Tag Archives: Nissan Leaf

Hawaiian Electric Car Fuel Numbers Are Awful

Hawaii is one of my favorite places.   I love the local customs, the racially diverse society, the local food, and the weather is the best in the world.  Sometimes, though, the local politics drives me a bit crazy.

Hawaii is gaga over electric vehicles.  They have something called The Honolulu Clean Cities Coalition (HCC),  a non profit organization dedicated to reducing petroleum use in the transportation sector in Hawaii by advocating electric cars.  Oh, yes….it’s funded by the feds.

Here’s the problem.  Electric cars in Hawaii run on oil.  This makes them both expensive to purchase and expensive to operate.  And they have those nasty difficult to dispose of batteries.  Hawaii gets most of its electricity by burning oil.  Electric cars are only clean and environmentally friendly if their electrical source is clean and environmentally preferred.  The state is spending millions in federal, state and local subsidies to burn oil to make electricity to put into an auto…when they could skip the middle man and simply buy a gasoline vehicle.

There are federal and local subsidies here, there, and everywhere.  Without the subsidies, Hawaii would not have the program they have….and the citizens of the state would be better off.  They would have lower taxes and a cleaner environment.

Most electricity in Honolulu is produced by either oil or coal.  Even the natural gas used in the state is a manufactured process that starts out as oil.  There is a small amount of wind, a still under construction bio-fuels plant, and a rapidly growing Solar power generation program complete with Federal and State subsidies.

2012 was a banner year for Solar power in Honolulu.  The state subsidy (35%) went away on December 31, 2012 and people rushed to cash in.   The state revenue commissioner is not pleased.  He’s having trouble finding funds to offset the loss in tax revenue that Hawaii’s 35% credit caused.

Hawaiian Electric has special rates for electric vehicles.   If you pay $1.50 a month, you can get a sophisticated meter that allows you to pay rates based upon time of day.  The rates  encourage people to charge their cars at night which causes more oil to be burned because the main green alternative, Solar, is not available.

Honolulu’s typical rate is right around $.40 cents per kilowatt hour.   You could be paying as little as $.34 or as much as $.45.  The National average is a bit less than $.12.  The rate applies to all electricity used in the house, so it is really important not to use much juice in the evening.  The rate is a few cents higher on the other islands.

Let’s start by being optimistic…we’ll use 35 cents per kilowatt hour as a base price.  Next we add 20% or 7 cents per kilowatt hour to cover the losses in the charging and battery system.   In my last post I calculated a cost of 7.2 cents for the 220 V charging system, but I think I was a bit high, so we’ll just add 5 cents here.  That makes the cost of electricity in the vehicle 47 cents per kilowatt hour.

Now we must make an assumption on the cost of gasoline.   Yesterday I bought gasoline at a Costco in Honolulu for $3.999 per gallon.  If we pay 47 cents per kilowatt hour, how many miles would we have to go to spend $4.00 on fuel?

The EPA says the Leaf will go 2.94 miles per kilowatt.  At 47 cents per kilowatt that equals 47/2.94 or  15.99 cents per mile or 4.0/.1599 or 25 miles per gallon equivalent.

If I happen to fill up at a peak time I use 45*1.2+5 or 59 cents per kilowatt hour.   That math looks like this  59/2.94 or 20.06 cents per mile or 4/.201 or 19.9 miles per gallon equivalent.  Most economy cars on the road in Hawaii do better than that.  The Nissan Altima I am driving is averaging a about 2o.5 miles per gallon.

When an electric car uses oil based electricity it pollutes more than a modern efficient gasoline vehicle.  Hawaii would be better off dumping the entire Electric car program.  Gasoline cars are cheaper, cleaner burning and they don’t have those nasty Lithium Ion Battery packs.

The EPA and Hawaiian Electric try to make Electric cars sound like a good deal…and the locals here have installed over 200 electric charging stations…buying into the program.  The EPA could be right in a place with very low electricity prices, but there’s no way this statement by Hawaiian Electric is true

Switching to electric vehicles will use substantially less oil at lower cost to reach the same level of mobility, even if oil is used in the production of electricity.

Come on guys, tell the truth…we can take it.

EPA numbers — Nissan Leaf 99 miles per gallon?

When something appears too good to be true, I become suspicious.  When the government is providing the information…

I have been trying to figure out whether an electric car is as good as the 99 miles per gallon numbers make it sound.   I thought it would be easy.  I was WRONG.

Let’s begin by looking at data on the 2012 Nissan Leaf.   The EPA says the Leaf averages 99 miles per gallon and will use $561 worth of fuel per  year when driven 15,000 miles.

Edmunds.com says fuel will cost $1,781.  One is triple the other.   Same car, same miles per year, same MPG.  Whhaaaat?

Who’s right?   The EPA says the leaf uses 34 kilowatt hours to go 100 miles and it will cost $561 to drive 15,000 miles.  If you do the math the EPA is assuming electricity will cost 11 cents per kilowatt hour.

The EIA estimated average residential electricity rate for November 2012 for all customers  in the USA was 11.74 cents per kilowatt hour. So far the EPA looks a bit high but not too bad.

Rates vary with location.  The EIA says Hawaii is the highest at $.3672 and  Louisiana is lowest at $.0838.  The East Coast of the USA (New England + the Atlantic states) averages about $.15.

I just looked at Hawaii’s rates and the EIA estimate is wrong.  They put Hawaii a full 5 cents per kilowatt lower than Hawaiian Electric rate sheets.  The EIA is also ignoring the $9 per month charge Hawaiian Electric adds to the bill.  Hawaiian Electric has rates that encourage conservation.  As you use more your rates go even higher.  The Energy Information Administration appears to be omitting some costs… and it starts out higher than the EPA does.

If you pay less than 11 cents per kilowatt hour and you have a home charger paid for by someone else, then the EPA data might be right for you…if their efficiency data includes charging losses and vehicle efficiency is not impacted significantly by vehicle accessories.

EPA numbers have been found to be suspect in the past because the automakers perform the tests.  Both Hyundai and Ford have been recently chastised for inflated mileage numbers. Changed assumptions about vehicle efficiency and/or battery efficiency could dramatically change results.

Let’s look at the average data for the East coast.  Electricity gets to the meter for 15 cents per kilowatt hour.   It then loses about 20% of the energy going through the battery charge and discharge cycle.  I suppose the EPA might be taking that into consideration, but I doubt it.  By the time it gets to the car it costs 18 cents.

But it is necessary to install a charging system to charge the car.  Coulomb has a charging system on sale for $2789+ installation.   I’d guess you can get one installed and ready to go for $3500 to $4000.

Let’s assume it lasts long enough to allow you to drive a car 150,000 miles. $3700/150,000 miles equals 2.47 cents per mile driven.  The EPA estimates the leaf will go 2.94 miles per kilowatt hour so 2.94* 2.47 equals the cost per kilowatt hour the charging adds or 7.2 cents per kilowatt hour.  We have just assumed that the charger will last 10 years and require no maintenance…..

Now lets add everything up for the Eastern USA (New England + the Atlantic States).  We begin at $.15 for the cost of electricity, add 3 cents for the charging system inefficiency and add 7.2 cents to pay for the charger kit at the house. the total is 25.2 cents per kilowatt hour.

Now we must make an assumption on the cost of gasoline.   Let’s assume gasoline costs $3.70 per gallon.  If we pay 25.2 cents per kilowatt hour, how many miles would we have to go to spend $3.70 on fuel?

The EPA says the Leaf will use  2.94 miles per kilowatt.  At 25.2 cents per kilowatt that equals 25.2/2.94 or  8.57 cents per mile or 3.7/.0857 or 43.1 miles per gallon equivalent.

A person in New England paying $.15 for a kilowatt of electricity at his house will be able to drive 43 miles on what would be the equivalent cost for gasoline at $3.70 per gallon.   That doesn’t sound as good as 99 mpg sounds does it?

I have assumed all electricity will be provided by a home charger.  Public chargers will probably be more expensive.  I wonder what happens when it’s really hot out and the AC is on all the way.  Depending on what assumptions you make…Edmunds.com could be right.