PLUG-IN VEHICLES: DIABOLIC SABOTAGE AND DASTARDLY PERFIDY
Diabolic Sabotage: With the California Air Resources Board (CARB) dealing another severe blow to efforts to bring electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) to U.S. pavement, it might be time to note that it’s not paranoia if there really is somebody out there.
CARB voted to reduce from 25,000 to 7,500 the number of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) required of the major automakers for California from 2012 to 2014. CARB also reduced the staff-recommended 75,000 PHEV requirement for the state to 58,000 in the 2012 to 2014 period. What is the implication? Chelsea Sexton, executive director, Plug-in America: "It's a huge blow…They sent the message to the carmakers that they can always get what they want from the board."
As a caveat to ZEV advocates, CARB voted to rewrite its ZEV program and include more rigorous emissions reductions – but not until next year.
Forget CARB - take it to the marketplace! (click to enlarge)
Dastardly Perfidy: This CARB action came in the same spirit as a February 25 USA Today story reporting, inaccurately, that coal-plant-generated electricity to charge a PHEV with a 40 mile electric range would result in worse emissions than those from the tailpipe of a gasoline powered vehicle.
Much of the USA Today story was based on a study from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC): “The NRDC calculus shows that a plug-in charged from a power plant burning the dirtiest type of coal still has an overall pollution level less than a conventional gasoline car. But it would produce 11% more greenhouse gas emissions than a regular, non-plug-in hybrid, according to Luke Tonachel, vehicles analyst at the NRDC and co-author of the group's report on plug-ins.”
Here’s the thing: Where the dirtiest coal is used, this is probably true. Dirty coal is even worse than petroleum-based gasoline. But only 49% of U.S. power comes from coal. (Is there any coal but dirty coal right now?)
On the other hand, Tonachel told USA Today that “…charging a plug-in with electricity from renewable resources — wind or water, for instance — cuts overall greenhouse gas emissions to as low as a conventional gasoline car getting 74 mpg…” (IF a major automaker made such a vehicle...)
On average, across the country, PHEVs would undoubtedly LOWER emissions even in a nation like the U.S. that remains half-dependent on the dirtiest kind of power. This does not even consider the likelihood that PHEVs would first be taken up largely in the more progressive areas of the nation where dirty coal is NOT the main source of electricity.
Tonachel himself did not like the way USA Today reported on his study and subsequently posted this: “As someone who has been enthusiastically watching and promoting plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, I was concerned that the headline…could lead to misperceptions about the environmental benefits of plug-in hybrid vehicles. The fact is that plug-ins are an important opportunity for reducing pollution…”
The story also reports on a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) study that finds potential sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and acid rain increases where dirty coal is burned to charge PHEVs. First, all but the most out-of-date coal plants have control systems for SO2. SO2 is nothing like the CO2 problem. And, second, the problem is not PHEVs, it is dirty coal.
Dependence on dirty coal is the story USA Today should be reporting. Why are they picking on the solution instead of the problem?
Here’s Chelsea Sexton, executive director, Plug In America: "[The story] borders on the irresponsible, ignoring the full picture and cherry-picking negative facts from different studies in order to prove a point that doesn't exist."
And here’s Felix Kramer, PHEV builder and advocate: "USA Today automotive reporter Jim Healey [has]…gone back to several reports released months ago, including one by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Natural Resources Defense Council, and selectively cherry-picked the most unlikely scenarios under which coal could be the culprit for PHEVs resulting in higher emissions. While eliciting worst-case comments from NRDC, he failed to ask EPRI for its views.”
The EPRI/NRDC study in fact describes nine different power generation and PHEV uptake scenarios. In all nine, PHEV use leads to annual and cumulative greenhouse gas emissions reductions anywhere in the U.S.: “…Each region of the country will yield reductions in GHG emissions…”
Finally, the whole story is entirely out of context. Charles Griffith, auto project director, the Ecology Center: "It seems a little premature to think of it being a problem — but there are a lot of issues we should have been thinking of sooner…The scenario where there are so many plug-in hybrids plugged into the (electric power) grid that you'll see a change in air quality just doesn't sound true to me."
It’s not paranoia if there really is somebody out there…
The last time CARB wimped out, GM killed its EV program. What will it do this time? (click to enlarge)
State deals blow to zero-emission vehicle supporters; The Air Resources Board substantially reduces the number of clean-air cars that big automakers will be required to sell in the next few years
Ken Bensinger, March 28, 2008 (LA Times)
March 3, 2008 (Plug-In Partners)
Plug-in cars could actually increase air pollution
James R. Healy, February 25, 2008 (USA Today)
California Air Resources Board (CARB) (Mary Nichols, Chairwoman); Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) (Luke Tonachel, vehicle analyst/co-author, PHEV report); Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI); Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
This could create an opening for independents like Fisker Karma and Tesla - or it could spell their doom. (click to enlarge)
With diabolic sabotage, CARB set the cause of EVs in California back by failing to use the power of the Board to require major automakers to bring plug-in vehicles to market. This follows dastardly perfidy in a USA Today story reporting, though it is NOT true that, overall, on average, across the country, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) create worse emissions than gas-powered vehicles. What IS true is that it is important to do two things: Get cars on the grid AND clean up the grid.
The details of this EPRI graph are hard to read but it is easy to see the conventionally fueled vehicle (far left) produces much higher emissions than PHEVs charged from any power source. (click to enlarge)
-CARB voted to reduce from 25,000 to 7,500 the number of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) in California from 2012 to 2014. CARB also reduced the staff recommended 75,000 PHEV requirement to 58,000 for the 2012 to 2014 period.
- The first PHEVs from the major automakers are expected to be in showrooms by 2010 and most auto industry analysts expect them to be commonplace within 5 years.
- DOE intends to make PHEVs cost-competitive by 2014 and ready for commercialization by 2016.
- CARB’s decision applies only in California but is widely seen as an auto industry driving standard.
- The USA Today article distorted the truth at vehicle tailpipes and coal plant smokestacks.
Similarly, this EPRI graph shows the same thing for Year 2050 and a variety of power plant technologies. (click to enlarge)
- Coal plant emissions: Soot particles can make it hard to breathe, especially for asthmatics. Mercury is toxic. SO2 is toxic in large amounts and is a component of corrosive acid rain.
- USA Today reports that General Motors' Chevrolet Volt, expected to be not a hybrid but a battery-powered vehicle with gas-powered auxillary battery-charger, will be in showrooms by 2010 or 2011 and could sell 60,000 in its first year if the price is below $30,000.
- PHEVs are also being developed by Saturn, Toyota and Ford.
- DOE is offering $30 million for a PHEV with a 40 mile electric range.
EPRI ran 9 scenarios and never showed the PHEV putting out more emissions than a conventional vehicle - yet USA Today says it does. A mistake? (click to enlarge)
- Natural Resources Defense Council report: "There is a possibility for significant increases of soot and mercury…"
- Howard Learner, executive director, Environmental Law & Policy Center: "…really important emerging technology — where the cleaner technologies are used to charge them… Plug-in hybrids are perhaps not good for all areas…[in] states that are heavily coal, that equation doesn't work out very well for the environment."
- Minnesota Pollution Control Agency study on alternative vehicles: "Alternative vehicles offer benefits, but no single technology currently stands out as a clear choice."
- Jaycie Chitwood, senior planner, Toyota: "It will come…It's more a question of 'when' than 'if.' "
- Mary Nichols, Chairwoman, CARB: "Everything is interpreted as a signal. I'm just hoping that by 2014, we'll have our new revised program in place…The auto companies need to understand that this is not just a collaborative effort we're involved in with them, it's really a serious push to transform their fleets."
- R. James Woolsey, former CIA Director/Plug-in vehicle advocate, brandishing a $4.97 extension cord at the CARB members: "…infrastructure investment could be reduced to this."