Dispelling Some Myths About The Environmental Impact Of Electric Vehicles

4 years ago by Assaf Oron 53

How Big Is The Nissan LEAF's Footprint Really?

How Big Is The Nissan LEAF’s Footprint Really?

Getting a Nissan Leaf in 2012 was almost a no-brainer for us. Despite being EV-uninitiated, scientific and general knowledge, plus inquiries with Seattle City Light about their grid (done when we pondered installing solar), made the environmental calculation clear-cut.

The bottom-line LCA figure from the 2013 EPA life-cycle analysis for EVs (click to enlarge)

The bottom-line LCA figure from the 2013 EPA life-cycle analysis for EVs (click to enlarge)

The persistent controversy about EVs’ environmental footprint surprised me, so I delved deeper into source material – various articles and life-cycle analyses (LCAs) of the EV. I shared my results in two Daily Kos blog posts: one regarding GHG footprint, and one regarding other environmental impacts.

The GHG (greenhouse-gas) question is more well-defined. I’ve learned fairly quickly that despite conflicting narratives, all recent LCAs peg a Leaf-like compact EV’s average GHG emission over the first battery-pack’s life somewhere between equivalence to a conventional (Prius-like) compact hybrid’s, and ~20%-30% smaller. Moreover, all LCAs agree that the magnitude of local variations is huge due to different electricity-grid mixes. The gap between different authors’ estimates is due mostly to 2 factors:

  1. Estimates of battery-production emissions vary widely, between 5 and 22 kgCO2/kg-battery. The Climate Central report took the 22kg figure, yielding a huge 5.2 metric tons CO2 initial deficit for the Leaf. The 2013 EPA report took the 5kg figure, resulting in a 4x smaller battery-pack footprint (more precisely, the EPA unlike Climate Central estimated the 5 kg/kg via their own research). The EPA report, and also a battery-specific analysis from Dunn et al. at the Argonne National Labs (who obtained similar values to the EPA) carefully discuss and explain the discrepancies, and their arguments for taking the lower number are rather convincing. The 22kg/kg number comes from an older and more simplistic study, so its current reliability is somewhere between “questionable” and “debunked”.
  2. Only the EPA study incorporates the impact of off-peak charging, which is dramatic for coal-based grids. Once a reasonable amount of off-peak charging is assumed, EVs have a lower ongoing-use footprint (i.e., excluding production and end-of-life) than the best of ICE hybrids, everywhere including coal-dominated regions. As can be seen in this EPA ongoing-use footprint calculator. This means that the only question is how many miles it takes EVs to recuperate the battery-production deficit – whose estimated magnitude, as said above, varies greatly between authors.

There was one teeny point that no LCA dared touch: the GHG impact of Oil-related militarization, war, spills and disasters. Which means that Oil gets a “free GHG ride”, for precisely those ill-effects that make it so unpopular.

After a lot of digging, I found one scientific article from 2010 tackling the military/conflict part of the issue. Based on their results, I dared to add a 7% Oil-Troubles overhead for each ICE mile driven (on top of ~30% average overhead tacked on by standard analyses for all other well-to-pump emissions).

A Model S From Birth To Death Will Have A Much Smaller Footprint Than Its Peers In The Luxury Segment

A Model S From Birth To Death Will Have A Much Smaller Footprint Than Its Peers In The Luxury Segment

Amortizing a compact EV’s battery over 60k miles (the current range-warranty offered by Nissan), I concluded that 2013-model compact EVs emit on average about 10%-60% less lifetime GHGs than 2013-model compact ICE hybrids, and 30%-70% less than 2013-model ordinary compacts. The larger savings are achieved on cleaner grids, and assuming the EPA/ANL battery numbers (I allowed for a range of 5-12 kg/kg in my calculations). The Tesla S, too, whose battery can be safely assumed to live at least 100k miles on average, comes out distinctly greener over 100k miles than the best luxury hybrid, almost completely reversing what the Climate Central report had claimed.

Furthermore, EVs are slated to reduce their footprint much faster than ICE, because they benefit from multiple reduction mechanisms:

  • vehicle efficiency improvements
  • grid improvements
  • production-stage improvements (the ANL study found that recycling the lithium-manganese compound can save nearly half the production GHG).

All these numbers are very approximate and indicate the average footprint. One should keep in mind that the different between individual usage patterns, even of the same vehicle model in the same geographical region, can easily lead to a 20% gap in footprint. Furthermore, LCA as a whole is a young science, and ICE cars have been given much less LCA scrutiny than EVs.

For example, I found no reference about the GHG overhead due to ongoing ICE maintenance; presumably it is not large. The second post dealt with other environmental impacts. Here I remind readers that the 800-pound gorilla in the room is EVs’ huge potential in ending Oil’s monopoly over transportation.

Oil and Oil politics are arguably the worst offender in the gang of climate criminals. What enables this misbehavior is that in people’s minds as well as in economic calculations, Oil is still seen as having no alternative. So shattering Oil’s monopoly is of immense importance. As to EVs and other pollution: there are issues to work on in the EV production cycle, such as acidification, but it is fairly benign compared to ICE tailpipe emissions and to the wells-to-pump Oil damages.

Finally, I confront the Ozzie Zehner style social criticism, namely:

  1. that EVs are siphoning off public money better spent elsewhere, to subsidize vanity cars for “the very rich” (as he literally calls us)
  2. and that together with other “green gadgets” such as rooftop-solar, EVs instil the illusion that climate change can be averted at the flip of some technological switch, rather than by doing the hard work of social change.
The Most Compelling Case Against EVs Is Automotive Transportation Itself

The Most Compelling Case Against EVs Is Automotive Transportation Itself

I expose Zehner’s text as a classic hit piece, serving to incite and vilify rather than to inform and educate. His scientific content on pollution is sketchy at best; even he doesn’t dare say EVs’ GHG footprint is worse than ICE, and he nearly ignores that topic altogether. Chatter about “very rich” and vanity, which takes up about half the text, is pure demagoguery. I handle that in my post, and it’s not worth repeating here.

The only argument carrying merit is that EVs do not move us away from cars and towards transit, cycling and walkability. That is correct, and we should all keep in mind this limitation of EVs. Progress on EVs should never hold up progress on making our society less car-dependent.

However, EV technology per se is not anti-transit. I bring examples for exciting new electric-bus developments already being implemented by transit systems across the world (examples I’ve learned about from insideevs.com).Β  More generally, if the environmental movement cannot learn to walk and chew gum at the same time, then we are all doomed anyway. It is possible to work on transit, cycling and walkability infrastructure, and simultaneously work on moving motorized transport from Oil to electric – without one arm trying to slash the other off.

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53 responses to "Dispelling Some Myths About The Environmental Impact Of Electric Vehicles"

  1. Robert says:

    Love. This. Website. Is there somewhere I can register so I don’t have to keep typing my name and E-mail address?

    1. scott moore says:

      Get a browser that autofills. I never enter mine. There are a few good browsers:

      Chrome

      (Oh darn, I guess that is not a few)

      1. Aaron says:

        Chrome: What more do you need? It’s on every operating system and mobile device. πŸ™‚

      2. David Stone says:

        Chrome?
        Opera! πŸ˜‰

        1. Steven says:

          So, you’re the other Opera user!

      3. Surya says:

        Recent versions of Firefox have been demonstrated to be both faster and more stable. And while Google’s goal is to make money, Mozilla’s goal is to make the web better. And for that reason alone, I prefer Firefox.

      4. kdawg says:

        You should try Netscape Navigator!
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        πŸ™‚

  2. DavidN says:

    Don’t forget the GHG emissions from the production of gasoline. If you’re going to account for an EV’s “fuel,” it’s only fair to do the same for an ICE car’s fuel. As I recall, an MIT study on the matter concluded that you’d have to add about 25 percent to the GHG emissions of an ICE car to account for gasoline production.

    1. Assaf says:

      David,

      This is the ~30% alluded to when I added the 7% Oil Troubles Penalty to them. All standard analyses *do* include the calculated average cost of producing gasoline from oil, transporting it, etc. That’s the easy part.

      Calculating the effect of military emissions – a good chunk of which without a doubt is caused by Oil politics – that’s hard and also politically inconvenient for many outfits (e.g., a Federal agency).

      This is where being a volunteer blogger comes in handy πŸ™‚

  3. Mark H says:

    Well done Assaf! It’s about time you posted an article on InsideEvs! Your report is very thorough. Here is some more pile on to an in depth topic.
    http://insideevs.com/ev-vs-cng-vs-fcv-vs-ice-part-ii-environmental/

    1. Assaf says:

      Thanks Mark!

      Seems like Empa arrived at numbers pretty close to mine (a tad more optimistic, perhaps, b/c they seem to assume 100k mile battery life) – and I’ve never heard of that study till now, so I definitely didn’t peek into their results… a good sign.

      Upon a 2nd look, Empa’s a 2010 study, so EV-skeptics will rush to say it is outdated. At the same time, EV-skeptic LCAs like Climate Central use an inflated battery overhead taken from a 2012 paper, that borrowed it directly from a 2010 paper, that based its core calculation on a 2005 study looking at PV batteries rather than EV batteries….

      …you get the idea.

      1. Mark H says:

        Indeed. At the time I posted that it was first a general rebuttal and second the Empa report had been resurrected and was passing through the news cycle for an encore. I did read a comment in your original report about it being too long. Ironically the complaint was quite long! lol Again, well done!

  4. scott moore says:

    And here is where the leftists leave the rest of us behind:

    What is wrong with cars over buses/bicycles/walking/sled pulls? If folks want to drive one to a car most of the time, but that is electric and solar powered, where is the harm to ANYONE?

    When we are solar and battery powered, I say strike the damm diamond lanes and have government stop telling us what to do. When it burns gas and pollutes the air, there is some moral justification for all of this mass transport nonsense. Without gas, and with renewable energy, sitting stuck on the freeway, one to a car is a CHOICE.

    Honestly, I would love to get back to the point where folks regard energy as free, and drive big RVs around. Its not my personal choice, but who cares if some folks like it.

    1. Assaf says:

      Scott hi,

      Here’s what’s wrong: energy is *never* free. Hopefully you don’t consider the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics a “leftist who leaves us all behind”?

      Resources are *always* constrained. This includes, e.g., the land, work and material taken up in order to build 30-lane highways so that everyone can drive their RV everywhere without whining about traffic.

      The current crisis of global warming is only the most acute side-effect of the childish fantasy that runaway consumption and reckless exploitation of natural resources can go on indefinitely.

      As to “sitting stuck on the freeway”: if there’s *no* decent transit infrastructure (and for many American cities that’s unfortunately the case), and the highway is jammed *every* day when you need to get to and from work – where’s the “choice” in that? Your choice boils down to being stuck in traffic, or being unemployed.

      More fundamentally, if a million people all go to the same central location every weekday morning, yet somehow each and every one of them feels entitled to have his own big private 2-ton box of metal and electronics to get him there, expects to find a convenient infrastructure to enable it, and to Hell with all the rest – this is not civilization but barbaric idiocy. Regardless of whether you are “leftist”, “rightist” or something else. It’s plain common sense.

      1. scott moore says:

        A. If you don’t capture sunlight, then it heats the ground. If you instead convert it to electricity, then run a car with it, your heating up the pavement, etc. Sounds like conservation of energy to me.

        B. The guy sitting alone on the freeway has the choice to switch to mass transit. On the other hand, if the argument is that it would work much better if everyone were *forced* to use mass transit, and free up the (ahem) freeways for buses, I guess I see your point. Or you could force everyone to work near their homes.

        sounds to me like the solutions link up eventually. Cars get clean power, then get automated so that the freeways don’t clog up anymore, then everyone gets happy, I guess.

        1. David Stone says:

          I understand your point, Scott; nothing should be forced.

          However, that does not mean that the infrastructure for other choices should not be made available.

          Personally, I ride my racing or mountain bike almost everywhere, despite almost no bike lanes.
          You may say that there are none because everyone else wants to drive, but I would strongly disagree.
          I know many people how would rather leave the car at home, but do not because:
          – public transport is not efficient timewise
          – cycling without proper infrastructure is too dangerous.

          In other words, at the moment, if you want to drive, you have the choice.
          If you want a different mode of transportation, you have less of a choice.

      2. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

        Energy isn’t “free”, but electricity generated by a thorium molten salt reactor would be about as free (of excess cost, environmental damage and pollution, foreign entanglements, etc) as any sort of base-load power source could be.

    2. John Hollenberg says:

      > What is wrong with cars over buses/bicycles/walking/sled pulls? If folks want to drive one to a car most of the time, but that is electric and solar powered, where is the harm to ANYONE?

      The harm (while less than ICE vehicles) is due to the energy required to mine the metals and refine them, to build the cars including the battery, and the energy to run them. Even if most of this is done with electricity, most of the electricity worldwide currently comes from fossil fuels, the burning of which creates various kinds of pollution, including mercury and other heavy metals from burning coal, as well as GHG which are already starting to wreak havoc with our climate and both heat and acidify the ocean. Do I own a Leaf? Yes. Do I own an ICE vehicle? Yes. However, I am trying to take some individual steps to lessen my impact. If society as a whole doesn’t take some serious steps we are going to be in a heap of trouble in the next 20-50 years. See:

      β€œIn 2009, a group of 28 internationally renowned scientists identified and quantified a set of nine planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come. Crossing these boundaries could generate abrupt or irreversible environmental changes.”

      http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/09/16/2623241/times-earth-carrying-capacity-climate-change/

      and

      “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts”

      http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/09/28/330109/science-of-global-warming-impacts/

  5. Aaron says:

    ICE vehicles don’t have a nice, flat emissions profile over their lifetime, either. The catalytic converter stops being nearly as effective around 100,000 miles. EV batteries don’t hold as much charge at that point, but don’t require as much power to charge to that point either.

    1. Assaf says:

      Agreed, Aaron. As I say in the full articles, the sad irony is that ICE vehicles have undergone far less scrutiny than EVs. Life-cycle analysis barely started in the late 90’s, and then EVs came along and everyone felt compelled to *really* inspect them. Without having done nearly enough such work on ICE vehicles.

      By now this has turned, in the hands of some, into a farcical hatchet to try and beat EVs up with.

  6. Dave K. says:

    And the other elephant in the room is 100 years of refining the ICE car, esentially EVs are new technology and will get much better/cleaner/cheaper, so will the grid. ICE is mature tech that is unlikely to improve much, and all signs are that oil production/refining are going to get much dirtier as the mix includes more fracking, heavy oil, and tar sands. Your choice should factor in the life cycle of the vehicle not just the present.

    1. Assaf says:

      Absolutely. In fact my calculations include a 5% average improvement in grid footprint over the life of the battery. Which is a very modest assumption in view of the improvement rate observed in recent years.

      1. Assaf says:

        As to ICE refinement, in my full article I take a jab at Toyota, who have suddenly after 10 years of sitting on their Prius lead and doing precious little to improve its footprint – suddenly announce a 10% improvement… for the 2015 model.

        That’s the difference between a lazy comfortable monopoly, and someone who suddenly feels a fire lit under them due to disruptive competition.

  7. Rick Danger says:

    Good job Assaf!

    1. Assaf says:

      Thanks Rick!

  8. EddyKilowatt says:

    Very informative, thanks much for posting.

  9. Nice article. I particularly like your including that the most efficient means of transport is human powered or mass transit. I’ve lived in some big US cities (LA, Atlanta, Philadelphia) and it is unfortunate that those places basically require a personal vehicle; while other places (like Germany, where I’ve also lived) it’s quite possible to get around nicely and safely without a car.

    I don’t have a lot of hope for the US to move towards more public transportation. It requires trust in our government and involvement of the citizens to make that happen. Also, no corporation would voluntarily stop building vehicles that net them thousands of dollars of profit per unit. And no corporation can really profit in the same way to build public transport.

    So, unfortunately EVs don’t really get us to where we need if we’re actually serious about reducing pollution or improving energy efficiency. Yes they’re more efficient and less polluting than an ICE, but (sorry if it sounds dramatic), in the end they’re also just a sinking ship in the rising seas of climate change and constrained energy supplies.

    This interview with John Howard Kunstler expresses my feeling pretty well:

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/james-howard-kunstler-on-why-technology-wont-save-us-20120712

    He’d probably say that an EV is precisely the kind of distraction that keeps us from making substantial and real change. In fact he says exactly that towards the end of the interview …

    “[People] don’t really want to hear about other arrangements. They want to keep on running all the cars, only differently. You know, like hybrid electric cars, or electric cars, or cars that run on algae secretions.”

    When will you guys show us a car that runs on “algae secretions”? πŸ˜‰

    1. Assaf says:

      Hi Dan,

      Thanks for the thoughtful response. It forces me to expand on some things that I skipped even in the full blog posts (note the post here is just a short summary).

      First: Haha, over at mynissanleaf.com there were fellow EV drivers who were reluctant to accept that anyone except global-warming-deniers would attack the EV… I wish it were true.
      It is indeed a very different world that EV drivers in Middle America face, vs. the type of critique people like me who frequent progressive blogs hear.

      Look, IMHO the distraction is not the EV, but the attacks on EV from environmentalists and progressives. They needlessly drain our energies. As my blog post says, I do believe we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

      Yes, there are a few (one example above) who’d love to use EVs as a “get out of global-warming jail free” card. But you will never get these people to embrace transit anyway. You’re not doing this for them, but regardless of them. And if the behavior of most EV drivers is any indication (installing or paying for green power, hypermiling, etc.), most of us are doing it for the right reasons and as part of something bigger.

      As you write, if the car was taken away from people right now, most of our cities would be crippled. Moreover, transit budgets are being slashed left and right in the name of Austerity. Even here in progressive Western Washington we are facing transit cuts despite a sharp increase in demand for transit. Yes, the common person *wants* to ride the bus, but the local and state government can’t get its act together to provide one. So you cannot judge people for still needing to use their cars.

      Barring some crazy revolution or societal collapse, you can offer no viable, realistic path to making American commutes mostly car-free, on any reasonable time scale. In fact, right now we are fighting not to lose what we have on transit. Obama offered billions to local governments for rail and transit projects. The governors of New Jersey, Wisconsin and Florida all turned those billions down, probably others too.

      So why are people busy vilifying other footprint-reducing options that have not been killed yet by deniers and obstructionists? Is it envy? Is it frustration? Or just narrow-mindedness? The process of reducing American dependence upon cars will take many decades. Meanwhile, precious time is lost.

      EVs are not chump change. Within a decade, the fleet of EVs can easily have an average 60% lower lifetime GHG footprint and use 90% less gas (including PHEV consumption) than even the best ICE hybrids. We’re already not too far from these milestones. That’s meaningful.

      Besides again, there’s the Oil issue, which is a strategic objective in itself. Our global politics have been distorted to an unbelievable degree because of oil. Making Oil less of a monopoly will be a tremendous achievement. Even if you use less oil, if you got nothing else except oil for getting people from place to place, you’re stuck with oil dictating your politics and your economic policy. With EVs, you’re kicking the Oil Lobby in the balls and taking their toys away.

      Hope this helps explain where I stand.

      I don’t want to enter labels, but the critique of EVs from the left, including its hostile, purity-demanding and condescending overtones, reminds me too much of the rhetoric of people who advocated voting Green in 2012 because Obama was just the same as the other guy.
      He’s not. And EVs are part of the solution not part of the problem. So I really wish that anyone who calls themselves an environmentalist would stop dissing them and vilifying their drivers. The only thing this does is to sow completely needless bitterness and distrust between environmental groups, and to confuse good people in the middle, potentially undermining one of the most promising directions for rapid GHG-emissions reduction.

      1. Danpatgal says:

        Hi Assaf … thanks for the reply (except that last paragraph).

        I think there is a very valid argument made not just by Kunstler or other Green purists to say we are living on borrowed time and the EV, along with other “Magic Technology” stifles real change. I don’t think we can chew gum and eat at the same time, that’s the appropriate analogy. Driving an EV is a change for the better, yes, and I don’t blame you (or me – I have two) for promoting and defending them. I’d much rather see them on the streets than SUVs or a Hummer. But, my experience is that most people can’t really multi-task like they think they can. And they are lulled into thinking that buying something is helping us transition to an economy that will eventually (10-20, 50 years ???) have to subsist on levels of energy far lower than what we use now. An EV allows us to continue as we have been, basically, without really changing our lifestyle. It’s an easy feel-good choice, but time will tell if it can really lead us out of the hole (I’m not as pessimistic as Kunstler, but I’m also not trying to sell a book πŸ˜‰ ).

        Is it easier to criticize and wish for the perfect (as the enemy of the good)? Certainly. I was just adding a perspective that is pervasively absent by EV fanatics. The assumption is that they are always good … I think we need to try to see that they’re limited and that we need to push for other more comprehensive changes; including political changes like getting rid of corporate influence in our government from both parties that make it difficult to actually create viable public transportation, for example.

        1. Assaf says:

          Dan hi,

          Thanks for the gracious response and sorry for coming on too strong.

          I do think this is more like “walking and chewing gum” than “chewing gum while you eat”. Automobile technology is here to stay. Regardless of how many miles people drive in their private vehicles, you still have buses, trucks and other working vehicles that are essential to society even in the long term. No one is going to move their house, or deliver tons of materials, on a bicycle or by foot. Switching automotive technology away from oil is therefore an essential need, not a false move.

          I am totally on board with you w.r.t. corporate influence and transit. But I would be less pessimistic. Transit was king in America until WWII; these times can return. The political pendulum swings.

          The situation right now is that in most parts of the country progress on EVs can happen faster. I don’t expect every environmentalist to be excited by this, but the least I expect is for them not to try and derail this progress, and surely not to vilify us and spread falsehoods like Ozzie Zehner did in his op-ed.

          But it’s not personally against you… Thanks again and good night.

  10. Nate says:

    I enjoyed your myths #1 and #2 articles Assaf. I appreciate the detail and can tell a lot of hard work went into them.

    1. Assaf says:

      Thanks Nate!

  11. Bill Howland says:

    Ev’s will still have the disadvantage of cars in general, namely tire pollution. But if the runoff can be where tree roots can get at it, they’ll minimize the disadvantage. If only LA had more trees. And the brakes should last longer so that’s less brake dust.

    I of course, discard the basic premise here, but that’s ok.

    LA would be a lot more tolerable if they had never bought in to GM’s scam to eliminate the Electric street car (LA’s public transit system was the most ‘green’ in the country 70-80 years ago)

  12. Gary P. says:

    Does your (or any ones) data include other factors such as refinery and oil well fires, pipe line leaks and fires and the resulting cleanup and environmental damage. And lets not forget all the oil tanker disasters.

    1. Assaf says:

      Gary hi,

      See my reply above. Also, you can read in the first post, a little after the middle.

  13. Grendal says:

    One of my latest soapboxes when it comes to determining the cost of gasoline and diesel is gas stations. Have you seen all the lights? Every gas station is lit up to a very high degree. It’s an enormous amount of energy usage. The pumps, lights, and refrigerators for beverages should all be added into the equation. An EV is charged at home, at night, in the dark most of the time. I’ll bet not one study or article has included that into their gas/diesel energy numbers.

    1. Assaf says:

      That’s a good point, I have no idea how bit it can be – but it might be already included. You can look up the greet website, for their publications on petroleum overhead (it hasn’t been scrutinized in a while though).

      http://greet.es.anl.gov/publications

    2. David Stone says:

      I would strongly disagree with counting such energy use to oil.
      These are power requirements of commerce in general.

      If we all used evs and gas stations did not exist, the people who not work there would work elsewhere and use a comparable amount of energy, customers would need the products and available anyway – that part is not a gas station, but a conveniently located store.

      Just like the accountant at the oil company would do the same work at another company.

      1. Assaf says:

        David,

        Your comment highlights the difficulty in delineating the boundaries of LCA.

        I am not an LCA expert, and as I said LCA is a very young science and I don’t think it has the perfect answers to such questions, if such answers exist.

  14. Gadge says:

    Assaf,
    Very well done…thank for your effort!

  15. Dan Fichana says:

    Great article and described everything pretty well.
    If you need any information or help concerning life cycle assessments and identifying those studies let me know. I did my thesis on life cycle assessments.

    There are some studies that the anti-EV crowd like to use and cite very often. These are the Hawkins study ( the one he had to go back and revise because the original estimates were horrible)- still not happy with using 93,000 miles as the cut off ( the low end of the car life), not happy with the use of the battery chemistry they used- the only company that used it during that time was a rather small manufacturer named Coda, which was just released at the time of the paper. Should have used the Leaf chemistry, or Volt chemistry, or Roadster chemistry, which had all sold more than the dufunct Coda
    CMU study- economic lca study, battery replacement after 6 years, had the same data for all types of batteries, used batteries with half the capacity of old Roadster technology, and made some really, really bad assumption. The paper had some good redemming qualities and information, but they never used that information since it was not in line with their conclusions.

    There are 3 big ISO ( international standards organization) testing methods that must be followed concerning LCAs, these are 14040, 14041, and 14042.

    Also the current grid average is ~575 grams CO2 per kwhr, but that does not tell the entire story, nuclear and coal plants are mostly the ones at night, along with wind. These have to be running and the energy is mostly wasted, used for none efficient purposes just because it is cheap and the need to get rid of the energy since these large plants are slow to respond yo grid demand. EVs charging at night really use waste energy. There is a guy on the Telsa Motors Club forums that can explain alot better that I can this topic; he did his PhD on it I believe.

  16. Dan Fichana says:

    Good find with the militarty indirect LCA!
    That is the most thorough paper I have seen with it.

    That paper actually puts another nail in the coffin of the CMU LCA study. They stated 3 cents per gallon. With a range of 3 to 66 cents, the paper you found pegs the cost aroun 20-24 cents per gallon.

    So over an average car’s lifetime around 2,000 is spent on military expendatures for oil.
    Kind of puts the EV tax rebate that is capped in perspective in the US.

    1. Assaf says:

      Dan, thanks for the comments.

      Can you indeed put me in touch with this guy? I’ve gotten some serious pushback on Seattle’s EV forum (of all places) regarding my assumption – well it’s not really mine, but I adopted it – that off-peak charging in coal-dominated regions is equivalent to recycling waste energy.

      Besides, it intrigues me on an intellectual level: do these plants really burn at full rate overnight? Obviously, the turbines cannot be fully engaged then b/c the produced juice will have nowhere to go – so what *do* they do?

      Is my guess right, that the new Federal coal regulations – that new plants must have 500g/KWh or less – are mostly based on assuming these plants will find a way to dial down the burn rate overnight?

      So… can you put me in touch with this chap?

      Thanks!

      Assaf

  17. Dan Fichana says:

    Assaf,

    If you register on the TMC forum, i would just send the person a private message.
    He posted about his credentials in post 395, his username is rolosrevenge

    http://www.teslamotorsclub.com/showthread.php/14479-Nonsense-from-John-Petersen/page40

  18. James says:

    GOD BLESS ASSAF ORON!

    Truly, I am right-brained and many times respond to an article like this
    by nodding off mentally, or skimming numbers and graphs and moving on.

    Sometimes I pat myself on the back for getting through an article like this
    and NOT losing focus. This time was different. Assaf, your observations
    were laser-guided to what is and is not important. I completely agree with
    your assessments. While I shoot past GHG discussion in the EV debate,
    and just tell folks,”we all breathe air, right – and don’t we all want our
    kids to not breathe in toxins from our roads and highways?*” – The GHG
    argument is the subject of hit pieces and slander all over the web.

    Innately, I believe many of us really already know this. We jump to EVs
    because – it’s almost as if, “anything has to be better than what we’ve got!”
    I don’t believe there is ANY study ANYWHERE that’s truly addressed the
    military pollution angle + the national security ramifications. Well-to-wheel
    sometimes just glazes over the expenses of searching, extracting, loading,
    shipping, refining and distributing crude oil products. When you think about
    it, it’s nearly impossible to calculate that into numbers. You just instinctively
    know it’s BS and it’s ruining our world.

    I can use this information ( going to print out this piece – a first! ) to hand
    out to those GHG debaters I meet on the roads who are still driving their
    Dodge Chargers.

    RECHARGE! ,

    James

    _________________________________________________________

    *or have a car that can be running ( “on” ) in our garage without threat of
    death…

    1. Assaf says:

      Thanks James!

      I tried to make the summary clear and concise, after loud complaints regarding the long and tiresome nature of the original posts πŸ™‚

  19. Surya says:

    Very interesting article, thanks for the insights!

    1. Assaf says:

      Thank you Surya!

  20. DrInnovaiton says:

    Very nice articles Assaf.

    In addition to the missing military costs, one of the other thing ignored in previous LCA is the energy costs of finding and drilling for oil. The start with “wells”, because that is where all the earlier studies did; they are really “wells-to-wheels” for the fuel and LCA for the car. Yet the cost of finding oil has continued to skyrocket. the Energy-returned-on-energy invested for oil is down to 8:1 and the GHG from exploration/drilling is almost as much as from refining/transport — it should not be ignored.

    1. Assaf says:

      Good point. I’m not sure it is not included – but as I said, paradoxically there has been far *less* work on ICE vehicle LCA than on EV LCA. No one seems in a hurry to go and re-examine the initial work.

  21. johnny canuck says:

    Great article. I want to bring up something that I don’t often see included in EV discussions and analyses (if it has been brought up here or commented on, I apologize for not paying attention);
    if nothing else, major EV adoption will at least β€œmove” the huge source of ICE GHG pollution from the large city cores (cars) to the rural landscape (power stations).

    1. Assaf says:

      Johnny, thanks for the comment.

      The issue is discussed briefly in the second linked article. Of course, zero tailpipe emissions is the legal reason California Air Resources Board require all major automakers to sell at least some zero-(tailpipe)-emission vehicles in CA or pay a fine.

      There’s been some controversy among progressives regarding this “small stack -> tall stack” effect when EVs drive in fossil-dominated grids. The argument against is that power plants tend to be situated near disadvantaged communities.

      IMHO it’s a classic example of “kitchen-sink” arguments against something you don’t like in your guts, and looking for a rationale to oppose. After all, major highways and urban congestion spots also tend to disproportionately affect poor and minority neighborhoods. Arguably far more than power plants. I have been involved in a just-completed study that showed that some poorer-than-average, browner-than-average neighborhoods in South Seattle have worse traffic pollution than downtown, not to mention most other neighborhoods: http://www.duwamishdiesel.org.

      Moreover, it is far easier to regulate and restrict the chimney emissions from a few power plants, than the tailpipe emissions from millions of vehicles.

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