Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mass Transit and Population Density - 3

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A zombie idea is a brain-dead idea that continues to walk around being treated as if it has life when there is no intelligence behind it.

The zombie idea I would like to destroy here and in subsequent posts is the "Trains & Buses are Good - Cars & Planes are Bad" in terms of fuel efficiency, carbon footprint, and tax use.

The basic laws of physics say that "Work = Force times Distance".  So it takes the same amount of work to move a human from Sunnyvale to San Diego by train, bus, plane, or car.  The question then is which modes are more efficient and have a lower carbon footprint.

The standard argument against cars is that they run on oil and trains run on electricity so if the electricity is generated cleanly (say by wind or solar) then the train is better.  There are two problems with this.
Problem 1:  Electricity is NOT generated cleanly for 87.5% of the power.  It is generated mostly by coal (45%), natural gas (20%), and nuclear (21%).  The 12.5% clean power is mostly old fashioned hydroelectric (8%) with some wind (3%).  Solar (photo-voltaic) is 0.04%.  (If Solar PV grows 1,000% it will roughly equal wind.  In 2001-2011 solar grew 30% annually.)  So every time you see an electric train or bus just imagine it belching out big black clouds of coal smoke, some blue flames of gas, and lots of very, VERY long-lasting radioactive particles that no one wants stored in their state.  Also some dead fish (dams) and dead birds (windmills).  (Ewww!  Gross, huh?)
 ( Consumption for electricity generation)

Problem 2:  We have electric cars now (we had them in 1867 but ...).  Anything that you can postulate about how "if only...", or "when..." we get large amounts of clean electricity to justify electric trains can also be used to justify electric cars.  Like the Tesla.

The proposed CA High Speed Rail will cost $68B (it was going to be half of that so $68B if there are no MORE 100% cost overruns) just to build - not counting maintenance and ongoing operational expenses. How much would it cost to set up an electric-car equivalent that would allow everyone who now flies from SJ to LA to pick up an electric car, have a Google self-driving robot take them on I-5 and drop them off at some station?

It turns out to cost about $100M for 1,000 electric Teslas and charging stations and another $1.8B to expand I-5 - under $2B.  And as clean as an electric train.  (detailed calculations below)

Still like High Speed Rail?
(to be continued)

Here's the calculation:

A GE Durastation Level 2 30-Amp car charging station is for sale at Lowe's for $5,500.  A Tesla Model S with 300 mile range costs $72,400 and seats 7 (call it 6 - no sense in feeling squeezed.)  There were 1.12M passengers flying from SFO to LAX in 2009, or about 3,000/day.  500 Teslas would carry those 3,000 passengers but let's allow for holiday traffic and buy 1,000 Teslas for $72M.  We'll put 1,000 charging stations at each endpoint and at the halfway point for another $15M and we aren't even up to $100M, much less $1B.  We will need to add a lane to I-5 in each direction at about $1.5M-$3M per mile so (300 miles x 2 lanes x $3M) = $1.8B.  So I'm just too damn cheap!  Ok!  Everyone gets their own Tesla!  With a Google robot driver to take them from SJ to LA and we're out $250M for the setup cost plus $1.8B for I-5 expansion = $2B.  Sorry, that's the best I can do.


1 comment:

  1. Good luck proving your point. So far I think the reasons and facts stated are skewed.

    1) It will probably take 20 years before there is some form of self-driving car available for only $72K. We can hope it happens quicker.

    2)Adding 300? miles of freeways from san Jose to LA will cost 10? 20? 50? more than $2B. Freeway lanes in high cost areas (San Jose) can be up to $100M/mile, not $1-3M.

    3) One of the reasons people fly is because it is fast. The bullet train will be as well. Driving is slow so I don't see lots of folks wanting to be 5/car spending 6 hrs driving to LA even if wi-fi was available the whole way.