Modern electric vehicles represent a new approach to a technology that has been on the drawing board for nearly two centuries, and as such, some are quick to adopt the latest trend, and some are quick to doubt its longevity. Here’s why.
05 Apr, 2023
While electric vehicles have existed in some form since the late 19th century, the technology has only recently, the general public has only become more comfortable with the concept in the last 15 years, with the first mass-produced EVs like the Tesla Roadster released in 2008 and the Nissan Leaf being introduced in 2010. Many people embraced the next chapter of our mobility, however, there are quite a few skeptics out there, who think EVs are not there just yet. Let’s take a look at the problems see with EVs and what answers we can provide to their valid questions.
First off, let’s talk about what fuels these cars. Electricity offers true zero local emissions, however, it is important to know its source. At present there still are countries where the energy mix has a significant carbon footprint, with gas-, and coal-powered plants still in operation. When charging an EV in such a country, this electricity is being used to fuel the car. That of course means that the operation of the vehicle is far from carbon neutral. It is worth noting though, that we are witnessing a paradigm shift in both mobility as well as energy production, with more and more renewable capacities coming online every year. In addition, EVs may help to balance the unevenness of renewable energy production by sharing any excess charge back to the grid (Vehicle to Grid) and potentially even act as a battery when needed. So, while today there still are legacy power plants that offer ’dirty’ energy, we can aspire to this being a temporary situation, one that will undoubtedly clean up its act in the near future as more governments push to make sure their countries are helping to reduce global greenhouse emissions.
Until then, we’ll have to make do with available energy sources for charging – while remaining aware of the fact, that an EV can only be as sustainable as the energy used to power it.
Now, when it comes to vehicle range and charging, some myths and some valid criticisms abound. For example, many people consider the charging of EVs to be rather slow, that is, when compared to filling up an ICE car’s tank at the gas station. Granted, the latter takes only a few minutes, while even today’s fastest charging EVs require at least 15-30 minutes for a full charge – and even that can only be achieved if an effective ultra-fast charger is available. Many ICE-drivers also consider the effective range of contemporary EVs to be quite small, compared to even low-end ICE cars.
These days, a new EV has an average range of 300-450 kilometers, while a typical ICE car can easily be driven for 500-700 kilometers on a full tank. While this is a significant difference, its impact on everyday use scenarios is minimal. A 2016 MIT research paper pointed out that EV ranges are more than large enough to cover 90% of use cases – and yes, that applies to 2016 ranges, meaning that even 1st generation EVs have the range required for everyday usage, with 80+ percent of motorists only drive 30 to 50km a day. This of course does not apply, when someone is taking their car on a holiday trip, to a neighboring country or state. However, it doesn’t take much more time to complete the journey in an EV, than it does in an ICE car. Granted, with an ICE vehicle you would only stop for a few minutes each time you need a fill-up, but since it is healthier and safer to stop for a 10–15-minute break every few hours, it really doesn’t make that big of a difference. Especially when your navigation software can help you find the most fuel-efficient routes, as well as guide you to the nearest compatible charger along the way.
On the other hand, the operation of an EV requires a different mindset than that of an ICE car. You can charge it while you’re having lunch, you can charge it while you’re in a business meeting, and you can of course charge at home or at the office. ICE car drivers are accustomed to filling their tanks at gas stations, that are often quite far apart. However, EV chargers enable EV drivers to charge while taking care of their daily business, shopping, or even while sleeping at home. While EV charging today is demonstrably slower than filling up the tank of an ICE car, electricity is way more accessible in the shape of street chargers, wall boxes and even electrical sockets, with ever more locations popping up every day.
EV-skeptics also often worry about the perceived short lifespan of EV batteries, that they consider a risk factor, not to mention a huge expense if it has to be replaced. Luckily, recent studies have shown that even 1st gen batteries have an effective lifecycle of 15-20 years, essentially meaning that the batteries themselves can easily outlive the car they are built into. Another important thing to keep in mind is: even a degraded battery can be easily broken down to its constituent parts and recycled, with the components being effectively used to build new battery packs, with similar lifespans. Apart from that, spent and somewhat degraded batteries already have a thriving secondary market as energy storage units – a notable example being the stadium of Dutch football team Ajax, that uses batteries from used Nissan EVs. Moreover, in certain places, like the European Union, manufacturers are obligated to ensure that a battery pack retains at least 70 percent of its capacity after 160.000 kilometers or 8 years of use.
To sum it up, EVs represent a relatively new technology that is rapidly evolving in front of our eyes. With the supporting infrastructure being developed at a rapid pace as well, it is safe to say that electric cars can no longer be considered only as an option for the future, but as a technology that is already available, with clear advantages and some disadvantages to ICE cars, that will likely be ironed out in the very near future.
Being part of that journey is what makes innovation in the EV space so exciting. Finding new ways to boost the efficiency of electric vehicles is one area of focus for our navigation teams. You can learn more out more about how our navigation can help make EVs more effective in our webinar with Widesense, where we explore how extremely accurate range calculation can be achieved.
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