Add in "flexible fuel" options that already allow many cars to run on a combination of petroleum and fuels like ethanol (derived from corn) and methanol (from natural gas or coal), and you could build vehicles that could get -- drum roll, please -- 500 miles per gallon of gasoline. That's not science fiction; that's achievable right now.There is a detail here, though, that many are missing: the G in MPG stands for gallon, not gasoline. You may get 500 miles per gallon of gasoline, however, you will not come close to that in miles per gallon of fuel.
Set America Free estimates that if we convert entirely to flexible-fuel, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, U.S. gasoline imports in 20 years will drop by two-thirds.
... This would not only reduce the Middle East's strategic importance but also help reduce emissions to Kyoto-mandated levels.
When you consider the whole fuel, you see that it is not as green as promised. For one thing, ethanol requires a great deal of energy to produce. Much of that energy comes from (drumroll...) gasoline and diesel fuel. Fuel for the tractors. Fuel for refining and pumping. Energy to make the fertilizer.
If ethanol was cheaper than dinosaur juice, we would be using more of it. But Congress has to pay farmers to produce it, and require its use by law--because ethanol is more expensive to produce than gasoline. If the market was allowed to work, ethanol would go extinct.
Methanol is derived from coal and natural gas. Where are the large deposits of natural gas? Russia, and the Arab states of the middle-east. How does using more natural gas reduce reliance on foreign energy sources? Do the greenies really want to encourage more coal mining?
Ethanol is less energy-rich than gasoline. You need to burn more of the stuff to get the same power output. Ethanol has a heating value of 11,500 BTU/lb, compared to gasoline's 18,000 BTU/lb (source: Alternative Fuels Data Center). Also, the stoichiometric mass ratio of Ethanol is 9:1 air/fuel, compared to 14.7:1 for gasoline. That means that for a given engine displacement, you need 1.6x as much ethanol as gasoline, by weight. Given an engine, and a driving cycle, you will get worse MPG running ethanol.
The other detail here is the "plug-in" part. Again, most of our electricity is generated from fossil fuels--natural gas or oil. Unless the greenies are going to agree to build lots of nuclear power plants (which I would heartily support), they are not going to reduce carbon emissions or imported energy use by much. California already has a problem generating enough power for its current needs--can you imagine what would happen if Californians had to plug their cars in to recharge every night? I have previously criticized the economics of plug-in hybrids (here).
Given a set of requirements, such as passenger capacity, crash performance, and 0-60 acceleration, a plug-in flex fuel hybrid will be dramatically more expensive than a comparable gasoline car, even at high production volumes. You have to pay for a whole parallel powertrain, including electric motors, batteries, charging transformer, etc. And the extra components will break, increasing overall maintenance costs over the vehicle lifetime.
As usual, the greenies are throwing up a (marijuana) smoke-screen by moving the emissions around. Don't be fooled. The goal of the greenies is to make personal transportation very expensive. If they wanted to reduce carbon emissions, they would be clamoring for nuclear power. If they wanted to reduce oil importation, they would approve more exploration in non-Arab states, and places like ANWR. What the greenies really want is for us to ride government controlled mass-transportation systems.
(Peter DeLorenzo at AutoExtremist does a nice job on this topic)