Glenn Doty is a vital part of Doty Windfuels, a company with a terrific future in synthetic fuels made from off-peak wind energy, water, and CO2.
Of course, their industry position makes Glenn and his company a natural competitor to electric vehicles, and thus some may regard the statements he makes on the subject as suspect. Still, as a scientist, I’ve consistently seen that he maintains a total objectivity in his analysis.
In his recent comment, he’s brought up some interesting and important fallacies in the analyses we’ve used in determining the validity of electric transportation as an eco-friendly replacement for internal combustion engines. Having said this, here are a few things to think about:
1) A significant amount of electrical energy from coal is dumped back to ground each night because the rapid ramping of coal plants is not feasible and the off-peak energy is too expensive to store. To that degree, of course, one could say that any of the energy that would go to charging EVs in that scenario would have no carbon content at all.
2) Some of the most EV-friendly parts of the world, e.g., the Pacific Northwest of the US with its massive amounts of hydro, and France with its nuclear, produce electricity 24 hours a day with very little carbon.
3) I look at this whole evolving arena in terms of decades of growth and change. Even the most optimistic among us understands that the adoption of EVs will take decades, during which the levelized cost of energy from several different flavors of renewable sources will continue to come down, which, of course, will drive higher levels of penetration. Simultaneously, aging coal plants will be decommissioned.
4) At the same time we are achieving significant penetration of EVs, I believe that we will be implementing energy storage and smart-grid technology (including V2G) at approximately the same rate, and that these items will mutually re-enforce one another, e.g., more EVs will enable a greater penetration of renewables.
In conclusion, I believe Glenn’s insight is correct, and that the DoE’s concept of applying the current grid-mix to determine the eco-value of EVs is fallacious to a certain extent. But here, I think you have four reasons that this is a bit more complicated and interesting, and that EVs do, in fact, have significant value today – and even more with each passing year.