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Just read this. Interesting. Thoughts?



http://www.forbes.com/sites/warrenmeyer/2011/10/20/update-fisker-karma-electric-car-gets-worse-mileage-than-an-suv/

The Fisker Karma electric car, developed mainly with your tax money so that a bunch of rich VC’s wouldn’t have to risk any real money, has rolled out with an nominal EPA MPGe of 52 in all electric mode (we will ignore the gasoline engine for this analysis).

Not bad? Unfortunately, it’s a sham. This figure is calculated using the grossly flawed EPA process that substantially underestimates the amount of fossil fuels required to power the electric car, as I showed in great depth in an earlier Forbes.com article. In short, the EPA methodology leaves out, among other things, the conversion efficiency in generating the electricity from fossil fuels in the first place.

In the Clinton administration, the Department of Energy (DOE) created a far superior well to wheels MPGe metric the honestly compares the typical fossil fuel use of an electric vs. gasoline car.

As I calculated in my earlier Forbes article, one needs to multiply the EPA MPGe by .365 to get a number that truly compares fossil fuel use of an electric car with a traditional gasoline engine car on an apples to apples basis. In the case of the Fisker Karma, we get a true MPGe of 19. This makes it worse than even the city rating of a Ford Explorer SUV.

Congrats to the Fisker Karma, which now joins corn ethanol in the ranks of heavily subsidized supposedly green technologies that are actually worse for the environment than current solutions.

Postscript: I will say, though, that the Fisker Karma does serve a social purpose — Hollywood celebrities and the ultra rich, who want to display their green credentials, no longer have to be stuck with a little econobox. They can now enjoy a little leg room and luxury.

Updates: Just to clarify, given some email I have gotten. Most other publications have focused on the 20 mpg the EPA gives the Karma on its backup gasoline engine (example), but my focus is on just how bad the car is even in all electric mode. The calculation in the above article only applies to the car running on electric, and the reduction in MPGe I discuss is from applying the more comprehensive DOE methodology for getting an MPG equivilent, not from some sort of averaging with gasoline mode. Again, see this article if you don’t understand the issue with the EPA methodology.

Press responses from Fisker Automotive highlight the problem here: electric vehicle makers want to pretend that the electricity to charge the car comes from magic sparkle ponies sprinkling pixie dust rather than burning fossil fuels. Take this quote, for example:

“a Karma driver with a 40-mile commute who starts each day with a full battery charge will only need to visit the gas station about every 1,000 miles and would use just 9 gallons of gasoline per month.

This is true as far as it goes, but glosses over the fact that someone is still pouring fossil fuels into a tank somewhere to make that electricity. This seems more a car to hide the fact that fossil fuels are being burned than one designed to actually reduce fossil fuel use. Given the marketing pitch here that relies on the unseen vs. the seen, maybe we should rename it the Fisker Bastiat.
 

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Nothin new here. The Well-to-wheel argument is the final fallback of every petrol-addicted EV hater. If you accept this premise, there is no point in developing EVs until most of our energy comes from clean sources. But since that costs more than burning oil, we should delay doing that as much as possible to avoid damaging the economy by raising energy costs.

The basic fact here, which Forbes shockingly forgets, is that the US Economy is demand driven and when there is sufficient demand for something, the supply starts to catch up. The more EVs there are on the road, the more the grid and electrical generation has to adapt to respond to the demand. The idea that we should sit around and wait for the entire system to be made perfect before we improve the component of that system is truly absurd.

I am sure there were equally vehement articles written about the absurdity of switching to gasoline-powered cars and away from existing electric cars in 1912, but the Forbes crowd tends to forget historical details like that.

-- Fab.
 

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They also assume that all electricity is generated from oil which simply isn't true. Here in Texas we get our power from all sources including hydro, wind, coal, and yes gas. Plus, any 1st year engineering student knows that it's many times more efficient to generate energy on a mass scale than to have 100,000 individual gas engines running around.

Now that everyone is on a Fisker Hate Fest in the media this kind of story is popping up all over the place. I wish they'd just stick to the important thing which is that Fisker seems to have failed to live up to their claims, and maybe they should do some real journalism and try to prove or disprove those claims rather than just harp on them.

-Brian
 

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It takes as much electricity to drive an electric car as it takes electricity to produce enough gasoline from oil to drive the same distance. That doesn't even take into account the amount of oil used!!! So the comparison Forbes makes is complete nonsense.

Link: http://electricmini.blogspot.com/2011/10/it-takes-lot-of-coal-to-make-gasoline.html
 

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Exactly Dutch. Clowns like this guy have no clue of how much energy is required to get that gallon of gas to the lip of your gas tank.

The improvements in solar tech are coming in at an exponential rate as well! Soon we'll have a lot more clean energy available and I'd rather the cars be developed now.

Guys like this blogger are like the RIAA as the music is moving from CD to MP3 and like dead tree newspapers as classifieds are set free on Craigslist. They couldn't see the future if you drew them a picture.
 

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brian said:
Plus, any 1st year engineering student knows that it's many times more efficient to generate energy on a mass scale than to have 100,000 individual gas engines running around.
They also fail to point out that with EVs, you can upgrade a fleet by cleaning up or replacing a single power plant. With current technology, you have to upgrade 100,000 individual engines.

There is no doubt that all of this pain is entirely self-inflicted. Fisker could have done a much better job setting expectations and being honest about delays, performance, and pricing. They seem to have great designers and engineers, but the entire PR department should be sacked en masse.

-- Fab.
 

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I am so happy for reasonable people like Fab, Dutch, and Brian. All their points are extremely good and in aggregate, help understand the entire picture. I will add two more, maybe subtle, points:

First, electrifying the automobile allows us to diversify our source of fuel "upstream" of the grid. Through time, we get to change our mix of coal, natural gas, solar, wind, hydro, etc. based upon economics, emissions, technology, dependencies, etc. Electricity is the great equalizer and is merely a storage medium for other btu generated by whatever power source leads the way. It allows us to benefit from generating power at scale (large plants) rather than at the point of use. Which also allows us to control emissions at a single point rather than at millions of tailpipes.

Secondly, a key way to understand all the "other inputs" argument (such as: how much electricity is used in creating a gallon of gasoline, or how much oil is used in the creation of a lithium ion battery) is to merely use PRICE as the signal. When one sells a gallon of gasoline, or a kwh of elctricity, at some marginal profit, the cost of that product takes into consideration the value of everything upstream/prior to the final product. Therefore, if driving a mile on coal-generated electricity ends up being half the cost of driving a mile on gasoline, then that in itself, with no other data about what came before it, gives a very clear idea of how efficient the process was to get the energy to create that mile of travel. It's all in there, the costs, the inefficiencies, the cross-use of various materials, the time, labor, transport, finance costs, return on capital, taxes, etc. You can still argue that the "soft" costs of emissions are not in there, but that is not the argument Forbes made. They are merely talking efficiency. To ensure that societal costs are in there, that requires government to tax things like emission of SOX or NOX, or to put restrictions that require removal of such...which therefore end up in costs and are fully accounted for in my final analysis: what is the cost of a mile?
 

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Fabulist said:
There is no doubt that all of this pain is entirely self-inflicted. Fisker could have done a much better job setting expectations and being honest about delays, performance, and pricing. They seem to have great designers and engineers, but the entire PR department should be sacked en masse.
I wouldn't blame the PR department. The expectations were set by Henrik. McLaren is also having issues delivering their new car as a startup operation, but Ron Dennis is being much more forthright in his communication to customers than Henrik.
 

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dennis said:
Fabulist said:
There is no doubt that all of this pain is entirely self-inflicted. Fisker could have done a much better job setting expectations and being honest about delays, performance, and pricing. They seem to have great designers and engineers, but the entire PR department should be sacked en masse.
I wouldn't blame the PR department. The expectations were set by Henrik. McLaren is also having issues delivering their new car as a startup operation, but Ron Dennis is being much more forthright in his communication to customers than Henrik.
... and McLaren is also much more forthright in offering compensation to customers, if we have to believe this source:

''Which, according to one Jalopnik tipster, has led McLaren to offer upset owners and those still waiting for their keys a special consolation package, including a free 32Gb McLaren iPod Touch, a $7,800 rebate, a free installation of the IRIS voice-controlled navigation system when it's finally ready — and, most importantly, a photograph of their car or similar signed by both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.''

http://jalopnik.com/5843016/is-the-mclaren-mp4+12c-a-lemon
 

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dennis said:
I wouldn't blame the PR department. The expectations were set by Henrik. McLaren is also having issues delivering their new car as a startup operation, but Ron Dennis is being much more forthright in his communication to customers than Henrik.
I can't pretend to know Henrik Fisker and my only interactions with him have been in group settings and some email exchanges. My impression of him is that he is basically an honest and forthright guy and he has a very clear and credible way of explaining things that always makes sense. My sense is that he is getting bad advice about how to communicate bad news to the customer base, i.e., the Cone of Silence by people in the company who are responsible for such things. So I agree that from my point of view, he may have failed in selecting and hiring PR folks, but I don't get the sense that it is his personal preference to keep the customer base in the dark and release news only when they are forced to do it, followed by denial and spin, as in delaying from March to July is not really a delay.

-- Fab.
 

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I want a picture of a Karma signed by Prince Albert of Monaco and Prince Frederik of Denmark. F1 drivers are so ... 2010.

-- Fab.
 

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As an engineering type (except that I went into software, it was easier and more lucrative :D), I have to say, the guy's arguments are nonsense.

As several people already noted, he wants to count the efficiency by which electricity is produced and distributed (which is all over the map depending on "original source", i.e., hydro is very different from coal, which in turn is different—though less so—from nuclear and natgas, and all are different from solar PV), but not the efficiency by which oil and gasoline is produced and distributed.

Pipeline style distribution (used for a lot of oil and gas) is pretty efficient, but not 100% efficient. Refining is terribly inefficient. Going to "energy contained in gasoline" is an attempt to sidestep the losses here but if one wants an honest accounting, you can't sidestep any losses. (Which is why you have to look at energy needed to mine coal or uranium, too; but of course, those are on "his side" so he does look at those!)

The "just look at total cost" method has a lot of merit, but there are flaws there too. It only works right when there are efficient, unsubsidized markets, and even then it only works right in the long run, which is the same long run in which, as Keynes famously remarked, we are all dead. Currently electric cars and oil are both subsidized, and it's not clear which ones gets a bigger subsidy (oil's subsidies may, or may not, include "military adventures" in Iraq and Afghanistan, depending on one's counting preferences :D).

I believe that right now, electric cars are close to equilibrium with gasoline powered cars, in terms of ultimate "real" energy efficiency (however you choose to measure it). In some cases they are better and in some cases they are worse. If your electricity source is primarily coal burned in very-old coal plants (as is the case where I live), I believe that they are indeed slightly worse on the efficiency front. But that's not our big problem in the urban part of Utah. Our problem here is that our air is literally killing us. When the smog is bad, the number of medical events rises: not just asthma, but heart attacks and strokes as well.

Our coal plants here are not very clean—hence the low cost of electricity—but they produce their particulate emissions far away from the urban centers where the people live. Moreover, it is far easier to clean the emissions from ten coal plants than from 100,000 vehicles. New natgas-fired combined-cycle plants are much more efficient (averaging about 45%, real peak efficiency near 55%, theoretical peak above 60%; vs low 30s for coal) and much cleaner, and have lower capital and operating costs (at least as long as natgas stays in the $4-ish area). And if that's not enough, new combined heat and power plants, burning natgas in microturbines to produce up to 1 megawatt of power and also producing heated and chilled water for domestic and industrial use (hot water for hotel laundry, chillled for air conditioning, etc) run at better than 80% overall efficiency.

These improvements are coming, and they will push the "overall efficiency" of the electric and hybrid vehicles way past that of the gasoline-only models. It will take decades to get there. (This is obvious if you think about it: even if lawmakers outlawed the production of new non-hybrid vehicles overnight—which they won't—so that every new car sold from tomorrow onward were an electric vehicle, and even if only old petrol-powered cars were replaced from then on, at roughly 15 million vehicle sales per year in the US, it will take 10 years to swap out 150 million petrol cars with EVs, and there are more than 150 million petrol passenger cars in the US. The 2007 estimate: 254.4 million! Adjusting for the fact that a lot of turnover is people who buy or lease a new car every 2 to 6 years, even with this impossible Grand Dictatorial Order, I figure it would take roughly 1.5 decades to get to "half the cars are EVs".)

So, again, EVs will be more efficient, and eventually everyone will want one, but it will take decades to happen. Might as well get started now.
 

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Car & Driver has an interesting story on it today: http://blog.caranddriver.com/2012-fisker-karma’s-dismal-fuel-economy-ratings-explained-hint-it-weighs-5300-pounds/

-Brian
 
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