Electric car charging stations: more pie in the sky

by NW Spotlight

There is an emerging split in the classes of car owners – where electric car owners have subsidized fuel, don’t pay for roads, and aren’t covered by Oregon’s ban on self-service fueling.

Oregon’s Department of Transportation is seeking public input on locating fast charge stations for electric vehicles, claiming that electric vehicles help create a “sustainable transportation system”. Oregon is one of seven test markets selected by The United States Department of Energy. The project is funded by $130 Million of federal stimulus money.

Let’s look at the economics. The ODOT communication refers to imported fuel, yet if obstructionist environmentalists would get out of the way, there is more oil in eastern Montana and North Dakota than we’ll use in 100 years. Additionally, drilling and refining that oil creates jobs, which creates taxable income.

The next issue is: Where does the electricity come from to recharge those electric cars? In the Northwest, it is hydroelectric. Yet with two local dams being breached this year, where will the additional electricity come from to recharge these electric cars? Do we really have an excess capacity of electricity?

Next is the safety issue – electric cars are too quiet; pedestrians often cannot hear them and as a result there have been several close calls already in downtown Portland.

Finally, and this is the most important, the Federal government should not be subsidizing new technology. It needs to stand on its own. Did the Federal government subsidize “filling stations” 100 years ago, as cars replaced horses as primary transportation?

With the Federal government in search of cost cutting, number one on that agenda needs to be the elimination of pie in the sky programs like subsidizing electric car charging stations. If the demand is there, let the private sector fill that need.

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  • Bob Clark

    Electric cars originally competed with gasoline powered cars but gasoline cars were and still are the cheaper transport mode.  Government subsidies for purchasing electric cars, powering electric cars, and the lack of taxation on fuel; make electric cars come closer to breakeven than they should.  Another thing driving the electric car economics is the adverse impact on gasoline price of America’s decades long resistance to using all its still abundant fossil fuel resources.  The latter is probably more important than the subsidies themselves in driving the current rebirth of electric cars.

    One saving grace is electric cars give pause to those seeking to reduce the access to individual car transportation and the huge freedoms for individuals it allows.

  • valley person

    There is enough oil in Montana and North Dakota to meet all of Americas fuel needs for 100 years?  And your information on this comes from where?

    The dams being breached produce very very little electricity. And you may not have noticed this, but the northwest has been increasing its generating capacity every year, primarily with wind, creating jobs and revenue right here locally, not in Dakota. Car batteries are a great place to store wind produced energy by the way.

    Yes, electric cars are quiet. Nice problem to have.

    • Anonymous

      The ultra-liberal NBC News for one. Brian Williams new program at 10 pm on Monday night had a piece with Harry Smith (also not exactly right of center) on how they can’t hire enough people to work in the  new oil fields of North Dakota and Montana. A big part of that story was about the vast amounts of oil that have been discovered in the region. More than even in ANWR. 

      Your welcome VP, now apologize to Bob for being a typical jerk.

      • valley person

        Since my remark was about the initial post, not to Bob, I don’t think I owe him an apology. Besides that I am not a typical jerk. I am a unique sort of jerk. And beware Joel, that Catalyst posting rules allow them to ban you for name calling (not that they ever will).

        Yes, they are having trouble recruiting workers in North Dakota, which is far from everywhere, has no available housing, and is about the worse climate in the US to live in.

        Nevertheless, we do not likely have a new (frigid) Saudi Arabia there. The highest current estimate is 24 billion barrels of recoverable oil, which is about 3 years worth of US consumption at current rates. And that oil is expensive to get out, requiring $50 a barrel just to break even.

        • BodybyFischer

          Wind power is great as long as you are not a bat or a bird.

          • Marc

            I am not either. And building are much worse for birds than windmills. To the tune of millions killed annually. Tear down all skyscrapers?

          • Will Davis

            Wind power is fantastic.  Once established, running costs are minute.  No fuel needed – just the routine maintenance and occasional part replacement.  Here in the UK the government is planning to build an enormous coastal array of wind farms, and eventual goals are to power the country with green, mostly wind.

        • Anonymous

          The news story made the point that there was enough oil in North Dakota and Montana to fuel America for 100 years. And yes, the oil comes form fracking but Obozo has the price of gasoline so high that it makes good sense economically. (Of course, you’ve already proved you don’t understand economics.)

          I think Oregon Catalyst is capable of determining when someone is responding in a way that simple minds can understand. So, I’m not worried about calling you a typical jerk…OC knows that liberals fit the term.So apologize to the author of the article…you should apologize on general principles anyway.

          • valley person

            Well, if the news story said that then they were wrong. Don’t trust everything you hear in the news.

            Yes, Catalyst can decide whether to tolerate  your constant, childish name calling. So far they have given you a pass, contrary to their posted rules.

      • Will Davis

        VP wasn’t being a jerk.  I fail to see how making some valid points to a discussion makes someone a ‘jerk’.

        The author of the article goes on to say how these oil fields are a great source of jobs, and you’re telling us there is SO much oil that they can’t find enough workers?  

    • Will Davis

      I would also like to know where this secret 100-year fuel supply stashed somewhere in rural Montana or North Dakota.  As far as I’m aware, oil companies in the U.S. are struggling to find new fields as is, and yet the author writes this with absolutely no source to back it up.

      • valley person

        Its a myth the right wing keeps trotting out there. Plenty of oil in the US if only the environmentalists would go away. Neglects the historic fact the US oil production peaked 40 years ago and has been in decline ever since. 
        What is left is poor quality, remote hard to extract, and/or not much.

        Conservatives here are not like conservatives in Britain, who seem more realistic about things. 

  • big picture guy

    Wish they’d correctly identify these vehicles as 50% coal-fired cars with 75% energy loss between converting the original fossel fuel and the storage battery.

    • Marc

      While just under 50% of our electricity comes from coal, your percentage of energy loss is fictional. Even if electric cars were 100% coal, there are still benefits. National security and environmental benefits. Unless you are an oil company. Then American national security is secondary to profit. 

      • big picture guy

        The very best coal plants have an effciency of about 45%, so 55% of the energy of coal ends up as waste heat. Some power plants can send the waste heat (in the form of steam) to another user like a paper mill if one is nearby. Additional losses occur in transmission of electricity (about 7%) generator losses (2-3%) transformer losses (2%) and then further losses depending on what the loss of the end product is -in this case a storage battery with another 5% of loss. In all only about 1/3 of the energy from burned coal will end up at the end user so 2/3 of the energy is “lost”. Granted, hydro makes up a big portion of our NW power grid and the efficiency is somewhat better so, when the efficiencies of the different sources are combined and averaged the loss isn’t quite the 75% I stated. However, since coal generation accounts for 70% of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere and hydro power accounts for huge losses in fisheries, drivers of electric cars who think they are being environmentally more conscientious than the rest of us are exercising extreme denial.

        • Marc

          I think the enviro case for electric cars is clear, but let’s put it aside.  Inarguably, driving electric is more patriotic than driving on gasoline or diesel. Unless you think spending our blood and treasure for oil is worth it. 

  • BodybyFischer

    In most of the country electric cars are charged by coal. Figure it out.
    Nothing cleaner – nothing better – nothing going on here.

    • valley person

      Coal generates only 49% of our electricity nationally, so an electric car would only be using coal for half its charge. And since it gets the equal of 100 MPG on that charge, its still a lot less carbon than burning oil.

  • Mark

    The future is coming, and you can either be part of it voluntarily or be dragged to it kicking and screaming. The oil will end eventually, no matter how obscure the sources we resort to. In most fossil fuel producing regions it is subsidised security or indirectly through tax breaks our industry support, so its no surprise we renewables need some help to scale up.

    To me a major advantage of electric vehicles is the fuel flexibility. you give me a jetliner car and a source of electricity and I can’t make the car run. But tutti give me an electric car and a barrel of gasoline and I can croaky get a generator to Erin it, orI can get solar, out wind and fuel it from MRI own backyard.

  • Marc

    1. Even if there were plenty of oil in the US, burning it to move around is dumb if there’s a better, cleaner, cheaper way.  Electricity is that better way.
    2. There is plenty of electricity in the US, especially at night when most EVs charge up.  At least that’s what the Bush DOE reported. 
    3. The feds should subsidize smart new useful technologies that are socially beneficial. That’s how we got the internet, which you are using to read this. 
    4. Govt may not have subsidized gas stations back in the day, but they’ve been subsidizing oil ever since. Billions of dollars annually. To an industry, the most profitable in the history of mankind, that needs no support.  

  • Will Davis

    It strikes me as utterly unacceptable that on the 4th of November, the people writing these articles STILL lack the ability to do some REAL research about EV’s before bothering to write this stuff.

    *On goes the myth busting hat yet again* as the author lacks the foresight to do some research

    “there is more oil in eastern Montana and North Dakota than we’ll use in 100 years. ”  – Perhaps so but this completely goes against the emission-busting targets.

    “Do we really have an excess capacity of electricity?” – The answer is yes.  The misinformed have this strange idea that EV’s will start sucking the electrical grids dry like some starved mosquito.  The real truth of things is that the grid can EASILY handle what’s equivalent to two-to-three extra widescreen televisions per household.  This is also failing to consider more and more people adopt PV (solar) panels on their house, and new, more efficient sources of power are continuously being developed.

    “electric cars are too quiet” – I’d rather have ‘quiet’ than the noise-pollution-stress-inducing racket of the road I currently live near.  At 18 mph or greater it is difficult to distinguish the noise of an ICE car from the noise on an EV because at this speed the road noise begins to overtake the engine noise.  And for speeds below 18 mph most EVs are fitted with some kind of pedestrian warning system (noise).  In the year 2011, to hold ‘quietness’ against EVs as a safety flaw is quite frankly idiotic, because coming up with a noise solution in this day and age isn’t exactly rocket science.  

    “the Federal government should not be subsidizing new technology” – If the ‘federal government’ wants to meet carbon targets, it damn well should be.  As a matter of fact, if they’d started subsidizing this crap much longer ago, we could be in a far greater position today in terms of EV adoption.

    “If the demand is there, let the private sector fill that need.” – The demand ISN’T there, but every ecologist knows it NEEDS to be there.  To expect at least 10% of all cars sold to be electric in the next 10-15~ years is not at all ambitious given the surprising rate of advances and the inevitable cost reductions once the technology enters mass-production in 2013.

  • valley person

    I don’t know if this attached article on the cost trends in solar energy is accurate or not. But if it is,  it changes the picture considerably on electric cars:

    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/03/16/smaller-cheaper-faster-does-moores-law-apply-to-solar-cells/

  • charlie

    grrg