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Electric vehicles (EVs) have recently attracted significant attention from the media, politicians, and environmentalists, but do EVs really live up to everything their manufacturers promise? Autogas for America released a new Alternative Fuel Fact Brief on November 25, examining the evidence behind the industry’s claims that EVs are viable, cost-effective and “zero-emission.”

The study questions electric vehicle’s environmental record, considering the greenhouse gases emitted during EV manufacturing. It points out that while EVs have no tailpipe emissions, they charge on U.S. electric grids that draw 50 percent of their power from coal. The Fact Brief also casts doubt on the practicality of EVs for public and private fleets, citing the technology’s struggles with limited carrying capacity, limited driving range and the high cost of their charging infrastructure. The study warns that experts believe an increase in EVs could overburden an already strained electric grid.

While electric vehicles hold many benefits over vehicles running on traditional fuels, the Fact Brief encourages consumers to consider other alternative energies which have more verified environmental and economic benefits and a proven record in American fleets.

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Posted by admin at 9:30AM on 9/17/2011 with tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Currently, the car with the best gas mileage reaches about 50 miles a gallon. So, it came as a huge shock to the automotive industry when General Motors announced last year that their new electric-drive Chevy Volt would reach an EPA-rated 230 miles per gallon. But so far, journalists, industry experts and even the EPA are still at a loss to fully explain GM’s math.

The Chevrolet Volt is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, designed to run on electricity until its battery level drops. After that, a gasoline engine kicks in to power the car. According to GM, the Volt’s battery-only range would be about 40 miles, and the gasoline engine would have about 40 mpg.

How did GM reach this inflated figure? According to Motor Trend, GM used a proposed EPA measurement system that converts a vehicle’s kilowatt hours (kWh) to an equivalent in miles per gallon. Since GM predicted the Volt would consume 25 kWh per 100 miles, they calculated 230 miles per gallon. The EPA has since shied away from GM’s claims, officially rating the Volt at 37 kWh per 100 miles and announcing it had “not tested a Chevy Volt and therefore cannot confirm the fuel economy values claimed by GM.”

Journalists questioned the 230 mpg claim because the actual figure can change drastically depending on how the Volt is driven. For instance, CNN predicts that if a driver goes 300 miles with a fully charged battery, the fuel economy would actually be about 62.5 mpg. found that with the battery depleted the car averaged 31.1 mpg.  Edmunds ultimately called the Volt’s performance “seriously subpar when compared to the mid-40s mpg that a standard hybrid typically provides.”

Analysts say GM’s figures also overlook recharging and initial costs. GM has said 8 kWh are needed to travel 40 miles, which the Department of Energy says will cost around 88 cents per charge. While these costs may appear modest, reviewers like question the overall value since the Volt is far more expensive than other hybrids.

Ultimately, GM and other EV manufacturers need to justify the high price tag of their vehicles by providing buyers measurable fuel savings and a return on their investment. But, even the CEO of GM has questioned the Volt’s lasting value, saying it will be “an old, old technology and old news” in just five years.


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nissanleafIf you fast charge your Nissan Leaf more than once per week, you could see a decrease in your vehicle battery life by several years.

Mark Perry, Nissan’s director of product planning, said, “If fast charging is the primary way that a Leaf owner recharges, then the gradual capacity loss is about 10 percent more than 220-volt charging. In other words, it will bring the capacity…closer to 70 percent after 10 years.”

The same article also states that an average Lithium-Ion battery cell in an electric cycle has about 1,000 full cycles before it is classified as reaching its “end of life” (EOL).  If you fast charge your Leaf more than twice a week, however, the battery’s EOL could arrive much more quickly. Since the lifespan of the battery is determined by a fixed number of charge cycles, more frequent charging effectively ‘uses up’ battery capabilities more quickly.

According to the industry, a battery has reached its EOL after it has lost 20 percent of its original storage capacity, meaning a charging capacity of 80 percent, which occurs in about 10 years without frequently fast charging an EV.

With all the expenses of electric vehicles (and they seem to be making them more expensive over time), the cost of a replacement battery brings yet another cost into the mix if you want your EV to keep running. In fact, according to a recent British article, it could cost you up to £19,000 to purchase a new battery pack, which would be about $30,645 in U.S. dollars. Indeed, Nissan has stated the production costs for a replacement Leaf battery are around $18,000 – but has declined to say on its website how much a replacement battery would cost the consumer.

And it seems other automotive buffs are questioning the viability of the Leaf’s battery. As Daryl Siry wrote in a blog for

“It also appears that Nissan has cut corners on the most critical aspects of electric vehicle technology – the battery pack.”

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Posted by admin at 5:08PM on 6/24/2011 with tags: , , , , , , ,

A recent British study has questioned the environmental benefits of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) and has gone so far as to claim they may be dirtier than gasoline vehicles. While this statement may baffle those who have seen automakers’ touting “zero emissions” EVs (view our June 2nd post about Nissan), the study goes on to say that nearly half of an electric vehicle’s emissions are produced during the manufacturing process, before the car has ever been driven. EVs require multiple batteries to operate – batteries that greatly increase the amount of energy needed and pollution created by the factory.

Of course, the other portion of EV emissions is created when the vehicle’s battery is charging. Since much of the world’s electricity is sourced from dirty sources such as coal, the EV’s emissions are simply being transferred from the road to the area around the power plant.

One place this study’s findings might be (indirectly) tested is in Australia where PEV manufacturer Tesla is attempting to break the national record for the longest road trip by an electric vehicle with its all-electric “Roadster.” It will be recharged along the way with renewable energy sources such as solar, hydro and wind to illustrate the low emissions capabilities of the vehicle. Critics of the project, such as automotive expert and editor of New Zealand’s sardonic Dog and Lemon Guide Clive Matthew-Wilson, say that the car isn’t as environmentally conscious as Tesla would have you believe. “Burning coal to make electricity to power an electric car creates more pollution than if you simply powered the same vehicle using petrol [gasoline],” Matthew-Wilson said.

This study was among the first to complete an analysis of  the energy-intensity of producing batteries when calculating EV life-cycle emissions. Given that this and other recent studies have targeted EVs’ green credentials lately, shifting from gasoline to mass production of EVs may be too ambitious for now – which only furthers the case for using American-made, clean-burning alternative fuels like autogas and natural gas.

To make the way for a true clean energy future with PEVs, America would need to overhaul its energy grids and greatly expand renewable energy use. The disparity between EVs’ actual contribution to lowering emissions and EV proponents’ dream of what it could be does not mean we’re stuck with gasoline in 2011– autogas is right here, right now.

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Posted by admin at 3:41PM on 6/2/2011 with tags: , , , , , , ,

With the introduction of the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf to the consumer market this year, electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers have ramped up advertising campaigns claiming these vehicles produce “zero emissions.” Nissan started with its Polar Bear ads, featuring a morose polar bear wandering away from its melting arctic habitat, winding up at the home of a Leaf owner, giving him a hug for going green.

The automaker even created a website named “Nissan – Zero Emission.” The image below is among the various rotating headers on the site. Are plug-in EVs really “Zero CO2″ emitters? We’ll answer that in a bit.

Nissan claims the Leaf is emissions-free

Next, Nissan asks us to imagine what the world would be like if everything was powered by gasoline. From alarm clocks to iPods to computers, the video shows us how dirty the air around us would become if it wasn’t for electricity. Renault, which has four EV models in production in Europe, created a similar ad.

None of these ads or websites makes it clear what actually sources the electricity to charge the car, however. Is it wind? Solar? Natural Gas?

Automakers are trying to define “zero emissions” vehicles as those that produce no “tailpipe emissions” in an effort to brand EVs as the greenest cars on the market. This is only part of the story, unfortunately. The following chart shows which fuels make up the average U.S. electricity grid mix.

Of course, the fuel mix for any particular region will vary, but this chart represents the average percentage of electricity sources used in America. In fact, according to the EPA, there were 24 states that used coal for 50% or more of their electricity fuel mix as of 2007.

We know we don’t have to tell you that an electric vehicle powered 50% by coal obviously isn’t a zero emissions vehicle. As more electricity comes from renewable and clean-burning sources like wind or natural gas, then PEVs can move toward becoming the environmental holy grail that manufacturers want them to be.