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How many gallons of gasoline would it take to charge an iPhone?

This may seem like a strange question to ask, considering iPhones obviously are charged with electricity, not gasoline.

But the answer speaks to why gasoline and other liquid fuels will remain an important part of the energy mix in the future.

In ExxonMobil’s recently released Outlook for Energy, we predict that by 2040, about 90 percent of the global transportation fleet will still be powered by liquid petroleum fuels – that is, gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

When asked why that’s the case, Bill Colton, ExxonMobil’s vice president for Corporate Strategic Planning, often starts the discussion using this fact to put it in perspective:

All of the energy concentrated in one gallon of gasoline is enough to charge an iPhone once a day for almost 20 years.

Clearly, there’s a lot of energy in a gallon of gasoline. And energy density is one of the key factors behind the reliability, affordability, versatility and convenience of any fuel. These are key elements that drive consumer choices today and will continue to drive consumer choices in the future.

So, let’s take a look at the role energy density plays in fuel choices, and how it affects consumer convenience and choice.

Energy Density

Consumers typically want to pay the least amount of money for the most amount of any product, energy included. So, the energy content of any fuel is a critical component of consumer choice. When it comes to transportation, though, another factor comes into play – namely that the energy to power a vehicle must be carried on the vehicle.

One of our top scientists uses the analogy of backpacking when talking about the importance of energy density: You want to buy the lightest, most easily carried food for backpacking, but it also needs to contain a lot of energy to keep you going. Likewise, gasoline and diesel are the lightest and most energy-dense fuels to carry for transportation. A typical car’s gasoline tank contains less than 100 pounds of gasoline but can power a 3,000 pound car for 400 miles at 60 miles per hour. This performance sets a high standard, and there are few transportation fuels currently on the market that are as light, energy dense and portable as gasoline or diesel.

Convenience

The energy density of a fuel also contributes to its convenience.

For example, contrast the 300 to 400 miles that a gasoline vehicle can take you with what it would take to do the same in an electric vehicle. Electric vehicle batteries have just a fraction of the energy density of gasoline, meaning they would have to be charged multiple times during a 400-mile trip. There’s currently no major infrastructure for charging electric vehicles on the road, and it can take hours for an electric vehicle battery to charge.

Consumers at times may take for granted the convenience and time-savings offered by the existing fuel station network. The technological processes that recover crude oil from the earth, transport it to refineries, refine it into gasoline and diesel, transport it to fuel stations and store it over time are so incredibly advanced that consumers can fill up with gasoline 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in as many quantities as necessary. That’s a convenience that does not currently exist with other transportation fuels.

Affordability

The energy density of a fuel also contributes to its affordability.

When gasoline prices are high, you may hear more discussion about introducing more biofuels, especially ethanol, as a means to reduce price. After all, some consumers see the lower E85 price at the station and (understandably) think it’s more affordable than regular gasoline. But a gallon of E85 contains roughly 25 percent less energy than a gallon of gasoline, meaning you end up paying more because you fill up more often – even though the E85 price per gallon at the pump is lower.

A few years ago, Edmunds.com did an interesting test on a flex-fuel SUV, driving it from San Diego to Las Vegas and back first on gasoline and then on E85 to find out the difference in fuel economy and cost. They found that fuel economy was 26.5 percent worse when using E85. That means having to buy more fuel to go the same distance, meaning this sort of trip using E85 could cost a consumer about $20 more than using gasoline.

Looking to the Future

Even though I talked about the current challenges of fueling vehicles with electricity and biofuels here, that doesn’t mean we don’t expect further technology advances in this area that will greatly expand the use of such vehicles. In fact, you might be interested to know that in our Outlook for Energy, we actually predict that hybrids and other advanced vehicles will account for nearly 50 percent of the vehicles on the road in 2040, compared to just 1 percent today.

More efficient vehicles will mean that global demand for fuels to power the light-duty vehicle fleet is likely to actually plateau and gradually start to decline about 10 to 15 years from now, while still meeting the needs of consumers.

There’s a lot more information about the future demand for transportation fuels, advances in vehicle efficiency and more in our 2012 Outlook for Energy – download a copy at exxonmobil.com or visit our interactive website for more data.


146 Comments

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  1. edward santana-grace says:

    keep up good articles with good data. I am aware we all push data for our cause but I know who Exxon is and I like your good data. Thanks for making an intelligent argument about energy density. I never thought that way. Is it possible to create synthetic, energy dense, liquid fuel. I am sure it would cost a bundle, but is it possible? Would that ever be feasible in the future from an economic point of view?

    • Jamie Samans says:

      I don’t think it would add much value to do so. Advanced batteries that could etter hold current and charge faster would be superior given ample supplies of electricity, and the best density-to-energy conversion is nuclear fusion. In an ideal world, we’d have fusion reactors to provide power, and we’d charge our vehicles and everything else from the abundant supply.

      • Steve S says:

        Jamie. I agree. The issue is the energy supply infrastructure. The current infrastructure is woefully inadequate to both produce and deliver electricity. Fusion or natural hydro electric is clearly the way to go, but the same folks who push the “clean” of electric cars are the ones damning nuclear. Solar is a ruse. Look at the “investors” they know that the govenment will subsidise their profits and when they see them begin to wise up as to its inefficiency- they will bail. Then there is the delivery side. They have rolling blackouts all over the US when demand exceed supply capabilities. I’m no chemist or physicist, but my gut tells me that if even 1/10 of the energy currently consumed by internal combustion engines in this country were to be replaced by electric, it would cripple the power grid. To upgrade that infrastructure would require large changes to the physical landscape – and I don’t think the environmentalist would like that either. They are their own worst enemy in this arena.

        • john thaller says:

          Actually you are not correct. The existing infrastructure and capacity in the electric grid is sufficient to supply the energy needs of 83% of the cars on the road. Virtually all power plants operate at far less rate than their max rate most of the time, and many are even shut down during slow periods. It is only during the peak periods that it becomes an issue. And the peak is only during the day, not the night. Your data is all made up, no back up at all, but you seem to have been able to craft a very strong position, one that is simply not true.

        • Willie Wilmette says:

          Slot cars could have a tiny battery and get electricity from the roads. Smaller battery = less weight = higher efficiency.

        • Charles Foster says:

          So what is “Clean” about a Electric Car. Electric Cars effectively burn Coal. Electric Cars are the dirtiest thing you can drive.
          And as for Ethanol! People are Starving to Death today because we are burn food in our gas tanks.
          Due only to goverment subsidies it is cheaper to turn Corn into fuel than into food and it is still more expensive to use as fuel than gasoline.
          Oil will be the fuel of the future for a long, long time.

        • Jay Thomas says:

          @John Thaller
          You seem to have been able to craft a very strong position, one that isn’t true. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics specifically RITA, there were 250,272,812 highway registered vehicles in 2010. You say the grid can support 83% of the cars on the road. The math is rather simple. The average load to charge 83% of these vehicles far exceeds the load difference between winter and summer months which is a cause for rolling blackouts. Just as you accuse others of faulty information, I’d ask that you really look into what you are saying, because it just isn’t believable.

        • Fred Goodwin says:

          @john thaller: even if 100% of the cars on the road today could be powered by the electrical grid, much of that electricity comes from fossil fuel anyway? In other words, you’d be replacing one fossil fuel (gasoline) with another (coal, oil, natural gas). How much of the electricity on the grid is created from non-fossil sources like nuclear, water & wave, wind, geothermal, biomass, solar, etc.?

        • Osama bin Login says:

          Fusion isn’t going to solve any problems in our lifetimes.

          I knew fusion people in the early 1980s. They were desperate to get to break-even. Thirty years later, they still haven’t achieved that. Meanwhile, desktop computers have gone from 16k of ram to 16GB of ram. Even internal combustion engines have advanced faster than fusion energy technology.

          Meanwhile, how safe will it be? When I was a kid, there were all these naive ideas of how great fission energy would be. Oops, we forgot about fission products: hideously dangerous in trace quantities, and generating too much heat, nonstop, for the next century, melting through just about anything that can’t be liquid cooled. Certainly fusion energy will have some sort of unanticipated problems besides the ones we already know about.

          OK so keep researching, but don’t hold your breath.

      • Matt Swisher says:

        I think the best density to energy conversion is matter/anti-matter annihilation. Maybe less practical to harness than nuclear fusion, but much more energy is released.

    • Brandon Thornton says:

      to answer your original question, yes there is research being done to determine the feasibility of manfacturing methane and other simple hydrocarbon fuels from water and CO2. It is estimated though that even on an industrial scale, it would be more than twice as expensive to make these fuels using this method that to harvest them using tradional methods such as harvesting them from decaying organic waste or refining them from crude oil. As to some of you other replies, batteries will not be able to meet the same energy density as liquid fuels because they do not rely on energetic chemical reactions to store and release energy in the way fuels do. Secondly, the electrical grid is horribly stressed already and would never support a significant conversion to electric vehicles. New regulations regarding power generation facilities are only going to further reduce capacity

      • Brandon Thornton says:

        As to the future, I think that Hydrogen or at least the Energy Vector Model is the most economically viable alterative

      • bill hill says:

        intuitively and thinking about energy I think that the process of making petroleum is nature’s gift to us and to replicate that effort can not be done by man without a huge influx of energy. I mean think of all the mass (rock overburden) and the millions of years it took to create oil, all of it free. We want to recreate that in a day, seems silly to think that we can do that. Does anyone know the calories required to make a gallon of ethanol? Not to mention the pollution required.

        • Osama bin Login says:

          “…all of it free”

          Ask the people in Joplin, MO how ‘free’ it is.

          Look, 1987 was the hottest year on record, in terms of global temperature. #1, at least in 1987. The very next year, 1988, it was even hotter, pushing 1987 to #2. Nowadays, 1987 is merely #20 on the list: there’s been 19 years hotter than 1987, since 1987. There aren’t that many YEARS since 1987 – just 25 of them – but 19 of those years have been hotter. That includes every single year since 1997 – starting a decade after 1987, every year has been hotter than 1987. Every single one.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instrumental_temperature_record#Warmest_years

          Russia is being ravaged by wildfires again this year. Yeah, that’s the place where both Napoleon and Hitler were halted because so many of their soldiers froze to death. Crops across the US have been ruined by the droughts we’re having, and the Gulf coast is being battered yet again by a major hurricaine. The famines and floods continue and get worse, here and abroad. And it won’t go back to ‘normal’ in our lifetimes, nor in our grandchildrens’ lifetimes.

          OK so that’s how “free” our fossil fuels are. Obviously we have to cut down our spending.

        • Michael Clute says:

          Osama,

          First I have a question for you. What is “normal”. Is “normal” the Mid-70s when EVERY climatologist was saying beware, the next ice age, or was it 20 or so years befor that, when they where talking about global warming, or 20 or so years befor that when they where warning about the next ice age…etc.

          Or maybe “Normal” was around the time of Erik the Red and Lief Ericson when it was warm enough in Greenland that you could raise grasing animals like sheep and cows, and Wine Grapes grew well in England.

          Or maybe normal was durring the “Little Ice Age” wich ended about 250 years ago…right around the time all the Global Warming People start thier charts…odd that.

          The “WILD” fires in Russia are just that fires started by Nature.

          BTW, you are aware that the TOTAL CO2 in the atmosphere is almost nil, and human sorced(direct and indirect) CO2 is a microscopic fraction of that extreemly small number.

    • Claude Slagenhop says:

      I would buy an iPhone that you could power with 1 drop of Gas.

  2. Seth Christensen says:

    I think the author forgot this sentence: “So come on investors, reach into your pocket books, take your money out of Apple stocks and let’s show the world just how powerful OPEC can be.”

  3. Nat Belz says:

    Point well made, but it’d also be nice if you answered your intriguing headline question: How many gallons (or portions thereof) DOES it take to charge an iPhone?

    • Kevin Joseph says:

      Given that a gasoline engine is 25% efficient is it fair to say one gallon could only charge an IPhone for 5 years?

      And given that my math is correct, you could save some money (about $1.50/5 years) with gas prices at $4/gallon by just using electricity, and also make use of renewable energy sources!

    • Roger Jollie says:

      It was stated as one gallon of gasoline would charge an iPhone once a day for almost 20 years. One gallon is 128 oz. Once a day for 20 years works out to 365 * 20 or 7300 charges per gallon. Divide the 128 oz by number of charges gives the amount of gas per charge. Or 0.018 oz of gasoline per charge. We’re talking a small rain drop sized amount of gasoline to charge an iPhone.

      • Claude Slagenhop says:

        I have often wondered why you couldn’t make an electronic device powered by gasoline, or more likely butane. You could recharge with a butane tank (Like cigarette lighters) A small micro turbine generator would be very convenient. Comeon Exxon- cell phone powered by gas!!!

        • Michael Clute says:

          A better question is why in the world are we developing brand new “Hybrid” technology to get the most out of a gallon of gas, when that technology ALREADY EXISTS and has been perfected over about 100 years. I am talking about the technology used in vitually all modern Locomotives today. Diesel-Electric, where the Electric motors provide ALL the power to the wheels, while the Diesel Engine provides all the power to the Motors.

    • Jamie Samans says:

      “All of the energy concentrated in one gallon of gasoline is enough to charge an iPhone once a day for almost 20 years,” so one gallon = ~ 365 x 20 = 7300 chargings.

      It therefore takes 1/7300 gallons (or ~0.105 teaspoons) of gasoline to charge an iPhone.

    • Norman Wilson says:

      Actually, if you had bothered to read the article rather than jumping straight in to comment you’d have read the answer on the 5th line.
      And I quote:
      “All of the energy concentrated in one gallon of gasoline is enough to charge an iPhone once a day for almost 20 years.”

  4. Daniel Gray/MPGomatic says:

    Things have changed since Edmunds put their 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe LT to the test.

    Some modern FlexFuel engines are tuned to better take advantage of E85. We tested E85 vs E10 in a 2011 FlexFuel Buick Regal Turbo earlier this year and experienced a more modest 12% drop in gas mileage. We repeated the test with a Saab 9-5 Biopower (which uses the same engine) and achieved similar results.

    Gasoline and E85 prices vary in different geographic locations. In the Corn Belt, the price differential may tilt in E85′s favor.

    America’s future depends on the domestic production of renewable fuel. Corn kernel-based ethanol was just the first phase.

    • craig parrott says:

      I think you worked more to prove the loss in mileage, not to disprove it. The article stated that E85 is 26.5% worse than straight gas. Your test and claim shows that E85 is “only” 12% worse that E10 which is substantially less (probably about 15%) than straight gas itself. So, again you just re-proved the article and Edmunds test.

      • Russell Spreeman says:

        Chemically, ethanol has only 70% as much energy contained in it as does regular (100%) gasoline. E85 delivers fewer miles per gallon for this reason. And how much energy (including fossil fuels) goes into creating that inefficient ethanol? Here in the Midwest I have not see than e85 is anywhere near enough cheaper than gasoline to account for its low efficiency. I’ve seen it within 3% of the price of regular gas while it delivers 30% less mpg. And by the way, we are subsidizing this “renewable energy” to the tune of 50 taxpayer-paid cents per gallon. Add in all the pesticides and fertilizers that get into the water supply ‘growing’ this fuel and it becomes even more pointless. In a world where people are starving, we grow food to inefficiently power our cars?

        • Michael Potter says:

          The subsidy ended Jan 1, 2012.
          See this article:
          http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/12/29/9804028-6-billion-a-year-ethanol-subsidy-dies-but-wait-theres-more

          Dan Gray was not disputing the difference in BTUs in a gallon of E85. He was making the point that some cars are tuned to make better use of the E85 such that the BTU differences is mitigated significantly (not completely).

          You make the point that fossil fuels are needed to make ethanol. It should be noted that fossil fuels are also needed to make gasoline. The numbers I have read, but do not have a source for are: .7 BTU to make 1 BTU ethanol. 1.4 BTU to make 1 BTU gasoline. That is a doubling of efficiency.

          We should strive to have no starving people in the world. One step towards that goal would be to make the best use of our resources as possible.

        • Osama bin Login says:

          Here’s how ethanol is currently made. Visualize a corn plant, taller than a person; broad green leaves. Pick off the ears, and throw away the rest of the plant. Tear off the leaves and husks, throw them away. Scrape the kernels off the cobs; throw the cobs away. Ethanol is made only from those cob scrapings.

          What if you could turn the rest of the plant into Ethanol or some other fluid fuel? This would be way better and way cheaper. This is the idea behind cellulosic ethanol. It converts sunlight into fuel better than solar cells, and it inhales carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the process. Clearly we’ll need a lot of it.

  5. Jamie Samans says:

    I consider it rather willful manipulation of statistics to show an “energy density” for electricity, which is after all a concentration of photons and not a substance per se.

    Measuring the size or density requirements of current batteries relative to distance traveled is a particularly out-of-place comparison to make in an article where the purpose, after all, is to change a phone battery. Any of the means given — gasoline, diesel, CNG — can only do this by being converted to electricity. Electricity, meanwhile, does all of the charging in every case.

    • Steve S says:

      How do you suppose much of that electricty is produced?

    • john thaller says:

      Actually you are correct if the only definition of density is mass (Kg) per unit of area or volume.

      Density can mean a lot more though, and is often used to mean other things. For instance, the density of mosquitos in a square mile of rain forest, or the density of population measured in numbers of people, not their weight.

      Charge density is the number of electrons per unit of area, not the weight of the electrons, though they would be proportional.

    • Mike Brosch says:

      It is common for people with a vague understanding of physics to dispute scientific evidence. What the author was attempting was to inform, in a relative way, the qualities of one form of transportable energy vs another. I would have used Watts; as in 750 watts are equivalent to 1 HP. One horse power is the effort required to lift 550 pounds to a height of one foot, in one second.
      So 750 watts is the same as 550′ lbs of torque. Auto gas produces about 15 hp per/gallon per/hour, or 11,250 watts per hour.
      When comparing energy delivery it is important to understand the science.

      • Osama bin Login says:

        Watts and horsepower are rates of energy; one watt is one joule of energy per second. Energy delivered, burned, flowing, whatever.

        so, one horse power is the effort required to lift 550 pounds up by one foot, EVERY second. Or 550 pounds up 60 feet every minute. Or 55 pounds up by ten feet every second.

        Doesn’t matter how fast the 550 lbs are raised; it’s the same amount of energy to raise it one foot: 1 horsepower running for 1 second. You could compress air with the energy of 1 horsepower in a second. Then you could use that air compresion, at your leisure, to raise your 550 lbs as quickly or as slowly as you want; it’ll get up 1 foot either way.

        Torque and energy are not the same thing, although they are both measured in force x distance. One foot-pound of energy will push against one pound of force, and move it 1 foot back. Or, only a half foot if it’s against two pounds of force.

        One foot-pound of torque is the rotational force you get on an axle if you apply 1 pound of force on the end of a 1 foot long wrench. If it’s a half-foot wrench, you have less leverage so you’ll have to push 2 pounds to get the same torque.

  6. Jeff Mc Kinney says:

    365 x 20 = 7300; approximately 1/7000th of a gallon of gasoline to charge and i-phone is my estimate.

  7. Hugh Barrass says:

    One more consideration – charge time.

    It takes about 5 minutes to reload a gas tank with enough energy to drive for ~8 hours. That would be termed a recharge rate of ~100.C – right now battery technology allows recharge rates of about 10.C. Until that problem is fixed then a high density transportable fuel is the only widely applicable option for vehicle power.

    • Paul Scott says:

      I disagree. Like the EXXON writer, you assume everyone needs to be able to fill up and drive for hundreds of miles when that is decidedly not the way people use their cars. The vast majority drive less than 40 miles per day, well within the range of a 100 mile EV. With the EV, you can conveniently avoid the significant negative aspects of oil while keeping all of your money local, with most of it in your own pocket.

      • J Sebastian says:

        Paul, not everyone will need to do that everyday, but most people need to drive more than 100 miles sometimes. I know that in some parts of the country people may drive less than 40 miles a day, particularly the retired or students. However, there are a great number of people who drive much more. My commute here in the SF Bay Area is 40+ miles one way. That is just to get to my primary office. If I have appts outside of the office, or want to go to lunch, add more miles to the 80+ I need just to get to and from my place of business. And this is true for huge numbers of people, hundreds of thousands of them just in this metro area alone.

        As for negative aspects of oil , which ones do you think you are avoiding by purchasing and using an EV? And, there are tradeoffs too surely, in which negative aspects of EV’s are substituted for those of oil.

        As for keeping money local, to what are you referring? Are you referring to the cost of imported oil products? I wonder if you similarly indict the purchase of all consumer goods, most of which are not produced in the United States and therefore are certainly not local, no matter where you purchased it. It is my estimate that less than 10% of anything people buy is actually made in this country.

        • SF Biker says:

          You’ve traded cheaper housing for a longer commute. Nobody is telling you that you have to use an electric car, but don’t inhibit adoption of electic cars for the rest of us.

          The average US driver commutes 30 miles/day, which is well within the range of most electric cars.

          If I need a car that car go farther, I can rent one – why pay for the upkeep and maintenance of an internal combustion engine (oil changes, tuneups, etc) when I don’t need to?

          I need to use a pickup truck 2 or 3 times a year so I rent one when I need it rather than using it as my daily commuter “just in case”. Likewise, I drive more than 50 miles 2 or 3 times a year, so I can rent a nicer car than my daily commuter when I make a long trip.

        • Michael Shepard says:

          Right on here in Montana, 100 miles will get you nowhere..the city people do not understand our logistics..but want to tell us how to live

      • Mike Brosch says:

        Sure, we can have a little electro-car for local driving and an SUV for actually doing something… But seriously, there are some very good ideas out there right now. I really like the idea of a four seat automated vehicle that would operate on city streets between “park and ride” lots or other transportation hubs. The vision is that you would park your big gaser, swipe a card through a kiosk, enter your destination and wait till the public car
        (PC) arrives. The door closes and you trundle off down special lanes while computers adjust speed and flow rates etc. When you arrive at your destination you get out and the PC either goes to a recharge port or responds to another request for transport.

      • John Stone says:

        I drive ~400miles a week in Houston. From one side of the city to the other is 40miles one way. There is no subway, or bus routes that go past my office. 602 sqmi of traffic. I guess I could recharge my EV during lunch, to get an extra 3-5miles. I would rather not bring down the power grid with a VOLT or LEAF when we have over 60+ days of 100F. CNG seems the better alternative to gasoline right now.

    • Mike Taggart says:

      The rate at which batteries can be charged is already being worked on and will likely be solved for higher capacity cells within the next ten years. A better solution is for vehicle manufactures to standardize and make replaceable, battery packs. Service stations could then have a ready supply of fully charged and swappable batteries available on demand. A “fill-up” could take less than a minute with well-designed swapping mechanism. Of course, it would require that we think of battery packs as energy and not part of the vehicle, but the convenience of not having to get out of one’s car for a quick “energy refill” would help with that paradigm shift. While I’m an engineer and not an economist, it seems like it would stimulate job growth (through manufacturing), real estate (through purchase of additional space for existing stations and likely, new land purchases and construction in areas where station density is low due to the limited range of all electric vehicles.

      • Alan Robbins says:

        The first electric car, built at the turn of the last century, had a range of 20 miles. At the time there was intense competition between steam, electric, and internal combustion.

        Over 100 years later, and the range of the Nissan Leaf is around 60-80 miles. At this rate it will be a very long time before battery technology takes a great leap forward.

        The problem is that people look at computers, or the Internet, and think we can apply the same growth rates to things that are heavily dependent on the laws of physics.

        Sorry, we can’t.

        In the Carter Administration we started spending billions of dollars on alternative energy. At that time our renewable production was 7% of the total. Billions of dollars and many years later and renewable production is 7%. Recently the numbers were tweaked to include nuclear but if you take that out, the number is 7%.

        Once again, you can’t outspend the laws of physics.

        As an engineer, Mike, you should know this.

        Fun to talk about, yes. Fun to dream about, yes. Reality? Nope.

        • Osama bin Login says:

          I think when Reagan took office, all that funding was cut. Meanwhile, generous subsidies for the fossil fuel industries continue. Lobbyists have a great ROI. Meanwhile we can’t seem to get our exceptional floods and our exceptional droughts to cancel each other out.

          And yes, electric car technology took about an 80 year break right in the middle of that 100 years, as gas was dirt cheap. I remember 35c/gallon when I was a kid.

          Tesla’s new model S (claims it) goes 300 miles, if you get the largest battery size. 160 miles in the base model. It’s certainly not cheap. These are probably the best batteries being manufactured.

          It takes overnight to charge it with the cheap extension cord you get for free, or 1/2 hour at a proper charging station. I could see driving across the country and getting a charge in the middle of the day if I could eat lunch or dinner at the same time I charge up.

          And the cost of that charge is like $5 to $8, nothing like the $45 it takes to fill my tank these days. Won’t offset the cost of a Tesla, but that’s a luxury car.

  8. Paul Scott says:

    Under your “Convenience” section, you create a straw man argument by highlighting the one area in which electric vehicles (EVs) are not superior to internal combustion engines (ICE). By choosing 300-400 miles of range for a trip, you create a scenario that constitutes less than 10% of American’s driving needs. Even then, an EV with range extension, like the GM Volt, can serve for 100% of those needs while avoiding the use of gas for all the rest of its daily driving.

    Given that 90% of Americans can easily get by with a 100 mile range EV for all of their daily driving, and that these cars are charged at home with the simple act of plugging them in, your argument doesn’t hold water.

    • J Sebastian says:

      One must also weigh the relative costs of choosing an EV over an ICE car.

      In many parts of the country, the electric rates are such that the payback schedule for the significant additional expense might be reasonable. Perhaps say, less than 4-5 years.

      However, in places with tiered electric rate plans it is not, and buyers in these areas have no financial incentive to choose an EV. Add to that the diminished utility of the EV and you have a losing combination. California is a good example of such a market.

      • David Fredsall says:

        Paul with all due respect I think you may be the one creating the straw man argument here.The debate between ICE vehicles and electric leaves out the idea of the potential range of a vehicle. For example 90% of my driving may be less than 40 miles per day. The problem is my brother 250 miles away just had a heart attack. That’s well beyond the range of my EV. No problem for the ICE. If money were no object and cars were like silverware, I could have a stable of cars ready for any need. I’d just choose to use the suitable tool for the job. Alas that’s not the world we inhabit.
        Even if some quick change battery system were instantly available would you recommend stopping 7 times during a 250 mile trip? You choose to side step this problem by suggesting the Volt as the EV of choice. You may recall for most of its life and all of the run up to its production the Volt we were told was a “plug in” car, no gasoline required or needed. Then we learn the Volt has a motor, a gasoline using motor. Why was this needed?, quite simply a 40 mile range is totally insufficient for potential buyers 100% of the time. I’ve driven the Volt. All you want to do with the Volt when its running on its gasoline motor is drive it home. I live in Connecticut, we have hills and cold and snow. The Volt does not perform well with either and in combination, I would not want to think about it.
        Battery’s are little better than they were 100+ years ago. I had liked what I heard about the foam filled battery b/c it was vastly lighter and charged quickly… read more »

        …but I think the number of recharges possible are its problem. We can hope for the future but the problem 100 years ago is still the problem today, ie. potential vehicle range.

        • Bob Plugh says:

          It’s called a RENTAL CAR… For the VERY FEW instances in which you NEED a greater range – RENT A CAR…

          You can pay for the rental with the savings in MAINTENANCE alone.

        • Rob Peterson says:

          The Volt was revealed in 2007 as an extended range electric vehicle. Powered solely by electricity for the first 35-40 miles then powered by gas for the next 300+ miles. The design always included a gas-powered engine. The flack you are discussing is whether the engine ever powered the wheels directly which is irrelevant for this discussion.

          As for the scenario above, you’d drive 90 percent of the time on electric only. On the time you need to visit your brother you’d drive the first 40 on electric and the rest powered by the liquid fuel stored in the 9.3 gallon tank of gas. Problem solved.

        • Lance Berg says:

          The volt isn’t hiding this “EV plus gasoline” design, far from it, it touts it as the ultimate solution.

          And the thing is, it probably is, as many others have mentioned here, most people will be able to use a Volt style car as an electric most of the time, but will have the unlimited range of a ICE car on hand when needed. Even then, if you’re going 60 miles you still got 40 miles of electric running and only 20 of gasoline, while the pure ICE ran all 60 miles on gas.

          The real problem with the Volt isn’t the design concept, it is the PRICE. Even if electricity were free you wouldn’t save enough money in five years to pay for the difference between the cost of a Volt and the cost of one of the many $15K high MPG cars currently out there, not even if electricity were free AND you got the full $7500 rebate from the government (which I wouldn’t get as I don’t owe $7500 in taxes)

          Most of the electric or hybrid designers out there are suffering from this same misunderstanding, there won’t be a mass adoption of any sort of alternate vehicle until the math makes sense:

          Price of vehicle minus projected savings < price of ICE vehicle AND convenience is similar.

          Volt wins on convenience but loses on price. Leaf loses on both fronts. Prius… now you're getting close, if the rebate counted Prius you'd have something, but I want to see the "plug in" option before really passing judgement there.

          Rental cars are not a solution to this problem. Rentals are available only during limited hours, not "on demand", and also won't work if you drive to work, then find out you need to run… read more »

          …an errand, but then find out you need another and suddenly there you are, no longer in range of home. What's your solution now, get a hotel room and wait for the battery to charge? Or drive to a car rental place, which hopefully is in walking range of a charger, and drive the rental home?

          The massively higher energy density of liquid fuels and the massively shorter recharge time is as the author said a very very high bar for any serious alternative vehicle to leap over.

  9. Kevin Lee says:

    What the author of the article fails to mention is the efficiency of the engines for each of the respective fuels. Generally, electric engines are much more efficient at turning the fuel (in this case, stored energy in a battery) into useful motion than, burning the fuel directly where most of the energy is lost to dissipated heat. This is how it’s possible to carry less energy with you in a battery, but to still travel very far. I am not claiming that this is true, but there have been studies claiming that if we were to use exclusively electric cars, but burn coal to produce that electricity, that this would be a net reduction in CO2 emissions versus conventional gasoline.

    • Lance Berg says:

      Another thought is that electric generation is generally done in a limited number of locations, so it should be possible to reap the benefits of large scale economies, and also it should be possible to do a very good job of scrubbing the wastes from whatever means of generation you are using. And electrics will for the most part be charged during non peak hours, but use the charge during peak hours, this means efficient use of the generating capacity.

      A gasoline engine in your car means a small and therefore probably less efficient engine, and it means having to carry the scrubbers around as part of the payload.

      If electrics could drive as far on a charge as ICE cars can on a tank of gas, and could recharge in the same span of time that you can refuel an ICE tank, then you could compare the two as apples to apples.

      It’s also possible that carrying an onboard generator, similar to the Volt plan, would mean needing a much smaller engine since it could run constantly at a middle power range, instead of needing to haul around an engine big enough to handle your peak loads, say going up a steep hill or merging into high speed traffic.

      • William Walkington says:

        OK, so we all drive electric cars to our 9 to 5 (peak hours for electricity demand) day jobs, then go home and plug our electric cars in (off hours for electricity demand) to charge for the next day, right? How long until 5 to 9 (off hours) is peak demand time? With the entire nation, give or take, plugging in during the same 4 hour span, won’t the grid collapse from the sudden increase in demand?

    • Alan Robbins says:

      With all due respect, Kevin, this only holds true if you build and recycle the batteries on another planet. Batteries are filled with extremely nasty non environmentally friendly chemicals. If you don’t believe me take the cap off one and stick your finger in the water and wait a while to see what happens.

  10. Paul Scott says:

    Your “Affordability” section conveniently ignores the external costs of oil. A recent RAND study (http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG838.html) found that we spend $80 billion per year in military costs protecting access to oil around the world. This works out to about 55 cents/gallon that is not paid at the pump, but instead contributes to our national debt.

    In addition, the Iraq war clearly had a lot to do with oil, yet none of the $1.5 trillion dollars spent on that war is recovered through taxes on gasoline or diesel.

    Then there is the problem of massive environmental degradation such as the Gulf oil spill that killed several oil workers and eliminated thousands of jobs in the region. The poison from that spill continues to contaminate vast portions of that ecosystem. Not one dime is paid at the pump to mitigate this problem by those who use oil.

    The pollution generated by burning oil in ICE contributes to the premature deaths of thousands of Americans every year. Many of them are children unfortunate enough to live near freeways where the air is particularly bad. Still, no one who buys gas pays for this real cost.

    It seems fair to ask that any true accounting of “affordability” should take these costs into account.

    • J Sebastian says:

      These externalities are a strawman of their own. The military does NOT protect “access to oil”, nor does it need to. The suppliers of oil can do that for themselves, just as any supplier who needs to get goods to market will do.

      Please clarify how the Iraq war protected our access to oil? What percentage of our oil consumption was Iraq oil? Surely we have plentiful alternatives to importing, yet the process by which these decisions are made does not include the consumer.

      IF you are so discontent with what you perceive as oil-related externalities, then may I suggest that you seek a political remedy for what is clearly a political, not technological or operational, issue.

    • bill hill says:

      yes if everyone and the media reporting stuff were honest then a real analysis could be shared. Like the fracking tirades, fracking ain’t the problem its the oil. But no fuel is without cost, you just have to decide what costs you can live or die with. Why would you bring up the deaths of the rig workers, workers die all the time what is the energy density/death ratio for each fuel? Farming and fertilizer plants are dangerous too, as are mines, and construction jobs, etc.

  11. steve factor says:

    How exactly would we charge an iPhone using gas? I could connect a model airplane engine to a bicycle generator and run that into the iPhone charger cord but the engine runs only a few minutes on an ounce of fuel. Where does all that energy go?

    • Jonathan Miller says:

      Your question highlights the flaw in the logic of the question. First of all electricity is not a fuel…it’s a method of transporting energy.

      What they are really talking about is the energy density of batteries..which admittedly is very low with today’s technology. But there is no reason why it could not be better and even surpass that of gasoline.

      Second of all about 80% of the energy in gasoline is wasted in the form of heat in most engines. So to charge that iPhone your would need 5 times as much energy as the calculations would lead you to believe.

      Lastly, You would need to figure in the losses of the generator and the losses in charging the battery. that’s where all the energy goes, into the inefficiencies.

      Still although it would not last 20 years as predicted the gallon of gasoline would be capable of recharging the iPhone many many times. The battery is the real limiting factor, not the electricity.

  12. Jeff U'Ren says:

    This is a misleading question designed to distract you from the truth.

    You don’t need gasoline to drive your car.

    I just drove my Chevy Volt 12,000 miles this year, oil free, on it’s battery, using my home’s electric current.

    The correct question would be:
    How many wasted KiloWatts of ELECTRICITY does it take to make a gallon of GAS?

    The answer is 6 kilowatts. Enough to drive a plugin electric car 100 miles.

    That is not counting the energy it takes to: Explore for oil. Drill for oil. Transport oil to refineries. Refine the oil into gasoline, (Oh, sorry that was the 6 kWs). Truck the gasoline to your gas station. Pump the gas into your car.

    Getting gasoline into your car takes a lot of energy and electricity that could be used to simply power your electric car. I just plug my car in at home, going to the gas station is a waste of time and inconvenient.

    And if your Electric car has a range extending generator like the Volt, you have no worries. I can keep driving my Volt and it’s gas generator will make more electricity to go up to 380 miles. All at 40 MPG in that rarely used mode.

    My annual MPG total is now 533 MPG as I drive mostly on electrons.

    I have used a total of 22.5 gallons of gas this year to extend my range in my Chevy Volt. Most days I drive without using ANY GAS.

    I have driven 97% of the time on my battery.

    The small fleet of less than 8000 Chevy Volts sold this year in a limited production run have racked-up over 10 million oil free miles on their batteries using electricity. Electricity from our home at 1/5 the cost of gasoline and getting cheaper.

    I look forward to swishing pass gas cars on… read more »

    …the freeway every day. They are shocked at how fast the Volt is.

    Electric drive cars are fast, smooth, quiet and fun to drive. The fun comes first for me.

    No gas car can give you the uniquely exhilarating driving experience of a powerful electric car.

    All it takes is a test drive and you will be hooked on these cars. The Volt is an awesome car. More fun than my 3 series BMW.

    We need to stop sending $400B out of the country to buy foreign oil. Instead we need to buy domestically made, American made electricity to run or cars.

    Yes we need oil for other products like plastics. That’s why we shouldn’t be burning it up into the air that we breath, never to be recycled and used again. Gone forever.

    Drive electric, save our economy, clean our air, improve our health, keep most of your money for you and not the oil companies.

    To learn more about the new amazing plugin electric cars now available go to: http://www.pluginamerica.org/

    • J Sebastian says:

      You must have some uniquely low electric utility rates , which is very fortunate for you. However, a great many folks do not, like the 38 million of us who live in California. Thanks to a longstanding tiered electric rate schedule that the electrical energy industry lobbied our politicians for many years ago, our rates are such that it is more expensive than gasoline and really has no hope of ever becoming less.

      Add to that the higher acquisition costs of EVs and the diminished utility and such cars are a losing combo for *our* market. That being said, there are always people with more money than sense or practicality and hence they sometimes will tend to buy things like this. In fact, I recently saw two Volts, the first I had ever seen on the road, right next to each other on my way to work during my 40+ mile one-way commute.

    • Gregory Kreider says:

      What does your Volt really run on coal, natural gas, wind, hydro…

    • Jeff Miller says:

      A recent study (http://www.mackinac.org/16192) contends that taxpayer subsidies amount to $250,000 per Chevy Volt on the road. And that doesn’t include the cost of the thank you cards you should be mailing out to the millions of taxpayers who helped pay for your Volt.

      • Navara Uhura says:

        LOL! You cited the Mackinac Center. #credibilityFail

        • Don Carter says:

          LOL. You committed a logical fallacy. #credibilityFail

          Let me help you. Is there actually anything incorrect in the information quoted, the methodology of the study, etc., or is it simply from a source you disagree with philosophically? If the former, then you need to explain. If the latter, you don’t really have any logical reason to disagree.

      • Bill Thompson says:

        Even Fox News knows not to trust the Mackinaw Center. Pure right-wing propoganda. LOL

    • bill hill says:

      wow you are all about the details of exploring and refining gasoline but you must assume batteries grow on trees. I get it your passion is driven by fashion like most people in the west…fashion is very strong but less strong when you are hungry like much of the 3rd world…but let them eat cake right.

  13. SparkyBob Melvin says:

    It is a real shame that the conversation has fallen into a debate over using electricity versus liquid fossil fuels for running cars. I remember having these kinds of debates in junior high school.

    Think outside the box. The goal is not to settle the argument “Is my car better than your car?” The goal is to move towards more efficient energy usage at all levels. Don’t forget that the electric grid has huge (HUGE) efficiency problems, too, and also has significant environmental issues, regardless of source.

    If you are able personally to afford a hybrid or a full EV and if that meets your personal transportation needs, then that is great. However, when it comes to translating and expanding a block of such choices into a larger regional or national policy, we need to have a lot more cooperation, coordination, and patience. You will not be able to transform overnight the electric infrastructure into the same flexible energy distribution network that currently meets the transportation needs of millions of drivers. Nor do I think anyone foresees the many possible negative externalities such a transformation would create.

    The bottom line is, vote with your pocketbook. If enough folks buy LED lights, the cost will come down and enable more to buy them, which will spur investment into cheaper ways to produce and use them, which will take pressure off the grid. Save the grid for the things it is best for. Save fossil fuel for the things it is best for. As smart consumers vote and reap rewards, others will follow. That is the joy of having an economy that is largely unregulated.

    I long for the day when I will be able to buy an affordable after-market (used) hybrid or EV…. read more »

    … New car buyers, please keep buying those to bring the price down into my range, and maybe one day I might even be able to afford one of those fancy i-phones, too.

  14. john thaller says:

    I highly doubt the article about the SUV getting 26.5% less fuel economy is accurate. No, I don’t believe it just because Edmunds said so. The real test would be to put the SUV on a dyno test stand and do the test accurately. I bet the difference is only about 4%.

    • craig parrott says:

      False. The real test is to drive real roads in the real world. Just as the newer more realistic EPA ratings are doing. You are proposing that a fuel that is Far less energy dense than straight gas is only 4% less in delivery. Not possible.

  15. john thaller says:

    We really should be thinking of using natural gas more than gasoline.

    • Gregory Kreider says:

      John has the correct answer to several questions:

      How do we stop using Mideast oil?
      How do we create less polution?
      How do we maximize our own National Resources?

      Converting existing gasoline engines to use natural gas or its products in a “switch on the fly” mode with gasoline costs about $3000 for existing engines. The cost to build the factory engines that way would be less.The car would have two fuel tanks. Gasoline and LPG which is a standard fuel in Europe.

      This marketing concept looks like a job for T. Boone P

    • Steve Darwin says:

      We need to REQUIRE producers to capture Natural Gas from the wells, which would further reduce the costs of natural gas. Fly over any major oil-well field and you will see “vent-stacks” spewing huge flames to burn off natural gas. Even at minor oil fields, such as western Nebraska where I live, huge volumes of natural gas is burned at vents of individual wells. What a waste!

  16. SF Biker says:

    To look at it another way (iPhone charges per mile):

    A 45mpg Prius uses around 2400 BTU of gasoline per mile. (110000 BTU / 45 miles)

    A Nissan Leaf with an EPA range of 73 miles uses 1117 BTU to go that same distance using its 24Kwh battery pack. (24Kwh * 3400 BTU/KWh / 73 miles)

    The iPhone battery capacity is around 5 Wh (3.7V * 1400 mAh), or 17BTU

    So, a gas powered vehicle could charge an iPhone 141 times using the energy it uses to go one mile. An electric vehicle could power an iPhone 65 times.

    So while it’s true that the gas powered vehicle holds more energy due to the higher energy density of gasoline, it’s only half as efficient at using that energy. Replace the Prius with a 22mpg car and it’s only 1/4 as efficient at using the energy.

    So it’s not just the energy density that’s important, but the energy efficiency. And price. At $3.75/gallon, it costs 8.3 cents/mile to drive the Prius. At 15 cents/KWh, it costs 4.9 cents/mile for the Nissan Leaf. (and 16.6 cents/mile for a 25mpg car)

    • Jimmy Dell says:

      I do somewhat understand the scientific approach to this dilemma ; however of all of the explanations SF Biker makes more “real world” sense. That being said; today there are many cars available, at a reasonable price, that are being advertised as delivering highway/ 40mpg. So this would serve to temper the pure electrics advantage somewhat.

      The thrust of the article was that in the future we would “still” be using liquid fuel, ICE engines. After reading all these thoughtful, and I dare say civil comments, I’ve not been convinced that he is anything but correct.

      • Jeff Miller says:

        One factor that no one seems to be putting into their equations is survivability in a crash. The odds are significant that sometime during their lives, my wife and/or daughter will be in a collision — possibly with one of you young techies texting while driving — and I want them in a high-mass vehicle. They both drive Jeep Grand Cherokees that get about 19 mpg. Wouldn’t want to trade either of them for a few bucks a month off the gas bill. And based on the percentages of Americans who choose to buy SUVs and Pickups, I don’t think I’m alone in my thinking.

        • John p says:

          Please, for your family’s sake check your facts on the Cherokee. If they are hit in the rear they tend to catch fire and explode. One in our area was hit in the rear by a speeding ford focus, and tragically a toddler was killed in the resulting fire.

          I think that the irony of the artice is saying that you could charge an iphone 7300 times with 100% conversion efficiency, but last time I checked, we will probably never reach 100% energy conversion, so this article was a waste anyway.

  17. David Fredsall says:

    Wile I agree with this article and grow tired of politicians and the left’s rank and file constantly running down the company’s and industries that make our lives so easy that we can often argue over pimples on icebergs instead of foraging for food every day and washing our rags on rock’s, there is an elephant in the room here that needs to be pointed out.
    From the article:
    “A typical car’s gasoline tank contains less than 100 pounds of gasoline but can power a 3,000 pound car for 400 miles at 60 miles per hour.”
    …the elephant is so large and so pervasive that it surrounds all of us 24 hours a day and is used by each of us every day of our lives until we draw our last…..you guessed it,…breath.
    Gasoline, diesel, natural gas,or propane are a component of the fuel that propels our cars. By weight and mass the largest component is the air the engine sucks in and compresses at which point a tiny amount of gas etc. is injected, into the cylinder and a spark is introduced creating a rapid expansion of these two components that drive the piston down and make your wheels go round and round. Your car hooked up to a 86 hundred gallon tanker would go nowhere in a vacuum. That’s why the Lunar Rover was a EV and why, if we lived on the Moon we’d have no choice but to drive EV’s. This unseen advantage of all gasoline, diesel, natural gas etc. vehicles is the Achilles heel of EV’s. In fact its a big rock in the road for hydrogen only powered cars compressed air powered cars, you name it. Think of how big the car you drive would be if all the air it needed plus… read more »

    …all the exhaust it created had to be carried in tanks on the car. Air using engines have the big advantage of not needing to “carry” on board all the energy components they need as they move down the road. For EV’s every bit of power needs to come from that little battery space. This is the problem for EV’s and why its been a rock in the road for them since the first EV’s at the start of the last century. Battery technology needs to take a gigantic leap forward in on board potential in power availability, recharge time reduction and safety during not only a crash but frankly just sitting in the garage. (remember the burning laptop computers?) I personally believe this is a hurdle electric vehicles will never get over. I wish I were wrong but the future look dim. There is currently nothing on the battery design drawing board that seems to be moving the ball forward in a significant amount in any of these areas. I wish the current administration had more friends in this area of research and less in the wind energy and photovoltaics area, both fairly mature as far as their likely breakthrough potential are concerned and the reason the taxpayer’s infusion of money was in effect just a political pay off for support. That’s my opinion, but I think the facts, not even all out yet, support it.

  18. George Davey says:

    Well it is always a good idea to remind people of the energy density of liquid fuels and also the convenience of them. In fact we will most likely at some time in the future will be using other forms of energy to make liquid fuels because they are so useful, so called negative energy fuels, such as ethanol and hydrogen.
    The issue I have with the way this article is written is it does not clearly show us the limits of using liquid fuels to power an iPhone. You still have to have a tool convert the energy from the liquid into a form the iPhone can use (electrical). Another way to look at this is to say a gallon of gas could charge an iPhone for about 1 week because that is when the car (tool) would run out of gas and would no longer be able to charge the iPhone because its lead acid battery would also be depleted and with no gas to charge the cars battery it is no longer able to charge the iPhone.
    Smaller and smaller motors and alternators could possibly charge it up to a couple weeks or so but then there is the smoke, CO and the water that make the engine not operable indoors.
    The other point that is missed is Coal and wood similar or greater energy densities but also present the issue of how to you get electricity for Coal and Wood to power your iPhone.
    The Answer is : Coal is ALREADY powering your iPhone’s recharging. Most of America’s grid comes from Coal. Coal has a higher energy density than petro.

  19. Don Riggs says:

    Glad all you folks can afford these fancy new cars and the gas/electricity to drive them. I can’t afford an iphone for a family of three, because that costs a lot more every month than the gas to run my 8 year old car. Our friends in Washington are making a lot more people like me than you, and at our 4% plus inflation rate we will be downgrading our great country at a faster and faster rate. At least I am learning Mandrin so I can speak to my boss in the future.

  20. Douglass MacArthur says:

    This article touts gasoline as a light weight energy dense fuel. But it fails to mention that engines will never utilize all the energy, and most energy generated is lost as heat. And arguing that since there is insufficient electric vehicle infrastructure, we won’t use electric vehicles is like a man from the 19th century arguing we won’t use automobiles because we have train tracks but no gas stations.

    • Gary Huggins says:

      Douglass MacArthur
      If you wish to compare apples to apples, more loss is in any electrical
      venue than fossil fuel. It all depends on an efficiency rating. Solar, wind and fuel cell power are extremely inefficient for consumer purposes. Individual nuclear reactors for each domicile or commercial area could and would be an answer where the technology exists.

  21. Bob Plugh says:

    I currently drive a Lincoln Navigator SUV. It gets between 13-16 mpg – a bit more if I drive all highway, which I almost never do. But, I still use less gas than 90% of my friends. Why? Because I work much closer to home. We don’t need to do anything to reduce gas consumption except either work closer to home or allow more telecommuting.

    Beyond that, the price of alternative fuel cars needs to come down. Hybrids cost more than the standard vehicle by an amount that would take far too long to recoup.

    I WAS going to buy a Tesla Model S, then the pricing came out and with just a few of the options I wanted I was well over the $50k (actually $57,400 but take off $7500 for government subsidy) for the basic model. A fully loaded one is north of $100k – ridiculous. So, instead of going with a Model S I picked up a used Porsche Cayenne Turbo. I’m both happy and sad with my decision. I really WANTED to be part of the new electric car generation and I wanted a car that would be FUN to drive. Well, the Porsche gives me everything I wanted except the electric AND I can afford it.

    I’m going to have in my pocket at LEAST $20k, probably more like $30k to spend on gas just to make up the difference in cost and I won’t have to worry about limitations on driving distances – at $4 a gallon that (which is well beyond the $3.21 I’m currently paying) is 5000-7500 gallons or about 75000 – 112,500 miles, which is longer than I plan to have this vehicle. And the Porsche has all those features… read more »

    …I wanted on the Model S, plus a few more, AND, it’s an SUV with a towing capacity of 7700 lbs !!!

    I’m really very sad about this because I was VERY MUCH in the Tesla camp until very recently.

    • Jeff Miller says:

      Bob Plugh

      Shoulda bought the Tesla. I recently looked at the financials of the company, and to get to break-even, they would need to double the price. Buy one, keep it in the garage, and double your money when it becomes a dinosaur.

  22. Ted Stanfield says:

    I’m not really convinced that the tech for electric vehicles is adequate for a major transformation yet, but one thing that I keep seeing in the posts is the complaint that it takes forever to recharge the batteries. What I’m not seeing is any proposal for “filling stations” for battery powered vehicles. At some point it will be necessary to have standardized batteries for these vehicles so that drivers can pull into a station, remove their depleted battery and replace it with a fully charged one quickly, easily and safely. The depleted battery then goes onto a charger and goes into a different vehicle when the charge is completed. Much like the propane tank trade-out racks that have become ubiquitous throughout the country. You own the car, but the batteries are basically rentals. That doesn’t seem like a huge problem, but I’ve not seen any proposals for the necessary engineering changes.

    • Mark Gray says:

      There is some work being done on battery swapping. BetterPlace.com is planning to provide Drive-Switch-Go stations and demonstrated a station in 2009. Renault’s Fluence ZE is being developed to use these stations. This system is an interesting way to improve EV range and refueling time. This opens up the option of leasing instead of buying batteries which could be an attractive option for some car buyers.

    • Bob Plugh says:

      There is NEW battery technology out there in which the liquid inside the battery is actually exchanged in a fairly short time frame – on the order of 5-10 minutes. Imagine that – a recharge in the time it would take to pump the gas (or just a little bit more)…

      Yes, the technology IS starting to come of age, BUT, the vehicles still are NO WHERE NEAR economical enough without huge government subsidies.

      The same thing can be said for alternative energy. Solar panels – GREAT – I’d LOVE to use them… But, I did the math, got quotes, etc and it would cost me about $50k to take care of HALF of my electricity usage. WIth $50k I would invest it, get 5% returns, which would easily pay off 100% of my electricity use!

      You see, it just does NOT make economic sense.

    • Steve Darwin says:

      The battery swap idea is great, except for the weight. Batteries are heavy, and a swap would require more than one person, or some mechanical means, such as a hoist of some kind, that works for all such vehicles. That would require all vehicles to place the battery in the same location with the same access. After more than a hundred years of building cars, car companies can’t agree on which side the gas tank fill should be. Think they could agree on a battery location?

  23. Gary Huggins says:

    Having been in electronics deeply since nine years old, I can truly say that hypocrisy in alternate energies is rampant. Battery power on the scale required for suburban and rural areas is so prohibitive as to boggle any sane person’s mind. Unless someone invents a better battery, vehicles powered by such are only utilitarian in very limited fields. Golf carts, rechargeable tools, and utility vehicles for instance. Show me an aircraft that will fly coast to coast and I’ll consider “green” energy, otherwise don’t pee on my leg and claim it’s raining.

    • Bob Plugh says:

      You’re being far too hard on things like electric cars. Once they start to get more into the 150-600 mile range they become REALLY interesting and useful. For example, someone that commutes 30 miles – that 60 miles per day. As long as you can easily get 2 days of commuting in, you can always plug in at night. With a 300 mile battery and you’re almost talking about running one entire week on one single charge. Now THAT would be perfect.

      Battery technology WILL be there, it just isn’t there – YET…

    • Steve Darwin says:

      You are right, electric vehicles in not the answer in all cases. Probably never will be! But that doesn’t not mean they wouldn’t work for most people, and if most people used electric vehicles, it would reduce our national fuel usage.

  24. Joe Silva Sr says:

    Not sure how Ken missed LPG or Propane Autogas in his analysis as it is the third most popular transportation fuel in the world? But a GREAT article none the less!

  25. Richard Sauder says:

    In my opinion, using any food stuff as a fuel substitute is a criminal action.

  26. Robert Butts says:

    The Affordability argument completely omits the political and environmental costs of obtaining and using these fuels and therefore is fundamentally flawed.

  27. James Wiitala says:

    Author must work for Exxon. No mention was made of cost
    of finding, drilling,refining oil to gasoline, transporting it to stations, and paying distributors profits.
    Natural gas may produce less energy than gasoline but is
    plentiful, very cheap, and we have more in the US than we
    can consume for hundreds of years.
    Why can I not buy a CNG powered car other than a Civic?
    And why is there not a network of natural gas stations

  28. Norman Girouard says:

    I agree with this, but the entire focus is on the automobile. We need to apply the same logic to make more efficient use of petroleum. A well-managed change of focus toward mass transit will create more opportunities than it will challenges in all the important places such as income, profits, creation of new jobs and more of them. It will also solve a lot of problems as regards environmental impact and energy independence. At the same time, cars must not and will not go away, but gradually be used less in the future. The imminent change of focus toward mass transit will take the remainder of this century or at least decades to implement so there should be no serious or immediate negative impact of any kind anywhere. If properly managed, the world and Exxon will benefit.

  29. James Calfas says:

    From reading this article, you would think that batteries are of little value in powering cars. Not true!! That is because the article leaves out one very important detail. Electric motors are WAY MORE EFFICIENT than gasoline engines. Quoting from http://ffden-2.phys.uaf.edu/212_fall2003.web.dir/Sarah_Carter/ “the average internal combustion automobile engine only converts about 20% of its energy into useful motivational power”. Electric motors, on the other hand, are typically as much as 90% efficient (see http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/electrical-motor-efficiency-d_655.html). So the article is very misleading.

    It should also be noted that Toyota, General Motors, and many other car manufacturers will be selling plug hybrids this year – cars which derive significant amounts of power from batteries, and don’t pollute nearly as much as cars powered by gasoline only.

    • William Walkington says:

      The cars you mention do not derive their power from batteries, they get their power from electricity, which is almost universally fossil fuel generated and is STORED in said batteries. The battery does not produce the electricity.

  30. donald edinborough says:

    Iphones are Powered by coal.
    Toyota Prius is Powered by coal.
    Chevy Volt is Powered by coal.
    Shall I continue?

    This computer…. This server.. The device you are reading this commment on….
    all powered by coal or natural gas…..

    Is it not time to break free from this and utilize the technology we have?
    2012 is the future.

    E=MC²

    • Steve Darwin says:

      Actually, my wife’s Prius, my computer, my refrigerator, my lights… everything electric in my house, is powered by wind or the sun, since I’m totally off-grid. My truck and tractor….. well, they run on diesel.

      • Bob Zajko says:

        Steve- That’s good. For your truck and tractor, do what I do with my Diesel VW- run it on waste vegetable oil. The kit is easy to install (simply a second tank heated by engine coolant and solenoids to switch.) You start up on diesel (or Biodiesel) until the tank is warm enough then hit a button to switch over. Unlike all the other options out there, this actually is directly powering your vehicle from a waste product.

      • Donald Ciesielski says:

        You are one person. We need to power our grid with low cost/low polluting energy. Nuclear fusion is a pipe dream. I remember a friend on mine first informed me of nuclear fusion when I was 20 and she told me that they have been working on it for about 20 years already. She doubted that it would ever become viable. I’m 59 now. I think that we can use much of what we have and make it run clean or cleaner and will be fine.

        What I don’t understand, is why so many people believe that electricity is so clean and so usable. As of 2009, up to 64% of all power was from coal powered plants. Now I believe that they are cleaner than they ever were in the past and what was sourced in this article from 1978, but do we want more nuclear powered stations with the threat of a catastrophic meltdown or terrorist attack that can kill thousands? You just need to look at all the brown-outs we have during a hot summer and put 2 +2 together to realize that we are not ready for all our cars charging all year round on electricity. Hybrids using clean natural gas are a much better alternative for our transportation needs now. Nuclear batteries to feed smaller less catastrophic threats could be in our future. Or a nuclear battery plugged into a house power supply or into a car might be in our future also. there are many alternatives that need to be introduced and popularized more so the transition can be made. Look at Hyperion Power Generation Inc…..

        Designed by the Los Alamos National Laboratory spin-off Hyperion Power Generation Inc., the nuclear battery — so called because it is cheap, small and easily transportable… read more »

        …— is about the size of a refrigerator, compared with a 50-ft.-tall traditional reactor. It produces 25 megawatts of electricity — approximately a fortieth the output of a large atomic power-plant reactor. While not quite compact enough for cars, the battery, known as the Hyperion Power Module, has been designed to power subdivisions or towns with fewer than 20,000 homes, as well as military bases, mining operations, desalination plants and even commercial ships, including cruise liners.

        Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2050039,00.html#ixzz1l97T2ZNj

  31. Donald Ciesielski says:

    Too bad fusion doesn’t exist. I remember a friend on mine first informed me of nuclear fusion when I was 20 and she told me that they have been working on it for about 20 years already. She doubted that it would ever become viable. I’m 59 now. I think that we can use much of what we have and make it run clean or cleaner and will be fine. I don’t understand why so many people believe that electricity is so clean and so usable. You just need to look at all the brown-outs we have during a hot summer and put 2 +2 together to realize that we are not ready for all our cars charging all year round on electricity. Hybrids using clean natural gas are a much better alternative.

  32. P T says:

    Mr. Cohen: An interesting post on this blog from Exxon would be data on how much energy is used in the U.S. (globally if available) to charge such devices as cell phones, smart phones (iphones included or separately), blackberries (separately?), ipads, laptops, GPS’s, ebook readers, portable DVD players, ipods, digital cameras, digital audio and video recorders–and most recently hybrid and electric cars? Perhaps this can be broken down by demographic and geography. How has it increased over the past 10 years? If this kind of information is not collected by Exxon, can you indicate where the data is published? How can we economize on this ever-growing use of energy? What proportion of our energy use comes from the above devices?

    • bill hill says:

      i just heard a speech by the CEO of a large US coal company and he told us how much electricity Facebook or Google server farms used?? can’t remember exactly but more than some small countries., it was huge. oh sorry that is just the underlying infrastructure not even the retail devices. This whole greenwash makes me ill.

  33. Nature IsGod says:

    To quote the article: “In ExxonMobil’s recently released Outlook for Energy, we predict that by 2040, about 90 percent of the global transportation fleet will still be powered by liquid petroleum fuels – that is, gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.”
    This is a real problem.
    Aside from obtaining enough fuel (see the movie A CRUDE AWAKENING) the fact that 90 percent of transportation will still be powered by CO2 emitting vehicles will guarantee mass extinction in the oceans. When CO2 reaches 450 ppm ocean acidification will wipe out all calcium based life forms including the organisims that form the base of the food chain. This is likely to occur by around 2030. The fact that there will be no reduction that is meaningful in the transportation sector guarantees that we will surposs 450 ppm handily. The other problem is that even IF we could eliminate CO2 emissions from all transportation sources the fact of the matter is that global population increase coupled with the demographic shift from developed to developing nations, and the parallel result of that population greatly increasing meat and dairy consumption will bring about another wave of CO2 emissions as farming, fertilizers, and other factors related to food production take effect. For reference see the book “2030 THE FINAL ILLUSION” by Frank Brunelle

  34. Daniel DAgostino says:

    This article is clearly biased and only discusses the topics that support the “Big Oil” agenda. They make no mention of Energy efficiency (which is lower for gas), Natural gas, or the fact that it costs about $1.50 to travel 35 miles with the Chevy Volt (a generator convert gas into electricity beyond 35 miles).

    Technology is advancing and eventually, vehicles will become independent of the big evil oil companies. History often shows that big evil companies worried about their bottom line spend more on marketing to keep their profits up as better technology becomes available.

    In the end, their efforts will be futile and newer technologies will prevail. Big oil sees the future and will do what they can to slow it down.

    Next time you see an ExxonMobile or BP commercial touting how great they are… do a little research and you’ll find that they’re like the fat guy on a dating site that posted a pic of himself from 10 years ago.

  35. Charles Jensen says:

    Energy density is only relevant for a few specific activities, such as flying. The rest of the time, we are just burning up, at an alarming rate, a finite resource.

    We need to burn up gas as fast as we can, befor it’s all gone.

  36. Erik Baard says:

    “All of the energy concentrated in one gallon of gasoline is enough to charge an iPhone once a day for almost 20 years.”

    That would be a pearl of gasoline per day. But where is the engine that converts anything near 100% of gasoline’s potential chemical energy to work? You might as well tell us that the atoms that make up a gallon of gasoline (or a wedding cake, a Whole Earth catalog, smelly sock, or a banana peel) could, through nuclear fission, power all iPhones forever. Also true, but how’s that going to realistically happen? Further, iPhones have undergone radical energy saving improvements while the oil industry has battled efficiency standards in the automobile industry.

    Energy density isn’t the end-all, be-all anyway. With infrastructure in place to capture diffuse clean energy in place, we will reliably harness and concentrate that energy for work. Quick charging batteries and battery swaps are rapidly advancing. Certainly today’s power plants pollute too, but it’s easier to capture pollutants at those few sources than millions of mini-power plants: cars.

    “A typical car’s gasoline tank contains less than 100 pounds of gasoline but can power a 3,000 pound car for 400 miles at 60 miles per hour.”

    But this is not typical use of a car. Try stop-and-go, short-distance driving for routine errands in dense areas where people are breathing the exhaust. And you know what else weighs 100 pounds or so? The typical driver. Why not question the madness of employing a 3,000 pound machine (more in many cases) to move a 100-200 pound person between a house and shopping mall or light errands?

  37. Paul Hillman says:

    Since you have to burn more E85 (or E10) than gasoline to get from point A to point B, do you end up creating the same amount of pollution?

  38. Del Spiva says:

    No one has bothered to mention the elephants in the room on the costs of this gallon. How many soldiers have died over the years protecting the foreign reserves? How many foreign citizens were killed to preserve some dictatorship that was friendly to big oil? How many billions of dollars from your wallet are sent out of the U.S. each year(to rich sultans) thru big oil? Those same billions could go into Americans’ pocket, instead, right? How many billions in subsidies to the oil companies each year come right out of your wallet? Subsidies that have gone on for 100 years?

  39. Don Hondo says:

    Useful info and perspective. No matter what you think of big oil companies they don’t tell you what kind of car to buy. Hybrids are a good alternative since they increase mpg, self charge the battery pack and greatly reduce air pollution in city driving. The problem with them is they do cost more to purchase. So I find it revealing to see the wealthy in our society, who could easily afford a quality hybrid, consistently choosing to buy the lowest possible mpg vehicles. A recent national survey shows they are buying the most unreliable and low mpg Range Rovers over anything else.

  40. Mark Sutter says:

    With natural gas (NG) prices at a 10 year low, It would be interesting to compare costs of CNG and other sources. Note that the article’s bar chart lists energy density per a nebulous “Energy (BTUs) per fill-up”. So we are really measuring based on the size of the tank, in the case of gasoline, diesel and CNG. Many if not all of the transit buses here in San Diego run on CNG. Assuming a reasonable range, a better measure would be cost per mile. With the reserves we have here in the US of NG, this would be one way to relatively quickly become less energy dependent on non-US sources of energy. There are number of websites that answer questions and debunk myths (safety, etc.) about CNG. Honda currently sells a CNG vehicle. With an available home refilling appliance, it can be refilled from existing home natural gas supply lines. An added benefit: CNG tends to corrode and wear the parts of an engine less rapidly than Gasoline. Thus its quite common to find NGV with diesel-engine like mileage, such as over 500,000 miles.

  41. F J says:

    claude, you wanna carry around a cell phone with compressed butane gas inside…?

    john thaller, you might be able to power 83% of the cars on the road w/ the electrical grid…IF you stopped supplying it to homes at the same time.

    look up info about the state of our electrical grid infrastructure. sad story. if another country (China…) could set off an EMP above the US, it could wipe out significant portions of the grid without any ability for us to replace superconductor equipment for potentially a year or more.

  42. Dave Ku says:

    I find it interesting that most people who disparage electric vehicles have likely never driven one. It would be like me proclaiming that golf is the absolute worst waste of time a human being can endeavor to (and I’ve never played golf before).

    So I drive an electric vehicle, and here are the facts: I spend about $26 in electricity to drive 900 miles/month in VA. In the 2 years that I’ve had my EV, I’ve spent exactly $0 on maintenance – no oil changes, no transmission work, no tuneups, no belts changed, etc. Just a few intermittent software upgrades from the manufacturer (which cost me nothing). I’ve also never been stranded anywhere, simply because I know how to use Google Maps and have a 240 mile range (ie, I plan before I drive). Overall, my EV has been my favorite car that I’ve owned thus far, including a 1991 Toyota Corolla, a 1999 Acura Integra, a 2004 Infiniti G35. As far as driving experience goes, there’s really no comparison to instant torque for conventional vehicles. To say EVs are stodgy is incorrect – they perform best at the lower range (0-80mph) and may lack in horsepower, but when was the last time you needed to drive 190 mph on a public road? As someone who has driven some of the highest performing cars in the world (Ferrari 458, Mercedes McLaren SLR, Lamborghini Superleggera, Audi R8), I can say this: an EV is just as fun to drive.

    Are EVs for everyone? Of course not. If you drive an average of 150-200 miles daily it probably won’t work for you (ie, interstate transportation). Likewise, if you need to drive 200mph (Nascar driver), an EV probably won’t work for you either. … read more »

    …If you don’t have a garage where you can charge your vehicle (ie, you fight for parking on a Brooklyn street), an EV may not be practical. But if you’re like me, drive 50 miles/day typically, know where you park every night, and think driving a car is more fun than playing golf, then you might actually enjoy it.

    The argument that EVs are inherently dirty because they run on coal is also incorrect. I’m assuming the person who wrote that lives in my neck of the woods (ie, east coast, W VA or VA, etc.). Even if all the wind, solar, and nuclear energy production were removed from CA, TX, AZ – EVs would still burn cleaner than conventional vehicles due to their higher efficiency. Also, let’s not forget the energy required for oil refinement – does that not also come from burning coal (or is that by magic)?

    Also, one last thing. Most of you may know that there’s this other country on the side of the world – I think it’s called China. Last year (2011) they surpassed the US as the #1 car market (~18M cars/year vs. 16M in US). In about 5 years, their car market will be larger than the US + Europe combined (~30M cars/year). I’ve visited this country several times in recent years. I believe these stats. Anyway, 30M cars/year in China will be very good for Exxon (and CNOOC, and Lukoil, etc.). But I’m curious what that will do to our pump prices when China has 600M cars on their roads in 2020? My guess is it won’t be $2/gallon or even $4. Or even $5.

    In hockey, you skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it’s been.

  43. Thomas Busse says:

    The problem in regard to energy density is infrastructure, and most American cities are built around an unnetworked mobile energy density. Keep in mind iPhones draw power from the far more efficient network. The oil companies, including Exxon, made a big push to rip out public transit systems in the 1950′s and 1960s and planning was designed around automobile dependance.

    The most energy efficient county in America is Manhattan, but an alternative would have been Los Angeles had the red cars network stayed intact. If you want to change the energy consumption system by attacking energy density, the solution is to offer alternatives that rely on efficient network power. Workable transport, as in Europe, is a necessary start. Unfortunately, most American efforts are halfhearted and constrained by more than half a century of poor planning.

  44. Charles Davidson says:

    I hate to disagree with the entire way of thinking of the oil industry and most Americans, but….Concentrated Solar Thermal (CSP) can replace all of American 104 nuclear power and 300- 400 large coal-fired power plants with less than 10 thousand square miles of mirrored areas spread out and distributed throuout the entire southwest US, CA, TX, AZ, NM, NV, etc. Transportatiom Baterry cars, hybrid, slot cars, etc, busses, trains all electric. It is a no brainer. Why drill for dinosaur oil, when the energy comes from the sun – today. Supplement with Photovoltaics. Forget middle eastern wars, the middle east is planning to do massive solar thermal with PV – in Saudi Arabia and Morroco. and distribute the electricity with HIgh Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) power lines, with 0.3 percent loss per 100 miles versus 17 percent loss for AC. And supplementally, put wind electric generators up in the great plains to ship to NYC. Take a look at this plant by CDP Bright Source and there are ones in existance and many more to come…Stop Cheney/Haliburton Wars and 1,000 dollar per gallon gas for US tanks in Afghanistan. Stop the next Exxon Valdez.

    The Rio Mesa Solar Electric Generating Facility (Rio Mesa SEGF) is being proposed for development by Rio Mesa Solar I, LLC, subsidiary of BrightSource Energy, Inc., a Delaware corporation.

    The proposed project site consists of three 250-megawatt (MW) (nominal) solar concentration thermal power plants situated on the Palo Verde Mesa in Riverside County, California. Each plant will utilize a solar power boiler, located on top of a concrete tower (approximately 750-feet tall), surrounded by heliostat (mirror) fields (approximately 85,000 per plant) which focus solar energy on the boiler. Each 250 MW plant requires about 1,850 acres (or 2.9 square miles) of land to operate. A 119… read more »

    …acre common area will include a combined administration, control, and maintenance facilities. The total area required for all three plants, including the shared facilities, is approximately 5,750 acres. Note: plants operate 24/7 and store liguid salt at 900 degrees C in underground caverns with little heat loss over extended periods.

  45. Charles Davidson says:

    I hate to disagree with the entire way of thinking of the oil industry and most Americans, but….Concentrated Solar Thermal (CSP) can replace all of American 104 nuclear power and 300- 400 large coal-fired power plants with less than 10 thousand square miles of mirrored areas spread out and distributed throuout the entire southwest US, CA, TX, AZ, NM, NV, etc. Transportation- Battery cars, hybrid, slot cars, etc, busses, trains all electric. It is a no brainer. Supplement with Photovoltaics. Forget middle eastern wars, the middle east is planning to do massive solar thermal with PV – in Saudi Arabia and Morroco. and distribute the electricity with HIgh Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) power lines,

    The Rio Mesa Solar Electric Generating Facility (Rio Mesa SEGF) is being proposed for development by Rio Mesa Solar I, LLC, subsidiary of BrightSource Energy, Inc., a Delaware corporation.

    The proposed project site consists of three 250-megawatt (MW) (nominal) solar concentration thermal power plants situated on the Palo Verde Mesa in Riverside County, California. Each plant will utilize a solar power boiler, located on top of a concrete tower (approximately 750-feet tall), surrounded by heliostat (mirror) fields (approximately 85,000 per plant) which focus solar energy on the boiler. Each 250 MW plant requires about 1,850 acres (or 2.9 square miles) of land to operate in approximately 5,750 acres. Note: plants operate 24/7 and store liguid salt at 900 degrees C in underground caverns with little heat loss over extended periods.

  46. Jiri Vetyska says:

    This is only covertly twisting facts. The chart depicts energy as converted to BTUs. So while those charts are awesome at heating efficiency, they are very misleading when converted to vehicles.
    Only about 25% of the energy potential is translated to engine power, the rest is heat. Whereas electricity converts most of it’s potential to torque. Electricity is not efficient at heating, which is what you want in a engine.
    But thank you for a well written one-sided propaganda.

  47. Scott Flicker says:

    I did a simple estimation to calculate the cost of replacing my family cars (SUV and a minivan) with batteries containing the same energy density as their gas tanks along with a solar charing system. The price was around 1 million dollars.

  48. William Wallace says:

    When aeroplanes are powered by electricity, I will buy an electric car.

  49. Windsor Wilder says:

    The iPhone requires 4 hours to charge the first time and then approximately 1-2 hours per day thereafter. The smallest Honda generator burns a minimum of 274 ml of gasoline every hour. At that rate you will have burned through your ’20 year’ gallon (3,780ml) of gasoline in less than 11 days at a cost of more than $900 (generator plus gas).

    Or you could spend $30 on a 5watt solar module and keep your iPhone charged for more than 20 years.

  50. Gregg Lucksinger says:

    While there is no doubt a very long future for liquid fuel autos, I think this article neglects some developing technologies that will see a greater market penetration of battery powered vehicles by 2040.
    1) Lithium air and Zinc air batteries promise an energy density about ten-fifteen times what is currently possible with state of the art lithium ion batteries. This energy density is actually pretty close to what you currently get with gasoline. These should be widely available within 10 years if not sooner.
    2) New anode and cathode materials including carbon nano tubes promise further battery improvements.
    My guess is that in nations with adequate electric grids 50 percent or more of vehicles produced in 2040 will be totally electric and most of the others will be hybrids. Primarily charging vehicles at night during non peak hours will ease capacity demands on the grid but widely available and convenient charging stations will need to proliferate. At this point, speed of charging and/or battery longevity may well be considered the biggest impediments to wider battery adoption rather than energy density, cost or weight.

    • Bill Bohan says:

      By 2056 roughly, using the Hubbert Model, Oil will be depleted from the USA, GB, Russia. If we use Lithium from there forward, based on projected cars on the road, Lithium will be depleted from the planet in 10 years! This does not include a solution for aircraft! Your EV, Cell phone and Laptop will be staring at a Lead Acid Battery for power in the last half of the century. And still, no fuel for aircraft. But the Middle East will still have Fuel, for their Aircraft! That gives me the warm fuzzies.

  51. edward santana-grace says:

    keep up good articles with good data. I am aware we all push data for our cause but I know who Exxon is and I like your good data. Thanks for making an intelligent argument about energy density. I never thought that way. Is it possible to create synthetic, energy dense, liquid fuel. I am sure it would cost a bundle, but is it possible? Would that ever be feasible in the future from an economic point of view?

    • Jamie Samans says:

      I don’t think it would add much value to do so. Advanced batteries that could etter hold current and charge faster would be superior given ample supplies of electricity, and the best density-to-energy conversion is nuclear fusion. In an ideal world, we’d have fusion reactors to provide power, and we’d charge our vehicles and everything else from the abundant supply.

      • Steve S says:

        Jamie. I agree. The issue is the energy supply infrastructure. The current infrastructure is woefully inadequate to both produce and deliver electricity. Fusion or natural hydro electric is clearly the way to go, but the same folks who push the “clean” of electric cars are the ones damning nuclear. Solar is a ruse. Look at the “investors” they know that the govenment will subsidise their profits and when they see them begin to wise up as to its inefficiency- they will bail. Then there is the delivery side. They have rolling blackouts all over the US when demand exceed supply capabilities. I’m no chemist or physicist, but my gut tells me that if even 1/10 of the energy currently consumed by internal combustion engines in this country were to be replaced by electric, it would cripple the power grid. To upgrade that infrastructure would require large changes to the physical landscape – and I don’t think the environmentalist would like that either. They are their own worst enemy in this arena.

        • john thaller says:

          Actually you are not correct. The existing infrastructure and capacity in the electric grid is sufficient to supply the energy needs of 83% of the cars on the road. Virtually all power plants operate at far less rate than their max rate most of the time, and many are even shut down during slow periods. It is only during the peak periods that it becomes an issue. And the peak is only during the day, not the night. Your data is all made up, no back up at all, but you seem to have been able to craft a very strong position, one that is simply not true.

        • Willie Wilmette says:

          Slot cars could have a tiny battery and get electricity from the roads. Smaller battery = less weight = higher efficiency.

        • Charles Foster says:

          So what is “Clean” about a Electric Car. Electric Cars effectively burn Coal. Electric Cars are the dirtiest thing you can drive.
          And as for Ethanol! People are Starving to Death today because we are burn food in our gas tanks.
          Due only to goverment subsidies it is cheaper to turn Corn into fuel than into food and it is still more expensive to use as fuel than gasoline.
          Oil will be the fuel of the future for a long, long time.

        • Jay Thomas says:

          @John Thaller
          You seem to have been able to craft a very strong position, one that isn’t true. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics specifically RITA, there were 250,272,812 highway registered vehicles in 2010. You say the grid can support 83% of the cars on the road. The math is rather simple. The average load to charge 83% of these vehicles far exceeds the load difference between winter and summer months which is a cause for rolling blackouts. Just as you accuse others of faulty information, I’d ask that you really look into what you are saying, because it just isn’t believable.

        • Fred Goodwin says:

          @john thaller: even if 100% of the cars on the road today could be powered by the electrical grid, much of that electricity comes from fossil fuel anyway? In other words, you’d be replacing one fossil fuel (gasoline) with another (coal, oil, natural gas). How much of the electricity on the grid is created from non-fossil sources like nuclear, water & wave, wind, geothermal, biomass, solar, etc.?

        • Osama bin Login says:

          Fusion isn’t going to solve any problems in our lifetimes.

          I knew fusion people in the early 1980s. They were desperate to get to break-even. Thirty years later, they still haven’t achieved that. Meanwhile, desktop computers have gone from 16k of ram to 16GB of ram. Even internal combustion engines have advanced faster than fusion energy technology.

          Meanwhile, how safe will it be? When I was a kid, there were all these naive ideas of how great fission energy would be. Oops, we forgot about fission products: hideously dangerous in trace quantities, and generating too much heat, nonstop, for the next century, melting through just about anything that can’t be liquid cooled. Certainly fusion energy will have some sort of unanticipated problems besides the ones we already know about.

          OK so keep researching, but don’t hold your breath.

      • Matt Swisher says:

        I think the best density to energy conversion is matter/anti-matter annihilation. Maybe less practical to harness than nuclear fusion, but much more energy is released.

    • Brandon Thornton says:

      to answer your original question, yes there is research being done to determine the feasibility of manfacturing methane and other simple hydrocarbon fuels from water and CO2. It is estimated though that even on an industrial scale, it would be more than twice as expensive to make these fuels using this method that to harvest them using tradional methods such as harvesting them from decaying organic waste or refining them from crude oil. As to some of you other replies, batteries will not be able to meet the same energy density as liquid fuels because they do not rely on energetic chemical reactions to store and release energy in the way fuels do. Secondly, the electrical grid is horribly stressed already and would never support a significant conversion to electric vehicles. New regulations regarding power generation facilities are only going to further reduce capacity

      • Brandon Thornton says:

        As to the future, I think that Hydrogen or at least the Energy Vector Model is the most economically viable alterative

      • bill hill says:

        intuitively and thinking about energy I think that the process of making petroleum is nature’s gift to us and to replicate that effort can not be done by man without a huge influx of energy. I mean think of all the mass (rock overburden) and the millions of years it took to create oil, all of it free. We want to recreate that in a day, seems silly to think that we can do that. Does anyone know the calories required to make a gallon of ethanol? Not to mention the pollution required.

        • Osama bin Login says:

          “…all of it free”

          Ask the people in Joplin, MO how ‘free’ it is.

          Look, 1987 was the hottest year on record, in terms of global temperature. #1, at least in 1987. The very next year, 1988, it was even hotter, pushing 1987 to #2. Nowadays, 1987 is merely #20 on the list: there’s been 19 years hotter than 1987, since 1987. There aren’t that many YEARS since 1987 – just 25 of them – but 19 of those years have been hotter. That includes every single year since 1997 – starting a decade after 1987, every year has been hotter than 1987. Every single one.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instrumental_temperature_record#Warmest_years

          Russia is being ravaged by wildfires again this year. Yeah, that’s the place where both Napoleon and Hitler were halted because so many of their soldiers froze to death. Crops across the US have been ruined by the droughts we’re having, and the Gulf coast is being battered yet again by a major hurricaine. The famines and floods continue and get worse, here and abroad. And it won’t go back to ‘normal’ in our lifetimes, nor in our grandchildrens’ lifetimes.

          OK so that’s how “free” our fossil fuels are. Obviously we have to cut down our spending.

        • Michael Clute says:

          Osama,

          First I have a question for you. What is “normal”. Is “normal” the Mid-70s when EVERY climatologist was saying beware, the next ice age, or was it 20 or so years befor that, when they where talking about global warming, or 20 or so years befor that when they where warning about the next ice age…etc.

          Or maybe “Normal” was around the time of Erik the Red and Lief Ericson when it was warm enough in Greenland that you could raise grasing animals like sheep and cows, and Wine Grapes grew well in England.

          Or maybe normal was durring the “Little Ice Age” wich ended about 250 years ago…right around the time all the Global Warming People start thier charts…odd that.

          The “WILD” fires in Russia are just that fires started by Nature.

          BTW, you are aware that the TOTAL CO2 in the atmosphere is almost nil, and human sorced(direct and indirect) CO2 is a microscopic fraction of that extreemly small number.

    • Claude Slagenhop says:

      I would buy an iPhone that you could power with 1 drop of Gas.

  52. Seth Christensen says:

    I think the author forgot this sentence: “So come on investors, reach into your pocket books, take your money out of Apple stocks and let’s show the world just how powerful OPEC can be.”

  53. Nat Belz says:

    Point well made, but it’d also be nice if you answered your intriguing headline question: How many gallons (or portions thereof) DOES it take to charge an iPhone?

    • Kevin Joseph says:

      Given that a gasoline engine is 25% efficient is it fair to say one gallon could only charge an IPhone for 5 years?

      And given that my math is correct, you could save some money (about $1.50/5 years) with gas prices at $4/gallon by just using electricity, and also make use of renewable energy sources!

    • Roger Jollie says:

      It was stated as one gallon of gasoline would charge an iPhone once a day for almost 20 years. One gallon is 128 oz. Once a day for 20 years works out to 365 * 20 or 7300 charges per gallon. Divide the 128 oz by number of charges gives the amount of gas per charge. Or 0.018 oz of gasoline per charge. We’re talking a small rain drop sized amount of gasoline to charge an iPhone.

      • Claude Slagenhop says:

        I have often wondered why you couldn’t make an electronic device powered by gasoline, or more likely butane. You could recharge with a butane tank (Like cigarette lighters) A small micro turbine generator would be very convenient. Comeon Exxon- cell phone powered by gas!!!

        • Michael Clute says:

          A better question is why in the world are we developing brand new “Hybrid” technology to get the most out of a gallon of gas, when that technology ALREADY EXISTS and has been perfected over about 100 years. I am talking about the technology used in vitually all modern Locomotives today. Diesel-Electric, where the Electric motors provide ALL the power to the wheels, while the Diesel Engine provides all the power to the Motors.

    • Jamie Samans says:

      “All of the energy concentrated in one gallon of gasoline is enough to charge an iPhone once a day for almost 20 years,” so one gallon = ~ 365 x 20 = 7300 chargings.

      It therefore takes 1/7300 gallons (or ~0.105 teaspoons) of gasoline to charge an iPhone.

    • Norman Wilson says:

      Actually, if you had bothered to read the article rather than jumping straight in to comment you’d have read the answer on the 5th line.
      And I quote:
      “All of the energy concentrated in one gallon of gasoline is enough to charge an iPhone once a day for almost 20 years.”