by James Kraus
The new plug-in vehicles, such as the Mini E, Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf are being touted by many as emission-free (or nearly so in the case of the Chevrolet.) In fact, these new high-tech wonder cars are to a large extent coal-powered. In the United States, by far the largest share of power generation is provided by coal-burning powerplants at approximately 50%, its closest rivals being nuclear and natural gas at a roughly 20% share each. In Europe, coal and natural gas are the largest sources of power, each having about a 30% share.
Only in Switzerland, where 75% of power is produced through hydroelectric generation, and France, where 80% is created by nuclear fission, are electric vehicles close to “emission-free.”
The 400+ volt fast-chargers now being installed throughout the EU and US will provide quite a load on electrical grids, consuming 50,000 watts to produce a 30-minute recharge. Such rapid power consumption provides a daunting challenge to installed base load capacity, and will likely result in further increases in coal consumption.