Yesterday my friend the Rev. Dr. Shelley Wiley, who recently came with her spouse Jon Vanderglas to visit and is preparing to lead a congregational Bible study using Inhabiting Eden, sent me a Facebook post shared by her cousin in Georgia about electric vehicles. She wondered how to respond. As the happy owner of a solar-powered Chevy Bolt, I decided to answer point by point, not for her cousin but for anyone who hears similar stuff and wishes to refute it, or at least to fiction-proof their own minds. The post’s exact words below are in italics (ALL CAPS left in), my responses are bulleted. (According to Shelley, this is a repost of something originally published in 2017. Teachable moment: Before you post things, make sure they are up to date, since the clean energy future is moving fast!)
Shelley’s cousin: IF ELECTRIC CARS DO NOT USE GASOLINE, THEY WILL NOT PARTICIPATE IN PAYING A GASOLINE TAX ON EVERY GALLON THAT IS SOLD FOR AUTOMOBILES, WHICH WAS ENACTED SOME YEARS AGO TO HELP TO MAINTAIN OUR ROADS AND BRIDGES. THEY WILL USE THE ROADS BUT WILL NOT PAY FOR THEIR MAINTENANCE!
- Me: In Indiana I pay $150 per year surcharge on my license plates, supposedly to cover what they don’t collect from me in gas taxes. I’d have to drive more than 41,000 miles per year in my old Prius (plus pay $50 annual surcharge for hybrids) to run up that much in tax at the gas pump. In Georgia, EV owners pay $200 per year. Most states now impose such surcharges.
Shelley’s cousin: In case you were thinking of buying hybrid or an electric car: Ever since the advent of electric cars, the REAL cost per mile of those things have never been discussed. All you ever heard was the mpg in terms of gasoline, with nary a mention of the cost of electricity to run it
- Me: The efficiency of any source of power depends on what it consists of and the route it takes to get to consumers. Every state’s electric energy mix is different. This graph shows the carbon footprint of electric vehicles by state. In Indiana, because so much coal is burned for electricity, EV’s charged from the grid are slightly less efficient than gas hybrids. In Georgia, where natural gas dominates the electric market, EV’s are far more efficient, almost four times as efficient as gas-powered cars. Cost to charge at a public station is less than $10.
- However, I charge at home from my solar panels, so except when I am taking a trip, my car drives on 100% renewable energy. The panels are ultra-local, and thus lose almost nothing in transmission: they sit directly on the carport.
Shelley’s cousin: Electricity has to be one of the least efficient ways to power things yet they’re being shoved down our throats. Glad somebody finally put engineering and math to paper.
- Me: There aren’t any specifics in that paragraph to respond to. Electricity is less efficient than what? What kind of electricity, from what source? Anyone who likes can have their electricity shut off.
Shelley’s cousin: At a neighborhood BBQ I was talking to a neighbor, a Hydro Executive. I asked him how that renewable thing was doing. He laughed, then got serious. If you really intend to adopt electric vehicles, he pointed out, you had to face certain realities. For example, a home charging system for a Tesla requires 75 amp service. The average house is equipped with 200-amp service. On our small street (approximately 25 homes), The electrical infrastructure would be unable to carry more than six houses with a single Tesla, each. For even only half the homes to have electric vehicles, the system would be over-loaded.
- Me: My Clipper Creek level 2 charger (typical for home use) is not 75 amp, but 32 amp. A model suitable for the Tesla 3 is not 75 amp, but 48. But it is true that for the country to go fully electric, or even to meet today’s needs (see Texas, Feb 2021), the grid will need to be modernized. That’s no secret; it’s quite openly Joe Biden’s plan. Parts of the grid are 70 years old, and its average age is 25 years.
Shelley’s cousin: This is the elephant in the room with electric vehicles. Our residential infrastructure cannot bear the load. So as our genius elected officials promote this nonsense, not only are we being urged to buy these things and replace our reliable, cheap generating systems with expensive, new windmills and solar cells, but we will also have to renovate our entire delivery system! This latter “investment” will not be revealed until we’re so far down this dead end road that it will be presented with an ‘OOPS..!’ and a shrug.
- Me: In fact, coal plants, which are far from cheap either economically or in terms of human health, are already being replaced with less expensive renewable energy mixes. For instance Vectren in southwestern Indiana coal country, is joining NIPSCO in northwestern Indiana, in replacing coal with renewable, because it is the for-profit company’s most affordable plan.
Shelley’s cousin: If you want to argue with a green person over cars that are eco-friendly, just read the following Note: If you ARE a green person, read it anyway. It’s enlightening. 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.
- Me: The Chevy Volt is not an EV, but a plug-in hybrid. Its battery is small and electric range is low. I have no idea who Eric is or what his math skills are, but I assume that the Volt, like my old Prius and my newish Bolt, can calculate its own mileage. My Prius, which was not a plug-in, got 50 mpg. According to this website, a Volt running on gas and electricity gets 106 mpg equivalent, and running on gas only gets 42 mpg. Its total range is 420 miles.
Shelley’s cousin: 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.
- Me: Few people would plan, or want, to charge a Chevy Volt on a 120 volt charger except maybe at home, where it would take 13 hours. A 240 volt, level 2 charger would take 4.5 hours, not 10, but since it is a hybrid, for long distance driving most people would simply drive to their destination, stopping for gas along the way.
- But let’s consider maximum charges and times. An all-electric Chevy Bolt takes 9 hours to charge on Level 2, which works well at home and for hotel stays. It takes less than half an hour (less time than a lunch break) to fully charge a Bolt at a Level 3, DC fast charging station such as those being built by Electrify America and other providers across the nation.
Shelley’s cousin: The cost for the electricity to charge the Volt is never mentioned, so I looked up what I pay for electricity. I pay approximately (it varies with amount used and the seasons) $1.16 per kwh. 16 kwh x $1.16 per kwh = $18.56 to charge the battery. $18.56 per charge divided by 25 miles = $0.74 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. $2.55 per gallon divided by 32 Mpg = $0.08 per mile.
- Me: Why is that person paying $1.16 per kilowatt hour for their electricity? That’s almost ten times the national average of 13.9 cents/kwh. If I were to fill my Bolt’s batteries from the grid (which I don’t, see above), at 12 cents/kwh it would cost me about $7 to drive over 220 miles. That’s about 3 cents per mile.
Shelley’s cousin: The gasoline powered car costs about $25,000 while the Volt costs about $46,000 plus. Simply pay twice 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.
- Me: Chevy cites the top price for a fully loaded 2021 Volt as $40,610, minus the $7500 tax credit. However, all around, I’d buy a Bolt instead. The cost of a vehicle is not just the sticker price, but the cost of fuel and maintenance throughout the vehicle’s life, see the cost graph.
Shelley’s cousin: Hello!!!!!??
- Me: Hello, future!!! Glad to meet you!