Electric Car MPG: 38

wire tangle In his new book, energy scholar Vaclav Smil apparently discusses still more rather crucial but un-discussed aspects of the claim that “electric”[*] cars are anything but halo-ware:

The average source-to-outlet efficiency of U.S. electricity generation is about 40 percent, and adding 10 percent for internal power plant consumption and transmission losses, this means that 11 MWh (nearly 40 GJ) of primary energy would be needed to generate electricity for a car with an average annual consumption of about 4 MWh.

This would translate to 2 MJ for every kilometer of travel, a performance equivalent to about 38 mpg (9.25L/100 km)—a rate much lower than that offered by scores of new pure gasoline-engine car models, and inferior to advanced hybrid designs or to DiesOtto designs.

In other words, whatever amount of energy gets put into electric cars is only 4/11 of the amount of energy it takes to use it there, and the overall result is no miracle at all. 38 miles per gallon equivalent.

And Smil, by the way, estimates that a complete conversion to electric cars in the United States would require a 25% expansion of the existing growth requirement for U.S. electricity generation. This in a power generating system that is already at its limits. And without once again mentioning the incompatibility between widespread “electric” car use and the already past-it-limits electrical transmission grid.

Meanwhile, any wagers on whether Smil’s eminently simple analysis will wind up being the basis for the EPA’s forthcoming “much debated” MPG equivalent rating system for “electric” cars? On that front, the EPA is under immense overclass pressure to permit bogus measures that start only at the plug-in. Barring a straight version of that, look for EPA to opt for a “compromise” of issuing an intentionally complex car label that will exaggerate MPG comparisons, though not quite as radically as the car capitalists would have it, while deploying additional pro-EV “information” to prevent people from becoming aware of the uncomplicated comparison factors Smil explains in two short paragraphs.

[*]Why the quotation marks? Unless and until humans learn to catch and store lightning energy on an industrial scale, electrical current must be generated by capturing or burning or reacting energy-rich substances that are not themselves electricity. Contrary to the fairytale suggestions of corporate capitalist car marketing, then, “electric” cars are just as much coal or natural gas or nuclear or solar or wind cars as they are electric. In fact, given Smil’s finding that far more energy goes into making the electricity for “electric” cars than is embodied in the electricity finally dissipated by them, I hereby announce that it is DbC policy to use quotations marks for this particular form of vapor-ware/halo-ware from now on.