Something to think about…

While this is based on the Volt, I can’t help but wonder how close this is to all the other electric cars…


Ever since the advent of electric cars, the REAL cost per mile has never been discussed.  All you ever hear is the mpg in terms of gasoline, with nary a mention of the cost of electricity.

Electricity has to be one of the least efficient ways to power cars, yet it is being shoved down your throats.  Glad somebody finally put engineering and math to paper.

A British Columbia Hydro executive supposedly said: If you really intend to adopt electric vehicles, you have to face certain realities.  For example, a home charging system for a Tesla requires 75 amp service.  The average house is equipped with 100 amp service, meaning you’d have to upgrade to a 200 am service at some not inconsiderable cost.  On a small street (approximately 25 homes), the electrical infrastructure would be unable to carry more than three houses with a Tesla.  If even half the homes to have electric vehicles, the system would be wildly over-loaded.
This is the elephant in the room with electric vehicles. Your residential infrastructure cannot bear the load.  So as your genius elected officials promote this nonsense, not only are you being urged to buy these things and replace your reliable, cheap generating systems with expensive, new windmills and solar cells, but you will also have to renovate your entire delivery system!  This latter “investment” will not be revealed until you’re so far down this dead end road that it will be presented with an ‘OOPS!’ and a shrug.

A man named Eric test drove the Chevy Volt at the invitation of General Motors and he writes, “For four days in a row, the fully charged battery lasted only 25 miles before the Volt switched to the reserve gasoline engine.”  Eric calculated the car got 30 mpg including the 25 miles it ran on the battery.  So, the range including the 9-gallon gas tank and the 16 kwh battery is approximately 270 miles.
It will take you 4.5 hours to drive 270 miles at 60 mph.  Then add 10 hours to charge the battery and you have a total trip time of 14.5 hours.  In a typical road trip your average speed (including charging time) would be 20 mph.
According to General Motors, the Volt battery holds 16 kwh of electricity.  It takes a full 10 hours to charge a drained battery.  The cost for the electricity to charge the Volt is never mentioned.  If you pay approximately (it varies with amount used and the seasons) $0.36 per kwh. 16 kwh x $0.36 per kwh = $5.76 to charge the battery.  $5.76 per charge divided by 25 miles = $0.23 per mile to operate the Volt using the battery.  Compare this to a similar size car with a gasoline engine that gets only 32 mpg.  $3.19 per gallon divided by 32 mpg = $0.10 per mile.

I think this might be a little skewed, maybe high, but it still doesn’t take into account the hydrocarbons, etc. used to make the electricity. IMHO, the only ‘fair’ way to calculate the ‘carbon tax’, if you will, would be to also factor in the amount of hydrocarbons used to make the electricity vs. the hydrocarbons burned by a gas or diesel engine. And there are small diesel engines now getting 70mpg in Europe. I drove a little Mercedes with one.

The gasoline powered car costs about $20,000 while the Volt costs $46,000-plus.  It looks like the “Greenies” in the American Government want loyal Americans NOT to do the math, but simply pay three times as much for a car, that costs more than seven times as much to run, and takes three times longer to drive across the country.  

Say What?

And one more thing, granted this is a couple of years old, but I was talking to a highway engineer in NOVA, and he said the electric cars with their hard narrow tires (for mileage purposes) are actually harder on the roads than SUVs! He was looking at legislation to make EV users pay a road use tax, based on mileage driven, to offset the damage to the roads. When you add that in, it should get even more interesting!


Something to think about… — 41 Comments

  1. Add in the transmission losses in the wires from the generating station to the home as well. Then the losses at the charger, and losses at the battery as it charges (heat, which is why it takes 10 hours to charge the battery…it get HOT while charging, and that heat is WASTED ENERGY!). and your electric car is actually VERY inefficient.

  2. Aeems to me the real effect will be limiting the average car owner to a very small travel radius. A feature, not a bug, if you want another way to control your population.

  3. And nobody — as usual — seems to be paying any attention at all to those of us who actually need a truck to do our daily work.

    I actually like the Volt in many ways — nice car — but the article is right on the relative costs, both to the user and to the environment. And the grid. And… and…

    And I see California wants to ban all internal combustion vehicles. Maybe that would keep them all home… which would be a plus!

  4. To cover this lose of revenue at the pump, states will move to tax you based on the mileage you drive.

  5. Along with all the other reasons mentioned so far, if the gov wants to switch to a mileage based tax system, that means they have to be able to track you. Smart phone apps with GPS enabled tracking, or a government mandated transmitter installed in every car, or a return to a toll system based on traffic cameras that record your license plate when you enter the road system and when you get off, etc, etc. That’s one way to get the whole camel into the tent, not just his nose.

  6. Really good points in the post, and the comments.
    While driving I noticed the car next to me had a “zero emissions” badge.
    It took some effort, but I refrained from asking the driver whether that zero emissions number included the emissions from making the car, making the batteries, and making the electricity to charge the car.

  7. Something not discussed by the electric car folks is the efficiency of the generating systems. A friend is an engineer that works at building fossil fuel generating stations. He told me that the efficiency of one of these stations is about 40%. That is of the heat energy expended results in 40% electrical energy result. Subtract transmission losses, subtract losses in transformers both up and down. (Up at the generating station for the HV transmission, down at the HV distribution, down at the local distribution, down at the local transformer on the pole near your home, down, along with rectification at the cars charging station.
    You get the picture that a lot of energy is lost.
    Now with the dirty old internal combustion in a car yielding around 25 ~ 30% efficiency, the comparison is not so pretty for electric vehicles.
    Add to the fact that in summer time, the national grid is very heavily loaded with AC loading if you add charging a large quantity of electric vehicles we will have a serious problem.

    • Roger, good points. In addition, the generating plant has to obey the Carnot efficiency limit for an ideal cycle. The limit is fixed by the input and output temperature values (absolute scales). Rough estimate – max efficiency allowed by 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is about 65%, for practical conditions. 40% efficiency is really good and about maximum practical value, because of environmental prohibitions controlling the effluent cooling water.

      Allowing efficient transformers (3% loss) and a good rectifier (10% loss), EV energy efficiency drops to about 32% at best.

      Huh. I’ll keep my diesel, thanks all the same.

  8. We left Portland Oregon recently because life there finally exceeded our tolerance limit for bat-crap liberal insanity.
    After establishing so many private car obstacles to try to convert people to greenie-weenie options (note that they can’t build these up, they just beat the private commuter down…)
    the city is trying a bike tax:
    So you can get on light rail, buy your bike right outside of where the tax applies, and ride back in and save $15.
    Also, houses in some areas like Phoenix are being built in with 400A service in anticipation of solar arrays, large storage batteries, and faster charging devices for electric vehicles. Makes a heck of a good weld somewhere in the system if you eff this up.

  9. I’ve driven a Prius over 100,000 miles for my job. Our route is 500 miles of Interstate and secondary highways, primarily rural. We have four to five stops. Our Prius averages 33 mpg. The EPA of a 2017 Prius is 39/43 and MSRP 23,475.

    A competitor runs Toyota Yaris. About the same internal cargo volume. 2017 MSRP is $15,250 and EPA 30/36. As hard as we run at altitudes of 4800 – 6300 AGL I would expect around 28 mpg in the Yaris.

    $8,200 buys a lot of gasoline.

    • 10 years ago I was shopping for a new car, and did the same sort of number crunching. I looked at Honda and Toyota models, and (going on memory) the Prius was about $3000 more than similar-size gasoline models. And – thanks to a marketing push – the similar sized Hyundai Elantra was about $7000 less. I went for that, and pocketed the difference.

      The Elantra gets about 28-29 mpg. I drove it for 8 years, and would still be driving it if my daughter hadn’t needed a reliable car.

      I did the math – at $3.00 a gallon, and 12-14,000 miles per year, I’m still nearly $5000 ahead. And that’s assuming that all the electricity I would have used had no cost.

      Every time I do the numbers on newer cars with comparable sizes and features, it looks like you’d need gas at >$6 per gallon for a hybrid to break even (and keep the car for at least a decade). I don’t think you *can* break even with current battery powered models.

    • That one made me laugh. My (standard gasoline) Ford Focus (bigger, I believe, but haven’t checked) gets 39 MPG on my daily commute – 43 on an all highway trip.

      And true electric cars (not the hybrids) should be called coal powered cars! (ht to Tam and VFTP for that one)

  10. All- Thanks for the comments. WSF- Thanks for the input. You’re getting a LOT better mileage than my friend, he gets 23mpg in his with 4 people and the AC going on their commute to work in DC.

    Posted from my iPhone.

  11. Good points raised, but my BS meter starts to quiver when someone says $1.16/kwh. True, there’s another version out there which says $.36/kwh, but IIUC the national average is around a third even of that.

  12. I have several pet peeves about electric cars. The proponents won’t give a true cost for comparison and are deceitful regarding economic, environmental and practical benefits. Electric cars make a certain amount of sense if you fall into the perceived usage norm of commuting under 20 to 30 miles to an office, have a charging station at work, and spend eight hours at work, drive home and don’t go very far for dinner, entertainment, or groceries. If you don’t, you will need to have a larger, longer range vehicle that most likely runs on gasoline or Diesel.

    The environmental benefits are hopelessly exaggerated. Focusing only on the emissions at the vehicle, the promoters cite “zero emissions” that gleefully ignores the toxic wastes generated during battery manufacturing, the energy required for cooling the battery factories, and the fact that the battery packs have a roughly five year life. In short, if an electric car works for you, and you can afford the additional cost be my guest, but don’t force to buy one or pay for yours.

  13. I think the best arguments against electric cars are they’re too expensive, are recommended to be basically thrown away at around 100,000 miles due to battery costs, and those building them are sucking on the public teat of subsidies.

  14. It was not too many years ago that hydrogen powered cars was to be the green wave of future transportation. Then people woke up to the fact that the only really efficient way to make hydrogen was electrolosis using fossil fuel generation. Also the dangers of transporting and containing hydrogen were realized. Haven’t heard of a promotion for hydrogen powered cars in a while. Hopefully electric cars will go the samme way.

    • Maybe we can make some money on this idiocy, build fossil (or maybe Small Modular Nuke) power plants on the Nevada side of the border and sell electric power to Kali at exorbitant rates. Rates treble in So Cal when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees.

  15. What to do with the batteries at the end of their service life is another problem. China, which has been heavily promoting and investing in electric cars, is expected to see a twentyfold increase in old lithium car batteries by 2020*. They’re not presently ready for them:

    “…as the first wave of such vehicles need new batteries, the country still lacks an adequate collection and recycling system to dispose of the old ones, reported the Economic Information Daily, a newspaper under state news agency Xinhua.”

    Recycling is

    •with a real potential of environmental damage, which is of course NIMBY for the US.

    And of course, for the short and medium term, the plug in chargers for those batteries will be powered mostly by coal.


  16. All- Thanks! Peter B, I ‘believe’ that the .36 was based on Canadian average cost per kwh, which is higher than the US. And yes, China has a HUGE problem…

    Posted from my iPhone.

    • Aha! And here I thought the 11/12 cents/KWh was a bit high.

      And I don’t think I’ve lived in a place with less than 200A service since 1974 – and that place was so old the whole house had a whopping *4* fuses (not breakers) after the main.

  17. And think of all the costs that will occur if gas engines are banned and only electric cars/trucks are allowed. If you only go back and forth to an office job, the store, church and back home.

    But if you go into the hospital and need nursing or physical therapy care, (I average 150-200 miles/day) or if you have a couple of kids who are in the band at school and play something larger than a flute, or play sports and have to haul their equipment along. Or the kids have friends and you carpool with their parents a electric car isn’t going to be big enough. So I don’t think the banning gas engine idea will fly for long or very far.

    Scotty just needs to get the transporter fixed. 🙂

    • And suddenly those outlets for block heaters make a lot of sense to those who never even considered block heaters. Gasoline and diesel have the advantage of HUGE energy density, much experience dealing with that form of it (a battery, like a gas tank, is just another name for “bomb”) and genuinely FAST “recharge.” Highway, I can go 400 miles. Refuel in under 10 minutes and go another 400 miles.. and (if I can maintain consciousness!) do it again, too!

  18. We already hear about brown-outs and rotating black-outs during the air-conditioning season. Add that usage to the number of electric cars many project (hope for) and California will require the entire western US to be given over to power plants (because California can’t have power plants in their own playground).

    Energy math isn’t hard; it’s just an inconvenient truth.

  19. Anyone remember the opening chapter to “Hunt for Red October”? The way they (the dastardly Russkies) managed the gasoline shortage was to reduce the number of car batteries manufactured. Fewer batteries meant fewer operational vehicles. Once we go to all electric cars, they can control road usage by limiting battery manufacturing. Think about it….


  20. “Math is hard!”
    I swear Barbie is a Democrat economic adviser.

    Enjoy telling local e-car drivers some of their electricity comes from the Lake Anna NUCLEAR Power Plant. Their eyes go all buggy then they start swearing at me. Some times I love being me.

    • I *love* the bumper sticker seen on a Tesla: [HOW DO YOU LIKE MY COAL POWERED CAR?]

  21. I purchased a 2013 Ford Fusion hybrid. Not to be green but to save money on gas and gas taxes. I regularly commuted 60 miles round trip per day for 4 years. It was a no brainer. Once I realized I could get great mileage staying in the 35-45 mph range I used the back roads for the commute. It added 5 mins but saved 16 miles from the highway route. I averaged 48 plus mpg summer time was over 52 mpg. 550-600mile range on a small tank of gas. Now that I’m closer to work I use about 40-50 dollars a month in gas. ( unless I travel more). I think the future should be hybrid. It makes sense. I smile at all my own revenue I have saved as well as all the fast taxes!! Sooner or later I’m sure they will really push to charge by the mile driven vs a gas tax. Don’t get me wrong, the gas tax will stay , they’ll just add more to the hybrid and if electric owners.

  22. There was an article just recently about how cobalt (a major component for these batteries) is a horrid thing to mine, and that the biggest mine is in a certain African country, known for using mass amounts of child labor……

    I just had to sit back and laugh a bit. The things that never get brought up when you’re buying that electric car!

  23. The government would likely include electric cars in the fuel tax agreement (IFTA) the same way trucks are taxed.

    There’s nothing new and exciting about electric cars. My great-grandmother had one for a while; great-grandfather had a Stanley Steamer – but then he was an engineer and knew how to run one.

    The only serviceable electric ‘car’ at the moment is a golf cart. It runs on 12 volt batteries, can be enclosed by a canvas top and sides, and does very well over short distances. Since there are few moving parts, it’s easy to maintain. The only downsides are that it’s obviously short distance only at low speeds, which isn’t a major impediment for city driving. However, remember that you’d be sharing the road with the rest of the Detroit iron, and just about the time some brain dead soccer mom diverts her attention from texting her bestie to tell the kids to STFU! she’ll t-bone you. You, at maybe 600 pounds of vehicle and 400 pounds of cargo, are now road kill.

  24. @Irish…
    I bought a VW Passat turbo-diesel right before the emissions scandal hit the news. It burns the current low-sulfur diesel and uses a urea tank to reduce NOx emissions. Of course, now they’re off the US market and you can’t buy a new one here any more.
    I routinely get 51-52 mpg driving at 75-80 mph on the interstate, for hours and hours and hours at a time.
    It takes 5 minutes to refill the 18.5-gallon tank, which gives me another 800+ miles of range.
    With current technology, electric cars can’t begin to compete with that, head to head. And that’s without getting into infrastructure and cost (and emissions, and recycling, etc.) shifting/obfuscation issues mentioned in the original post and comments.

  25. My “ancient” Corolla gets high 20s mpg worst case (gasohol. short city commutes). Best case (real gas – no ethanol, highway) it’s 40+ mpg. I looked at hybrids (e.g. Prius) and even at $5.00/gallon, the Corolla is less expensive to own & operate.

  26. What do you do about air conditioning in an electric car? AC tends to be a high demand item for electricity.I live in south Louisiana, if everybody uses electric and we have to evacuate for a hurricane how do you recharge when the storm blows the grid down?

  27. Way back when I was working in VA Beach at the base and zipping back to FL once a month to make NG drill, the company I worked for let me rent a car.
    I went to National and got them to order me a Datson 510 3-door hatchback with a 5-speed manual transmission. I drove that car for the better part of a year and routinely got 40mpg on the 11 hour trip down to FL and once got 52mpg – and that was at 65-75mph. That was in the early ’80’s before they became Nissan. I wish I had bought the damn thing.