Coal powered electric vehicles

Photo courtesy of
Energy source for electric vehicles in Netherlands, China, and many places in the U.S.  Photo courtesy of Um, by the way, that’s a coal plant.

In addition to having distance capacity which may or may not be sufficient to get you where you want to go in a day, electric vehicles (EVs) are frequently powered by coal, can drain the grid during the day, and eventually they may force replacement of every neighborhood transformer in the grid.

11/23 – The Washington Post – Electric cars and the coal that runs them – Electric vehicles require huge amounts of electricity. Article says one charge takes as much electricity as a refrigerator uses in a month and a half. That electricity has to come from somewhere, even more so when a country has dramatically increased the amount of EVs on the road.

In Netherlands electricity to charge EVs comes from coal. Yes, coal.

To handle the huge increase in electricity demand because of EVs, the country has built three brand-new coal-fired power plants, of which two are at the Rotterdam Harbor.

Sales of EVs are expected to increase so much in the Netherlands that electricity needed to charge them will increase 50% in the next eight years. I wonder how many more coal plants will be needed to keep those cars going.

Article explains the environmental impact of EVs depends on the mix of power sources used to provide electricity in a market. In contrast to the Netherlands, using an EV in California would have a better impact. On the other hand, in a humongous market like China where a high portion of electricity comes from coal, the EVs are also essentially coal powered.

The article didn’t even get into the huge amount of rare earth metals that have to be mined (with the mining in China and with the resulting toxic waste left there) to create the huge bank of batteries to power each EV.

At such point as battery storage makes a breakthrough comparable to what fracking and horizontal drilling has done for crude oil production, EVs will be a wonderful blessing. In the meantime, it is an ominous sign for the usefulness of EVs when the Washington Post, yes the Washington Post, points out the serious downsides of the technology.

That article fits well with the following one, which is repeated from an earlier post:

7/31 – Million Dollar Way – Wind Energy Unable to Meet California’s EV Demands – Apparently electric vehicles (EV) draw so much juice that recharging them during the day puts a significant drain on the grid.

Also, apparently those transformers you see in your neighborhood only have enough capacity to recharge one or two EVs at a time. When (or if) EVs actually take off, all the transformers in the entire grid will have to be replaced. How do we count that into the cost of EVs?

Another article on silliness I’ve been holding a few months, waiting to match it up with other silliness:

5/27 – Chris Clarke at ReWire – Does This Egg-Shaped Tiny House Really Work Off-Grid? – Entertaining critique of hyperventilation in the social media world about an alleged off-grid 100 square foot self-contained living space.

Short answer is it will take you off-grid only if you like being hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and don’t use much more water than what it takes to stay alive.

Capacity factor

Tidbits of information I will try to remember:

Capacity factor, which is the percent of potential energy for a wind or solar facility that is actually captured because the wind doesn’t always blow and sun doesn’t always shine:

  • 18% – wind turbines
  • 25% – solar panels

That means of a rated capacity of X mW or Y kW, a solar panel  or solar farm will gather 25% of X or Y.

Typical electricity use of a typical California home:

  • 557 kWh per month, which is somewhere around 18 kWh each day

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *