Home editor's blog on sun & fossil fuels Gas cars use electricity too: Part II

Gas cars use electricity too: Part II

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It takes a lot of energy, and a significant amount of electricity, to transform and transport the gasoline you pump into your car. [Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, NotoriousJEN]

editors-blog-entry3A few days ago, we ran a guest column by long-time solar-charged driver Peder Norby in which he did a comparative analysis of electricity use by electric cars and gasoline cars – yes, gasoline cars do use electricity, quite a bit it turns out, through the oil refining process.

Peder concluded that a gasoline car getting 21 mpg uses more electricity to travel 100 miles than an EV that gets 3.3 miles per kWh. He estimated that 6 to 8 kWh of electricity are needed to refine each gallon of gasoline.

We’re not going to get into whether Peder is correct or not here – the biggest question is how much of the energy used to refine a gallon of gasoline comes from electricity as opposed to, for example, directly from the burning of natural gas.

Gasoline cars & electricity use
Instead, we’re going to note how happy we are to see the question of electricity use by gasoline cars getting out there and being discussed on an increasingly wider scale. In fact, Peder’s column managed to inspire additional columns on Autoblogreen.Com and The Washington Post.

Washington Post writer Brad Plumer was quite critical of Peder’s conclusions, claiming – without providing any concrete data to support this claim – that much of the 6 kWh needed to refine a gallon of gasoline does not come in the form of electricity, but rather directly from the burning of natural gas. He also concludes – again, without providing and hard, concrete evidence – that only about 3 kWh of electricity are used to refine a gallon of gas.

One thing is certain: The oil refining process is complex and extremely energy intensive.

More broadly, it’s incredibly inefficient to pump oil out of the ground in Saudi Arabia, pump it into a giant oil tanker, send an oil tanker burning filthy bunker fuel several thousand miles to the U.S., pump the oil off the tanker into a refinery, invest tremendous amounts of energy into refining that oil into gasoline (and other products), pump that gasoline into a gasoline tanker truck, and then drive it hundreds of miles where it finally gets pumped into a gas storage tank below your local self-serve gas station.

Solar + EV more efficient
Compare this process to, for instance, plugging an electric car into a wall outlet in a home with solar panels on the roof. The energy flowing into the EV batteries travels no more than a few meters!

For far too long, proponents of oil have been able to get away with masking how energy intensive and inefficient oil production, distribution and consumption is as compared to electricity.

That the question of electricity use by gasoline cars is beginning to be discussed in big media outlets such as The Washington Post means that the façade of oil – which veteran EV advocates have been valiantly chipping away at for decades – will crack and crumble much faster than before.

Hallelujah!

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