Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Guess what? Lots and lots of electric cars

might cause power problems. Whoda thunk it?

One of my standard questions to people pushing electric cars has been "Ok, so you've now got a million new electric cars on the road; where's the electricity to charge them come from? It doesn't just appear at the socket, you know. So if you pump out lots of such vehicles, where are you going to build the new power plants to take care of the new load? Because turning off your monitor isn't going to take care of it."

I've yet to hear a good answer, because the people pushing the electric roller skates don't want to build power plants. Of any kind. Anywhere.

12 comments:

martywd said...

Yeah, but it _feels_ good to talk about/push (pun intended) electric cars and windmills and such.   And...   And...   And, umh, you know, it's for the children!

Windy Wilson said...

But electricity is like, magical, man!

paul scott said...

Actually, those of us who are in favor of EVs are well aware of the power needs to charge them. Turns out, there is a lot of excess power at night, enough to charge 73% of the American fleet without adding a single new power plant. That's over 180 million EVs!

Further, as someone who sells solar electric systems, I get to see lots of people's electric bills and I can guarantee you most people waste way more kWh than they'd use in a car.

I've got a 3 kW PV system and have been using it to run my house and car for over 6 years. I've driven almost 70,000 miles on sunlight. I haven't been to a gas station in over 6 years and my electric bill for the whole year averages a mere $100.

EVs are coming back in a very big way. I test drove a new Nissan EV yesterday that'll be on the market late next year. It's going to sell big since they priced it so low.

For lots of great information on the EV movement, see http://www.pluginamerica.org.

Firehand said...

'Excess' power at night? That I'd have to have explained to me. Especially since we're looking at necessary increases every year in power needs for everything from computers to lights to...

Don't misunderstand me: if solar cells become efficient enough to run houses and cars and businesses without having to cover square miles, I'll be thrilled. But nothing I've seen has led me to believe they're near that point. I'm not an engineer, so I may just not understand, but how adding millions of electric cars to charge to existing(increasing) needs can be done on 'excess' electricity, I don't get.

paul scott said...

The best way to understand it is the grid has to, by law, be able to handle the full predicted electrical load on a hot August afternoon when all the AC is on and people are at work, so all the machines, etc. are on.

Plus 10%.

So there needs to be enough production to cover this load with a 10% headroom just in case.

The problems are only during these peak hours in the afternoon. Once the demand drops, the system operators shut down combined cycle natural gas plants (peaker plants) that were turned on as the demand rose during the day. The "base load" plants, coal, nukes and hydro, tend to stay on 24/7 since they are not easily turned on and off.

The demand at night drops off so fast and so deep after 10 pm or midnight that literally over 180 million vehicles can be charged without exceeding the peak demand of the previous afternoon.

We will see at most a few thousand EVs next year. In 2011, there will be tens of thousands, the hundreds of thousands in 2012 and we hope to see one million EVs for sale in calendar year 2015. That is such a gradual increase as to be barely noticeable.

Remember, you don't have to buy an EV if you prefer to keep using gas. But for every one of your neighbors who buy one, your air will be cleaner, your economy stronger and your country safer because that EV is replacing gas that we have to buy from foreign countries and fight wars over.

Firehand said...

If it works out that way, that's a fine thing. Trouble is, there's been so much BS about how wonderful the cars are, that I'll wait to see.

When an electric car with reliable highway speed, range of at least 100 miles between charges- every time- and good carrying capacity is there, I'll look at it. I've had days where I thought, at most, I might have to run to the grocery store, where I wound up doing a lot more driving, or had a chance to go somewhere unexpected, and a '50 miles between charges' vehicle just won't cut it.

And I will point out that there are costs and pollution problems with EV transport, too. For that matter, if various people in Congress and enviroweenies didn't want to make it as difficult as possible to explore and drill, we'd be a lot less reliant on foreign sources now.

paul scott said...

I've been driving a Toyota RAV4 EV for over 6 years now, 70,000 miles. It's got a range of 120 miles on a charge and can out accelerate the gas version of the car all the way to 80 mph. This is a small SUV, but holds five adults plus lots of storage room. It's a very useful vehicle and pretty much the only one I use day to day.

The 100 mile range cars that are coming soon will be able to charge from any plug any time. We are just starting to build out the charging infrastructure (lots of jobs for American electricians!), so you'll be able to charge wherever you go. When we go grocery shopping here in Santa Monica, there is a charger we use while shopping. We end up going home with more energy in the battery than we left home with.

The key here is that your money stays domestic, because all of our electricity is domestic except for some hydro we buy from our friends the Canadians.

martywd said...

Firehand.   Before you put that down payment on that electric you never wanted read this from the telegraph.co.uk that I found at the PrairiePundit's blog:

http://is.gd/tdbC
.

paul scott said...

Firehand said:

"Ok, so you've now got a million new electric cars on the road; where's the electricity to charge them come from?"

Earlier, I explained how there is enough excess capacity on the grid at night to charge 73% of the American fleet, some 180 million cars, without adding any capacity. So, as long as people charge at night, it'll be decades before new off-peak power production needs to be built.

The key question to ask is how to get people to charge at night. The answer is "Time of Use" rates. These are coming within 5-10 years whether you like it or not, so you might as well accept it.

The utilities will charge a lot more for power during the peak usage times which are mostly 10 am to about 6 pm. It'll vary region to region. Night time usage is so low that rates will be very low then, but in the afternoon, especially during the summer, you'll pay 40-50 cents per kWh, so if you want to charge your car then, you'll pay through the nose.

One million EVs isn't very many anyway. The grid can handle tens of millions, even during the day time. When you consider how much energy is wasted, we could easily run 200 million EVs just on the energy this country wastes.

Firehand said...

So you have to charge at night, or get charged out the ass for daring to need power during the day... And the times and rates will be set by our superiors because, after all, we need to be controlled. You're not exactly making this inviting. And where does it show we 'waste' that much power?

Oh, and with Obama wanting to bankrupt coal(BIG energy source) and otherwise cause electric costs to skyrocket, just how wonderful is this going to be?

I repeat, if electric cars with decent range and carrying capacity are/become available, no problem for me; it's the painting of them as 'saving us and Mother Gaia' that I'm sick of. Especially with articles like the one Marty noted pointing out some problems with the matter. There's also the fact that charging batteries isn't a real efficient process; I think Chris at Anarchangel had a breakdown of it once.

For that matter, I'm still wondering about the cleanup when accidents crack/smash the battery cases.

paul scott said...

See response below.

Firehand says:

"So you have to charge at night, or get charged out the ass for daring to need power during the day... And the times and rates will be set by our superiors because, after all, we need to be controlled. You're not exactly making this inviting. And where does it show we 'waste' that much power?"

** This is coming, like it or not. For the past hundred or so years, coal powered electricity has been the cheapest source available. Forget CO2, I'll concede that argument right off, it's the criteria pollutants that are impossible to ignore. These pollutants (SOX, NOX and mercury primarily) are responsible for thousands of premature American deaths every year. Most of these, obviously, occur in states with the highest percentage of coal plants. This is a cost of coal that is not paid for when you buy a kWh from your utility.

That has to stop.

Any human with a sense of fairness will agree that when you do harm to another, you should compensate that person.
**

"Oh, and with Obama wanting to bankrupt coal(BIG energy source) and otherwise cause electric costs to skyrocket, just how wonderful is this going to be?"

** No one will go bankrupt. The way to pay for it is through "tiered rates". This means you get a certain number of kWh per month at a low rate. The the second tier costs more. Every tier additional costs even more. We have five tiers in California and I can guarantee you that people conserve when they know they are paying a lot.

We have a municipal utility here next to the private one and they have a flat rate. I am an energy efficiency consultant, so I get to see lots of people's utility bills. The people with the low flat rate waste gobs more energy than those who have tiered rates. It's a plain as day.
**

"I repeat, if electric cars with decent range and carrying capacity are/become available, no problem for me; it's the painting of them as 'saving us and Mother Gaia' that I'm sick of. Especially with articles like the one Marty noted pointing out some problems with the matter. There's also the fact that charging batteries isn't a real efficient process; I think Chris at Anarchangel had a breakdown of it once."

** I'll put up the physics of battery electric cars against ANY other technology. If you can has this Anarchangel guy provide documentation to back up his claim, I'll respond in kind with much more, and it's not something that a rational person can refute.

But, here's the kicker, Firehand, forget all the stuff about pollution, pretend it is even with gas cars for pollution. Consider that when you buy gas, most of your money is going out of the country to enrich other countries, primarily Canada and Mexico, but a whole lot of it goes to Saudi Arabia, and those were the fuckers who flew those planes into the towers.

When you buy gas, you give them some of your money.

When you drive on electricity, your money stays domestic. This is key!

If you have a problem with the pollution from coal, then make your own kWh from the sunlight that falls on your house.

How much simpler could it be?
**

"For that matter, I'm still wondering about the cleanup when accidents crack/smash the battery cases."

** I love this comment. I was rear ended in my RAV about three years ago by a T-bird going 30 mph. He totally smashed a full third of the RAV, but narrowly missed screwing up the battery pack. These things are not dangerous when crashed, but the batteries are expensive to replace.

I had the vehicle completely restored and it's every bit as good today as the day I bought it.
**

Firehand said...

First, being charged more by some bureaucrat because I use power when he doesn't like it, no, I don't like.
No, coal is not the ideal power source, which is why they've had to come up with all the scrubbers & etc. to clean the exhaust. Simple fact is you either replace the coal with another source, or we do without power; and since Obama & Co. don't want nuke plants, don't want anything but solar & wind to be added on, we've got a damn problem. Conservation alone cannot take care of the power we're going to need, that's a simple fact. I'd prefer coal plants to be phased out for power generation for a variety of reasons, but- again- until you can replace them with something better, we need them.
And what the HELL does 'compensation' have to do with this?

And, if you missed it, there was an interview Obama did before the election- that, oddly, got very little notice in the major media- where he made his plans to bankrupt the coal industry, and anyone wanting to build a coal-fired plant, very plain.

So we're supposed to be punished into using electricity only in approved ways and amounts? Wonderful.

As to charging batteries, that's been fact for a long time; you do not get out of them all you put in. They've improved a lot, but last I heard that's still the case. I'd suggest you go over to anarchangel.com and search the site: he's had several posts on the subject as I recall. When you start in with things like 'not something a rational person can refute', it doesn't give me a whole lot of confidence; it sounds too much like 'the science is settled' by the global warming people.

As to giving money to other countries, when we've got bureaucrats and politicians making it as difficult as possible, sometimes flat impossible, to explore for and exploit our own oil, we're going to have to buy some from other places. I'd love to see the oil ticks find themselves once again lords of the world's biggest litter box, but the fact is we need oil; and since a bunch of people are making it hard to use our own...

I'm glad nobody was hurt, but 'narrowly missed' means the battery was not ruptured. Which does not answer the question: how big a mess is it going to be when they do? And they will, it's unavoidable.