Friday, September 02, 2022

The truth about electric car range: how far an EV will really go on a full charge

It’s one of the biggest criticisms levelled at modern electric cars: yes, the official range figures look fine – but you’ll rarely get close to them in the real world.

In the years up to and beyond 2030, when the sale of brand new petrol and diesel cars will end, many more of us are going to have to get used to life with an electric car – and one of the incontrovertible facts of that life is that an EV will rarely travel as far on a charge as the figures say it will.

Why is that? What can we do about it? And what sort of range can one really expect to get before one runs out of charge? To answer these questions, we’ve combined our own experience of road testing cars with insight from an expert to give you the best idea of what to expect if you’re considering making the switch to battery power.

The answer lies in the official test. Currently, the range figures the manufacturers are allowed to publish are dictated by the WLTP, or World-harmonised Light vehicle Test Procedure. This is the same test used to calculate fuel economy for petrol and diesel cars and, as is widely understood, it doesn’t fully replicate the sort of conditions you’ll encounter in the real world.

To put it another way, the discrepancy between the real-world range of your electric car and its official range figure occurs for the same reason there’s a difference between the fuel consumption you’ll achieve in your petrol or diesel car and its official fuel economy figure: while the latest WLTP test is more realistic than the old NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) economy test, it still doesn’t quite reflect real-world conditions accurately (more of which we’ll come onto).

With an electric car, that discrepancy is often more noticeable because a drop in range can make the difference between having to stop for a lengthy charge during your journey, or not.

But this isn’t the only reason. The other issue is that electric cars’ batteries perform better in warmer temperatures, and worse when it’s colder. So modern EVs have sophisticated battery heating and cooling systems to keep the battery operating at its optimum temperature. These systems drain energy themselves, though, so their usage still results in a drop in range.

Given that the WLTP tests are carried out at 23 degrees and 14 degrees, with the latter test factored into the former using a complex formula, it’s inevitable that the colder temperatures we usually see here in the UK in autumn, winter and spring will result in lower ranges than predicted in those official tests; there’s no escape even in summer, though, because batteries operate best in a fixed temperature range, so on the warmest of days extra energy must be expended cooling them.

What’s more, this effect is exacerbated in extremes of temperature because there’s an additional drain on the battery from the car’s electrical accessories. Heating elements and fans, heated seats, lights and wipers will all reduce the car’s range further if they’re activated in cooler temperatures; likewise, air-conditioners working hard against the midday sun will reduce range in particularly hot weather.

Some of this effect, it should be noted, can be mitigated by preconditioning – which is to say, using an app or on-screen menus to tell the car in advance when you plan to leave, either manually or by setting a timer. That way, the car can heat or cool the battery and the car’s interior while it’s still plugged in, using power from the mains, which causes less of a drain on the battery than if it has to do so once it’s unplugged.

However, this requires one to plan ahead and precondition the car to get the best of it – something some drivers simply can’t or won’t remember to do.

How far will my electric car actually go?

This is where it becomes tricky. You see, because there are so many variables, it’s hard to predict. But Andrew English, the Telegraph’s motoring correspondent, says his personal rule of thumb is to prepare for the worst – that way, his expectations will always be bettered.

“In cold weather, with the heaters going, at speed and going up and down hills, I always expect to halve the official range,” he says. “You probably won’t use quite that much, but it’s better to be pleasantly surprised if you don’t, than caught out if you run out early.”

And as English points out, it’s not just about whether you’ll get there – it’s about how many miles you’ll want to have available when you arrive. “If you want to get home again, you might need to get to a charger first, so you’ll want to have at least a few miles in reserve – not arrive on zero.”

The key, then, is to build in a margin of error, and it’s here that cars with bigger batteries start to come into their own. For example, in a test of the Kia EV6, a car whose WLTP range is 300 miles, English says he struggled to get more than 237 miles’ predicted range to show on the car’s dashboard display – 79 per cent of the WLTP figure.

That figure, by the way, was with the radio, the passenger heater and all of the other accessories inside the car switched off – so the dent in the range came purely from the need to heat the battery on a cold day.

Meanwhile, our long-term test of an Audi e-tron Sportback, with its quoted range of 247 miles, actually achieved around 190 miles, or around 76 per cent of the official figure, before it slowed to a crawl.

These examples should give you a rough idea of what can be achieved, proportionately, in an EV in the midst of the British winter. In the summer, expect better results, but in all likelihood you’ll only ever see the official WLTP range in ideal conditions.


New York Was Wrong to Close the Indian Point Nuclear Plant

In recent years, a number of fully operational nuclear power plants with years and sometimes decades remaining in their permitted operating lives have been prematurely shuttered in the United States. Many of these closures have been politically motivated, coming on the heels of drawn out litigation from state governments and environmental groups who are not motivated by specific concerns, but by an overarching distrust of nuclear technology.

Closures have also come as the result of shifting energy economics caused in no small part by high subsidies for wind and solar technologies, coupled with the refusal to treat nuclear power as green or zero carbon; despite the fact that nuclear power is less carbon intensive than solar, and has the same carbon intensity as wind, it is not treated as such.

It has now been more than a year since the premature closure of New York State’s Indian Point Energy Center, where Units 2 and 3 were shuttered on April 31st of 2020 and 2021 respectively. As other nuclear plants are on the chopping block for the near future, there is no better time to reflect on the outcomes.

Since the closure of Indian Point, New York has built two new natural gas plants and increased its imports from neighboring states and Canada.

Although the state has built new wind and solar in the interim, and has more coming online later this year, there is a limit to the benefit that this capacity can provide to the state’s grid because of the intermittency of those technologies. We can see the impact of intermittency when we examine the capacity factor of various energy sources.

Capacity factor compares the actual output of a facility to the theoretical output it could produce if it were operating at its maximum capacity. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) for January of 2022, the average capacity factor for wind facilities in the U.S. was 38.5 percent, and for solar facilities it was only 17.4 percent. In comparison, the capacity factor of nuclear power that same month was 99.3 percent. For natural gas, this figure was 63.6 percent, but it would be dramatically higher if gas were not the resource that is most often cycled up and down to account for the short falls of intermittent technologies because of its high degree of flexibility on short time frames.

Because of intermittency, all of that new wind and solar capacity currently requires reliable base-load power to back it up. So in reality, most of the base-load that Indian Point was providing has been replaced by the new gas plants the Cricket Valley Energy Center, a 1,100 MW natural gas electricity generating facility operated by Advanced Power on behalf of EthosEnergy Group, and the CPV Valley Energy Center, a 680 MW natural gas-fueled combined cycle power plant owned by Competitive Power Ventures.

Now, natural gas is a great energy source to replace this lost capacity with. It can cycle up and down quickly to handle the inconsistency of wind and solar for the grid. But the claim made by the Cuomo administration and the environmental groups that worked to close Indian Point was that the plant would be replaced entirely by renewables and efficiency gains. This simply isn’t the case.

As an array of energy writers, myself included, predicted at the time of Indian Point’s closing, not only was the plant’s capacity not replaced exclusively by renewables and efficiency gains, but it also led to increased energy imports for the state, and increased grid reliability concerns.

Imports accounted for 19.7 percent of New York State’s Electricity in 2019, this increased to 22.2 percent in 2020, the year that Unit 2 shut down, and rose to 27.2 percent in 2021 when Unit 3 followed suit. Increased imports, especially from international providers like Hydro Quebec are all fine and good until frigid temperatures hit New York and Quebec simultaneously and the utility prioritizes capacity for its local market.

The most recent Comprehensive Reliability plan from the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) found that although the states power system, “will meet all applicable reliability criteria from 2021 through 2030 for forecasted system demand in normal weather,” the state’s reliability margins are shrinking, and during extreme weather conditions reliability becomes far more uncertain.

The NYISOs Vice President of System & Resource Planning, Zach Smith, said that the study, “demonstrates that our reliability margins are thinning to concerning levels beginning in 2023.” The reliability of New York State’s electricity grid has been compromised by this and other ill-advised decisions, and it is only likely to get worse from here.

As policies discouraging or outright banning the residential and commercial uses of natural gas for cooking, heating, and other uses are discussed with increasing frequency by state legislators and regulators, and the market for electric cars increases in the state, there will only be increasing stress on the grid. The failure to maintain and create adequate reliable sources to meet that demand is a policy choice. Months or years down the line when the consequences of decreasing grid reliability become apparent, decision makers will treat it as an act of God that couldn’t have been foreseen, but that simply is not the case. The logical conclusion of this course of action is and has been clear: prematurely shuttering reliable capacity is no way to maintain an electrical grid.


9 Past Climate Change Forecasts

“‘The trouble with almost all environmental problems,’ says Paul R. Ehrlich, the population biologist, ‘is that by the time we have enough evidence to convince people, you’re dead. … We must realize that unless we are extremely lucky, everybody will disappear in a cloud of blue steam in 20 years.’” —The New York Times, 1969.

“No real action has been taken to save the environment, [Ehrlich] maintains. And it does need saving. Ehrlich predicts that the oceans will be as dead as Lake Erie in less than a decade.” —Redlands Daily Facts, 1970.

“Scientist Predicts a New Ice Age by 21st Century: Air pollution may obliterate the sun and cause a new ice age in the first third of the next century. … If the current rate of increase in electric power generation continues, the demands for cooling water will boil dry the entire flow of the rivers and streams of continental United States. … By the next century ‘the consumption of oxygen in combustion processes, world-wide, will surpass all of the processes which return oxygen to the atmosphere.’” —The Boston Globe, 1970.

“The world could be as little as 50 or 60 years away from a disastrous new ice age, a leading atmospheric scientist predicts. … ‘In the next 50 years,’ the fine dust man constantly puts into the atmosphere by fossil fuel-burning could screen out so much sunlight that the average temperature could drop by six degrees. If sustained ‘over several years’—‘five to 10,’ he estimated—‘such a temperature decrease could be sufficient to trigger an ice age!’” —Washington Post, Times Herald, 1971.

“Dear Mr. President: … We feel obliged to inform you on the results of the scientific conference held here recently. … The main conclusion of the meeting was that a global deterioration of climate, by order of magnitude larger than any hitherto experienced by civilized mankind, is a very real possibility and indeed may be due very soon. The cooling has natural cause and falls within the rank of processes which produced the last ice age. … The present rate of the cooling seems fast enough to bring glacial temperatures in about a century.” —Brown University, Department of Geological Sciences, 1972.

“However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing.

“Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age. Telltale signs are everywhere—from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest. Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7 [degrees] F. Although that figure is at best an estimate, it is supported by other convincing data. When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered year round.” —Time magazine, 1974.

“A senior U.N. environmental official says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000.” —Associated Press, 1989.

“Unless drastic measures to reduce greenhouse gases are taken within the next 10 years, the world will reach a point of no return.” —former Vice President Al Gore, 2006.


Boris Johnson 'goes nuclear' as he prepares to sign off on first of EIGHT new atomic reactors

Boris Johnson will today sign off on the first of eight new nuclear power stations – and urge his successor to focus on shoring up the UK’s energy supplies.

In one of his final speeches as Prime Minister, Mr Johnson will say investment in domestic production is the only long-term solution to the energy crisis.

The Prime Minister will announce that the Government has agreed in principle to take a 20 per cent stake in the new £30 billion Sizewell C reactor in Suffolk, which will be built by French firm EDF next to its current Sizewell B plant.

And he will confirm plans to sign off on a further seven new nuclear plants by 2030.

Mr Johnson will warn that the war in Ukraine and the subsequent surge in energy prices has underlined the need to boost domestic production, which has been ignored for years. ‘The situation we face today is deeply worrying, but this government has already stepped in to help with billions of pounds in support,’ he will say.

‘And our British Energy Security Strategy is not just about meeting demand today, but many years hence.

‘The big decisions this government has made on our energy future will bequeath a United Kingdom where energy is cheap, clean, reliable, and plentiful, and made right here on British soil.

‘A future where families and businesses are never again at the mercy of international markets or foreign despots.’

Mr Johnson will also urge his successor to maintain the focus on green energy, saying the UK’s net-zero pledges should be maintained.

And he will criticise previous administrations for failing to grasp the nettle on controversial issues such as nuclear power. A source said: ‘His view is that if previous administrations had got a grip on this, Sizewell C would be warming homes by now, not just getting under way.’

Speaking during a visit to Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, yesterday, Mr Johnson said: ‘This is the country that split the atom for the first time, we built the first civilian nuclear reactor and for 13 years under the previous Labour government... we didn’t start a single nuclear reactor. We’re going to do one every year.

‘I’m not saying nuclear is the only solution – of course it isn’t – but it’s a part of the solution.

‘You’ve got to have nuclear as part of your baseload so it’s reliable, so it can continue to deliver steady sustainable and, by the way, carbon-neutral supplies.’

The Sizewell C reactor will generate around 3.2 gigawatts of electricity – enough to power more than six million homes. Final negotiations are continuing with EDF but Whitehall sources said it was a ‘done deal’ that the taxpayer would take a 20 per cent stake in a project expected to cost up to £30 billion.




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