Another life-time study . . .

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Old 29 Sep 2011, 10:01 am   #1 (permalink)
bwilson4web
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Default Another life-time study . . .

This CMU study "Validation of plug-in vehicle life-cycle air emissions
and oil displacement benefits" tries to explore the relationship of
incentives between hybrid, plug-in hybrid lite, plug-in hybrid heavy,
and battery powered vehicles. My first introduction to "Life-time
Studies" was the notorious CNW Report that tried to claim hybrids cost
more per mile than a Hummer. Well timed, the report came out just
before the announcement of the end of Hummer production.

One easy take away is the CMU study gave a high weighting to emissions
costs with coal sourced, sulfur dioxide playing a major part. Yet
having grown up around and visited refinery areas, they too have a
sulfur dioxide problem and I didn't see it addressed in the CMU study.
But this also reveals the problem with such studies, 'the problem of
the commons.'

If a population has a "commons," there is no or little incentive for
capital improvement or maintenance of the shared property. The
incentives favor those who most exploit the resource. What I'm seeing
in both "life-time" studies is a concentration on the cost to the
commons with little regard for the return on investment to the
individual. The problem of the commons is the individual incentives
don't favor the commons and this was one of several fatal flaws in the
CNW report. The same seems true in the CMU study.

I have been thinking about a plug-in lite modification to my 2003
Prius as part of a mid-life upgrade. However, my plug-in would include
not only the traction battery but also engine and transmission block
heater and 12V battery topping charger. The idea is to use grid power
to display gasoline. Certainly there is evidence this approach would
work.

Many mileage rallies begin with forced-charging before the event as
this does not count against the results. This warms the engine and
transmission and tops off the traction battery. But I've never
approved of this tactic because it ignores warm-up costs and
artificially adds charge to the battery. Still, it is common enough
practice even if it won't show up in a life-time study.

I'm going to re-read this study to see if I've missed some subtle
aspects. But the first reading leaves me unimpressed.

Bob Wilson

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