The Electric Vehicle Mileage Fraud Update: Singapore Figures It Out

Long-time readers know that while I have no particular problems with electric cars, I do think that the EPA uses fraudulent standards for evaluating the equivalent fuel economy or MPGe of electric vehicles.  In short, the current Obama standard ignores the previous Clinton-era methodology and creates a crazy new standard that assumes fossil fuels are burned with perfect efficiency when making electricity.  Most of my readers (but perhaps few Obama voters) will understand this assumption to be absurd.  The result is, as discussed here in Forbes, that the current MPGe numbers for electric vehicles are overstated by a factor of 3 (specifically you need to multiply them by 36.5% to get the correct equivalent amount of fossil fuels that must be burned in the power plant to power the electric car).  When this correction is made, cars like the Nissan Leaf are good (but not as good as a Prius) and cars like the old Fiskers Karma get worse mileage than a SUV.

As I wrote in the article on the Karma,

...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.

Well, congrats to Singapore.   They seem to have figured out what the US hasn't :

In the United States, motorists who buy a new Tesla Model S are eligible for an array of federal and local tax breaks because the all-electric sedan is considered a zero-emissions car. The story is different in Singapore, however, where the nation’s first Model S owner just found out his car is subject to heavy taxes because it’s lumped in the same category as some of the dirtiest new cars on the market.

Joe Nguyen explains he spent seven months trying to import a Model S that he bought in Hong Kong to his home in Singapore. The government’s Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS) rewards motorists who import a used eco-friendly car with a roughly $11,000 tax break, but Nguyen was slapped with an $11,000 fine based on the conclusion that the S uses too much electricity.

“I don’t get it, there are no emissions. Then they send out the results from VICOM, stating that the car was consuming 444 watt hours per kilometer. These are not specs that I have seen on Tesla’s website, or anywhere else for that matter,” explained Nguyen in an interview with Channel NewsAsia.

A spokesperson for Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the fine is fair and completely justified.

“As for all electric vehicles, a grid emission factor of 0.5 g CO2/Wh was also applied to the electric energy consumption. This is to account for CO2 emissions during the electricity generation process, even if there are no tail-pipe emissions,” wrote the spokesperson in a statement. The LTA added that it had never tested a Model S before it received Nguyen’s car.

That means that, under Singaporean regulations, the Model S falls in the same emissions category as cars with an internal combustion engine that emits between 216 and 230 grams of CO2 per kilometer. In other words, it’s about as eco-friendly a high-performance, gasoline-burning models like the Audi RS 7, the Mercedes-AMG GT S, and the Porsche Cayenne S.

Actually, the US DOE does in fact publish electricity usage in watts per mileage driven.   They list numbers in the range of 38 KwH per 100 miles for the Model S, which would be about 238 watt hours per kilometer, so such numbers exist though Singapore thinks the car is less efficient than does Obama's DOE.  By my calculation the true MPGe (if the DOE's electric efficiency numbers are trustworty) of the car should be around 32, which is good for a large performance car (and well better than the competitive cars cited) but probably not lofty enough to deserve a subsidy.  Singapore's calculations that the Model S is as dirty as these cars on a CO2 emissions basis may still be correct even if it is more efficient if most of Singapore's electricity is produced by coal.

  • Daniel Nylen

    Well duh, the drivers also think that magic unicorns make their cars in US factories with elves granted H-1B visas. Let the snowflakes ignore the environmental issues involves and enjoy their virtue signaling =-- it is their religion after all.

  • Not Sure

    "... maybe we should rename it the Fisker Bastiat."

    That was beautiful.

  • Daublin

    Once you start thinking of CO2 as pollution, you're already pretty unhinged from reality.

  • LoneSnark

    I agree, we should take one step back and include the CO2 emitted to produce the intermediate fuel, which is electricity for electric vehicles. But gasoline is not a primary fuel either. It has to be refined from crude oil, which is not a CO2 free process. While the CO2 emitted by producing gasoline is not nearly as dramatic an impact as including the coal burned to produce the electricity, I feel it is only fair to include it.

  • FelineCannonball

    Tree huggers have been calculating carbon footprints for a long time. Tesla is crap by any measure.

    If you want to go green you have to get in a vegan-powered rickshaw. Or power your own bicycle with lentils and curry.

  • http://www.dagen.net/ Damon Gentry

    That's right, because using that logic every human being is a walking CO2 factory, polluting the atmosphere with every breath we take.

  • ano333

    Spoken like someone who does not understand how CO2 affects the climate...

  • ano333

    All the more reason to convert to more and more renewable energy, as technology allows. Once battery tech has come along and made renewables less intermittent, we can all enjoy our electric cars guilt-free!

  • t m colon

    As I remember it, when the idea of reviving electric cars began in the 1960s-70s it was to reduce smog in cities, not use less energy. Basically, it was an emission relocation scheme. That's really what it still is.

  • marc biff

    Minutely.

  • marc biff

    Once it does.

  • Tampa

    Real pollution is caused by other components of automobile exhaust, not CO2. Carbon Monoxide, Hydrogen Sulfide, other pollutants are all much more of a threat than CO2, and those are very much reduced by EV.

  • ncgh

    Some energy is required to produce gasoline, but it's small compared to the energy already there. The advantage of fossil fuels is that the energy does not have to be added (as is the case with biofuels and hydrogen)

  • ncgh

    If it does. There is no certainty it will.

  • http://davidhdennis.com/ David H Dennis

    I think the best metric to judge the electric car by is cost per mile, and there the electric car looks excellent, at least for average electric rates. Ironically enough, Bay Area electric rates are some of the highest in the nation, so electric running costs might be close to gas now :(.

    Of course there should be no subsidy for it then, but I don't think it deserved such a punitive fine.

  • Zachriel

    Damon Gentry: using that logic every human being is a walking CO2 factory

    Animal respiration is largely carbon neutral, as they emit carbon that was captured by plants. (Humans industrialization of agriculture changes this equation somewhat.)

  • Nicholas Andre

    Very true with respect to subsidies. However, that doesn't mean that EVs are as bad for the environment (as you quote the worse case figures). Modern natural gas power plants enable very high efficiencies (50%+) by using double conversion, not to mention the presence of other technologies like nuclear and renewables skew that figure upward further -- you need to look at overall grid carbon emissions, which are definitely better (if we do, in fact, care about carbon). If we look at other emissions, it's definitely easier and cheaper to clean up a single power plant than a few million tailpipes.

    In addition, EVs provide for better grid regulation by charging during off-peak times (easily accomplished with simple time-of-use metering) and also decouple our automotive transportation from any particular source of energy. Further, future smart grid integrations with supercharging stations could provide for even more fine-grained control and assistance as the power generation technologies diversify. There are many benefits to be reaped from unifying transportation on the common electric grid infrastructure that may lead us in the direction of encouraging their adoption besides strictly being "green."

  • Fifty Ville

    Lentils and curry? Now we have to worry about methane.

  • markm

    Where Singapore is concerned, there is no smog relocation. The power plants are on the same small island. If there is any improvement, it's because power plants can be more efficient at burning the fuel and put better filters on the exhaust than a car.

  • JTW

    well, that fits in quite nicely with the greenie call for human extinction which is rather prominent in many of their groups (of course they only want people who are not themselves to die...).