Zero-Emission Vehicles and True Dual-fuel Hybrid Electric Vehicles—Easy and Practical Solutions to CO2 and Other Emissions Problems
A Public Comment for the Governor’s Vehicle Emissions Workgroup
September 13, 2005
Gary Graunke, Co-chairman
Oregon Electric Vehicles Association
First of all, let me say that I am encouraged to see Oregon joining other states in taking action to address this most serious problem. However, I am concerned that even this effort may be too little and too late. I think we can do much better by making any kind of vehicle more electric, as many amateurs have done for many years using century-old technology.
In my day job I work as a research scientist for Oregon’s largest employer—one whose customers expect our product to be twice as good every 18 months. However, today I came to speak for the Oregon Electric Vehicles Association, the Oregon chapter of the Electric Automobile Association (EAA). We are primarily a group of hobbyists that promote electric vehicles of all types, including freeway capable cars and trucks. In my family, we have two zero-emissions electric vehicles, a US Electricar S10 pickup and a converted Honda Insight. We also drive two gasoline-powered hybrid cars: a Honda Civic and Toyota Prius.
Thinking that my Insight is still the factory hybrid, people often ask me how many miles per gallon I get. After pointing out that it uses only renewable electric energy from PGE and no gasoline at all, I answer that the energy equivalent miles per gallon would be 200 to 266 mpg. It gets 6 to 8 miles per KWH of electricity, and a US gallon of gasoline is the same amount of energy as 33 KWH of electricity [DOE]. However, if we were to burn non-renewable gasoline to produce this electricity, we would only get 12 KWH, or 72 to 96 mpg. It should be noted that the EPA highway mileage of the original Insight is 70 mpg, but the best drivers often get 92 mpg—a thousand miles on one 11-gallon tank of gasoline.
So the key strategy here is to use renewable electric energy to significantly reduce CO2 and other emissions, as well as improve our national security by reducing our dependence on oil, whose production has recently peaked globally. While the first half of the bell curve of production took 125 years, we are currently on track to deplete the balance of all oil, discovered and undiscovered, in 30 years [OIL]. While some senators have recently bemoaned that fact that rising oil prices will, if we continue the present course, severely impact the economy, I note that government cannot change the fundamental economic laws of supply and demand. However, even politically conservative economists see a role for government in preventing harm to third parties as a result of the transactions of a buyer and seller, as is the case in the lack of choice in the transportation sector and its effect on global warming.
Assuming continuing slow progress in battery and possibly also fuel-cell technologies, we still expect pure electric vehicles to be the long term solution when oil is exhausted or just too expensive. However, for right now, a painless and practical solution is to allow certain hybrid electric vehicles to have additional battery capacity and run as to true dual-fuel electric vehicles. At the OEVA, we have a T-shirt that says, “If you can’t plug it in, it’s not electric,” to underscore the point that consumers would like to have a choice to use renewable electricity to fuel their vehicles. We would like the option of getting the equivalent of more than 200 mpg from renewable fuels rather than less than 72 mpg from the non-renewable fuels most people use today.
On the technical side, the national EAA supports a program that we call the Partially Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). Initially, this program [CARS] will take a hybrid Toyota Prius and add more battery capacity, to not start the gasoline engine unless required, and to allow overnight charging. It can do 90% of most people’s trips (under 35 miles) as a pure ZEV, but also have the normal Prius extended range (600 miles) and power of using both fuels simultaneously. The net result is 100 mpg for most drivers, with 200 mpg for the best drivers, for very little change in their lifestyle or our infrastructure.
Hybrid vehicles are, of course, a substantial improvement over regular cars, achieving 50% better fuel economy and the corresponding reduction in CO2 emissions. Tri-met buses seem to do even better, achieving a 60% improvement. A hybrid Humvee project by PEI in Huntsville, Alabama, produced a factor of two improvement in fuel economy. (It also had the capability of running 20 miles on electricity with its diesel generator off—silent, and with no heat signature.) Perhaps the best example of large-scale vehicle fuel economy and performance improvement is the diesel-electric locomotive, which has been around for a very long time. So this is not fundamentally new technology—just good engineering and application of existing technology to cars and trucks.
These examples show that there is no reason that we should let large vehicles off the hook when it comes to carbon-dioxide emission improvements, as in a recent Federal proposal. The past approach of exempting large vehicles only makes the problem worse, as automakers tempt consumers with inefficient, grossly polluting larger vehicles, such as the four-door, four-ton family pickup truck! Fortunately, rising oil prices have recently reduced demand for such vehicles, and renewed demand for fuel-efficient vehicles with corresponding emission benefits.
The critical feature is that the Toyota hybrid system is able to move the vehicle without the use of gasoline under common conditions. In the electric vehicle community, a number of people have gone so far as to exile their gasoline or renewable biodiesel engine to a trailer—saving a significant amount of vehicle weight for in-town trips. The trailers either act as generators or, in some designs, gently push the heavier electric vehicle while relying on the electric motor for acceleration. We estimate that I can still get 60 mpg in my Insight by this approach. Perhaps these would be the best hybrids of all. We think renewable electricity is the fuel of choice in the city where emissions are more important, and renewable biodiesel as a supplement for the long trips, which in Oregon are outside cities.
Watching the evening news coverage of the governor’s press conference at Pioneer Square announcing this initiative, I noted that the news channel focused on the $3000 cost increase for cars under this program. Not a word was mentioned about savings due to increased fuel economy and the dwindling oil supply. Even my best-of-class Prius will use over $6000 of gas if there are no future price increases in the next 7 years.
Sometimes people tell me that they looked at the hybrid vehicles, but at $2.50 per gallon, it did not make sense to buy a hybrid due to the higher cost. After pointing out the federal and state tax advantages to offset some of this cost, I ask them how long they plan to own the vehicle. A typical response is 10 years. I ask them how much gasoline will cost in 10 years, given that oil production is peaking, and emerging middle classes in China and India will also want cars. I’m not in the business of predicting oil prices, but I can be sure that they will only go up, and perhaps far more than most people realize.
It may be that cars need to have the same labeling that major household appliances do. What is the annual cost of fueling a new car for sale? What is the best and worst fuel economy and emissions of similar vehicles?
It would be very helpful if consumers would also see the lifetime cost (yes, someone will have to predict the gas prices 10 years out). This will help provide a balanced view that we seem to be lacking in the media coverage, and help provide public support for this important initiative. Of course, they can also make the right buying decision, which is perhaps most important of all, and has impact for as long as they own their vehicle—not just the next election.
Global warming is a huge change for mankind. In all of recorded history, we have not had to adapt to changes of this magnitude in such a short time. In 1981 I moved to Oregon from South Florida (where every vote used to count). There were few hurricanes then. My parents’ house experienced 3 major hurricanes last year, and I’m very thankful my late father-in-law still does not live in Punta Gorda. While hurricanes do follow decade-long patterns of varying frequency, and it is too early to tell how global warming is affecting them, we do know that increased water temperature is a major factor in increasing their strength. For Katrina, the Gulf of Mexico was just a bit warmer than usual. We also know that one effect of global warming is a rise in sea levels. While New Orleans may be the most vulnerable, parts of Miami are also below sea level. Five miles inland, my house in Florida was only 8 feet above sea level. Just the economic impact on real estate may justify our efforts many times over. While we may have different and more subtle problems in Oregon than in the South (and some of these have been identified by the Governor), they will all of us in a significant way.
We may not be able to predict the costs precisely, but they will be huge. I am concerned that we are doing too little and too late, but encouraged that some citizens and governments of our country are joining many overseas to begin the process of change. The sooner and more effective our change, the less devastating the effects of global warming and declining oil production will be on us. We currently have the resources and we can afford to change, but we may not be able to if we continue to ignore these problems.
As I have commented above, these changes do not require any new fundamental technologies, nor significant improvements to existing technology.
I ask you to retain the ZEV provisions for Oregon. This should not be a burden to meet—after all, Oregon has the highest per capita purchases of just the Prius, and we are third in absolute terms behind the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles areas. We have voted with our wallets.
In addition, we hope that as the ZEV section is periodically reviewed, true dual-fuel electric hybrid vehicles that can satisfy the bulk of most people’s daily driving purely by electric means will be given corresponding credit in the ZEV-equivalent formulas. The electric vehicle community has a number of examples that have shown that hybrid vehicles are a solution to the ZEV range problem, and that allowing electricity to be used as the primary fuel has highly significant benefits (remember 33 KWH vs. 12 KWH) over hybrids that cannot be directly fueled using electricity.
Thank you for your attention and your hard work in this critical area.
DOE: “Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development, and Demonstration Program; Petroleum-Equivalent Fuel Economy Calculation; Final Rule”, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Federal Registry Vol. 65, No. 113, June 12, 2000, 10 CFR Part 474, pp. 36986-36992. (See http://www.access.gpo.gov)
OIL: “Peak Oil”, R. Bartlett, U.S. Congressional Record, March 15, 2005, p. H1409. (See also http://www.bartlett.house.gov)