R-Squared Energy Blog

Pure Energy

Detroit Gearing Up for Electric Cars

The Dodge Circuit Electric Vehicle

Regular readers know that I am hopeful that electric cars can start to become one of our transportation options in the next few years. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost, it is because there are so many different options for making electricity. We currently make it primarily from coal and nuclear power, but over time renewable electricity production is expected to grow sharply. The car performs the same way whether the electricity comes from coal, natural gas, wind, geothermal, or solar power.

The second major factor behind my desire to see us move toward electric transportation is that the efficiencies of electric motors are much higher than for gasoline engines. In an essay that I wrote last year, I linked to an analysis that showed that the overall efficiency of an electric vehicle is about double that of the internal combustion engine.

The final reason I favor a move toward electric vehicles is that it simply diversifies our transportation options. I want to see us develop expertise in that area, but also in the areas of improving diesel hybrids, CNG vehicles, etc. In an age of limited fossil fuel supplies, diversification provides more protection against supply disruptions.

Over the weekend, the New York Times published a story on the electric vehicles in the pipeline:

Detroit Goes for Electric Cars, but Will Drivers?

Some excerpts summarizing what we should expect:

DEARBORN, Mich. — Inside the Ford Motor Company, it was called Project M — to build a prototype of a totally electric, battery-powered car in just six months. When it was started last summer, the effort was considered a tall order by the small team of executives and engineers assigned to it. After all, the auto industry can take years to develop vehicles.

But Ford was feeling pressure from competitors, and decided it could not afford to fall behind in the rapidly expanding race to put electric cars in dealer showrooms. Ford plans to make only 10,000 of the electric vehicles a year at first — very few by Detroit standards — to test the market cautiously.

The competition over electrics is picking up speed and players. Toyota, which has so far focused its efforts on hybrid models, will display a battery-powered concept car at the Detroit show. Nissan’s chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, has promised to sell an electric car in the United States and Japan as early as next year.

Two Japanese automakers, Mitsubishi and Fuji Heavy Industries, the parent company of Subaru, are also testing electric cars. And Chrysler, the most troubled of Detroit’s three auto companies, has vowed to produce its first electric car by 2010.

Of course one of the major limitation is the energy density of the batteries, which by fossil fuel standards is quite low. However, the push by the auto industry has boosted investments into storage technologies:

The surge toward electric vehicles also appears to be jump-starting investments in advanced-battery production in the United States. General Motors will announce plans at the auto show to build a factory in the United States to assemble advanced batteries for its Chevrolet Volt model, which it expects to start selling next year.

Ultimately, though, whether consumers will embrace these vehicles will come down to cost and convenience. At the $40,000 price tag that was mentioned in the story for the Chevy Volt, consumers aren’t going to embrace them. There is also the matter of convenience. Ford indicates that it will take six hours to put a charge on that will give the vehicle a range of 100 miles. While that’s a pretty good range, what if I forget to plug my car in? Running out of gas is preferable to that. But as the article goes on to point out, the average American drives less than 35 miles a day, so even if I forgot to plug in overnight, I still have a 2nd (and maybe 3rd) chance to get the vehicle charged overnight.

We will always need liquid fuels, though, as long-haul trucking and airline transportation are well-suited for the high energy density of liquid fuels. Here’s hoping, though, that the electric vehicle can finally make some inroads.

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January 12, 2009 - Posted by | Chevy Volt, electric cars, electricity, Ford

46 Comments

  1. Excellent post — also see cover of Wall Street Journal today, a story on Chinese carmaker BYD, and their PHEV.What is remarkable to me is that the PHEV car is almost here, in commercial quantities, after a brief window of higher oil prices (2004-2008). Think about that. Think about the talented engineers and designers, and man’s incredible ability to adapt and invent. Oil was expensive for a few short years, after two decades of being cheap. And already the PHEV is nearly here. I see no dark future, unless it comes from man’s cruel hand against fellow man. Oil? Not a problem. In fact, life of an average urban dweller should get ever better. Cleaner air, quieter streets. What’s not to like?

    Comment by benny "MOAG" cole | January 12, 2009

  2. Low oil prices in the ’90s killed the EV last time around. If there really is a MOAGs and if oil prices drop to $10/bbl as benny predicts, then I suspect it will kill the EV again. But each cycle, we get closer to economic feasibility.

    Comment by Clee | January 12, 2009

  3. Interesting point the Chinese guy made is that EVs/PHEVs make it much easier for a new company to get into the car business.Maybe the car business–part of it, at least–will follow the computer biz in extreme deverticalization. Perhaps there will be a tier of strong supplier companies making the batteries, motors, small engines & generators, and controllers. The end-product builders concentrate on bodywork, integration of the suspension components, and programming the controllers to optimize fit with the vehicle.

    Comment by David | January 12, 2009

  4. Clee- I fear exactly what you are saying. There is some good news — Europe already taxes gasoline, so PHEVs may be introduced there and succeed. And PHEVs make so much sense for Japan (they are building nukes), they may work there, again by government fiat. China may mandate PHEVs, as they are an oil importing nation, and mercantile nation, and also a nation run by fiat.The USA? I see little hope, although certainly the technology will be waiting whenever we need it. I will hold out the slenderest reed of hope: In the Wall Street Journal today, there is an guest editorial from a conservative guy who says taxes have to go up no matter what in next 30 years to finance Social Security and Medicare, no matter if the Dems or Repubs control. So which taxes? He ends by suggesting energy and dirty taxes go up.If the R-Party can free itself of past shibboleths, we might get a gasoline tax, while holding down personal income and wage payroll taxes. I don’t know if the Dems have the sense or stomach for a firefight on this topic. Still, the world may be migrating to PHEVs, even as we dawdle around.

    Comment by benny "MOAG" cole | January 12, 2009

  5. Maybe they can offer 10 year financing. Don’t electric cars last longer? I’m not worried about oil prices killing anything this time around. High prices will be back by summer. The Saudi’s cut another 300,000 barrels from production today. That’s 4.5M bpd total cut since september,and the world is only projected to cut demand by a 1M bpd this year. We’ll be begging the Saudi’s for more oil by July.

    Comment by Maury | January 12, 2009

  6. BEV are MIA. PHEV are DOA. The reason is no one will buy them. I work in the electricity generating but it does not matter what either RR or I desire. Reality is a sad thing sometimes.“but over time renewable electricity production is expected to grow sharply”No, no, no!! RR does not build generating stations. Nobody who does is expecting it to grow much. There is nothing worse for wind and solar than building wind and solar. Where is the beef, or in this case the electricity. “electric transportation is that the efficiencies of electric motors are much higher than for gasoline engines”Again this is not true. RR, reading something in a blog does not make it true. Furthermore there is no reason to believe it is true. “diversification provides more protection against supply disruptions”So RR must think corn ethanol is great. It so funny that what works is so boring that it is not much fun on blogs. On blogs there is contest to have the most interesting make believe set of theories.The basic problem with BEV is that they will not solve the problem of supply disruptions. Those of who do not drive very much do not use much fuel and those who use lots of fuel will not have suitable driving habits for a BEV.

    Comment by Kit P | January 13, 2009

  7. Right now my car is sitting in the sun doing nothing. If I had an electric car with a solar panel on the roof I might go quite a lot further before recharging.Perhaps somebody can comment on how much opportunity there is to improve battery technology. Are there big gains just around the corner?Rod

    Comment by Anonymous | January 13, 2009

  8. Batteries are a mature technology. There is plenty of room for improvement, but those improvements have been coming at a slow predictable rate for a long time. Think of battery opperated power tools, 15 years ago they were terrible, but every year, they get a little bit better. The same is true for cell phones and lap tops. But if you push the technology too fast the next thing you know is your laptop is on fire.An EV requires batteries designed for the specific requirements of an automobile. Tesla is finding out that plugging 6000 laptop batteries into a car is easier said than done.I think that the break even point for batteries comes at about 4 to 5 dollars a gallon for a 10 mile range.Also, should the manufacturers attack cost or range? do you go with cheap batteries that you replace every year, or do you want expensive battteris that go over 100,000 miles.

    Comment by Dennis Moore | January 13, 2009

  9. I would like to see some work on vehicles that use an external combustion heat engine. You could burn a variety of fuels, liquid solid or gas, as long as it can supply the BTUs. Because you burn at lower temp and pressure than in an ICE, you avoid much of the pollution that plagues diesel. You also get some of the advantages of an electric vehicle such as high torque at low RPM for a simpler (or no) tranmission

    Comment by Dennis Moore | January 13, 2009

  10. [Robert] electric transportation is that the efficiencies of electric motors are much higher than for gasoline engines.[Kit P.] Again this is not true. RR, reading something in a blog does not make it true. Furthermore there is no reason to believe it is true. I’m gonna call you on this one Kit P. An electric motor is more than 90% efficient,while an ICE is less than 50% efficient at the crankshaft. I’m no engineer,but I did have 7th grade science.

    Comment by Maury | January 13, 2009

  11. What does everyone see happening to energy density (watt hours/kg) for rechargeable batteries?The Tesla’s 440 kg battery stores 53 kilowatt hours. 120 watt hours/kg.This and the rate of decay in battery capacity per recharge (which is a measure for how many miles a battery can last) are the two most interesting questions regarding batteries. Batteries are the most important question when considering electric vehicles.

    Comment by Anand | January 13, 2009

  12. The optimal car in 20 years could be a PHEV without batteries Anand. Witricity will do away with the need for batteries. When that happens,nobody in his right mind would want to drive anything but electric.

    Comment by Maury | January 13, 2009

  13. No, no, no!! RR does not build generating stations. Nobody who does is expecting it to grow much.You are right, reality can be a sad thing. The reality is that renewable electricity generation has grown sharply in recent years, and is forecast by the energy information agencies to continue growing. Perhaps you can link to an analysis that suggests that it isn’t expected to grow? “electric transportation is that the efficiencies of electric motors are much higher than for gasoline engines”Again this is not true. RR, reading something in a blog does not make it true. Furthermore there is no reason to believe it is true. I am at a loss for words here. You don’t believe that electric motors are more efficient than internal combustion engines? I didn’t get that from reading a blog, you know. That’s a well-established fact, whether you know it or not. As Maury said, it’s 7th grade science, not a revelation off a blog. So RR must think corn ethanol is great. It so funny that what works is so boring that it is not much fun on blogs. On blogs there is contest to have the most interesting make believe set of theories.Kit, please try to be more coherent. Corn ethanol is not actually diversifying energy. If you knew anything about it, you would understand that it is primarily just recycled fossil fuel. Recycling fossil fuel is not diversifying energy options. Further, I guess you don’t see the irony that you feel qualified to speak on ethanol while (wrongly) criticizing those who speak on electricity.You just stated “You are wrong” a bunch of times in your reply, without making any attempt at all to cite anything that backs up your position. Very weak response, Kit. RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | January 13, 2009

  14. That Ford could come up with an EV in 6 months is very impressive. I’ve wondered how home hobbyists can manage to convert convetional IC engine cars to full electric in their garages in a few months, but Detroit can’t seem to make it work. Compared to the engine, a battery-electric car seems a lot more simple to me. A new supercritical pulverized coal power plant or an integrated gasification combined cycle coal plant will achieve on the order of 40-43% thermal efficiency. Combine that with with about 85% for the battery/electric motor and you get 36% overall efficiency, compared to about 15% on an IC engine mechanically driving the wheels on your car. This improvement in efficiency is possible because we can achieve a larger temperature differential for the heat engines in a power plant than is possible in an IC engine. If one is worried about greenhouse gas emissions, the IGCC produces an 80% CO2 rich exhaust that can be used for enhanced oil recovery or stored permanently in depleted oil and gas reservoirs or in deep saline formations. This is not possible for the IC engine.

    Comment by KingofKaty | January 13, 2009

  15. What I’d like to see for an electric car is a small generator/trailer that you can tow for long trips. Shouldn’t something like that be possible?I think a rough estimate of power usage for an electric car is about 200 watt/hours per mile. It seems that a small generator could manage that easily. Now, most generators you buy for backup power probably don’t have any kind of emissions control, but again it should be possible for manufacturers to add that.

    Comment by Brad | January 13, 2009

  16. “I would like to see some work on vehicles that use an external combustion heat engine.”Weren’t those called steam engines?

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | January 13, 2009

  17. I decided to google it, here’s an example of what I was thinking about:http://www.evnut.com/rav_longranger.htm

    Comment by Brad | January 13, 2009

  18. Kit P, You remind me of a vendor I know on a project I’ve been working on the last year which is now going to litigation.The subject vendor supplied a piece of equipment to my client that was designed improperly, ignored all industry standards.and eventually failed catastrophically.I was brought in as a third party engineer, analyzing everything they did in great detail as well as all of their claims. All my assumptions and proofs were layed out on the table, in multiple reports.Every time the vendor responded to one of my reports or analyses, their only response was to say that I didn’t know what I was talking about, and their calculations showed otherwise. However, they could never refute what I had done technically or provide any backup to support their claims. We are still waiting for them to back any of their claims up….and the subject equipment was taken out of service for fear of killing someone six months ago. Now, I don’t know if you are an engineer or not, but your level of professionalism makes me assume you are not.Robert, Keep up the good work on this blog, I learn a lot from visiting here, and I appreciate your knowledge and viewing things from a balanced perspective. This is what engineering is all about. And putting it all online for people to comment and criticize on makes it that much stronger.

    Comment by Kale | January 13, 2009

  19. “What I’d like to see for an electric car is a small generator/trailer that you can tow for long trips. Shouldn’t something like that be possible?”That’s a good idea Brad and should be possible. If going on a longish trip in an electric, you could rent a two-wheeled trailer carrying a large battery to tow behind the car.It would also be possible to tow a trailer with a small diesel generator to send power to your electric car. A small diesel operating at an efficient constant rpm could be made to run fairly clean.In either case, you’d go to a car dealer or rental store and rent them only when needed for a special use.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | January 13, 2009

  20. Even if electric motors were LESS efficient,we can make electricity a dozen different ways,none of them dependent on the whims of Chavez or Ahwannajihad. I happen to think enhanced geothermal offers the greatest potential,but there’re any number of made in America alternatives out there. Ethanol may have its drawbacks,but it means American jobs. It means less dependence on Chavez,even if only slightly less. And I don’t care about the 50 cent subsidy either. Not when gas has a subsidy north of $5 a gallon. Okay,I pulled that last number out of my butt. But,we spent a trillion dollars on Iraq,and only import 15% of our oil from the Middle East. Figure THAT cost into a gallon of gas.

    Comment by Maury | January 13, 2009

  21. Maury-I think you are on the right path, in terms of PHEVs ultimately being very reliable cars. No doubt, first and second-gen will have bugs.But, from all accounts, the electric motor vehicle is a much simpler creature than an ICE.Battery life? A big q.But the main point: If the Peak Oilers are right, somewhere down the line gasoline will cost more than $5 a gallon. People will start migrating to PHEVs then.However, I am beginnin to wonder about the PO idea. Here we are, 2009, and the oil exporting world is waging a fierce war against…a runaway glut. And we have this runaway glut despite OPEC willfully cutting production, and despite Iran, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Venezuela, and Mexico all running at half-speed or less, due to delusional leadership. Even Russia is probably far below what it could be, due to backward production practices. On top of that, Indonesia and Sasol are starting what may become a 1 mbd CTL plant. Imagine, a single plant producing 1 mbd. Turn the tables: Imagine you are an oil-producing nation, and there is a runaway glut of oil, and every developed nation is contemplating PHEVs. Biofuels production is surging, and palm oil looks very competitive at anything above $50 a barrel.

    Comment by benny "MOAG" cole | January 13, 2009

  22. “However, I am beginnin to wonder about the PO idea.”Peak Oilers predicted this very scenario Benny. High oil prices send economies into a tailspin and less oil is consumed as a result. Rinse and repeat every 18 months or so. Will the world ever produce 86M bpd again? I don’t think so.

    Comment by Maury | January 13, 2009

  23. Maury-There are vast quantities of unconventional oil, amounts that dwarf conventional oil. The unconventional stuff seems to take $60 to $100 to extract, with present technologies. It seems to me even if we start to run out of the conventional stuff (likely for geopolitical reasons, not geological) any time soon, the huge, huge amounts of unconventional stuff becomes viable. We are talking centuries, and then there is GTL and CTL and palm oil. Maybe your algae. And PHEVs.If you look at France, and imagine a nuked-up France and fleet of PHEVs, the q becomes, “Who needs oil?”Jeez. More and more, I am beginning to suspect the entire Peak Oil movement is a canard, probably spurred on by petro-interests and speculators.It is 2009, and oceans of oil as far as the eye can see. Supertankers filling up, land tanks full, Canadian pipelines backed up with the stuff, nowhere to sell it. And demand is going down, not up.Meanwhile Prius’ new model gets 50 mpg, and the GM Volt goes 40 miles on a charge. An interesting idea: If you are Russia, you face collapse unless oil goes back up. Would you not do everything in your power to manipulate prices north? Start yellow-journalism websites, hire “consultants” and “experts” by the dozen to talk the media and promote the idea of impending scarcity, and also game the NYMEX?Of course, you would have to try all those things, and more I can’t think of. It would be the patriotic duty of a Putin to try to game the markets. Think about it. Maybe we have been brainwashed. Or at least spinned hard.

    Comment by benny "maog" cole | January 13, 2009

  24. Love your optimism Benny. Like yourself,I think there are lots of possible alternatives to oil. I just doubt their ability to scale in a timely fashion. CTL has been around since Hitler’s time. Why hasn’t it made a dent in the supply chain? I can grow palm trees. What would I do then,besides watch the fruit rot? Alternatives will have to grow by at least 3M bpd each year for the world’s supply of liquid fuel to tread water after peak oil. Not an easy task. Much easier for economies to choke on high prices and live with lower GDP’s. Again and again and again.

    Comment by Maury | January 13, 2009

  25. Maury-Battery cars have been around since before WWII–and have yet to make a serious dent. But now might be the time–with game-changing results.Palm oil does more than rot. It gets made into biodiesel, and the yields per hectare are rising nicely, and already are many, many times that of corn, with much smaller inputs. No subsidies or anything, palm oi competes at more than $50 a barel with fossil crude, and that price could go lower as yields rise. The short story is that lots of alternatives to fossil conventional crude start to make sense at $50-60 a barrel. Ironically, there is no guarantee such a price level can be maintained, meaning many alternatives get crimped off, from time to time. There is some sense to the oil price spike and retreat scenario. The result may be different than doom, however. After the third or fourth such spike, oil sellers may find the market has passed them by. Meanwhile, look for $10 oil in the near future (two years or less).

    Comment by benny "MOAG" cole | January 13, 2009

  26. Robert, don't let the Kit P troll do any trolling here; I suspect it's not a real person but a travesty generator anyway.  Just purge the rants rather than letting them pollute the comments.

    Comment by Engineer-Poet | January 13, 2009

  27. Wendell Mercantile said… Weren’t those called steam engines? That is one type of heat engine. A steam engine uses water as the working fluid and takes advantage of a phase change (liquid to vapor). In a Stirling engine, the working fluid is either a gas or liquid with no phase change. There are even electromechanical or magnetic heat engines. One of the problems with automobiles is that they need large amounts of power for acceleration, but only a fraction of the power when at highway speed. This means installing a large engine which is largely dead weight. Electrics solve this problem nicely since they have high power to weight ratios. The tradeoff is that batteries have a very poor energy density compared to conventional motor fuels.

    Comment by KingofKaty | January 13, 2009

  28. Interesting blog entry on some issues involved with how much electricity is needed for a Tesla Roadster, BEV. Charger efficiency of 87%, and pumps running 24×7 to keep Li-ion batteries cool.http://teslafounders.wordpress.com/2008/10/12/wasting-energy-like-two-really-nice-refrigerators/“Subtracting this wasted energy, the car’s energy consumption at the meter is only 343 watt-hours per mile. A little high, but in the right ballpark. Here is the kicker: 22 percent of the energy consumed by my car happens while my car is parked!”Even factoring that into KingofKaty’s calculations, I believe that’s still more efficient than a gasoline engine.

    Comment by Clee | January 13, 2009

  29. Forgive me for a somewhat off topic post. It’s not official but should be soon : the winner of the best science blog award (weblog awards) is…Check it out.

    Comment by Anonymous | January 14, 2009

  30. I am correct when I say that RR has no experience making electricity or in the electric power industry. When you continue to make statements outside your field of expertise, RR should expect to be told he is wrong. RR and E-P are examples of engineers that are agenda driven and not analysis driven. WRT to the growth of renewable energy. So RR, you want to debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?It is waste of time to debate how fat the renewable energy ‘other’ line will be on a graph of electricity generation. The only source of electricity that is growing sharply is fossil fuels. While renewable energy ‘other’ is growing relative to renewable energy ‘other’ it is not growing very much. In the US, natural gas generation outgrew renewable energy ‘other’ by a ratio of 16:1. Check EIA. To put it simply, RR put the wrong number in denominator. This is bonehead stuff you see in blogs. Since RR is not an engineer in the electricity generating industry, it is excusable. Same goes for E-P.“You don’t believe that electric motors are more efficient than internal combustion engines?”Shame on you RR. First I did not say that. Claiming someone is wrong by misrepresenting what they say is an E-P tactic. Second, if you are an engineer you should understand that the 7th grade method of analysis is wrong. An electric motor is more like a transmission than an ICE. We will start with RR field of expertise (maybe), converting the potential chemical energy to heat energy. That energy is converted to power in an internal or external heat engine. The power produced by an ICE it transmitted in POV to the wheels to do work through a transmission that maintains the ICE at a more efficient operating point. On larger things like trains and ships, the ICE drives a generator that supplies a motor. I would suspect that in this case an electric motor is more efficient than a transmission. I am an expert at large (10 MWe) variable speed generators supplying variable frequency for motor driven variable speed pumps. This is way past 7th grade and again since this is not RR field of expertise, he can be excused. “An electric motor is more than 90% efficient,while an ICE is less than 50% efficient at the crankshaft. I’m no engineer, but I did have 7th grade science.”You have to wonder how many motor efficiency curves RR, E-P, and Maury have looked at. It is always interesting that folk who make up numbers in blogs want those who disagree to provide a link. I am always happy to exchange links with Clee because his response indicates that he makes an effort to read them.So where is the link to the 90% motor operating over the torque range to drive a BEV?Now RR when you post outside of your field of expertise and you get told you are wrong, you may want to consider the possibility that the journalist that you got your info from does not have a clue. The purpose of stating that RR is wrong is for the other readers.Ok enough of explaining why RR is wrong. Since I would like to BEV become a reality, how should we do it instead of RR and E-P mumbo jumbo. Assuming that BEV are ever produced that are both reliable and economical for the average consumer, where would the best time and place to use them. Since France has not fossil resources, it would be a good place to start. France also has nukes that load follow and hydro so it makes electricity with less fossil fuel than anyone. Let me check this assumption for today using this link http://www.rte-france.com/htm/an/accueil/courbe.jsp and I can see that the French are using ugly fossil plants all day. EDF is investigating BEV as should competent American utilities. Maybe someday RR will have the data to not be wrong. I have been right about pure EV being MIA for 20 years. PHEV being DOA is a prediction based on my engineering judgment. Whenever I use engineering judgment in a technical document it is clearly documented so that if a future calculation or data comes along some future engineer can provide a better answer.RR is just wrong on BEV. No one will buy them. BEV do not work. BEV are not efficient. The electricity will come from the least efficient fossil plants using imported CNG and LNG. Therefore, BEV are not a diversification in North America. Are we closer than the California experiment that stated in the early 90s? No we are actually farther way. My 1989 Ford Ranger with a 5 spd manual running on 10% ethanol is the basis of my answer. ICE and coal power plants have improved so much since I got my engineering degree that alternatives become less practical. I would no more think about buying an ICE POV with 1975 performance than a BEV. One of the problems with trying to beat the competition is that they may be better at improvement.

    Comment by Kit P | January 14, 2009

  31. The Kit P troll is lying, as usual.  Among other things, he lies about having anything to do with powerplants or the power grid; what he says about e.g. the August 2003 blackout is explicitly contradicted by official reports.You can refute his claims comprehensively (with references!) in one thread, and he'll either continue to spout falsehoods or just move to another thread with the same old crap.  There is no value in anything he says, and he (or the author of the travesty generator I suspect that "he" is) should be left to play with himself elsewhere.

    Comment by Engineer-Poet | January 14, 2009

  32. I am correct when I say that RR has no experience making electricity or in the electric power industry. When you continue to make statements outside your field of expertise, RR should expect to be told he is wrong. RR and E-P are examples of engineers that are agenda driven and not analysis driven.The irony is almost too great. Kit “I love ethanol” P – who has no experience in the ethanol industry wishes to tell us that ethanol is great. But then he wants to argue from authority when the topic is electricity because he claims to have experience in the electric power industry. Yet he makes incorrect claims all the time, as I have shown above, and which he did not address (preferring to use a lot of empty verbiage and hand wave about angels and pinheads). The only source of electricity that is growing sharply is fossil fuels. While renewable energy ‘other’ is growing relative to renewable energy ‘other’ it is not growing very much. In the US, natural gas generation outgrew renewable energy ‘other’ by a ratio of 16:1. Check EIA.Kit is a big fan of cherry-picking data, as we have seen before. People who cherry-pick data are in fact most likely to be agenda driven. I am big fan of checking the data. So I have done so. Let it be know that Kit “I am an electric power expert” has his facts wrong. First, he doesn’t provide any time frame for his ‘analysis’, so as such it is pretty worthless. But, using published EIA statistics at Net Generation by Energy Source, we find the following. In the past 3 years, the electricity produced from natural gas – and which Kit touted above as having grown sharply – grew by 17.5%. ‘Renewable other,’ which Kit characterized as having been outgrown by gas at a 16/1 ratio – grew by 18.4%. Simply put, Kit is a fraud who doesn’t know what he is talking about.To put it simply, RR put the wrong number in denominator. This is bonehead stuff you see in blogs. Since RR is not an engineer in the electricity generating industry, it is excusable. Same goes for E-P.Then in your case we shall presume it is inexcusable. After all, you are claiming expertise here and don’t seem to understand that electricity produced from renewables has grown quickly in recent years. After all, you did write: No, no, no!! RR does not build generating stations. Nobody who does is expecting it to grow much. What to say, other than you are wrong? “You don’t believe that electric motors are more efficient than internal combustion engines?”Shame on you RR. First I did not say that. Claiming someone is wrong by misrepresenting what they say is an E-P tactic. You can’t run from your own words, Kit. Here is what you wrote:RR: “the efficiencies of electric motors are much higher than for gasoline engines”Kit P: Again this is not true. RR, reading something in a blog does not make it true. Furthermore there is no reason to believe it is true.I think that’s pretty clear. If you can’t express yourself clearly, don’t blame others for taking your words at face value. I think it is clear that Kit is just trolling here, so let’s just take one more:Maybe someday RR will have the data to not be wrong. I have been right about pure EV being MIA for 20 years. I present data. You make things up, and then run from your words when you are shown to be wrong. As for being right for 20 years, you are just an anonymous troll on the Internet. You can claim anything you like. One thing is clear is that you aren’t actually an engineer. You are probably an engineering technician who thinks he is an engineer. I have an in-law just like that. Always over-compensating and feeling the need to tell everyone how much he knows. But the more mistakes you post, the more transparent you become.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | January 14, 2009

  33. You can refute his claims comprehensively (with references!) in one thread, and he’ll either continue to spout falsehoods or just move to another thread with the same old crap. There are certain things I don’t allow here. Posting falsehoods and insults repetitively is one of them, as it is not conducive to productive discussion. I have seen the animosity he has generated on other boards with his insulting, condescending, and ironically factually incorrect posts. If he keeps it up, he will become only the 2nd person whose posts I had to start deleting.Of course he does claim to have been making electricity for more than 40 years (which he will probably deny). This was the basis for his statement that he didn’t have to defend his claims. So perhaps the problem is that he is just way past his “Use by” date.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | January 14, 2009

  34. Using RR time frame of the last three years and table:Share of electricity generation % = generation/total generation x 100renewable energy ‘other’ 2005 – 2.1%2006 – 2.4%2007 – 2.6%Natural gas2005 – 18.8%2006 – 20.0%2007 – 21.6%Ratio of growth = total NG (2007 – 2005): total renewable energy ‘other’ (2007 – 2005)132:24 = 5.5:1I do see a disturbing growth trend in electricity generation.

    Comment by Kit P | January 14, 2009

  35. “so even if I forgot to plug in overnight, I still have a 2nd (and maybe 3rd) chance to get the vehicle charged overnight.”With lots of EV around it’s very likely that power grid management want them plugged all of the times to help regulate the grid. When you think about it, the grid load is high when your car is on a parking place so it’s a good match.I expect to see incentive to have EV plugged in the grid all the time they’re not running on the road, probably some spot electricity market and intelligent gadget in cars or parking.

    Comment by Laurent GUERBY | January 14, 2009

  36. I would like readers of RR to compare to statements made by RR. RR said in his opening statement,“We currently make it primarily from coal and nuclear power, but over time renewable electricity production is expected to grow sharply.”Then in one oh his last posts.“After all, you are claiming expertise here and don’t seem to understand that electricity produced from renewables has grown quickly in recent years.”In the contest of RR first statement looking at total generation, renewable energy would not be expected to grow sharply. In the context of RR second statement, RR has changed the goal post to limit looking at renewable energy. Again his conclusion is wrong, I do have understand the growth of renewable energy. Once again, I do not expect renewable energy to grow very much in the context of of the total mix. I will let readers draw their own conclusions when predicting the future.

    Comment by Kit P | January 14, 2009

  37. Mm.. 3 years… nice cherry-pickable data from 2004 to 2007. With nothing in the denominator, Natural Gas electricity production increased 183 TWH, Other Renewables increased 20 TWH, and Nuclear increased 18 TWH. Are we supposed to make some judgement on the relative technical merits or future growth of natural gas, other renewables and nuclear based on that 10:1.1:1 ratio? It makes nuclear look sad.

    Comment by Clee | January 14, 2009

  38. Robert,Have you considered updating your essay regarding efficiency of electric vehicles, given that your essay last year provoked so much constructive debate, I wonder if you ever recalculated that Table 4 in the subject essay?

    Comment by Kale | January 15, 2009

  39. I would like readers of RR to compare to statements made by RR.First off, let me thank you for toning it down a bit. If you have expertise in a particular area, I think we can all appreciate and potentially learn from that expertise, provided 1). You are respectful to other posters; 2). You don’t use ad hominem arguments; 3). You don’t post false information; and 4). You don’t attempt arguments from authority. What I would like is for you to post supporting data when you make statements like “PHEVs are DOA.” I have done that with my cellulosic ethanol posts, for instance. I have laid out the case for why I think there is no commercial future in (wet) cellulosic ethanol processes. Having said that I can’t make sense of this:In the contest of RR first statement looking at total generation, renewable energy would not be expected to grow sharply. In the context of RR second statement, RR has changed the goal post to limit looking at renewable energy.The fact is – and the point that I am making – is that electricity from renewable sources is expected to have a high growth rate – per the energy information providers, among other sources – and recent growth rates have in fact been high. Your counter, which you didn’t bother to defend, boils down to simply “Nobody who knows anything believes that.” There isn’t much one can say to that, except to point you in the direction of the EIA’s energy outlook series, and the IEA’s annual look at the current and predicted future state of energy supplies. Nobody is arguing – and this appears to be the position that you are arguing against – that renewable electricity is going to displace a large fraction of our coal or natural gas-derived electricity any time soon. I have posted on numerous occasions that fossil fuels will be the dominant source of electricity for many years to come. But renewables will add to the mix over the years, diversifying our electricity options.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | January 15, 2009

  40. I wonder if you ever recalculated that Table 4 in the subject essay?I haven’t, but you are right. That essay provoked some very fruitful discussion, and those numbers could use an update. Maybe our friend Kit could take that on as a project. :-)If not, like everything else, I will get around to it eventually.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | January 15, 2009

  41. “Nobody is arguing – and this appears to be the position that you are arguing against – that renewable electricity is going to displace a large fraction of our coal or natural gas-derived electricity any time soon.”Again RR, I must disagree. RR has a commonly held misconception about how electricity is produced in the US. It is repeated so often that when some one like me is contradicts this misconception, I am labeled a troll and liar. Except for biomass renewable energy, renewable energy ‘other’ is an insignificant of electricity generation. Why bother to correct common misconceptions. Until the root cause is identified and corrected, the situation will not change. The first step in RCA is to identify if there is a problem. The natural gas portion of the industry would not identify their present growth pattern as a problem. When I was developing renewable energy projects, I company worked for was developing 40% of the NG plants in the US. The renewable energy group did not even get chance to present our projects to the board. They were too busy, NG was the future.My RCA determined that I had to find local customers that needed new generation but did not have a NG pipeline. So RR, is building NG generation and just talking about renewable energy a problem?Yes! This is a problem that has been resolved by the Bush administration and many states. We are building renewable energy projects.Is the misconception that RR has about growing ‘sharply’ a problem? For those of us that would like renewable energy ‘other’ to be a significant part of the mix. this is a problem. As long as we have politicos dancing around in a tutu waving a magic wand, we will not get the job done.So how do we get from growing to growing ‘sharply’ and more importantly sustainable? Gosh, I do not know. How has ethanol grown to 10% in a short time?I would not think that a 50 MWe biomass plant would be all that different than an economical scale ethanol plant. RR could take me on a tour of an ethanol plant and I would understand how it works. I could take RR on a tour of a biomass plant and he would understand how it works. So if we can grow ethanol sharply, what about renewable energy biomass electricity? RR, can ad hominem arguments be used for the legal profession? To distribute electricity on the grid, the likes of state PUC and FERC get involved. Then there is the EPA, OSHA you name it. Lawyers in suits as far as the eye can see. We can not forget the intervener industry, renewable energy is not immune. The engineering may be similar but we have to figure out a way to debate the legal issues once instead of for every plant. The nuclear industry has adopted an design certification approach. From my perspective, I would like to capture part of the money leaving the US to buy oil. So even if the electricity comes from coal, it is good thing. I will explain why PHEV are DOA in my next post. Wait for it!

    Comment by Kit P | January 15, 2009

  42. RR has a commonly held misconception about how electricity is produced in the US. It is repeated so often that when some one like me is contradicts this misconception, I am labeled a troll and liar.Wrong, wrong, wrong! A person can disagree with everything I say, post their reasoning and supporting information, and not be considered a troll for one second. Someone doing so and throwing in liberal insults starts to approach the behavior of a troll. Someone ‘correcting’ misinformation with misinformation and saying things like “I don’t have to support my position” – as you have done – and insulting the other party in the process is a troll in my book. You have displayed exactly the same kind of antagonistic posting style on other boards, and I can tell you that I am not going to allow that here. If you can’t post without insulting and belittling other posters, don’t post here or I will delete your posts.As far as lying, I can give you some examples in this thread of instances where you lied:In response to my claim that electric motors are more efficient than gasoline engines, you wrote “Again this is not true. RR, reading something in a blog does not make it true. Furthermore there is no reason to believe it is true.” Then you denied that’s what you said. Either you lied, or couldn’t express yourself clearly, and failed to admit that the mistake was yours. Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt, and move on to a clear lie:RR and E-P are examples of engineers that are agenda driven and not analysis driven.That, sir, is a lie. I think you have demonstrated with your over the top Bush apologetics – especially on natural gas prices – that you are the one who is agenda driven. Another lie:To put it simply, RR put the wrong number in denominator. This is bonehead stuff you see in blogs. I suspect that the claim that you have been producing electricity for more than 40 years is a lie, and I also suspect that you are not an engineer, but a technician.Now, let’s not call the next one a lie, but it is clearly a mistake on your part:In the US, natural gas generation outgrew renewable energy ‘other’ by a ratio of 16:1. Check EIA. Of course I did check EIA and showed that you are wrong. But in the future, if you are going to make a claim like this, you clearly need to give a timeframe and reference for your analysis (as I did). You then referred to “folk who make up numbers in blogs.” Since I didn’t make up numbers – referencing my claims in fact – this would be at minimum misinformation on your part.Except for biomass renewable energy, renewable energy ‘other’ is an insignificant of electricity generation. This is the heart of your mistake. You seem to think “insignificant” and “growing sharply” are mutually exclusive. If something has a high growth rate relative to its peers, it can certainly be characterized as growing sharply even if it is starting from a small base. You need to read very carefully what is actually written and not inject your own (mis)interpretations into the equation.How has ethanol grown to 10% in a short time? Factually incorrect. Ethanol, even by volume, isn’t 10% of our gasoline supply. Take the energy content, and it is in the neighborhood of 5%. But take the net energy – that is, subtract out the fossil fuel inputs that it took to make the ethanol – and you are looking at something in the region of 1%. How has this happened? Mandates, and more than $5 billion/yr in direct subsidies. I would not think that a 50 MWe biomass plant would be all that different than an economical scale ethanol plant. You would be dead wrong. First, you don’t have to take me on a tour of a biomass plant. I have been through several (one in India, one in Louisiana, and one in Germany), and I understand how they work. In principle they work just like a coal-fired power plant, with the caveats that the biomass handling portion is more complex than dealing with coal (and tars have to be dealt with appropriately). I am helping a company in Washington design one right now, and I had consulted on the one in Louisiana. So again, I would caution you about the mischaracterization that “I am correct when I say that RR has no experience making electricity or in the electric power industry.” You would be wrong.I have wasted a piece of my morning, largely correcting misconceptions. When I have to do that more than once, my perception of the poster starts to become that they are trolling. If you wish to have a productive discussion, be more cautious with your writing. But if you want to have a productive discussion, I would be happy to go so far as to post an essay for you – but only if you can remove all of the nastiness and have your claims referenced.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | January 16, 2009

  43. The US could replace all its cars and trucks with electric cars powered by wind turbines taking up less than 3 square kilometres – in theory, at least. That’s the conclusion of a detailed study ranking 11 types of non-fossil fuels according to their total ecological footprint and their benefit to human health.The study, carried out by Mark Jacobson of the atmosphere and energy programme at Stanford University, found wind power to be by far the most desirable source of energy. Biofuels from corn and plant waste came right at the bottom of the list, along with nuclear power and “clean” coal.The energy sources that Jacobson found most promising were, in descending order:• Wind• Concentrated solar power (mirrors heating a tower of water)• Geothermal energy• Tidal energy• Solar panels• Wave energy• Hydroelectric dams

    Comment by Anonymous | January 16, 2009

  44. One of the things that has improved in the electric industry is the civility in which we conduct business. However, although RR has explained the rules I am still not sure how to have a civil discussion with him. I present my observations of the world honestly. As RR has noted I can be very harsh. This is not the tone he want for his blog. I like civil better.RR, please stop calling me a lier and try to read what I write as a discussion and not an insult.Moving on in the order of what interests me,“I am helping a company in Washington design one right now, ..”Could you provide some details or start a new essay. It hurt to give up developing renewable energy in the PNW and move the family. I could also write an essay about sustainable energy integration. While my methods can be generalize, the target audience was PUD in the semi-arid of PNW. The rub is that my old company sold my business unit to my present company. Now another business unit of my new company and old company have recently announced a partnership to build biomass renewable energy projects. I will have to make a couple phone calls.Old stuff, I did go back and read both essays to check for misconceptions on my part. I did not find any. Thank you RR fro letting me post my position it has not changed. “Factually incorrect. Ethanol, even by volume, isn’t 10% of our gasoline supply.”I was hoping RR would engage in a discussion about increasing the rate of renewable energy production.

    Comment by Anonymous | January 16, 2009

  45. Peak demand watch; BP Stat Review editor says developed economies may never require as much oil than they did in 2007.Of course, if oil is not demanded it won’t be supplied. Perhaps we’ll see a demand-side peak production scenario. Bah, oil. Who wants that stuff?

    Comment by Alex | January 23, 2009

  46. minor quibble. Former BP stat review editor

    Comment by Anonymous | January 23, 2009


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