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Should We Crush Gas-Guzzlers? Or Convert Them to Plug In? An Analysis

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  • Felix Kramer
    Introduction by Felix Kramer, CalCars Founder Analysis by Ron Gremban, CalCars Technical Lead CalCars and Andy Grove have been proposing a major focus on
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 3, 2008
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      Introduction by Felix Kramer, CalCars Founder
      Analysis by Ron Gremban, CalCars Technical Lead

      CalCars and Andy Grove have been proposing a major focus on converting
      "PSVs" (large internal combustion engine gas guzzling Pickups, SUVs and
      Vans) so they run partially on electricity.
      http://www.calcars.org/ice-conversions.html
      <http://www.calcars.org/ice-conversions.html> Here we address some of
      the key non-economic issues in doing so. This analysis starts off pretty
      simply, and gets to some important numbers in the summary. If you get
      the first half, don't worry if you decide to skip the technical details
      in the second half.

      Many people agree it's a good idea but are not sure it's practical. They
      ask questions including, "Can there be a business case? Is it realistic
      to imagine converting millions of vehicles in less than five years? Can
      the retrofit infrastructure and component supply chain
      (batteries/motors) scale up rapidly enough?" Part of the answer to these
      questions involves whether we are operating with the same urgency and
      can muster the national will we had in 1943, when we stopped building
      cars and trucks to tanks and planes -- and after auto industry leaders
      told FDR they couldn't build 30,000 planes in one year, they built
      120,000.

      Many people also say -- and we fully agree -- that it's important to get
      incentives and disincentives right. And we need new advertising
      messages, and short-term rental deals, so these large vehicles are
      purchased and used by people who really need them -- not by those who
      own a big vehicle they use only occasionally to tow a boat, fill with
      gear, or go off-road.

      When we explain that today's PSVs stay on the road for several decades
      (10-15 years in US, another 10-20 when resold internationally) we often
      hear the suggestion, from those who see plug-in cars coming within the
      next five years, "why not just crush the gas-guzzlers and replace them
      with new large efficient PHEVs?"

      Many states have "cash for clunkers" programs, but they are limited in
      scope. Significant expansion of these programs will have unintended
      consequences in distorting the resale market, nationally and
      internationally (as thoughtfully discussed at Freakonomics:
      http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/08/08/no-cash-for-clunkers/
      <http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/08/08/no-cash-for-clunkers/>
      .) Of course, we do want carmakers to mass-produce new PHEV PSVs. But
      many of the same scaling issues apply: can carmakers build enough of
      them fast enough to reduce petroleum use and thereby improve our
      prospects on energy security and climate change? That brings us back to
      our original idea: quickly start to retrofit the fleet, starting with
      many of the 80 million PSVs in the U.S.

      Even if it were possible to crush and replace many of these cars, there
      is one important underlying question that we haven't been able to answer
      until now. We haven't known how much energy it takes to build a car, and
      how much you're thereby throwing away when you crush an old car that
      operates perfectly well and could be converted into a PHEV PSV.

      Now CalCars' Technology Lead Ron Gremban has investigated that question
      and come up with some answers. We hope you will help distribute this
      message widely, and that some of you will continue the effort we've
      begun in developing this model, including the spreadsheet mentioned
      below that's available at
      http://www.calcars.org/calcars-crush-or-convert-icevehicles-080930.xls
      <http://www.calcars.org/calcars-crush-or-convert-icevehicles-080930.xls>
      . You can comment on this article at EVWorld's article,
      http://www.evworld.com/article.cfm?storyid=1540
      <http://www.evworld.com/article.cfm?storyid=1540> (if you're a
      subscriber you'll see it all on one page).

      NOTE: This document does NOT address economic costs and payback -- only
      energy and CO2, which are entirely independent of economic incentives
      and other policy or business issues!

      Summary

      If you replace your current large or small internal combustion engine
      (ICE) vehicle with a new PHEV of the same size, it will take over 40,000
      miles of driving the PHEV in place of the old vehicle to save as much
      energy and CO2 emissions as was consumed in the manufacture of the new
      vehicle! If instead you convert your existing vehicle into a PHEV, you
      will need to drive only 8,600 miles before beginning to save more energy
      and CO2 emissions than caused by the conversion process.

      This is because it requires as much energy as is contained in 1,822
      gallons of gasoline* to manufacture a new mid-sized PHEV PSV (Pickup
      truck, SUV, or Van), but only the equivalent of 360 gallons -- 1/5 as
      much -- to convert an existing PSV into a PHEV. For a Prius-sized
      passenger car, the numbers are 1,035 and 196 gallons respectively.

      * burned at 100% efficiency, not the 12-15% efficiency of ordinary ICE
      vehicles

      If you consider only oil consumption, rather than total energy use and
      CO2 emissions, the savings begin significantly sooner. It's almost
      immediate for conversions: after 8,000 miles for a new PHEV and only
      1,600 miles for a conversion. Here are two hypothetical scenarios
      (neither of which we're proposing):

      If all 248 million light vehicles on the road in the U.S. today were
      crushed and replaced with PHEVs, the manufacture of the new vehicles
      would require the energy equivalent of 354 billion gallons of gasoline,
      or 2.5 years of the total U.S. consumption of 142 billion gallons/year.

      Conversion of all 248 million into PHEVs, however, would require only
      the equivalent of half a year's consumption. So, even if done as quickly
      as possible, at any time the energy to manufacture conversions will be
      far more than offset by the savings produced from the conversions
      already on the road. We think these numbers prove that on a societal
      basis, converting millions of ICE PSVs is a winning energy-saving
      strategy. And though we don't address cost issues in this analysis,
      clearly, if we can reduce the costs of conversions with higher volumes,
      offset much of the higher first costs by making these conversions
      eligible for comparable levels of federal incentives as new PHEVs, and
      offer financing options, the economics will work out too.



      Details

      For three important environmental factors -- energy consumption, oil
      consumption, and CO2 emissions -- the question has been raised about how
      long it takes for the savings after building a new vehicle or converting
      one into a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) to make up for the cost of manufacture
      or conversion.

      Pablo Paster in a Salon.com Q&A answer forum
      http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2008/04/21/ask_pablo_cars/
      <http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2008/04/21/ask_pablo_cars/> used data
      the Argonne National Labs produced, partially by using their GREET model
      http://www.transportation.anl.gov/software/GREET/
      <http://www.transportation.anl.gov/software/GREET/> , to come up with
      such a result for replacing a high-consumption car with a hybrid. He
      said, in part:

      "The Argonne National Lab, a U.S. Department of Energy research center,
      has analyzed the material intensity and energy consumption of
      manufacturing vehicles and vehicle fuels. Their work is packaged in
      GREET models (for greenhouse gases, regulated emissions and energy use
      in transportation). According to the models, the average conventional
      internal combustion engine vehicle is made up of 61.7 percent steel,
      11.1 percent iron, 6.9 percent aluminum, 1.9 percent copper/brass, 2.9
      percent glass, and around 13.6 percent plastic/rubber. This information
      helps determine the energy required to produce a vehicle.

      "The energy required can be measured in British thermal units. A Btu is
      the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of a pound of water
      by one degree Fahrenheit. According to the GREET model, it takes 100.391
      million Btus to make the vehicle, batteries and fluids in an average
      3,201-pound vehicle. This comes out to 31,362 Btus per pound. The
      obvious lesson is that, in general, heavier vehicles require more energy
      to make than lighter vehicles.

      "It's been said that hybrids are more environmentally damaging than
      large SUVs because of the battery production, but this has been widely
      disputed. According to GREET, a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) that
      weighs 2,632 pounds requires 101.726 million Btus to make, or 38,650
      Btus per pound (compared to 31,362 for a conventional vehicle). As we
      will see, this small difference in production energy becomes negligible
      when you factor in the increased fuel efficiency."

      Paster goes on to compare an old Mercedes-Benz, a Hummer H2, and a
      Prius." See his article at
      http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2008/04/21/ask_pablo_cars/
      <http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2008/04/21/ask_pablo_cars/> for more.

      I compiled the following table using that same Argonne National Labs
      data on the energy to manufacture of a conventional ICE car and a
      hybrid, information from existing Prius conversions, and some (I believe
      reasonable) assumptions. Those assumptions, along with my calculations
      and many more conclusions such as total lifetime energy, oil, and CO2
      for various sizes of vehicles and types of propulsion, are detailed in
      my spreadsheet available at
      http://www.calcars.org/calcars-crush-or-convert-icevehicles-080930.xls
      <http://www.calcars.org/calcars-crush-or-convert-icevehicles-080930.xls>
      .

      I converted the energy costs from BTU into kWh and made two major
      assumptions that were required due to a lack of further information:


      * CO2 emissions are roughly proportional to the energy content of
      the fuel and the energy expenditure for manufacture. In the absence of
      better data, this appears to be a reasonable assumption, as, at 8.9
      kg-CO2/gallon and 36.4 kWh/gallon energy content, gasoline combustion
      releases 245 g/kWh of energy content (only 12-15% of that energy gets to
      the wheels of an ICE vehicle), just over the 2004 California average of
      236 g/kWh for grid electricity. Manufacturing typically uses some coal
      (high CO2), electricity, oil, and natural gas (low CO2).
      * Oil consumption accounts for 25% of the energy used to
      manufacture a vehicle. This is an arbitrary number that seems reasonable
      given that oil's contribution is mainly twofold: as a raw material for
      plastics and for transportation of parts and completed vehicles. If this
      assumption is off, it affects only the "...oil consumed..." data in my
      spreadsheet.

      The table below, extracted from my spreadsheet, shows the projected
      miles one must drive in a new or converted vehicle vs. a
      higher-consumption vehicle, in order to begin saving more energy or CO2
      emissions beyond that caused by the manufacture or conversion of the
      vehicle. (The results are, of course, not accurate to 4-5 decimal
      places, but the text quotes the exact numbers in the table's cells to
      help the reader identify the specific cells.) I looked at two types of
      PHEVs:


      * FULL EV: capable, like the Chevy Volt, of 40 miles of pure
      electric driving before using the ICE. Various studies indicate an
      average of 80% electric propulsion for such vehicles.
      * BLENDED (shown only for the Prius conversion below): limited to
      blended (electric and ICE) operation, and with only 20 miles of
      equivalent electric range. I assumed an average of 40% electric
      propulsion for such vehicles.

      Miles a resulting vehicle must be driven to save enough energy and CO2
      emissions to make up for what's used in converting the original or
      manufacturing a new vehicle:

      ORIGINAL VEHICLE: A MID-SIZED ICE (internal combustion engine) PSV
      (Pickup truck, SUV, or Van)
      Miles Resulting vehicle
      8,599 PHEV conversion from an existing ICE
      19,700 New Prius-sized PHEV (crush the old ICE PSV)
      42,200 New mid-sized PSV PHEV (crush the old ICE PSV)

      ORIGINAL VEHICLE: A PRIUS-SIZED ICE PASSENGER CAR or hybrid
      Miles Resulting vehicle
      8,617 PHEV conversion from an existing ICE
      10,867 PHEV conversion from an existing Prius
      44,261 New Prius-sized PHEV (crush the old Prius-sized ICE)

      These benefits will accrue starting with the first vehicle built, while
      the cost benefits will improve with volume, optimized design and
      declining battery costs.

      We repeat the conclusion we reached before the "details" section above:
      We think these numbers prove that on a societal basis, compared to
      crushing old vehicles, converting millions of ICE PSVs is a winning
      energy-saving strategy. And though we don't address cost issues in this
      analysis, clearly, if we can reduce the costs of conversions with higher
      volumes, offset much of the higher first costs by making these
      conversions eligible for comparable levels of federal incentives as new
      PHEVs, and offer financing options, the economics will work out too.

      You can comment on this article at EVWorld's article,
      http://www.evworld.com/article.cfm?storyid=1540
      <http://www.evworld.com/article.cfm?storyid=1540>
      +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
      Ron Gremban, Technical Lead,
      California Cars Initiative, a nonprofit organization
      http://www.CalCars.org <http://www.calcars.org/>
      Newsletter: http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html
      <http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html>
      Moderator, PRIUS+ PHEV Conversion Group, http://www.PriusPlus.org
      <http://www.priusplus.org/>
      Forum: http://www.eaa-phev.org/wiki/Maillist
      <http://www.eaa-phev.org/wiki/Maillist>
      +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
      http://www.calcars.org
      <http://www.calcars.org/>
      http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html
      <http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html%A0%A0>
      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --






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