According to a study by the UCS an electric vehicle (EV) emits carbon (indirectly via the coal fired electrical generation plants it recharges from) equivalent to a gas powered car that gets 34 mpg. And if that’s the whole story, then electric vehicles are not the future (and I bought an overpriced golf cart).
But there is more to it than this one measure. A lot more.
The MPG Equivalent is Easily and Centrally Improved
Colorado is in the process of switching from coal to natural gas for electrical generation. As that switch occurs the effective MPG emissions of electrical vehicles will jump to 50 MPG. In the future as the country moves from natural gas to nuclear and renewables the effective MPG will jump to something above 1,000 MPG. Meanwhile a gas powered car that gets 45 MPG, still gets 45 MPG.
This is key to the CO2 win of EVs. If over the next 10 years we shift over to EVs, and during that time electrical generation continues its move away from coal, we reduce the total CO2 footprint from vehicles. To gain this win from improved electrical generation, we need to start the transition to EVs now. Cars stay in use for 10 – 20 years. The cars bought today will be on the road 10 years from now and at that point, if we primarily have EVs, we will be bending the CO2 curve downward.
We Stop Funding Both Sides in the War on Terror
Today we are indirectly funding the terrorists with the enormous sums we pay to the kleptocracies in the Middle East for our oil. As we shift from gas to electrical for cars, these payments drop. Even if the CO2 emissions were identical for EVs, this is a gigantic reason to switch to EVs. The cost in lives and money we expend in Middle East, even when we’re not involved in a war there, is substantial.
And we will see this start to happen if we can drop worldwide oil consumption 10% with a clear trend of continued reductions. That would drop the price significantly. The oil producers would have to spend all of their revenue on their own people with none left over for funding (indirectly) terrorism. It would also mean an improvement for the people living in those kleptocracies as the governments would have to be more responsive to their populace.
Electrical is cheaper than gas. The average EV owner will save $1,000/year over what they would have paid for gas. That’s real money for most households. And instead that additional money will mostly be spent locally boosting the economy here in the U.S. Imagine if every car owner in the U.S. today had an extra $1,000.00 – that alone could be the final push to get us out of this recession.
One driver in Boulder is saving even more. He parks his car at Walgreens every night and plugs into their free charger. So for him the electrical recharging is free.
A Much Cooler Ride
Electric Vehicles are a much sweeter ride. The difference is akin to the difference between the old cell phones and the new smart phones. Early on few bought the smart phones and most found their plain old phone fine. But as more people saw what you got with all the features in a smart phone, they came to realize that there was a world of difference. The same holds for an EV. It is far superior to what a gas powered car can deliver.
Even if the EV was never going to have a lower CO2 footprint, the superior vehicle you get from an electric powertrain makes it a superior car. And keep in mind the present EVs are the first generation. The next generation, including ones from BMW (and I believe Apple) will be so far superior to anything gas powered that people would switch to them even if they cost more (they don’t).
When It’s Time to Sell Your Car
You’re going to buy a car today and you can fairly say that EVs are a niche market and gas power cars are very popular. In fact, if you’re selling a used car today, it’s easier to sell a gas powered car. But that’s not the correct resell value question.
We’re going to hit a tipping point on EVs. A point where purchases of new cars goes from overwhelmingly gas to overwhelmingly EVs. It’s not going to be a gradual change, just as smart phones did not gradually increase their sales. It’s going to change from say 8% to 25% to 70% over a couple of years. My guess is 3 – 4 years from now as people see the early adopters doing fine with EVs, as they get chargers where they are needed (the present government funded effort is worthless), and as more people learn what a superior experience an EV provides.
If you are going to sell your new car in 3 years – not a problem (probably). But if you’re going to sell it in 6 years? You may find that its resale value is in the toilet because no one wants a gas powered vehicle. When gas hit $5.00/gal it was almost impossible to sell a hummer. We’re going to see the same thing for all gas powered vehicles in 5 – 10 years.
The answer to the initial question is not that EVs have a future. The answer is that EVs are the future.
And the future looks brighter every day.