Electric car power generation


Wind and solar in general are horrible for power systems because they aren’t consistent. So what ends up happening is that power companies keep fossil plants on standby to pick up the slack for when the sun goes behind the clouds or the wind dies down. A fossil plant can’t just instantly ramp up its power production though, so the plant’s boilers have to be run at a high enough output that they can pick up the slack on short notice. So effectively what ends up happening is that fossil plants end up being run horribly inefficiently and wasting a lot of fuel just because wind and solar aren’t constant. This is not only horrible for the environment and tends to offset a lot of the environmental benefits of solar and wind power, but it also makes the fossil plants look like they are a lot less efficient than they actually are because they are wasting so much fuel that isn’t going into actual electrical production.

It also takes a lot of fuel to start up a power plant boiler. You don’t just flip a switch and turn it on. So even if you are only running the plant at night to cover the loss of solar power, you still end up wasting a lot of fuel.

There are methods of storing energy from wind and solar, but they only work in some areas. For example, you can use wind power to pump water up into a higher level reservoir. Then, when you need electricity, you use hydroelectric power from the reservoir. Your ultimate source of power is the wind farm, but the reservoir means that you can have power 24/7/365 (as long as you don’t exceed the capacity of the wind farm to fill the reservoir).

Similarly, a different method of using solar power is to heat something like salt until it melts, then use the molten salt to heat water into steam and use that to power a conventional steam turbine. As long as you put enough heat into your salt that it stays molten through the night, you can effectively have solar power 24/7/365. This only works in very sunny areas like the Southwestern U.S.

This is also true. While solar and wind power are horrible for overall power generation, in specific use cases like this they aren’t bad at all.

It should also be noted that in many areas (i.e. the Southwest and Northeast parts of the U.S.), the power system is strained during peak daylight hours, especially at certain times of the year (summer, when everyone is running their AC) so adding solar to these areas is actually quite helpful. At night when solar isn’t producing energy, the demand is also less, so the lack of consistency from solar isn’t quite as much of an issue.

Don’t forget that it works the other way, too. At this point, ICE vehicles have real limitations with respect to how I use my EV. Home charging is not something I’d willingly give up at this point. Pre-cooling, pre-heating, and “pet mode” are also game changers. Finally, the almost complete lack of maintenance is wonderful. That road trips may take slightly longer under some conditions is completely irrelevant to me in comparison.

Nothing is completely clean. However, climate change is the existential threat. Mining, etc. cause local pollution, which isn’t good, but isn’t going to cause mass extinctions, displace millions or billions, and destroy trillions (perhaps quadrillions) of dollars.

EVs already do much better when it comes to CO2 emissions, and every EV sold today will continue to get cleaner as the grid itself gets cleaner. ICEs get dirtier over time.

We need to be thinking about a future where we have a sustainable energy economy. That can’t include burning stuff that we dig out of the ground, essentially by definition. EVs will exist in this sustainable future but ICEs will not, except in very limited situations where synthetic fuels are acceptable. That’s what we should be working toward.

A lot of ICE vehicles have “pre-cooling” and “pre-heating” too. Just press a button on the remote start.

This is true, however because of the concern of exhaust issues in enclosed spaces, on ICE vehicles this is generally limited to a button on the fob with somewhat limited transmission range, and even if it wasn’t, I know I’d be really hesitant about remote starting it unless I could see the vehicle and (if in a garage) make sure the garage door is open first.

I have no such qualms about using an app on my phone to remotely start up the A/C on an EV, in any location.

But the pre-heating requires the engine to warm up first. There are other downsides: wear on the engine, pollution, noise, and the greater cost of gasoline.
I would only use that feature on an ICE vehicle if it was really uncomfortable outside, like below 40 or over 90 deg F. With an EV, I’d feel free to pre-heat/cool, knowing the energy to do so was created on my roof.

As far as I know, it’s also illegal in many places to simply let your vehicle idle. And it’s definitely illegal around here to lock your pet in your car with the engine running and the AC on while you do shopping or whatever. With an EV, I never have to worry about where the car is. And it’s all controllable by app.