Electric cars are not a part of the solution to global warming because their efficiencies simply are not good enough. I have put together some numbers to show you why. Lets take a look.
As I travel the US and visit energy conferences around the country, sometimes I am told that electric cars have no carbon footprint; thus, electric cars are good for the environment. That is completely not true – the carbon dioxide sent into the air in order to create the electricity used by the car is the carbon footprint. Before, crunching the numbers, I will list the energy efficiencies of various types of technologies.
- Electrical power plant – 35%, https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/11/f27/fcto_fuel_cells_fact_sheet.pdf
- Gasoline automobile – 20%, https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/evtech.shtml
- Electric vehicles – 60%, https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/evtech.shtml
- Fuel cell – 60%, https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/11/f27/fcto_fuel_cells_fact_sheet.pdf
- Gas turbine engine – 45%, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engine_efficiency
The problem with the electric car is that there is a 2 step process before the energy is applied to the road: fuel is converted to electricity at the power plant, and then the car converts the electrical power to mechanical energy for locomotion. We know from our studies in engineering and science that when two processes are linked like this that the overall efficiency is a multiple of the two separate efficiencies. That means that the overall efficiency of the electric car is 35% x 60% = 21%. The efficiency is no better than the gasoline automobile.
The best choice for an environmentally friendly car is the fuel cell. The next best alternative is the gas turbine engine (for instance, methane cars).
I listen to news stating that large automobile manufacturers are moving to electric vehicles – something just does not sound right. Meanwhile, the US is poised to increase its methane flaring in the oil fields. If I am not seeing this in the right light, I would welcome any friendly comments. Thanks.