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Old 05-21-2015, 12:22 PM   #521
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Not an EV fan per se.

Just this:
  • Electricity is moving towards renewable. Give or take 5 to 10 years and its marginal production cost will be lower than any non-renewable source.
  • EVs have the advantage of being able to use any type of energy, and of placing their emissions virtually anywhere. The energy density and cost (vs. gasoline) is a big no-no as of yet, improving fast nonetheless.
Both together mean that while in transition there may be some nasty unintended effects, the end game is clear. The end game is also enviromentally speaking much better.

In addition I believe the two trends together reinforce each other. So the more of one, the faster the other will go.

Obviously in the US with all that cheap coal there may be several years of a negative delta for every EV car added, that is not true in every country, and probably not even in every region of the US.

In addition, coal isn't as dirty everywhere. Depending on the technology used it can be quite clean (in terms of air quality). Many filters can even be retro-fitted.

[Edit] regarding peaker plants: The new peaker capacity will most likely be needed at night once the daytime gets saturated with wind and solar. At night we'll either have gas, molten salt (solar concentrator) or batteries of some sorts.
Actually in Tx at least (because the figures are online) wind energy is in general stronger at night than during the day (it reaches a trough in the late afternoon and strengthens thru midnight). (Go to the ERCOT site for details). Solar in Tx would work great as peaker capacity as the peak loads are in general hot sunny summer days about 5-6 pm.
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Old 05-21-2015, 02:19 PM   #522
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Originally Posted by explanade View Post
Is there any evidence that they're burning more coal than they otherwise would have because of EVs?
Is there any evidence that they aren't?

I say that jokingly, because I find it fascinating how others just throw the ball back, w/o doing any of their own research, or even putting serious thought into it.

I would not expect there to be any 'evidence', would you? Presently, EVs are a small segment, so I doubt anyone could parse out the effects.

But look at the big picture - if EVs actually add up to some significant % of miles driven to change anything environmentally (unfortunately, that may be a change for the worse), then they will also have a significant draw on the grid.

So, can you counter my statement at that level?


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Originally Posted by Totoro View Post
Not an EV fan per se.

Just this:
  • Electricity is moving towards renewable.
Agreed.

Quote:
Give or take 5 to 10 years and its marginal production cost will be lower than any non-renewable source.
I doubt it. Here's the rub - all these 'marginal production cost' figures I see are from the fans, and they ignore reality. As renewables become a bigger and bigger component, we will need storage and/or peaker plants to cover the intermittents. Add in the cost of storage and its losses, and/or peaker plants, and see how that number looks.

I don't like coal, some people don't like nukes - but they are reliable and have a high capacity factor. They need peakers for peaks, not because the sun isn't shining, or the wind isn't blowing.


Quote:
EVs have the advantage of being able to use any type of energy, and of placing their emissions virtually anywhere.
The chart I provided takes into account the 'anywhere' nature of the pollutants, and coal is still bad overall, even if it isn't in your back yard. An EV on coal, or even on the 'average' grid, is far worse than a hybrid - even factoring in the local tailpipe versus the distant smokestack.

And my view says those EVs are closer to running on coal than on 'average', so that paints a nasty picture for EVs.


Quote:
Both together mean that while in transition there may be some nasty unintended effects, the end game is clear. The end game is also enviromentally speaking much better.
Describe this 'end game' to me. Is it when we have more renewables than the grid can handle, and enough excess is available to charge most everyone's EV most every day?

When will that be? And where will hybrids be (or maybe some other tech) by that time - they are not standing still?

Quote:
In addition I believe the two trends together reinforce each other. So the more of one, the faster the other will go.
I don't see it. We can green the grid faster w/o added demand from EVs. How do EVs speed anything?

Quote:
Obviously in the US with all that cheap coal there may be several years of a negative delta for every EV car added, that is not true in every country, and probably not even in every region of the US.
Show me some data, and then maybe I can say - yes, EVs make sense in such and such a place. I am limiting most of my research to the US, as that is where I live. I would expect EVs to make more sense in Europe, especially France (with ~ 80% power from nukes), but what % of kilometers there are EV kilometers? Why not let them pave the way for us - that makes more sense to me than trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.


Quote:
In addition, coal isn't as dirty everywhere. Depending on the technology used it can be quite clean (in terms of air quality). Many filters can even be retro-fitted.
Unfortunately, 'clean coal' plants use ~ 20% more coal for the same power out. I'm not sure which part of coal I hate the most - what comes out of the smokestack, or the damage done mining the stuff. Having to use 20% more means more environmental destruction on the mining side. I don't know if that is a winning or losing proposition.

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[Edit] regarding peaker plants: The new peaker capacity will most likely be needed at night once the daytime gets saturated with wind and solar. At night we'll either have gas, molten salt (solar concentrator) or batteries of some sorts.
I see meierlde already corrected you on that.

We can go days with little sun, even weeks. That's a lot of storage. Wind will help fill in some of that, I'm not sure how correlated those sources are. Regardless - storage/peakers cost $, and are part of the equation on the cost of renewables.

-ERD50
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Old 05-21-2015, 02:35 PM   #523
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You made the initial claim that EVs are probably running on coal generated electricity.

I'm asking if there is incrementally greater coal burning to run EVs.
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Old 05-21-2015, 02:45 PM   #524
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You made the initial claim that EVs are probably running on coal generated electricity.

I'm asking if there is incrementally greater coal burning to run EVs.
I gave reasons and described my logic as to why I think this is the case. Can you counter the logic and reasoning, as I doubt either of us can come up with data (it would be buried in noise).

My parallel to these kinds of rebuttals:

Let's say my house had sub-standard insulation. So I add the recommended levels of insulation. Do I have any data that the insulation helped? Probably not, there are too many variables. Weather patterns, how high/low I set the thermostat, maybe we have more/less people living here, maybe my furnace/AC is running more/less efficient, for any number of reasons.

So if my usage went up, do I conclude insulation doesn't work? Hey, that's what the data says!

But we understand insulation, it is well characterized. So we can be very confident that it helped in relative terms, even if we can't parse that from the data.

So back to my question/observation - does my characterization and understanding of the grid hold up? If not, why not?

-ERD50
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Old 05-21-2015, 03:32 PM   #525
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We rode in a Tesla today.

Would you believe it - the taxi from CDG airport to downtown Paris! Took DH a few minutes to figure out the significance of the huge center dashboard display and he asks me: "Is there a T on the steering wheel?". Yes - a rather stylized one.

"C'est une Tesla?" (cab driver didn't speak English) - "Oui." "Ooh la la!!!"

Incredibly quiet, smooth ride. Very powerful/responsive car too. We were impressed and incredibly surprised to find ourselves in a Tesla cab in Paris.
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Old 05-21-2015, 04:26 PM   #526
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We rode in a Tesla today.

Would you believe it - the taxi from CDG airport to downtown Paris! Took DH a few minutes to figure out the significance of the huge center dashboard display and he asks me: "Is there a T on the steering wheel?". Yes - a rather stylized one.

"C'est une Tesla?" (cab driver didn't speak English) - "Oui." "Ooh la la!!!"

Incredibly quiet, smooth ride. Very powerful/responsive car too. We were impressed and incredibly surprised to find ourselves in a Tesla cab in Paris.
With all the nuclear power plants in France, power must be inexpensive for cabbies to drive Teslas, or the cabbies are charging a lot!
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Old 05-21-2015, 04:42 PM   #527
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The other issue to consider when discussing the environmental footprint of EV cars is the end of life batteries. Personally, at least given the current form of electric generation, and the battery disposal issues, it is far from clear that EV vehicles (in their totality) are significantly more eco-friendly. Diesel is a very strong competitor from a design/efficiency stand point. Sadly, Americans don't like diesel. We have a BMW X5 diesel which has been wonderful.
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Old 05-21-2015, 04:45 PM   #528
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.............. Diesel is a very strong competitor from a design/efficiency stand point. Sadly, Americans don't like diesel. We have a BMW X5 diesel which has been wonderful.
Nice choice (BMW X5). I love my diesel Passat for its efficiency, quietness and torque.
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Old 05-21-2015, 04:52 PM   #529
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Nice choice (BMW X5). I love my diesel Passat for its efficiency, quietness and torque.
You really feel the torque (425 ft/lbs) when you put your foot in it. It is a wonderful engine. We are averaging about 24 mpg for a 5,000 lbs. plus vehicle. Our previous gas X5 model (6 cyl.) got only 18 mpg.
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Old 05-21-2015, 05:41 PM   #530
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I doubt it. Here's the rub - all these 'marginal production cost' figures I see are from the fans, and they ignore reality. As renewables become a bigger and bigger component, we will need storage and/or peaker plants to cover the intermittents. Add in the cost of storage and its losses, and/or peaker plants, and see how that number looks.
Just this for now.

The rub is a bit more insidious: the question is who will pay for the extra infrastructure, aside from the question how much of it is actually needed.

If infrastructure and production is decoupled (it is in Europe, don't know about the US), I as a production company don't care what extra infrastructure is needed.

As long as my marginal production cost is lower than the other guy, my power gets sold. The other guy will idle his plant. "Merit order" determines who gets to deliver power, and every kwh produced by solar specifically has a marginal cost of near-0. There is no way to compete with that with non-renewables, unless you start taxing a specific technology because of its intermittency (or subsidize others).

In other words, once the solar plant is built it will never go away and always displace others. Building it makes sense if the estimated production cost is below the current cost - which it already is in some countries and soon will be in the US too.

Add to that the fundamental dynamic of the technology: you get the fuel for free, and production (in tandem with EROIE) will keep getting better and cheaper. Once you go below the cost of coal (and it will) building will continue until there is an overbuild. Power during daytime summer will be 100% solar (again, unless you tax or subsidize).

In addition, consider the long lifetime of power plants and being in charge of deciding to build a new one. Unless I can get government garantuees (like nuclear powerplants get) I'd be hard pressed right now to build anything non-renewable. The risk and uncertainty is simply too high. Good luck getting a garantuee with a pollution stigma.

So in my mind production is a done deal. Infrastructure may get alot more expensive (I don't know), but we will just have to deal with it.

I did read up on solar concentrators the other day (a recent MIT study I posted a while ago), the dynamics looked really interesting. It can function as a battery of sorts and get rid of the intermittency issue. Cost dynamics seemed ok too.
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Old 05-21-2015, 05:52 PM   #531
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You really feel the torque (425 ft/lbs) when you put your foot in it. It is a wonderful engine. We are averaging about 24 mpg for a 5,000 lbs. plus vehicle. Our previous gas X5 model (6 cyl.) got only 18 mpg.
Yes, that X5 has unbelievable torque, much more than the VW products that primarily run 2.0 liter diesels.
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Old 05-21-2015, 06:35 PM   #532
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But isn't the problem with diesel, even so-called clean diesels, particulate emissions?

I remember one NPR report about these particulates being like aerosolized vapors so they get absorbed directly to the bloodstream through the lungs.

Other concern is higher incidence of asthma in children living near a lot of diesel activity, such as Long Beach port, though in that case, it may be old trucks.
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Old 05-21-2015, 06:39 PM   #533
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The new diesels are super clean. I seem to recall they are cleaner than current gas models. The BMW has a fairly elaborate emissions system (heaven the cost if it fails... thankfully EPA "stuff" is good for 100,000 miles if memory serves).
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Old 05-21-2015, 06:49 PM   #534
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What about maintenance? Refilling the urea and possibly having to deal with blocked particulate filters?
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Old 05-21-2015, 07:16 PM   #535
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What about maintenance? Refilling the urea and possibly having to deal with blocked particulate filters?
I add urea once every 10,000 miles. Filler cap is in the trunk. cost per fill about $8.00. My diesel has a particulate filter regen system. No issues ever.

And yes, the exhaust is cleaner than that of gasoline cars.

But wait! New air regs for gas engines will add particulate control for them in the near future.
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Old 05-21-2015, 11:00 PM   #536
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Just this for now.

The rub is a bit more insidious: the question is who will pay for the extra infrastructure, aside from the question how much of it is actually needed.

If infrastructure and production is decoupled (it is in Europe, don't know about the US), I as a production company don't care what extra infrastructure is needed.

As long as my marginal production cost is lower than the other guy, my power gets sold. The other guy will idle his plant. "Merit order" determines who gets to deliver power, and every kwh produced by solar specifically has a marginal cost of near-0. There is no way to compete with that with non-renewables, unless you start taxing a specific technology because of its intermittency (or subsidize others).
Interesting thoughts, but I think you are taking a micro view of a macro issue.

Sure, one segment doesn't care about intermittency, but overall somebody cares - the customer who does not want brown/black-outs. And the politicians overseeing the (usually) monopoly utilities, who don't want voters mad at them with brown/black-outs. So brown/black outs will be avoided in the system. And intermittency must be addressed.


The renewable plants can't give away their power just because they don't pay for fuel - they need to recoup costs. Yes, their marginal cost is near zero, but they need to pay their loans and/or investors, property taxes, etc.

The energy buyers will buy the cheapest spot source. But when wind/solar get to be big players, what do they do with their excess? No one wants it, and that means they can't get the return on their investment they got when they were small players. Size works against intermittent sources. So wind/solar either need to store it to sell later (that costs money and lost eff%), or try to raise rates for their power when there is demand. That makes it a bit harder to compete with the fuel plants.

And if the energy buyers wouldn't buy from the fuel plants when wind/solar was available, the fuel plants are in the same position - they will need to raise rates to recoup that loss when wind/solar isn't available. There's no free lunch, everyone wants to get paid, and the customer wants a reliable supply of power.

And you don't just 'idle' a coal plant. They throttle up/down slowly, and operate in a limited range. So if coal has been ramped up for the morning rush, and then solar pops up quicker than the coal plant can throttle down, that coal plant's energy can also be sold at near zero cost. So now there isn't much demand for solar power, right when they start producing it. You just can't separate these inter-related issues.

The intermittency will end up costing the energy buyers (and consumers). Picture if you had two sources for a critical supply to your business. One pops in once in a while and offers a great deal, but you can't rely on them for critical customer shipments. So then you turn to your original supplier to fill the critical needs. Pretty soon, the original supplier is going to raise their rates - they can't fulfill your occasional, emergency needs at the old price without the steady business you gave them earlier. So the new supplier deal really isn't the same bargain as it appeared, is it? It is costing you in other ways.

I do think that is the reality we face. Now, if renewable plus storage is cheaper than fuel, then you've got an economic winner. But we are talking hours, days, maybe even weeks of storage - that's not around the corner, and it won't be cheap and it may not be safe ( IIRC, a few hours storage of a typical coal plant (and we have ~ 20 in IL) is more energy than the Nukes dropped on Japan).

-ERD50
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Old 05-21-2015, 11:31 PM   #537
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With all the nuclear power plants in France, power must be inexpensive for cabbies to drive Teslas, or the cabbies are charging a lot!
Who knows? The rates were no different than a standard taxi.

I imagine there is some major supplement program for "green" taxi. We saw a ton of Prius taxis.

Have to say - the air quality with all the traffic was very good.
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Old 05-22-2015, 12:01 AM   #538
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( IIRC, a few hours storage of a typical coal plant (and we have ~ 20 in IL) is more energy than the Nukes dropped on Japan).
Back of the envelope: The two atomic weapons had a total yield of about 20 kt of TNT = 23244444463 watt-hours = 23000 MW-hours

I think a typical new coal plant has a max capacity of about 2000 MW, so the two weapons would equal about 10 hours at max capacity.

Pretty amazing. Or I've misplaced a decimal!
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Old 05-22-2015, 07:10 AM   #539
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I don't see it. We can green the grid faster w/o added demand from EVs. How do EVs speed anything?
The Tesla full model has a battery pack of 85 Kwh. An average household in the US uses somewhere between 20 kwh and 40 kwh per day (24h).

So, one Tesla can function as battery for the nighttime with still plenty of juice left to drive moderate distances. In addition, old car batteries can be refurbished as well once they become unusable as car battery.

More EVs also mean lower production costs for said batteries as scale effects take hold (as per the Gigafactory Tesla is building).

All the above reduces intermittency, so helps offsetting some disadvantages of solar and allows some of the production to functionally shift towards the night time. It might also reduce infrastructure costs a bit (for those houses who have a plugin at their home).

I know this is all minor right now, but you were asking how they help each other.
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Old 05-22-2015, 07:55 AM   #540
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Sure, one segment doesn't care about intermittency, but overall somebody cares - the customer who does not want brown/black-outs.
The infrastructure will be upgraded and intermittency will be addressed, not disputing that. I'm just saying that since the producing company doesn't pay for it, it won't factor in their investment decisions. Same thing for the consumer putting up panels for their own private use.

That is, unless said producers get taxed or non-intermittents get subsidies. So far that hasn't happened as far as I know. Germany does have a subsidy for peaker plants (gas) I believe, that won't slow down solar as a producer though. It is a "tragedy of the commons" type thing.

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The renewable plants can't give away their power just because they don't pay for fuel - they need to recoup costs. Yes, their marginal cost is near zero, but they need to pay their loans and/or investors, property taxes, etc.
They have to pay for all that, but at the very moment the power is produced it will sell at whatever the market price is, down to zero. There is no bargain power in the market. Prices mostly get determined by merit order, and that is the lowest cost marginal producer at any given moment (the spot price, if you will).

As long as a solar producer gets even 1 cent per kwh for producing it will sell that power. It is the better option vs. not selling it, getting nothing and wasting it (assuming no storage here) or even worse incurring the cost of shorting it safely into the ground.

This is very different from a gas plant, oil plant or a coal plant (more below). If the cost of the inputs goes above the price they can get in the market at that time, they won't deliver power. A solar plant has no input costs.

Now, yes, if the price a solar plant gets drops below their fixed costs on a structural basis the solar company will go bankrupt and get restructured. What I expect to happen then is that shareholders get wiped out and bondholders as well. And then you have a solar producer without debt, with an even lower cost level. The capacity will not go away. It's built and will produce once it's there. Very different dynamic for non-renewables.

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And you don't just 'idle' a coal plant. They throttle up/down slowly, and operate in a limited range. So if coal has been ramped up for the morning rush, and then solar pops up quicker than the coal plant can throttle down, that coal plant's energy can also be sold at near zero cost. So now there isn't much demand for solar power, right when they start producing it. You just can't separate these inter-related issues.
I am not separating them. A coal plant will look at the solar forecasts and plan accordingly, because they will suffer if they get it wrong. A solar plant doesn't need forecasting, it just produces whatever it does.

So yes, situations will start to occur where power will actually sell below the cost of actually burning the coal. In fact, the price will probably drop towards zero as long as enough solar is available. That's killing for coal.

I don't have the numbers ready, yet I wouldn't be surprised that even short periods of selling below marginal cost will ultimately mean that coal plants will lose viability during the daytime once solar has decent marketshare. (I think input costs for coal are around $4 per MWh.) So coal will be displaced by gas, wind and solar. Again without energy storage (the big unknown here).

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The intermittency will end up costing the energy buyers (and consumers).
I wouldn't be surprised if it will although I'm not sure. I don't believe though that it will stop the actors involved from moving forward anyway.

That is because each actor individually has an incentive to move forward, except for the transport infrastructure which will be forced by citizens and goverment actions. Good way to lose an election is having frequent power outages.

The utility producer will build solar if his cost of producing is below the highest current (non-renewable) producer. Households will build panels if their costs are below grid parity (so including transport costs). Non-renewables will postpone their investment decisions. Battery system manufacturers may enter the fray if they can get their system costs low enough, possibly (as one example) via refurbished EV batteries.

The infrastructure company can only follow, and will build to prevent brown-outs and instability, paid for by governments. It has no power (as of yet) to stop the trend.

There is no actor guarding the entire system. Only governments can fullfull that function, and I haven't seen much willingness to penalize renewable infrastructure yet.
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