Electric car power generation

Someone on NPR pointed out that electric cars won’t be “green” until electric power generation is.
Which pollutes more, a gasoline engine car, or an electric car with power generated by burning coal?

Why are you specifying only coal?
Coal is 19.3% of power generation.

Well the electric car users can’t just cherry pick their source of power. According to the link above 60% of the US power generation is from fossil fuels, including coal, as noted by @running_coach. So while electric cars may rely on less fossil fuels than internal combustion vehicles, as noted by the OP calling themselves running on “green energy” is disingenuous, and false advertising, IMHO.

A typical EV running on pure coal power has similar direct emissions to a reasonably good gas car, somewhere in the 40 mpg range, depending on how you count it.

However, this doesn’t count indirect emissions. Of note, it takes about 7 kWh of electricity to refine a gallon of gas. A typical mid-size EV can drive about 28 miles on that. So even ignoring the tailpipe emissions of a gas car, the EV is doing quite well.

Once you start factoring in low-carbon electricity generation, whether natural gas or renewables like wind/solar, the difference becomes extreme, with EVs getting the equivalent of hundreds of miles per gallon.

Maybe you can’t, but others can. Lots of people run their own solar. And I can buy green energy plans such that 100% of my energy comes from wind/solar.

Of course those plants aren’t directly connected to my car, so it may be that a fossil plant is charging my car while a solar plant is powering someone else, but the net result is the same. Electricity is fungible.

I’d dearly love to see the statistics on that. I can’t see running and air conditioner in 90 degree Arkansas Summers on solar. There are solar adds that look like scams to me. The batteries would cost thousands of dollars. We did spread sheets on solar heating in college, buying the equipment with a loan and using different size collectors, but I am too lazy to do that for solar cells generating house electricity. If the power company would buy my solar generated power, that would help.

It works fine. The numbers vary of course, but on a typical house roof you can install several kilowatts of solar. More than enough for both the AC and other incidentals.

The best bang for the buck is to tackle the mid-day peak, when you need AC the most and the solar production is greatest. But if you really want to get off the grid, you can get a lot more solar and add batteries.

It’s probably not cost effective if you have really cheap electricity, say $0.05/kWh. But if that’s the case then coal is probably playing a huge part. Which means that you’re just offloading the costs onto the rest of the planet,

Most places have net metering so that the power company will buy your power, but the rules are all over the place, and you tend to have to pay various fees, so it’s not a guaranteed win.

The panels themselves are <$1/W these days. Here in CA you might get 1600 nominal hours of sunlight per year, so 1.6 kWh per watt of solar. That’s a pretty quick payoff (even adding installation and other bits) if you’re paying $0.20, $0.30, even $0.50/kWh.

Of course, some people just like the idea of zeroing out their carbon emissions, even if it costs more. And if you go with batteries, they protect against blackouts as well.

Yeah, the conundrum with EVs is the whole “zero emissions” thing. Zero emissions “at the car” would be more genuine.

Maybe it’s time to take another look at nuclear to meet increasing electricity demands?

That’s no small thing. Cars are where the people are, so pollution emitted from the car kills people. Putting it somewhere else reduces this (although it makes no difference with climate change).

But more importantly, zero emissions is not the goal. Reduced emissions is the goal. And EVs are massively more efficient than gas cars, and get more efficient over time. The quicker we replace the fossil fuel fleet, the quicker we get on the path to putting everything at the efficiency level of the electrical grid.

Nuclear would be great if we could figure out how to build plants without billions in cost overruns. In the meantime, solar and wind are extremely cheap and easy to build out. We don’t have time to wait for nuclear or other technologies to improve first.

Not true. Many power utilities allow you to select your supplier. I pay a little more to get my home electricity from a green supplier through my utility.

A one room window A/C is 1,500 W. I can’t find numbers on a central A/C. Say four rooms with window units, that is 6,000W. A/C here in the Summer runs about 20 hours a day.

Window ACs aren’t efficient. A typical home in Arkansas or a similar state uses around 1200 kWh per mo. That’s 40 kWh per day. An 8 kW solar system would probably cover most of that. Maybe somewhat more in the middle of summer, but again, you don’t necessarily have to cover the absolute peak times unless you’re really going off-grid.

One thing I’d like to see are thermal mass systems. I know that some buildings use them. Basically, during peak solar generation times, use the excess capacity to cool down a tank of water or pile of bricks or some such. Then, later, when the solar isn’t producing as much but it’s still hot out, you run air through it to cool it down. Just a fan requires very little energy.

It’s basically just a battery, but a very cheap one since it just stores “cold”.

8 kW produced over what period of time? Are you saying I can get 40,000 Watts per hour from solar cells on the roof of a two bedroom house?

I ballparked 5 hours of normalized sunlight.

40,000 watts per hour isn’t a sensible figure. 40 kWh means 40 kilowatts for one hour, or 1 kilowatt for 40 hours, and so on. In this case I assumed 8 kW for 5 hours. kWh is energy, not power.

An 8 kW solar system needs about 600 ft^2 of roof area. Probably a little high for a small 2-bed house. But then, so is 1200 kWh/mo. I don’t know what the average home size is in AK, but I’d guess it’s around 2000 ft^2, while a 2-bed would be more like 1200 ft^2. The AC needs would therefore be smaller.

You seem to care about this case, so I assume you actually live in a 2-bed house in AK. If so, what is your monthly kWh figure? It’ll be clearly printed on your bill.

I live in Arkansas, not Alaska. :slight_smile:
I don’t have a bill, but at .10 per kWhr, and a $300 bill, about 3,000 kWhr.

Either you live in a huge house or you’re running your AC with all the windows open. Either way, you’re 2.5x the average usage for your state (and almost 6x my state).

A 20 kW solar system is possible, but needs a lot of roof area. Shouldn’t be a problem for the kind of house that’s using 3000 kWh/mo.

I’m running A/C at 90 F in a 65 year old house. I suspect my money would be better spent on foam insulation than solar cells and batteries.
What is your link to electrical usage in Arkansas? It costs a lot more to heat in Alaska, I understand.

The AK/AR typo was mine. The link above shows 632 kWh for Alaska and 1133 kWh for Arkansas (which was #10 on the list among the states). I rounded up to 1200 to make the math easier.

You are right that insulation, double-pane windows, etc. would be a better value. 3000 kWh/mo is a crazy-high figure for a modest house. If that really is mostly going to AC costs, you’d likely pay off the investment in a few years. That’s $3600/yr you’re paying for electricity and you could reduce that by a significant factor with better insulation. A more efficient AC unit might also be worth looking into.

90 F is not that hot. Large swathes of California get above 100 F in the summer for significant periods and yet we are <600 kWh/mo average. Of course we don’t use much in the way of heating for most of the state.

Horse poop! Homeless people and the elderly die.

More like $900 for the Summer months.

I meant relatively speaking, of course :slight_smile: . Of course humidity is a factor in terms of human comfort. I’m not sure what it does for the efficiency of air conditioning.

Ouch. Yeah, get some insulation in that house. That’s a completely abnormal amount of energy use just for air conditioning on a normal house.