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By Robert Rapier on May 24, 2012 with 13 responses

Electric Cars & Keystone Impact on Gas Prices — R-Squared Energy TV Ep. 23

In this week’s episode of R-Squared Energy TV, I answer the following questions:

  • What are the chances that electric vehicles will be more than a boutique item, and will make up a noticeable portion of cars on the road by 2020?
  • Do you agree with the recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that building the Keystone Pipeline will raise gasoline prices?

I will make one additional comment to what I said about electric cars in the video. Even if we have adoption of electric cars in the U.S. at the most aggressive pace that has been projected, I don’t believe there will be a measurable impact on atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations for decades. After all, despite international agreements like the Kyoto Protocol, growth in atmospheric carbon dioxide is accelerating:

Figure 1. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations at Mauna Loa Observatory

The reason for this — as has been discussed here on several occasions — is that global carbon dioxide emissions are presently being driven by developing countries. If 10% of drivers in developed countries switch to electric cars it may help the energy security of those countries, but we should not harbor the illusion that this will do anything to combat climate change.

Readers who have specific questions can send them to ask [at] consumerenergyreport [dot] com or leave the question after this post (at the original source). Consider subscribing to our YouTube channel where you’ll be able to view past and future videos.

Link to Original Article: Electric Cars & Keystone Impact on Gas Prices — R-Squared Energy TV Ep. 23

By Robert Rapier

  1. By Ed on May 24, 2012 at 4:28 pm


    I do not disagree that the current prices of electric vehicles are a significant market deterrent. However, I would argue that their limited range and potential purchaser “range anxiety” would be at least as great a problem. Range anxiety would also be compounded by the long recharging times required if a vehicle is operated near its range limits.

    I owned a Diesel vehicle in the early 1980s and clearly remember the range anxiety I experienced early in my ownership period. However, my Diesel vehicle had a 300+ mile range and could be refueled in 5 minutes at a station which sold Diesel fuel. Electric vehicles have a much more difficult set of constraints.

  2. By Walter Sobchak on May 25, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Battery Powered Electric Vehicles are not a technology of the future, they are a technology of the past. 90 years ago, BEVs lost out to liquid hydrocarbon powered vehicles which were far less sophisticated and developed than the ones available today. At the time they lost out, BEVs had an enormous advantage over LHVs in terms of their simplicity of construction and operation, an advantage they retain. Nonetheless, the inherent disadvantages of the BEV have not changed over the last 80 years. Because those disadvantages are rooted in the laws of chemistry and physics, they will not be overcome nor will they disappear, and it does not make any difference how many billions of dollars  you waste on research.

  3. By jcarpinelli on May 26, 2012 at 1:34 am

    I drive a Chevy Volt.  There is no range anxiety.  I am driving at least 90% of the miles on electric power and I drive around 300 miles per week.  Don’t underestimate the potential of plug-in hybrids to lower oil consumption.  If oil prices continue to rise while battery prices fall, expect to see more plug-in hybrids on the road.  

    • By Ed on May 26, 2012 at 8:43 am

      You used the magic word: “hybrid”. The gasoline engine and fuel tank make the range anxiety a non-issue, not the electric drive system.

  4. By Russ Finley on May 26, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Increasing the electrification of transport is just one way to reduce emissions (when using low emission sources like wind, solar, and nuclear) and oil use. It isn’t a silver bullet. There are no silver bullets. See the chart below to get a feel for how many sources of emissions there are and what it would take to reduce them:

    jcarpinelli said:

    If oil prices continue to rise while battery prices fall, expect to see more plug-in hybrids on the road.

    What are the odds of that happening? *

    *Sarcasm alert

    I once created a simple spreadsheet to demonstrate how little impact any one source has and how little impact any individual action can have:

    Electric cars are not for dummies. Like flying an airplane, you have to know its design envelope and stay inside of it. I haven’t needed a gas station since last July. I drive on average about 30 to 40 miles a day on week days, occasionally up to 60 miles and once drove 120 miles in one day because I was able to park at a charge station between trips . I’ve used the other family car maybe three or four times for trips outside the Leaf’s range.

    Every vehicle is an engineering compromise. Electric cars have many advantages to be weighed against their disadvantages. Other than the existing price tag, they are ideal urban car for two car families.

    “…the inherent disadvantages of the BEV have not changed over the last 80 years.”

    There are only two disadvantages. Cost my be a temporary one. They will always have less range but that is not a concern for many, especially for two car families. They have many advantages and are the only option for zero emission cars when coupled with zero emission power sources. The internal combustion engine will always spew emissions into the atmosphere.

    • By Tom G. on May 26, 2012 at 5:49 pm

      Russ said: “They will always have less range but that is not a concern for many, especially for two car families.”.

      Couldn’t agree more Russ.  I really want an MIT City Car with a small internal combustion engine running in series hybrid mode with a small battery pack.   I need another 5 passenger vehicle to go to the supermarket like I need another hole in my head.

      That little MIT City Car would cover 95% of all of my driving needs.   A quick trip to ACE, Home Depot or Lowe’s for some drywall screws or paint, a trip to the movies, grocery shopping, out to dinner with my sweetheart or a quick trip to the grand-kids house here in town.  I certainly don’t need a 4.000 lb. truck to do these types of things.  

      I understand the economics and current business model of our automakers BUT someone, someday is going to see the handwriting on the wall and start building something like this.   You know a car that gets 75-100 mpg for two people around town.  A car for high school, college students and the millions of retired folks out there who already have at least two vehicles.  The first manufacturer with this type of hybrid vehicle to market will sell millions.  


      • By Tom G. on May 26, 2012 at 5:55 pm


        Forgot to mention I really liked the chart/graph shown in your posting above. Send it to Robert and tell him to write a paragraph on each of the elements contained in the graph [climit_solutions] and he will have his energy plan, LOL.  Better yet,  send it to each member of Congress.

        Have a great day

  5. By notKit P on May 26, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    No Russ, BEV will not reduce ghg emissions until you invent a 110 % efficient battery system,


    Nuclear will reduce ghg emissions from coal plants reducing the ghg emissions for the power industry but attributing them to BEV is double counting.

    • By Russ Finley on May 26, 2012 at 4:45 pm

      Displacing a conventional car with an electric car running on electricity from a zero carbon source would reduce emissions. Your comment makes no sense whatsoever.

  6. By mac on May 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    @ jcarpinelli

    Since you are a Volt owner, you may already be familiar with Volt Stats, a website run by Mike Rusack.  Through On Star, data from over 1000 Volt owners has been collected.  The most interesting statistical category is probably the miles per gallon equivalent column.

    The most efficient Volt driver got 91.73  MPGe.  Interestingly, of the 1023 Volt owner entries,  975 of them got over 50 MPGe  (about what a Prius gets)  Many did significantly better than the Prius.

    The highest serial number entry I found was 22,060.    Since just over 11,000 Volts have been sold in the U.S. through April 2012,  where did all the other 11,000 Volts go ? 

    Some are no doubt demos sitting on dealer lots,  some went to Canada, etc.,  and a few even to Europe since the Volt is also sold there as an straight up import.  The rest are no doubt Vauxhall and Opel Ampera production, dealer stock in Europe,  perk cars for GM execs and so on.


    • By Ed Reid on May 27, 2012 at 8:29 am

      Comparing MPGe for EVs, HEVs and PHEVs is like comparing apples, oranges and kumquats. The MPGe for an EV is infinite, while the MPGe of a PHEV is greatly enhanced by the ability to recharge the batteries from the grid.

  7. By Moiety on May 28, 2012 at 5:24 am

    One of the things that is nearly missed when talking about cars (of any type) is the system efficiency. It is extremely inefficient to be driving in a car especially when theuir is only a single occupant. People who use the norm for cars and then put alternative technologies on said norm and then use the green or eco monikers are not correct in my opinion. The first rule of any green should be reduce, reuse and recycle. Carrying around a ton and a half of metal when the goal is to get your 100kgs to work is clearly not efficient.

    On that point I do not think that cars should have a future with regard to a green strategy unless their mass constraints can be extremely reduced. A lot of extra energy infastructure and production has to be generated to account fo that inefficiency. In that respect most of what we see developing at this time are hardly game-changing.

  8. By mac on June 2, 2012 at 8:17 pm


    Last month the Toyota Prius Hybrid (and variants) became the third best selling car world-wide. Since methanol, CNG/LNG and electricity are cheaper by the mile traveled,  it’s only a matter of time until the oil megopally starts to un-wind.

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