Aug 30, 2011

Death of Energy Expert - Is the Volt worth it?

The death last week of noted Energy Saving expert Leon Schipper begs the question of is the Chevy Volt worth the extra cost you pay for the Electric Hybrid alternative?

The NY Times obituary notes,

" Analyzing the Chevy Volt, the new sedan that is supposed to go 40 miles on batteries and then use a gasoline engine, Schipper calculated that because of inefficiencies in electricity generation, it's fuel economy was no better than a Toyota Prius hybrid running on gasoline, while it's price was roughly double that of the Prius.

Does the extra $20k justify the overall fuel and possible carbon dioxide savings? he asked. If two drivers switched to Prius, the overall savings of oil likely would be larger than one driver switching to a Volt, for the same money."

We feel the complaints about the Volt, the Nissan Leaf and all electric based cars fails to address 2 very important factors:

1. The TRUE price of a gallon of gas or a barrel of oil

Currently oil is priced by the barrel and includes the cost to drill from the Earth and refine the oil.
There is not at the spot barrel price or at the price at the pump a reflection of the cost of military hardware and people needed to make the areas where oil are gained safe for the gaining.

There is mention today of 50,000 people being killed to free Libya. Is the reason Libya was attacked by NATO at all related to oil? Why of course. These external costs of bombs and planes to drop the bombs on Libya so that oil can be pumped once the hysteria is over need to be added to the price of the barrels of oil derived from Libya as well as from Iraq, Nigeria and any place a nation's military is used to secure a place that oil is pumped or processed.

Likewise any US Government costs from the Deepwater Horizon disaster not paid for by BP or the drillers needs to be added to the cost a barrel of oil since those costs were born by the entire populace thru government intervention and were not the sole cost of a private business BP. For example Mr Obama's flights on Air Force One to the gulf to provide support to those affected by the oil mess should be charged against the price of a barrel of oil.

To our knowledge this is not done currently

2. The variegation of sourcing of electric power

The great thing about electricity is that it can be made from a number of methods. Oil and gas is of course one but so is hydro from water, wind, nuclear, solar PV and solar CSP,  hydronic, vegetation, tidal. The list is quite broad. This variegation of sourcing does a few things most importantly smoothing out the demand supply curve. If for whatever reason the wind  electricity was damaged, then the other methods are available.

So things that run on electricity such as an EV are protected by this broad power range of electric generation. There is an opportunity savings to this factor  since the government actions needed to secure oil and gas can be diminished.

Dr Schipper is of course much smarter than we are but he forgot to enter these important points in his calculation of EV vs non EV believes in a broad range of power options

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