We've already released a blog about electric vehicles (EVs). Here is part two!
8. Where does the electricity to charge these cars come from?
The electricity used to charge electric cars will typically come from electricity networks. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, most of our electricity in 2020 was generated by "natural gas, nuclear energy, and coal."1 In contrast, renewable energy sources like wind, hydropower, or solar power generated a mere "20% of the country's electricity in 2020."2 Because most of this electricity comes from nonrenewable resources, it brings up the notion that electric cars are only as green or environmentally friendly as their electricity source. To mitigate these concerns, electric car owners could install solar panels or wind turbines to generate their own electricity.
9. How does outside temperature affect range?
Anyone who has ever driven an electric car during a cold snap is likely to have noticed a decrease in range on their dashboard. Why does this happen? It all has to do with the chemical and physical reactions that make batteries work-cold weather slows these reactions, causing both a longer charging time and a temporary reduction in range.3 A lot of battery usage during cold temperature driving is designated to maintaining the battery's optimum temperature for use. Another significant drain on the battery during cold weather is the energy needed to keep the car cabin at a comfortable temperature.4
10. Are electric cars environmentally friendly?
There are a lot of myths circulating about whether electric cars are good or bad for the environment. According to the EPA, research indicates that EVs are typically responsible for lower levels of greenhouse gases than gasoline vehicles, even when accounting for the carbon pollution generated to create electricity to charge.5 As a part of the green initiative to which EVs prescribe, efforts should be made to generate electricity with renewable energy sources like wind and solar to reduce associated greenhouse gases.
There are also environmental concerns associated with collecting the raw materials needed to build EV batteries. Extracting lithium uses a large amount of groundwater, meaning less water for irrigation and farming as well as groundwater contamination.6 Cobalt, often a byproduct of copper and nickel mining, is considered one of the most problematic materials associated with the production of EVs. Mining cobalt creates toxic residues that can leach into groundwater, produces sulfur oxide fumes which pollute the air, and raises labor concerns-workers in the mines are often underpaid with little to no formal training or protective equipment.7 If EV manufacturers are wanting to maintain their environmentally savvy label, they will need to seek better battery alternatives as well as develop training programs for individuals to safely collect raw materials.
11. Will an electric car's battery degrade?
Yes, electric car batteries will degrade due to certain factors, but in general, "you can expect new batteries to rival and often exceed the longevity of drivetrain components on internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles."8
Some of the things that affect battery life include "temperature, cycles, and time."9 As mentioned above in point 9, temperature affects EV batteries. In addition to changing the battery range, temperature can also impact battery longevity.10 Another impact is the charging cycle itself: as the battery is discharged and charged, it loses "maximum potential"11 over time. There is also a concept called calendar degradation, which is degradation not associated with the charge-discharge cycle.12
In contrast, think of all the components that go into an ICE: cylinder, piston, crankshaft, valves, etc.-these will all break down and require maintenance throughout the vehicle's lifetime. 13
12. How do I prepare my garage for an electric car?
One of the advantages of driving an EV is the ability to charge it at home. Although every EV will come with a standard Level 1 charger, these chargers are really not the best for charging quickly, as they only provide up to 5 miles of range per hour when plugged into a 12-volt wall outlet.14 Unless you are able to charge for multiple days at a time or are only driving short distances, you will likely want to install a Level 2 charger, which will average 25 miles of range per hour and require a 240-volt dryer plug outlet.15 If you don't have a 240-volt outlet available, you'll need to enlist the help of a qualified electrician to help with installing the outlet and charger. You may have to run a new service line to your house If you need additional electricity to handle the load.16
13. What car manufacturers offer electric options?
It seems like every month, there is a new commercial showcasing the latest brand or model of a sleek electric vehicle. According to the International Energy Agency's Global EV Outlook, a publication that investigates EV trends, policies, and prospects annually, "[e]lectric car markets are seeing exponential growth as sales exceeded 10 million in 2022."17 Many well-known brands such as Ford, GM, and Nissan have started to make EVs as well as luxury brands like Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo.18 Additionally, some brands have been created that produce nothing but EVs, like Rivian and Tesla.19
14. How many chargers are available across the US?
The US has used gas-powered vehicles for a long time-and our infrastructure shows it. According to the American Petroleum Institute, there are more than 145,000 gas stations from coast to coast.20This same infrastructure does not currently exist for EVs, but the tides are turning. More charging stations are opening as the demand for these vehicles increases, with over 45,000 public charging stations-including both Level 2 and Level 3-available.21 If you are planning a long-distance trip, check out the app Chargehub; their Trip Planner feature will help you find the best route for your trip that includes charging stations along the way!22
15. What do I do if I run out of charge while on the road?
If you run out of charge while driving an EV, it's similar to when you run out of gas: your vehicle will cease to work. Studies show that not many electric vehicle owners require emergency charges though. Interestingly, the fear of running out of charge, known as range anxiety, appears to significantly reduce the chances of electric car owners becoming stranded. Triple A, after investing in roadside recharging trucks, soon retired them after noting they were not used as often as predicted.23 Since there are a lot fewer chargers in the US than there are gas stations, individuals with EVs are typically more keyed into their car's range. Electric cars also provide both audible and visual low range warnings to tell drivers it's time to charge.
We hope this two-part blog series has helped answer some of the questions and curiosities generated by electric vehicles! Stay tuned for more interesting and informative blogs from School of PE!
1 "Electric Vehicle Benefits and Considerations." Alternative Fuels Data Center. U.S. Department of Energy.Accessed May3 ,2023.
2 "Electric Vehicle Benefits and Considerations."
3 "How Temperature Affects EV Range." How Temperature Affects Your EV Battery Health, December 15, 2022. https://www.recurrentauto.com/research/how-temperature-affects-ev-range.
4 "How Temperature Affects EV Range."
5 "Electric Vehicle Myths." EPA, March 1, 2023. https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/electric-vehicle-myths.
6 "Are Electric Car Batteries Bad for the Environment?" EVBox, February 10, 2023. https://blog.evbox.com/ev-battery-environmental-impact.
7 "Are Electric Car Batteries Bad for the Environment?"
8 "How Long Does an Electric Car Battery Last?" EV Connect, November 8, 2021. https://www.evconnect.com/blog/how-long-does-an-electric-car-battery-last#:~:text=EV%20batteries%20typically%20degrade%20due,lifespan%20of%20an%20EV%20battery.
9 "How Long Does an Electric Car Battery Last?"
10 "How Long Does an Electric Car Battery Last?"
11 "How Long Does an Electric Car Battery Last?"
12 Keil, Peter, et al. "Calendar Aging of Lithium-Ion Batteries." IOP Science, July 6, 2016. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1149/2.0411609jes.
13 "Components of Internal Combustion Engine." Student Lesson, March 22, 2020. https://studentlesson.com/components-of-internal-combustion-engine/.
14 "Types of Electric Vehicle Chargers." Duke Energy. Accessed May 10, 2023. https://www.duke-energy.com/energy-education/electric-vehicles/charging-your-ev/types-of-chargers.
15 "Types of Electric Vehicle Chargers."
16 VanderWerp, Dave. "How Do I Prep My Garage for an EV?" Car and Driver, July 7, 2021. https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a36877166/20-questions-about-evs-prepare-garage/.
17 "Executive Summary - Global EV Outlook 2023 - Analysis." IEA, 2023. https://www.iea.org/reports/global-ev-outlook-2023/executive-summary.
18 "BEV Models Currently Available in the US." EVAdoption, March 3, 2023. https://evadoption.com/ev-models/bev-models-currently-available-in-the-us/.
19 "BEV Models Currently Available in the US."
20 "Service Station FAQs." API. Accessed May 10, 2023. https://www.api.org/oil-and-natural-gas/consumer-information/consumer-resources/service-station-faqs#:~:text=How%20many%20service%20stations%20are,stations%20across%20the%20United%20States.
21 "Electric Vehicle Myths." EPA, March 1, 2023. https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/electric-vehicle-myths.
22 "Chargehub Electric Vehicle Trip Planner." ChargeHub. Accessed May 10, 2023. https://chargehub.com/en/trip-planner-guide.html.
23 "Ask the EV Experts: What Happens When I Run out of Charge?" Plug In America, March 7, 2023. https://pluginamerica.org/ask-ev-experts-running-energy/#:~:text=Running%20out%20of%20gas%20or,to%20the%20nearest%20charging%20station.
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