By now, at least two or three electric vehicles have resurrected the electric vehicle dream, thanks largely to a couple of advancements in rechargeable battery technology. Lithium-ion battery technology is still nowhere close to fossil fuels in power-to-weight ratio. The lithium-ion battery found in the Tesla Motors, for example, uses the Panasonic 18650 lithium-ion cell, about 260 Wh/kg. About 7,000 of these give the Tesla Model S a range of up to 300 miles.
The same technology that powers my laptop for a couple of years is just as reliable in an electric vehicle. Lithium-ion ion batteries in electric vehicles are reliable for about 1,000 cycles. The Nissan Leaf, for example, is equipped for about 75-miles/charge, is guaranteed for 100,000 miles. Capacity is one thing, but what about charge times? Plenty of improvement in this area has been achieved, reducing charge time from tens of hours to as little as an hour, such as delivered by an LIII Tesla Supercharger or CHAdeMO charging station. Still, even LII home chargers can top off most electric vehicles in less than 8 hours.
Looking at higher upfront costs and production emissions of electric vehicles, some tend to forget their outstanding fuel efficiency, but does this really offset pollution generated during manufacture and electricity generation? Numerous studies, some by automakers and some not, all point to the same inescapable conclusion, electric vehicles are not an environmental abomination. True, the manufacture of the lithium-ion battery adds a lot to costs, as well as a little to emissions and pollution, but lifecycle costs and low emissions levels are far less than for conventional vehicles.
I Don’t Like Limitations…
Others look at the limitations of electric vehicles, and note that no one wants to be bound by these. True, even the class-leading Tesla Model S has a range of only 300 miles, which requires at least a thirty- to forty-minute stop at a Tesla Supercharger, or up to six hours on an LII home charging station. Even my old Jeep Wrangler had a range of just 240 miles, and took just five minutes to refill. Then again, with the aerodynamics of a brick and a 4.0 ℓ i6 and a three-speed automatic transmission, it barely returned 12 mpg. Again, electric vehicle opponents discount two things. First, the average American drives just about thirty miles per day, well within the limitations of every electric vehicle on the market, but what about long trips?
Second, long trips, such as those over even the 300-mile limit of the Tesla Model S, barely make up 5% of all trips that today’s drivers might need to make. According to a recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, more than 40% of American households could make the switch to a pure electric vehicle without making any changes in their driving habits, other than remembering to plug in the car at night. Some 45 million electric vehicles could replace conventional vehicles, with minimal effort, resulting in the equivalent emissions-reduction of about 14 million conventional vehicles.
A Little Perspective
Anyone can point out the negatives, but when you put them in perspective, electric vehicles can be an excellent choice for millions of people. With some adjustments, perhaps a couple hundred million people. Going green doesn’t necessarily mean making the ultimate sacrifice.
Ben Jerew was an ASE Master Technician before turning to automotive journalism, where he covers green and alternative technology. You can read more of his work at AutoFoundry.com.