Drawbacks to Electric Vehicles?

There are many advantages to changing to a plug-in electric vehicle (EV). Are there any drawbacks to going electric?

Yes, there are two related issues, which are drawbacks. Issues, which are, nonetheless, being resolved by engineers and material scientists: Range Anxiety and Long Charge Times.

Range Anxiety

The number one concern is driving range on a single charge.  This issue is captured by the phrase “range anxiety” which scared off many earlier generation buyers.

As of September 2018 there are three fully electric vehicles which resolve range anxiety issues: The Tesla Model S (100D), the Chevy Bolt, and the Tesla Model S (60D). These vehicles have ranges of 335 miles, 238 miles, and 218 miles on a full charge.

The next best are the 2018 Nissan Leaf with 150 miles and the Renault Zoe with 180 miles (available in Europe). There are a handful of other EVs whose range is adequate for most commuters (VW eGolf, Hyundai Ioniq, bmw i3). The top three vehicles can handle any commute as well as go on short day trips with a charge at the destination. By 2020 there will be a dozen different vehicle manufacturers making EVs with ranges of 200 miles or more on a single charge, and half a dozen with ranges of 300 miles or more (see here).

Even then, as you do now, you will need to charge if you are driving beyond the range of your vehicle (say 200 or 300 miles). Which brings us to the related issue of charging times, which is the second biggest concern about EVs.

Charging Time

The concern here is the time it takes to charge the battery of the EV. Can you “fill up” the battery in 10 minutes?  The answer is “No.”  What about 30 minutes? Possibly, with the fastest charge available.

The first response to this drawback is that one should not compare charging an EV to filling up a conventional vehicle. Can you fill up a conventional vehicle at home or work while sleeping or working? No, but that is generally how you will charge your EV, while you are home (not driving) and the vehicle will be ready to get you where you need to go in the morning.

To understand this issue you need to realize there are multiple charging options out there. There are basically three levels of charge available, you might think of them as slow, medium and fast. Slow (level 1) uses your standard 110 volt AC outlet. Medium (level 2) uses a 240 volt AC outlet (like most clothes dryers, air conditioners and fridges). And DC fast charge options are available for an EV that can handle it. Tesla has a system of proprietary DC Superchargers, and other EVs use one of two other types of plugs known as CHAdeMO or SAE combo. For more on plugs and charging see here. The Fast charge options provide about 100 miles of charge per hour, the medium (level 2) charge provides around 25 miles of charge per hour, the level 1 charge is only useful overnight, as it provides around 4 miles per hour.

So, if you are on a day trip or a road trip, you will need to plan charging stops where you can sit and have a meal or do something for at least an hour as well as be sure to fully charge the vehicle over night. This, however, is changing and more and faster charging networks are on the horizon. One charger can reportedly provide 120 miles in 8 minutes.

The good news about both of these drawbacks is that they are not permanent drawbacks, they are being resolved in real time. In the near future, EVs will have greater range on a full charge than conventional vehicles on a full tank of gas and DC fast charging stations are popping up everywhere with Billions of dollars being poured into new charging infrastructure worldwide (see here and here). I will continue to follow these “drawbacks” and report on them on this blog. The anticipation is that by 2020 they will be less serious, by 2022 even less an issue, and perhaps by 2025 there will be no real drawbacks to going electric.

The Cost Issue

A third drawback, that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, is cost! In 2018, the best EVs are still more expensive than comparably functional conventional vehicles. That’s just the way it is. You can get into a very functional gas-powered vehicle for under $30,000.  This is much more difficult to do in the best EVs without government rebates. This is changing just as fast as the other issues. And like those other issues, prices for EVs are expected to fall below the prices for conventional vehicles in the near future, likely by 2025 (see here, here, here).

 

10 Reasons You Will Like Electric Cars

Electric Vehicles are the future of transportation for a number of reasons.

The main reason is that they are simply a better product than traditional vehicles.

If you like cars, you will love electric vehicles.

  1. They are faster than traditional vehicles.
  2. They have instant acceleration due to the immediate torque power.

If you don’t like spending time and money fueling up and changing oil and other maintenance, you will love electric cars:

  1. They require no gasoline. You can plug in and charge at home or work or while shopping.
  2. They require no oil or oil changes.
  3. They require very little maintenance as there are vastly fewer moving parts.
  4. All of this leads to cost savings over traditional vehicles that add up to thousands of dollars per year. See here.

If you like clean air you will love electric vehicles.

  1. There are no emissions; there is no tailpipe! Any emissions happen at power generation.

If you like quiet you will love electric vehicles.

  1. The “engine” is silent. The only sounds are road noise and wind.

Other benefits of going electric include:

  1. You can enjoy benefits like preferred parking and special commuter lanes.
  2. You can help establish energy independence and greater global security.

An additional benefit, may be a generous rebate on buying an EV. So, if you are shopping for a vehicle, be sure to research what electric vehicles are available where you live, as well as what government rebates are available.

Are there any drawbacks to going electric?

Yes, there are two related issues, which are being resolved by engineers and material scientists.

The number one concern is the range which is closely related to another issue, charging time.

As of September 2018 there are three fully electric vehicles which essentially resolve range anxiety issues: The Tesla Model S (100D), the Chevy Bolt, and the Tesla Model S (60D). These vehicles have ranges of 335 miles, 238 miles, and 218 miles on a full charge.

For more on range and charging see my post here.

The good news about both of these drawbacks is that they are not permanent drawbacks, they are being resolved in real time. In the near future, EVs will have greater range on a full charge than conventional vehicles on a full tank of gas and DC fast charging stations are popping up everywhere with billions of dollars being poured into new charging infrastructure worldwide. Once these concerns are fully removed there will be no substantial user drawbacks to going electric, which is why, I am certain (barring quick advances in fuel cells or other tech) the future of private transportation is electric. What are you waiting for?

Not convinced you should be concerned about climate change? Here’s a simple test.

Climate change may seem so remote, big, or abstract that you may not feel you should be concerned. To help, I’ve devised a simple test of two questions to help people determine if they should be concerned about climate change.

I do not want you to dismiss these questions as silly, meaningless or even insulting. I want you to seriously consider both of them as genuine questions which require a response from you. Even if you find the questions easy to answer, I encourage you to think about each of your answers and then move to the conclusion.

Question One

  1. Do you care about anything?

This is not a facetious question. It is possible that there are nihilistic apathetic misanthropes who might not care about anything. So, how about you? Give it some thought. Think about a few of the things you really care about. Again, this may seem pointless, but it is a very good question for everyone to think about from time to time. So, go ahead and give it some thought. Once you have decided about the people, things, animals or places, you care about, take a moment to appreciate them and then move on to the next question.

Question Two

  1. Do you believe in science?

Answering this question requires that we understand what science is. Above all science is a method, a way of pursuing and developing knowledge. We might rephrase the question: do you believe in the basic principles of scientific discovery?

This opens another, important question: What are the basic principles of scientific discovery?

First, is a commitment to not making stuff up. This means not accepting anything as true unless you have evidence to support your conclusion. The gathering of evidence is fundamentally done through sober and systematic observation. Equally fundamental is that your conclusions are open to testing and retesting by others and that you are open to being proven wrong. These two qualities are known as reproducibility and falsifiability.

So, do you believe that this method is a valuable and reliable tool for determining facts about the material world?  Keep in mind that I’m not asking about ultimate or spiritual truths here, but rather, demonstrable facts about the observable world. If you your answer is yes, jump to the conclusion. If you’re still not sure, keep reading.

Still here, great. Keep in mind that science made possible the computers, smartphone, internet, automobiles, televisions, and all kinds of devices we use every day. In other words, all those things prove that science works as far as being able to explain facts about our world. So, if you use these kinds of devices and believe they are useful you should answer yes to this second question. But your answer is up to you, and I want you to really feel it.

The Conclusion

Warning!: It’s going to get real, real fast.

If you can answer yes to both questions, in other words you care about someone or something and you believe in science, you should be mortally concerned about climate change because it is a scientifically validated apocalyptic scenario that threatens everything and everyone you care about.  So you should do everything you can to follow the best scientific advice available to help prevent catastrophe. This advice is clear and this blog will help introduce and explain it in detail.

In short, first and most importantly we must transition from fossil fuels as our energy source to clean forms of energy. The most important clean sources of energy are solar, wind, geothermal, and hydro-electric. The second most important solution is the development of carbon capture technology to help reduce atmospheric carbon. The third most important change is to radically reduce our consumption of beef and in turn reduce cattle herds. Why are all of these important and how do we do this?  For now you can explore further here, here and here.  You should also come back to this blog where I will continue to elaborate these points and provide information on the hows and whys of transition. And, importantly, don’t despair. Join me and countless others in fighting for our future. It won’t be easy, but we can do this.


If you are able to answer no to one of those questions, consider the possibility that you may have misunderstood one of the questions and give it some more thought. I’m happy to respond to any genuine questions about science (or caring). 🙂

 

Need more evidence of the scientific consensus?
I’ve begun to compile links and information here.

A Moral Tipping Point

It is now morally repugnant to support the buying and selling of humans. To hold others in bondage as slaves  is understood as barbaric, but it was once business as usual in many parts of the world including the antebellum American South.  Slave holders were successful and respected members of their communities; they were social, economic and political elites, but something changed. IDEAS about what was right and wrong, CONVICTIONS of what was morally permissible, CONCEPTIONS of what was just and unjust– all began to change.

slave girl in chains

Slave trade memorial in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

The abolition of slavery in the American South didn’t come easy-it came about through bloody revolts and a horrific civil war (1861-1865).

I join others in believing that we are at yet another moral tipping point. Again there is a respected class with economic and political clout that is engaged in morally untenable practices, namely those involved in the fossil fuel industry. As Mouhot, who has written a book on the subject, has written:

“Intriguing similarities between slavery and our current dependence on fossil-fuel-powered machines struck me: both perform roughly the same functions in society (doing the hard and dirty work that no one wants to do), both were considered for a long time to be acceptable by the majority and both came to be increasingly challenged as the harm they caused became more visible.” (full article here)

Neither he nor I are suggesting morally equivalency between slavery and the fossil fuel industry; there are critical differences between the two, however, there are structural similarities which are striking and important. Just as we needed to end the Southern economic dependence on slavery, we need to end our dependence on fossil fuel energy.

Is the Fossil Fuel Industry Immoral?

As Mouhot has noted, “Our contemporary economies have become extremely dependent on fossil fuels, just as slave societies were dependent on their slaves – indeed far more than the latter ever were.” This dependency, in both cases, generated wealth, power, and influence. The wealth and power of large plantation owners in the South was connected to land and slaves; the wealth and power of the fossil fuel industry is directly connected to the amount of coal, oil, and bitumen extracted–“black gold.”  Fossil fuel executives, like slave owners before them, believe they have a right to what makes them rich and powerful and aren’t willing to give it up without a fight.

smoke stacks

But, you might ask, how is oil money immoral? The burning of fossil fuels, which are currently the most common source of power for electricity, transportation, heating and so on, is known to release carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is also expelled every time we exhale. The problem with the production of carbon dioxide through power generation and transportation is the astronomical amounts of CO2 that are released all the time, day and night, streaming into the atmosphere. We know that this human generated CO2 (through the burning of fossil fuels) is changing the composition of the atmosphere surrounding the earth. We also know that CO2 in the atmosphere acts like a blanket holding heat in. This is what scientists have called the greenhouse effect. Like the glass or plastic used in the construction of a greenhouse, CO2 prevents heat from escaping the planet. The more CO2 we pump into the atmosphere the warmer the planet gets. There is no debate on these basic points, but just as slave owners appealed to the Bible to justify slavery, fossil fuel executives have sown confusion and doubt about the science behind global warming and climate change (for more go here). Their campaigns of misinformation have been so successful that many people have been wrongly convinced that climate change is a hoax. It is not a hoax; it is scientifically established fact.

Dangerous Times – Brought about by our Fossil Fuel Habit

We are now seeing and living the dangerous reality of global warming and climate change. It is no longer “just a theory.” It is part of our world. It is reflected in the historic floods, fires, droughts, and hurricanes that have increased in strength and frequency around the globe creating catastrophic damage to property and loss of life. By now we have all experienced an historic climate related catastrophe or have friends or family who have. Some of the events that have impacted me and my friends and family are hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans (2005), fire in central Texas (2011), super storm Sandy in New York (2012), southern Alberta flood of 2013, the central Alberta fire of 2016, and hurricane Harvey and the Houston flood of 2017–all of these events were devastating, life-altering events for the communities, families, and individual impacted. I invite you to share your experiences with our growing climate catastrophe below, what floods, fires, storms, droughts have you experienced?

houston flood

The Houston Flood of 2017

What is the connection between our fossil fuel habit and storms, droughts, floods, and fire?

Scientists are very careful and conservative by training; as a rule they don’t jump to conclusions without carefully amassing and considering evidence. What we can say today is that climate change has increased the level of danger of such events, and ultimately, makes catastrophic events more likely. The proof that this is the case is the increasing length and devastation of the fire season around the world and the increase in catastrophic flood events around the world. The increase in the devastation of these events is why continued pumping of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere has become a MORAL ISSUE. It is an unintended consequence of our fossil fuel habits, but it is wreaking havoc upon communities around the world. Support for the fossil fuel industry after all that we know at this point is support for the devastation of communities around the world. This is why  support for the fossil fuel industry is now a moral question. Making a living off of products that are so destructive is an immoral life choice.  The connection between warming and catastrophic weather events is the crucial link that makes fossil fuels a moral hazard. The strength of this argument rests on this connection, so let’s review the basics of how climate change impacts fires, floods and other events.

california fires 2018

California in flames, 2018

As the atmosphere warms up due to increasing levels of greenhouse gases, the air warms up. Warmer air over land causes more evaporation, leading to increasing drought conditions. The drier conditions increase the likelihood and severity of fire. The result has been longer and more destructive fire seasons. This increase in evaporation leads to an increase in rainfall in other areas, thus leading to more devastating floods in interior regions. Warming ocean water expands, which means coastal areas shrink and when storms come ashore more water is pulled over land, increasing the damage done through storm surges in coastal areas. Finally, wind patterns are responsible for the formation of storms such as hurricanes. Warmer water produces greater wind speeds which increases the likelihood of more powerful storms. For a more detailed explanation of the connection between climate change and hurricanes and other weather events see scientist Katherine Hayhoe’s video here. If you need a friendly intro to climate related questions I recommended checking out Katherine Hayhoe’s videos here, she is a scientist and educator who lives in Texas.

We Have a Choice

To say that we have reached a turning point means that we have a choice to make. For this to be a reasonable choice we must have alternatives. Fortunately, advances in science continue to make renewable sources of clean energy a real possibility. In 2014, Mark Jakobson developed a road map for the US to transition to 100% clean energy, see here.  A few years later he did the same for 139 countries (story here, map here). This is a difficult and complex challenge and will require monumental changes to transform the energy that drives our world (see here). One thing is for sure, the speed with which we need to make this change requires politicians and corporations and individual consumers to make decisions on moral and scientific considerations, not old assumptions about economics and energy habits. As far as economic considerations go,  renewables are quickly becoming cheaper than fossil fuels (see report here and here.).

evs w power

Vehicles powered by clean energy is the only viable future.

At the consumer level an individual or  family can spend money on a gas-guzzler OR buy one of the much more efficient electric vehicles (EVs) available or coming to market–this too is now a MORAL decision. Thankfully, car-makers are making this easy by developing a fleet of excellent EVs. The instant acceleration of EVs make them fun to drive and Procsche , for example, aims to make 50% of its vehicles electric in the near future. EV are very low maintenance: they never need gas or oil and produce no emissions. Viable EVs are currently being manufactured by Nissan, Chevrolet, Tesla, BMW, Kia, Hyundai, and Volkswagon. Other manufacturers moving into the EV market are  Honda, Mercedes, Ford, MitsubishiFiat, Volvo , and Audi. By 2020 we can expect more choice, longer ranges, and better prices. Places with the most widespread EV adoption and experience are California, Norway, and China. Consumers can also install solar and achieve partial or total energy independence (see benefits to home solar here and cost reductions here and here).

Religious Leaders See this as a Moral Issue Too

If this is indeed a moral issue we should expect religious leaders to speak out against our fossil fuel habit and that is exactly what we have seen with increasing fervor since 2015. Religious leaders across the religious spectrum from Catholics, Protestant Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and others have all recognized we are entering a climate emergency that calls for an immediate moral response. Pope Francis has been a strong advocate for a transition to a fossil free world (see here and here and divestment here). In 2015 Islamic leaders  called for a fossil free world by 2050 here.  Read the statement signed by a spectrum of religious leaders in 2015 here and Buddhist leaders here and a report on Jewish leaders here. A nice compilation of statements from religious leaders may be found here.

Of course leaders and individuals from all backgrounds and walks of life understand the nature of this climate crisis and urge everyone who can to push for a quick transition to clean energy. Read an open letter from CEOs from 79 companies in 20 economic sectors with operations in over 150 countries and territories generating over $2.1 trillion of revenue in 2014 here. Tragically, the issue has become politicized. Nonetheless, truth will prevail and the issue is recognized by both political parties in the US, Democrats and Republicans (see here). One of the reasons the issue has been politicized is simply the huge sums of money donated by the fossil fuel lobby (report here). As the Union of Concerned Scientists have said:

When corporations use their influence to obscure science and block effective climate policy, the public loses. (source)

As long as politicians and corporate leaders drag their feet, we are all losing. We must demand more.  Time is up. This is THE ISSUE of our time and we must get it right.

 


 

I will continue to explore this issue and its urgency in future posts. I will also share suggestions for how you can participate in this transformation. If that interests you please come back and consider sharing these posts.

 

Credits

houston flood

Image from arkansasbaptist.org

california fires 2018

In this photo provided by the Ventura County Fire Department, firefighters work to put out a blaze burning homes early Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Ventura, Calif. Authorities said the blaze broke out Monday and grew wildly in the hours that followed, consuming vegetation that hasn’t burned in decades. (Ryan Cullom/Ventura County Fire Department via AP)