Report from Victoria EV Trial reinforces importance of source of electricity and EV efficiency in reducing greenhouse gas emissions
07 December 2012
The Victoria (Australia) EV Trial—a major 5-year initiative (earlier post)—has released a comparative lifecycle assessment of the environmental impacts of electric vehicles relative to conventional gasoline vehicles in Victoria from now until 2030.
The lifecycle analysis, “Environmental Impacts of Electric Vehicles in Victoria”, found that the impacts from vehicle operation far outweigh those from vehicle production—true even if allowing for an EV battery replacement over the vehicle life. Vehicle disposal impacts, including those of the EV battery, were found to be negligible due to the expected high rate of material recycling. The dominant influence of vehicle operation during the EV lifecycle thus highlights the importance of the source of electricity, how efficient the energy conversion in the vehicle is, and the way a vehicle is used, the report found.
The source of the electricity used to power electric vehicles is a key issue in Victoria. Despite various influences driving decarbonization of the stationary energy sector, projections indicate that for a vehicle operating on Victoria’s grid electricity, the breakeven point in terms of carbon emissions from vehicle operation is some years away. Conversely, an electric vehicle operating on renewable energy may provide a net benefit in terms of lifecycle carbon emissions within three years of operation.—“Environmental Impacts”
Efficiency. EVs are inherently more efficient than their gasoline equivalents at converting energy into motion, the report noted, with this advantage growing as the operating conditions tend towards more stop-start driving such as is found in cities.
Current typical ICE efficiency is around 28 to 30%, compared to 85 to 95% for electric motors—a significant advantage in terms of lifecycle environmental impacts.
As with ICEVs, the energy conversion efficiency of EVs is expected to improve as an outcome from extensive research and development into batteries, electric motors and power electronics, the report said. This improvement should also be taken into account as part of any evaluation of future vehicle technologies.
Given the strong influence influence of vehicle energy economy on overall environmental impacts, better information and guidance on the selection of vehicle technologies, particularly EVs, so as to be ‘fit-for-purpose’ could provide significant benefits, the authors suggested.
Key findings. Key—and Victoria-specific—findings from the report include:
Victorian EVs must be run on renewable energy to provide a total lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions benefit relative to ICEVs.
If run on renewable energy, EVs will pay back the embodied greenhouse gas emissions penalty primarily associated with the battery production in the second year of operation, and are expected to provide around 29 tCO2e, or around 50%, saving over the vehicle lifetime even with a replacement battery.
The breakeven point in terms of full fuel cycle emissions from EVs and ICEVs in Victoria is expected to arrive around 2024, however this figure is highly sensitive to the relative improvements in both vehicle technologies.
EVs will deliver even greater benefits if selected preferentially for city-driving, however more information is required to guide vehicle selection both in relation to profiling the service duty and matching it to the vehicle technology.
Based upon the Victorian grid mix characteristics, demand charging during peak periods of electricity use is likely to be of lower greenhouse gas emissions intensity than smart charging during off-peak periods.
Renewable energy charging strategies that depend upon on-site energy generation are complicated by the likely mismatch between energy production and use, and by the electricity market arrangements that relate to grid-connected systems.
GreenPower or Renewable Energy Certificate purchases are the simplest, most effective path for renewable energy EV charging strategies.
Publicly-accessible EV charging outlets require transparency and assurances to support renewable energy EV charging strategies.
Charging network service providers who can provide a clear, independently-verified renewable energy supply commitment may be the simplest, most flexible path to zero emissions EV driving.
While EVs will provide an air quality benefit to the state that will mean improved health for Victorians, the continued tightening of vehicle emissions standards will deliver a greater benefit in the near-term.
EV uptake in Victoria creates a significant risk of environmental impacts from battery production being transferred elsewhere, however it reduces the existing risk in relation to oil extraction processes.
Within the existing Victorian vehicle reprocessing and disposal supply-chains, the environmental impacts of end-of-life EVs are likely to be minimal.
EV-related human health and amenity impacts are negligible due to electromagnetic fields, manageable as relate to their near-silent operation at low speeds, and beneficial as relates to traffic noise.
Shared service. Separately, the EV Trial entered a new phase partnering with GoGet to provide the trial’s first shared service program. The partnership will provide the benefit of gaining broader acceptance of electric vehicles in the wider community.
The arrangement means electric vehicles will be experienced by potentially thousands of Victorians who would otherwise have no idea of what an electric vehicle can do.
Under the trial partnership, GoGet will deploy electric vehicles at a number of locations around Melbourne, providing more Victorians with more opportunities to experience EVs first-hand.
I realize that Australia has a lot of cheap coal and hot climate (bad for thermal efficiency), but WOW, 1350 gCO2/kWh is a lot!!! Almost twice the level of Europe (could not find actual data, but Denmark is around 700 and is among the highest).
Ever heard of super critical steam cycles?
Posted by: Thomas Pedersen | 07 December 2012 at 12:58 PM
New technology? Turn it up mate, this is Australia - just dig up the coal and burn it!
In all seriousness, Victoria is known to have the dirtiest grid in Australia. The state has abundant brown coal deposits which the current Liberal (right) government seems determined to exploit further and which supplies about 90% of the grid via an ageing power station network. The Federal Labor (left) government are pretty much useless at most things but they did manage to introduce a carbon tax and that has caused a reduction in brown coal power output, so at least this may start having some effect on the future grid mix.
Australia is blessed with abundant renewable resources but we've also been blessed with abundant resources of just about everything especially of the fossil fuel kind. So far the latter has been a lot cheaper than the former.
Posted by: Biff | 07 December 2012 at 03:12 PM
Australia also has abundant uranium, and could make its grid substantially carbon-free without having to worry about absorbing noontime peaks. Sadly, they are arguing about even exporting it, let alone using it themselves.
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 07 December 2012 at 04:26 PM
True. The Labor government has been pretty much opposed to all things nuclear since the French were blowing up coral atolls in the Pacific back in the 1970s. My main concern with current nuclear is the need for large amounts of cooling water, although coal is not exactly water-friendly either. Australia is already short of water and this wouldn't help the situation.
I just wish we would have put an effort into the thorium cycle, it seems like India will lead the way there. On the solar front, most of Australia is sunny, uninhabited and basically empty so if the Euros can be thinking of setting up a grid in northern Africa via the DESERTEC project I'm pretty sure we could do the same here in our own country.
It's the same old story - Australia has a very simple energy system that works, so getting it changed is not easy. There is the inertia of BAU, plus the entrenched fossil fuel industry and a political system that encourages donations and lobbying whilst promoting idiots as candidates. You'd be hard-pressed to find an intellectually-dumber lot than the politicians Down Under.
From a 2007 report into energy subsidies in Australia:
"Macquarie Generation, which operates the Liddell and Bayswater coal-fired power stations, earned a before-tax profit of $267.1 million in 2005-06 … the annual fuel subsidy to Macquarie Generation is between $122 million and $304 million"
Posted by: Biff | 07 December 2012 at 05:28 PM
If you have areas where the prevailing winds are lifted uphill and drop rain, positioning seawater-cooled nuclear plants with cooling towers on the coasts upwind could add humidity to the air and increase the rainfall.The Islamist takeover of the whole of N. Africa has shown the insanity of that idea. It won't happen, though it will still be touted as an "alternative" to what must actually be done.
I would not be surprised if thorium could be used in HWRs on a once-through cycle with a breeding ratio considerably over unity. You wouldn't have to reprocess in the next century or several, just put the used fuel aside to cool and feed raw thorium oxide rods into the reactors to breed more fuel. As you breed more fuel than you can use, use it to start new reactors.
Oh, I think the USA is at least equal. It was more than a century ago that Twain wrote "God made the idiot for practice, and then he made the school board". Since then we have had amazingly stupid people elected even to the US Congress, like Maxine Waters. On a smallish continent surrounded by oceans where most of the population lives on the coasts, I would think this would be one of your lesser issues.
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 07 December 2012 at 06:18 PM
85% of the sea to fresh water is done with multistage evaporator/condensers on power plant cooling sections.
Posted by: SJC | 07 December 2012 at 07:24 PM
As Biff pointed out, Australia burns brown coal which is dirty even by coal's standard. Although the stuff dug out of the Gippsland region of Victoria is relatively free of sulfur and nitrogen it still has a very high water content which means they have to burn more of it to get the same amount of energy.
Posted by: ai_vin | 07 December 2012 at 09:32 PM
It makes one wonder if they'd be better off using the stuff in oxygen-blown IGCC plants, like the repowered Wabash River project. All they'd have to do is add less water... or use recycled CO2 as the carrier fluid.
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 08 December 2012 at 12:10 AM
I can see the usual suspects miss the point. BEV are not green, the have greater environmental impact than burning fossil fuels in ICE.
When and if we have surplus renewable energy and nuclear power at night when BEV are charged, then maybe LCA will have different results. When and if we run out of oil, then maybe it will be a different story.
Posted by: Kit P | 08 December 2012 at 07:41 AM
Australia has very good wind potential and the cost of installed solar has been rapidly dropping. It's now cheaper in Oz than in the US and approaching German prices. Australia is also working on geothermal.
Australia is also not as plagued by as many climate change deniers as are found in the US.
Look for renewables to be installed at faster and faster rates over the coming years. Look for no nuclear reactors to be built due to their high cost.
And look at the left hand graph, Kit. EVs run on renewable energy are as green as it gets when it comes to driving. You want greener? Walk or ride a bike. Perhaps a goat cart if you've got a place for your motor to graze.
In the US we will largely charge at night using wind generation but that rule may not hold in other parts of the world. No reason why, in a very sunny reason, charging couldn't be largely a daytime process.
Posted by: Bob Wallace | 08 December 2012 at 10:21 AM
Posted by: kelly | 08 December 2012 at 11:56 AM
“EVs run on renewable energy are as green ”
But BEV do not run on renewable energy. What part of 'if' does Bob not understand?
I did ride my bike to today but not to save energy but for enjoyment. The last two houses we lived at allowed me the opportunity to walk or ride a bike which I often did. Again, because that is what I enjoy.
The lowest source of ghg for making large amounts of power is nuclear. One of the interesting things about Bob is that he talks about 'climate change deniers' at the same time he denies the perfect safety record and low operating cost of the 104 nukes in the US.
Posted by: Kit P | 08 December 2012 at 12:09 PM
Bob, RE works great... IF you get enough of it when you need it AND you have an economical means of capturing it.
Running just on RE leaves issues. Even if one EV charge would last you several days, a period of clouds and low winds would leave you with a battery running out of juice and no reserve for contingencies. There's a big advantage to an energy supply that does not depend on the weather (either daily, like wind and solar, or seasonal, like biomass and hydro). If you need that energy supply to be carbon-free, your choices are pretty much nuclear, nuclear and nuclear.
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 08 December 2012 at 12:33 PM
"..denies the perfect safety record.."
There is that Three Mile Island incident.
Posted by: SJC | 08 December 2012 at 12:36 PM
Over the years since 2006 the US grid has increased its share of non-hydro renewables by 0.6%, 0.6%, 0.4%, 0.6%, 0.7% and so far in 2012 we on track to increase by 1.2%
The price of solar is falling very rapidly and the rate of end-used installation is accelerating. End-user solar is not included in the first paragraph numbers.
Germany is installing solar at $2/watt. In the US that would give us 7 -8 cents/kWh electricity. Wind is being installed at 5 cents/kWh and expected to become cheaper.
Depending on where you live, charge with cheap wind or cheap solar. Supply is not an issue.
There are very few times during the year in which the wind doesn't blow and the Sun refuses to shine. When that does happen we can charge from other sources.
If you can charge 98% of the time on <8 cent wholesale power I really don't think those who need to charge once or twice using gas peaker electricity are going to get hurt.
" perfect safety record and low operating cost of the 104 nukes in the US."
First, you have to carefully define safety to mean no workers being killed by radiation. You have to define out the workers killed like the two guys scalded to death at Ranch Seco. And you have to define away the near misses like TMI, Brown's Ferry, Bessie-Davis, etc.
Second, our way-back construction machine is hopelessly broken. We can't build reactors at 1970 prices. Nuclear is priced off the table and even the people who build and run reactors are telling us that.
BTW, the lifetime CO2 footprint for nuclear is higher than either wind or solar. Your "lowest source" claim holds only if you cherry pick data.
Posted by: Bob Wallace | 08 December 2012 at 02:00 PM
There are issues with any intermittent energy source, which go double if it requires capital-intensive or lossy storage systems to match supply to demand. Those issues have to be addressed squarely, not hand-waved away. Maybe vehicle traction batteries can buffer X fraction of it, and ice-storage systems can buffer another fraction Y. All those fractions need to add up to 1; you need to show that they do.If you won't or can't specify those sources, you are hand-waving. They need to have both the dispatchable generation and the stored energy to do the job.
We don't have to "define out" anything. First, we are talking about civilians, not workers. Second, even worker hazard has to be compared to the other plants which are proposed to replace nuclear (wind and rooftop solar are both very hazardous). Third, gas pipeline explosions have killed more American civilians in single incidents than the whole history of nuclear power in the nation. Last, risk to the public even from releases like TMI may be negative; the health impact even of a TMI at the worst-case projections is less than the health improvement from avoided emissions from combustion.
No it isn't. Regulation prices it off the table, such as the threat to halt work at the Vogtle site in Georgia because the version of the rebar spec for the base mat being used by the contractor was not the same as the slightly-different version certified in the COL by the NRC (the plans did not specify the exact version of the spec to be used). There is no reason the USA could not build AP-1000's on the same schedule as China, allowing a slightly higher price for US labor.
You're still taking the claims of Storm and Smith seriously? Do you realize that their CO2 figures would require the Rossing mine to burn more fuel than the entire nation of Namibia in which it is located? These people and their work are not to be trusted, period.
Wind farms require several times the steel and concrete per kW than nuclear does. That should tell you right there that the footprint claims are suspicious.PV at $2/W(peak) is around $10/W(avg). This is more than the FOAK costs for the EPR, IIRC. It's not? Then why do off-grid people with multi-day battery packs still keep backup generators? Absent that backup you would be dealing with outages, real or de-facto (many loads forced to shut down).
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 08 December 2012 at 04:35 PM
Do you have a handrail on the stairs where you live and work? Code requires a handrail for the same reason that LWR have containment buildings. In case you slip up, you will not get hurt.
We discussed the death of a worker in Canada who fell to his death at our safety meeting this week. It started with an engineer who did a calculation incorrectly, setting the stage. The worker was wearing a harness. He was trained in its use. The prejob brief discussed the hazard. However, he forgot to hook his harness to the designated point, None of his fellow workers noticed this mistake.
Safety is not about things never going wrong but not allowing multiple errors to hurt people.
Posted by: Kit P | 08 December 2012 at 07:50 PM
“you have to carefully define safety ”
Safety standards are very well defined in 10CFR50. What people like Bob do is make up their own definitions. Just for the record, OSHA provides standards for industrial safety.
“near misses ”
For what? Not people being hurt. Does BS Bob have the same standard for 'near misses' for equipment damage for renewable energy.
I work in the power industry. The standard for protecting the public and workers is the same across the industry. It is not acceptable for a worker to fall to his death.
My point about Bob is that he is ignorant of both nuclear power and renewable energy. He is not a student of the industry but filters information to meet his agenda.
Posted by: Kit P | 08 December 2012 at 08:35 PM
You have the probability of a mistake and the consequences of that mistake. In the case of nuclear the consequences can be melt down. That means you have to be much more error free than humans usually are. This is not a slip down the stairs.
Posted by: SJC | 09 December 2012 at 10:10 AM
PV at $2/W(peak) is around $10/W(avg).
What is that supposed to mean? Germany is installing solar at $2 or less per watt. In the greater part of the US that would mean electricity at 8 cents per watt or less.
Are you trying to make some sort of a statement about the Sun not shinning 24/365? If so, it has no bearing.
Cheap solar and cheap wind (which does not blow all the time) are the death knell for nuclear which needs to sell roughly 8,000 hours per year in order to reach its LCOE number. You can't take away over 50% of nuclear's market and keep the cost of nuclear electricity below 20 cents per.
When you add in inexpensive NG backup then it's all over for new nuclear.
Some older plants will survive for a while, but roughly 25% are in trouble right now. Any nuclear plant needing extensive repairs is likely done for. The cost of recovering repair costs drives their cost to being non-competitive.
Now, you keep going on about how if we only dropped regulations on nuclear plants then we could build them for little money. How about specifying which regulations you think we should drop?
Should we drop requiring seismic studies to make sure we aren't building on a fault? Or do away with things like requiring rebar in the concrete? Or containment domes? Backup pumps? Armed guards?
What is it that we could eliminate to make nuclear cheap?
A lifetime footprint of nuclear includes the GHG created by mining and enrichment.
By "defining out" I mean that you, Kit and the other nuclear fans repeatedly talk about how nuclear doesn't kill anyone. You hedge that by restricting it to the US.
And you further hedge that by restricting it to only deaths caused by the fuel, you ignore nuclear construction and operational deaths.
At the same time you compare nuclear to wind and solar by including construction and operational deaths.
You use a dishonest metric.
Posted by: Bob Wallace | 09 December 2012 at 11:07 AM
Kit, I suppose it fruitless to ask that you remain civil?
I do have the same standards for "near misses" in the renewable energy field as I do for nuclear reactors.
Near misses are when disaster is narrowly averted.
There are dangers with renewable energy. There have been a few incidents of turbine blades "throwing ice". At least one turbine failed to furl its blades and caught fire. No one was injured in those events so they could be called near misses.
Thrown ice and turbine fires are very restricted in their damage zone.
The danger zone for nuclear reactors is quite a bit larger and the damage a lot longer lasting. I give you Chernobyl and Fukushima as examples.
Posted by: Bob Wallace | 09 December 2012 at 11:15 AM
I can see the usual suspects miss the point. BEV are not green, the have greater environmental impact than burning fossil fuels in ICE.
One point that Kit has missed is that this report concerns Victoria, Au - and only Victoria, Au. As commentors have rightfully stated their grid outputs twice as much CO2 as elsewhere because they use brown coal. You can't say BEVs "have greater environmental impact than burning fossil fuels in ICE" unless your grid does the same which, if you live in the US, it does not.
In fact in the US, where you burn black coal you could power the grid by 100% coal and still be 3 times better off than Oz because it emits only 471.45gGHG/kWh to their 1350 gCO2/kWh!
Posted by: ai_vin | 09 December 2012 at 12:30 PM
ai_vin is correct, as I mentioned it's basically Victoria that is the dirty brown coal culprit. Here in New South Wales it's black coal, which at least is cleaner.
When the Nissan Leaf went on sale in June Origin Energy calculated the CO2 emissions in various states and this shows how bad Victoria is:
Nissan Leaf Victoria
Posted by: Biff | 09 December 2012 at 02:20 PM
Also, I don't know about you but if I were the kind of hardcore green who had the money to buy a BEV I'd also put some cash into making my house PV/wind powered so the whole "long tailpipe" argument would be moot because I'd be recharging at home anyways.
Posted by: ai_vin | 09 December 2012 at 02:31 PM
“Kit, I suppose it fruitless to ask that you remain civil? ”
Are you part of some special group that might have earned my respect? It is amazing that people like Bob denigrate everyone else then want to be treated with respect.
“Near misses are when disaster is narrowly averted. ”
What disaster was narrowly averted at Davis-Besse?
That is my point, everything at a nuke plant is a disaster.
“The danger zone for nuclear reactors is quite a bit larger and the damage a lot longer lasting. ”
Actually the danger zone during an accident that damages fuel is inside the containment building. A very small area.
The USSR did not require containment building.
Again no one was hurt by radiation at Fukushima.
Posted by: Kit P | 09 December 2012 at 03:35 PM