Why EVs Are And Almost Always Will Be Greener


ev map

Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering, University of Minnesota

December 2014 seems to have been a bumper month for journalists to write about how EVs aren’t always greener, like the article found here in the Economist. And EVs may not be as Green as They Seem from The Detroit Bureau . It seems that the buzz originates from this report.


Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering, Univ of Minn

There are a number of possibilities for the US  in the outcome of  its future energy mix which will effect grid averages. The above graph is reported from the linked article published by the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo-Engineering from the University of Minnesota. The report references the Department of Energy Annual Energy Outlook as their source of data through 2020, though the DOE report gives significant changes through 2040 with multiple possible outcomes opposed to one. From the University report: For the EV grid average scenario, we assume that electricity generation for EV use is distributed according to total generation amounts in the year 2007.  The elimination of coal  from the US energy mix has been aggressive from 2007 to the present. On June 2, the EPA submitted the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule building on the reductions already started by states for  continued aggressive coal elimination. So we are not sure why the university chose 2007 and only one future model. It is worth noting that the US saw its peak consumption of coal in 2007.

In 2004 the Clean Air Task Force reported 24,000 US coal related deaths. By 2010, the US coal related deaths had dropped to 13,000. The new 2014 report shows that US coal related deaths have dropped once again to 7,500. This reduction is a combination of newly enforced regulations combined with the conversion or elimination of coal fired plants. This 2014  data would most likely change the 2007 grid average displayed above by a factor of three in the University report thus less than gas in their model. China on the other hand has an estimated 280,000 deaths per year due to coal and are just beginning to add scrubbers to their power plants.

The below graph presented by Black & Veach shows a different US future model with possible coal usage reduced to 16% by 2036, further showing the dangers of a single graph outcome.

Future Energy Mix Source: Black & Veatch

Future Energy Mix Source: Black & Veatch

Most journalist acknowledge that EVs powered by renewable energy are more environmentally sound, followed by a warning that EVs powered by coal fired electricity are extremely hazardous. The Minnesota University based report has increased the language to include mortality rates. Though we may question the parameters, particularly in US grid averages as they relate to present or future models, we agree on this point, that coal powered energy is responsible for human mortality in significant numbers.

Once again, connecting the dots that a coal powered EVs kill does not dismiss the fact that coal fired energy kills.

In the old world order, one might conclude to put a hold on this promising future while caught in the “chicken or the egg” syndrome.

Brighter Future

Fortunately EVs are arriving in a time when we have choices and individuals are responding to those choices. Today 1-in-3 EV drivers already power their EVs via renewable energy.  The linked data provided by the California Center for Sustainable Energy is noteworthy of current trends for currently 40% of all EVs sold in the US are sold in California where it is also worth noting that coal fired electricity is almost non existent.

Source: UC Berkeley CoolClimate Network, Average Annual Household Carbon Footprint

Source: UC Berkeley CoolClimate Network, Average Annual Household Carbon Footprint

A new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper by Magali A. Delmas and two colleagues from the UCLA Institute of the Environment suggests that the California EV/solar combo trend can expand throughout US suburbia.

The report suggests that the US energy use problem can be greatly improved with this combination of EVs and solar energy. The paper considers that suburbanites of all political persuasions may increasingly become “accidental environmentalists” due to economics. In other words, the savings will be too good to pass up.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have compiled an interactive map graphically depicting large increases in carbon footprints surrounding urban areas, particularly along the east coast as you move away from city centers. We already have a problem. The EV/Solar  combo provides a workable solution.

InsideEVs regularly reports on the California trend of combining residential solar arrays with the purchase or lease of an EV through data collected by the California Center for Sustainable Energy. If this trend persists for other suburban dwellers as the paper suggests, then “suburban carbon curve would bend such that the differential in carbon production between city center residents and suburban residents would shrink.”

So we agree with these outstanding points made by Christopher W. Tessuma, Jason D. Hillb, and Julian D. Marshalla from the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering, University of Minnesota.  First that coal is hazardous. Hazardous to the environment and secondly, hazardous to human beings causing deaths every day. Coal pollutants contribute to four of the five leading causes of mortality in the U.S.:  heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases. Thirdly, we agree that renewable energy powered EVs are the future and save lives providing the first and best future model. The second best future model is that of EVs powered by natural gas generated electricity which is serving as the transition energy as US coal fired power plants are either converting to natural gas or becoming obsolete. The third being hybrid electric vehicles that have served as a transitional vehicle to this point in time as the 20+ plug-ins are arriving.  As for coal or any energy source hazardous  enough to cause deaths and health issues in significant numbers, it should be expediently managed.

Fortunately we are living in times where the consumer has a choice even in their energy source. 2014 saw over 100,000 US adopters for both EVs and solar photo voltaics. May 2015 be the year you buy/lease an EV and/or start your your own solar energy plant.


Category: Charging, General


58 responses to "Why EVs Are And Almost Always Will Be Greener"
  1. Peder says:

    Well done Mark!
    Informative article and great conclusion!

    1. Assaf says:

      +1, thanks Mark!

    2. LuStuccc says:

      Not at all! If renewables are only at a ridiculous 13% in 2036 and NG replace coal we won’t survive as a civilisation! When we take all pollutions into account shale gas is environmentally worse than coal.

      This looks more like an add for a fracking free for all.

      1. M Hovis says:

        Yes the B&V graph looks like a poster child for fracking. The intent of including that graph “(with no backing data) was to show the dangers of modeling a single outcome like the university did. Too late to remove it, but it was by no means an argument for the correct future mix.

        The Department of Energy linked report does however consider multiple future models in every section of their report.

  2. David Murray says:

    I have noticed people often forget to include gasoline refineries in their calculations. Last I heard, it takes 6.6Kwh of energy to refine a gallon of gasoline. That usually comes in the form of coal, natural gas, or electricity to make that happen.

    So if you put a gasoline car and an EV next to each other and drive them around 30 miles. You could easily say that both cars consumed 6.6Kwh of energy, but the gasoline car also burned a gallon of gas too.

    1. M Hovis says:

      Exactly David.

    2. Bob says:

      As far as I understand that is technically correct, but 4 to 5 Kwh is reused in other steps of the process, so actual grid electricity used is somewhere around 1 to 2 Kwh.

      1. Foo says:

        What does “reused” mean and how does that stop grid electricity from being used?

        In any case, the average EV can still drive several miles on 2 kWh.

      2. Nix says:

        Refineries aren’t required by law to disclose their electricity consumption, so it is literally impossible to know how much they actually consume. The only clues we have come from the few refineries who have gotten “energy star” certified. There are so few of those, that the numbers from those are meaningless.

        I think the re-use of energy that you are referring to is where energy star certified refineries tried to claim that they were using less energy than they really were, because they were recovering waste heat to heat the interior rooms in their refineries. The electricity still gets consumed. That electricity still shows up in the balance. But they are trying to pretend that it should all be deducted for the purposes of getting energy star rated. Which is a complete fallacy, because if the refinery didn’t exist they wouldn’t need to heat those rooms. 100% of that electricity is still a net input into the production of gasoline.

    3. eddie says:

      People also seem to not understand that most coal plants are base load, so they generate electricity whether it is needed or not. So an EV soaking up that off-peak electricity is better than the coal plant just spewing bad things to create electricity that is not used…

  3. Rick Danger says:

    I’m sorry, but the whole coal argument inre: EVs is completely specious. How many coal plants were built to power EVs? How many coal plants are being kept online just to power EVs? NONE.
    The bottom line is, coal plants are dirty and hazardous and need to be dismantled, but *they pollute the exact same amount whether EVs charge at night from them or not*.
    Without EVs, the coal plants would still pollute the air, and so would all the gas burning cars on the road. With EVs, the coal plants still pollute the air, but the EVs do not.

    1. M Hovis says:

      Right on Rick. Not only is the report out there, and being reported on by several sights like the two I listed, I have also seen it used as a reference report in several blogs. So you guys keep doing what you do by responding with the facts.

      1. Thomas J. Thias says:

        Mark, great report.


        Yes the Cyber Echo Chamber has been babbling this flawed study from University of Minnesota since its release.

        The reason for the flawed study reference is that there is no inclusion of static off peak waste electricity, Over Generation, nightly that as Senator Lamar Alaxander (R-Tenn) is on record, stating on the US Senate floor, equals the output of 65-70 Nuclear Power Plants.

        Enough electricity being wasted each night, off peak, to power 40% of vehicles, if electric fueled, in the USA daily!

        Link Goes To Torque News Release-



        Thomas J. Thias




        1. MJFrog says:

          This leads right in to the problems stated for Renewable forms of energy: How do you generate/store for future use from an energy source that is intermittent? e.g. Wind/solar.
          In this case, we have base load electricity being wasted because there is no demand for it. Wouldn’t it be great if we could find a way to store this excess electricity and use it during peak demand times?

          1. M Hovis says:

            We are years away from producing more renewable energy than utilities can handle. Storage will become a reality before it is required. The wise move for utilities would be to invest in storage opposed to solar.

  4. Ambulator says:

    I think WWS is short for wind, water and solar.

  5. kalle says:

    just for fun, can you compare the US states power mix with the countries in Europe in an article? it would be fun to see how it compares to charge an ev in say California vs Sweden, or Texas and Switzerland.

    1. M Hovis says:

      Hi kalle. That would be interesting for sure. I here bloggers rag on Germany all the time about their coal mix.
      I don’t get too hung up on where a given state or country is currently for I really think there is a global awareness that this energy source needs to end. I think even China who is still aggressively building coal fired plants is looking toward a future without coal.

      I just saw this report being used as a tool against EVs and wanted to put it out there along with a little research to make our group aware. Really digging up the fact they are using 2007 data should be enough to discredit the report. And like Rick Danger stated, I get a little peeved at the connection to EVs.
      And like Peder Norby, I put enough solar energy back on the grid to offset my home and my transportation, and like Peder, I enjoy encouraging others to do the same when and where it is feasible.

      1. Assaf says:

        Mark, it’s a great find of yours, the use of 2007 numbers. I missed it in my first reading of the article.

        Would you like to co-author a letter to the editor of that journal? I already started on a draft.

        1. M Hovis says:

          Thanks Assaf. I tried to hi-light in bold and point at the link. I thought liar-liar-pants-on-fire was too over the top. I would be glad to co-sign

        2. M Hovis says:

          I also provided the link proving that 2007 was the highest usage in US history furthering the manipulation of the data. I would use that link to the editor as well. Along with the provided link showing 2014 currently 3x less mortality. Without any speculation of 2020. I used to be a metrologist in my past life. Measuring data is what we do….

          1. Jack says:

            mark, you are a legend. Thanks for telling the truth.

    2. Ahldor says:

      Sweden has virtually no fossil electricity production. But you can see some pollution along the southern west coast of Sweden, since the wind is often blowing over Denmark’s coal plants taking their smoke with it. Also occationally when the wind is blowing from the south Sweden gets some bad air from Germany’s and Poland’s coal plants.

      The worst air pollution in Sweden is found near the busy roads and streets in the largest cities. And it is due to ICE vehicles, obviously.

      1. alohart says:

        “The worst air pollution in Sweden is found near the busy roads and streets in the largest cities. And it is due to ICE vehicles, obviously.”

        A large percentage of which are not-so-“clean diesel”.

    3. ericmarseille says:

      In France : 1% coal, 15% renewable (including hydraulic), 77% nuclear!

      Nuclear-powered cars are a reality here! 🙂

  6. Ahldor says:

    The prediction made by Black & Veatch that the renewables is only going to double (from 6% to 13%) in 24 years is just mindblowingly ridicilous.

    There seems to be no cost reduction taken into account. Also almost doubling Natural gas from 24% to 44% will make that source more expensive – unlike solar and wind that has no fuel cost.

    The most accurate prediction is probably coal that goes from 41% to 16%, but coal will be replaced by renewables and probably next gen nuclear that burn nuclear waste.

    I guess it was economists that did the prediction anylysis, and not engineers..

    1. M Hovis says:

      Note there are no conclusions drawn from the Black & Veach graph. The point of including it is to show the danger of reporting on a single outcome like the single graph used in the University report directly above it.

      The linked DOE report offers several potential outcomes based on economics, environmental and feasibility.

    2. finecadmin says:

      Yes, because economists are familiar with Jevon’s Paradox. The arrival of cheap solar may mean… coal plus solar, as consumers find new ways to use up energy. Just like low gas prices in the ’90s helped feed the SUV craze, not a saving-my-disposable-income craze.

      1. Nix says:

        finecadm — A boom in cheap solar that let to more people using more cheap solar electricity wouldn’t automatically bring coal along for the ride. In fact, a boom in cheap solar would drive down the price even more, and even if more electricity were used it would simply make coal even more expensive in comparison.

        Coal electricity production would be hurt by a solar energy boom that dropped prices so low that people used more electricity, even if total electricity consumption went up. The gap in price at that point would be so huge that coal simply wouldn’t make sense at all.

        Let’s review the basics of this theoretical:

        1) A boom in electricity consumption due to low price presumes that the price is brought down significantly by low priced solar.
        2) The low priced solar would have to be very, very cheap to trigger that cause/effect.
        3) Coal continues to be more and more expensive to dig out of the ground. The easiest coal has already been removed, and the cost of coal extraction continues to rise.
        4) Super cheap solar will beat out ever more expensive coal in price. Even if there is more demand for electricity, it would not be fulfilled by coal, because by definition super cheap electricity would not be profitable when produced by coal. The law of supply and demand kicks in. No company is going to produce electricity for a loss (especially not utility companies that are regulated by boards). So they will either cease producing electricity from coal, or raise rates to cover their costs which would slow down the growth in demand for cheap electricity.

    3. Someone out there says:

      I agree. Local energy storage will likely completely change the economics of different energy producers. More than anything it will greatly increase the profitability of renewable energy. Energy storage is the key enabler of large scale renewable energy.

      We are already seeing some interest in utility scale energy storage but I think from 2020 or so the market will start to take off. At that time the EV market has pushed the price of battery storage down so much that it doesn’t make sense not to do it.

      I expect that by 2036 Gen4 nuclear will do the baseload and renewable + storage will handle most of the rest, with very small contributions from fossil plants

    4. Lustuccc says:

      Exactly, it’s like this whole graph was made up only to prepare our minds to accept even more fracking and drive down renewables.

  7. Matthias says:

    Figure 1 of the Minnesota report color-codes 16 micrograms per qm in deep red as the current baseline of PM2.5. The potential increase in particles after a wide adoption of EVs all fuelled by coal (worst case scenario) color-codes 0.1 micrograms per qm in the same deep red, i.e. 1/160 increase over baseline. Hard to believe there is no agenda here.

    1. Assaf says:

      +1 to you as well. Indeed, the scale of increase (<0.1 ug/m^3) is smaller than the sensitivity of most standard instruments.

      And that, after making almost every possible assumption that amplifies EVs' calculated contribution to coal particulates.

      I actually think EVs were a secondary aim in terms of the authors' agenda. Their main agenda seems to be that good-old 'traditional' air-quality concerns (particulates, etc.), are "more important" than global warming.

      The case they make for that is as piss-poor as their case against EVs, but they sure used up a lot of computational KWh cranking out both attacks 🙂

  8. Spec9 says:

    The whole conclusion that people have been drawing is SO STUPID. EVs are not a problem, COAL IS THE PROBLEM. Get rid of all EVs and you still have all those coal plants pumping out that particulate matter for electricity generation.

    GET RID OF THE COAL PLANTS, not get rid of EVs.

    1. Assaf says:

      Their pretext for doing this analysis, is a future scenario by which BEVs would be 10% of the fleet, and therefore their combined electricity demand might pack a punch and can be considered a major “grid customer”.

      The authors supposedly set this scenario to the year 2020 (downright unrealistic), but given that as Mark found they use the grid mix of 2007, I wonder what the 2020 even signifies.

      1. Spec9 says:

        Yeah, that is really stupid. We are not going to hit 10% EVs in 2020. (I WISH we could.) And even if we did, the grid mix would be VERY different than it is now. Especially in the places where most EVs are purchased (which tend to be progressive places with more wind, solar, natural gas, etc.)

  9. Alonso Perez says:

    EV demand on coal generated electricity can be zero simply by charging at night, which most people do anyway.

    The reason is that coal plants have to operate 24 hours since ramp up and down each take several hours. So the fires are burning and the steam is steaming all night long regardless of demand.

    It is true that if many millions of vehicles start charging at night then demand will exceed this currently wasted supply. But we are very far from that quantity of electric vehicles, and by the time we get there coal will be an even smaller percentage of the grid.

    If you live in a predominantly coal area, simply endeavor to charge during the midnight to 6 AM demand valley.

    1. Spec9 says:

      Very true. Lots of big plants just can’t ramp the output up & down easily. So they just keep generating and waste the energy. The pollution is being emitted no matter what and charging up an EV doesn’t increase it. The solution is to ELIMINATE THE COAL PLANTS.

  10. John Hollenberg says:

    Good article, but coal is still a very large part of Los Angeles DWP energy, about 40%:


    However, the DWP plans to be off coal in about 10 years.

    1. Spec9 says:

      Well that is crappy. PG&E is less than 2% coal. Much of that coal generation in LA is probably from Arizona. LA needs more solar PV, wind, storage, and some nuclear in some place safe.

      1. pjwood says:

        LA DWP also uses Intermountain Power Agency output, from Utah. A lot of the public power companies use coal, to 30-60%, like Colton, Anaheim and LA. They don’t operate under the same rules the investor utilities do. Where they demonstrate the Phase 1-3 goals, to 33% renewable, are unaffordable, the Clean Energy Commission has had a more lenient approach than the CPUC.

    2. Gene says:

      As a counterpoint (in support of the article), on Long Island, the conversion from coal to cleaner fossil fuels (oil and natural gas) for producing electricity has been completed over the past decade. Solar is viable here (I do it, and there’ve been some sizable farms built), but the population growth (and accompanying consumption) far exceeds the solar growth, I’m afraid. Geothermal isn’t viable (we’re on a giant sandbar), but wind could be if the rich folks stopped holding it up.

  11. pjwood says:

    It’s really hard to draw mortality rates and health effects. Granted, they’re bad, but the research is difficult to form solid conclusions on, and heavily influenced by the mercury / sulfur (MACT/CSAPR) rules, and less the Clean Power Plan. The only other criticism I’d note is that the middle part of the east coast population centers are naturally carbon-intense. That’s why per capita carbon footprints are, I think, more common. NY and north rival California on CO2. Take, well, a place like MN and it goes the opposite way. Not just coal/electric, at rates in excess of 80%, but also mining, smelting, cement, effect the result. These factors don’t look like they are on the heat map.

    Sorry, I read through this stuff a lot on the financial cost side. I agree it’s great how solar gets a wonderful edge, when users own the space they put it on. Transmission can be half a utility bill, and that gets cut out whether or not you are in a state with SREC/REC/Net Metering. Panel/inverter hardware is getting so cheap, labor is becoming more than half the bill, at $4/watt.

  12. zoe-driver says:

    I live in a state who generates more renewable energy than it needs. Schleswig-Holstein exports renewables. We have Wind, Solar and Bio-Gas. The last nuclear plant will be decomissioned in 6 Years.

    So 2015 here is much better than 2036 in US.


    1. Christof says:

      Gratuliere! Wuensche oft, wir in den USA so gruen wie die Deutschen waeren.

      But I refuse to believe just 13% of the U.S. grid mix will come from renewables in 2036 — it cannot be that low at that time. It just won’t be (please God!)

      1. pjwood says:

        The EPA themselves, who by most American accounts would have the aggressive renewables policy, targets 30% coal and 30% natural gas, in the Clean Power Plan by 2030. That’s a sad fact. Their own state goals tally beneath 20% renewables, including hydro power.

        We haven’t outlawed nuclear energy in the U.S., but the Clean Power Plan goes a long way to extinguishing it, because it doesn’t count nuclear electricity, as electricity (94% of it). State goals are set by denominating state CO2, by qualifying sources which include coal, natural gas, and non-hydro renewables. That’s about it. A state like New York, which was recently 37% nuclear, will be importing natural gas if it shuts down its nuclear (Indian Point). Since it has some coal, however, its carbon intensity will go down because natural gas, in ratio to coal, will go up. Got it?

        Once you understand the EPA plan, you see the open hole for natural gas growth. Any state using coal is practically encouraged to use it. It’s half as carbon intense. That it is infinitely more carbon intense than nuclear, didn’t matter to the old axes who see the episodic risks of nuclear as more harmful than the next 1,000 gigatons of CO2. They just don’t.

        The U.S. electric sector going from 2.0 gigatons, today, to 1.6Gt CO2 all the way out to 2030 is what we are looking at. Those Gt’s stack onto the 25-30 global annual tally, which add to 1,000 pretty fast. 2 degrees centigrade, locked in. If you’re a fan of Germany getting to 35-40%, or the U.S. getting to 25-35% renewable, while sitting by as nukes close, you can be assured you, or your next descendant, will witness the next phase of a carbon dioxide experiment.

        EPA understands practical policy almost as good as Black and Veatch. They don’t expect states in the Northeast will find 5,000 acres, to put solar panels for every reactor that shuts down, or that densely populated areas will let 50+ yard rotor spans in their back yards. If anything is wrong with Black and Veatch, the 19% nuclear may be a little high. But I wouldn’t question the 44% NG. There are lots of politics and unbuilt LNG export facilities between our $3/mmbtu, Europe’s $8, China’s $9 and Japan’s $14 (all numbers approximate, but nowhere close to global parity, like oil). There are huge differences within the U.S., and they become more politically charged all the time.

  13. Nix says:

    One key thing to understand is that the 32% of EV owners surveyed who own solar panels, the vast majority likely have solar installs that greatly over-produce the amount of electricity they consume just to power their cars.

    In other words, those 1/3rd of EV drivers with solar installed, are producing more electricity than they use to power their cars, actually making the grid mix BETTER.

    All of this talk about the grid is a red herring. It would take further studies, but it might work out that the total amount of solar power generated by all EV owners may exceed the total amount of electricity EV owners draw from the grid.

    And that’s just solar power. I personally subscribe to Wind Source through Xcel Energy, and all my net power consumption comes from wind. All without having to have my own wind or solar production. EV’s charged from my home are wind-powered vehicles.

    There is no point in doing studies about EV’s running off of the grid, because way too many EV owners charge from sources that have nothing to do with grid averages.

  14. Lindsay Patten says:

    I think a lot of the problem is in interpretation of what the study says. If I understand it correctly, the various EV scenarios represent the effect of adding enough generation capacity to power EVs amounting to a 10% increase in the total vehicle fleet. That means we are looking at added capacity – not the existing mix. So the EV+coal scenario is looking at 100% of the increased capacity being generated from coal. While that is a hypothetical possibility of possible scientific interest it is totally unrealistic scenario at the national level.

    If we look at recent history of added capacity, for example the US EIA data for 2013, we find that coal represented just 11% of added capacity, with natural gas accounting for 50%, wind 22%, and solar 8%. And that doesn’t included distributed solar less than 1MW, which is estimated at 1.9GW, compared to 1.5GW for coal. So 100% of new capacity coming from coal is completely unrealistic.

    What is really annoying is that the Detroit Bureau article states in the heading “New study claims battery cars actually can worsen global warming.” thus conflating particulate pollution with global warming, when in fact figure 3 in the paper clearly shows that the climate impact in every scenario, with the single exception of EV + coal, is an improvement. So only the unrealistic case of 100% of new capacity coming from coal results in a worsening of global warming but that’s the headline! Aarrgghhhh!

  15. Nix says:

    The survey of EV owners says that 32% already have solar, with 16% planning on installing solar.

    If those 16% actually install solar in the next few years, that puts the number at close to half all EV’s being powered off of the sun. Instantly EV’s just got greener.

    If after a few more years, another 25% install solar (or get their energy from other green sources) then EV’s get greener yet again.

    Try that with your 10 year old gasser. It never gets greener.

  16. Lindsay Patten says:

    It’s interesting that the Economist piece linked to claims that charging your EV at night means you are likely charging on baseload coal generated electricity while charging during the day you are charging off one of the peaker plant production sources, likely natural gas, implying it is cleaner to charge during the day. On the other hand many people claim charging at night produces no emissions because coal plants are wasting production at night anyway. If EVs result in greater coal generated baseload that would be unfortunate. Does anyone have solid information to indicate that coal plants actually waste energy at night beyond the necessary reserve power? And that adding a significant number of EVs that charge at night wouldn’t result in a ramp up of coal generated baseload?

    1. M Hovis says:

      I don’t have the data Lindsay but from what I have tried to research this is my opinion. I am a retired engineer. I co-oped in a coal fired power plant years ago. They did not like to idle the turbines at night so I do believe while EVs remain in small numbers the argument is valid that they are using the wasted energy. I think this argument goes away in the not so distant future but so goes the usage of coal too.

      I have gotten a lot of offline responses from east coast EV/solar adopters like myself. I am much more interested in these numbers for I think there is a strong possibility that they mirror the percentages given by the California Center for Sustainability. The combination of day time renewable offsetting of peak load with idle coal night usage would be significant.

      1. Lindsay Patten says:

        Looking at random bits of EIA data it looks to me like peak use is almost always less than double, and certainly less than triple the lowest use of the day so unless coal is more than one third to one half of the generation mix you can run your coal plant at full capacity day and night provided your other sources are dispatchable. Looking at the energy mix for random states ( www eia gov/state/ )it looks like there are only a few states where coal is that high, with some coal producing states using almost exclusively coal, skewing the average. Even where the coal share is high enough to produce an excess, that excess can probably be sold to neighboring states with a lower mix rather than being wasted. Lacking definitive data, with today’s interconnected grid I think it is a safer assumption that there is very little excess electricity being wasted, so, given that there are so many other compelling arguments in favor of EVs, I think it better to avoid using the excess energy from coal argument.

        You can add me to your count of EV driving and solar on the roof east coasters.

        1. pjwood says:

          I cringe, in agreement, with coal baseload not being wasted. If you charge in an area with a coal mix (which is basically where EVs don’t sell nearly as well), you are causing economies that help coal. You are helping make those overnight watts more expensive. The idea of wasted, to me, is like negative power prices. I haven’t heard of that where there is coal baseload. Only nuclear/wind/hydro are where “wasted” really apply, if we’re talking prices so cheap they’re junked.

          Mark, if you are reading this, the question I’ve had is what temperature variation, and consequential pressure variation coal plants can work with in their turbines, and still be reasonably efficient? Heat rates probably go up when steam temps drop, but I have no doubt coal plants, to some minimal extent, can be throttled back effectively.

          I didn’t read these studies, but know most all coal plants built since 1980 have some measure of mercury and sulfur scrubbing. The MACT rule, that the Supreme Court just announced it might review (Ugh), takes 90% of the mercury out of the flu stack. I think MN, and NC?, already have state laws to implement these decades old technologies. EPA is forcing the rest to catch up. The ~320GW U.S. coal fleet has a big number of 40+ year old, clunking, sub-400MW facilities that are like the cars that failed inspection, that you still see on the road. If your local plant was built in the past 30 years, or if older with retrofits (of ACI, SCR, SNCR), your most substantial sin is likely down to CO2.

          1. M Hovis says:

            Yes, depending on government policy is often depressing. I think Peder Norby got the simple message that I was trying to articulate and that is we can do a large portion of this ourselves. The biggest policy that I would like to see is some serious effort toward micro grids. I really believe the combination number for EV/solar will stay close to 30% through the next decade. This is still a significant number. I also think it can easily reach 50% in time during which I feel like it will be accompanied by storage in a decade. If EV usage grows + 50% solar powered + some level of storage, this radically changes the EPA’s forecast energy mix without government involvement beyond the existing credits and some aide to micro grids.

            This is why I did not spend any time with the Black & Veach scenario. To your question about coal turbines earlier, I don’t know. I do feel that politically the fracked gas will control what happens to coal while we EV/solar adopters silently change a chunk of the mix ourselves. So far, so good.

  17. ffbj says:

    Yes, and if the study had been done in 2008, what then? With the worldwide economies crashing and consumption hitting rock bottom how would those predictions have come out?
    So too many caveats, and we assumes, projecting too far into the future based on current trends or lack thereof, etc..
    “The problem with predictions is that it is really hard to know what will happen in the future.” -Yogi

  18. Christof says:

    I’d like to ask the UM authors two things:

    1) Would the infamous Winter Brown Cloud in Denver be there at all if 100% of vehicles in Colorado were renewable energy powered EVs? (The obvious answer: No, not all! Which is why I don’t understand how, according to the UM study, EVs powered by renewables register at all in terms of particulate matter)

    2) Which car would you rather start and then sit in for 20 minutes in your closed garage: an ICE, or a pure BEV? I thought so! Case closed!

    1. Nix says:

      Part of Denver’s brown cloud problem, is that there is a Suncor oil refinery right there in the middle of town (Commerce City). They have had repeated air and water pollution violations. Recently they had a 2.2 million dollar fine for leaving air controls broken for nearly 2 years.

      Get rid of gas cars, and the refinery goes too, getting rid of even more deadly air pollution.

      It looks like this study accounts only for direct pollution from cars burning gas (tank to wheel) and ignores upstream pollution (well to wheel). Unlike the EV’s which they measure well to wheel.

  19. pjwood says:

    RE: Year picking

    It isn’t just MN researchers cherry picking 2007. Waxman / Markey (2009) and the EPA plan both cite 2005, the worst year for U.S. electric sector CO2 emissions, as baseline. Coal use may have been higher, as a percentage, in 2007, but the point is in picking that which makes you look good. But then you look pathetic when your law doesn’t pass the Senate and you achieve it anyway.

    2005 was about 2.4Gt. Since we’re closer to 2.0 today, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan goal of a “30% reduction from 2005, to 2030” rings a bit hollow.