British actor and comedian Robert Llewellyn maintains a video blog called Fully Charged where he reviews electric cars and discusses all aspects of the plug-in vehicle industry. Llewellyn is an electric vehicle enthusiast and produces some really interesting and informative electric vehicle content in the series and I'm a big fan of his.
The latest topic he tackled is the "Long Tailpipe" argument which many people who do not support the switch to electric vehicles like to use in their argument against them. The Long Tailpipe argument basically states that electric vehicles are not zero emission at all, since the electricity that powers them comes from dirty sources like coal. Since EVs don't actually have tailpipe emissions, to be fair they say the real tail pipe stretches all the way to the power plant that generated its fuel, thus the long tailpipe.
Llewellyn does a good job of explaining how much electricity is needed to refine gasoline, and that's just the refining process. He estimates that it takes 4.5kWk's of electricity to refine every gallon of gasoline. I've even seen that estimate quoted as high as 7kWh's per gallon from other sources. If you simply take the energy needed to refine the oil and put it into a battery instead of going through the whole process of refining, shipping, trucking and pumping (and the gas pumps need electric also) the stuff, you can power an EV to go 10 to 20 miles! Remember, that's just the energy used to refine the oil, nothing else. So if electric vehicle opponents want to bring up the long tailpipe argument, they then need to factor in the dirty coal emissions to every gallon of gas they burn.
However it's not as if every EV mile is powered by coal. In fact, here in the US coal fired power plants are closing all the time, and we now rely on coal for less than 40% of our electricity supply. Every year the grid gets cleaner as more renewables are introduced and outdated, polluting power plants are shuttered. This is happening as the supply chain of gasoline continues to get dirtier. How is that? That's because as we use up the current oil reserves, we are finding it harder and harder to find more. This is forcing us to use more energy to drill deeper, to go further offshore, and to even use unconventional sources like the Canadian tar sands. For example. producing one barrel of tar sands oil generates three to five times the global warming emissions that producing the same amount of conventional oil does and every day three million barrels of drinking water are used in its production. So you can see the supply chains for electricity and gasoline are moving in opposite directions. Electricity is getting cleaner, and gasoline is getting dirtier all the time.
|My ActiveE and solar array. EV+PV is empowering and true zero emission driving|
Plus, as the owner of an electric vehicle it is possible to make your own renewable energy to power your car. Three years ago I installed a solar array on my home and produce my own renewable energy for my EV. There is a great feeling of empowerment when you can make your own personal transportation fuel, and you know it is really zero emission driving. I've talked to many other EV owners who like me, installed a solar electric system shortly after discovering the world of electric drive. Solar powered electric vehicles are the future, we've just begun to scratch the surface of what is possible and I'm thrilled I've had the opportunity to live the future now. Anyway, back to Llewellyn's video. Take the four minutes to watch it. He does a fantastic job of explaining how gas cars are really coal powered cars too!