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back to article California's green-leccy price system will stifle plug-in cars

California is generally thought to be perhaps the best place in the world for eco-friendly cars. The populous, wealthy, heavily motorised state has traditionally encouraged the development of low-pollution, energy-saving cars, and such vehicles are more commonly found there than anywhere else. Unfortunately, according to an …

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Anonymous Coward

Fuel Tax...

has to be paid somewhere this sounds like California has the solution..

Alternativly charge at work.

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Anonymous Coward

Yup...

The reason that this situation exists is because the USA has the lowest tax on fuel for personal transport in the world. Basically they need to ramp up fuel tax and possible bring down other taxes to make up for it. I would suspect an 'economy 7' type rate for leccy when you would typically be asleep could also help the plug in charge cars.

It's worth pointing out that the nature of the lack of meaningful tax on gas in America makes businesses and individuals much more vulnerable to oil price increases. This is because the oil price is a much higher %age of fuel at the pump.

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Silver badge

Possibly quite right, too

How is most Californian energy generated? If it's mostly from fossil fuels then it's possible that electric vehicles no better (or even worse than) traditional ICE models. Their biggest benefit being to move the pollution to the countryside rather than saving scares resources.

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Flame

I don't need no stinking title!

A number of Nuclear plants plus gas fired steam turbines along the coast. Southern California had a huge issue with pollution/smog so lots of work over the years to clean up emissions from all industries.

Tiered pricing is an issue for plug in hybrids and I think the electric companies are thinking about how to address this. Smart meter technology is being deployed (I have one) and I am sure its just a matter of time before a pricing solution is implemented to address the pricing gap or oil to get to $258 a barrel... Which ever happens first.

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Witty Title.

My cousin owns a flat on an "eco7" plan. What this means is that he has two sets of wiring for high drain stuff (e.g. water heater). Running the heater at night costs a fraction of what it costs in the day, since energy at night is a LOT cheaper due to lower demand. A similar solution would surely work for electric cars: cheaper electricity but only between 12 and 6.

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G2

re: Fuel Tax ...

if you charge at work you risk your job, people have been fired over 1.8 cent worth of electricity "theft"

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE68232X20100903

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Yes and no

Yes he was fired for 2 cents worth of electricity (charging a Segway for 1.5 hours). Except that, as the linked report makes very clear, his firing was considered disproportionate by an industrial tribunal and he was reinstated; not least because the same firm quite happily let people charge their mobile phones at work.

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Headmaster

Although...

...the link you post shows that the firm "had no grounds for sacking him" according to the courts.

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Teired pricing isn't green...

The only way to be green is to choose economical models that reflect the true cost. If you are mucking about with pricing then you can't be green.

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Anonymous Coward

Only in the land of cheap gas

This is also because US petrol is much cheaper than ours. If theirs was taxed as heavily, then you would only need about $100/barrel oil to break even. Which, coincidentally, is what it is today.

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Time of use best for plug ins

Plug in owners should be on time of use tariffs to push them towards off-peak. I wonder if California will introduce these if plug ins take off? Would make sense given their aims for high penetration renewables over the coming decade.

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Gold badge

Reality strikes

So another taxation regime "designed" to encouraged this week's chosen behaviour looks like it might have the opposite effect to that intended. Who'd have guessed? Not the politicians, of course. They've demonstrated time and again that they have no understanding of either free market economics or human behaviour.

If you want a zero carbon economy by 2050, tax fossil carbon (and nothing else) at source, at a flat rate, with that rate on a 40-year long escalator from "zero" to "prohibitive". Taxation at source is simpler to administer because there are only a few hundred sites where fossil carbon comes out of the ground or into the country. The flat rate avoids anomalies like the one described in this article. The escalator means that everyone gets adequate warning of the future economic playing field and can have switched out their fossil-fuel-burning infrastructure on a natural maintenance timescale before it becomes too expensive.

But that requires sticking to the tax plan, so that people can make their purchasing decisions around it. Sadly there's always more votes to be had by tinkering, because that makes you look like you are doing something. In practice, all you are doing is punishing people who did what you wanted them to do last time you tinkered.

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Bronze badge
Badgers

Reality really strikes

"Sadly there's always more votes to be had by tinkering, because that makes you look like you are doing something."

Should read: "Sadly there's always more votes to be had by tinkering, because the special interests who own those votes really don't want that sort of thing"

There...sorted.

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Coat

world government

it would be a difficult plan to implement (taxing carbon at the source), because who would tax it? I mean a country obviously, but which one?

the country where the mine/oilfield/gasfield/forrest is located?

the country where the company that drills/excavates/chops's mothercompany is located? (most oil/gas/coal companies are actually a number of independent legal entities operating in different countries owned by a mother company)?

the country where the first buyer of the fuel is located?

the country where any of the buyers of the fuel in between are located?

the country where the fuel is turned into electricity (this might not be the same country where the electricity is used)?

the country where the fuel is used directly for energy (so without the electricity conversion)?

In fact its taxed at most of these steps, prohibitively so, taxing it all at the source would probably be great for the country where the resource is located, but I think you would have a hard time convincing energy users in your own country that not only is energy going to get more expensive due to a ramping up of taxes on it, but none of those taxes are going to do anything for the country where they live.. it would all go back to the country where the source is.

the only way at-source taxing would work would be if we had a world government that gathered tax globally and distributed services as needed locally. might be a bit difficult to push through though (although would def stop grey importing for one thing :D)

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Anonymous Coward

Option

Registeres owners of the vehicles get an allowance to take into account electrical charging at an average mileage level. Hence no deterrent.

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Go

Or grow your own?

Or generate your own leccy to charge the car? It's a shame there are so few microgeneration options available. Has anyone looked at the feasibility of solar panels + a big battery in the garage?

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Coat

Yes

Yes, and it is expensive. It would take roughly 20 years of leccy generation to pay off the solar panels and infrastructure for your own home. (depending on use, quality of materials [and panels], and whether you can sell your surplus back). I'm a fairly heavy electronics user, so likely is more expensive for me though...in a northern clime. Perhaps the southwestern deserts of the USA would be better off.

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FAIL

I'm sure that someone has...

....and discovered that it's cost-prohibitive. This is not a laptop battery we're talking about. Lots of solar panels and lots of batteries. If this setup was cost effective it would be in wide use already for regular electric needs.

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Will this make them realise...

...that they pay much, much less for petrol than a lot of the world?

I'm curious as to how those figures look when using UK/EU pump prices? (or is it all about the $/barrel price?)

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Silver badge

Some quick UK sums...

Chevy volt reckoned to do about 34kWh/100 miles

My current electric tarriff is about 10p/kWh

So Chevy volt costs about 3.4p/mile on lecy in the UK

Chevy on petrol is about 37mpg (US) or 10miles per litre.

UK unleaded now £1.30/litre so Chevy volt on petrol is 13p/mile

But with Tier 3 electricity in California about 30c (20p) a kWh that's 6.8/mile lecy, and with petrol in California at about 57p/litre that's 5.7p/mile

I can see his point. Perhaps they need some sort of dual tariff - special pricing for leccy car electric?

They really do need to increase petrol taxes in the US to something vaguely approaching sensible. (i.e a bit less than the UK!)

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Coat

inefficency

remember that 1kWh out of your socket isn't the same a 1 kWh put onto your leccy car's battery, there is a fair bit of loss in converting the electricity to chemical energy, you're probably still better off sticking to the old petroleum in the uk for now (economically at least).

2 coats in a row.. its a wonder they let me back in here

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Coat

Sigh

At 10p per mile for petrol vs 3.4p per mile for electricity you'd have to have a seriously inefficient charger to make up the price difference. Basically, charging for 100 miles would need to produce about 60-70 kWh waste heat to make up the difference. That's a hell of a lot.

For the "ah yes, but it's still fossil fuel" brigade you also have to bear in mind that using turbines and whatnot to make electricity for motive power from long-dead trees is significantly more efficient than using those same long-dead trees to drive an internal combustion engine.

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Cost of transport

The thing I really like about Electric Cars is it brings home very succiently to people without engineering minds just how much energy transport takes when you are using 1000-2000 kg of vehicle to transport 100kg of cargo in the form of a driver.

Nobody really made the connection before because cars were measured in MPG while everything in the house was measured in kWh. Now the cars are gettings measured in the same units and people are realising that the family car burns more energy than the entire house put together.

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DCMA takedown notification...

"there's no need to suffer the "range anxiety" which bedevils battery-only drivers"

Isn't "range anxiety" a trademark of somebody or other now?

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Bronze badge
Unhappy

They have sun

Wonder how many solar panels are needed to charge a plugin hybrid, although obviously it fails if it needs to be charged at night

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Thumb Up

Works fine at night

Charging from your panels works fine at night, because during the day, your panels feed into the grid and you neighbours use it (instead of the coal plant) to do their laundry.

At night, you take from the coal plants what your neighbours didn't use during the day.

(This strategy obviously fails when everyone has panels on their roof - which is not going to happen any time soon)

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Joke

Simple

Just do like the pot-growers and run generators to power your car....

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Bronze badge

I KNEW IT!

Oddly enough this came up during a conversation with the little wife. I wondered what the utility bill would be on a plugin car and couldn't find anything remotely useable on the internets with Google/Bing/Blekko other than the green's unverifiable statistics and conclusions. A plugin car wouldn't be feasible for us out here in the woods, most storms result in a power-outage and having a dead car in the driveway would suck monkey balls if we needed it really bad. A hybrid is/would be a better answer and I've already considered what I would do to be able use one as a generator when required. Lots of possibilities there.

I have been trying to get a Pious for a while now - pissed at my 2.9l fourbanger GMC Canyon with it's unassailable 22.3 combined mpg.... ecomods are sneered at... scanguageII results and real time monitoring very depressing. Sigh. damn truck. Anyway Toyota thinks those things are made out of gold and my Canyon a POS - offered half what it's worth on a trade.

Mkay. fsck.exe

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negligible anyway

OK, first, check my other posts regarding the "green" qualities (lack there of) of EVs compared to traditional hybrids and micro-diesels, and you'll know I'm no fan of them.

As for grid relaibility, yea, thats an issue for most people in areas even where electricity itself is green enough to make an EV worth while for the environment.

That said, the overhead costs of this power are not dramatic. a 24KW EV battery (which will never be 100% dead if you made it home), takes about 30KWh on average to fully charge (battery overhead). 30 days times 30KWh is 900. (worst case). The average power bill is already 1500KWh or so. I'm not familiar with CA's tiers, but i do understand off-peak is cheaper, but heavy use raises the tier even off-peak (though some power companies have EV concessions, or separately meter EV charging). Still, a $200 power bill might be $300 with an EV? CA's tiered system might move than $20-40?

Face it, no one buying an EV gives a rats ass about the money. It is impossible to drive an EV enough miles in its life span to recover it's costs vs a micro-diesel or traditional hybrid of the same car class and performance. yes, people argue that if gas goes over $6 a gallon it can work out, but only if gas goes up and power does not (unlikely), only if you're not counting the load overhead (paid cash), and only if the price of gas is over $6 for more than half the life of the car (meaning it needs to hit $6/gallon likely within 5 years, which is an unsustainable price increase. more over, alternative fuels will be entering the market at $4-5/gallon (search for RFTS processing), so gas can't be higher priced than that once it's flowing... Money is not a concern.

unfortunately, so few people realize EVs are in fact anti-green. On our current power infrastructure, they pollute not only more CO2, but more Sulfur, mercury, and other pollutants per mile driven. It will take 20 years for us to overhaul the power infrastructure before EVs are green for even 20% of the places in this country. today 1% tops live in a place where an EV produces less total CO2 and few of those places have reasonable commute distances EVs can handle or a compact car is simply not a viable vehicle in the first place.

I'm all for EV R&D, but lets keep them out of drivers hands with hand picked exceptions for another 15-25 years, please?

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Anonymous Coward

Meh. Old news.

The Los Angeles city water and power utility (DWP) has begun planning for electrocar charging, and has discounted billing for it (see http://mayor.lacity.org/PressRoom/PressReleases/LACITYP_012644). Nothing to see here, move along.

The per-barrel price of petroleum is misleading when applied to petrol ("gasoline" in the US) in California. The state has specific requirements for formulation which block importation from other states, driving up the price. And the oil companies have disinvested from their California refineries such that any drop in output (such as caused by an accident or maintenance, or simply the refiner's desire for more profit) causes swift rises in at-pump prices. California's average price for petrol is always higher than for the rest of the country.

Yes, the consumer in the US pays less for petrol than Europeans do, but Saudis, Mexicans, Iranians, Venezuelans, etc pay far less. Your point being?

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Boffin

It's a scale thing...

Approx no. of vehicles in Venezuela: 2.5 million

Approx no. of vehicles in Saudi: 7.5 million

Approx no. of vehicles in Iran: 10 million

Approx no. of vehicles in Mexico: 20 million

Approx no. of vehicles in USA: 250 million

Now, do the sums: which has the most impact, persuading Merkins to drive more efficiently, or persuading Venezuelans to drive more efficiently?

[Sources: Wikipedia list of no. of motor vehicles per head by country multiplied by the country population]

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So, who is right?

Following the link, the key quote from the LA Mayor's office is

"The cost on a per mile basis for charging an EV versus paying for gasoline is approximately 50% – 75% less. In other words, a family who currently spends about $60 per week on gasoline for one car could instead pay as little as $15 on their electric bill by charging their vehicle at night."

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Coat

title

Just charge the car at the beginning of the month, then they'll get the cheap 'leccy.

Simples ;-)

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not surprising

EVs are not green.

Based on the power deployment of California, EVs will actually not only release more CO2 per mile driven than equivalent sized efficient gas and diesel cars, it releases many times the sulfur, mercury, and several other heavy metals than burning gas (and we're talking wells to wheels total output, not just the actual combustion, face it, 8bls of gas to a gallon, even adding air to the mix, does not equal 19lbs of CO2 + the H20 + the other emissions not counted in that weight). The 19lbs of CO2 per gallon is TOTAL CO2 output from drilling, transport, refining, storage, more transport, pumping, and finally driving. 2lbs of CO2/KWh is generation only, and does NOT include mining, transport, transmission losses, charge overhead (it takes about 29-33KWh to charge a 24KWh battery from 0 to 100% depending on ambient temp, distance from power plant, 2 vs 3 phase charging, and charge rate). Average 85 miles per 24kwh in the leaf, assuming you drive it dead (which you'll never do) and that's without AC or heat and windows up and headlights off, and we're talking more CO2 than 2.5 gallons of gas, and many hybrids and diesels can go well over 120 miles on that.

Even with all of California's efforts to clean gas and coal plants, the chemical and CO2 output is simple still higher. Vs a common car, no, but we're talking people looking for green cars, and a micro-diesel or non-plug-in hybrid is $10k cheaper and more efficient. This is not debatable, look up the numbers. It takes a dozen or so Google's to get all the data, and some math.

So, if it;s less efficient, and also strains CA's already overburdened grid, why are we surprised the most green (in the news, not reality) state is imposing policies that might make EVs cost even more?

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Silver badge

"8bls of gas to a gallon, even adding air to the mix, does not equal 19lbs of CO2"

I'm afraid it does.

In more sensible units a mole of octane (C8H18, 114 g) burns to 8 moles of CO2 (352 g) and 9 moles of water (162g) so your 8lbs of petrol will give 24.7 lbs of CO2.

On the other hand the green credentials and economics of electric vehicles are extremely dubious

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Black Helicopters

This is one reason they're pushing smart meters

One of the uses for smart electricity meters would be to allow different prices for different appliances - so a unit of electricity to charge an electric car would cost more than the same unit of electricity used to power a refrigerator.

Of course in the UK, where transport fuel is so highly taxed I reckon they'd use smart meters to charge us extra tax on electricity for road use. After all they have to make up the loss in tax revenue from traditionally fuelled cars from somewhere.

Black helicopters because of my paranoia about smart metering.

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Grenade

No Volt for Alaska

Volt no vehicle for Alaska or other places cold (-3.7 F at my house this morning). The battery needs to be cooled or heated to optimum temp for optimum performance. Both functions draw down the range of the Volt. The Volt has a 16 kwt battery and we pay $14 per kwt, you do the math.

Half the oil consumed in California comes from Alaska. About half the electricity used in California comes from places like Arizona Coal and Nuclear plants, they are trying to knock down Hydroelectric Dams because they are “BAD” for fish. Whatever you do don’t ask a Californian where the electricity for their car came from.

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Cold

You also need to burn something (typically propane and kerosene) to get heating and demisting/defrosting in an EV used in cold weather.

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California blend

From the PG&E (large california energy company) website

"The power mix we provided to our customers in 2009 consisted of non-emitting nuclear generation (20.5 percent), large hydroelectric facilities (13.0 percent) and renewable resources (14.4 percent), such as wind, geothermal, biomass and small hydro. The remaining portion came from natural gas (34.6 percent), coal (1.3 percent), unspecified sources (15.0 percent), and other fossil-based resources (1.2 percent)."

So it's a fairly green mix. Probably greener than buring gas in a regular car. Considering Hydro and Nuclear don't turn off at night (1/3 production), they should have a flat rate that drops at night.

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That may be so, but ...

That says where their current supply comes from. What matters is not that, but where any incremental extra comes from. Given that they are probably using all the "green" they can get, it's fairly likely that any extra demand (from adding plug in cars) will be met by burning fossil fuel.

That's the case over here in the UK I believe.

So next time someone justifies something by saying "it's OK, I only buy green lecky" - you can just smile in the same way you would the dear old aunt or uncle who's not quite there any more, knowing that they are completely deluded.

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Flame

Liars, Damn Liars, Statisticians and Proponents of Plug in "E" vehicles

Folks,

Lets get one thing clear. Batteries are DC. Wall plugs are AC. Everytime you convert energy from one form to another you lose energy. In this case converting AC to DC you lose 15 to 20% of your input power. The efficiency of motors rarely rises above 90%. DC/AC Inverters are used to control the motors speed and they lose another 10 to 15%.

Batteries have an incredibly short lifetime compared to a gasoline engine. When you trade that "Pious" in 5 years, the cost of the battery replacement will be greater than the original cost of the brand new.

What part of "Total freakin conspiracy" do you not understand?

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umm Not that lossy

Your loss figures seem a bit high. Me thinks u fudged to some really worse case. About 5 points on a conversion. AC/DC conversion is much lossier if you have to regulate voltage, but we are regulating current. Switching regulators can hit 98% and up.

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Silver badge

AC to DC is not the issue

Converting AC to DC can be very efficient. (95% or so). In fact converting from DC to DC requires some sort of AC step to get any reasonable efficiency. The most efficient motors are AC too requiring a DC to AC conversion.

What is inefficient is going from electrical to chemical and back again.

Electric motors are pretty efficient ~90%.

There are very many energy transfer steps meaning the whole process from the wall plug to the wheels is only around 50% efficient. Generation and reticulation is only around 30% efficient making the whole process from oil to wheels somewhere like 15% efficient.

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Flame

Simple solution: more taxes

In Finland we fill up the gas tank mainly with taxes (75%). The rest 25% is gasoline (22.5%) and ethanol (2,5%). And it is not very different around the EU, at least in "old countries". Don't quarduple the gas price - just slab 300% worth of taxes on top of it!

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Grenade

More taxes FFS?

in case you hadn't noticed Unleaded is already charged at 290.1% in the UK - if you consider the Duty is really a tax. FFS we even pay tax on another tax (Duty) and it's going up again.

We need a TEA party here in the UK to protect us from eco mentalists like your goodself.

Taxed Enough Already.

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Silver badge

What are the taxes for?

Many of the gasoline taxes are there to pay for roads, cost of accidents etc. etc.

Leccy cars will still need roads and will still have crashes and should thus still pay these taxes.

Here in NZ the road user charges are built in to gasoline prices and make up approximately 30% of the cost of gasoline/petrol.

Diesel does not have these charges build in but you have to pay a road user levy of approx USD25 per 1000 km. Electric cars have to pay the levy too.

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Anonymous Coward

This will be good in the long run

A huge price hike in oil prices will be very good in the long run. It will stimulate massive new research investment into battery systems which will benefit us all in the long term.

In fact this is exactly what's needed.

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Anonymous Coward

This will be good in the long run -- Will it?

quote

"A huge price hike in oil prices will be very good in the long run. It will stimulate massive new research investment into battery systems which will benefit us all in the long term.

In fact this is exactly what's needed."

unquote

Is it really good in the long run? I'm not convinced. Simply doing research might not come up with a solution. Meanwhile the high oil prices, make ALL other prices go up. For some this is already too much. When things get bad crime goes up. Guess what, crime is up, cause things are getting real bad.

The only thing high oil prices are good for is so that opec and the saudi's can expand the oil fields.

Furthermore, PG&E (who had humble roots) is poorly managed (putting it mildly, they're more like corrupt to the bone) , SMUD (smud.org) is the better of the two on the west coast, neither is perfect.

The smart grid is already running into problems, from incorrect bulling, to dangerous EMF exposure. Frankly our officials don't care about our health, which is why we have poison in our food and water and health is a utter joke.

Regardless if you think the world is getting warmer/colder, or the climate is changing for the worse, the one thing certain is "Carbon Tax" is a de-facto fraud (similar to the mayan/2012 cruft) except in this case to funnel money to the UN/IMF, such actions are only a small taste of agenda 21, which ought be considered TREASON.

But then our constitutional republic has an intermittent constitution and our leaders don't obey their oaths. Which is why we used to be the #1 in freedom, but now have become the opposite, and all the dirty tricks we learned in the middle east are not going to be turned on the american citizens.

But you go ahead and give me a thumbs down.

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Another case of Retarded Reporter Syndrome

As a resident of California, and a driver of an electric vehicle, let me assure you that this story is simply stupid, surprised The Reg even picked it up.

Almost all of California Utilities have a separate EV rate. They install a separate meter at your house, you are billed separately for it, and it is actually MUCH MUCH lower than the general rate on the house ($0.05 USD/kwh for the car vs an average $0.27/kwh for the house in my neighborhood). Not to mention it took my utility 3 years after the electrician installed the meter bank to get around to plugging a meter into it (3 years of free electricity for the car).

Evidently, the reporter didn't bother to ask the utilities for comment (or whoever they asked didn't have a clue). Definitely didn't bother to find an actual OWNER of an EV. All of them would have pointed out the fatal logic flaw in 1/2 a second.

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but will gm be around to sell you a car?

The taxpayers are taking the gm bailout on the chin since their stock never hit the 130 mark needed to have everything coming up roses.

How long will gm run in the red until it's back to bailout or bankruptcy? How long can GMAC for whose name was changed to Ally to fool the taxpayers continue to finance both GM & Chysler vehicles without the people waking up?

I know Obama never had a real job but even an elementary school student can tell you that if the country is jobless and under-employed the people can't afford to buy cars. Same with nafta and all the free trade that shifted our industry out of the country. Now americans lost those $16-32/hr union jobs and are down to making 10/hr. Can't buy a new car with that; and you can't remain an automaker with such a population.

Unless of course government runs to the rescue.

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