The marketing hype behind new electric vehicles (EVs) such as the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf makes me think of the title of the 1901 children's novel by L. Frank Baum, The Master Key. Promotions and testimonials designate the EV as the "master key" to environmental harmony, evoking the vision of a green economy in which zero-carbon-footprint EVs shuttle us to sustainable clean energy jobs as our dependence on foreign oil is whisked away in the contaminant-free breeze. But it's the novel's subtitle, "An Electrical Fairy Tale, Founded Upon the Mysteries of Electricity and the Optimism of Its Devotees,"that I chiefly have in mind. It exquisitely captures the substance of the unfolding EV hoax.
The optimism of EV devotees is manifested by the expectation that simpleton consumers will see the absence of tailpipe fumes as the absence of emissions and pollution; that EVs are worth their exorbitant cost, particularly if they eliminate our reliance on OPEC; and that, in EV-world, we will all live happily ever after.The support of simpleton politicians guarantees fairy tales.
The scientifically illiterate media (also devotees) never mention the pollution and carbon emissions created at electrical power plants when EV batteries are being charged. Odd that these distant plants are now electrical mysteries, when not that long ago shrill environmentalists frequently reminded us that they were mostly coal- and gas-fired monsters, belching forth devastating fumes as they generate 44.46% and 23.21%, respectively, of our electrical power. Apart from toxic particulates, they release a national average of 1.2 lbs of CO2 for each kWh generated.
The Chevy Volt, for example, can travel 35 miles on its fully charged 16 kWh battery. Thus, charging the battery in the average U.S. city produces 19.2 lbs of CO2 or, in effect, 0.55 lbs CO2/mile. The EPA rates the Volt's gas-only fuel economy as 37 mpg. Since a gallon of gasoline produces about 19.6 lbs of CO2 , the Volt produces 0.53 lbs of CO2 /mi. Incredibly, the Volt's carbon footprint is 0.02 lbs/mi larger when powered by its battery- another electrical mystery.
An optimistic devotee might argue that carbon footprints can vary. But an average of 0.55 lbs CO2/mile is a long way from clean and fraudulently far from zero. As to footprint variation, charge an EV in a state such as West Virginia where coal generates 96% of the electrical energy. There, the Volt will emit 0.95 lbs. of CO2 /mi. - almost twice that of the gasoline engine.
Wherever you live, if you use your EV for anything much more than occasional errands, battery charging will be a big part of your life. It makes one wonder, therefore, why charging requirements are trivialized, if mentioned at all. Unless it's due to the mysterious nature of electrons. Their activity as the battery charges throughout the night is invisible, as is the charging cost, at least until the utility bill arrives. If you drive an EV, say, 700 mi/month, it must be fully charged at least 21 times each month. In a recent 1000 mile Edmunds road test, the Volt averaged 33 miles on a fully charged battery. In the Northeast, where electricity is 16.09 cents/kWh, the monthly charging cost would be $54.61; in the Southeast (9.57 cents/kWh), it would be $30.24.
According to the Edmunds review, charging an EV battery using a standard 120V socket "is like filling a swimming pool with a syringe." Optimistic devotees cite charging times of 12 hours. But charging from 0% to 100% (typical of electric mode only drivers) takes about 20 hours. Edmunds expects most buyers will need the 240V Level II charging stations which can complete the charge in less than half the time. They are available for $490, with an additional cost of about $1,500 for home installation - in addition to the $33,000 to $109,000 you paid for your electrified transportation pod. What's another $2,000 or so when you're saving the planet?
Electrical utilities also anticipate Level II chargers, salivating over the revenues they will produce. But they worry because turning one on is equivalent to adding three homes, all with air conditioning, lights, and laundry running at the same time. Two or three of them running simultaneously in a grid sector is likely to burn out the transformer, blacking out service to the entire sector. Ironically, safety experts want EV manufacturers to add a simulated "vroom" sound alerting pedestrians to the presence of EVs on the street. The added cost of bumper-integrated speakers is a small price to pay for the warning. Presumably, there will be no extra charge for the sound of transformers mysteriously popping as they burn out, alerting sleepers to the presence of EV chargers in the neighborhood.
Our taxes pay for a $7500 credit to entice less optimistic buyers and huge subsidies to help EV manufacturers stay in business. Lithium battery companies must be salivating as much as electrical utilities. Last year, for example, a Michigan company was awarded $251 million in federal and state stimulus money. The plant is expected to employ 400 workers costing taxpayers $625,000 each. And it is owned by a Korean firm; imagine the graft American "entrepreneurs" are getting. These companies are also lining up at the trough of EV battery R&D subsidies. Despite over a century of technological advancement, battery performance is economically inadequate for EVs. Hopefully, battery designers will have better luck in the next 100 years.
Unfortunately, President Obama is among the most optimistic of EV devotees. His test drive last July was ominous. Driving a Volt for about 10 feet at about 2 mph seemed to reaffirm his green economy concept and his campaign pledge of putting 1 million EVs on the road by 2015. He is working diligently behind the curtain of political favoritism and crony capitalism to promote the EV as an integral part of his green economy.
But the EV is a hoax. Born of political expediency and founded on bad economics and bad science, it is a colossal burden on taxpayers, an expensive fantasy to EV buyers (converted, coerced or bribed) and a cruel joke on planet savers. Everyone will pay higher taxes, EV buyers will pay at least twice that of comparable gasoline powered cars and their electricity bills will, as President Obama has famously said, "necessarily skyrocket." And that the EV violates the very clean energy justification for its purchase demonstrates the fraudulence of Mr. Obama's plan. EVs result in little or no net reduction in pollution or greenhouse gas emissions. This is true for the $109,000 Teslas or the $41,000 Volts. And it would be true if there was a $10,000 model.
It would also be true if a million U.S. drivers bought one by 2015 or however many millions must be coerced thereafter to bring us to the day when we can say "goodbye" to OPEC. The problem is that this will also be the day we say "hello" to Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia, the Saudi Arabias of lithium. Will OLEC (Organization of Lithium Exporters) treat us any better than OPEC has?
President Obama's plan for the EV is unfolding like an electrical fairy tale of unprecedented magnitude. It calls for millions of Americans to buy uncompetitive, exorbitantly priced, high-maintenance EVs that are not meaningfully cleaner than the vehicles they are supposed to replace — all the while paying higher taxes and electricity rates to finance a scheme that, even if wildly successful, would accomplish nothing beyond enriching electrical utilities and battery manufacturers instead of oil companies and refineries and making us dependent on lithium instead of oil.
This plan is a costly, inane indulgence in fantasy. If the curtain were pulled back, it would reveal a fatuous illusionist, feverishly operating the levers of subsidies, tax credits and regulatory mandates to orchestrate the scam. Did I mention that Baum also wrote The Wizard of Oz? It is an excellent book to read by candlelight during EV-induced blackouts.