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Old 06-20-2007, 10:38 AM   #21
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Right. I've been frustrated that the media doesn't understand this. They'll do a story on an electric car, but give no indication of miles per KWH. I realize that most people don't understand what a KWH is, but they could at least say "This car will cost you about 5 cents per mile for charging."
Good and important point - kind of like biofuel using more energy to produce and transport than it saves.

For the Prius, the battery is charged by energy recaptured during coasting and gradual braking, so it's mostly regenerative. Under certain conditions, the combustion engine charges the battery, a zero sum game but one which allows you to seamlessly use the air conditioner during stop and go traffic, or under higher load conditions.

It's a long way from perfect but very clever anyhow. Pollution is very low - less than the average lawn mower. I consider that an important bonus, though I realize it may not quite be as simple as the marketing material would have you believe.
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Old 06-20-2007, 10:38 AM   #22
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I've been frustrated that the media doesn't understand this. They'll do a story on an electric car, but give no indication of miles per KWH. I realize that most people don't understand what a KWH is, but they could at least say "This car will cost you about 5 cents per mile for charging."
Agreed. But the media should only be partially blamed. The major blame should be on the manufacturer. But the manufacturer has very good reason to hide those vital information. Once they are published, no one would buy their products.

Recently, there was a thread on a new "air car". It's the same story: Great new technology, efficient, green, etc... But no valid, verifiable operating cost.

So far, only the Toyota hybrids are worth considering. Their gas mileage is truly superior. But even Toyota don't dare telling consumer the total cost.
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Old 06-20-2007, 10:52 AM   #23
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The other thing about plug-in hybrids is are they really all that green. What if you have to have a coal-fired power plant generate the electricity for your plug-in hybrid. That would make the case that a plug-in hybrid actually increases gases that (some) say cause global warming over a coventional small car. In that case the car would definitely not be so green.
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Old 06-20-2007, 11:06 AM   #24
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My take on the Prius... It's a great car for most purposes in every category except safety. I wouldn't want to encounter a Giant SUV (eg. Excursion) in one of those.
Which is why I am hoping like heck that Subaru offers a hybrid by the time I need a new one.
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Old 06-20-2007, 11:07 AM   #25
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I always wanted to know this. Do you have a link to good readable summary on this subject?
I'd take all the numbers with a good dose of salt, but one thing is certain. If they need to buy $1 worth of energy to make the thing, they will need to charge you that $1, plus materials, their costs and a profit.

Unless there are subsidies or tax write-offs applied - then it gets more complex again....

It makes me wonder if home installed panels are really the best way to go. Maybe industrial installations would be better placed, and more efficient at a larger scale? I think I'd rather 'invest' in (like buy a share of) an industrial installation than put one on my own roof. But then the tax incentives may favor the home installation, and that may be another case of unintended consequences reducing a an overall benefit?

But try this:

Photovoltaics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Quote:

Energy return on investment

A key indicator of environmental performance is the ratio of electricity generated divided by the energy required to build and maintain the equipment. Of course, little is gained if it takes as much energy to produce the modules as they produce in their lifetimes. This ratio is called the energy return on investment (EROI) This should not be confused with the economic return on investment, which varies according to local energy prices, subsidies available and metering techniques.

....
Crystalline silicon PV systems presently have energy pay-back times of 1.5-2 years for South-European locations and 2.7-3.5 years for Middle-European locations. For silicon technology clear prospects for a reduction of energy input exist, and an energy pay-back of 1 year may be possible within a few years. Thin film technologies now have energy pay-back times in the range of 1-1.5 years (S.Europe).[40] With lifetimes of such systems of at least 30 years, the EROI is in the range of 10 to 30.
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Old 06-20-2007, 11:15 AM   #26
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The other thing about plug-in hybrids is are they really all that green. What if you have to have a coal-fired power plant generate the electricity for your plug-in hybrid.
Good question.

Check out teslamotors.com for some info on that. IIRC (it does get complex), they claim that with their fully electric car (high efficiency - low drag, fairly light weight, no ICE to carry and they use expensive lightweight Lithium batteries), that the Tesla is net positive, even on coal.

Plug-in Hybrids are at a disadvantage, drag around the engine, can't afford lightweight batteries *and* and ICE in a typical car. So, (again IIRC) the plug-in hybrid was maybe marginally better - but I think it was actually worse on coal. Remember, coal plants don't have catalytic converters, and you waste energy in transfer, charge and discharging batteries.

But, on the news blips, they just say - ' Gets 100 MPG!!!!'


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Old 06-20-2007, 11:30 AM   #27
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Old 06-20-2007, 11:57 AM   #28
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What if you have to have a coal-fired power plant generate the electricity for your plug-in hybrid.

In some places, it is pretty easy to choose a green power supplier. That is what I have done, which is ironic considering that I am the main coal industry anayst at work.
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Old 06-20-2007, 12:04 PM   #29
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From the Hybrids Plus - FAQ
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Old 06-20-2007, 12:11 PM   #30
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Own a 2006 Prius. You mileage figures don't reflect my experience. ... <br />
Part of my good results is due to living in a warm, flat, humid environment which the car loves. Friend up in NJ gets around 50 mpg.<br />
One of my favorite all-time vehicles.
I'm in Minnesota - hear winter affects the mpg...I was looking forward to pulsing - there's a website dedicated to it!...and people recording their prius' results ....everything I hear points to very high loyalty & satisfaction levels..even if I did manage 55 it still would be around $500 a year in savings for my situation...of course if gas skyrockets....

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When we bought a 2006 Civic, I looked into the hybrid. By my math using EPA numbers and our type driving, placed the pay back, if gas was $7/gal, at just when the batteries were due to be replaced.
We bought the middle model, Hybrid option is only on the high end model, add in the Hybrid cost and it just didn't make sense.
We have averaged 34mpg for the first 22,000 miles, Winter/Summer, City/Highway. Gets low 30s in Winter, mid 30s in Summer and low 40s on long trips.
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DW got the Civic coupe last fall after we crunched the numbers - the hybrid just didn't make the economic argument.

The civic's a great car - she's getting around 34mpg, & could do better if she would only heed my driving technique advice (won't happen ).

...hey, if you feel like it please share I'll heed your advice!

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Dan, I think you are correct, at 10,000 miles per year a Hybrid (today) does not make economic sense.

RE: Solar Panel on the roof of a Hybrid? May I be the first to say dumb idea? And probably bad for the environment.

How often will a car be positioned to take full advantage of the sun? Well, not only will it be in the shade at times, but they can't place the roof at the correct angle to the Sun (which would vary by location and compass position anyhow). Plus, the car has to carry that extra weight (and probably air drag) around. And, if you are in the Sun and the batteries are at near full charge, that energy would just get wasted. Doesn't make sense.

Remember, it takes a lot of energy to produce a solar panel. Estimates vary (of course!), but most of the numbers I see are in the 1 to 4 year range before the panel generates enough electricity to overcome the energy required to produce it in the first place. That assumes it is mounted properly. On a car, with all the negatives I mentioned, it might take 10 years to payback it's energy content.

Much better to put the limited number of solar panels that are being produced in an optimal location, and let them feed their energy into the grid where it can always be fully utilized.


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Hey ERD, I think you're right about solar on a car, but from a marketing angle it does make sense
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Old 06-20-2007, 12:20 PM   #31
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Trombone Al:

Your link suggests that a plug-in hybrid powered by coal pollutes less than a conventional car. Other sources suggest otherwise.

Who am I believe ?

What's this world coming to If you can't trust info found on the internet.
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Old 06-20-2007, 12:54 PM   #32
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Why and what for? I can understand engineers' obsession of hacking for the sake of, well, hacking.
Gosh, isn't that sufficient unto itself?

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But it makes no sense at all from the financial/economy point of view. Even for someone like yourself, who has an abundant source of "free" solar electricity. It's not really free since you have some investment capital (however low) to recoup. I have the feeling that once you calculated the true cost of conversion, cost of plug-ins recharging, the financial advantage would lean heavily on the non-modify Honda/Toyota hybrids. It makes even less sense for someone else to use the grid electricity to recharge the batteries.
Inflation.

When we we bought our first PV panels almost three years ago, Oahu electricity was 15 cents/KWHr. Now it's 20.6 cents/KWHr and it's going up about 10% next year. (Oahu gets 75% of its electricity from burning oil.) Gas was around $2.80/gal on Oahu last fall. Now $3.25/gal is the going rate.

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Right. I've been frustrated that the media doesn't understand this. They'll do a story on an electric car, but give no indication of miles per KWH. I realize that most people don't understand what a KWH is, but they could at least say "This car will cost you about 5 cents per mile for charging."
You're right, though the spreadsheet is not trivial. Someone gave me the link to MPG-miles/KWHr conversion (http://www.calcars.org/conversions-factsheet.pdf) and there's a govt data sheet floating around somewhere that I need to track down.

So far the biggest payback on PV systems has been the tax credits. Buying used, upgrading every year for a new batch of credits, and staying under the credit limits has reduced the final cost of our 3000-watt system to 25% of what it would've cost retail. That shortens the payback to 5-8 years, which is the equivalent of a stock paying a 12%-20% dividend. The analysis is highly subjective and tied to an investor's emotional biases.

Another issue is aftermarket costs. Sure, if I go buy a retail Prius and pay a guy to convert it to a PHEV then I'm never going to recover the expense. But the 2008-9 models will slash the resale value of the 2004-7 models and a DIY PHEV conversion will be correspondingly cheaper too. If I can keep the entire price under $20K then I'm happy. Of course we only drive a few thousand miles/year here but the PHEV range is perfect for Oahu driving. If I run the batteries through their full charge cycles I suspect they'll pay for themselves over the 10-year life of the car.

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Neighbor up the street has a prius and a civic hybrid. He prefers the prius.
Nothing wrong with the Civics, either. I still see our 1990 DX driving around the island-- no doubt on its fourth or fifth owner by now.

Hey, ERD50, thanks for that Wiki on PV panels. I thought the old numbers were out of date. I've been seeing a lot of new products at the home shows and the govt subsidies are making their high-volume manufacture a lot cheaper than even five years ago. The physics have been making incremental improvements for over 30 years but the industrialized mass-production math is really paying off this decade...
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Old 06-20-2007, 07:13 PM   #33
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Hey ERD, I think you're right about solar on a car, but from a marketing angle it does make sense
Unfortunately, you are probably correct. Heck, on Good Morning America, they were actually touting a solar panel for your iPod as a 'green' thing to do. Like you would *ever* get the production energy out of that thing over a lifetime of occasional iPod charges.

So, it is a source of pollution, not a solution. And if you are the hopeful type, who thinks maybe we will have cleaner sources of energy in the future - well, that solar panel was made with *today's* energy, and will then be trying to pay back against a cleaner energy, making it even tougher.

Are solar panel factories powered by solar panels? If not, why not?

I can answer part of that question, but honestly I'm not sure about the rest. If the panels they produce are being installed in areas w/o cheap access to the grid, then those panels have more economic value than their power generation alone. So that would make sense to sell and ship them for those purposes. But otherwise, why not install them and use the power yourself, if it is so good? It seems a bit like the chef not eating at his own restaurant...

Hope that does not make me sound anti-solar, I'm not. I actually expect it to be one of the main solutions for energy going forward. Unfortunately, it's still a bit marginal.

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Old 06-20-2007, 07:41 PM   #34
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Trombone Al:

Your link suggests that a plug-in hybrid powered by coal pollutes less than a conventional car. Other sources suggest otherwise.
I'm certainly open to that, but it makes sense that its easier to control pollution at one big stationary plant than in millions of mobile, consumer-priced, weight-conscious, cup-holder-equipped vehicles.

Here's a nice graphic to show how MPG is affected by different factors in a PHEV:



From Hybrids Plus - FAQ

------

Still, the KISS and minimalist mentality that I have makes me want to wait for an all electric vehicle. In the movie Who Killed the Electric Car? they show a pile of parts that aren't needed in an electric car, such as muffler, air filter, oil filter, air filter, carburetor, fuel pump, etc. It was a very big (and heavy and dirty) pile. You still need all those in a PHEV.
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Old 06-20-2007, 08:30 PM   #35
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With all that volcanic activity in Hawaii you would think they would be able to harness some of that energy and make electricity like they do in Iceland!!
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Old 06-20-2007, 10:35 PM   #36
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Are solar panel factories powered by solar panels? If not, why not?
Maybe not the factories but in many of the offices of the manufacturing companies: Photovoltaic Glazing
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Old 06-20-2007, 11:17 PM   #37
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Unfortunately, you are probably correct. Heck, on Good Morning America, they were actually touting a solar panel for your iPod as a 'green' thing to do. Like you would *ever* get the production energy out of that thing over a lifetime of occasional iPod charges.

So, it is a source of pollution, not a solution. And if you are the hopeful type, who thinks maybe we will have cleaner sources of energy in the future - well, that solar panel was made with *today's* energy, and will then be trying to pay back against a cleaner energy, making it even tougher.
Even if products like this provide a total energy deficit, this cost may be worthwhile if it changes the societal mindset on power production and consumption. Most consumer recycling programs run on this premise, for example.

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Are solar panel factories powered by solar panels? If not, why not?

I can answer part of that question, but honestly I'm not sure about the rest. If the panels they produce are being installed in areas w/o cheap access to the grid, then those panels have more economic value than their power generation alone. So that would make sense to sell and ship them for those purposes. But otherwise, why not install them and use the power yourself, if it is so good? It seems a bit like the chef not eating at his own restaurant...
Solar power costs are still higher than other production methods unless there are government subsidies. Also, due to power requirements for most manufacturing, solar couldn't meet full demand. Retrofit costs and location also play a role.

If you built a new manufacturing facility in a desert environ and had government subsidies, it would be economically effective to integrate solar systems for a portion of total power requirements.
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Old 06-21-2007, 08:26 AM   #38
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Even if products like this provide a total energy deficit, this cost may be worthwhile if it changes the societal mindset on power production and consumption.
I guess the engineer in me just gristles at that thinking - even though there may be something to it.

I get concerned that the psychology can work just the opposite, as in 'Hey, I got this solar panel on my car, and since I save so much energy with it, I can afford to waste energy in other areas of my life'.

Kinda like having that double-chocolate cake for dessert because you took the stairs to the third floor instead of the elevator


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Solar power costs are still higher than other production methods unless there are government subsidies.
These dang gov't subsidies (on oil and coal too) really mess up the free market. If fossil fuel was realistically taxed to reflect the hidden costs (what a can of worms that opens up!), renewable energy may look much more attractive. But of course, there would be public outrage at raising the cost of fossil fuels to reflect this, so it ain't gonna happen. Instead, the costs get buried in our general taxes and environmental clean-up costs.

The Freakenomics guy was on GMA yesterday - I just caught a bit of it, but he said everybody should write their representatives in Washington and plead with them to *raise* the price of gasoline! He's right of course, but the host didn't linger on that idea too long

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Old 06-21-2007, 10:30 AM   #39
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I guess the engineer in me just gristles at that thinking - even though there may be something to it.

I get concerned that the psychology can work just the opposite, as in 'Hey, I got this solar panel on my car, and since I save so much energy with it, I can afford to waste energy in other areas of my life'.

Kinda like having that double-chocolate cake for dessert because you took the stairs to the third floor instead of the elevator
I'd like to retain at least a little bit of optimism about humanity. Admittedly, it's difficult when google trends indicates that more people have done searches on Paris Hilton than on the environment or solar cells, but...

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These dang gov't subsidies (on oil and coal too) really mess up the free market. If fossil fuel was realistically taxed to reflect the hidden costs (what a can of worms that opens up!), renewable energy may look much more attractive. But of course, there would be public outrage at raising the cost of fossil fuels to reflect this, so it ain't gonna happen. Instead, the costs get buried in our general taxes and environmental clean-up costs.

The Freakenomics guy was on GMA yesterday - I just caught a bit of it, but he said everybody should write their representatives in Washington and plead with them to *raise* the price of gasoline! He's right of course, but the host didn't linger on that idea too long

-ERD50
If I recall correctly (and there certainly aren't any guarantees on that), solar is still 30%+ more expensive after removing direct government subsidies to fossil-fuel based energy production. Give it another ten years, and the situation will likely be inverted with the advent of new solar technologies, increased energy demand, and increased extraction and environmental remediation costs for fossil fuels. (Thin film solar panels seem to be doing well and SWCNT work is promising. In addition, newer and better potting capabilities and materials should increase cell lifetimes considerably and give better overall ROI. With several states and countries giving government subsidies for mass solar installation, there is enough economic impetus to drive good research.)

This does completely ignore other political, environmental, and health costs associated with fossil fuels. If you added these costs in, solar could very well be less expensive even now. But like you say, not many people actually want to increase fuel prices to reflect true societal costs.
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Old 06-21-2007, 06:24 PM   #40
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For highway-safe electric vehicles, the long wait is almost over really!
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