I feel like I need a reality check when it comes to auto manufacturers’ plans for fully electric vehicles in the relatively near term. Let me say that I love many things about EVs: the mechanical simplicity, the flexibility of design, and the torque – oh, my heavens – the torque!
But an EV requires electricity, and while you can plug into a 110-volt socket, a toddler can crawl at about the same pace as the batteries will charge – one to three miles of range added per charging hour.
The answer for home users is a Level 2 Charger – now we’re talking. In just about six or so hours you can fully charge your vehicle. (What does it take to fill an 18-gallon tank? Two to four minutes?) Oh. And that charger will cost you about $500 - $2,000 to buy and another roughly $1,000 for the install. But what do the tens of millions of people who live in apartment complexes or condos do when they don’t have their own parking spot to install a charger?
The answer we tend to hear is a Level 3 or “super” charger that can provide about an 80% charge in about 30 minutes. That time commitment is one that becomes more palatable. Level 3 chargers, however, cost around $50,000 each!
Let’s say we have Super Chargers available at apartment complexes, train stations, or malls that allow a vehicle to charges in 45 minutes. Guess what? Few people are running to move their car when it is fully charged. They treat these spots like parking spaces! I saw one at a train station, and it had been there so long it had began collecting dust.
The next obstacle in this push for EVs is that manufacturers advertise their max range at, say, 250 miles. But what they fail to adequately disclose is that they recommend charging batteries to only 80-90% of their max capacity. So, your 250 is immediately cut to 200 and then it gets further reduced by cold or hot weather when using options such as heated seats, air conditioning, etc. Soon you discover your effective range at 50 miles per hour is about three hours of driving.
But EVs are good for the environment. Maybe. I don’t know about that one. Do we really think that the electricity that powers those EVs is “clean?” A statistic from the U.S. Energy Information Administration states approximately 60% of the U.S. electricity comes from coal and natural gas. Combined, they account for 98% of the C02 (1.4 billion metric tons) emitted annually in the production of electricity. By comparison, passenger vehicles only emitted about half of that amount in 2019.
Let’s talk about the presumptive shortage of licensed electricians to get the tens of millions of Level 2 and Level 3 charging stations deployed throughout the nation (not just on the coasts).
Are EVs the solution? I don’t know. Companies such as Volvo and Jaguar say they will be all EVs by 2030 and GM says it will be all EVs by 2035. They certainly seem to believe that they are the solution. They seemingly are betting the company’s future that a holistic solution for a grid to support all of those vehicles in the next 10 or so years is inevitable. They obviously believe that consumers will be willing to live with the current limitations of EVs (or that there will be massive advances in battery and charging technology). I have full faith in the innovative brilliance that pervades our world for our best and brightest to overcome many of the EV challenges.
It seems to me that we started down the road of a reasonable hybrid solution. Hybrids have taken fuel economy on similar-size vehicles from the low 30 mpg range to the mid-50s, CO2 emissions are drastically reduced, there is no range anxiety, and you have the ability to plug and charge in certain models. Consider the brilliance of the Chevy Volt, which used old WWII submarine technology to run on electricity with a small gasoline engine that would recharge the batteries right on board.
Hmmm. It seems pretty smart.