How clean is your EV fuel?

Replacing fossil fuel powered vehicles with electric vehicles is a key strategy for reducing GHG emissions, but if this strategy is effective really  depends on where you plug in your EV.

On December 30, 2019 I checked gasoline/petrol prices in Vancouver Canada, Calgary Canada, and Melbourne Australia and calculated GHG emissions for each case, using Canadian government equivalency factors (1 litre of gasoline is equivalent to 8.9 kWh at the plug).

GHG Emissions factors by province

 

In Vancouver, a litre of gasoline ($1.29/l) with 2.3 kg of CO2e emissions can be replaced by 8.9 kWh ($0.0884/kWh)  of renewable electricity, for total 0.11 kg CO2 (12.9 grams of CO2e/kWh).

  • Fuel cost:  -40%. 
  • GHG emissions:  -95% reduction

In Calgary, a litre of gasoline ($0.91/l) with 2,3 kg of CO2e emissions would be replaced by 8.9 kWh ($0.068/kWh)  of fossil fuel electricity, with total 7.03 kg Co2 (0.69 kg CO2e/kWh).

  • Fuel cost:  -33%. 
  • GHG emissions:  305% increase over gas!

In Melbourne Australia, a litre of gasoline ($AUS1.43/l) with 2.3 kg of CO2e emissions would be replaced by 8.9 kWh ($AUS0.12/kWh) of fossil fuel electricity, for total 9.08 kg CO2 (1.02 kg CO2e/kWh)

  • Fuel cost:  -25%. 
  • GHG emissions:  395% increase over petrol (gasoline)!

In all cases, it looks like the electric vehicle is cheaper to drive, but only when fueled by zero-emissions fuels will it reduce GHG emissions.  Why?  Transmission losses compound the GHG intensity of fossil fuel generated electricity.

But wait, a gasoline engine generates a lot of heat because it’s only about 20% efficient…an electric motor about 85-90%….in fact an EV and a gasoline vehicle may not be comparable on the road.  At the wheels, the EV performs much better due to higher efficiency, allowing EV designers to use smaller motors, and improve energy economy.   Note: Using Tesla specifications, the real world result may be about 2.4 kWh/litre equivalency, making the GHG emissions for a Tesla in Melbourne about equivalent to a conventional engine.   As you can see, it’s complicated!

So, final thoughts:

Local market knowledge is essential to achieve desired outcomes.  There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.

Zero-emissions power generated must be accelerated in markets with fossil fuel power.

Electric utilities should be required to report their GHG emissions factors on a daily basis!!

How cost effective & clean is my electric vehicle (or home)? It really depends where you live.

How clean is your EV fuel?

Replacing fossil fuel powered vehicles with electric vehicles is a key strategy for reducing GHG emissions, but if this strategy is effective really  depends on where you plug in your EV.

On December 30, 2019 I checked gasoline/petrol prices in Vancouver Canada, Calgary Canada, and Melbourne Australia and calculated GHG emissions for each case, using Canadian government equivalency factors (1 litre of gasoline is equivalent to 8.9 kWh at the plug).

GHG Emissions factors by province

 

In Vancouver, a litre of gasoline ($1.29/l) with 2.3 kg of CO2e emissions can be replaced by 8.9 kWh ($0.0884/kWh)  of renewable electricity, for total 0.11 kg CO2 (12.9 grams of CO2e/kWh).

  • Fuel cost:  -40%. 
  • GHG emissions:  -95% reduction

In Calgary, a litre of gasoline ($0.91/l) with 2,3 kg of CO2e emissions would be replaced by 8.9 kWh ($0.068/kWh)  of fossil fuel electricity, with total 7.03 kg Co2 (0.69 kg CO2e/kWh).

  • Fuel cost:  -33%. 
  • GHG emissions:  305% increase over gas!

In Melbourne Australia, a litre of gasoline ($AUS1.43/l) with 2.3 kg of CO2e emissions would be replaced by 8.9 kWh ($AUS0.12/kWh) of fossil fuel electricity, for total 9.08 kg CO2 (1.02 kg CO2e/kWh)

  • Fuel cost:  -25%. 
  • GHG emissions:  395% increase over petrol (gasoline)!

In all cases, it looks like the electric vehicle is cheaper to drive, but only when fueled by zero-emissions fuels will it reduce GHG emissions.  Why?  Transmission losses compound the GHG intensity of fossil fuel generated electricity.

But wait, a gasoline engine generates a lot of heat because it’s only about 20% efficient…an electric motor about 85-90%….in fact an EV and a gasoline vehicle may not be comparable on the road.  At the wheels, the EV performs much better due to higher efficiency, allowing EV designers to use smaller motors, and improve energy economy.   Note: Using Tesla specifications, the real world result may be about 2.4 kWh/litre equivalency, making the GHG emissions for a Tesla in Melbourne about equivalent to a conventional engine.   As you can see, it’s complicated!

So, final thoughts:

Local market knowledge is essential to achieve desired outcomes.  There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.

Zero-emissions power generated must be accelerated in markets with fossil fuel power.

Electric utilities should be required to report their GHG emissions factors on a daily basis!!