‘A Tesla for people who like to play Rambo’

Each week we take a look with EV specialist and Innovation Origins columnist Auke Hoekstra at what caught his eye on topical issues or what he runs into when it concerns the preservation of our planet.

Nobody will have missed it: The presentation of the Tesla Cybertruck. The opinions are divided – from unbelievably ugly to brilliant and everything in between.Though Tesla is getting a lot of pre-orders. Elon Musk posted the latest update on Twitter: more than two hundred thousand orders.

Auke learned a lot about Tesla’ latest model on Twitter. He is advocating a ban on these kinds of ‘juggernauts’ in the city.

Read the thread

What bothers you so much about the new design?

“Have you seen how huge it is? Maybe this is more suitable as a lunar vehicle. Or for people who are expecting to be attacked. But no one really needs such a huge vehicle, do they? It’s also about the signal that you are sending as a driver. It looks extremely aggressive. Like: ‘We’re just going to shove you off the road for now.’ This is everything you do not want to have in a city. It’s as if a driver feel superior to the rest of the traffic. Surely that can’t be the intention.”

“On the other hand, I do understand the thrill, I’m still a small boy who loves fun toys too. A Maserati is also super cool. When it comes to its looks, I can imagine that people find it futuristic and a pretty good thing. It is definitely something different for once. These reactions do make me think, yet I’m still overwhelmed by the feeling that it is a war truck.”

“So long as there are no proper rules to keep these antisocial tanks out of the city, I’m just glad that there are electric alternatives.” Auke Hoekstra.

How would you rather see it?

“It’s mainly about the signal you’re sending and that’s just wrong. To what extent can you still call it a sustainable car? It takes up a tremendous amount of space, has a lot of material around the wheels and is not at all aerodynamic. Tesla uses a stainless steel construction which is super heavy. On Wikipedia it says – for what it’s worth – that this model weighs about 3,000 kg. This causes the tires to wear out faster and it also means that there has to be a massive battery in there …”

Suddenly on the other side of the phone connection there are sounds of mumbling and tapping on a keyboard. Auke is busy with the math. “… They say that you should be able to drive at least 800 kilometers on a fully charged battery. I take that with a pinch of salt, they base that on the most favorable conditions. But let’s assume for the sake of convenience that it’s true, then my guess would be that it has to contain at least a 200 kWh battery, maybe even bigger.”

“”Even if you were to drive around using completely green electricity, you’d still need a substantial supply of raw materials in order to produce such a huge battery. That’s not a justifiable approach.”

Already the response on Twitter was that you shouldn’t complain so much: this car isn’t meant for compact Dutch cities at all, does that make you change your mind?

“I definitely don’t deny that they drive in much larger cars in the US, for example, where that trend has been going on for much longer. Oil is cheap and there are certain tax advantages to larger cars. But you are also seeing more and more of those SUV’s here. These cars have one major feature: driver safety. You are shielded and yet you don’t get any sense of the vulnerability of pedestrians and cyclists.”

“It bothers me that the design of these forts on wheels does not take those vulnerabilities into account. Quite a lot of research is being done on outboard airbags, or bumpers that have extra give. But that’s not nearly enough. Much more attention needs to be paid to safety on the outside.”

Can Tesla change any of this?

Auke starts laughing, a video can be heard in the background:

“The claim that the glass is unbreakable, turns out to be a bit off the mark.”

But according to him, the car manufacturer is keeping up with current trends by making these kinds of claims. As in an indestructible all-terrain vehicle. “They hit the side of it with a giant sledgehammer in order to prove that the model doesn’t give way. You can imagine what happens to a person when he is hit by a car that doesn’t budge an inch. That is not going to end well. This criticism is not only directed at Tesla, but at all manufacturers.”

“Consumers also have a responsibility here. When you buy such a thing, you are actually telling the rest of your surroundings: you’re out of luck, I’m driving here. What are these huge cars doing in the city anyway? Studies show that these types of vehicles are more dangerous. Maybe we should also give people who want to play at being Rambo in the city a higher level of liability.”

Lastly, can you find anything positive in this new model?

“Evidently this is what it takes to get people out of their fossilized pickup trucks. So long as there are no proper rules to keep these antisocial tanks out of the city, I’m just glad that there are electric alternatives.”

Tomorrow is Good: a higher speed limit for electric vehicles makes sense

The Netherlands is struggling with nitrogen emissions. Dutch lawmakers are trying to work their way towards compliance with the agreements made earlier in Paris. Nevertheless, they are still lagging behind on an international level.

In light of agriculture being one of the pillars for these emission measures, parliamentary plans to reduce their footprint has bumped up against fierce protests from farmers. There seems that there is no end in sight to this anytime soon.

Lowering the speed limit

One of the other key pillars concerns the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) emissions that are to be reduced by lowering the speed limit on highways from 130 to 100 km per hour according to a recently made decision.

For many, many years, Dutch lawmakers have been successfully promoting EV (Electric Vehicles) with tax incentives and campaigns to support electric transportation.

Rather curious

With that in mind, it is rather curious to me that the perspective absent in this 130>100km topic, is one which would allow EV cars to keep the 130km limit. Lowering the speed limit for these vehicles which have a lack of any actual NOx emissions, makes no sense. Although this may impact the number of accidents. Yet there is no significant gain for the emission footprint with the reduction of the speed limit for electric vehicles. On the other hand, maintaining the higher speed limit might even act as an incentive to drive electric vehicles.

Read moreTomorrow is Good: a higher speed limit for electric vehicles makes sense

Best read: ‘Making children work in mines for electric car batteries is not sustainable.’

Last week Auke Hoekstra’s column scored more than 7000 readers. Hoekstra used it to tear into the German research institutes which regularly put the advantages of electric driving into perspective. An earlier column, in which Hoekstra makes mincemeat of similar assertions by the Belgian professor Damien Ernst, is still one of our best read stories. Readers are apparently passionate about the differences between driving with electricity versus fossil fuels. We asked Rotterdam’s sustainability expert and old-timer enthusiast Sander Jongerius, for his opinion on the squabbles between the German and Dutch researchers.

What is the point of this discussion?

“It is a good thing in itself to have a discussion about the extent of the pollution caused by cars. It’s mostly about what they emit, and how much energy it takes to make an electric car and the battery. The only problem is that the scientists who are discussing this all measure something else than what others are measuring. They frequently do this in different ways as well. So those calculations are often not correct. An electric car is in principle very clean because nothing comes out of the exhaust. It doesn’t even have an exhaust – as long as the car is not a hybrid and there is not a combustion engine in it. That’s good for the cities we live in. It means cleaner air for us. At the same time I wonder if it’s fair that we’re sitting here in that clean air, while the battery is made of rare metals – sometimes up to 18 kilos – that thousands of children in Congo are extracting from mines. That is just child labour. It is not fair trade. That is one of the reasons why I am not a fan of electric cars. If you’re talking about sustainable driving, you should look at all the steps in the production chain. That has been happening in the textile industry for some time already, yet in the car industry it has hardly been looked into.”

If you’re talking about the emission levels from driving on fossil fuel versus electricity: who is right?

“That is another difficult discussion. Studies usually focus on where the tipping point lies. Is the energy that the production of the car has cost recouped after 160,000 kilometres, as has been stated in the Netherlands, or only after 700,000 kilometres, as a Belgian expert recently claimed? (Incidentally, Hoekstra estimates the tipping point to be 19,000 kilometres – ed.) Then you should also take into account as to how the electricity is generated that is used for recharging the car. In Norway, they generate a lot of energy from hydropower. There, driving on electrical power is more environmentally friendly than in Germany, for instance, where energy is sometimes generated from lignite. If you say: I get all my energy from a wind turbine, you have to ask yourself what the production of that wind turbine has cost in terms of energy. Obviously, the same applies to oil production. You would have to decide on what the cleanest is on a case-by-case basis. I once heard an American say that driving electrically in California, where there is a lot of solar energy generation, is a great idea. But this does not apply in a colder state where not much renewable energy is generated. The situation varies a lot on a local level.”

Can’t the new developments in hydrogen-powered cars and electricity-powered cars coexist?

“I think so. At the same time, you can take steps forward in the development of driving on hydrogen and driving on electricity. Although I find it such a pity that the discussion is not about abandoning the car altogether. Will everyone have to have an electric car? I don’t think that’s necessary.”

Tomorrow is good: Is diesel cleaner than electric?

Is diesel really cleaner than electric?

Yes, and for the most part, no. It all depends on how you look at it, but perhaps also on the commercial interests that are at stake. When I say clean or dirty, I of course mean the emission of fine particles (from tyres and from the exhaust) and NOx from the exhaust. CO2 is neither clean nor dirty and I won’t go into that right now. Back in 2014 TNO and CE Delft had already demonstrated that an electric car emits less CO2 than a gasoline or diesel car taking the current electricity mix and manufacturing process into account.

The recently promised CO2 emission reduction targets for new passenger cars for 2025 and 2030 have been released, however, they do not oblige car manufacturers to move away from internal combustion engines. These new standards require car manufacturers to reduce the CO2 emissions of all new cars by 15% by 2025 and 37.5% by 2030 (respectively 15% and 31% for vans), compared to 2021. According to Transport & Environment (T&E), the regulation will encourage car manufacturers to promote the sale of 15% zero and low-emission vehicles in the EU (i.e. including plug-ins) by 2025, and by up to 35% before 2030.

Increase in sales in Germany

The diesel car will be allowed to stay with us for a while longer. The number of diesel cars sold in Germany has risen since the beginning of 2019 once more. In the July/August 2019 issue of Automotive Engineering, there is even talk of developing the combustion engine up until 2050, but this is mainly due to the market in less accessible areas. It is a different story in Europe. The diesel is also making a slight recovery here according to IHS Markit. In 2025, it is estimated that 25% of European car production will still be made up of diesels. Most of these will have to be sold in the EU.

I wonder whether this will all work out, as the diesel has come under pressure due to the high costs involved in exhaust gas after-treatment systems and the steadily declining running costs for electric cars. In this respect, the ‘dieselgate‘ effect on consumers is still alive and kicking. However, we have a tendency to forget things rather quickly. Who else is remembers the T&E cycle beating report back in 1998? At the time, according to research by T&E, car manufacturers scandalously used modern equipment in order to adapt the car to the test. The (corrupted) computer was even able to recognize when the car was in a certain test cycle so that the combustion engine could be switched to a different mode. The result was that the NOx emissions were increased by a factor of three when driving in real time on the motorway! Mind you, this was 17 years before the modern-day dieselgate!

Significant reduction in fine particles

Yet there is some good news. Competition that the combustion engine gets from its electric counterparts ensures that the accursed diesel in particular is making rapid advamces. A test by Emissions Analytics in conjunction with Auto Motor & Sport (15 August 2019) shows that it is actually Volkswagen who is the cleanest with its model Tiguan 2.0 TDI 4Motion. In polluted air (50,000 PN/cm3), significantly less fine particles are measured in the exhaust than are drawn in. With clean air (10,000 PN/cm3), the amount of fine particles is slightly higher than the amount of air that is drawn in.

You could joke that the very latest diesel engines should drive around in polluted areas to purify the air, like in Amsterdam for instance. Needless to say, that’ s meant in a slightly cynical way. A diesel does emit NOx and other toxic substances as well. The electric car is the future, but because the diesel will be with us for a little longer, it’s better to make it as clean as possible. And if that is due in part to the advent and promotion of the electric car, then that’ s a double bonus.

Over deze column:

In a weekly column, alternately written by Eveline van Zeeland, Jan Wouters, Katleen Gabriels, Mary Fiers, Lucien Engelen, Peter de Kock, Tessie Hartjes and Auke Hoekstra, Innovation Origins tries to find out what the future will look like. These columnists, occasionally supplemented with guest bloggers, are all working in their own way on solutions for the problems of our time. So tomorrow will be good. Here are all the previous columns.

Tomorrow is good: advantage for electric SUV status symbols

The ‘strict’ environmental objectives for 2021 are rapidly approaching. In that year, the average tank-to-wheel CO2 emissions for an automobile concern’s entire fleet are permitted to amount to just 95 grams, assuming an average weight of approximately 1380 kg per vehicle. For every 30 kg of lighter or heavier weight, respectively 1 gram more or less of CO2 may be emitted.

If a concern fails to meet this CO2 requirement, it may be liable to a fine of € 95 per gram per car or it may approach other manufacturers. FIAT / Chrysler has made a deal with Tesla. Tesla blasts away the excess CO2 from the Fiatjes for half a billion euros.
This is a step too far for the German automobile manufacturers. They intend to solve the problems internally, however, this is not easy because the customer wants SUV’s, which are not the most energy efficient due to their heavy weight and aerodynamic resistance. Part of the solution lies in the sale of plug-in hybrids. Mercedes is working on a major expansion of this. The E300 diesel plug-in emits 44 grams according to the test cycle. That brings down the average even more.

Still making money

Aside from that, it is also advantageous to sell all-electric cars. You may make a considerable loss on these because each electric cars reduces CO2 emissions by 95 grams * 1.67 (multiplier) = 159 grams in one go. Any losses that should be covered are easy to calculate. Suppose that in 2021 Mercedes sells 700,000 cars with an average of 1 gram of excess CO2 emissions, the fine per car is then €95 and therefore € 66.5 million in total. If in that scenario Mercedes sells 4400 electric cars with a loss of less than € 15,000 per car, it will still have made money.

Well, that all sounds fine, however there is a peculiarity in the legislation, and that is the condition that favors electric SUVs. The original “problem” – how customers really want SUVs – now appears to be a considerable tax advantage for the manufacturer in question. An example is the Audi E-Tron with a weight of 2490 kg. This car emits zero grams well-to-wheel, but the calculated emission is (1380 – 2490) / 30 = – 37 grams CO2 as a result of its weight component. This is in addition to the standard 159 grams advantage!

Under the current legislation, in the coming years car manufacturers will be able to sell heavier electric status symbols than small electric cars. Just like back in the seventies, when there were no CO2 emission requirements at all then.

 

About this column:

In a weekly column, alternately written by Eveline van Zeeland, Jan Wouters, Katleen Gabriels, Maarten Steinbuch, Mary Fiers, Carlo van de Weijer, Lucien Engelen, Tessie Hartjes and Auke Hoekstra, Innovation Origins tries to find out what the future will look like. These columnists, occasionally supplemented with guest bloggers, are all working in their own way on solutions for the problems of our time. So tomorrow will be good. Here are all the previous episodes.

Start-up of the day: Mountox guides you through the jungle of electric cars

“We still have ten years before the earth warms up by another one and a half degrees. Then a lot of what we love will be destroyed.” Maurice van der Ende, co-founder of Mountox, a comprehensive platform for electric propulsion, is determined to make the economy more sustainable. “We can’t just sit back anymore.” That’s why he jumped straight onto the platform two years ago.

Why are so few electric cars driven in the Netherlands? With that question the brothers embarked on their start-up adventure. Their platform Mountox offers consumers an overview of electric mobilty. “People are able to explore our website. They can find an overview of all the electric cars, are able to calculate what they can save in comparison with fuel, and booking a test drive is easily arranged”, explains Maurice van der Ende. In so doing, he hopes that more people will make the switch to electric vehicles.

“On our platform, we bring together all of the information relating to electric motoring,” he continues. “We do a lot with infographics in order to make the information easier to read and understand.” In addition, they also pay attention to current developments within the field of electric vehicles. “For example, we write blogs about buying second-hand electric cars or about recharging using solar energy.”

© Mountox

What is your main motivation??

“Our goal is that by 2025, around 90 to 95 percent of new cars will be electric. Now we’re at six to eight percent. It is an ambitious goal, but it is certainly achievable. A study has shown that there are enough raw materials available to produce batteries. On the other hand, it has also become clear that the production process of batteries is not always sustainable. Then we have to make sure it is in any event as sustainable as possible. Hydrogen and electricity are the only options for running on renewable energy. We have to take that chance.”

What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?

“We have plenty of good ideas to make transport more sustainable. Only there is limited capital. That’s frustrating at times. We know what we want to do and achieve, but finding funding to realize this huge expansion is challenging. Although in the end it is feasible.”

“We are now operating with our own capital. Aside from that, we also see an increase in turnover every month. If one of our visitors signs a lease or another product with one of our partners, we receive part of the sum paid. This revenue model is a conscious choice. In this way, our turnover is in line with our goal. We want to make the world a more sustainable place. Making money whenever people buy a sustainable product is a logical choice. We are also looking for investors in order to further develop our company.”

What was the most overwhelming moment for you?”

The most enjoyable and memorable moment was the launch of the website. In fact, we had been preparing with a lot of uncertainty for a whole year beforehand. In March of last year it was finally ready. At a time like this, it is just a matter of waiting to see how people react to the website. Fortunately it went very well and was picked up by the media. We even got partnerships with large companies because of this.”

“We made some major changes after that. For instance, we have launched a savings tool which allows users to easily see how much they would save with an electric car. It us able to determine how much someone is paying for their car on the basis of their registration number. It also calculates what a comparable electric car would cost per month. That way, the difference can quickly be seen.”

What can we expect from you in the coming year?

“We want to broaden our range of products to include electric scooters and motorbikes. We have noticed that there is a demand for this. In the coming year we will be looking for partners in order to be able to provide these.”

“We also want to expand into new markets in Belgium, Germany and the United States. That’s the nice thing about an online platform. We can expand relatively easily because, for example, we don’t have to open physical stores in the US. We will translate the website and develop new content. New partners are also joining the market. That’s why we’re going to expand our team.”

Where will the company be in five years??

“Over the next five years, we want to become a global brand. Everyone has to think about Mountox if he or she wants to become more sustainable in their actions. For example, in the future with electric cars but also with solar panels. In addition, new tools and services, such as autonomous driving, will of course be introduced on to the market. We want to be involved in this so as to make the world sustainable as soon as possible.”

“I wake up every day trying to combat climate change. The next ten years are crucial. If we don’t do something now, there will be huge consequences. For example, the sea level could rise by up to 7 meters. We all need to move towards a sustainable economy and way of life.”

Background information

Founders

Roel van der Ende (24) – Engineer. Left his job to work full-time with the start-up.

Maurice van der Ende (21) – studied commercial economics but did not finish. “As an entrepreneur I learn a lot from the practical side.”

Year of Foundation

2017, website online in 2018

Funding

Revenue is increasing, but is reinvested in the company. And also looking for new investors.

Employees

Victor Tremouille works as a freelancer for Mountox. He takes care of the sales and is part of the team. “As we don’t have a management structure, everyone is responsible for their own actions.”

Ultimate goal

Making the world 100% sustainable.

Need inspiration? Check our Start-up of the Day series here!

Tomorrow is good: Hydrogen hype?

Hydrogen as an energy carrier for the propulsion of vehicles is on a steady rise. This seems strange because the Toyota Mirai or Hyundai Nexo cannot compete with the purely battery-powered counterparts in terms of price/performance ratio. In addition, the charging infrastructure for battery vehicles is much more extensive, the price of a kilo of hydrogen is still high and the efficiency of a fuel cell vehicle is relatively low due to the double conversion of energy. Last but not least, Tesla’s enormous marketing power cannot be compared with the substantial long-term expressions of, for example, Toyota.

So twenty years after its first peak the question arises: on what, despite the facts mentioned above, can a renewed belief in hydrogen really be based?

ALSO INTERESTING: No, Diesel is not better for the environment than electric

There is a growing belief that the battery will not be the ideal solution for every form of transport. In addition, battery manufacturers believe that the supply of batteries will not be able to meet future demand. Globally, in 2025, 40 – and in 2030, 80 – full-revving “gigafactories” will be needed to meet demand. This puts enormous pressure on the extraction of rare earth materials, including lithium. It is clear that this also has geopolitical consequences because China has been making progress in almost all areas for much longer than Europe. In addition, following earlier statements about the construction of giga-plants, Bosch has withdrawn because of the high risk of the investments. And car manufacturers are still concerned about the intrinsic unsafety of today’s lithium-ion batteries. The solid-state battery offers many advantages in terms of safety, energy and fast charging possibilities. But unfortunately, the mass production of this battery is repeatedly postponed. Panasonic is now talking about 2028.

Whether or not the fuel cell will seriously break through does depend on large investments; the price drop that is possible with large production is comparable to the lithium-ion battery. (Story continues below)

Hydrogen as an energy carrier has great advantages for vehicles, boats or planes, where a lot of energy has to be taken into account. This is not necessary for inland and inter-city transport, but it is for long-haul trucks. With hydrogen, a high range can be achieved by simply increasing the size of the tanks, comparable to diesel. In addition to the large-scale projects that are planned in China, South Korea and Japan, there are also major projects in Switzerland. Hyundai will supply 1600 fuel cell trucks there between now and 2025. This is a serious move that will bring about price reductions and put pressure on a future “technological monoculture” based solely on batteries.
In short, we are still facing interesting times, probably comparable to the beginning of the last century when different forms of propulsion could seriously compete with each other.

About this column:

In a weekly column written alternately by Eveline van Zeeland, Maarten Steinbuch, Mary Fiers, Carlo van de Weijer, Lucien Engelen, Tessie Hartjes, Jan Wouters, and Auke Hoekstra, Innovation Origins tries to find out what the future will look like. The seven columnists, and occasionally a guest blogger, all work in their own way to find solutions to the problems of our time. So that tomorrow will be better. Here are all the previous episodes.

Tomorrow is Good: Verified data behind the use of Electric Vehicles

VDL

We all know Auke Hoekstra from his relentless struggle for correct, verified data about electric driving. He often writes about it at Innovation Origins. Recently he had a fierce discussion with Belgian professor Damien Ernst, who claimed that an electric car only becomes ‘greener’ than a petrol car after 700,000 kilometres. Nonsense, Hoekstra demonstrates. That turning point comes after only 20 to 40,000 kilometres – and in the near future even after only 7,000 kilometres. He neatly recapitulates the facts in a long blog post. Here’s the summary for Tomorrow is Good.

I show how in Europe, an electric vehicle becomes greener after 20 to 40 thousand kilometres of driving, not 700 thousand as a famous Belgian professor calculated on television recently. He has corrected his calculation in a new blog post but in such a confusing way that I feel the need to explain. I also show that in science facts are still facts and Damien Ernst and I actually agree about them: we don’t live in a post-truth world!

At the core of this discussion is the following problem: electric vehicles emit less CO2 while driving, but they need a battery and producing that battery emits more CO2. How bad is this battery compared to the driving advantage? Two weeks ago the famous and impressive prof. Damien Ernst (Blondel Medal winner, working on supergrids that help to solve the energy transition) calculated – on Television – it would take more than the lifetime of the electric vehicle (697,612 km to be precise) for the electric car to compensate for the global warming caused by battery production.

How bad is battery production?

CO2 emitted during battery production causes global warming. Ernst first claimed 312 kg CO2 was emitted for every kWh of battery produced. He now estimates 127 kg. Industry experts put it at 65 kg and it will become less when batteries are produced using renewable energy.

How dirty is electricity?

CO2 emitted during electricity production causes global warming too. For reasons unexplained, Ernst first assumed Belgian electric vehicles drive on German electricity (550 grams/kWh). He now takes the EU mix over the coming ten years that he pegs at 317 grams per kWh. I can explain why he actually means 289 grams.

Don’t forget the production of gasoline

In his first calculation, Ernst forgot to include the CO2 emissions caused by the production of gasoline. He now includes this and it increases gasoline car emissions by 40%.

How much energy do electric and gasoline vehicles use?

For reasons not explained, Ernst decided to compare a large electric vehicle with a small gasoline car. Ernst takes an electric vehicle that outputs 0.23 kWh/km and compares it with a gasoline car using 6 liter per 100 km. I have made a little comparison of the energy use of different vehicles on the site of the American Environmental Protection Agency to show how strange this is. (I use American numbers because the official numbers in Europe are wrong because of the car lobby.)

Auke Hoekstra

Auke Hoekstra

As you can see 0.23 kWh/km equates to a Tesla Model X: a large SUV. A direct comparison would be a Porsche Cayenne: a bit smaller and slower but close. So a comparable gasoline vehicle would use 11.28 liters per 100 km.

Instead, Ernst compares to a car using 6 liter per 100 km. That’s less than a VW Golf with a small motor and manual transmission.

Ernst’s new conclusion is hard to find

Drawing a conclusion from all this is straightforward. But Ernst is apparently confusing many readers if I see what they say on Twitter and in newspapers. They think the answer to his calculations can be found under the heading: “And now the calculation!” But at that point in his post, the Belgian/European cars still drive on the coal-heavy German electricity mix (?) while the production of gasoline is still excluded (?). It is not clear to me why you would display the results of these faulty assumptions so prominently.

He says that an electric vehicle with a battery of 80 kWh would begin to have a lower carbon footprint than a petrol-driven vehicle somewhere between 67,226 km and 151,259 km travelled. What Ernst is saying in the lower number is: if I correct my mistake of forgetting gasoline production, if battery production is close to my corrected source, if I assume the European electricity mix is not getting cleaner and if I compare a very big EV to a small gasoline car, then the EV is greener after 67,226 km. The higher number says the same but assumes battery production emits 225 kg CO2/kWh without naming any source.

If you find this confusing: I was confused too.

The Calculations!

Using Ernst’s corrected numbers, a large EV becomes greener than a small gasoline car after 81 thousand km. If you compare like with like the EV becomes greener after about 35 thousand km. Using the best information I have available, I would put it at 19 thousand now and 7 thousand in the future.

It’s not rocket science. Let me show you.

Battery production
If we multiply 127 kg CO2/kWh and 80 kWh we get (and I quote Ernst): “10,153 kg for the manufacture of an 80 kWh battery.” I round Ernst to 10,160 kg of CO2 for the production of the battery.

EV emissions while driving
0.23 kWh/km multiplied by 289 grams/kWh means 66 grams of CO2 per km for the EV.

Gasoline car emissions while driving6 liter/100km multiplied by 3.192 kg of CO2 per liter means 192 gr CO2/km for the gasoline car.

The result
The EV emits 192 – 66 = 125 gr CO2/km less than the gasoline car. 10,160/0.125 = 81,248 km.

So after 81,248 km, a Tesla Model X is gaining on a small gasoline car using Ernst’s assumption

That was scenario 1 in the table below. But we can also make some other interesting scenarios.

Scenario 2. We could compare the Tesla Model X with a car his own size. Then the Model X is greener than his counterpart (we took the Porsche Cayenne) after 35 thousand km.

Scenario 3. We could compare an electric VW Golf with a gasoline VW Golf using the assumptions of Ernst to get electric is greener after 41 thousand km.

Scenario 4. Again comparing eGolf against gasoline Golf using Ernst his new assumptions but battery production according to the best official sources. This gives 35 thousand km.

Scenario 5. These are my best guess assumptions: battery production based on industry estimates of someone I trust and CO2 emissions over the lifetime of the EV based on mainstream assumptions. Then I get about 19 thousand km before the EV is greener.

Scenario 6. This is the future I’m doing it all for. Mining and production of batteries will use renewable electricity and electric cars will drive on renewable electricity. When that happens they will become greener after 7 thousand km and less than that if the battery was recycled.

auke hoekstra

Conclusion

Electric cars are really much better for the climate than gasoline or diesel cars, even according to the new calculations from prof. Damien Ernst and certainly according to the most up-to-date information.

PS: I hope everyone understands that video conferencing, electric bikes and trains are better for the environment than large cars, whether electric or not.

About this column:

In a weekly column, alternately written by Maarten Steinbuch, Mary Fiers, Carlo van de Weijer, Lucien Engelen, Tessie Hartjes and Auke Hoekstra, Innovation Origins tries to find out what the future will look like. The six columnists, occasionally supplemented with guest bloggers, are all working in their own way on solutions for the problems of our time. So tomorrow will be good. Here are all the previous episodes.

Dutch researchers: Don’t disregard the combustion engine

TNO, the Netherlands Organisation for applied scientific research, was founded by law in 1932 to enable business and government to apply knowledge. As an organisation regulated by public law, they are independent: not part of any government, university or company. 

Until the year 2050, the internal combustion engine will remain necessary to enable energy transition. Neither the electricity grid, nor the supply chain, are prepared for a faster transition to electric mobility. This is what Daan de Cloe, director of TNO automotive in Helmond, states. According to the independent research institute, not only is it of great importance to invest research into electric mobility, but also invest into other energy sources, such as hydrogen and combustion engines.

“We will not succeed to electrifying everything in a short period of time. The industry has proven not to be ready for that yet,” says De Cloe. “To work on our climate objectives, we must continue to also develop the current track we’re on. And that is the one of the combustion engine.”

TNO, which is 25 percent government-funded and regarded as the country’s most authoritative research institute for the mobility sector, was one of the first companies at the Automotive Campus in Helmond in 2003. TNO researchers have been involved with many innovations within the automotive sector and will continue to lead the way in developing new forms of mobility in the coming years.

Flex Fuel

But that future is not just electric, says De Cloe. That is why TNO is investing in a new combustion engine that is more efficient and runs on different types of fuel: Flex Fuel. “This engine is suitable for several types of fuel, both fossil and synthetic, and is also over 50 percent more efficient, which results in several percent more energy from the same amount of fuel. This could bring enormous environmental benefits, if used in the transport sector.”

Daan de Cloe, managing director TNO automotive

De Cloe knows that certain statements in today’s electro-loving climate are not ‘politically desirable’, however, also believes it is important to emphasise not too write off the internal combustion engine too quickly. “And not only because of the potential this 125-year-old technology still has, but also realistically taking into account the time it takes to complete the transition to hydrogen or electricity. That takes much longer than one would wish for.”

Do you believe in the here and now this discussion will have a chance?

“Well, diesel gate certainly doesn’t help. However, if you take a look at the quality of a diesel engine and drive it through the Ruhr area, cleaner air actually comes out of the exhaust than the air that goes in. So how gravely bad are diesel engines then?”

“So TNO is not a government institute, we don’t belong to a ministry. We are independent, founded by law and owned by the Dutch populace. We also publish reports that the Ministry may not be happy with at all. Our conclusion that the internal combustion engine most likely will play an important role in our mobility system until 2050 is in a public report and  based upon facts. Whether politicians like it or not, this is – with the current available knowledge – the outcome.”

“That’s why we advice not to choose one technique at a time, but reconcile with the fact that these energy sources will coexist until 2050. An internal combustion engine is often associated with diesel, fossil, dirty. But what if you have an engine that can run on biogas or synthetic fuel? The sustainability factor of such an engine would be much higher than it is today. You need electricity from coal-fired power stations for electric driving. It will be cleaner if you use nuclear energy, however then you will have another waste problem.”

Identifying problems before the manufacturer sees them

After this extensive exposé, an impression of TNO could have been created that they are exclusively occupied with engines. Nothing could be further from the truth. At the Helmond Automotive Campus, TNO is involved in all developments in the field of automotive mobility. The research institute prides itself on “identifying problems even before the manufacturer sees them and works on solutions”.

De Cloe: “We anticipate what the industry will need. Our 200 researchers give lectures and attend conferences all over the world. The aim is to explore and determine what the industry is doing. This way, we can provide solutions that facilitate bringing new technology to the market faster, easier to apply and more efficiently to test.

Can you give an example?

“In the past, we worked with car manufacturers who had a car stability problem. That’s why we developed ESP: vehicle state estimation, a technique that ensures cars don’t run amok. Often, we work on behalf of customers, but sometimes customers do not even know that they are going to have a problem and that means that we are working on solutions for latent needs.

Self driving cars

At the moment we are working on solutions for self driving cars. We saw that there was a lot in development there years ago. While manufacturers focused on the question of how they got the car self-driving, we asked ourselves: how can you demonstrate that the car acts safely in any given situation? Automating a car and making it communicate to its environment has great potential for vehicle safety and traffic flow. However, you also have to be able to demonstrate that it can be robust, reliable and safe. It is far too expensive to physically test all possible traffic situations. That is why we are working on a technique that partly includes simulation, that can guarantee that these systems will be safe. It is necessary for it to be tested by an independent institute. If Daimler or BMW state that they have a good productive system, then that’s fine, but this can also come across as self promotion. Authorities will not just accept that. So you will need something that has been independently tested and based upon facts.

Why is it important for TNO to be on the Automotive Campus?

“We came here from Delft in 2003 and were one of the first automotive companies of the campus. The main reason is the attendance of the automotive industry in North Brabant. VDL, Tomtom and NXP are here, as are many suppliers and educational institutions. Because we decided to make certain investments at the time, we now have unique facilities for safety and sustainability, among other things. The entire global industry comes to Helmond to do research here.”

“TNO’s global appeal offers us the opportunity to bring Dutch business into contact with manufacturers and – in reverse – to link (PhD) students to international business projects. Also, to provide the Dutch business community with the correct knowledge gathered in such projects. Thereby, we fully comply with the assignment with which we were founded in 1932. The assignment was ‘To promote the prosperity and welfare of the Dutch people, taking into account the possibilities that technology offers for society and the interests of the Dutch business community’.”

“We always seek a balance between what we call social ambitions – nowadays called social challenges – and how we can respond to them with new technologies. How can we make improvements that are socially beneficial and at the same time help Dutch companies to strengthen their competitive position? In short, we are taking on things that stimulate innovation.”

From product innovation to system innovation

Traditionally speaking, innovation faces a number of obstacles, De Cloe explains. “It can’t be done and it shouldn’t be done. You need engineers developing a new product for the first obstacle and for the second you’ll need lawyers who make the product comply with existing legislation or who adapt this legislation. Subsequently, you have the ‘audience doesn’t want it’ obstacle where technical innovations can run aground. For example Video 2000 or the Philips CD-i. Beautiful inventions, but unfortunately, for which there was no market at the time.

“We come from an era of product innovation. How do we make the car better, safer and more economical? This is an important part of our task of course. Innovation in the automotive sector has more to it than just developing new products. We have stepped into a period in which system innovation is much more important. We have to keep in mind how to link the ICT domain to the mobility domain and the energy domain? And perhaps also to the infrastructure domain. These are large domains with wealthy players. They have to work together to accomplish system innovation. This system innovation is necessary to overcome the ‘it can’t be done and it shouldn’t be done’ obstacles. And finally, social innovation is necessary to overthrow the ‘audience doesn’t want it’ obstacle. The latter includes bringing about a change of mindset.”

“Yesterday I was at a dinner and someone said: and then I saw a traffic jam from Rotterdam to The Hague ánd from The Hague to Rotterdam. Wouldn’t it be more convenient if the people working in Rotterdam and live in The Hague would move and vice versa? Then we’d get rid of that problem…

What I’m trying to say is that at some point – if you want to solve things – you have to start thinking on a different, more social level. And that includes a society and industry with more give and take.”

DAF involved in Swedish car charging road

eRoadArlanda DAF Truck

In Sweden, the eRoadArlanda has been put into service. This is the first of its kind to recharge both electric commercial vehicles and passenger cars – while driving. The solution, which according to the inventors is both sustainable and cost-effective, makes it possible to elect existing public roads and contributes to a future of fossil-free road transport. The first truck to travel on this road was an electrified DAF. DAF is one of the consortium partners that has developed this path.

It is important to take new paths when it comes to climate-friendly road transport. Therefore, the Swedish Transport Agency supports innovative development projects that contribute to long-term sustainable solutions.Lena Erixon, Director General of the Swedish Transport Administration


eRoadArlanda opening

eRoadArlanda

“One of the most important issues of our time is the question of how to achieve fossil-free road transport. We now have a solution that makes this possible, and that is a boost for all of us”, says Hans Säll, chairman of the eRoadArlanda consortium and director of Business Development at NCC. “Sweden is at the forefront of this technology, which we now want to introduce to other parts of the country and the world.”

Approximately two kilometers of electric railway is installed along public road 893, between the Arlanda Cargo Terminal, near Stockholm Airport, and the Rosersberg logistics business park. The electrified road works by transferring energy from a rail in the road with a movable arm to the vehicle. That is similar to a toy racing track. The arm detects the position of the rail in the road and as long as the vehicle is above the rail, the contact is in a lowered position, so it can perform its task of charging the vehicle.