EVs are a bit of a controversial topic. Their environmental benefits post-assembly and manufacturing are tremendous. But, how about the manufacturing price?
Are they worth the cost? It's a great first step to moving to an "electrified" everything household.
I think hydrogen fuel cell technology is where the future of clean and abundant energy is.
If you are concerned about environmental footprint, then they make no sense in the USA at all unless you are feeding them with PV or are on a grid dominated with renewable and/or hydro. On the standard US grid with an efficiency of 3.5 or worse, they are actually more polluting than a modern efficient combustion vehicle.
You would be hard pressed to find an EV that could be soley charged by coal energy on the grid today. Natural gas and renewables are gaining in production as they are becoming more competitive in cost to generate relative to coal fired plants. There is almost always some manner of a mix of fuels powering the grid (varying by region).
They are more often on par with a hybrid at worst. The grid will be getting cleaner in the coming years as more coal fired power plants go offline to be replaced with natural gas, PV, or wind. EVs make quite a bit of sense.
Seconded! My understanding from research and even simply reading the charts offered is that EV's are certainly not worse than conventional vehicles and, as Dan mentions here, will only become more competitive as the grid continues to be fueled with an increasing proportion of cleaner sources. We touch on this in a recent blog post: https://wattdoesituse.com/blog/the-5-most-common-ev-myths-de-bunked/ but are planning a post that does a deeper drive into the well-to-wheel emissions and environmental impacts associated with EV's.
There's also a really great study from Union of Concerned Scientists that dives into emissions associated with EVs versus conventional vehicles which I recommend: https://blog.ucsusa.org/dave-reichmuth/new-data-show-electric-vehic...
What about all of the other emissions that come from combustion such as CO, SO2 and I an sure that there are other nasty emissions that come from burning fossil fuel?
@Kyle, I spotted an error in the article. You wrote:
> Washington DC: <$0.10 per kWh (benefits of hydropower)
I think you meant Washington State, not DC. And in the previous paragraph, you wrote:
> For example, in Arkansas, the difference in cost is $0.88 electricity equivalent to a gallon of gasoline, while in Massachusetts, the figure is $1.93 USD. [Data source Energy.gov]
To me this sentence is confusing. These aren't really 'differences' in cost.
In any case, at least for now, I think hybrids are the ticket. Of course, a lot depends on how the car is used. In particular, all-electric isn't very practical for travelers -- the very folks who drive the most miles.
First, the car's effective range is diminished considerably by fear of running out of juice. How low are you willing to go when driving in unfamiliar territory? Also, it takes a lot longer to refuel with electricity than with petrol fuels. Some argue that this inconvenience can be minimized by timing pit stops around meals. Sounds like even more constraints to me. Moreover, the eGallon costs cited @ energy.gov assume home-based charging. You'll pay up to double that amount at public charging stations, reducing or wiping out fuel savings that otherwise would justify the higher first cost.
Lastly, from an environmental perspective, as Sean pointed out, hybrids have a much lower lifecycle carbon footprint than EV's, unless source power is solar (or hydro)
All things considered, I think EV's only make sense for people who have long and routine commutes in states with low cost and low emission electricity. With hybrids, you get the best of both fuels. Having your cake and eating it too, as it were.
Being one of those lucky people that live in a hydro-powered state, I bought the cake, eat it daily, and get it washed often with free rain.
My daily commute of 52 miles made perfect sense for a car that was advertised as having a 86-mile range. When it's really cold, it's just enough range round trip, but I have the "luxury" of a 120v outlet at work so I'm never concerned. When it's 70° and warmer it's good for 100-miles round trip. I bought the car 3-years old with 15k miles, still under warranty: $10,000. The fuel-offset pays for the car payment. Net ownership cost is insurance and registration. All that aside, I bought it for the right-foot pedal; quick as a rubber band shot.
Biggest problem with driving an electric car daily: you forget when driving other vehicles to check the gas gauge.
I attended a seminar this past week by Dr Paul Hirt, ASU. He is a wealth of information on energy, and added his own experiences with his Tesla. The new Tesla's coming soon will drive up to 500 miles; battery will last a million miles; charging is super cheap with Tesla chargers around town and soon to be a lot more of them; you can use the apps to find charging stations that will charge up to 80% in 30 minutes. He says that if you charge at night, your cost is a LOT less, depending on your rate plan. He charges at night at 5 cents, vs. 12-16 during the day. Costs are coming down and cars are driving farther. What's not to love.
Of course not every vehicle is a Tesla, but within 5 years every car maker will offer an EV ;)
Jan wrote: "charging is super cheap with Tesla chargers around town"
The price comparison table on Tesla's website refers to the average price of 26 cents per kWh for it's charging network. Still less than fossil fuel for sure, but easy to miss this detail when doing pre-sales savings estimates.
Best for the environment: drive less... I put 1,900 miles on my car last year and 1,200 the year before. The odometer just turned over 56,000 and I bought the vehicle 17 years ago :-)
What I should have said is that Tesla has FREE charging stations in various places, accord to Paul Hirt.
EVs appear to be part of the "electrify everything" future we need, but they are not the panacea that many boosters claim.
We bought a lightly-used Nissan Leaf in January, 2018 when it came off its 3-year lease. Apparently, purchasing a Leaf at the end of the lease doesn't give the lessee a great deal. I'm assuming that Nissan wants Leaf-lovers to purchase a new Leaf instead of keeping their old one. In Portland, it is easy to find used Leafs at decent prices.
Here in Portland, Oregon, that makes an affordable used market. Our Leaf had only 14,000 miles. We thought it was a great deal for $13,500 since the warranty (including the battery) went for another 3 years. We even have Platt Auto Group that sells only EVs: https://www.plattauto.com
After two years, we love the low maintenance, nimble handling, and awesome acceleration. We charge at home with the slow AC charger that comes free with the car. We elected 100% renewably-generated electricity (additional 2 cents per kWh), but even so, at our average of 5 miles per kWh, power is lower cost than oil.
And we've enjoyed a few longer trips (e.g., 80 miles to the Coast) using public chargers and the few free chargers still available if you look hard. It's a leisurely way to travel. Fortunately, a lot of fast chargers are near restaurants, so we eat while the car eats.
We don't mind a bit of range anxiety since it brings us down to earth. Americans take cheap, long-distance travel almost for granted. Just over 100 years ago, many people didn't travel more than 8-10 miles to a local town or city once per week or so. This is still true in much of the world. So, we don't mind being reminded that traveling in this car is quite a gift compared to walking, donkey or pony cart, or bike.
I expect the tremendous energy and emissions embodied in an EV may shrink in time with greener grids and supply chains, but that is probably offset by larger battery packs and vehicles. Most people are not going to be content with the 24 kWh battery in our Leaf. And I suspect we might not as the charging capacity declines with age. We still have 100-mile range in summer and 80-mile range in cool, wet weather. However, if we get only 70-80% of that with a degraded (old) battery, our travels are constrained.
And Jevon's Paradox also eats part of our emission reduction. Now that we are just burning Watts, we drive more often than in our pre-Leaf days.
With huge embodied energy and emissions in manufacture, EVs are not the "Zero Emission Vehicle" that Nissan claims on the doors and back panel of our Leaf.
Still, in our market, a small EV seems a slight improvement. It is the best we can do until we can ditch our car.
I doubt it is a global solution. Cars for even half of the 7B people on earth take too much resources including parking and road space. However, EVs are likely more suitable candidates for car sharing programs since there is a lot less to damage on these cars with less lubricated needed and only two gears.
Admittedly, I'm a climate nerd. I love the fact I can power mine on 100% renewable electricity and get around nearly emission-free (I drive a Volt so there are still instances where I consume some gas).
But I also like the fact I'm not contributing to local pollution. I take my kid to the bus stop, and as the bus pulls away and the diesel exhaust billows out I nearly choke on the smell. I don't like to think of how much of that exhaust kids breathe in, and how it might affect their health. Considering that transport pollution affects kids' cognitive development and they've even found black carbon in utero, reducing pollution should be a significant focus to improve kids' health.
Plus, they're tons of fun to drive. Even my Volt has a really fun 'sport' mode, and it doesn't even compare to Tesla's 0-60. If you love driving, you've got to try an EV.