Environmentalists Praising Use of Coal

From environmental blog the Thin Green Line:

McDonald's has been a frequent target on this blog, and many others related to health and environmental issues. But mark it on your calendar: This post is in praise of Micky D's, for installing EV charging stations at a new West Virginia location.

Yes, it's just about the strangest place you could pick, given that the Huntington, WV, location is not on a throughway connecting EV early-adopter towns like New York, D.C., or San Francisco. The location clearly has more to do with its proximity to partner American Electric Power's Columbus, Ohio, headquarters "” but we'll give kudos where kudos are due. With 58 million people eating at McDonald's everyday, the burger chain isn't a bad spot to enable electric vehicle drivers to charge up.

99% of West Virginia's electricity comes from coal, so its interesting to see environmentalists championing the switch from gasoline to coal.  Notwithstanding the fact that the fossil fuel use of electric vehicles is being grossly under-estimated, charging up your EV in WV is a great way to take positive steps to increase your CO2 footprint.

  • Kevin Dick

    I think you misunderstand. This isn't about end-to-end carbon efficiency. An EV charging station is an idol. So McDonald's is simply being praised for allowing environmentalists to practice their religion on its premises.

  • Mark

    The charging of cars really only works if you charge them at night, when utilities are still on full power, but very little of the energy produced is actually used. (It is mostly grounded). So using this untapped energy could save something.

    However encouraging people to charge up during the day at Micky D's totally defeats the purpose, and will actually cause more pollution.

  • http://www.grouchyconservativepundits.com Mike C.

    I still want to see some data on how well these EVs work in cold weather. Huntington, WV gets winter. Okay, it's not Great Falls, MN, but it's real winter, the kind that sucks the life out of batteries.

  • http://that-xmas.livejournal.com/ Xmas

    Mike,

    I've not had any problems with the electric side of the two hybrid cars I've owned. In central Massachusetts, it'll get down to 0 degrees F in January and February, and the batteries were just fine.

    I'd be more worried about lubrication. Electric motors won't heat up as nicely as combustion motors (Lots and lots of wasted heat there).

  • markm

    A charging station at a McD's is purely symbolic, anyway. The fastest charge times are 3 or 4 hours. If anyone is hanging around McD's long enough to be worth hooking up his car, the greenhouse effect of his methane emissions will dwarf that of his CO2 emissions...

  • Eric Hammer

    Are there numbers out there for what running the AC/Heater in electric cars does to their MPG or whatever measure they use to determine efficiency? It can't be too easy, especially in the frozen north, though I suppose heated seats might allow for lower air temperatures in the car. Still, that's gotta be a pretty big drain.

  • I Be Libtard

    ===================================================================================

    DAMMIT WARREN!!

    Stop trying to confuse the issue with FACTS and COMMON SENSE!!

    You know these things are utterly non-existent in regards to
    any liberal stance!

    How can we solve problems easily enough to fit them on a bumper sticker
    when we're confined by facts and common sense in creating our solutions?

    You gotta be able to see that!

    ===================================================================================

  • IGotBupkis

    > I’ve not had any problems with the electric side of the two hybrid cars I’ve owned.

    You gotta be s***in me! You've owned **two** hybrid cars in the short time they've been offered, and you think you've got any kind of baseline for the lifespan of batteries in harsh conditions? You haven't even got a baseline adequate for vague longer term reliability of the freakin' gas engine!

    P.S. What was wrong with the first one that you needed to replace it already?

    Nota Bene: Of MY last two cars, one was built in 1977, bought by me in 1986, and kept until 2001. Its replacement was built in 1990, bought by me in 2001, and I'm still driving it.

    Let's see how well your PoS hybrids are working after 15 years, and how many very, very expensive battery replacements you've had to make. The most expensive job I've had to do on my current car (160k+ miles) is a standard timing belt replacement done before 120k miles that cost $1500.

    Feh. Keep a car for 3-4 years and you haven't bought it, you've just rented it from the auto maker. >:-/

  • Gil

    Why can't electric cars be a transition towards a less polluted tomorrow? Tomorrow, electric cars; the day after tomorrow, nuclear (fusion?) power stations? You might as complain that the environmental costs of making and disposing of the batteries doesn't add up either. Then again battery-powered electric cars are the primary alternative to petrol and diesel cars when fuel becomes too expensive for the masses.

  • http://that-xmas.livejournal.com/ Xmas

    Bupkis,

    I bought a Prius in 2002...I traded it in in 2007 after I put 180,000+ miles on it. I bought a Camry Hybrid as a replacement, and I've got about 40,000 on it so far.

    I did a lot of driving until 2009. The Prius wasn't that comfortable for long drives, but at 50 cents a mile reimbursement for driving, I was making about $160 to 180 per 12 gallon tank of gas driving for work.

    The most expensive repair I had was...well, nothing. I did have a failure in the power steering around the 150K mark, but that was covered under warranty/recall. (I think the housing for the electric power steering wasn't manufactured correctly and eventually salt water would leak into it and cause a short). The navigation system was failing too, but I think that was just the DVD reader in the Nav system wearing out after 5 years of continuous use.

    (Full disclosure: I did contract work for AEP at one point).

  • perlhaqr

    Can you even get to Huntington, WV from anywhere else in an electric car?

  • el coronado

    (doing best charlton heston voice):

    "McSoylent Green is...**PEOPLE**!!!" but in mickey D's defense, they taste pretty damn good with salt and some secret sauce ("secret sauce is....**CHEMICAL WASTE**!!"), PLUS you can get your car charged up while you eat. people who love (to eat) people will flock to mcdonald's as never before.

    don't give me that look - this is west virginia we're talking about here. generations-long family feuds. sister-marriers. blood sacrifices to the hard, dark old Gods that live in the hollers. you think they'll blanch at driving hybrids or eating people??

  • gn

    Perhaps the power company should set up a mobile site/app showing the real-time source of power in a given location. This would allow "extreme" electric-car drivers to time their recharges to take place while the wind is blowing at some remote facility and their electricity is green.

    Otherwise they could stay home.

  • jhc

    Mark

    "The charging of cars really only works if you charge them at night, when utilities are still on full power, but very little of the energy produced is actually used. (It is mostly grounded). So using this untapped energy could save something."

    Your basic point is right. Adding charging load during the daytime peaks isn't the best time.

    But as an engineer who used to work for Tucson Electric, I can assure you that no utility is burning fuel to "ground" the energy. When the load drops, the generation output drops very directly - otherwise the system goes into an over-voltage condition. People don't like it when you fry their electrically-powered gear with too high a voltage.

    It's true that there's excess energy *capacity* in non-peak hours. Utilities dislike have to ramp generator outputs up and down. This is especially true of nuclear and hydro plants; gas-fired and coal-fired plants are easier to ramp (in that order). This marginal-cost-of-generation thing, along with the Law of Supply & Demand, means that off-peak energy is available at lower cost - but only if someone's connected to buy it.

    I know folks in Minnesota who heat the concrete floors of their homes overnight and then let them cool off during the day for just this reason. Their nighttime energy cost may be 2-3 cents/kWh while the day time cost is ~3 times more.

    So what McDonald's should obviously do is build overnight parking garages where you could charge your vehicle with cheaper coal-fired energy. :-)

  • MikeinAppalachia

    jhc-
    One minor contention: generally, hydro generation is the "easiest" to load follow ("ramp"), with gas-fired single cycle next in line. Nukes, coal-fired, and combined cycle gas-fired being the more difficult in that order. Hydro and gas turbines are able to cold-start in short order and to take off-line quickly. Nukes, coal-fired, and the steam portion of combined cycle gas take several hours to re-start and are constrained in how fast load can be added from an idle.
    That is one (more) difficulty with maintaining wind generation on the grid. It almost requires that an equivalent capacity of gas turbines and/or hydro be kept in spinning reserve at all times.

  • IGotBupkis

    Xmas: "I bought a Prius in 2002…I traded it in in 2007 after I put 180,000+ miles on it. I bought a Camry Hybrid as a replacement, and I’ve got about 40,000 on it so far."

    So:
    You aren't in any way, shape, or form the "typical" case -- and, in fact, are incredibly atypical, driving as much as 3x more than the typical driver in a year's time for the entire term of Prius ownership. I'll even grant that, for the sort of usage you made, it's quite possibly a good decision, and paid for itself. But that most emphatically does NOT translate well to the typical driver, for whom a Prius purchase is a key sign of not only a complete lack of mathematical competency, a sign that one lacks even FRIENDS with any mathematical competency.

    Consider the facts:
    a) The typical driver drives their car between 10k and 12k per year. They also typically own their car for about 5.5 years.
    b) This gives us some clear and obvious numbers we can calculate --

    ASSUME (rather preposterously) that the Prius ACTUALLY gets the EPA rated 60mpg that it was initially touted with. Similarly, assume, for comparison, that the Honda VTEC Civic HX, the former MPG champ, actually got its EPA-rated 40mpg in The Real World.

    NOW -- This means that a typical driver of the Prius, driving the max 12kmi/yr, and assuming that it's all at highway efficiencies, is going to utilize 200 gallons of gas per year, or 1100 gallons of gas over the typical ownership span. The HVCivic owner is going to have numbers of 300/1650 by comparison. That means the HVC owner will utilize 550 more gallons of gas over that 5.5 year ownership span. That's the minimums, clearly -- In reality, one's numbers for both will be higher, as one figures in the non-highway driving and the fact that one never actually gets the EPA rated mileage.

    CONSIDER -- the MSRP for the HVC: $14,070. MSRP for Toyota Prius: MSRP: $20,480 -- a $6400 price difference, and that's assuming there was no price premium based on increased demand (not sure what year that kicked in, but there was a time there when dealers didn't need to wheel-and-deal with the buyer)

    COMPARE -- $6400 to "save" 550 gallons. Wait, let's re-examine that -- They used 1100 gallons of gas (TP), vs. 1650 gallons of gas(HVC). At what price point, "G", for gas does:
    1100*G = (1650*G)-6400
    ??? Solve that for "G" -- 550*G=6400 -- G=11.6 The BREAK=EVEN POINT IS $11.60 per gallon. The extra expense of the car doesn't pay unless the price of gas is MORE THAN $11 per gallon! For the whole TERM OF OWNERSHIP. Since I don't think Gas prices are that bad even anywhere in Europe, the car is a lame, stupid buy for the average owner. And that's all, I remind you, assuming some very, very good numbers about gas mileage and ignoring any other costs associated with the car.

    Now, by all means, go ahead and calculate the same numbers for your own usage, I shan't bother... but it may well be that you would have fared MUCH BETTER with a VTEC Honda Civic HX.

  • jhc

    MikeInAppalachia:

    Thanks for the correction. I agree with you on the cold-start order. I was thinking of single-cycle gas: turbines, not boilers.

    As for hydro, my recollection (after ~30 years) is that the TEP dispatch desk used to treat Bonneville's output as baseline and fill in with gas-fired steam from other sources. While you're right about hydro being easy to start/stop, my guess is there were either contractual factors (the way low cost of hydro) or environmental factors (downstream flow & reservoir level) that influenced dispatching BPA's output. It may have been specific to the time and/or place for all I know.

  • mahtso

    I read somewhere that charging at night may have a bad effect on the grid because it has been designed to allow transformers too cool at night. Any thoughts on the validity of that?

  • MikeinAppalachia

    jhc-
    I think you are correct that TEP (and APS) base-load the hydro due to the cost advantage. With a percentage of wind being required (AzCC)in the near future, not clear how TEP/APS/UNSE will handle that without some added gas turbines or whatever.
    "Interesting Times".
    mahtso-There's some truth to that concern. Most electric utilities size and load their distribution transformers on the basis of 24-hour (or less) average loading. Greater off-peak loads will tend to shorten the life of the typical distribution "can".
    Not-to-worry, they will just start installing larger capacity per residential user and retro some addtional units into the distribution network. That will all show-up in their next rate increase request.

  • http://that-xmas.livejournal.com Xmas

    I got that Bupkis, I'm not advocating anything. I'm just saying that I didn't have any problems with the batteries during the winter months, and I did a lot of driving.

    I bought the Prius cuz I'm a tech geek. It was a sub $30K with a built in GPS. It drove nice, regenerative braking does interesting things, especially driving in snow. It went into stealth mode under 40 mph (electric only is very quiet). It was fun and unique when I purchased it. (It was still unique when I traded it in, since they redesigned the body and made it a hatch-back).

    I like the Toyota hybrid engines in general. They accelerate very smoothly. They have a lot of power across all speeds. They have decent fuel efficiency. I would never recommend someone buy a hybrid for fuel savings, unless their morning commute consists of taking an hour to go 10 miles.

  • rxc

    McDo and Walmart are just the "useful idiots" for the environmentalists. They are big and worry about their image, so whenever a greenmailer comes up with a suggestion for how they can appear "green" at relatively low cost, they go along. It brings in more customers and makes everyone feel good. The really important goal for the green activists is how McDo and Walmart help spread their green message thru the society, making it seem to be a mainstream message and way-of-life. McDo and Walmart help bring respectability to the cause and they spread the message to the people who don't otherwise worry about whether McDo and WM are demons. It is a way to insert a mindset into the populace that results in a sort of dhimmitude to the green cause.

  • http://www.biodiversivist.com Biodiversivist

    It's pretty old news that a car like the Leaf (midsized five-person hatchback) will produce less well-to-wheel GHG than the average American car. Argonne labs studied the issue back in 2003: http://www.transportation.anl.gov/pdfs/TA/281.pdf page 20.

    It's the national average that matters, not one car, not one group of cars, like those in West Virginia. The move toward electric cars has to be coupled with low carbon electric power generation to have a significant impact on transport CO2 emissions.

    All new ideas are met with a measure of resistance and critique. That's good. That's how we find the wheat. From a recent issue of the journal Science:

    "...Researchers have uncovered the largest geothermal hot spot in the eastern United States. According to a unique collaboration between Google and academic geologists, West Virginia sits atop several hot patches of Earth, some as warm as 200ËšC and as shallow as 5 kilometers. If engineers are able to tap the heat, the state could become a producer of green energy for the region..."

    Also Google Nuclear Enhanced Renewable Grid

    Time will tell.

  • Ted Rado

    All of the "alternative energy" schemes that are presented in the popular press only show the immediate situation. For example, with electric cars it is not explained that electricity must be generated, with all of the side problems enumerated above. Similarly, for H2 powered cars, where does the H2 come from? For solar and wind power, what do you do when the sun sets and the wind stops? It would be refreshing if the proponents of these schemes would show the WHOLE process, not just the one step they are promoting. Unless one has a COMPLETE system, which is shown to be physically and economically feasible, all we are doing is wasting money. Lets do the COMPLETE study first and spend the money second.

  • http://that-xmas.livejournal.com Xmas

    Ted,

    I don't think there is a problem actually building alternative energy systems. Windmills, solar, hydro, tidal, etc. Build 'em all. Just cut down on the subsidies, and I'd be happier.

    Really, we're just a good power storage system away from these things working as advertised. I'm hoping that superconducting coils can do it, but I'm not sure how close we are to building those on the scale needed.