“Electric vehicles save between 50 to 70 percent CO2 equivalents and the time needed to recoup the additional emissions caused by battery production is one to two years. The more you drive, the faster you’ll recoup.” - Auke Hoekstra, director of energy transition research at the Eindhoven University of Technology spoke to the New York Times recently for an article on the efficiency of electric vehicles.
Battery powered vehicles use a battery pack to store the electrical energy that powers the motor. The key here is storage - that is, how long the battery pack can last in between charges. We learned that city driving, with its more frequent stops, offers battery-powered vehicles a longer range as it maximizes the benefits of regenerative braking, whereas highway driving typically uses more energy to overcome the increased drag at higher speeds. Driving conditions, such as extreme outside temperatures, can reduce range because more energy must be used to heat or cool the inside of the vehicle.
While most all-electric vehicles today have a shorter range per charge than conventional vehicles have per tank of gas, the increasing range of new models and the continued development of high-powered charging equipment is reducing this gap.
Battery-powered vehicle skeptics point to their increased carbon footprint when one considers how they're manufactured. Today’s electric vehicles actually have a larger carbon footprint than nonelectric vehicles when manufacturing and disposal — specifically for batteries — is taken into account.
However, as reported recently, researchers have found that though it’s true that the production of a battery-powered electric vehicle causes more pollution than a gasoline-powered counterpart, this greenhouse-gas emission difference is erased as the vehicle is driven. The pollution equation evens out in about a year and half for sedans and pickup trucks, and a little bit longer - 1.9 years for S.U.V.s - based on the average number of vehicle miles traveled in the United States.
Another concern focuses on charging electric vehicles in places where the power grid provides electricity generated from burning coal, as the charging can then contribute more to emissions than drivers might think. A few U.S. counties for example (78 out of 3000) had increased overall emissions from electric sedans than from internal combustion vehicles — due to the fact that in these counties, most of the electricity was generated from coal.
Experts say that as renewable energy sources continue to replace dirty electrical grids, this too will improve. And in a detailed report published by RMI, the benefits of ‘smart charging’ - aligning charging times with low emissions rates on the electricity grid - was shown to increase their benefits.
On your next trip, especially if you're traveling around the western United States, try renting an electric vehicle. This recent article in AFAR highlights rental possibilities from Hertz, Enterprise, and new entrants like Turo, which is has thousands of Teslas available through its peer-to-peer car rental service.
For more information:
-More EV’s, Fewer Emissions at https://rmi.org/insight/more-evs-fewer-emissions
-New York Times, Future of Transportation: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/19/business/electric-vehicles-carbon-footprint-batteries.htm