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From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: Your electric car of the future.
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2008 06:03:27 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Thu, 12 Jun 2008 21:47:06 -0700, RW Salnick <snick@none.none> wrote:

>Balanced View wrote:

>> The point is the car isn't emitting anything. According to California's
>> Air Resources Board (CARB), a "Zero-emissions vehicle"
>> is a vehicle that has:
>>    * No tailpipe emissions
>>    * No evaporative emissions
>>    * No onboard emission-control systems that can deteriorate over time
>>    * No emissions from gasoline refining or sales

Well, let's see.  In 1897 Indiana came within a hair of legislating pi=3.0 Or
(same bill) 3.2 if you like.  Point is, it's not very good form to look to a
legislature for a technical definition.

This isn't a group for lawyers to debate legal definitions.  It's a practical
and somewhat technical group.  If we could agree to call an electric car a
"CARB-ZEV" then we could move on.

>> You guys can split hairs all you want, even if coal is used to generate
>> the power, the pollution from the plant is less tan and
>> easier to control than in thousands of individual ICE cars.

*sigh* Those who can't do the math are doomed to look dumb.  No it's not.  A
knowledge of simple statistics should show you that.  Now before you try to
sling URLs from dubious sites (which is all you can do because you have no
actual experience or knowledge), understand this.  I spent much of my career
in the utility industry.  Mostly nuclear but some on the coal emissions side.
I spent another decent amount of time in the automotive industry,
specifically, working on OEM emission testing and certification.  I know both
sides fairly well.

First off, after the first 30 seconds or so of operation, modern cars are zero
emissions.  Many times I've watched the emissions test equipment hooked to a
car under test zero out after the cats light off and the PCM goes closed loop.
It has to be that way to meet the somewhat silly EPA standards because the
first few seconds of cold operation are, relatively speaking, nasty.  The
light-off emissions take up all the available headroom.

Second, evaporative emissions.  The EPA test for this is to put the vehicle in
an air-tight tank and collect all emissions for 24 hours, including during hot
soak.  The standards are so low that for the past few years, all evaporative
emissions work has centered on diffusion through the fuel line walls.  That is
one of the reasons most cars now have semi-rigid plastic fuel lines instead of
rubber.  Rubber is simply too permeable.

It used to be a joke that the air going into an engine was dirtier than that
coming out but now it's true in many cases.  To put this in perspective, Ford
and GM both have for several years manufactured their own pure air from "4
9's" nitrogen, oxygen and argon for use during emissions testing.   The reason
is that the clean (by any other standard) ambien air around the testing lab
contains enough trace pollution that it affects the emission testing.  There
are massive cylinder farms of compressed gases manifolded together, feeding
the emissions dyno test cells.  Ford has about 100 cells and I forget the
number for GM.

The EPA now requires auto manufacturers to warrant the performance of the
emissions system for 150,000 miles.  To achieve that goal out in the world,
the DESIGN criteria that the engineers work against is 200,000 miles.

Now simple statistics tell us that there will be a distribution of compliance
across the population of cars in the familiar bell distribution.  Some will be
better and some will be worse than the standard.  The number of non-compliant
cars whose emission systems have failed to meet specs is far down on the skirt
of the bell curve.  The OEMs test to the EPA's satisfaction to prove that.

The flip-side of that is that the fleet as a whole is ALWAYS clean.  Testing
has proven that too.  There are individual failures, as one would expect.  The
effect of a single car's emission system has an infinitesimal effect on the
fleet output.

Let's look at the other side, at coal plants.  The EPA long ago
semi-rationalized its regulatory approach to what they call "Best Commercial
Technology" or sometimes "Best Available Technology".  That is, they have
drifted somewhat away from fairyland and now regulate according to what is
technically and economically possible at the time.

It simply is not technically possible to control the emissions of a coal plant
to the same degree as an auto engine.  That is not to say that coal plants are
dirty.  Quite the contrary, what comes out the stack these days is almost
purely carbon dioxide and water vapor.

But consider this.  With gasoline, neither sulfur nor mercury nor solid
particulates are even on the radar scope because they simply don't exist in
gasoline.  (I don't consider either sulfur or mercury emissions at the
currently regulated levels to be any problem at all but we're splitting hairs

This is when the emission systems are working properly.  These systems are
very high maintenance, the nature of the beasts, and so the regulations
reflect that.  When, say, a particulate precipitator or bag house or sulfur
scrubber goes out, the plant doesn't have to trip off-line. For each type of
malfunction there is a Time To Repair (TTR) time limit during which the plant
can operate.  After that limit expires, the plant must shut down or throttle
back, depending on the particular failure.  This policy recognizes two things:
1) emissions equipment breaks a lot and 2) the electricity the plant generates
is too vital to lose arbitrarily.

When the emission system of a coal plant goes down the plant emits a HUGE
amount of whatever constituent the system was controlling.  If the
electrostatic precipitator/bag house goes down, the stack billows fly ash.  If
the scrubber goes down, the plant emits a yellow plume of sulfur oxides gas.

The important concept here is that while a single failure of an extremely
reliable emission component on an auto engine has essentially no effect on
overall air quality, the single failure of a component on a coal plant causes
massive emissions.

Along the same vein, coal plant emission system are routinely taken off-line
for short intervals for maintenance.  Just a fact of life.

When the emission systems are operating normally, the marginal emission from a
coal plant from the electricity necessary to charge my electric car is
miniscule but is still a bit higher and a bit different than those of the same
car with a modern gas engine.  If I plug my car in when the coal plant's
emission system is NOT operating normally then the marginal emissions
represented by the charging energy are relatively huge.

All that is academic around here because almost all my power comes from
nuclear plants.  When I plug in, a few more atoms get split and nothing but
steam and warm water is emitted from the plant.

As a practical matter, none of this matters a whit since the air is clean most
everywhere except a few pathological places like SoCal and Denver and those
places were nasty when the Indians ran things.  Just don't try to bullsh*t me
about my electric car being zero emission because it isn't.  At least not when
I'm outside this nice nuclear powered area.

>Question:  When are the enviro-wackos going to allow a new coal-fired
>power plant to be built in California?
>Answer:  Never.  They want it to be built in Nevada or New Mexico or
>Arizona, but most importantly, out of sight and out of mind, so they
>don't have to face up to the consequences of their actions, and so they
>can continue to feel smugly "green" and all zero-emissiony

Answer #2: When the lights go out.

Answer #3: When they can't afford to operate even night lights.

I recently helped a friend who lives in CA get a natural gas-fired low speed
diesel generator built and connected to his house.   The reason is that he can
generate electricity from natural gas at a fraction of the cost of grid
electricity.  His rate structure is complex but I do recall that one figure is
25 cents a kWh in the summer.  Gaaaaaa!  A friggin quarter for every kWh.
That's beyond outrageous.

Well actually, they're getting exactly what they deserve.  I just wish Nevada,
NM and other surrounding states would quite selling CA electricity at any
price.  Let 'em reap what they've sowed.

Maybe what we need is a federal law that prohibits transmitting electricity
across service area (TVA and BPA, for example) boundaries or state lines,
whichever one applies.  That would neatly address the problems that NIMBY
states cause.  Such as that other cancerous tumor on the power grid, NYC and
surrounds.  Remember that NY under Cuomo was the bunch that stole the brand
new Shoreham nuclear plant from LILCO and tore it down.  Let 'em go dark and
stay dark until they build their own plants.


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