Monday, February 23, 2015

First Oslo, then the world

Obviously no gas engines when there are no gas stations. In 2013 I argued that each percentage of vehicle sales that EVs take away from gas engines is a percent that will not be maintaining the gas engine infrastructure, and that loss of infrastructure support may make a difference in the near future in some places.

Norwegians are currently buying EVs for about 15% of vehicle sales (admittedly with a lot of incentives that may be gradually reduced). Obviously the existing vehicle fleet composition is different from the new vehicle fleet. Per the video above, a gas engine car bought 20 years from now could still be around 20 years later. Still I think the correct reference for when the gas infrastructure will start becoming spotty and inconvenient uses the percentage of vehicle miles traveled in a given time done by EV. People with two cars generally drive more with the newer one, and with electricity always costing less than gas, it will make sense for people to choose their EV when they can. That 15% will translate into 15% less gas revenue, not today but soon, and gas stations are going to notice it. If I were a young businessperson in Oslo today, I don't think I'd view a gas station as an attractive long term investment.

I don't expect range anxiety for gas vehicles so much as range annoyance as they have to go further and plan more to refill their cars. Mechanics and the rest of the infrastructure that support gas cars will also be less common and more expensive.

The above is obviously true at some large percentage of vehicle miles coming from EVs, the question is whether it can and will happen anytime soon at some smaller percent, say 10%. We could see that in Oslo in 5-10 years.

And FWIW, I don't think gas stations will completely disappear everywhere. There will be some vintage/hobby cars tooling around, maybe retrofitted to run biodiesel or other biofuels, and there will be some businesses that service them.


JamieB said...

At least in the case of filling stations they're discrete, independent entities so it can happen fairly organically as demand drops, but what about massive, interconnected distribution networks?

In the UK more than 80% of homes (>20 million) are heated by natural gas and the main strategy (at the moment) for cutting GHG emissions is to switch to heat pumps powered by low carbon electricity.

What happens to the gas grid while that transition is being made? You have to switch every single household in a region before you can shut down that section of the gas grid. While that's happening a dwindling number of customers have to pay for the gas grid's fixed costs (or the government has to step in to subsidise it).

Do you force everyone to switch within a defined timeframe? I suspect that won't go down well, especially given the costs.

I just can't see how it can be done and I'm not sure whether it has been thought through yet. It seems like a pretty important component of a low carbon technology transition so it would be good to have a plan in place before the change happens (if it ever does - I'm sceptical that heat pumps will ever gain much traction here).

Fernando Leanme said...

I live in a Spanish City with very few gas stations. Here we have Carrefour, BP, and Cepsa. So what we do is fill our vehicle with diesel once a month. This is helped by the 600 to 700 km range. We drive less than the average in the USA because we have a really nice tram service, and there's a tram stop right in front of the building.

Electric vehicles aren't seen around here. I see Toyota hybrids. The hybrid seems to be a practical solution, because it's possible to run the heater as well as the AC and get a decent range. People around here usually drive at 120 kmph on the expressways, and we have to go over mountains. This means it can be warm here at sea level but it cools down a lot as one climbs on the way to Valencia.

I don't think the refueling infrastructure will be impacted much in the future around here. I do think the usa could use much more rational city architecture, layout, and public transport. And I imagine it will happen over the next 50 years. When it does you will see less gas stations, but if you have a vehicle with 600 km range it's really not a big deal.

I see more problems for hydrogen fueled vehicles. Evidently a fuel cell is a better solution than a battery. But hydrogen is a tricky gas, and that infrastructure will require special safety precautions.

Fernando Leanme said...

Jamie B, that "low carbon electricity" won't happen unless the UK starts building a large nuclear power station every three years. I think the UK is a little bit irrational. Something like we see in Germany, where they sure love building large coal plants, and where the electric grid seems headed for brown out hell.

Here in Spain the government is much more careful. They have a few measures to comply with EU directives. However, yesterday I read in the newspaper they want to comply by burning tree pieces they import from the USA. This is a bit cynical, it copies the UK practice, which involves having trees chopped down in the SE of the USA, grinding them and drying the wood by burning coal. The dried wood is brought to the UK where it's burned to make electricity. This allows British greens feel very happy.

JamieB said...

Burning biomass in coal power stations is nothing to do with environmentalists and everything to do with politicians. I don't know of any environmental NGO that advocates it.

No new coal fired power stations will be constructed in the UK without carbon capture (so no new coal fired power stations will be constructed in the UK).

As for nuclear, our one new build project is displaying the usual combination of delays and cost escalation.

Meanwhile wind power is growing rapidly and it's looking increasingly like a significant tidal lagoon project will be going ahead, hopefully the first of quite a few around the UK.

Fernando Leanme said...

Jamie, wind power is extremely capital intensive, and it requires the maintenance of a fossil fuel infrastructure. I should add I'm an engineer with 40 years experience, and I have studied the subject carefully. The UK lacks the relief and hydrology to have hydropower as a reasonable option. Solar power isn't very efficient that far north and in such cloudy winter settings. Nuclear requires a steady load, it's more useable for baseload. And the UK is running out of natural gas.

This means the wind option has limits set by the available natural gas turbines. Long term, the only potential option is for the UK to install an extremely expensive high voltage line to connect with Ireland, another to connect with Spain, and build a series of nuclear power stations.

As regards the politicians, they do that wood burning to meet the eu requirements, which are poorly though as a result of being driven by irrational green lobbies. The same lobbies which insist on overbuilding wind power and solar panels, and thus are destroying grid functionality.

EliRabett said...

On street charging stations are becoming quite common in European cities including Spain. As usual F is short of memory.
(Blow up for actual numbers and locations)

Russell Seitz said...

I'd like to close the circle by buying an electric car propelled by on board low-head hydropower.

Who can convert a vintage coal-gas bag equipped Deux Chevaux so that the gas bag holds water and the exhaust can run a power turbine ?

I expect it to achieve almost continuous urban operation , since the fire hydrants b=needed to recharge are at most two blocks apart.

Andrew said...

Russell -

That's clearly daft, what you need to do is fix a 100 meter high water tower to your car, gives you a much better hydrostatic head and hence range. Admittedly it may affect cornering somewhat.

Nigel Franks said...

I wish I had a dollar for every pundit who spouts rubbish about Germany. Shame that you seem to use your experience to lead you down blind alleys FL.

As you're an engineer I'm surprised that you do't know that it takes many years to complete a coal fired power station: any projects that are nearing completion are legacy projects that were too advanced to cancel and or replace out dated ones. Many projects have been cancelled or put on indefinite hold, while some existing plant has closed down.

Germany's grid is one of the most reliable in the world, check out its SAIDI score:

Over the last couple of years gas has increased in price relative to coal, so Germany is burning proportionally more coal to compensate. However, total fossil fuel and nuclear production of electricity are down, renewables production has gone up. Total consumption is also down.

If you're interested here are live(ish) production details:

Canman said...

I couldn't help but notice how puny the solar pie slice of electricity is in the chart @00:53. That's zero point one percent! I don't know how old that chart is. Maybe it's caught up with geothermal's zero point four percent by now. It also reminded me of all the engineering illiterate warmists who are antinuclear.