There is an old physics joke that goes like this: “There’s this farmer, and he has these chickens, but they won’t lay any eggs. So, he calls a physicist to help. The physicist then does some calculations, and he says, um, I have a solution, but it only works with spherical chickens in a vacuum.”
The joke here is that theory frequently ignores reality. In order for the theory to match reality, one has to assume that things like irregularly shaped chickens living in contact with the real world don’t exist, because they make it impossible for theory to match reality. Which brings us to today’s post.
The claims about EVs are that they are more efficient than internal combustion engines. The claims are that even an F-150 gets an equivalent to 65 miles per gallon. What are they using for an equivalent? Some bullshit math that is purely theoretical and has no basis in reality? Or are they representing the actual facts?
The EPA is the one who decides, through what they call ‘advanced computer modeling’ what the Miles Per Gallon equivalent is for each car. The EPA says one gallon of gasoline contains 115,000 BTUs of energy–which equates to 33.7 kilowatt-hours, equaling 3,412 BTUs per KW-hour.
A natural gas powered generator like this one uses 301 cubic feet of gas to generate 20 kilowatt hours of electric power. Since 1 cubic foot of natural gas = 1,037 BTU, then one KW of electricity costs 15,606 BTUs to create in the real world. What this means is that the EPA is claiming that electric generation is almost 5 times more efficient in theory than it is in practicality. Why? Because a lot of the energy in that natural gas is lost to inefficiencies like friction in the bearings, hysteresis losses, and other things in the generating process that generate heat.
Perhaps it’s more efficient in large power plants? Nope, it turns out that large powerplants are inefficient as well.
In theory, 3,412 Btu of thermal energy is equivalent to 1 kWh of electric energy. For existing coal-fired power plants, heat rates are typically in the range of 9,000 Btu/kWh to 11,000 Btu/kWh.
There are also line losses. That is, the electric lines, transformers, and other parts of the electric grid have their own losses caused by imperfect conduction and distribution. Physics is a bitch.
The game that they are playing here is obvious. They are taking the theoretical value for gasoline and electricity and ignoring the losses that occur due to inefficiencies in generation and transmission of electricity so that they get a number that far overstates the efficiency of electricity, making EVs seem far more efficient than they are.
This is why that F-150 that is supposed to be the most efficient pickup truck only has a range of 58 miles when towing a boat. My F-150 with its 36 gallon fuel tank has a range of over 300 miles towing my 18 foot pontoon boat.
Since we know that they are vastly overstating the efficiency of electric vehicles, that calls the environmental value of electric vehicles into question. Even using the EPA’s faulty metrics, one must drive an EV for over 20,000 miles before it becomes ‘greener’ than than an internal combustion powered vehicle. This is due to the toxic and environmentally unfriendly battery.
The thing is, the battery must be changed out much sooner than the engine in an ICE powered car. The US government requires that a battery on an EV be warrantied for 8 years or 100,000 miles. That is apparently the limit for batteries, as one Florida family recently discovered. I once had a car with over 250,000 miles on it. I still saw it driving around town for years after I sold it.
Over all, I think that there is a shell game being played with EVs. They are not nearly as efficient or as environmentally friendly as we are being led to believe. So the question remains: Why are we being misled, and to whose benefit?