidt says:
March 19, 2013 at 10:53 am
“Fisker’s chairman exploded in a public attack on the reviewer in a way (how many times has this happened on the web?) that caused far, far more publicity to the negative review than ever could have happened if he had left it alone.”
Global warming zealots seem to be having the same kind of meltdown with the crumbling of their incorporation. Like one smart wag on a post a number of weeks ago said – it must be tough on their children and pets these days.

MarkW

“for a vehicle with a 100,000 kilometer lifetime (when batteries would need replacement)”
At this point, even a cheap automobile is only half way through it’s usefull life.
So if we double the mileage to 200,000k, the electric car looks even worse.

MarkW

“EVs exhibit the potential for significant increases in human toxicity”
Man, the straight lines just write themselves around here.

MarkW

“A bit crude on the fit and finish side as compared to other cars at this price point, but perhaps this is to be expected given that IC powered cars have had 100+ years to mature.”
Fit and finish has nothing to do with what is powering the vehicle.
BTW, electric motors have been around longer than the IC engine has.

Mark

John Tillman says:
I see lots of natural gas powered cars in South America. We should use them here, given our vast supplies & their greater energy efficiencies over liquid gasoline & diesel.
Apart from the fuel system a car using methane (or propane or butane) is little different from a petrol/gasoline vehicle.

Bruce Cobb

When we see EV’s, we should ask the owners when we will be allowed to drive them.

MarkW

“or a system for quickly exchanging a depleted battery for a freshly charged one”
I can’t even start to imagine the logistical nightmares such a scenario would produce.
First off, remember that these battery packs cost upwards of 10 to 20 thousand dollars each.
Who owns the battery packs? The car owner, the recharge center, the manufacturer?
Who do you sue if you have a brand new car and pack, and you get swapped out for a pack that is at the end of it’s life, and dies before you’ve gone 20 miles?

terrence

Allencic – unfortunately you are only too correct – NO CO2 MEANS NO LIFE OF ANY SORT!!!
This CO2 nonsense really is the basis of the AGW scam, and result in crap like EVs and so many other parts of scam (carbon taxes, etc). I really do NOT think this nonsense will be corrected any time soon – the Lame-stream Media will NEVER buy into it, left-wing WACKA-DO-S will never buy into it, and many right-wingers and centrists will not want to be seen as “anti-scientific”.

Turps

I think that for EV’s to be viable there needs to be a shift in technology. Like making Graphene ultra-capacitors a reality rather than a possibility.

Dr. John M. Ware

I thought it was touching to address Pres. Obama directly at the end of the article. It was, of course, safe to do so: he never listens, never responds, only chugs ahead on his own agenda or mission, regardless of the facts. Incredible. (Bush’s fault–if fault it was–was listening too much, and being too kind to those who questioned or opposed him.) In our state, Gov. Bob McDonnell is pushing for a $100 licensing fee (I think that’s what it is) on hybrid vehicles, at which the green-left folk are all in a twist; we’ll see what happens with it.

oldseadog

I think all you N. Americans need to ask for your money back on this one as well.

James Ard

John Tillman,
Do some research on CLNE and the natural gas highway. New engines are supposed to be coming out this summer from Cummings and it looks like there may be a race between CLNE and a Chinese firm to build dozens of natural gas filling stations.

numerobis

“You also need to account for the fact that world wide the vast majority of electricity is generated by burning coal. Coal will produce more CO2 than gas or diesel per unit energy produced.”
While true, you also need to account for the efficiency of the engine. A coal plant is a lot more efficient at converting a unit of chemical energy into a unit of work than is a car motor. For a back-of-the-envelope calculation you come up with the plant being twice as efficient but burning fuel that is half as efficient, so it’s comparable. Then you have to also account for powertrain efficiencies and you run out of room on the envelope pretty fast.
Of course the promise of electric vehicles is that at the same time as you switch cars from petroleum to electricity, you also switch the electric generators from burning coal to burning unicorn farts and magic pixie dust. Some places already have low-carbon electricity sources: Quebec is basically all hydro, France and Japan have a large nuclear generation capacity.

Looking south across the border, Obama looks pretty close to the worst President you have had in a long time. Nixon was better in spite of being a crook. I worry Obama actually believes the garbage he spouts … except why isn’t he being driven around in an electric vehicle and flying about in a helium blimp powered by hydrogen cells. If your going to talk the talk, shouldn’t you walk the walk. Oh I forgot, the Mantra of the Goreacle: “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Maybe he could use a lesson from the new Pope.
The standard joke is: “How do you know when a politician is lying? His lips are moving.” Sadly, I think Obama doesn’t know fact from fiction which means he is a worse puppet than G.W.
Obama is the most frightening man in the world since you really can’t believe anything he says.
(Mods – snip if you like, the waste just makes me sad.)

Even if Obama’s goal of 1 million EVs on the road were to come true, the impact (on anything : gas sales, CO2 emissions, etc) would be more or less undetectable.in a population of around 265 million vehicles on our roads. As to the cost of a battery replacement, who knows. The battery in the Tesla Model S with the 80kwHr battery costs around $40,000 at this time. Tesla claims 300 miles of range, and that is probably not too far wrong around town. But when travelling at Interstate speeds and using heat/AC, older batteries, , etc. the driving range drops
quite a lot – less than 200 miles or even lower. Battery recharge times increase with age as
well. Tesla could probably be sued for consumer fraud about range issues. And when the range
declines, so does mileage and fuel costs. One might only achieve 1 1/2 miles per kilowatthour,
and with electricity priced at 15 cents, that’s 10 cents per mile. Normally expect around 2 to
2 1/2 miles per kWhr.
Comparisons between energy per pound for various types of vehicles are more or less
irrelevant and in this case very misleading – an electric car requires a battery and electric motor,
while a gas powered car’s weight devoted to energy is NOT simply the weight of the gasoline, but also must include the weight of the motor that uses it plus the fuel system weight, the exhaust system weight, the cooling system weight, transmission weight, etc. The comparison above is totally invalid. in addition to being more or less irrelevant.

RockyRoad

Failed electric cars, failed presidency, ‘nough said.

klem

Wow, Obama should stay completely away from promoting electric cars. They are a terrible product and they make him look bad. I wish that GM would drop their Chevy Volt, its a loser. I think the only reason they are still building that clunker is because of Obama, I have the feeling it was part of the bailout agreement 4 years ago.
I’ll bet the day Obama leaves office, GM will proudly announce that the Volt will be discontinued.
Decade after decade its always the same story with electric cars. Everybody likes electric cars, but no one would be caught dead actually owning one.

“ban gasoline-powered vehicles from America.”
Stupid opinions Like that .Why they wont let him do anything sensible like banning Assault Rifles.
He can dump the environmentalist they got him elected he don’t need him anymore they are just holding him back

Michael

Someone needs to as Mr. Obama when he is going to have the presidential limousine converted to all electric.

Electric cars are intrinsically superior to gas powered cars in every respect, save their energy
delivery system – it’s cost and capacity. Whenever a practical battery comes along, its curtains for gas powered cars, with or without any assistance form the feds. Even Henry Ford recognized the superiority of electric propulsion. His wife always drove an electric car. If practical batteries had existed at the dawn of the automotive age, no one would EVER have developed the gas powered car – far, far too complicated, costly, unreliable, messy, smelly, high maintenance, etc.

glen martin

Consistently high energy costs using ‘green energy’ would eliminate most of the price spikes.
Other than that first one.

George V

And if the issue is *really* about avoiding gasoline price spikes (which I am sure it ain’t) then the obvious answer to ensure sufficient supply is completely ignored by this administration. A few more refineries, in place of adding capacity to existing refineries, would help. In my patch of the midwest a minor burp in production at the BP refinery in Whiting Indiana causes heartburn and other gastro-in-yer-wallet distress at the pump.

The left are always shrieking about keeping church and state separate – I agree, but I think it’s equally as important to keep business and state separate.
obama has no business (pun intended) meddling in the free market. When he does, it isn’t free.
He’s already exhibited his lack of business acumen in his backing of Solyndra, A123, BrightSource et al. He is a disaster.
The business of government isn’t business!

SAMURAI

MarkW says:
“I can’t even start to imagine the logistical problems of a battery exchange system”
With radio transmitting ID chips embedded in the batteries, real time computer tracking and multi-party insurance coverage. it would be a complex network to develop, but a battery-exchange system that could be devised to address abuse/theft/product liability, etc.

Eric H.

Maybe someday they will be ready, or hydrogen, or small fusion reactors…whatever. Today we need practical solutions that can be born from and survive in the free market. Do cars have to weigh 3k lbs? I always wanted to build a car that was much lighter, fast and nimble, very simple, make 300k miles, get 70 miles to the gallon and cost under $10k. It seems possible and an efficient way to lower emissions.

Big D in TX

Until new energy storage technology comes along, or a better on-board way to produce electricity, IMO electric vehicles peaked with the golf cart, which is great for silent cruises through the countryside.
As far as the problem of charging goes, there are groups installing charging stations here around the DFW area in Texas, and other cities like Houston, but they are still few and far between. If demand for EV’s picked up, there would be a shortage of available charging stations around town!
The real sad part is, once these are erected, you can get fined or towed for parking in a charging station parking space. So while EV’s remain horribly sparse, perfectly good parking spots are wasted and remain empty 99% of the time.
The French (and possibly elsewhere) alternative so far has been to eliminate the time factor of charging for the EV driver by modifying their parking spaces differently. When you park over the space, the ground opens up, and an apparatus swaps out your drained battery packs with some full ones. Then you may take off! Of course there are several obvious disadvantages to this as well, not the least of which is the huge increase in battery supply that would be necessary.
As others have mentioned, with range being such an issue, it’s important for the EV to be light weight, and consequently made of ever more plastic bits [read: more oil]. Yet another, albeit small, disadvantage is that by using a fuel cell, instead of tank with consumable fuel, is that even when practically empty, the car is carrying the full weight. A vehicle drained of 15-20 gallons will gain slight efficiency improvements with the reduced load. (Of course this is of no real consequence, but fun to point out.)
So, I propose an alternative environmentally friendly vehicle. First, start with a sleek, aerodynamic design to reduce drag. Fashion the car out of balsa wood. This choice of materials meets excellent standards in terms of light weight, sustainability, and fast, easy production time of carving the soft wood, so we can get millions of them on the road soon. Instead of producing carbon, the cars themselves will be mobile sequestration units, having grown out of atmospheric carbon. For propulsion, an ingenious and simple solution: A large propeller, also made of balsa, wound by a massive rubber band, or perhaps twisted hemp rope. To charge your car, you need only pull up to your nearest wind turbine, which has now been altered not to produce electricity, but instead wind up your prop through a simple gearing system. As we project ubiquitous development of both these environmentally friendly cars and wind turbines, range will not even be an issue, as you will be able to wind up and jet from place to place with great convenience.

nonegatives

I have had the privilege of driving a 1918 Milburn electric car. The only thing that has not improved greatly is the battery. In 1996 we had flooded lead acid battery cars that could easily go 150+ miles on a charge, now the Volt gets 40 miles. Solar energy, wind power and electric cars have their useful place, it just isn’t as a general purpose machine.

Mark Bofill

Karma? Why is it always ‘Karma’? Why doesn’t anybody make an electric car called ‘the Juju’? It’s bad marketing, plain and simple. I’d buy the Juju, even if it was bad Juju.

MarkW

numerobis says:
March 19, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Don’t forget to calculate the efficiency of the power distribution system, plus the battery charging and discharging system. With electrics, you can loose as much as half the energy before it finally reaches the wheels. The fact that power plants are more efficient than IC engines is more than compensated for by these loses.