Consider the Electric Car

Michael D. Mason highlights the advantages of electric cars in this letter to the editor

Published: 14-Nov-2007

Think all electric cars are golf carts? The Tesla electric car does 0-60 mph in 4 seconds, has a top speed of 130 mph and can go 300 miles between recharges. It’s 200 hp electric motor only weighs only 70 pounds.

Electric cars fueled by standard coal fired power plants would reduce CO2 and other pollutants by two-thirds.

How can this be? A coal fired power plant converts 58 percent of fossil fuel to electricity. A gasoline engine converts 19 percent to mechanical energy. 58 percent divided by 19 percent equals 3.05, or three times the actual extracted energy for the same fossil fuel content.

At a cost of less than 50 cents per gallon energy equivalent, electric cars could cut fuel bills by 83 percent (50 cents per gallon equivalent vs. gasoline at $3 per gallon).

I wonder how the emissions to generate 6.2 kilowatt hours from a standard, non-sequestering coal fired power plant would compare with burning one gallon of gasoline? 6.2 kilowatt hours is the actual mechanical energy produced by one gallon of gasoline in a modern internal combustion engine (at 19 percent efficiency). For every gallon of gasoline burned, approximately 22 pounds of CO2 are created. Assuming the local grid is 100 percent coal-fired (which only half of it is), roughly five pounds of coal would be consumed to create that 5 kilowatts. Depending on the grade and carbon content of the coal, one kilowatt hour creates approximately 1.4 pounds of CO2. This comes to 8.7 pounds for the same energy but supplied by a “dirty” coal fired power plant vs. 22 pounds from gasoline. I suspect the other pollutants would likely be in similar ratio or less.

Right now we can’t burn coal in our cars. Convert to electric cars and all energy sources level. In effect, we could burn coal, nuclear, hydro, photovoltaic, wind, tidal current, methane, biomass, and even gasoline (if we were so stupid to do so) once electricity is the primary fuel.

As opposed to hydrogen, the distribution system is already in place in the form of high voltage transmission lines and feeders.

We would achieve energy independence. We would be able to use some of the 267,000 million tons of proven coal reserves we have instead of funding Islamic tyrants and fanatics by buying their oil.

We could develop our own oil shale reserves which are greater than four times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia. We could turn back from what appears to be certain long term economic disaster.

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