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Clean Transport NASA EV charging project

Published on February 4th, 2014 | by Tina Casey

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“Insane” GHG Savings From Workplace EV Charging, According To NASA

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February 4th, 2014 by
 
The folks over at NASA are reporting “insane” results for a trial run of an electric vehicle charging program designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions for its Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The program points to an effective way to achieve significant cuts without incurring significant costs, which would apply to just about any kind of large facility with employees who commute by car.

NASA EV charging project

NASA EV charging project courtesy of NASA

The NASA Workplace EV Charging Project

The new workplace EV charging project dovetails with the Obama Administration’s Workplace Charging Challenge, which encourages employers to make free EV charging available to their employees. That program is part of the ambitious EV Everywhere initiative, which is aimed at making EV ownership just as affordable and convenient as owning a conventional vehicle.

The motivator behind workplace charging, and the NASA EV charging project, is that a facility gets credit for reducing greenhouse gas emissions related to commuting. That offsets the expense of installing workplace EV chargers and paying for the electricity.

As reported by Steven Siceloff of the Kennedy Space Center, the NASA EV charging project enlisted ten employees who commute daily by EV (full plug-in EV, not hybrids). They received free EV charging in exchange for documenting their miles of driving and other details about their commute.


Here is the payoff cited by project manager Frank Kline:

The numbers are really insane. The program’s first three months only cost $148, and we eliminated over 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Over a whole year, we’ll save over 60,000 pounds and that’s just with 10 drivers.

Of course, the GHG emissions savings apply locally, to the facility. The real tell in terms of regional and global GHG reduction is the source of the electricity for the EV chargers.

In the US, the grid mix still leans heavily on coal, with a long record of environmental consequences recently highlighted by the West Virginia chemical spill on January 9 and yesterday’s North Carolina coal ash spill.

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About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • Wayne Williamson

    Florida is always touted as the sun shine state, Its about time that someone starts making use of it…good for NASA.

  • http://www.smartmeetings.com.au/ David Jago

    Does that equate to carbon abatement at USD 21.7 per tonne? (i.e.: USD148 * 15,000 pounds * 0.0005 lbs/tonne) If so, that doesn’t seem too bad.

    • jonesey

      I get $19.73 per ton, so close enough, assuming that 15,000 lbs of CO2 is the right figure. That’s pretty inexpensive (I don’t know if I would say “insane”), given the actual societal cost of CO2 emissions.

      • http://www.smartmeetings.com.au/ David Jago

        This may be one of those metric/imperial/US things. Having changed to metric in 1966, I’ve left all the rest behind. So, long story short, there’s no way I’m going to dispute your figuring! :-) As you say, close enough.

      • James Van Damme

        How much is that in shillings per stone?

        • A Real Libertarian

          Assuming exactly 15,000 pounds of CO2…

          At the current moment, 1.695976 shillings per stone.

  • Bruce Parmenter

    This is nothing new for NASA. Back in 2000 at a NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mt. View, CA (Silicon Valley)
    nasa.gov/centers/ames/multimedia/images/2012/iotw/ames-aerial-2012.html

    I attended a transportation fair they had with my S-10 Blazer EV. NASA was ahead of the game as they had both conductive and inductive charging (EVSE) for their employees. See
    brucedp00.0catch.com/nasa00/
    (click on the second to last thumbnail image for their EV parking area, next to the hypersonic windtunnel)

    {brucedp.150m.com}

  • Ross

    Free EV charging at work. That would be insanely popular.

    • Bob_Wallace

      A place to plug in while at work would be great for those who don’t have a nighttime outlet. Even if people had to pay a bit.

      • Ross

        Yes.

    • RobbertPatrison

      It exists and I happily use it daily. My company provides 70 free charging spots for EVs. Switching from gasoline to an EV (Volt) changes $200/month for gas to about $50/month of extra electricity. Charing at work reduces that $50 to near 0. Whether it helps the environment is another question. Here in California it does, but in coal states such as Virginia or Utah it would actually increase CO2 emissions.

  • Will E

    NASA must install solar panels to produce what they use.
    math the payback time in dollars. will be insane in saving dollars.

  • robbertPatrison

    The math does not add up here: the claimed 60000lbs CO2 saved are not realistic. Florida electricity productions causes above average CO2 emissions (1.3lbs/kWh). At such values, driving an efficient hybrid car (Prius), or an electric car (Leaf, Volt) cause similar emissions of about 5500lbs. So net savings is zero.

    • anderlan

      You must not be using the Offset Math. Best offset math is a pollution fee and the invisible hand.

    • sault

      It takes almost as much electricity to REFINE a gallon of gasoline as it does to power an EV for 20 miles or so. Add in the energy used to extract and transport oil & refined product and gasoline / diesel looks even dirtier. Oil and EV upstream emissions (for dirty electric grids) are basically a wash, so end-use is the major determining factor. It goes without saying that EVs win hands-down in this competition.

    • robbertpatrison

      Including refine and transportation, gasoline pollutes emits ~22lbs CO2/gallon. A prius drives ~50 miles on that gallon. Florida’s electric grid pollutes 1.3lbs/kWh, an EV drives about 3 miles on a kWh plug-to-wheel. So to drive the same 50 miles, an EV needs 16.6kWh. The production of those 16.6kWh emits 21.7lbs of CO2. So the net gain is zero. There will only be gain if electric generation gets less polluting.

      • jdeely

        That’s interesting. Do you have a source for the Florida electric grid CO2 pollution. Thanks in advance.

        • dgaetano

          This isn’t exactly what you’re asking for, but it does calculate EV pollution by zip code based on the electrical mix (data from 2009):

          http://www.afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_emissions.php

          Note that for the national average mix conventional vehicles emit about 5,000lbs of GHG more than EVs, which pretty much matches what the NASA guys are saying.

          (robbertpatrison is making the implicit assumption that EV purchasers only cross shop against the Prius instead of the average car, which is why they don’t agree)

          • A Real Libertarian

            That’s also using old stats.

            Coal’s now down to ~37%.

            Renewables are now up to ~14%.

          • robbertpatrison

            Correct: its bait-and-switch to compare (compact) EVs with with a 22MPG ‘conventional’ car because its not apples-to-apples. Switching from an SUV to an efficient 40MPG car makes a major difference in CO2 emissions. Switching from an efficient small conventional car to an EV makes no difference in CO2 emissions.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Switching from an efficient small conventional car to an EV makes no difference in CO2 emissions.”

            In some places.

            At this time.

            Idaho gets 90% of its electricity from hydro. Switching from a 60 MPG ICEV to an EV would cut CO2 emissions immensely.

            That’s a place example.

            A few years ago Iowa got more than 50% of its electricity from coal. Now Iowa is getting more than 25% of its electricity from wind and about 40% from coal. Iowa expects to be getting 50% from wind by 2016 which will mean less coal use.

            That’s a time example.

            All US grids are shedding coal. All US grids are adding renewables.

          • sault

            Another time example is that oil is getting harder and more energy intensive to find, so its CO2 emissions will inevitably rise as time goes on.
            This is also why robert’s statement that gasoline pollutes 22lbs / gallon is inadequate since the oil that made that gasoline can vary in upstream emissions a great deal. His numbers are also off because oil refining itself uses about 6kWh to produce a gallon of gasoline, so just the ELECTRICITY used during oil refining could power an electric car the same distance. Fugedabout the natural gas used in oil refining…fugedabout the actual carbon in the fuel itself…

          • Bob_Wallace

            “oil refining itself uses about 6kWh to produce a gallon of gasoline”

            Have you got a source for that? When I’ve run the numbers using data for California refineries I found about half that much power used per gallon and outside sourced electricity only a small percentage. Most of the electricity seems to be generated on site from fossil fuels, included some of the oil itself.

          • sault

            Here’s my source:

            http://gatewayev.org/how-much-electricity-is-used-refine-a-gallon-of-gasoline

            I guess I got confused by total energy and electricity. Still, the natural gas and “steam” required to refine oil could be used to charge electric cars instead when used in a power plant.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Agreed, petroleum is a very wasteful way to move ourselves around. It’s time to give the stuff up.

          • robbertpatrison

            The 6kWh is a guess, based on the ratio of the total energy into the refinery vs the output. Its listed as 85%, per gallon of gasoline that is the equivalent of 6kWh of energy. This is energy lost: it does not mean that an electric utility delivered 6kWh for each gallon to the refinery. It also doesn’t say how much of those ‘lost’ 6kWh actually result in pollution, CO2 or otherwise.

            Looking at the latest (2013) version of the paper of Argonne Laboratory about refinery efficiency (see http://greet.es.anl.gov/files/petroleum-eff-13), table 7 shows the adjusted energy efficiency of gasoline at 89.3% for the average US refinery. OK, so lets assume that the 10.7% lost energy during refining in each gallon causes the same CO2 pollution as burning the gasoline. Its probably less in reality, but there is no data for that.

            Burning one gallon of gasoline pollutes 19.4 lbs of CO2. Including the 10.7% refinery loss its 21.5 lbs. Round it up 22 lbs/gallon is perfectly reasonable.

          • Bob_Wallace

            All, I think, of that 6 kWh of electricity comes with a spew of CO2. A small portion is electricity purchased from the outside. The rest is electricity generated on site from coal, coke, oil and natural gas.

            If you want to judge the carbon footprint of an ICEV you need to reach all the way back to the oil well and not use just what comes out the tailpipe.

          • sault

            “so lets assume that the 10.7% lost energy during refining in each gallon causes the same CO2 pollution as burning the gasoline.”
            Not so. A lot of the electricity and process heat used in oil refineries comes from dirty fuels like coal and coke.
            Using Florida’s CO2 performance figures, they can generate 17kWh while releasing the same amount of CO2 as a gallon of gas and a LEAF can go 51 – 68 miles on that electricity.
            There are plenty of things to consider, however. Not every car is a Prius, so using it as a point of comparison is cherry-picking the best case scenario to artificially buoy your point. Secondly, a power plant releases emissions far away from polulation centers (for the most part) while vehicles release emissions right at street level where people live and work, greatly exacerbating the damage their non-CO2 emissions cause. And as I have mentioned many times before, electric grids are becoming cleaner by the year while oil will only get dirtier as the cheap and easy resources become harder to find. Shouldn’t we support the growth of EVs as much as possible (even if they’re only as clean CO2-wise and the CLEANEST conventional vehicle out there) so that we can capitalize on more of the benefits of increasingly clean electricity grids?

          • robbertpatrison

            You are right that Idaho is a fantastic place to drive EV, while neighbouring Utah is terrible due to coal-based electricity. The CO2 reduction is slow at only 1% per year. So a dirty grid such as in Texas, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico will stay so for a while, keeping EVs more polluting than comparable small cars. Some data here: http://www.xcelenergy.com/staticfiles/xe/Corporate/CRR2012/environment/emission-reduction/carbon-dioxide.html

          • Bob_Wallace

            My attitude is “So what?”.

            So what if you live in a state where an EV would release just a small amount more CO2 than an ICEV. Your state won’t stay that way long. We’re closing coal plants.

            And buy buying an EV means one more EV is sold. You’ve helped increase the market and as the market grows prices come down. As prices come down more and more people will buy EVs in the coal-light states

            If you live in a coal-heavy state and it bothers you to put a bit more CO2 in the air then put some panels on your roof or find another way to offset the extra you add.

          • dgaetano

            “its bait-and-switch to compare (compact) EVs with with a 22MPG ‘conventional’ car because its not apples-to-apples.”

            Using the criteria you have laid out I could just as easily compare the Rav4 EV with a Rav4 (76mpge vs 27mpg), a Tesla S with an Audi A7 (90mpge vs 23mpg), a Volt with itself (97mpge vs 37mpg), or the Tesla Roadster with a Ferrari (111mpge vs 15mpg!). EVs replace cars in aggregate, not a specific car, much less a Prius. Using a conventional car is the correct comparison.

            (For the record: my Leaf replaced an Xterra (100mpge vs 17mpg). The Prius was never on my shopping list.)

        • robbertpatrison

          Florida CO2 lbs/kWh can be found here: http://www.talgov.com/eper/eper-about-calc.aspx

          • jdeely

            In researching this- I found a lot of back and forth on how much CO2 a gallon of gas produces. But I think 22lbs/gal sounds pretty close.

            Also in reply to an earlier comment – Florida has made progress in C02 for electricity production From 1.835 lbs/kWh in to 1.291 lbs/kWh in 2012. This has been done with no wind and very little solar.

            Here is ref:
            http://www.naruc.org/Publications/Florida%20Public%20Service%20Commission.pdf

            Finally Leaf is showing some nice battery performance improvements between 2011 and 2013 models. According to the EPA, the 2013 Leaf improved its energy consumption to 29 kWh/100 miles (0.18 kWh/km) down from 34 kWh/100 miles (0.21 kWh/km), allowing the Leaf to increase its combined rating to 115 MPGe (2.0 L/100 km), 129 MPGe (1.8 L/100 km) in city driving and 102 MPGe (2.3 L/100 km) on highways.[68]

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nissan_Leaf

            Will be interesting to see how this continues – although obviously Prius will also likely improve. Good news all around.

  • Kyle Field

    Impressive stuff :) I love when studies like this show how great EVs are and provide paths forward to migrating over to them :)

  • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

    A company with a large solar installation on the roof is likely better off selling excess mid day electricity to its employees than to the energy company.

    The employees are likely better off purchasing electricity from their employer than from the energy company.

    A win-win.

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