Tesla Model S

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.

Tesla supercharger

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.

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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.

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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.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds good to me.I’am a retired letter carrier supporting myself and my wife along with 5 rescue and 3 foster dogs with my pension.My jeep wrangler just died on the way to pick up our newest foster.So if Leonardo DiCaprio or some other electric car booster with the resources would like to further the cause i would gladly accept an Ecar as a donation to a greener planet. thank you. [email protected]

  2. I have a Volt and love it. It is silent, futuristic and fueled with all-American electricity. Now that coal is down to generating just 37% of America’s electricity, I am mainly using natural gas, nukes, hydro and renewables to fuel my driving.
    But the coolest thing is just how much fun it is to drive an electric car. My Volt isn’t as fast as my 350Z but my Z sits in the parking lot because my Volt is more fun to drive.
    Plus, it takes just under a dollars worth of electricity to completely fill the battery and that electricity will take me 44 miles in the warmer months and 28 miles in the colder weeks of January/February. But a dollar to go that far is pretty cool, especially now that Volts are selling for $33k less $7.5k for a net price of $25.5k.

  3. I love my Volt. I very rarely put gasoline in it, only when we drive to my in-laws 300 miles away. I’ve heard all the “electricity is dirty, too” arguments and I’m sorry, they’re just nonsense when taken in context. I’ve heard the same said of our solar panels, that they’re dirty to make — but in 25 years of useful daily life they will prevent kilo-tons of pollution, far outweighing any caused during production. We must be careful not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

  4. The arguments against Electric Vehicles will ultimately fail because when you put a driver behind the wheel of an Electric Vehicle a big smile comes over their face and they say: “Oh, this is *really* fun!”

  5. I’ve been driving a Leaf for almost two years now, and I don’t know what I’m going to do when my lease is up next year.
    The operating cost is so low, it is ridiculous. I spend more on a single tank of gas for my second car than I do in two months driving the Leaf. To put it another way, if I went for a night out and had $100 for fuel, dinner and the movies, I would spend $50 on gas and have fast food and a matinee using my minivan, but spend $10 for electricity and dine at a restaurant and see a first run show using my Leaf.
    There’s no smog check, no oil changes (I just had a friend ruin their engine when the mechanic didn’t tighten the oil drain plug properly), no radiator to overheat, no ugly oil spots on the driveway, no tuneups.
    The car smells better – no oil, gasoline, or radiator fluid smells.
    Everyday is a “spare the air” day.
    I get to drive the diamond lane anytime without guilt.
    The car has more pep than any four cylinder car I’ve driven and handles better too.
    I’ve found the electric car is so much better, despite the range.

  6. Maybe its what it took to make the battery’s, Or the extra demand on power plants to supply the electricity to charge them. Its not like magic charges the battery’s. Don’t kid yourselves. I well admit my friends Prius is roomy and rides well.

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