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Average U.S. grid? Not even close
So in the end, if de Nysschen's new Audi A3 TDI can get to a 40-mpg average, he has a case--but solely for the absolute filthiest U.S. electric plants. For the average U.S. plant, he's not even close.
And his case falls apart further when you look at the 2010 Audi Q7 TDI, a 5000-pound diesel SUV, EPA-rated at a combined 20 miles per gallon. It hasn't a hope in hell of being cleaner than an electric version of the same vehicle.
With increases in emissions controls and more renewable energy, the grid will also gradually get lower in carbon intensity--which raises the bar still further for combustion engined cars.
That study, by the way, was done two years ago by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the trade association for electric utilities, and the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC). It's been widely praised and is considered pretty close to definitive.
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Doing damage control
As of 6:14 pm yesterday, Audi's Facebook page contained a letter from de Nysschen that backpedaled slightly, but not significantly.
He acknowledges that "electric vehicles will be part of the future transportation of society," though "only if we go about it the right way. In fact, Audi is working on electric vehicles."
On that inflammatory term, he says, "I do not specifically recall using the term “car for idiots” during my informal conversation with the writer." Which, as others have said, is a bit of a sidestep.
Need to eat crow?
It wasn't de Nysschen's "intention to leave the impression...I’m opposed to electrical vehicles," and, he says, "if I was unclear on either of those points then I need to eat crow." But then he reiterates the same concerns, without adding a shred of data.
It's hard to argue that "the feasibility of the Chevrolet Volt as a concept is questionable." But he cites a "50% or so cost increase" for the car over its competitors.
That glosses over the fact that no one knows how GM will price it (quite different from what it costs them to build; see Prius, Toyota, first decade of production of).
Strain on the grid? Well, no
Also, de Nysschen worries that mass electrification of U.S. vehicles "could lead to problems like a strained electric grid" That notion is largely debunked in the EPRI-NRDC report.
The load of one electric car charging is roughly equivalent to that of four plasma TV sets; we hardly see utilities trembling at that. The number of plug-in cars is likely to rise so gradually, compared to the 300 million vehicles now on US roads, that their load will be quite manageable.
The end of de Nysschen's note acknowledges, correctly, that there's no single solution to increasing fuel efficiency. Smaller engines, clean diesels, hybrids, electric vehicles, all of them will play a role.
And de Nysschen properly calls himself a "passionate advocate for the role that clean diesel technology can play." Which, again, is fine. We just feel his advocacy would play better if he actually backed up his blanket assertions with, errr, data.
Meanwhile, our sister site Motor Authority takes a slightly different tack, attacking the internet-speed spread of the unfortunate word, and lauding de Nysschen for raising these issues.
We agree. We think these issues should be far more discussed than they are today. We'd just prefer the discussion be based on facts and data, and we bet Motor Authority agrees with that too.