Volts for Oil

You’ve probably heard the “long tailpipe” argument that is commonly brought up when talking about electric vehicles, right? That your EV is actually a “coal powered”, like Jeremy Clarkson likes to say, and you’re just moving emissions to another location. What very few seem to realize is that refining the gasoline also uses up some energy. Quite a lot actually. It’s something that the oil industry really doesn’t want you to think about. And this is never reflected in car advertisements and their emission figures. (What a surprise.)

“You have enough electricity to power all the cars in the country if you stop refining gasoline” – Elon Musk

Jarkko, the builder of kWsaki made a pretty interesting comparison, based on this Robert Llewellyn’s video. It takes about 1.2kWh to produce one litre of gasoline. And if your gasoline motorcycle consumes 6 litres per 100km (which was also pretty close to what my bike used when it was gasoline powered), it uses about 72Wh of electricity per kilometer. And as an electric conversion my motorcycle uses only 55Wh/km. In effect, it now uses LESS electricity per km than as a gasoline bike. Funny, eh?

Let’s take this a bit further, emissions-wise. Since it’s mostly coal power (at least in UK) that is used to refine gasoline and coal’s CO2 emissions are about 1000g/kWh, the extra CO2 emissions would be about 72g/km (same would apply to any gasoline powered vehicle), in addition to it’s regular tailpipe emissions of about 140g/km. Now as an all-electric and with wind power (estimated life-cycle emissions of about 12g/kWh) the bike is responsible of about 0.67g/km worth of CO2 emissions, which is less than with walking (since you need to eat to produce the energy). The battery manufacturing also accounts for some emissions (approx. 3g/km or so). But still a “bit” better, don’t ya think?

So much for the “long tailpipe” argument.


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