Electric Vehicles: And Now For the Cons (sort of)
In last month’s newsletter, Cool Davis super volunteer Mike Kluk explored the pluses of electric vehicle (EV) ownership in his piece titled, “Should Your Next Vehicle be Electric?” This month Mike explores some of the downsides of EV ownership.
We start with an excerpt from the first part of this article covering the pros of electric vehicle ownership: “Should your next vehicle be electric?”
Does charging forward with an electric vehicle mean turning your back on the American love affair with the automobile? In a city like Davis, that affair may not be as intense as in some other parts of the country but it’s still meaningful. And why not?
The personal automobile is convenient, comfortable, and quick. It provides efficient transportation and independence. We are now sure, however, that the exhaust from millions of automobiles on the road today causes serious problems as diverse as respiratory disease, cancer, algae blooms and, of course, tons of CO2 that contributes significantly to climate change.
Approximately 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in California are caused by private automobiles.
Our love affair with the automobile obviously has some downsides.
Electric vehicle cons
By Mike Kluk
Range anxiety (should not be a huge deal anymore)
Many people are concerned that electric cars do not have adequate range and worry about running out of power. Studies have shown that more than 85% of all car trips are shorter than 100 miles which is well within the range of the majority of all-electric EV’s on the market today. The Nissan Leaf has a range of 108 miles, The Chevy Bolt 238, the Tesla Model 3 220 and the Tesla Model S 315. An option for people who feel this is not adequate is a plug-in hybrid. They have limited all electric range but enough to cover most car trips. The Chevy Volt can go 53 miles all electric, the Prius Prime 25 and the new 2018 Hyundai Ionique plug-in is reported to have an all-electric range of 32 miles. With those cars, you have a gas engine to take over for longer trips.
Charging station required
The problem with limited range is aggravated by the limited number of public charging stations. Most EV owners are set up to charge the car at home but when on the road, they may need to rely on a public charging option. There is generally good availability in the major population areas in California. A trip from Davis to San Diego is quite doable. Heading north is another story. Still, there are 474 EV charging stations within 30 miles of Davis with 40 being within Davis proper.
Charging time varies
People sometimes worry about the amount of time it takes to charge an EV. And if you’re on the road, that can be an issue. For daily commutes and trips around town, you can simply charge the car while you sleep. Choosing the right connector type and charging level is critical. DC fast chargers use a CHAdeMO connector with a charging time of about 20 minutes to an hour, and the Nissan Leaf is the leading vehicle that supports the CHAdeMO connector. Teslas have a proprietary DC connector.
California has 11,500 EV charging stations. There are 474 stations within 30 miles of Sacramento, with 40 being in Davis.
Not as many models as combustion cars
There is a relatively small number of EV models to choose from. Most major manufacturers have at least one and many have several but nothing compared to gas-powered cars. More are coming out all the time with Chevrolet, Ford, Volvo and Volkswagen making major commitments.
Higher initial costs (but looking more reasonable every day)
The initial cost of an EV can be shocking; generally in the range of $30-40,000 for basic models and quickly up to $80,000 or more. Comparably equipped small to midsized gas-powered vehicles have a substantially lower sticker price. The government incentives and lower maintenance costs mentioned above can take some of the sting out of it but the real break in price will only come when there are more options and the price of batteries and other EV technologies comes down due to innovation and efficiency of scale.
Life cycle analysis of EVs
For those who want to look a little more closely at the potential benefits of an EV, using a life cycle approach can be helpful. Every vehicle has three distinct life events, production, use and disposal. A life cycle analysis considers each of these in determining the overall environmental impact of the car. Each stage generates CO2, pollutants and other environmental impacts which differ between all-electric EVs, hybrid EV’s and gas-powered cars.
EVs all have lithium ion batteries that are very energy intensive to manufacture. Because of that, EVs are responsible for between 15 and 70% more emissions during production, depending primarily on the size of the battery pack. But once the cars hit the road, they begin to make up that lost ground because electricity is generally a cleaner energy source than gasoline.
News flash: Volvo announced in July that it will make only electric vehicle (EV) and hybrid automobiles starting in the 2019 model year.
On average, the total emissions of an all-electric EV will equal that of its gas-powered brethren within six to eighteen months and will continue to outpace gas powered cars for its entire life.
The emissions for plug-in hybrid EVs varies significantly depending on the amount of driving done in all-electric mode compared to the gas engine. For comparison, a Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid, on average, emits 141 gm of CO2 per mile. A similar sized gasoline powered sedan emits 381 gm of CO2 per mile. An all-electric Nissan Leaf emits 103 gm of CO2 per mile in California. All those emissions are due to the emissions from power production.
A gasoline powered car in California would need to get 87 miles per gallon to equal the emissions per mile of an all-electric EV.
The emissions caused by the recycling and disposal of an EV compared with a gas-powered automobile are comparable. However, there is little capacity currently to recycle EV batteries. As they become more common, the availability and economics of recycling should improve. There are also plans to utilize used EV batteries in other applications where the demands are less. Extending the life in that way should reduce the overall environmental impact of their production.
Interested in the Pros of EV ownership? Check out Mike’s article from the last newsletter: “Should your next vehicle be electric?”
Check Mike’s article about the history of EVs.
Find out about the success of the EVs at the Market event in September.
Interested in joining the brand new Davis Electric Vehicle Association (DEVA)? Email email@example.com for more information.
All-electric EVs currently on the market
|Make & model||All-electric range||Mpge*||Approximate
|Mercedes B Class Electric||85||84||42,400|
|Honda Clarity Electric||89||114||Lease only – 269/mo.|
|Kia Soul EV||93||105||34,500|
|Ford Focus Electric||115||107||29,200|
|Hyundai Ioniq Electric||124||136||29,500|
|Tesla Model 3||220||126||35,000|
|Tesla Model X||289||92||80,000|
|Tesla Model S||315||104||71,000|
*MPGe stands for miles per gallon equivalent. To determine MPGe ratings, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses a set amount of electric energy that’s equal to the energy contained in 1 gallon of gasoline. For a battery-electric car, the distance it can cover on that amount of energy is used to determine its MPGe rating, which goes on the window sticker in place of the traditional miles-per-gallon figures. It is a good way to compare the efficiency of EVs.
**MSRP for mid-range options. Federal and state incentives not reflected.
Check out this article by Vox.com: “The world’s largest car market just announced an imminent end to gas and diesel cars”
Cool Davis is a coalition of citizens, the City of Davis, and community organizations working to empower our community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Visit Cool Davis and @SacEV at @DavisFarmMarket 3rd Saturdays. Not sure if Glinda will be there, but her message lives on: tap your heels three times and repeat, 'Nothing rides like an electric vehicle.'