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Old 03-20-2016, 10:17 AM   #41
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My thinking is that the environmental impact of new electricity demand from EVs should be measured by the new power supply that is installed to meet that demand. ...
Just another way to think about what you are saying - if you try to mentally allocate the new green power to the new demand, then you also have to do the opposite, and say you have not made any improvement to the current demand. So it's just a shell game, moving the allocation from one area to the next. If you help one area you hurt the other. Does it really make sense to say that EVs are keeping my A/C and lights from being any cleaner as RE comes on-line? You get to claim all the 'credit'?

But it just isn't reality. Put yourself in the control room of a power grid. You have everything set to use all the RE that is available. Then 10,000 people come home and plug in their EVs - what do you do? You already are using all the RE, you can't just 'turn on' any more, it doesn't work that way.

So you probably kick in the NG peaker plants. And as this EV load becomes larger and more predictable, you might decide to keep the coal plant running at a little higher level overnight, as coal power in an existing plant is cheaper than NG.

At any rate, I just don't see any reason to promote EVs now, based on some future grid mix that might not even happen. If people want to buy them, fine, but it shouldn't be for environmental reasons, as they are a negative now and for the foreseeable future.

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Old 03-20-2016, 10:28 AM   #42
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Like many couples, we have two cars. I suspect our next small shopping/around-the-town car will be electric while we keep the SUV for long trips
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Old 03-20-2016, 10:33 AM   #43
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Thanks for that reasoned response, but I still feel strongly that my original point holds. Look at it this way . . .
My disagreement with how you've constructed your example is that you have two independent things happening simultaneously. 1) We add renewables to the power grid and 2) we add EV demand. In your example Thing One is independent of Thing Two, and that can't be right.

Under the same scenario where electricity growth is zero, there's no need to add net new capacity at all. So "Thing One" mostly never happens. The reason we're adding net new capacity is because demand is growing.

But lets keep the assumption of zero organic electricity growth for simplicity. And we'll also assume the same composition and usage of the utility grid.

Under those set of assumptions we'll generate X amount of pollution. And we expect to pollute the same X amount forever and always. That's our baseline.

Now we add EVs. So demand for electricity goes up. What we're trying to understand is what is the impact on pollution directly attributable to this EV led increase in electricity demand.

If we use the existing infrastructure to meet the demand we'll pollute at X plus the marginal pollution factor of the grid we have. If, instead, we meet that demand 100% with new renewable power plants, we'll pollute at X plus the marginal pollution factor of the renewables we've added.

The reality will naturally be somewhere in between those two scenarios because the new capacity we add won't exactly match the new demand we've created. But as a first order approximation, I'd say it's correct to assume that the new demand has the pollution profile of the new capacity that's added to meet that demand.
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Old 03-20-2016, 10:40 AM   #44
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Old 03-20-2016, 10:42 AM   #45
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My disagreement with how you've constructed your example is that you have two independent things happening simultaneously. 1) We add renewables to the power grid and 2) we add EV demand. In your example Thing One is independent of Thing Two, and that can't be right. ...
They are independent. I don't see how you say that can't be right?

We are currently greening the grid far faster than we are adding EV demand, it really has no connection. "Thing One" - added RE is happening, and it works even better if we lower overall demand - it becomes an even higher % of the average!

The fact is, we have alternatives to EVs - if pollution reduction is the goal, a modern hybrid is the best alternative now and far, far into the future. That makes them independent, we don't have to add EV demand, it is optional.

[edit to add for more clarity]: You said "The reason we're adding net new capacity is because demand is growing." - That is only one reason. The other is there is some public outcry and legislation to increase the % of renewables on the grid. So renewables are adding capacity and replacing some older coal plants that are being taken out of service. But as RE becomes a larger % of the average, the intermittency issues become more and more of a problem/expense. [end of edit-add]
Re-read my description of the power plant manager - how can that play out any differently?

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Old 03-20-2016, 10:48 AM   #46
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Just another way to think about what you are saying - if you try to mentally allocate the new green power to the new demand, then you also have to do the opposite, and say you have not made any improvement to the current demand. So it's just a shell game, moving the allocation from one area to the next. If you help one area you hurt the other. Does it really make sense to say that EVs are keeping my A/C and lights from being any cleaner as RE comes on-line? You get to claim all the 'credit'?

But it just isn't reality. Put yourself in the control room of a power grid. You have everything set to use all the RE that is available. Then 10,000 people come home and plug in their EVs - what do you do? You already are using all the RE, you can't just 'turn on' any more, it doesn't work that way.

So you probably kick in the NG peaker plants. And as this EV load becomes larger and more predictable, you might decide to keep the coal plant running at a little higher level overnight, as coal power in an existing plant is cheaper than NG.

At any rate, I just don't see any reason to promote EVs now, based on some future grid mix that might not even happen. If people want to buy them, fine, but it shouldn't be for environmental reasons, as they are a negative now and for the foreseeable future.

-ERD50
Many who are buying them for environmental reasons are adding their own renewable energy to the grid, or paying for additional renewables.

My basic understanding is, that overnight when base power is running, power is stored (a very small fraction), or in some cases, such as coal plants, the generators are run at a lower, less efficient level so as to not overproduce.

Use of power overnight is not a 1 to 1 ratio in these cases. Power is generated more efficiently, thus less CO2/kWh. What is important is the difference between the pollution created without the EV load and with it.

As for battery capacity loss, the "study" you referred to was of four cars. Hardly a robust study statistically.

I made a full charge last night on my 2012 Model S with 65,000 miles. I have an 8% loss of capacity. To get a more accurate reading I should run it down close to empty and do another full charge. That would likely make it a 6-7% loss.
From others that I know, this is typical.
However, these were not done under a controlled study using only quick chargers or none at all.

As for high mileage conditions, there is a taxi company in Amsterdam that runs a fleet of Teslas. There are also Limo drivers that use Teslas. While I put about 19,000 miles on ours annually, there are others I know that put 30,000/year on.

The results of that study hold true for early Leafs in Pheonix.
It certainly doesn't come close to anyone else I know in Minnesota in a Leaf, Tesla, Volt, i3, etc.
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Old 03-20-2016, 10:59 AM   #47
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Do you have any data at the level that I presented ( a controlled, rigorous study), to show that this is less of an issue for Uber-like or fleet mileage for newer models?

-ERD50
While the conditions are not as tightly controlled, the sample size is much better.

Plug In America

Average annual mileage for this group was slightly less than 18,000.
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Old 03-20-2016, 11:52 AM   #48
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I am still looking for a conclusive study on the total environmental impact of EVs vs ICEVs and hybrids based on the utility structure in the foreseeable future vs a largely hypothetical RE assumptions. This is the closest I've found so far (with the embedded link), but not perfect by any means. EVs are much worse for the environment as produced, not the point for me, but lost on many car buyers. Some naively think EVs are zero emissions and producers are happy to let buyers believe it, nonsense of course.

Is The Electric Car Really Helping The Environment? | BERC
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A major reason why EVs are gaining popularity is their claim to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to be more beneficial from the environment.

The study showed that current production methods of EVs are significantly more environmentally damaging than the production of ICEVs. This is mostly due to the power mechanism manufacturing techniques, including battery manufacturing, in EVs that involve energy intensive processes. The high environmental cost of EV production, however, can often be offset by the lower GHG emission of EVs during their use-phase. The GHG footprint of EVs during their use-phase, however, depends highly on the electricity infrastructure in place for a given region and the benefits scales with the lifetime of the EV. Disposal and other end-of-life processes had nearly equal environmental impact for both EVs and ICEVs.

Under the European energy grid, EVs outperformed ICEVs by about 20% for gasoline ICEVs and 10% for diesel powered ICEVs in GHG footprint. For a natural gas dominated energy grid, EVs still outperformed gasoline ICEVs by 12%, but broke even with diesel ICEVs. In the case of a coal-dominated energy, however, EVs actually increased GHG emission by 17% when compared to ICEVs and 27% for diesel ICEVs.
So in this study EVs were worse for the environment than ICEVs as produced and ongoing in coal states, they never 'break even' in terms of environmental impact as several ER members have noted in earlier threads. Unfortunately we live amidst a bunch of coal fired power plants...
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Old 03-20-2016, 12:16 PM   #49
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As for battery capacity loss, the "study" you referred to was of four cars. Hardly a robust study statistically.

I made a full charge last night on my 2012 Model S with 65,000 miles. I have an 8% loss of capacity.

As for high mileage conditions, there is a taxi company in Amsterdam that runs a fleet of Teslas. There are also Limo drivers that use Teslas. While I put about 19,000 miles on ours annually, there are others I know that put 30,000/year on.

The results of that study hold true for early Leafs in Pheonix.
It certainly doesn't come close to anyone else I know in Minnesota in a Leaf, Tesla, Volt, i3, etc.
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While the conditions are not as tightly controlled, the sample size is much better.

Plug In America

Average annual mileage for this group was slightly less than 18,000.
You're talking mainly about Teslas. I acknowledged that the Tesla very likely has a much more advanced (and $$$) battery management system. I'm not surprised that it outperforms the more modestly priced Leaf in that area as well.

The point is/was (again, in the context of the article - using them as fleet vehicles) that the Leafs in their study showed significant degradation in 40,000 miles, 22% with regular charging, 25% with fast charging. And yes, the sample size was small, but the fact that it was so consistent across the four vehicles does lend added credibility. It's tough/expensive to do this so rigorously on a larger scale.

While the expensive Tesla is an amazing vehicle, it is unlikely to be adopted in large numbers here in the US as a fleet/taxi vehicle. I'll guess that the Amsterdam company received a large subsidy on that purchase.

So the unanswered question is - have the current production Leafs seen improvements in battery degradation? Will the more modestly priced Tesla cars have the same specs in this area as their more $$$$ siblings? When will that car ship, and at what price (as is common with new products, their shipping dates and prices have crept out and up)?

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Old 03-20-2016, 12:28 PM   #50
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Many who are buying them for environmental reasons are adding their own renewable energy to the grid, or paying for additional renewables. ...
"Many"? We've had this discussion before. I'll grant you that there are some people who added solar PV only because they also bought an EV. But not only do I think that is a small minority (do you have numbers?), I also think that it will decrease with wider adoption. For wide adoption, you need many more buyers who are not in the economic bracket of the kind of people who can afford a Tesla.Those buyers are less likely to be able to afford solar PV, may rent their homes/apartments/condos, etc. Just not going to make a dent in it.

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My basic understanding is, that overnight when base power is running, power is stored (a very small fraction), or in some cases, such as coal plants, the generators are run at a lower, less efficient level so as to not overproduce.

Use of power overnight is not a 1 to 1 ratio in these cases. Power is generated more efficiently, thus less CO2/kWh. What is important is the difference between the pollution created without the EV load and with it. ...
Maybe I'm not following you - but this only seems to bolster my point.

The only storage on any meaningful scale that I know of is hydro. Sometimes actually reverse pumping at night, but more likely scaling back or shutting down hydro at night, so there is a reserve head for the peaks during the day. It's a zero sum game. Use it at night to charge EVs, and there isn't any left for the daytime peaks. Either way, you need to add power to the system for those EVs (likely from fossil). If there was more hydro available, they'd be using it now, it wouldn't just sit there unused.

Your comment regarding efficiency of the coal plant seems twisted. OK, it probably runs less efficiently throttled down. But increasing the output to charge EVs is still burning more coal in absolute terms. Maybe it shifts the 24 hour average efficiency a bit, but that graph for the damage that coal does extends wayyyyy out there - shaving a few % of it doesn't do much to the overall picture.

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Old 03-20-2016, 12:35 PM   #51
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I am still looking for a conclusive study on the total environmental impact of EVs vs ICEVs and hybrids based on the utility structure in the foreseeable future vs a largely hypothetical RE assumptions. This is the closest I've found so far (with the embedded link), but not perfect by any means. ...

Is The Electric Car Really Helping The Environment? | BERC
So in this study EVs were worse for the environment than ICEVs as produced and ongoing in coal states, they never 'break even' in terms of environmental impact as several ER members have noted in earlier threads. Unfortunately we live amidst a bunch of coal fired power plants...
Thanks, I'll digest that paper later, but it appears they are making the common mistake of using the average power, rather than the marginal power required for EV charging. It also looks like they are basing things only on GHG emissions, while the NAS paper I referenced looks at all health/environmental effects. GHG doesn't include the effects of acid rain, particulates, NOx, SOx, etc.

Even if you accept their numbers, a 12% to 20% improvement for EVs in one area is hardly something to get all that excited about. Haven't hybrids improved that much in the last decade? They are not standing still. While Evs will improve as well, that's mostly in cost - the efficiency of batteries and motors is already very high, little improvement to be had.

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Old 03-20-2016, 12:37 PM   #52
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They are independent. I don't see how you say that can't be right?
Because supply and demand are not independent.

But after thinking about your approach, it seems that this is the heart of our disagreement. Your approach implicitly assumes no impact on the grid because of new EV demand. And for very small EV penetration that assumption is probably true.

My approach assumes new power supply is added because EV demand is added. For significant EV penetration that assumption is probably true.

But this entire conversation is really only relevant if we're talking about large scale EV adoption. In that case new supply will be added as a direct result of large EV adoption. That new power supply, and the associated EVs, will be less polluting than the current infrastructure average.
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Old 03-20-2016, 02:55 PM   #53
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Because supply and demand are not independent.

But after thinking about your approach, it seems that this is the heart of our disagreement. Your approach implicitly assumes no impact on the grid because of new EV demand. And for very small EV penetration that assumption is probably true.

My approach assumes new power supply is added because EV demand is added. For significant EV penetration that assumption is probably true. ...
The flaw I see in your scenario is that we aren't on a path to replace even our current demand with RE. So clearly, any added demand cannot be met by RE either. Added demand just 'waters down' the effect of the increase in RE that is occurring now.

We have been adding RE, even with near zero EV power demand, and increasing demand does not translate to a larger supply of RE. RE is increasing for reasons other than demand (public policy mostly), and it has constraints separate from demand (few available hydro resources, intermittency, cost, transmission, NIMBY and more).

Look at it in reverse - let's say we had 10% of electrical power going to EVs and we had an average 60% RE on the grid. Then one day, all those EVs were magically converted to run on our kitchen scraps. We would cut production of the fossil plants, and use the limited RE to replace it, right? Removing the EVs saved fossil fuel, and adding EVs uses fossil fuel. And 60/100ths becomes 60/90ths = 66.7% RE.

As I've said all along, this changes when we have an excess of RE routinely and regularly available when EVs need to charge. When will that be?

[edit/add]: What the heck, I'll throw in a third way to look at it while it's on my mind. Here's where your scenario would hold up - So let's say it's 2020, and nobody is adding any wind turbines, solar panels, or any other form of RE, stating that there just isn't any electrical power demand for it (everyone gave up worrying about global warming and pollution?). And the only thing holding them up is lack of electrical power demand. So OK, if EVs start coming on line, and that alone increases the installation of RE, then you've got a case. I just don't see that happening in any foreseeable future.

-ERD50
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Old 03-20-2016, 09:16 PM   #54
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When there are more EVs on the road, the electric usage will go up. The demand will cause the supply to go up, but it does not necessarily mean that the cost of electricity will go down. Usually, supply will only grow with price increases.

A smaller EV such as the Ford Focus EV will use about 260Wh per mile. With a typical electric rate of 12c/kWh, a $1 will get us 8.33 kWh, which will propel the car 32 miles. The gasoline version of the Focus is rated at 30 mpg, and at a gasoline price of $2 will drive for 15 miles on a $1.

Currently, for a higher purchase cost of $30K vs. $17K, the Focus EV provides an operating cost reduction to 1/2 if we ignore maintenance and battery life, etc... If and when the cost of the EV drops to get closer to the cost of the ICE version and the battery life and price get better, surely more people will get the EV version.

If the average commuter drives 40 miles/day, his EV will burn 10 kWh/day. How does that compare to the electricity he is using at home right now? The average household uses around 30 kWh/day. If a home has both husband and wife commuting, their EVs will boost the electric consumption from 30 kWh/day to 50 kWh/day. That's a huge increase.

At the current price of 12c/kWh, the EV driver gets a good deal. But if the consumption goes up that much, will that price of 12c hold? As ED50 mentioned, if utility companies could use solar to produce cheaper power right now at the 12c price point, they would have done so already, EVs or not.

So, unless renewable energy becomes a lot cheaper, the higher demand for electricity must cause the price to go up in order to spur more supply, renewable or not. And if renewable energy becomes cheaper, utility companies will use it, whether people drive more EVs or not.
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Old 03-21-2016, 08:00 AM   #55
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The flaw I see in your scenario is that we aren't on a path to replace even our current demand with RE. So clearly, any added demand cannot be met by RE either. Added demand just 'waters down' the effect of the increase in RE that is occurring now.
I really do think you're over-complicating a fairly simple thing.

Occams Razor . . .

The power grid pollutes X today.

We add a bunch of EV demand and a bunch of new non-polluting power plants that equally match that demand.

Therefore, the new EVs are also non-polluting.

Why?

Because before we added them, we polluted X. After we added them, we still pollute X.

You can't multiply the EV power usage by the grid's average pollution and say that the EV's added that amount of pollution because pollution didn't go up.

And you can't subtract the EVs from the above scenario and then claim pollution will then go down as a way to prove the EVs added pollution when pollution didn't actually go up in the first place.

One reason we can't make that claim is because the new non-polluting power plants are a direct result of the new EV demand. They wouldn't have been built if not for that demand. Once built, the EVs still get credit for those power plants unless we add an assumption that they'd be built anyways. In which case we're forced to ask, if they were going to be built regardless why weren't they already part of the grid before we added the EVs?

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[edit/add]: What the heck, I'll throw in a third way to look at it while it's on my mind. Here's where your scenario would hold up - So let's say it's 2020, and nobody is adding any wind turbines, solar panels, or any other form of RE, stating that there just isn't any electrical power demand for it (everyone gave up worrying about global warming and pollution?). And the only thing holding them up is lack of electrical power demand. So OK, if EVs start coming on line, and that alone increases the installation of RE, then you've got a case. I just don't see that happening in any foreseeable future.

-ERD50
But isn't that the right way to run this kind of thought experiment? We hold all the independent variables constant to see what happens when we change the thing we care about?

It doesn't have to be that this specific scenario plays out in the real world exactly as we've described. But it doesn't change the fact that if we add 1,000 MW of EV demand, we're going to add 1,000 MW of new supply to meet that demand. It's that change that we care about and no other.
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Old 03-21-2016, 08:48 AM   #56
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Here are some real numbers to think about. Right now in New England our load is about 16,000mw. Only about 5% of the supply is from renewables right now, or about 800mw. Of that 5% only 4% is not coming from combustible fuels such as wood, garbage, methane etc. So only about 30mw of the energy supply is coming from "clean" renewables right now and that is all from wind. Solar is just not a big player right now as it's cloudy and snowing.

RE is just not capable of supplying significant amounts of generation. Almost all of the new big plants being built are natural gas and much better suited for load following which is good because when the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining you need the supply to be there to make up for it.

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Old 03-21-2016, 11:07 AM   #57
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I really do think you're over-complicating a fairly simple thing.

Occams Razor . . .
And I feel it is you that is oversimplifying this and providing a false premise, while ignoring my previous simple explanation (I'll repeat that below, but first...).


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The power grid pollutes X today.

We add a bunch of EV demand and a bunch of new non-polluting power plants that equally match that demand.

Therefore, the new EVs are also non-polluting.

Why? ... because the new non-polluting power plants are a direct result of the new EV demand. They wouldn't have been built if not for that demand. ...
This is a demonstrably false claim. As I already pointed out, RE installations are increasing (in small absolute amounts), and that increase is totally independent of changes in electrical power demand. It is policy and public demand driven, not electrical consumption driven, and has other constraints not related to electrical power demand.

I don't have time to format all this neatly right now, but you can see from here that electrical power demand peaked in the US in 2007 (4156.74 TWh), and is still below that in 2014 (4,093 TWh). Yet, in that timeframe, RE went from 352.75 TWh to 522.46 TWh - it isn't related to demand at all, in fact, it is inversely correlated in this time period!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewa...Current_trends
https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=427&t=3
https://www.eia.gov/electricity/mont...cfm?t=epmt_1_1

And almost all that delta came from wind (167.66 TWh of the 169.71 TWh RE delta), we are not adding hydro (limited resources, environmental concerns), and solar is puny (35 TWh in 2015).

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Once built, the EVs still get credit for those power plants unless we add an assumption that they'd be built anyways.
And they are being built otherwise, the data shows it - no assumption needed.

There are even some predictions that overall demand will be flat or decrease, even with EVs (due to other efficiency improvements).

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(if we) add 1,000 MW of EV demand, we're going to add 1,000 MW of new supply to meet that demand. It's that change that we care about and no other.
Demand is measured in MW-hours, but OK, so back to my previous explanation from post #40. Until we have an excess of RE available to charge EVs, when those 10,000 or so EV owners come home and set their cars to charge, the RE was already being used. The plant manager/computer needs to bring power on line to support that. If the wind is supplying, say, half the non-EV demand that night, then other (fossil) sources need to be cranked up to meet that demand. It is that simple (Occams Razor). Tell the person living near that coal plant that no, that extra smoke from that coal plant had nothing to do with charging 10,000 EVs, even though it was throttled up for that exact reason. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

That's the story until there is a substantial amount of excess RE on the grid for EVs.

One more view on your claim of EVs driving demand for RE. We only have ~ 7% of energy coming from non-hydro renewables today. Isn't that all the 'demand' we need to push for more RE (we can't really increase hydro)? Would adding 10 points to those 93 points of demand make a 1:1 difference for those 10 extra points? If you were producing a product, and had a 93 day backlog, you'd be looking to increase production, right? But say you are constrained to only increasing production by a few days backlog each year. Would that materially change anything if you had an inkling that in ten years that would change to a 103 day backlog? No, you'd be going as fast as your constraints allowed, regardless. And that is what we are doing with RE now.

-ERD50
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Old 03-21-2016, 11:08 AM   #58
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I was just reading about the newly redesigned 2016 Prius. If one wants to reduce one's carbon footprint and not worry about where the power comes from, it seems like a good way to make a big difference for the better. Since the year 2000 introduction, the Prius has saved an estimated 2.1 billion gallons of gasoline and kept 11.7 million tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere.

They are also very reliable which means more resources are not wasted getting them fixed. All the battery issues that were supposed to haunt the owners, never materialized to any meaningful extent.

That said, I would love to have a Tesla if only I could afford it and I could get it quickly recharged on remote country roads. ;-)
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Old 03-21-2016, 11:43 AM   #59
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I was just reading about the newly redesigned 2016 Prius. If one wants to reduce one's carbon footprint and not worry about where the power comes from, it seems like a good way to make a big difference for the better. Since the year 2000 introduction, the Prius has saved an estimated 2.1 billion gallons of gasoline and kept 11.7 million tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere.

They are also very reliable which means more resources are not wasted getting them fixed. All the battery issues that were supposed to haunt the owners, never materialized to any meaningful extent.

That said, I would love to have a Tesla if only I could afford it and I could get it quickly recharged on remote country roads. ;-)
Tesla will reportedly unveil the long-awaited affordable $35K Model 3 in 10 days on Mar 31st. However, they also report it won't go into production until late 2017. Tesla has repeatedly missed many of their projected timings in the past, so we'll see.

The $37.5K (before incentives) Chevy Bolt with a 200 mile range is supposed to be available in late 2016 FWIW.
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Old 03-21-2016, 01:07 PM   #60
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Why? ... because the new non-polluting power plants are a direct result of the new EV demand. They wouldn't have been built if not for that demand. ...
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This is a demonstrably false claim.
No, my comment is demonstrably true.

Power plants aren't like other things in the economy. They're basically centrally planned. How this happens differs from region to region but in every case at the center of how power plants get built is a regulator deciding how much power is needed to maintain system reliability. And they decide how much power is needed based on long-term forecasts for peak demand.

Based on those demand forecasts they require that a certain amount of power plants get built. Sometimes this happens through an auction of capacity like in the PJM market and sometimes this happens by regulatory fiat as in the south where monopoly utilities are required to build specific plants and will earn an allowed return on their capital investment.

Regardless of the mechanism, a market-wide demand forecast governs how much new power is needed and how much will be built.

Therefore, if we add 1,000MW of EV to our demand forecast, we WILL build 1,000MW of new power supply, all else being equal. If we don't add 1,000 MW of EV demand, we will not build that supply.

Now 1,000 other things may also happen in the market that impact the mix of generation. But none of those things are relevant to the question at hand.
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