Electric Vehicles Use Half the Energy of Gas-Powered Vehicles

Yves here. While I am sure this analysis is directionally correct, it presents itself as authoritative. But it seems not to allow for the fact that electric vehicles are much heavier than their gas-glutty cousins. For instance, from Axios last year:

State of play: Electric vehicles can be anywhere from hundreds to thousands of pounds heavier than similarly sized gas vehicles because EV batteries are so much heavier than engines.

  • For example, the 2023 GMC Hummer EV, a full-size pickup, weighs more than 9,000 pounds, sporting a 2,900-pound battery. In comparison, the 2023 GMC Sierra, also a full-size pickup, weighs less than 6,000 pounds, according to Kelley Blue Book.
  • The average weight of U.S. vehicles has already increased from about 3,400 pounds to 4,300 pounds over the last 30 years as Americans have ditched passenger cars for pickups and SUVs, according to Evercore ISI analysts.

Threat level: Safety watchdogs are raising concerns after the recent deadly collapse of a parking garage in New York City called attention to the challenge of creaking infrastructure….

The big question: Can automakers make batteries more energy-efficient so that they weigh less yet still pack a powerful punch?

  • “Unless we see incredibly rapid advances in battery design and vehicle designs, and taking smart steps like using battery energy density gains to save weight rather than extend range, or opening the doors to battery swapping, we are likely to see many additional deaths and injuries attributable solely to the added weight of EV batteries,” [Center for Auto Safety acting executive director Michael] Brooks says.

Does anyone here have a rough and ready weight adjustment to the analysis below? And do any others need to be made for something closer to an apples to apples comparison?

By Karin Kirk is a geologist and freelance writer with a background in climate education. Originally published at Yale Climate Connection

As U.S. EV sales rise, more cars than ever are using the electrical grid to power up. It would be reasonable to assume that means the grid must now supply a vast amount of energy to those cars — but it actually won’t take as much as you might think.

The reality: EVs require much less energy to operate than gasoline-burning vehicles. In fact, with the nation’s current electricity blend, an EV requires only about half the energy needed for a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine.

Running Hot, Wasting Energy

U.S. residents are collectively burning about 8.9 million barrels of gasoline a day, or a little over one gallon each for every person in the country. That enormous sum has decreased by around 5% from the nation’s peak gasoline use in 2018.

Today’s gasoline-fueled cars and trucks waste around 80% of the energy that gets pumped into their gas tanks. A car heats up as it burns fuel to move pistons and propel the wheels. The heat is not needed to move the car, so it is vented off, carrying away most of the energy in the fuel. This isn’t necessarily a design flaw; it’s an inevitable part of thermodynamics. Burning fuel to create motion tends to be an energy-wasting proposition.

Electric vehicles operate with only around 11% energy loss, meaning that most of the energy that goes into the car ends up turning the wheels. Because the vehicle doesn’t burn fuel, there is no thermodynamic penalty for converting heat to motion. Also, EVs can recapture energy during braking, boosting overall efficiency.

Read: Electrifying transportation reduces emissions and saves massive amounts of energy

>Even a Coal-Fired Power Plant Is Less Wasteful Than a Car Engine

The electricity that charges EVs has to come from somewhere. It would be correct to point out that some types of electricity generation are also grossly inefficient, especially coal.

Generators powered by coal, oil, or methane gas — commonly called natural gas — use a complex process, burning fuel to create steam that spins a turbine that generates an electrical current. Here, the thermodynamic problem arises yet again. Burning any type of fuel to make electricity ends up releasing the majority of the energy in the fuel as unused heat. You read that right: Most of the original energy is lost.

Read: Energy loss is single-biggest component of today’s electricity system

Despite the major energy losses, a power plant is still more efficient than a car’s engine. Recall that an internal combustion engine loses around 80% of the energy that goes into it. A coal-burning power plant loses around 68% of its energy. Thus, an EV powered purely by coal still uses less energy than a car powered by gasoline.

Methane gas power plants are more efficient than coal power, so an EV charged with electricity from methane gas uses about half as much energy as a similar car powered by gasoline.

Renewable Energy Sweetens the Deal

The math gets more encouraging when you consider the efficiency of renewable energy. Not only do wind, solar, and hydropower reduce pollution, but they also shrink the overall energy demand because there is no energy lost in the process of burning fuel to create motion. Less energy is needed, simply because so much less is wasted.

A wind turbine uses no fuel to spin and make an electrical current, so it doesn’t produce emissions or waste heat. The process is so simple that there’s basically not much opportunity for energy to be lost.

A hydroelectric dam uses water to spin the turbines instead of air. A solar panel doesn’t have any spinning parts. It just converts the sun’s energy into electrical current.

So an EV powered entirely by wind, solar, or hydro chops off a whopping 77% of the energy needs of driving. These huge savings come from combining efficient electricity generation with an efficient vehicle — the ultimate win-win.

How Much Energy Can You Save? It Depends on Where You Live.

Electricity is generated from a variety of sources. Some are efficient and others much less so. By looking at the specific blend of electricity sources generated in each state, it’s possible to estimate how much energy can be saved by swapping traditional gasoline-powered cars and trucks for electric equivalents.

The more efficient the electricity generation, the less energy is needed. States like South Dakota, Idaho, and Washington use mostly renewables in their electricity portfolios and little to no combustion-based electricity. Thus, driving an EV requires about 70% less energy than a gasoline vehicle in those states.

At the other end of the spectrum is the important example of West Virginia, where over 90% of the electricity comes from inefficient coal. Even in this worst-case scenario, an EV still uses around one-third less energy than gasoline. An EV charged in West Virginia also reduces carbon pollution by 30%.

On average across the U.S., swapping a gasoline-powered vehicle for an EV will lower the energy needed for driving by about 47% — just a bit less than half. This number will likely improve in the future because the electricity supply will grow more efficient as it becomes less carbon-intensive.

Besides lowering emissions and fighting climate change, using less energy overall is a win for land use, air and water pollution, and environmental justice, while also lowering the cost of driving for everyone.

Efficiency is a beautiful thing.

Notes and Caveats

The map is based on electricity generated within each state. It doesn’t measure electricity that is imported or exported between states.

This analysis doesn’t include upstream energy consumption, such as drilling wells, building power plants, refining gasoline, or the transportation/transmission of either petroleum or electricity. It also doesn’t factor in the manufacturing of either type of car. In-depth life cycle assessments by Argonne National Laboratory, Carbon Brief, Hannah Ritchie, and Auke Hoekstra, among others, have shown that across their entire life cycles, EVs have lower energy use and carbon emissions compared with gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles.

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  1. LawnDart

    From the article:

    EVs require much less energy to operate than gasoline-burning vehicles.

    I’ll note that the energy-costs associated with the production of lithium-based EV batteries is usually cited in arguments against electric cars, along with safety, scarcity, sustainability, and durability. Each of these points are addressed within this article:

    6 alternatives to lithium-ion batteries: What’s the future of energy storage?


    Lithium will rapidly decline in use for EV batteries, mostly because of cost, within the forseeable future. And I don’t see how even the continued use of lithium can be more harmful and polluting than the current practice of fracking for fuel.

    I do like several aspects of electric vehicles, such as ease of maintenance, less moving parts, and less pollution, but pure-electric is impractical for my needs. Hybrid, however, would work.

    Do hybrids weigh less than pure-electric? And do any state vehicle-taxes take gross vehicle-weight into consideration?

    1. Cian

      The only one of those that is practical is sodium, but it has worse energy density than lithium.

      Hydrogen is a terrible technology (explosive, and you lose huge amounts of energy in creating & transmitting the hydrogen rendering it pretty inefficient). It can be useful for certain things (one problem with electricity is creating sufficient heat for a number of industrial processes – hydrogen may be a practical solution), but as a universal battery it’s hopeless.

    2. Kilgore Trout

      “On average across the U.S., swapping a gasoline-powered vehicle for an EV will lower the energy needed for driving by about 47% — just a bit less than half.”
      My 22015 Prius is getting 45 mpg as January winds down, which if IRC is about double the national average mpg. Our 2019 Rav4 hybrid is getting about 33 mpg during the coldest part of winter here in the Northeast. So suggestive of what light[er]weight pickups could get if “hybridized”. Again, that’s about twice what full-size pickups in US get. So converting entire US auto/truck “fleet” to hybrid might get US to same place as this post’s claim for EVs. Would overall environmental costs then be greater/ lesser or same?

    3. JCC

      I have a 2017 prius prime, curb weight is about 3350 lbs. Depending on where I’m driving and the time of year (3000ft ASL or 600ft ASL, 115F or 75F temps) I average anywhere from 38mpg to as many as 60mpg. Overall average according to the car gauge is about 48mpg. It’s that good because I actively drive it relative to taking advantage of regenerative braking, etc.

      Overall, at this time, I believe that hybrids are a good option me, particularly considering I do not have a level 2 charger and I do a lot of winter driving where batteries right now lose a lot of efficiency. Pure electric, for me, would be pretty inconvenient compared to a lighter hybrid vehicle due to lack of public charging stations in this area and 110V charging at home.

      Eventually, though, I believe a pure battery fueled vehicle could be a better choice once battery efficiency improves and public, functioning, charging stations, including large apartment bldg stations become more readily available.

      Right now another big concern is public utility infrastructure issues which have been well covered here and elsewhere.

  2. JohnA

    Maybe the most energy efficient future transport systems would be electric trains and trams, trolleybuses etc., powered by overhead lines obviating the need for heavy onboard batteries in individual vehicles.

    1. BeliTsari

      Tried that a century ago, to sell electrification & speculate-up streetcar suburbs. 15 ton coal powered electric traction, up & down cobblestone hills in rust-belt cities for a shift working proletariat saving up to escape to concrete suburbs & 2-3hr commutes & for cars that ate 30% of income (to avoid other commuters & local retail?) Now, it’s e-mobility scooters & bicycles to avoid re-re-reinfection.

      1. JohnA

        Trams, or streetcars, have been reintroduced in more and more cities in Europe, after their tracks were mostly ripped out in the 60s and 70s.

        Do you think today’s precariat, shift working or otherwise, rather than proletariat, can save up anything towards escaping to the suburbs when they are one medical or similar emergency away from becoming homeless?

        They will own nothing, eat bugs, and be happy. As the Davos crowd prescribes.

    2. Cian

      Cars are about the worst possible solution to the problem of transportation.

      It is striking that it’s the only solution our neoliberal societies can come up with.

      1. Kilgore Trout

        Amen to that. One only has to visit almost any city to see that: Istanbul is a good example outside the US. I’ve read that Beijing may be another, as bicycles have been swapped out for cars, thanks to “prosperity”.

  3. Palm & Needle

    Yves wrote:

    Does anyone here have a rough and ready weight adjustment to the analysis below? And do any others need to be made for something closer to an apples to apples comparison?

    When it comes to motion, energy scales linearly with mass (E = 0.5mv²). Assuming ICVs (internal combustion vehicles) require double the energy per mass as EVs due to efficiency losses, but the average EV is 50% heavier than the average ICV (requires 1.5X the energy to reach the same speed), then on average EVs will use 75% of the energy of ICVs to travel at the same speed as ICVs (that is, on average EVs require 25% less energy than ICVs).

    Putting this as a rough and ready formula you can use to scale for the mass difference:

    scaling factor = mass difference EV * (efficiency EV / efficiency ICV)

    So if EVs require half the energy of ICVs (efficiency EV / efficiency ICV = 0.5) and EV mass is 50% greater (mass difference EV = 1.5), then the scaling factor is 0.75 (… = 1.5 * 0.5)

    An interesting note: reducing the speed limit by approximately 15-20% is likely to have an equivalent effect in terms of reducing the energy consumption. (Very rough estimate, take with grain of salt.)

    1. juno mas

      Reducing the speed limit to 55MPH back in the 70’s was not for road safety, but for greater fuel efficiency. The air friction/resistance of a smooth spherical object increases/decreases as a cubic function of its velocity. Reduce a cars velocity by 10% and you reduce the air resistance by ~25%.

    2. ian

      One thing to add: yes, it may take more energy to accelerate the greater mass of the EV, but on deceleration, you get some of that energy back in an EV due to regenerative braking. With a gas engine, it all ends up as heat.

    3. BP

      Once the motor in question has done its thing and the wheels turn, the energy/work of the wheels goes to one of four things 1) overcoming the rolling friction of the wheels 2) overcoming air drag 3) speeding up 4) going up hill. It does not matter what the energy source is.

      1) depends linearly with mass. I.e. double the mass doubles that energy loss. Same with the rolling friction. Keep the tires pumped up!

      2) air drag depends on velocity SQUARED i.e doubling the velocity quadruples that energy loss. It does not depend on mass. It does depend linearly on frontal area and drag coefficient, so roll up the windows

      So to set a scale here, an empty Corolla sedan travelling at a constant speed on level ground at about 75 kmh (45mph) uses half the fuel energy to overcome the rolling resistance and half to overcome air drag.
      Speeding up to 63 mph doubles the air drag, increasing energy consumption by 50% . Similarly increasing the mass by 10% (not unusual if loaded up) increases energy consumption by 10% at all speeds.

      If that fuel is gas at 35 MJ/litre energy density, and the ICE is typically 20% efficient, its easy to reproduce the 8litre/100km fuel efficiency rating. Standard senior HS physics problem.

      3) speeding up costs the kinetic energy 1/2 mass* velocity-squared. This is important. ICEs still use some gas even when braking An (H)EV can recover most of that in electrical form from regenerative breaking, but an ICE ca’t. That’s one reason hybrids/EV have about the same fuel rating in the city as on the highway – in start/stop city traffic, they get the energy back from the braking phase.

      4) not much you can do about hills, but again (H)EVs can get a lot of electrical energy back from Regen braking downhill, while ICEs still use a little gas even when braking.

  4. Enter Laughing

    One variable not mentioned — tires. The weight of EVs, coupled with the instant torque the electric motors send to the wheels, “eats through tires” four to five times faster than tires on an ICE vehicle as explained in Florida Drivers Discover Hard Truth About EVs: They Eat Tires.

    At EV Garage Miami, a Sweetwater repair shop that services 90 percent electric vehicles, lead technician Jonathan Sanchez said tires are the most frequent thing customers come in about, no matter what model or make of EV they’re driving. Tire mileage can vary widely of course, but he frequently changes EV tires at just 8,000 to 10,000 miles — a fourth or even fifth of typical tire wear on a gas-burning car.

    That’s a real biggie when it comes to total cost of operation.

    1. Otto Reply

      Agreed. An analysis of the full environmental impact of EVs must include a discussion of rubber tires.
      Hoisted from my previous comment on the subject (side note – is it plagiarism to repost a previous comment? Please don’t cancel me!) specifically about EV tires:
      Electric vehicle tires: a lesser-known pollution headache – DW – 07/12/2023

      Electric Cars Are Sending Tire Particles Into the Soil, Air, and Water – The Atlantic

      More Efficient, Less Polluting Tires Are Essential For EVs – Forbes

      “When we switch to electric cars, according to Michelin, we increase tire wear by up to 20%.”

      1. Mark Gisleson

        Current technology has lowered the oil cost for one tire to about half a barrel. That’s an improvement. When I was building tires in the ’70s the industry claimed one tire took a full barrel of oil when all energy costs were included.

        Tires are crazy hard to make. They heavily automated the process but you can’t just hire someone off the street to run that kind of equipment. Tire builders usually have at least 5-6 years of tire factory experience before acquiring the needed skills.

  5. Another Scott

    There are some factual errors in this article. Leaving aside the issue of stating that renewable power generation is 100% efficient (I understand the point that they are trying to make), it also completely ignores the line losses of electric generation, which are likely to increase as renewable sources are even further away than traditional power generation. In addition, the estimate of 44% efficiency for natural gas is on the low end of the efficiency for combined cycle natural gas plants which range from 45 to 57% (cogeneration plants are even more efficient). Finally, the article appears to use the efficiency of the average power source rather than the marginal load. If the marginal load is used, the efficiency is much lower (and greenhouse gas emissions much higher) as the marginal power source is generally a lower efficiency gas or oil turbine.

    But the basic concept that electric motors are more efficient than gas ones is solid. There is a reason that almost all facilities have moved from using steam or diesel-powered motors and pumps to electric ones. The electric versions are more efficient (with lower energy costs) and generally require less maintenance and space, further reducing costs.

    1. Giordano Bruno

      This argument assumes all transmission is done using high voltage alternate current (HVAC), which is a very inefficient way to transport power over long distances. What is being missed is that there is an alternative, high voltage direct current (HVDC), which is very efficient over a very long distances. The first HVDC transmission line in the US was built the 1960s, and to this day connects Washington state hydropower to Los Angeles county supplying 50% of all power consumed in LA county. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_DC_Intertie

      HVDC can be used to link remote renewable energy sources with populations centers, without line loss. China has built a massive HVDC network to link its hydropower in the west with its population centers in the east. https://privatebank.jpmorgan.com/content/dam/jpm-wm-aem/global/pb/en/insights/eye-on-the-market/high-voltage-direct-current-lines-china-leads-us-lags.pdf

      1. Jorge

        Which kind of line, HVDC v.s. HVAC, is vulnerable to strong sunspot activity? We are scheduled to have strong solar weather for the rest of the decade, I think?

        1. Old Jake

          I don’t believe it makes any significant difference. The sensitivity to sunspots and solar flares is a function of the length of the wire. The longer the wire, the greater the impact. I imagine that protective measures are similar also.

      2. p fitsimons

        HVDC is not without line loss, but has less loss than AC. The inverters needed to convert AC to DC and then DC back to AC are very expensive and produce a fixed loss. But you’re right HVDC proves-in for routes longer than about 500 miles.

    2. Cian

      It also ignores storage losses with renewables, and the energy costs of constructing those. Renewable technologies are mostly misnamed (solar and wind), as they have a lifespan of about 20 years and are not really recyclable. There are also going to be some losses on charging your car.

      On the flip side of this we tend to ignore the energy costs of getting that gasoline to the end user, and those aren’t insignificant either.

  6. PlutoniumKun

    Hannah Richie, who is a very reliable source of independent data, did a deep two part dive on her substack into the issue of EV vs ICE car weight. Part I and Part II.

    Most industry observers think that the differential will shrink over time for two main reasons – one is that energy density of batteries is constantly increasing, the second is marketing – range anxiety is one of the reason why most EV’s have a far greater range than is necessary for the majority of drivers (the overwhelming majority of trips are less than 30 miles). Plus as charging networks widen up, people will get used to how to keep their EV charged at a reasonable level for what they need. So it seems likely that the ‘range wars’ will die back as people get used to needing a charge every 2-300 miles (i.e. around one charge a week) rather than having cars with 500 or more mile ranges.

    Unfortunately, an opportunity was lost years ago for governments to insist on standardised battery designs for swapping out on EV’s – had they done so, we would need far fewer batteries per car. Another lost opportunity for now, was the chance to make cars far lighter – BMW pioneered this with their very light i3 range, but for reasons best known to them they stepped back and went for the easier option of shoving batteries into cars designed for ICE engines, resulting in much heavier vehicles.

    What we don’t know is how the widespread adoption of EV’s will change peoples buying patterns or travel patterns. There is evidence from Europe and China that people are favouring smaller EV’s (in contrast to the general pattern of cars becoming constantly bigger and heavier over time), but whether this is as an alternative or addition to a big car isn’t clear yet (anecdotally, people seem to be buying small EV’s as their ‘daily’ car, while keeping a big car in the driveway for weekend family trips, etc).

    It needs to be said over and over, as so many people ignore it – but electricity equals efficiency. EV’s require far less energy to move their passengers than even the most efficient ICE or hybrid vehicles. So even a purely coal power station grid would still produce less pollution with EV’s than with each car having its only private little (and highly inefficient) ICE power unit. And yes, that even includes worst case scenarios for the energy use in battery manufacture.

    1. jbc

      > What we don’t know is how the widespread adoption of EV’s will change peoples buying patterns or travel patterns.

      Actually we do know. Just as building bigger highways increased traffic, convenient EV usage will increase energy consumption.

      Induced demand is coming for future energy.

    2. Cian

      I find the argument that most trips are less than 30 miles somewhat dishonest. The more relevant statistic would be what proportion of the total miles driven are for long trips. It’s a small detail perhaps, but indicative of the way that the green lobby tends to focus on stats that make them look good – rather than thinking honestly about strengths and weaknesses of ‘green’ tech.

      Obviously the problem with range is the recharging problem. If it took a few minutes to recharge, and recharging stations were plentiful, then nobody would worry too much about range. Recharging stations could in theory be solved (though nobody is seriously trying to atm), but the time to recharge is likely to remain an issue. I have to periodically travel beyond the range of an EV in a single trip, and I’ve spoken to people who’ve tried to make the same trip in EVs and it’s difficult/complicated (in a gasoline car it’s a trivial trip). Everyone I know who has an EV, either rents a car for longer trips, or one of the people in the house has a gasoline car and they use that.

      Most of the proposed solutions to issues around EVs assume that people will somehow change their behavior in ways that make electric cars more viable. Which… good luck with that. Or that a massive infrastructure project will somehow happen in the US (again… good luck with that).

      If we’re going to go with highly improbable solutions, why don’t we instead just do mass transit. Trains are massively more efficient than cars (which are an incredibly inefficient solution to the problem than transportation), while locally buses are a fabulous technology (you can even use flywheels on short trips). And that’s even before you get into the problem of where we’re going to get all the resources to build all these electric cars.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I find the argument that most trips are less than 30 miles somewhat dishonest. The more relevant statistic would be what proportion of the total miles driven are for long trips. It’s a small detail perhaps, but indicative of the way that the green lobby tends to focus on stats that make them look good – rather than thinking honestly about strengths and weaknesses of ‘green’ tech.

        The percentage of total miles driven for long trips is entirely irrelevant. The relevant figure is how many trips would exceed the reasonable range of an EV. Since less than 1% of all car trips in the US exceed 100 miles, this implies that far less than 1 in 100 trips – even less than 1 in 100 round trips, would require a charge during the journey.

        1. Cian

          Yes, but that’s not why people worry about range. They worry about range because charging Electric vehicles on a journey is way more difficult and time consuming than filling up a gasoline car. Unless that problem is solved – and solved well (fast charging is less efficient, and reduces battery life), this ‘irrational’ desire that consumers have isn’t going to be eliminated through marketing.

          Very few of my journeys require the rear seats in my car, but if for the 1 in ten that do I had to strap my kids to the roof of my car – I’d probably start looking for a different car to buy. If someone told me that I was being irrational because 9/10 journeys didn’t need rear seats, I’d rapidly lose interest in anything they had to say.

        2. p fitsimons

          But if that one trip out of a hundred is 5000 miles and your daily commutes are 20 miles (7200 miles) then 5000/(7200+5000) long drives are about 41% of your total miles.
          I have a PHEV which averages about 25 miles per charge. But my daily use is less than 15 miles. We take about 4 long trips of 1000 miles each year to visit grandchildren. That works out to about 42% of our miles are long distance. Although it doesn’t feel like that since most days I’m running on pure electric. When on a long trip in ICE mode I can get well over 500 miles on a tank, no range anxiety.
          On the other-hand we stop two or three times on the long trips, so if I did have an EV and chargers were available it wouldn’t be a problem for us.

    3. Randall Flagg

      >Unfortunately, an opportunity was lost years ago for governments to insist on standardised battery designs for swapping out on EV’s – had they done so, we would need far fewer batteries per car. Another lost opportunity for now, was the chance to make cars far lighter – BMW pioneered this with their very light i3 range, but for reasons best known to them they stepped back and went for the easier option of shoving batteries into cars designed for ICE engines, resulting in much heavier vehicles.

      ABSOLUTELY! I hope this works, a CNBC story about battery swapping. I know 60 Minutes did a segment too but can’t track down.

      I’ve often thought that a ten to 20 minute swap out would be the way to go and overcome the range anxiety.
      Standardization folks, would be no worse than your average pit stop on a long trip anyway….

  7. jbc

    If you want to easily judge the amount of energy an automobile consumes look at the tires.

    Vehicles are equipped with big expensive tires because, as they say, that is where the rubber meets the road.

    The trend toward larger tires has been unmistakable. They are needed to haul half empty EV batteries around.

    1. juno mas

      Yes. And it is the weight of a vehicle that deteriorates the road surface; especially as it is turning. EV’s should have a road tax (similar to ICE gas tax) that is spent on roadway maintenance.

    2. p fitsimons

      But the weight and the need for huge tires is mainly from a trend towards giant car-pickup trucks like the F-150 and the huge SUVs. My next door neighbors have these big car-trucks which they use to pick up groceries and put them in the back seat. The cover over the truck bed hardly ever comes off.

  8. Es s Ce tera

    The only worry I have about the weight (other than parking garages collapsing) is it is precisely that weight and lower center of gravity which seems to make Teslas safer. They’re nearly impossible to flip, like little tanks.

    The recent Chinese announcements of the feasibility of nuclear batteries, which can last 50 years, had me a bit worried EV’s might lose the safety benefits of that extra weight.

    Speaking of, the piece was clearly written before the Betavolt POC announcements. It would have been nice to include nuclear batteries in the assessment, though.

    1. cfraenkel

      The recent Chinese nuclear battery announcement was for batteries that can supply milliwatts of power. Very useful for sensors, implanted medical devices and other low power uses, but a derail in a transportation discussion. A nuclear battery powered EV would have a range in centimeters, if it could start moving at all.

  9. marcel

    Directionally, the article is right, but still a bit of propaganda, and things that may go as errors.
    1. Fuel efficiency of an ICE is much lower than the ~30% mentioned. On a flat road at stabilised speed, you might get that figure, but most driving is not that, and efficiency is rather at 20% or below.

    2. The “22%” of recaptured energy is a mechanism that exists also for ICE (‘hybrids’ have done this for over 25 years). And only exists if you brake. If you brake a lot, you are a bad driver, or driving in a clogged city center. So this figure should be discounted.

    3. The mean occupancy of a car is 1.1 or 1.2 persons (depends a bit on the country), say 100kg (200 lb), while its weight is at least 10 times that. With the huge load of batteries, and hence a reinforced chassis, the weight could go to 15 times that of a single passenger.

    If you combine those, 1,5 to 2% of the available energy with an ICE does useful work (transporting you), the reste is wasted (heat, or transporting useless steel & plastic). That increases a bit with recaptured brake energy. With an electric vehicle, that increases to 2,5 to 3%.

    So when using a car, you waste over 95% of the available energy, whatever type of engine you use.
    Add to that the fact that a car is at rest about 80% of the time, and does something like 10mph on average when moving (ie no faster than a bike), and you see what a huuuuge waste of resources we’ve done over last century.

    1. BeliTsari

      White-flight suburbanite consumerism, along with jet travel, MICIMATT required to enforce extraction & of resources & indentured labor, accelerated AGW right between Woodstock & American Graffiti. API’s “Time is Running Out” speech in 1965 & Exxon’s atmospheric carbon graph in ’82 (which didn’t envision post Katrina slick water fracking) were ignored by brainwashed ‘Murikans driving RAM 1600s 40mi to malls for Fiji Water & Chinese electronics. Biden’s Fracking cabal was installed to pick wars to save Albright’s planet destroying “bridge fuel” Ponzi scheme?

    2. t

      2. The “22%” of recaptured energy is a mechanism that exists also for ICE (‘hybrids’ have done this for over 25 years). And only exists if you brake. If you brake a lot, you are a bad driver, or driving in a clogged city center. So this figure should be discounted.

      Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Anyone who brakes for anything other than coming to a full stop should not be allowed to to drive because either they lack the skills or are driving in time and places where they should not be. (Giant sprawl cities with commuter congestion may not have good public transportation, but they have it.)

        1. Polar Socialist

          Where I live it’s mostly the pedestrians stepping in front of the car while staring at their phones. That and really poor/badly placed signs that often cause drivers to hit the brakes in crossings realizing a bit too late which way to turn.

        2. Grumpy Engineer

          I take it you have never driven in dense urban traffic. Or with lots of scooters.

          Heh. Your comment reminds me of the time I visited Mumbai. Eight lines of cars on roads we’d consider 4-lane, and everybody literally 6 inches apart. With little motorcycles squirting in and out of traffic. To describe it as “stop-and-go” is inadequate. It was a very herky-jerky experience, and my adrenals were wrung out by the time we escaped the city.

          And it was terribly inefficient. Most fuel was wasted idling, and most of the rest was burned in brief bursts of acceleration that were immediately cancelled out by hard braking. I’d be surprised if cars averaged even 5 mpg. In this type of traffic, a vehicle that ran (at least mostly) on electric power and featured regenerative braking would be significantly more efficient. And if deployed widespread, air and noise pollution would be significantly reduced.

          I’m not a fan of today’s push for EVs everywhere, but there are places where they would surely help.

      1. Skip Intro

        According to Science, if you drive fast enough, that yellow or red traffic light will shift towards a green/blue color, making braking a thing for people with slow cars.

    3. Skip Intro

      How does a non-hybrid ICE gain energy from regenerative braking? where is it stored, how does it return to the drive train? Many new EV ave ‘1-pedal’ mode, where the brakes/generatror braking kick in as soon as you let up the accelerator. Since it ruins coasting, it seems really inefficient, but if you suffer loss of executive function, reducing the number fo pedals by 50% may be a boon.

      1. Grebo

        Coasting is a thing automatics do. Rather disconcerting to the stick-shift driver used to engine braking.

        The electrics I have driven allow one to select the degree of regen according to taste.

    4. Dr. Nod

      Actually the article postulates that the efficiency of an ICE is 20%. Modern engines are much more efficient and this fact negates much of the article. (One sees these out of date thermal efficiency numbers quoted repeatedly, perhaps to help make one’s case.) The Edwards cycle gasoline engine in my five year old Toyota Camry hybrid is 40% thermally efficient. It is more thermally efficient than most, but 20% would be at the very bottom end these days. There are some drive train losses, but probably only slightly more than those with an EV. Also marcel does not seem to realize that hybrids (and EVs) charge when lifts off the accelerator and continues when one gently depresses the brake. The mechanical brakes come into play only when one is braking more vigorously or just before the vehicle stops.) The extent of regenerative braking versus coasting essentially depends on software settings, but my last hybrid went 11 years without a brake job before I sold it so the brakes were not used a lot. When drive train losses and energy recapture are taken into consideration, the overall efficiency of my car would be (depending on the type of driving) probably 45-50%. This is still marginally worse than an equivalent battery electric vehicle, but it is well more than half as efficient as an equivalent EV.

      1. marcel

        You only get that 40% efficiency in a “lab test” environment, or at 60mph with cruise control enabled on a flat road. But under ‘normal driving’ conditions you accelerate, decelerate etc. and thermal efficiency goes down.

        This car (translation required) does 3000km (~2000 miles) on a single liter (.26 gallon) of fuel, which translates to about 8000 mpg.

  10. Steve H.

    Where is the energy to produce the vehicle accounted for? Who pays the costs for the support infrastructure?

    This is like talking about income without noting total wealth. In economics, that erases discussion of class.

    In this case, infrastructure is centered in the cities. As Steven Malanga wrote: There are no Blue states—only Blue cities.

    Cui bono, cui malo.

  11. The Rev Kev

    Not really convinced by articles like this. What I would like to see is a comparison of cars for their full life span. By that I mean seeing what all the costs are from gathering the resources, manufacturing each type of car, life time costs of each car type and finally the disposal costs of each type of car. See what each really costs rather than just take one slice of their total life span.

    1. lou

      We probably won’t ever get an accurate full breakdown, it seems like a monumental taks.

      But still the idea of replacing ICE cars for electric cars is frankly stupid, what we need is a paradigm shift in transportation.

    2. heresy101

      We have two EVs being charged at home at PG&E’s outrageous rates (solar is coming this year). One is a 2014 Toyota RAV4 EV that has a 100 mile range for use around town and the other is a 2014 Tesla Model S with 250 mile range for longer drives (usually 100 miles round trip). Together this month they have used 624 kWh. At the Tesla’s .32 kWh/mile, that is 1,950 miles. Total cost is $181, which equates to $0.093/mile.

      Prior to the EVs, we had a Toyota Prius Plug-in that averaged 49 mpg. About 7 years ago we looped 3,600 miles up the Rocky Mountains, 9 parks, Pikes Peak and Salt Lake. At about $4.30/gal, that trip averaged $0.087/mile. The Prius had about half the usage of the typical ICE vehicle, which would be twice the cost per mile of the EVs.

      With coming solar and wind projects (20kW of dual axis solar and 5 x 5kW 9′ vertical axis wind turbines), the operating cost will be zero in about 5 years after those costs are paid off. If a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) is available to join, the payoff will be much sooner.

      1. JCC

        Interesting breakdown. I mentioned above I have a Prius Prime (2017) which I purchased used in June of 2020. Since then I’ve tracked every single gallon of gas I put into the car and so far I’ve driven approx. 50,000 miles, at least 18,000 of those miles were round trips from CA to NY and back. My overall cost as been $0.093 cents per mile in gasoline, about the same as your Tesla.

        I did plug it in, maybe once a week (110V home power) during summers when I was working full time (not now) but rarely used it for 100% electric power trips, work included. I never tracked the electricity cost. I usually keep the battery charged between 50% to 70% using only regenerative charging which definitely helps the overall mileage considering the car automatically uses bat power alone for around 30% or more during local trips.

        I know… I’m still using polluting gasoline, but my budget doesn’t allow the cost of a pure electric vehicle. Plus, in this area there is only one public level 2 charging station within 90 miles of this town so pure electric just isn’t a practical option for me.

  12. mrsyk

    EVs are a square peg to the US round hole of driving habits, even before you get to the logistical impossibilities of the utopian dream of an all electric nation. As discussed before on these pages, we won’t drive 55 but we will publicly abuse anyone who suggests it, even if they are the president, and during times when public discourse was more polite. Oh, and don’t bring up checking the air in your tires.

  13. tegnost

    using less energy overall is a win for land use, air and water pollution, and environmental justice,

    I view dams as water pollution that are not environmentally just.
    I’m fine with electric vehicles but they need to break away from the combustion fueled designs, electric bikes and golf carts, not humvees, so this article is ignoring glaring externalities, what more arcane externalities is it hand waving away?

  14. Paul.W

    Interesting article. The relative efficiencies favor electric motors. I wonder though why it is taking so long to increase the mileage of gasoline cars. The mileage is increasing for gasoline cars, my 1999 Toyota gets 27 MPG, a new one about 35 MPG. But I don’t see any heat recovery technology being explored. Hybrid cars use regenerative braking. What if the waste heat of the coolant was used to heat a pelitier wafer (https://www.irjet.net/archives/V4/i3/IRJET-V4I3434.pdf). Or use a power recovery turbine in the exhaust ? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turbo-compound_engine).
    The article about the loss of institutional knowledge in NC today is very relevant. If you have more skilled workers tinkering, you have a greater chance of serendipitous discovery.
    However, I remember when BMW started selling the mini in USA, people were asking BMW when they would sell the European version that got 70 MPG, and BMW said never. They knew the market would be tiny and sales would be a failure.

    1. cfraenkel

      You kind of answered your own question. Superbowl ads. Take whatever efficiency gains you can engineer into the ICE and use it to build even bigger luxury pickups.

  15. Steven

    Great article – including the comments! (It will be a while before I work through all the comments.) Does anyone have links for sites that tell how much CO2 from burning a gallon of gas (and other fossil fuels if you have them) remains in the atmosphere and for how long?

    1. Grumpy Engineer

      I don’t have links, but I know that burning a gallon of gasoline releases 19 pounds of CO2, and that a gallon of diesel will release 22 pounds. Lifetime in the atmosphere is many decades.

  16. Irrational

    The article may be directionally correct, but there are also charging losses – of the order of 10-15% according to a quick search.

      1. Grumpy Engineer

        The article in the Electrical Engineering portal is poorly written. It’s not clear whether they’re describing total system efficiency or (as I suspect) they’re describing portions of total losses. I concur with your estimate of ~6% losses during transmission and distribution. It’s in line with what I’ve seen elsewhere.

  17. Bob Tetrault

    I remember hearing my high school teacher, 1965, talking about this: for example, an ICE auto going up a hill using all of its 100hp would be expelling more than 700hp as heat (15% efficiency those days. As one hp = 750W, the math was hard to ignore at ~500kW! Yet my car’s outside thermometer has registered 120°F in heavy slow traffic when the real temp was 70°

  18. BrooklinBridge

    This article is very interesting and I find compelling in itself that EV’s are game changingly more efficient energy wise than ICE powered vehicles (hybrids less so corresponding to the small ratio of electric vs. ICE energy used). The biggest draw back for electric right now, besides the more subjective one of distance requirement is charging time and the related wait time for a station in public charging facilities. Inotherwords, if I could afford it, for the time being, I would want one of both; EV for daily travel and ICE for trips or non repetitive excursions where distance isn’t well known. That can or could be changed in favor of all electric with standardization, such as switching out batteries rather than waiting for the charge at facilities, a standardization which I assume would happen inevitably in it’s usual clunky way over time.

    Of course I’m not taking political considerations into account, such as the difficulty of imposing battery standards on industries that give pols the money to scam the public into electing them.

    But overall, fwiw, I’m seriously more inclined towards EV’s after reading this article than I was before, not to suggest that that is the point or goal of the article.

  19. Alex Cox

    The arguments in this article are like the arguments for nuclear power. They assume that electric cars and power plants simply appear, and don’t need to be manufactured. Once you factor in the mining of lithium and other rare earths (all dependent on massive diesel-powered machines and huge quantities of fresh water, plus third-world slave workers), electric vehicles are considerably less “green.” And as far as we know, there isn’t enough lithium in the world to replace the existing ICE fleet.
    It’s all very well to say that in the future there will be better, cheaper, greener battery alternatives. That’s like nuclear power advocates saying in the future nuclear fusion or miniature reactors will save us. Or that carbon can be captured and stored. This is betting on technology which doesn’t yet exist (like safe, permanent depositories for nuclear waste).
    This isn’t an argument for ICE cars or coal-fired power stations. It’s an argument for public transport, and making do with less.

  20. Trisha

    You have to make a life-cycle analysis to justify such a claim, including extraction of minerals to produce electricity and batteries. In general, the much anticipated energy “transition” is essentially about replacing drilling for liquids and gas with mining for materials.

    Like fossil fuels, there are only so many minerals in the ground, many of which are already in short supply or require investment far beyond the required capital to extract. For reference check out any of Simon Michaux’s (Associate Research Professor, GTK) detailed videos on youtube, for example “Minerals are the new oil.”

    IMHO the main push behind EVs has nothing to do with “going green” but is a calculated neo-liberal capitalist effort to protect corporate automaker’s profits. The end result will only be to accelerate the devastation of the biosphere and further homo stupidus down the road it is already on: to extinction.

  21. HD

    If you are going to consider the transmission loss of electricity you should also consider the transmission loss for fossil fuels. There is pumping the oil out of the ground, transporting it to a refinery, pump it into storage, pump it out of storage and pumping it around the refinery as well as heating to separate the gasoline out, pump it into storage, pump it out of storage into a truck to transport to the gas station, pump it into storage and then pumping it into your car. Each step likely powered with an ~ 20% efficient motor.

    Then you could actually design and electric car for efficiency rather than just mimic a combustion car and resolve many of the concerns of electric cars. Aptera has done that and hopefully will start production at the end of the year. If you life in a sunny clime the solar panels on the vehicle may be enough to provide the energy for your daily commute.

  22. Grumpy Engineer

    Does anyone here have a rough and ready weight adjustment to the analysis below?

    I’m not sure exactly what you have in mind here, but here are some thoughts on the article:

    The overall efficiency analysis seemed reasonably sound, but some things were missing that take some of the shine off EVs as “the ultimate win-win.

    1. The article neglects that EVs are heavier and require more energy (perhaps 15% more) to move.

    2. The article neglects that EVs consume more total energy when heating the cabin.

    3. The article neglects the greater resource and energy inputs required to manufacture the vehicle.

    4. The article neglects that as more and more solar arrays and wind turbines are deployed, the more time they’ll spend in curtailment (when they’re turned off to avoid pushing excess power into the grid). This means they’ll produce less than 100% of the energy that they could, giving them a “working efficiency” under 100%. This is already happening in places like California and Ireland. And converter losses were neglected.

    5. The article prioritizes energy efficiency as the ultimate metric and pretty much discounts everything else. But that’s not appropriate. For example, the round trip efficiency of a lithium-ion battery system is typically around 86%. I could increase this above 99% by deploying thin-film capacitors as storage devices instead. Sounds great, right? Alas, it’s not, as these capacitors are low energy density devices. The range of a car powered with them would be under a hundred yards.

    There are a lot of things that must be considered. Vehicle range and weight. Recharging (or refueling) times. Cold-weather performance. Hot-weather performance. Reliability and safety. Energy and resources required to build the vehicle. Energy and resources required to build and energize the grid that charges it. There’s definitely more to things than just efficiency.

    1. Johnny Canuck

      A most interesting recently published book along similar lines is The Unpopular Truth about Electricity and the Future of Energy. It’s rather technical and seems to cover all the bases that ought to be covered.

  23. Francesco

    It seems to be taken for granted that there is all the copper, lithium and other metals needed to convert the car fleet from internal combustion to electric. Yet there are currently no known sufficient reserves and copper ore has been decreasing for 30 years. If Codelco wasn’t a state company it would have already gone bankrupt. Today electricity accounts for only 20% of all energy produced and according to the most popular unrealistic projections it should rise to 50% by 2050. Relax, it won’t happen. We are overwhelmed by problems that cannot be solved so as always we imagine a reality that does not exist and we focus on marginal problems. I suggest reading Art Berman’s posts published on his site and/or Vaclav Smil’s books.

    1. Trisha

      Exactly. The problem of expanding mineral mining to meet forecast demand just for the FIRST generation of EVs replacing all (or even a substantial % of) fossil fueled vehicles and associated electric infrastructure, be it manufacturing of solar, wind, transmission lines, charging stations, and batteries needed to provide power when intermittent sources like solar and wind are unavailable, are far beyond the industrial and financial capacity of the world to even begin to solve. Think about having to REPLACE all the EVs and infrastructure as they wear out, and it’s simply impossible.

  24. Bill Malcolm

    It’s 2008 all over again, this article. That’s when the EU employed “experts to “prove” EVs would be far more efficient than ICE vehicles. It was a policy shift to change the narrative.

    Out of thin air, just as in this article, a figure was plucked for ICE engined cars efficiency. “Vat shall ve pick, Hans?” “How about 20%?” “Ja!”. “Vat efficiency shall ve assume for thermal power plant conversion of available coal/gas/oil energy?” “Vell, the best plants run about 44%”. “OK”.

    Energy losses in a wire vary as the square of the current. So if you load the wires to 100% of their rating (which heats them up and allows a safety margin for not sagging all the way down into vegetation) versus running them at 20% of their max, the energy loss is 25 times higher. In utility terms referring everything back to zero to 5 amps using current transformers, IsquaredR losses at 1 amp are 1, and IsquaredR losses for 5 amps are 25. Very simple math. The same problem exists inside electric motors — the more current they draw to produce more mechanical power, the more heat they generate in their wires. Strange that, what? Physics.

    Many utban and suburban distribution lines are run towards their max by utiitiea, not eager to spend the money to double the circuit capacity by building a second line, until they absolutely have to. So most lines are run hard and emit much heat loss at the upper end of their current ratings.

    There are all sorts of compromises inherent in running an electric system, and worse, the load is constantly changing. But Mr Consumer, the witless “Geologist” who penned this article, your average retail politician, all want a simple “Yes/No” answer — should we go EV? Or not? And guess what? The answer is not as simple as yes/no. It’s also why most utility EEs roll their eyes at BS from the public arguing about something they know SFA about, but think they do, as basement warriors with little relevant education come out for one side or the other on EVs.

    What do we know about non-fossil fuel electricity generation?

    Giant hydro projects change the landscape over vast areas, and also affect local climate. This was a subject for discussion in Canada in the 1970s, because our hydro projects dwarf American ones in size.

    Windmills kill birds very efficiently, and produce disturbing low frequency vibrations that annoy people living close by. “Let’s stick ’em offshore instead and bugger the local fishy fauna!”

    Solar arrays over vast acreages tend to get blown away in big wind events. Happened in the US Southwest already. These are spindly constructs or they’d cost a colossal amount.

    The utility I used to work for had 9,9% losses over the province. Simple to measure: You measure the output at all the generators, thermal, hydro and tidal, then add up the energy billed to all customers measured at their service entrances. That’s average performance, I was told by system design folks, most of whom always seemed to possess large and analytic brains.

    Unlike the general public, who operate on old wives’ tales, fables, and on what some pseudo expert like the geologist who penned this assumption-ridden tripe article wrote.

    There is no obvious answer on EVs, and anyone who says there is hasn’t got a clue, or is cooking the books.

    My take as an engineer is that Hybrid vehicles are the best efficiency compomise. Not the plug-in hybrids with heavy batteries, but regular hybrids like the Prius and its kin.

    And this take is before we get into the raping of the Earth for rare minerals for EV batteries, producing outlandishly heavy batteries that eat EV tires, useless battery charging stations that nobody but Tesla maintains, the social inability of many living in older apartment buildings to charge their EVs at “home”, and a myriad of other issues.

    Yes or no for EV’s? A solid perhaps. Nearly 9 billion people on Earth needing to be fed every day (unless they’re unfortunate enough to live in Gaza), and the pigheadedness of mainly Americans in insisting it’s their god-given right to drive around in giant vehicles that squander energy to move people. Using today’s hybrid technolgies and producing smaller more boxlike vehicles that can actually accomodate people, we could cut vehicle energy use in half in a decade. But we won’t. It’s the human condition, and constant arguments trying to outshout the other side of whatever views one holds dear for no rational reason, that’ll kill us all. Oh wait, climate change! And the idiot brigades come out claiming it isn’t happening and Jesus saves. Or whatever. Perhaps, d’ya think, population control might help us all? It’s rational, so won’t happen because we’re human.

    I give up.

  25. rjs

    these kinds of analysis typically omit the massive carbon footprint of mining & shipping the materials for EVs overseas, building new domestic assembly lines, if not new factories (emissions from steel and concrete are as bad as coal) and the infrastructure buildout…before we even get an EV fleet on the road, we’ll have pushed the atmosphere into warming feedback loops…

  26. Bill Carson

    When Tesla recently had that delivery event for Cybertrucks, it really pissed me off. Why? Because just like everything thing else they touch, rich people are ruining the planet for the sake of their own enjoyment.

    American-size electric vehicles are not going to save the planet. The Cybertruck weighs 6,800 pounds. The Hummer EV weighs as much as 9,000 pounds. The bigger and heavier any vehicle is the more energy it takes to move it; the more infrastructure is required for it to drive on AND to supply the energy to charge it; and the more parking space it will take up.

    It’s not just EVs that are too damn big, of course. The EPA mileage regulations have caused cars to balloon in size.

    If we were serious about saving the planet, we would implement new rules to require the use of golf cart-size vehicles and reduce speed limits to 30mph. A standard-sized golf cart would use 1/10th the energy of a Cybertruck and 1/20th the energy of an ICE. Think of the money that could be saved in road infrastructure alone! Smaller roads, smaller bridges, smaller freeways, smaller parking lots, smaller parking garages, smaller garages in homes. Will it ever happen? No. Our corrupt political system won’t allow it.

  27. rjs

    another problem is that unless you expand your generating capacity with large baseload plants, large new draws on the grid will cause your least efficient generation to kick on…in some places, that peaking power is supplied by diesel generation

    1. rjs

      speaking of diesel, they also need to make sure something like this doesn’t happen, which as you might expect, the right wing pro-fossil fuel sites are all over:

      Pay no mind to the diesel generator behind your EV charging station – The largest charging station in the world sits in Coalinga, California . The Harris Ranch Tesla Supercharger station contains 98 charging bays that can charge your Tesla up to 80% in 20 minutes. While Tesla CEO Elon Musk said back in 2017 that all of the company;s superchargers were being converted to solar energy, the Coalinga station is simply too large to run on anything other than the diesel generators that sit behind a nearby Shell station.

  28. Bill Carson

    Gasoline doesn’t magically appear at the gas station. People here are noting the cost of producing and distributing electricity, but it seems to me that to compare apples to apples we need to account for the energy used to produce and distribute gasoline and diesel fuels.

  29. Peerke

    The tire wear problem of EVs is due primarily to one pedal driving aka regenerative braking apparently. Weight is a much less important secondary factor. It is not possible to coast in most EVs so the tire is permanently in a state of shear (so I read). It is particularly true for any wheel connected to the motor(s) – so a rwd car will see wear on the rear wheel tires more than on the front. It strikes me that when driving a Tesla it is probably (not 100% sure – other readers?) best to drive in cruise control mode (autopilot but not using auto steer) to preserve tires since this should be able to come close to coasting levels of shear.

    1. Grebo

      Weight, frequent hard acceleration (it’s fun!), and special low-rolling-resistance EV tyres. I doubt regen is the problem, it stresses the tyres much less than hard braking I should think. Engine braking is normal for stick-shift vehicles and I ‘ve not heard they go through tyres quicker than automatics. My motorcycle goes through two rear tyres for every front one, despite most of the braking being predominantly front-wheel.

      1. Peerke

        What leads me to believe that regen braking has a wear penalty is that on a RWD or FWD EV all of the braking work is done only by 2 wheels and I know that is true for manual transmission ICE as well. The other two wheels are passive and they wear far less. The key difference between EV and ICE manual is that the torque from an EV motor is far higher in acceleration AND deceleration modes. Incidentally this would be true for an ICE manual transmission if you were in too low a gear for the speed. So it’s a double whammy is my hypothesis. I seem to remember that turbo diesel engines cars also had a similar reputation for wear on the drive axle tires but I could be wrong there.

  30. JB

    I actually looked at this for the first time myself lately, after some ‘diesel generator powering electric bus’ shenanigans in Ireland (and a funny ‘fact check’ with a factually false headline, stating that a bus powered by a diesel generator using HVO – a form of diesel – is not powered by diesel), and the napkin calculations were that it was more efficient to just run a diesel bus instead.

    These were just napkin calculations though – they did source different figures than this article – and principally: Diesel engines are more efficient than Petrol – about 30-41% efficient.

    Another interesting thing to factor in is that electric vehicles have a built-in carbon cost from manufacturing, and it can take up to 78,000km of travel to ‘break even’ vs an ICE car – and if the EV is powered largely from carbon sources, it has to travel an even longer distance before this breakeven point

    Regenerative Breaking does make an apples-to-apples comparison more difficult, but (and this obviously depends on the climate, I think this was based on UK/Ireland) the roughly 15% savings from RB can be considered to be cancelled out by the 17.3% (in terms of range in this article) losses from heating the EV.

    Additionally, recycling of EV batteries can apparently offset one third of the carbon cost of manufacturing – but I don’t have a source to hand.

  31. norm braden

    The solution : Check out the Squad ev. A 2- seater made in Holland selling for about $8000. Combine this car with a 75 km/hr speed limit and a willingness to accept ego-humiliation and we have a car already ready for a post-carbon world. I calculate energy usage to be less than 5% of that of an internal combustion engine for a comparable trip. Note solar panel on roof. Weight 600 lbs. Li-ion battery
    weight about 1/16th of that of a Tesla.

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