ALAN NORTHCUTT Guest Columnist
The climate crisis has encircled and ravaged the planet in 2022, with land and ocean heat waves, droughts, crop damage, wildfires, floods, starvation and death. The city of Waco was scorched, with nearly 50 days of temperatures of 100 degrees or more. The persistent drought in McLennan County has become “extreme” over about 40% of its area and “exceptional” (the highest level) over 60% of its area.
As action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions falters at the federal level, the response at the state, municipal and individual level has become vitally important. With transportation being the largest source of GHGs in the United States, many Americans are turning to electric vehicles, and demand for vehicles is currently outstripping supply. Yet misconceptions about electric vehicles are prevalent, slowing down this urgently needed electrification of transportation.
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The highly respected and apolitical Consumer Reports published a “Survey of Battery Electric Vehicles and Low-Carbon Fuels,” based on questions asked of 8,027 adults in February 2022. From this data, I have extract the most common misconceptions about electric vehicles and I will demystify them.
For climate science deniers, there’s no reason to buy an EV. A 2013 MIT study found that internal combustion engine vehicles cause 53,000 additional deaths a year in the United States from tailpipe pollution, a toxic mix of nitrogen oxides, monoxide carbon, sulfur dioxide and particulates. Thus, driving an electric vehicle protects health, saves lives and reduces healthcare costs.
Electric vehicles are expensive and only for the wealthy. First, reasonably priced models are available: the $27,400 Nissan Leaf, $29,000 Cooper Mini EV and $31,000 Chevy Bolt, all before federal tax credits apply. Second, the purchase price of EVs is often higher than that of comparable internal combustion engine vehicles, but this difference is modest when converted into a monthly payment, the method of purchase preferred by most Americans. . Third, a 2020 Consumer Reports study found EV lifecycle savings of $6,000 to $10,000 when comparing EV and ICE versions of a model, due to EV savings on fuel costs. fuel, lack of oil changes and minimal maintenance.
Charging logistics are a barrier to buying EVs. Even in 2022, it is not widely understood that the vast majority of charging is done at home overnight, and commercial use of chargers is generally limited to journeys away from one’s hometown. The exception to this rule is for those who rent out their home.
The number of kilometers between charges (vehicle range) is insufficient. Of the 100 EV models available today, only seven have a range of less than 200 miles. Given that in Texas, the average daily distance traveled is 48 miles (Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2017), the range of electric vehicles is adequate for most daily trips.
The cost of installing a home charger is prohibitive. The price of required Level 2 charging hardware (240 volts) ranges from $119 to $1,299 on Amazon, with variations related to features such as weather resistance and Wi-Fi capability. Electrician fees to run the 240V cable are hard to predict, but are around $500-$1000. Thus, the cost of installing the charger is often exaggerated.
Public charging stations are too rare. Due to multiple variables, this requires a nuanced explanation. For Tesla and non-Tesla owners with home charging, owning an EV is convenient. For Tesla and non-Tesla owners without home charging, owning an EV will be more complicated, as there is only one Level 3 Tesla compressor and Level 3 non-Tesla charger complex, both on I-35, in the Waco area.
For faraway trips, now is a great time to own a Tesla – the supercharger network is extensive and well-maintained, and the stations aren’t crowded yet. The exception may be in high-density Tesla states like California, where charging wait may occur. For non-Tesla long distance travel, charging stations can usually be found, but they are not as plentiful as Tesla’s and can sometimes malfunction. Similar to Tesla, the stations have the advantage of not yet being crowded in Texas. (My observations are largely based on 6 years of driving a Chevrolet Bolt and a Tesla Model 3 in Texas and Colorado.)
Battery replacement is too expensive. In reality, EV traction (transmission) batteries are rarely replaced. EV battery warranties are typically eight years or 100,000 to 150,000 miles, with only 30 percent range degradation at 100,000 miles. Beyond the warranty, experts predict that EV batteries will hold a charge for up to 10 or 20 years, longer than the lifespan of the rest of the car.
Electric vehicle performance is poor. This is one of the most common myths about electric vehicles. In fact, since EVs don’t have the lag in torque development seen in ICE vehicles, acceleration is very quick. Of 100 electric vehicle models currently available, 51 can go from zero to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds. The maximum speed of the Lucid Air Dream is 168 mph and that of the Tesla Model S Plaid is 200 mph. So, for those focused on performance, an abundant choice is available in the electric vehicle market.
As the world, including Waco, experiences the climate impacts of this scorching summer, driving an electric vehicle remains an important action that individuals, governments, and organizations can take to address the climate crisis. At the same time, driving an electric vehicle contributes to better local air quality and is an exhilarating experience.
Alan D. Northcutt is a retired Waco physician and director of a local climate action and education group, Waco Friends of the Climate. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
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