The new IFO report on E- and Diesel cars

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The München based IFO (Information und FOrschung) is one of the largest research think tanks in Germany. Its former president Prof. Hans-Werner Sinn is an outspoken critic of Germany’s Energiewende and is constantly attacked but those who follow the politically correct official energy mantra. Three authors, Prof. Christoph Buchal (physics, Uni Köln), Hans-Dieter Kaul (research fellow, IFO) and Hans-Werner Sinn have published a report titled “Kohlemotoren, Windmotoren und Dieselmotoren: Was zeigt die CO2-Bilanz?” (link), which may be translated to “Coal-, Wind- and Diesel-Engines: what is the CO2 balance?”. This paper is remarkable not for what is shows (there are no fundamental new insights here), but because it is written in an extremely accessible language, without any superfluous statistical gizmo and technical jargon. It also uses only freely available data, without any activist cherry picking. The paper compares the CO2 emissions (in gCO2 per km) of a new TESLA 3 electric car and a MERCEDES 220d Diesel car. Here are some comments on this paper.

  1. The big lie

The EU authorities and the Bundesumweltamt all classify battery driven electric cars as “CO2 free”. This is unacceptable for at least 2 reasons:
– the electricity taken from the grid to charge the batteries is not CO2 free in Germany (the actual energy mix accounts for 550 gCO2/kWh)
the batteries used are a consumable, having a life-span generally well below that of the car, needing important energy amounts for production and eventual recycling.

So a correct LCA (life cycle analysis) must include the battery relevant CO2 emissions and naturally also those caused by transforming subterranean oil into a liter of Diesel fuel at the pump. These numbers are available from many research papers, and amount to the following:
– the battery LCA adds 73-98 gCO2/km for the electric car (here the Tesla 3)
– for the Diesel fuel one should add 21% to the CO2 quantity emitted by burning the gasoil in the engine.

This amounts to the following results:

  • the Tesla 3 emits 156 to 181 gCO2/km
  • the Mercedes 200d emits 141 gCO2/km

If the Mercedes had a methane (natural gas) driven engine, it would emit only 99 gCO2/km. The Tesla emissions are based on the 550 gCO2/kWh actual German energy mix (to be compared to France’s 100 gCO2/km !).

The conclusion is damning: the E-car emits more CO2 per km than the “infamous ” Diesel car, so replacing Diesel cars with electrical ones will do nothing for climate protection (if one accepts the dogma that CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are the cause of observed climate changes)

2. What to do with ever more solar and wind electricity?

Many papers point to the fact than when intermittent electricity producers as wind turbines and solar PV’s amount to more than 30% of the installed capacity, an increasing amount of renewable electricity must be dumped during peak “green” generation periods (much wind and sunny sky) by shutting off the wind turbines and solar panels; nevertheless they must be helped by an increasingly non-economic array of base-load capable producers like coal, gas or nuclear power stations. Together with many other researchers, the authors of the paper consider that battery-storage for handling for instance seasonal imbalance will not be possible, due to the huge quantity of rare materials needed and the exorbitant price tag. They suggest a two-step political decision:

  1. begin to switch all fossil engines to methane (natural gas), as this will surely have an enormous impact on the traffic related CO2 emissions (which remain stubbornly constant in Germany); the Netherlands have shown how to do this, and normal gas engines are easy to adapt to the methane fuel.
  2. begin to develop electrolysis of hydrogen using the excess renewable electricity, and use this hydrogen to make “green” methane (a process well known, see for instance here).

Both of these steps could use the existent network of refueling stations and the existing underground gas pipes infrastructure. Electrolysis and methanization do not come cheap, as the efficiency w.r. to burning raw hydrogen drops to 34%, a number comparable to the efficiency of a modern Diesel engine. Nevertheless the authors see the hydrogen way (be it as a fuel for fuel cells driving e-cars or as the basis for methanization driving thermal engines) as the only possibility to further increase renewable electricity production and usage.

3. A Post Scriptum

The authors conclude with some thoughts on the German Energiewende: forced upon by politics and NGOs to “save the planet” it has spectacularly failed in reducing Germany’s CO2 emissions. A recent STATISTA article (link) gives this diagram:

Europes_10_biggest_polluters

7 among the 10 biggest “polluters” are from Germany!

The authors fear that politics built on a lie may well lead to a general mistrust of the public and could in the near future make desirable and necessary political decisions  impossible to enforce .

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