Before embarking on electric driving, it is prudent to consider the pros and cons of doing so. These fall into six major categories: 1) environmental impacts, 2) financial costs, 3) energy independence, both political and technological, 4) the driving experience and automotive performance, 5) efficiency, and 6) Are the cars and the charging infrastructure ready for my transportation needs? Each of these can be explored by the highlighted links below.
Electric cars have no tailpipe emissions or engine noise. Instead, generation of the power to propel an electric car occurs at a power generating station some distance away. This can be a net positive, as stationary power sources are easier to clean up and the residual pollution may be captured or released where fewer people live and breathe. But coal mining and associated power plant emissions are one of the leading causes of premature death from air pollution. Coal plays an out-sized role in climate change. What is the trade-off between pollution from the manufacture of electricity and pollution from the driving of internal combustion vehicles? Read more at EV Environmental Impacts.
At the present time lithium-ion batteries are expensive and drive up the cost of electric vehicles. Eliminating the 2000 moving parts in conventional gas power trains drives down the price of battery electric vehicles (BEVs). Electrical power purchased from the grid is much cheaper than gasoline for both plug-in hybrids and pure electrics. This greatly reduces life cycle cost, more so in the models with greater electric range. Rebates to clean up the air through electric car purchase substantially reduce the purchase price for many buyers. Used models are scarce but available at very reasonable prices. How long do the batteries last? How does this all pencil out? Read more at Financial Costs.
Over the last several generations Americans have gotten used to the idea of going to war over oil supplies. We’ve gotten in the habit of supporting unsavory dictators that keep us in gas. We buddy up to countries with despicable policies, but lots of petroleum. We damage our air, land, and water by drilling and refining. Although the fracking boom has recently boosted domestic production, we still import 19% of the petroleum we consume (afdc.energy.gov, accessed 24 Nov 2019). Yet we can easily generate the power we need for transportation domestically. Many of us in the Four Corners can even power our cars off rooftop solar.
The Driving Experience
What is it like to drive an electric? How far can you go before needing a refill? Do they have enough power to get up our steep mountains? How to do they handle in the snow? In a tight passing situation do they have the oomph to zip back into the safe lane? Where do you have to go when they break down or need maintenance? Is a silent car hazardous to pedestrians? Read more at The EV Driving Experience.
Not every one cares about efficiency of their transportation, but it is satisfying to drive a car that uses most of its energy to propel you to your destination rather than turning the majority of the energy into waste heat. In our mountains, electric cars refill their fuel supply as they go downhill. In our towns, electric cars refill the fuel supply as we coast or brake for traffic. In terms of reliability, pure electric cars far surpass conventional gas cars because they are much simpler and have about 2000 fewer moving parts. They never need an oil change. Read more at EV Efficiency.
Is EV Infrastructure Ready for my Needs?
At the present time the charging infrastructure in the Four Corners area is not yet sufficient for all possible trips. The car manufacturers have prioritized producing premium models and have been slow to produce the workhorse models that we use every day. Furthermore, local car dealerships are holding back on, or by virtue of unavailability of cars are held back from, selling electric car models (of 48 electric car models sold in the United States today (Dec 2019), only 3 are routinely available through dealers in our area). New models and new charging stations are arriving every month, but is the electric car “system” ready to meet my needs? Read more at Commuter Charging and Road Trip Charging.
By Gordon Rodda