Saturday, August 14, 2010

How many light bulbs does it take to plug in an electric car?

I’m having a blast driving Mini-E # 183 now in my 14th month with almost 19,000 miles on the odometer.
The car has been rock solid with no mechanical problems and the fun factor of driving the little electric pocket rocket continues every time I fasten the seatbelt. Overnight trips are becoming common to favorite hotels and destinations where charging infrastructure exist. Gas cars are starting to resemble the steam locomotives of the late 1800s.

So I got to thinking last night, how many light bulbs does it take to plug in an electric car?

Think for a moment of the power required to move a 3,000lbs car like the Mini-E, or Nissan Leaf through the urban and suburban jungles of the big city for 12,000 miles a year. Freeways, parkways city streets and parking lots, all traveled in the normal course of a year’s driving for most Americans.

If powered by traditional gasoline engines we could all do the math fairly easily. For a 20mpg car it would burn 600 gallons of gasoline weighing 4,800lbs costing $1,800 a year. For a 30mpg car it would burn 400 gallons of gas weighing 3,200lbs costing $1,200 a year.

For most typical drivers, that car in your garage ignites, explodes, burns and exhausts its way through 4,800lbs of refined gasoline (most of it imported) every year in order to power the car for 12,000 miles.

Simple (or incredibly complex) enough so far.

But how about the electric car?

Driving around Newport Beach the other night at 0- dark hour and seeing all the light bulbs on in storefronts, art galleries, light poles, signage, and parking lots and just about everywhere, I thought to myself, those light bulbs run on the same octane as my electric car. I wonder how many light bulbs does it take to plug in an electric car? Or more accurately stated, How many light bulbs will the electric power needed to drive my Mini-E for 12,000 miles illuminate?

The answer I came up with was shocking! Please double check my math and tell me I’m wrong because even I don’t believe it!

Drining Mini-E #183 for 12,000 miles requires the same energy to Illuminate exactly four standard 100 watt light bulbs for a year. Or stated another way, it takes four light bulbs to plug in an electric car.
Four light bulbs!

The math works like this,

Four 100 watt light bulbs illuminated for 24 hours would use 9.6 kwhs of electricity. This multiplied by 365 days a year equals 3,504kwhs a year to illuminate those four light bulbs.
The Mini-E gets 3.5 miles per kwh. 3.5 miles multiplied by the same 3,504kwh used by the four lightbulbs equals 12,264 miles. For the Nissan Leaf which gets 4 miles per KWH the miles climb to just over 14,000 miles.

If 100 watt light bulbs were just illuminated for 1hour a day the power needed to drive an electric car 12,000 miles a year would equal the electricity used by 96 light bulbs.
Four, 100 watt light bulbs illuminated for the year, or 96, 100 watt lightbulbs illuminated for one hour a day for a year.

Think how many billions of high wattage incandescent bulbs that we are shifting to CFL and LED lighting saving 70% to 80% in energy usage.

Lighting Four light bulbs uses the same power as driving an electric car for 12,000 miles.

The future is indeed getting brighter, and much cleaner.
Oh, and the answer is zero, Light bulbs don't plug in electric cars.
Ha Ha!

Mini-E #183, 18,875 miles.

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