"Everyone thinks that battery-electrics are the ultimate solution and everything else is just an intermediate step," Michalek told us. "But that's not necessarily the case. In our study, BEVs (battery electric vehicles) are worse."
That's good news for consumers who are interested in preserving the environment, but don't want to spend big bucks doing it. Because batteries still account for a large percentage of the cost of electrified vehicles, hybrids with smaller batteries would typically cost less than comparable pure electrics with larger batteries. Moreover, hybrids also offer the convenience of greater range.
To be sure, Michalek's numbers could change if electricity suppliers go to a bigger diet of renewable power in the form of wind and solar. "In a world where all our electricity is coming from cleaner sources, BEVs could be the best," Michalek said. "They might even be the cheapest. But there's no guarantee we're ever going to get there."
The irony of all this is that public policy now favors bigger batteries, largely because it's assumed that BEVs pollute less. Subsidies from the federal stimulus package give as much as $7,500 for vehicles with batteries sized at 16 kWh or larger, but $2,500 for smaller, 4 kWh packs. "The larger the pack is, the more public money we're spending on it," Michalek said. "But the truth is, bigger isn't necessarily better."
This makes sense, Chuck. Unlike the EV, the hybrid charges itself instead of taking electricity off the grid. Given that so many grids are generating electricity from coal, I can see where a hybrid would produce less carbon than an EV.
It is good to hear that full EVs are bad for the environment, to some degree. I assumed the battery fabrication was fairly high prices already. As I have been hoping for the day of owning a complete EV and avoiding the pump, now I see I will need a transitional vehicle until battery tech makes the footprint smaller. Plug in Prius on the way...
However, do you think this will inhibit development on EVs in the future?
I doubt this will change anything in the short term, Cabe. There's no window right now for making changes to policy. What it will mean in the future is anyone's guess. Regarding the Prius: Toyota has a plug-in called the Prius PHV and it has a relatively small, 4.4-kWh battery.
As for EVs, Cabe, it looks like automakers are making deep investments in their EVs. They may break through with cost-saving technology. As for the coal-burning grid, that may change as well over coming years as grids move to cheap natural gas and renewal sources of electricity.
Unless we are going to build a large number of nuclear power plants the energy we generate isn't going to get much cleaner. Solar and Wind are extremely energy entensive when all costs are included. Manufacturing (including materials), maintenance, transmission losses, are all extremely high for all the "green" energy sources.
The nuclear waste issue could be mostly resolved with GenIV and breeders, but it is unlikely that the government will permit that, so all the discussion about "green" energy is so BS.
Good points, Irishmuse. I'd like to see more nuclear. The Japan earthquake put nuclear off the table for at least a generation. Even Europe -- which benefited well from nuclear -- is getting ready to decommission nuclear plants.
Hey Irishmuse, where did you get your info, my understanding is that Large wind turbines replace their energy debt quite quickly, - a 1 meg machine I read about says, "Within 4 months of operation a Nordic 1000 has generated enough energy to pay back the energy used in it's manufacture, transports, installation and destruction.
Solar panels used to be two years, but more modern Solar panels are more efficient and use less material so that would be less, perhaps much less.
I can't imagine any Nuclear plant including the energy debt of it's destruction in it's analysis except to say, "the sins of the father will be visited upon the sons to the 3rd and 4th generation", but I fear that that is no where near long enough with Nuclear waste
It's more than simply reducing pollution and increasing electrical energy generation and transmission efficiency. To be more to the heart of environmental protection we have to learn better ways to produce the materials of the future. Use far less energy, pollute less and fine tune processes so they do not create toxic waste.
For example, if a process requires a lot of heat, why not build a facility around solar furnaces? Granted this would restrict the facility geographically and add to transportation costs. But looking into the future, transportation will become much more energy efficient, but, of course, only if we continue to work on all fronts to raise the efficiency of the new industrial age.
In the consumer realm I'm still coming across new products that have been designed with zero consciousness about energy waste. The old phonograph turntable is back as a relatively cheap consumer comodity selling at a fraction of the cost of the technology of a couple of decades ago. The turntable, typically of a cheap lightweight plastic base, has tone arm and RIAA equalized phono cartridge pre-amplifier built in! Furthermore, most of this new breed includes a built in USB sound card (A/D converter) so that old vinyl can be dubbed directly into a computer as an MP3 sound file for transfer to a personal audio player. Problem is, there is no On/Off power switch. Only the turntable motor is switched, typically by placing the tone arm on the record. Round the clock, the electronics remains powered. Granted its only a few watts, but multiply it by millions of households with great vinyl album collections and this wasted energy isn't trivial.
A very interesting article. Not really surprising to me, the energy density of liquid fuels is factors above that of existing batteries and for a very long period of time will also outnumber future batteries. So we allways have to consider the balance of cost and benefit of measures we plan to save the planet. Hybrid technology could be one keyelement. From the engineering standpoint, the most important and first approach should be, to develop technologies that are able to produce liquid fuels from sunlight or uneatable plants or bacterias. If we are talking about EVs then we allways have personal cars in mind. Has anyone ever calculated the size and cost of a battery to supply a 40tons truck or a 100ktons train in aereas where no electricity is available? Some scientists from israel published in the late 80s some datas about the influence of oil shortage onto the structure and survival rate of big american cities. Those cities are not able to survive if the oil is empty, because they can not further be supplied, with food, water, energy and cannot be diposed from gargage any more. Dreaming of a future just based on photovoltaic and wind energy will provoke heavy changes of our daily life and infrastructures we know today. Also if we are talking about clean energy and footprint, we should consider how all the money is earned ( produced) to support the development of clean technology and what will be the amount of benefit, money efficiency which equals CO2 at the end of the process.
Electric makes real sense when the source of the electricity is connected directly to the vehicle as is done with electric trains. Then the battery contribution is removed from the graph and a pure electric has very low social impact. So a hybrid with a caternary or some other form of efficient connection would be the best. Regen braking would feed power back into the grid.
A misleading article. Making gasoline alone is fairly polluting with 3kwhr/gal needed just to refine it not to mention all the other pollutions it causes before it gets to the gas tank.
Coal has dropped from 60% to the low 30;s% of US electric production and all the old dirty plants are gone or will be soon making the pollution points moot. Most EV owners buy or make RE power making the point moot anyway. High sulfur coal use is illegal in the US as in gasoline, diesel too.
EV batteries use the same materials as as gas car does except a few lbs of lithium/EV, .5lb/kwhr. PHEV 40's as currently built get the same tax credit as a 240 mile EV making that point moot.
That said having over 100 mile range EV is a waste as the extra batteries are almost never used and have to be always carried around hurting eff. Far better is a tiny fueled generator of 50-100lbs giving unlimited range at 100+ mpg the few times needed. These can even be plug in and/or rented or built in. This gives great flexiability at lower costs and higher eff.
But this all pales to the fact that present EV's and ICE's for that matter are overweight, overpriced and overteched. What we need are far lighter composite bodied EV's of the same size but aero that need a 50% smaller EV pack, drive for the same range, performance and 50% of the cost, pollution and energy needed both building and running.
Yeah an EV 'may' have a smokestack somewhere but roll down your window when driving in a freeway jam and inhale. Zero emissions is at the point of use and in California there are clean air days where more zero emission vehicles make a difference in the 'local' air quality.
But the root of the problem is we depend on energy sources that use carbon and keep trying to justify it.
Yes, and besides having a whole lot of natural gas underground, there are some lower cost ways to generate natural gas from municiple garbage. So we may be able to solve multiple problems at the same times. That would be quite handy.
And consider a car with the stop-start system and also fueled by natural gas. Low emissions plus great mileage.
Why not just live in tents in the woods and cook with "solar cookers". If you live in the "woods" you don't have grass to cut (lawn mower polution) and wouldn't have to polute the air by driving at all because there won't be any jobs to go to from the auto makers, home builders, lawn mower manufacturers or oil companies. The only expense you'll have is the daily trip to Starbucks (where I'm currently residing) Not to mention all the money we spend protecting the shipping lanes around the middle east to get the oil over here. Coal won't be poluting because you can't heat your tent with coal (as far as I know). The tent can be lit with a single 13 Watt CFL or LED lamp from China so the polution from the manufacturing of those will be 12,000 miles from here. Summers in certain areas (and Winters in others) will be miserable due to the lack of heating and air.
While you're at it each family tent will have it's own garden (organic of course). If you become a vegitarian you won't even have to kill/murder chickens, cows, goats, etc. unless you consider the killing of a tomato to be in-humane cruel and unusual punishment for the tomato plant.
I think on Arbor day, I'll go out and cut down a damned pine tree.
That's funny, Robatnorcross. Maybe we should do it -- except for killing tomatoes, of course. One thing you mention, though, about the shipping lanes. As we move toward energy independence -- it looks inevitable now -- will we still patrol those lanes?
Hi Rob, why would you need to protect the shipping lanes if not for oil. On the other hand may be all those TV's, cell phones and micro chips they make over there need to be protected. Oh wait, they don't make ANYTHING there other than sand and rocks and illegal narcotics.
When was the last time you saw "MADE IN AFGANISTAN" on anything other than heroin containers.
Guarding shipping lanes is an interesting geo-political issue, Robatnorcross. Say we become energy independent -- which looks possible now. Would we simply come home? Or would we need to continue that activity on behalf of our European allies?
Hi rob, If we are only there to protect the Europeans we should send them the bill for the protection service. May be we could recoup some of the stupid costs that come out of Brussells in the form of regulations they seem to be able to impose on the rest of the planet. Apparently they can't run themselves (Brussells) so they try to tell everyone else what to do. "Do as I say, not as I do".
Robatnorcross, you are centainly right about European regulations reaching across the whole world. I was a bit surprised that the RoHS and REACH regulations became effectively worldwide law. Companies decided not to make products for Europe only, so they went with the regulations for products sold everywhere.
Actually, Rob, I'm starting to be surprised that there isn't some blowback yet toward the regulations coming out of places like Europe or California. Sooner or later, the big players are going hit a cost benefit wall and decide to abandon one of these markets. It will be interesting to see who blinks first in that situation.
Good point, Jack. Whatever regulations coming out of California or Europe will affect all production. Manufacturers are not going to make separate products just for California or Europe. RoHS proved that.
Yes, it's a good point, Jack. Right now, automakers are getting government subsidies for building alternative fuel vehicles, which softens the risk for them. If those subsidies go away, we might see someone blink.
I wonder if the analysis took into account that as more EVs are produced and their life cycle exhausted there will be a larger supply of recycled materials for the batteries? This too will reduce the foot print for EVs.
The real problem is not the car, nor the driver, nor the way the car is driven, but the way the energy is produced that is used to produce the battery and other components, and to recharge the battery. So clearly the solution, once again (as always to many of the world's problems -- GW, meltdowns, oil spills, etc.) is renewable energy for all. There would be no question the EVs are the way to go in that case. The price (and presumably the carbon footprint) of EV batteries is fully expected to plummet over the next few years in any case. Somehow, I suspect this "fact" was ignored. What this article presents is a call for more renewable energy, NOT a call to slow the conversion to EVs! After Sandy, those with pure EVs were able to power their refrigerators for days off their car battery (with an inexpensive converter that every EV owner will want to have). That's another savings that probably didn't get included but could become significant as we remove large old "base line" electrical generators from the grid and some people worry about "grid instability."
This is quite heartening to see....... I believe one of the posters here mentiooned the hybrid as a "transitional" vehicle which I believe is dead one right. The big mistake being made is forcing this EV technology before it's time. The hybrid is the most logical and the best step to increasing efficiency of personal transportaiton. It is , in my view, the bridge technology, towards further imporvements. It generates it's own electricity (captured in the regenerative braking mode) and stores it in the smaller battery system and yet relies only on the ICE when needed (and for which the infrastructure already exists). One cannot argue the energy density of fossil fuel for transportation simply cannot be matched by these "green sources".
Plus (and I know this will raffle lots of feathers), this absolute madness and hysteria of pending dome from global warming ...(er... sorry, climate change) and unrealistic and arguably beneficial CO2 emission reduction targets, perhaps can be mitigated a bit, by some actual factual and rational analysis of costs and benefits.
This analysis is fundamentally and very deeply flawed. It presumes that the mix of fuels used for generating electricity will remain as it is now, heavily fossil fuel based. It presumes that the pollution produced by large fossil fueled electric power plants is in every way similar to that produced by smog belching car engines. I have no idea how the "battery" manufactur pollution figure was developed. And no idea how the total for vehicle lifetime, including maintenance et al fits with these doctored figures. Design News should take more care in presenting such flawed analysis. Need at least a better peer review and a researched counter position.
One item that hasn't been addressed yet is whether the battery cells will be completely recyclable. How much will it cost to replace the bed of cells for these vehicles if they want to typically get 10 to 15 years wear from them? Will this impact the waste landfills, etc.?
One additional issue is the rate of affordability. Since MPG is becoming a factor that doesn't really apply well across the field, why doesn't the industry create a new rate based on total cost per mile? DPM (dollars per mile) would make much more sense to me while we're in this transition period. Include the cost of the vehicles as well.
This makes total sense to me. Any technology requiring so much government subsidy money is a technology that is not ready for normal day-to-day use yet. When EVs make sense without a subsidy, then they will make sense. Not before.
At the very least, almost every component of cost comes back to the environmental impact of producing energy. It certainly does assume that electricity will continue to be as dirty as it was 10 years ago and that in future will return to that high level which is a rather pessimistic (or as Romney would have it, optimistic) view. Curiously, the energy cost associated with making a large EV battery (150 mi driving distance for an unspecified size of vehicle) would be approximately 2.5 times the energy cost of making the entire rest of the vehicle - one would like to see where that data comes from: at least the MSRP of the battery should be less than the industrial price of the energy input ... you'd think. In this analysis, it appears that it takes more energy to make the battery than the battery will ever store!?
To be fair to the author, this is the pessimistic view where we return to dirty electricity as in the heyday of 51% coal, nothing of any value occurs in either basic battery technology or battery manufacturing technology and EVs never achieve economy of scale compared to IC vehicles. At the extremes of this problem set we can either give up or get our collective buts in gear or just wait for the Japanese to do it for us. Any one who assumes that battery technology is static would be incorrect (even in the humble LA family of batteries). Another emerging technology is all electric drive trains which will have a substantial impact on EV efficiency. However, the worst thing to bet against is manufacturing technology which is financially purely a scale factor - given the right context, manufacturing and process engineers can squash production costs like a bug. Perhaps the one fallacy of this study is to compare the costs of various technologies at significantly different points on the experience curve without adjusting for experience factors.
Heartening to see? When hybrids were first introduced about 8 to 10 years ago, they were victimized by ICE drivers as slow, inefficient, didn't make economic sense etc. etc. It seems we are running into the same arguments with BEVs. There was an incentive for early adopters by giving tax breaks etc for buying these cars. Battery technology is not static and as more sources of electrictity are used such as nuclear, solar PV, wind etc. the only component of manufacturing and operation of these vehicles related to pollution will be the battery manufacturing and recycling of it. Captive power plants can have their pollutions managed much more efficiently than millions of ICE vehicles belching varying amounts of pollutants. Getting one of the 1970s or 1980s ICE vehicles is probably equivalent to hundreds of modern day ICE cars. Let's get rid of all these belchers first. So, do people consider the transportation costs/pollution with gasoline, oil exploration, wars and so on so forth? How about engine lubricants, various other consumables related to ICE? This is a BS article at best with only part of the story. Many of us are using solar panels to feed power back into the grid, reducing the need for grid upgrades at the same time providing power to charge EVs. Distributed power generation and usage. It is actually heartening to see that there are some who will look to the future and try to advance the technology rather than sit and complain about the tax subsidies or find reasons to kill a technology in its infancy.
The example of the hybrid is precisely an example of how technologies evolve, progress,and reach a level of acceptance and use based upon it's practicality, efficiency, and cost effectiveness. No one including this author suggests "killing a technology in its infancy"; we need to foster and promote those approaches that work in the context of current infrastructure, supply and storage technologies, etc.... while at the same time, working towards improvements and advances that move the ball down the road. Nothing in science or technology is static, nor should it be. Subsidies of new technologies have their place; it is however important to know and recognize when you have a Solydra and avoid the massive waste of precious tax dollars with little to nothing to contribute to advancing the science.
Its about bloody time we start looking at energy consumption for the entire life of the car, not just for the operation of the vehicle. A "zero emission vehicle" is a myth -- the emissions have to happen somewhere if energy is required -- for operation or for manufacture.
In addition, and the auto manufacturers won't like this, but it would be nice to see real studies of the overall energy effect of keeping a car longer than the, what is it now, 2-3 year average?
Sorry but I have to take some issue on that tract. Unfortunately any biomass that is consumed as a fuel still removes terrestrial carbon and puts it in the atmosphere. Industry advocates love to talk carbon neutrality and such but it just isn't so.
NH3 on the other hand is a carbon free fuel that can burn in engines with virtually no emissions (N2+H20 plus tiny NOx--less than fossil-fired counterparts). This is a viable alternative you can learn more about at http://nh3fuelassociation.org/
However, I still fully believe in BEV's for daily personal use. Especially considering we ARE cleaning up our electricity supply with more natural gas and renewables.
Really? Everybody is just going to take another one of these so called studies' results at face value? I seriously doubt their method at calculating battery manufacture impact would pass muster. Using dollars does little to relate to this...people cost more money than anything else in manufacturing and you can't just assume that the people can be eliminated if they don't work in the battery plant. Don't people need jobs anyway?
Just another 'study' that began with a conclusion...
Guys, I suggest checking out the Argonne National Laboratory site on this subject, which has been doing these evaluations for years. They even have a free program you can use to do the trades yourself; it is called GREET, and you can download it for free.
GREET does "well to wheels" analysis of energy consumption, efficiency, manufacturing losses, transportation costs, and even includes the makeup of the electric power grid and assesses various pollutants.
In all the analyses I've seen and run myself BEV's (battery electric vehicles) outperform all other vehicles in emissions, efficiency, and just about every other measure. Even on pure coal fired electric grids the carbon output is lower than with hybrids. The particulates and sulfur output is much higher for pure coal based power grids. But most grids have more in the mix; and more and more power stations are moving to natural gas, which is much cleaner than coal. Out here in california we have an even cleaner grid which uses nuclear, solar, wind, gas, and coal.
Even including the battery manufacture (which is still significant for hybrids) BEV's far outrank hybrids. Hybrids both burn gas and use batteries. EV's don't burn gas at all.
I urge you to check out the GREET model and run the numbers yourself.
As a driver of a Toyota RAV4 EV for the past 6 years, and the proud owner of a new Ford Focus EV I can tell you; its the best driving experience I've ever had; especially once you get over the range management (which is a psychological adjustment more than anything unless you really drive more than 40 miles a day) which took me about a month; and I've had Porsches and Volvos, Nissans and Toyotas in my day. My monthly electric cost is about 1/4 of what the gasoline would cost, and frankly the lease deal on the new Focus (at $250/month!) makes the car practically free.
Check out the GREET model and studies that have been done with it. I'm not sure where this guy got his data but I am suspicious. I'll have to check it out
Thanks for your comment, cmdred. You are absolutely correct about the value of the GREET models, which is why Michalek and his colleagues used the GREET numbers (among others) in their studies. You are also correct that there is a "well to wheels" model, which is essentially a fuel model involving drawing the oil out of the ground, shipping it, processing it, taking it to the pump, delivering it to a vehicle and then burning it in the engine. That, however, is only one of the sets of GREET numbers that the researchers used. They also employed GREET numbers associated with the manufacturing of the vehicle and its parts, which gives them a better handle on the full life cycle of the vehicle. It's also worth noting that the team presented their findings at Argonne National Labs, where Michalek said he "received no disagreement." Finally, it should be said that the team's work was indeed peer-reviewed. Their 2011 paper was published by the National Academy of Sciences, a non-profit organization that advises the nation on science, engineering and medicine. So, yes, I agree that our readers should check out the GREET numbers. Or they can read Profesor Michalek's paper by clicking on the link in our story.
For those who want to learn more about GREET and see where the numbers came from, Professor Michalek sent the following:
See this link for a summary of the GREET model. Well-to-wheels includes well-to-pump and pump-to-wheels. We include these estimates using GREET (GREET 1 Series) as well as the vehicle cycle (GREET 2 Series) that describes emissions associated with manufacturing the vehicles. We also included other higher-resolution data from eGRID about the location and emissions-intensity of power plant emissions.
See this link for a GREET report on well-to-wheels analysis of plug-in vehicles. Note in the first figure (Figure ES.1) that even when we ignore manufacturing emissions, Argonne concludes that BEVs emit more GHGs in the operation phase than HEVs on today's average grid mix. When we include the emissions associated with manufacturing the battery pack, HEVs look better relative to BEVs.
Charles, in the chart you reference it is interesting how the only figure reported for BEV is US average while all other PHEV data is provided for with a few different regions. Also, the condition studied is "charge depleting" for some reason. As many engineers know this drastically affects the charge efficiency. The advantage you state for HEV is slim and would certainly be overturned in many regions and when more moderate usage conditions are considered.
Another thing everyone is forgetting about, the elephant in the room, is the economic beneift of reducing the billion dollar daily foreign oil spend.
Why can't people get it through their heads that the current crop of cars, both total EV and Hybrid, are bridge technologies. Stop evaluating them as if they were the end.
The bottom line is this: We cannot stop burning fossil fuels while our cars burn fossil fuels. The total electric vehicle is therefore a critical link in the chain required to free us from fossile fuels. We cannot be free without them. We must therefore support total EVs because they aren't going to get good enough if the R&D isn't done.
Hybrids, on the other hand, are an extension technology. They make fossil fuels viable for a longer time. Giving us the time we need to get the EVs perfected and the alternate sources of energy figured out.
Some people will say, "Why do we have to get free of fossil fuels." Pick your answer:
- Fossil fuels are a finite resource. Although fracking has made a new pool of these resources available, possibly extending their availability by 100 years or more, they will eventually run out. Then gas cars and hybrids will be dead, and there will be nothing we can do about it. Would you rather spend 50 years developing new technologies at a reasonable pace, or push the problem onto our grandchildren, who will be facing the same problem at short notice. If you chose the latter, you are incredibly selfish and short sighted.
- The evidence is mounting in the face of the naysayers that Global Warming is caused by our addiction to fossil fuels, and that it isn't a good thing. Although no one weather event can be attributed to Global Warming, the increasing pattern of extreme weather can. The bottom line is that we are going to have to cope with an increasing number of large scale problems if we can't find another way to power our things.
The other thing that I don't understand in this debate is why nobody mentions Geothermal Energy. We are sitting on top of millions of cubic miles of lava. That is a whale of a lot of heat. Figuring out a reasonably efficient way of putting it to use does not require fundamental research (as fusion energy does) and does not produce waste that will be toxic for thousands of years (as fission energy does) and does not require more land than we have (as biofuels do). All it requires is digging a very deep hole and a few years worth of good old engineering creativity to solve the problems involved in the distances (a steam generator that is several miles long is no mean feat, but we already know everything that we need to know to figure it out).
The other elephant in the room is maintenance of the vehicles. The primary thing is the replacement/disposal of the battery(ies), they don't last forever. Then there is disposal of the vehicle at the end of its useful life. In other words the total life cycle of the vehicle.
The costs are good but the impact to the environment is the justification for the vehicles. Disposal of batteries, even creation of batteries, puts a lot of load on the environement. I'd like to see the analysis on that as well, it might be very enlightening.
Until "social damages" gets a bit more description I am inclined to regard it as just another chunk of blather. Made-up negative sounding words are what kids do. What is clear about the electric vehicles is that they certainly will be much more difficult to service and much more expensive to repair. The much higher repair costs will be due to both a lack of qualified repair people, and the fact that all of the information needed to diagnose the drive systems will only be available to the dealers. All other service people will not have any way to get hold of any service information. And of course the dealers hourly service rate will be much more than it is now, probably about $250 per hour. Just consider that! And, of course, any repair parts will be privately numbered and only available from one source.
Next comes the battery, which is both heavy and very expensive. Sort of like having your engine replaced, except that it only takes an hour, but it still costs $7500. Of course, battery life will be reduced quite a bit for the folks who use their air conditioning. AC will reduce that 12 mile range down to 5 or possibly 6 miles, so you really do need to think carefully befor switching on the AC.
None of this has talked about what happens when a bunch of folks on the same block and distribution transformer all charge their car at 2 AM.
Of course it may not be clear to all that I am talking about GRIEF emissionsrather than "carbon equivalent" ones.
It would be interesting to look at overall lifecycle costs for other energy sources: photovoltaic, wind, biodiesel. Better yet, maybe we could develop a standard carbon output per power output ratio to be able to compare different energy generating methods over their lifetime.
Lithium-ion battery prices will drop rapidly over the next 10 years, setting the stage for plug-in vehicles to reach 5%-10% of total automotive sales by the mid- to late-2020s, according to a new study.
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