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EV Path Option 7 – Could Dirty Power Lead to Zero Emissions?

Date:07-24 08:30 Source:Internet Info Agency Authour:Li Anding

When conducting an interview with Volvo in Sweden, I was told that the automaker requires every pure electric vehicle (EV) customer to sign an agreement guaranteeing that the power for recharging his/her EV will come from a “clean” power source. If the customer cannot make the promise, the automaker prefers to drop the deal.

What is “clean” electric power? The answer is clear in Europe, i.e., electric power generated from wind, tide, water, solar energy and renewable biofuels. Since coal emits a significant quantity of hazardous substances and carbon dioxide during combustion, coal power is considered “dirty” electric power in Europe.

So what is the proportion of clean electric power in Sweden? Hydropower accounts for 50%, wind power and other bio-fuel power for 45%, and carbon-based fuel power for only 5%. If you drive a pure EV in Sweden, there is a good chance that you can use clean power and thus achieve zero emissions in a true sense.

In China, however, statistics from the State Grid show that in 2010, 82% of electric power was generated from coal, and this was largely inferior coal with high sulfur and ash content. By 2020, it is estimated that coal power will still account for 71% of the electricity supply, whereas hydropower, wind power and solar power, plus the controversial nuclear power, account for less than 30% in combination.

What about emissions of fuel engines with advanced technologies? Take the locally-produced 1.4TSI Golf for an example. Its CO2 emissions are 143g/100km (or 111g/100km with diesel engine) over the whole cycle from well to wheel. In contrast, to provide the electricity required by an electric vehicle of the same power output, the carbon dioxide produced in power generation from coal equates to 171g/100km, plus additional sulfur dioxide emissions.

According to the Clean Air Initiative of Beijing, the four major coal-fired power stations that supply most of the electricity for the capital will be converted to coal gas by 2016. It remains as yet unclear whether Beijing's EVs will genuinely achieve zero emissions, but at least sulfur dioxide emissions will be brought down significantly. It is to be hoped that the number of smoggy days will fall correspondingly.

An unexpected piece of good news that might help to resolve China’s coal power deadlock came from Tesla. State Grid and Sinopec, two large SOEs, are showing great enthusiasm for partnering with Tesla to provide charging facilities. However, at a ceremony to celebrate the delivery of the first Tesla cars to their Chinese owners in Beijing in early April, Tesla CEO Elon Musk disclosed an intriguing piece of information – Tesla will establish an independent supercharger network across China, which will use solar power as a complement to the existing power grid.

As explained by Musk in an exclusive interview, the supercharger will be composed of solar film, battery and charger. The solar film converts solar energy into electric energy, and stores it in the battery, so that the charger can recharge EVs all day long. In this way it avoids the drawback of coal-based power generation which shifts pollution from the EV to the power station. While the system could be independent from the power grid, Musk still believes it will be beneficial to connect it with the power grid. Some of the time it will produce excess power, so the extra power can be suppled to the power grid, he said. He expects every supercharger to produce a positive net energy value; that is, it will generate more power than is consumed, which is also a net gain in terms of the fight against pollution.

I would love to see this happen in person, and soon. If the information provided in this exclusive interview turns out to be true, it will be a great blessing for China.

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