Plug-in Hybrids

Our condo/strata is looking at adding infrastructure for EV charging. The following are some of thoughts I sent out to other owners.

Some trivia:

15 trillion (15,000,000,000,000) litres of oil are consumed on the planet per day.

There are 1.4 billion cars on the planet, 3.9 million in Canada.

The energy cost to manufacture a new car is around the equivalent of approximately 1000 litres of gas.

The typical weight of a battery pack for a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) is 1000 lbs. For a plug in hybrid it is around 70 lbs and full hybrid smaller still.

Lithium-ion batteries typically consist of a lithium cobalt oxide cathode and a graphite anode. There is a lot of controversy around mining practices for both. There are also issues around the disposal of used batteries.

An alternative is a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Interestingly Toyota has been selling the Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle since 2014 – mostly in California and Japan. Their first BEV is only coming out next year. Their first Hybrid (the Prius) came out in 1997.

The problem with hydrogen fuel cell today is the clean production of hydrogen and its availability (there is one hydrogen fuel station in Victoria and several in Vancouver). Clean production of hydrogen is possible – but will only be cost effective some time in the future.

Basically nothing is completely clean today – other than walking or riding your bicycle, so anything you choose to do will involve a compromise and will depend heavily on how much you drive and how far.

We can only speak for ourselves. We presently have a hybrid. We just came back from a trip to Osoyoos – putting on a total of around 1000 km. Average consumption was 5.2 litres per 100 km so: we used about 52 litres of gas for the trip.

If we are not going through the mountains (say going to Victoria), we can get around 4.8 litres per 100 km.

In my opinion a BEV only makes sense if you do a lot of driving – like commuting to work every day or something like that. If you don’t do much driving, the cost to the environment of manufacturing 1000 lbs of battery is not going to offset the savings in C02 emissions.

A plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is the best compromise for the type of driving we do at this time. Here are some of our numbers:

Since we bought the car 4 years ago, we have averaged 8150 km/year. About 2500 km of that is longer haul (over 100 km a trip) with the rest being around town.

Around town consumption with the Camry is about 6 litres per 100 km with long haul at around 5.2. Total consumption per year is then:

2500 kms at 5.2 litres per 100 km = 130 litres

5650 kms at 6 litres per 100 km = 339 litres

Total = 469 litres per year

Note that the tank takes 61 litres so that amounts to not quite 8 full tanks of gas per year.

We don’t think we do enough driving to justify (either financially or environmentally) buying another car at this time – more likely in about 4 to 5 years time when we will likely drive less – particularly long haul. We would more likely buy a smaller car (like the Prius) rather than a larger one.

In order to do a valid comparison – let’s assume we buy a Prius Prime PHEV with the same kilometres per year as above. Long haul we only get a slight advantage over the above (based on the smaller car). The real savings is in local driving.

2500 kms at 4.3 litres per 100 km = 107.5 litres

5650 kms at 1.8 litres per 100 kms = 101.7 litres

Total = 209.2 litres per year.

Savings = 260 litres per year. You might argue that it would take 4 years to make up for the fact that you are getting a new car manufactured (at 1000 litres equivalent of gas to manufacture a new car).

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