Electric Cars Revisited

Electric Cars Revisited

My commentary on electric cars on August 18th generated lots of responses. 

My view is that electric vehicles (EV) are not appropriate for most of us.  However, more progress has been made than I thought.  Some of the reader comments put the EV movement into perspective.  Two contributions do a good job of summing up the current situation.

An unidentified contributor wrote this:

“A few corrections:

1) While electric might not work for 18 wheel trucks, it works great for FedEx delivery trucks. The USPS was actually planning on converting their entire fleet to electric until congress made them pay off 75 years of retirement in advanced.

2) The biggest reason why electric cars make up such a small market today is because the modern electric car is too new. The first modern mass produced pure electric cars only came to be in the model year 2011. Since then they have grew at a pace faster than hybrids and adoption of the automobile. Now obviously the initial high cost and low range was not exactly helping them.

3) If your goal is to get a city low range electric car, the iMeiv is actually available for 22,995$ before tax credits or 15,495$ after tax credits.(12,995$ in California). If you need 200 miles range then the Tesla Model S starts at 70k per for tax credits. Come 2017, The Tesla Model III will offer 200+ miles range for 35k before tax credit.

4) You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on a 240v recharge station. A recharge station costs a few hundred bucks, you can also just use a NEMA adapter and plug it into a standard 240V NEMA plug.

5) Is the increase in the electric bill a joke? A gallon of gasoline averages about 3.60$, electricity average is about 0.11 per kwh, so that is 32.72~ kwh per 1 gallon of gasoline. You can generally go 3-5 miles on an EV on 1 kwh giving you about ~100 MPGe. Factor in cheaper off peak rates and your electricity bill can be as low as 4-10X cheaper than your gasoline bill.

6) There is a Moore's law for batteries, it just isn't as fast as Moore's law.

7) Tesla is building out superchargers which recharge the car to 50% in 20 minutes. They plan to cover 98% of US population by end of 2015.

8) solar panels on top of a car can at best maybe keep the car cool, the amount of energy you get is too insignificant. You are better off using wireless charging in roads and using solar to generate electricity. (There is not enough surface area on a car for solar to work out unless maybe you use solar paint)

I personally see by 2022, most new cars sold will be BEV/PHEV/Hybrid and by 2035, most cars on the road will be BEVs.” [sic]

Reader Art Black sent this note:

“To the concern about electric power also having a carbon footprint, I would agree that the question of the level of green of different alternatives can be complex.  I’m not an expert in the area.  But I do find the report “State of Charge; Electric Vehicles’ Global Warming Emissions and Fuel-Cost Savings across the United States” by the Union of Concerned Scientist to provide a clear, thoughtful answer.  

Their summary, in the chapter “Global Warming Emissions of Driving on Electricity” states, “The good news is that no matter where you live in the United States, electric vehicles charged on the power grid have lower global warming emissions than the average gasoline-based vehicle sold today. In some areas—where coal makes up a large percentage of the power plant mix—the most efficient gasoline-powered vehicles will actually deliver greater global warming benefits than EVs. In other areas of the country, however, where cleaner sources of electricity prevail, EVs are far and away the best choice.”  

To further quote from the report “Nearly half (45 percent) of Americans live in BEST regions—where an EV has lower global warming emissions than a 50 mpg gasoline-powered vehicle, topping even the best gasoline hybrids on the market.  Charging an EV in the cleanest electricity regions, which include California, New York (excluding Long Island), the Pacific Northwest, and parts of Alaska, yields global warming emissions equivalent to a gasoline-powered vehicle achieving over 70 mpg.”

Two basic premises of this article are that electric cars are impractical because they have limited drive range and will leave you stranded while slowly refueling. My personal experience is that both are wrong.  

I drive a Chevrolet Volt, a dual engine car, that runs solely on electric power for the first ~38 miles. When the battery discharges, the car then seamlessly switches to the gas motor. Most days I run entirely on electric power. In the two years that I’ve owned the car, three quarters of all miles I’ve driven have been electric.  The range anxiety argument is irrelevant for me. I charge the car overnight, so time to charge is also irrelevant for me.

My personal electric fuel cost for the car is near zero. I charge the car at night when electric rates are low. In addition I have solar panels installed on my house.

After purchasing the car, I drove it for four months before I opened the gas cap. One of my initial expenditures was a window squeegee. The windows were getting dirty and it had been months since I had stopped at a gas station.

To solve the impending global warming disaster will require action on many fronts.  Electric vehicles are part of that solution, both pure battery and dual engine vehicles. This issue is much too important to let the perfect to be the enemy of the good.” [sic]

Solving the battery problem will go a long way to boosting EV sales. EV maker Tesla will presumably be building a battery "giga factory" possibly in Nevada for production in 2017. This will lower battery costs and enable Tesla to sell its proposed Model III at a reasonable $35,000. Its estimated 200 mile range will make it even more attractive to potential buyers. This alone will greatly enhance the EV movement.

One thing for sure is that electric cars will not make much progress unless consumers know the facts.  A major educational effort needs to be made to make sure buying public knows the pros and cons of electrics.  In the mean time, I suspect that the percentage of electric cars will remain very low for now even if good progress is being made.

TAGS: Blogs
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.