Want to know why I generally have a pretty dim view on electric cars / electric vehicles? Well, if you keep reading, you will find out.
But first, read through this article over at "Solar Feeds" that supposedly disproves the "coal-powered car" joke, as originally linked to by Arcimoto‘s Twitter feed. All done? Did Peder Norby, whose original article appears here, convince you? Well, now comes the important part of this question chain:
What did Peder leave out?
Even assuming that his numbers are accurate (and for the sake of argument, I am going to accept that assumption), there is something very key to this whole debate that he left out of his calculations, in what I can only figure is an attempt to whitewash electric vehicles in order to make them more socially and politically acceptable. So what is the glaring omission? Well, let us take a look at what he did include:
The cost of "producing" the energy in gasoline (by means of refining crude oil)? Check.
The cost of transporting that energy in gasoline? Check.
The cost of producing energy for electrical vehicle? Check.
The cost of transporting that energy in EVs? … *crickets chirp*
You see, for this to be anywhere near a fair comparison, Peder would have had to include the electrical cost of producing the batteries that go into electric cars, in terms of kilowatt-hours – after all, in rudimentary terms, "gasoline" is nothing more than a chemical battery from which energy is liberated by burning, and thus its cost of production must be mirrored by the cost of producing the storage medium for electric cars. Maybe that would not make a huge difference in an EV’ kwH-cost-per-mile (and given the amortization of those costs, it may not), and maybe it would (especially given that the batteries’ lifespans are considerably shorter than the car’s), but in either direction, the omission of that number makes his calculations incorrect, invalidates his conclusion, and casts doubt on any "value" determination to be made from it.
Likewise, Peder conveniently leaves out the energy value of all of the other petroleum products that result from gasoline refinement (it is not like a barrel of crude only turns into gasoline), and a few other little things I am sure you will pick out if you try.
I like the idea of electric vehicles, and I want to like what the market is producing by way of physical examples, but my problem with them is much the same as my problem with Glocks and Macintoshes – their fanboys. If Peder was honestly trying to make the objective argument that electric vehicles consume less electricity than gasoline-powered vehicles, he would not have omitted a rather significant portion of his calculations from the discussion. Maybe it was just an oversight on his part. Maybe it was an intentional obfuscation. But in either case, it severely damages his credibility and raises significant questions regarding anything else he has to say on the topic.
The whole "EV versus gasoline" debate is a complex and multifaceted one that cannot simply be boiled down to the difference in costs of a gallon of gasoline versus a kilowatt-hour of battery storage – for example, the cost differences of milling/forging an engine block versus winding a motor must be factored in, or the maximum effective distances drivable using each system, or the cost of the increased strain on the already twitchy electric grid, or… Unfortunately, in his attempt to simplify the debate to address a complaint that is more joke than anything else (an accurate joke, especially here in Tennessee), Peder succumbed to his obvious personal biases, and his point suffered for it.
(And, coincidentally enough, Jay G. breaks out the calculator when it comes to return-on-investment for electric/hybrid vehicles… and the numbers do not look good.)