Change can come quickly, especially technological change. I’m still astounded that horses as the predominant form of transportation were replaced by automobiles in less than 15 years. Aside from creating a new car manufacturing industry, a massive infrastructure of roads, gasoline production, service stations and so on was created. All in less than 15 years.
Is something like that happening right now? I think so when it comes to renewable electrification overall. But even with all the potential benefits there’s going to be resistance from vested interests. — Stephen Leahy
I was about to buy my first-ever new vehicle in the fall of 2018. It was going to be an electric vehicle. Even the cheapest model was out of my price range but there was an Ontario government incentive plan of $14,000 designed to make electric vehicles (EVs) more affordable. Ontario has a very low carbon electricity production so EVs would help fight climate change as well as reducing air pollution.
The incentive plan was designed to be phased out when the costs of EVs were on par with gasoline vehicles. Keep in mind fossil fuels are heavily subsidized and we all pay the costs of air pollution in terms of impacts on health: Causes one in five deaths (8.7 million) every year according to new research. This pollution also has a significant impact on food production and has been lowering yields 5 to 15% depending on the crop for decades now.
And of course there are the many and mounting costs of climate change.
However, among the first things a newly-elected, right-wing conservative Ontario government did was cancel the incentive program. It was an ideological decision, not one based on evidence or reality. They cancelled a number of other programs to cut carbon emissions at a cost of $231 million.
Ideology is wasteful, dangerous and never in the public interest it seems.
The facts about EVs
I’m happy to report that EVs are doing fine in most places. Last year car sales were down 20% in 2020 due to Covid-19, but EV sales jumped 43%.
The reason? EVs are better technology. They have better acceleration, cheaper to fuel and maintain, and there’s no noise or pollution. The Need-to-Know about EVs is that they’re just a big battery with an electric motor.
EVs are far less complex, with just 20 parts in their drive train compared to 2,000 parts in gasoline-powered car. They don’t have multi-speed transmissions, radiators, fuel injectors, gas tanks, valve trains, exhaust systems, etc. This simplicity means they are easier to manufacture. Consider the fact that Tesla’s first-ever EV sedan rolled off the production line less than 10 years ago and now Tesla is considered the most valuable automaker in the world.
Simplicity also means EVs require little to no maintenance other than brakes and tires. Electric motors are also more energy efficient which helps reduce their fuel costs. Driving an EV instead of a comparable-sized gas car can save up to $2,000 in fuel costs every year. Over five years, the savings on fuel and repairs will easily top $10,000.
Range anxiety is over!
Improvements in batteries have boosted the median range for 2020 models beyond 400 kilometres on a single charge, with maximum ranges topping 650 km according to the US EPA.
Public charging stations are now widely available and the infrastructure is expanding rapidly. In some cities charging stations already outnumber gasoline service stations. However, the vast majority of EV charging is done at home overnight.
Yes, but batteries are bad
There’s lots of misinformation about batteries. Here’s a few Need-to-Know facts about EV batteries:
- 8 – 10 year warranties are common
- 320,000 kilometer (200,000 mile) average lifespan —GM and Tesla are aiming to create a million-mile battery
- Cobalt-free batteries are coming. Cobalt mining operations in the Congo are a serious problem. This applies to all batteries not just EVs. Tesla, among others, have new lithium-iron battery technology
- EV batteries are increasingly being re-used and recycled. Volkswagen says they plan to reuse or recycle up to 90% of their EV batteries. Nissan’s used battery packs are already being reused in Japan to store solar energy
- No one who drives an EV wants to go back to their old smog-belcher. That’s based on my personal experience and testimony from anyone who owns one. The main hurdle is that they cost more to buy but that’s about to change.
EVs will soon cost the same
Price parity between EVs and internal combustion vehicles is expected as soon as 2022 in Europe and year or two later in North America reports Bloomberg NEF, a leading research firm on clean energy and transport. By 2025, EVs will represent 10% of global passenger vehicle sales, rising to 28% in 2030 according to Bloomberg’s latest report.
“All told, consumers are happy, and the industry can retool with greater certainty for an electrified future. The top 29 OEMs (car manufacturers) already plan to invest more than $300 billion over the next 10 years.”
Why dealers still prefer ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles
Looks like EVs have a rosy future except for one reality, car dealerships don’t want to sell them. Nearly 70% of over 1000 dealerships contacted did not have a single EV for purchase a 2020 Transport Canada study revealed.
Dealers don’t want to sell EVs because there is so little money to be made servicing or repairing them.
Getting car dealers to sell EVs has also been an issue in Europe Jennifer Lynes, a researcher at the School of Environment at the University of Waterloo told me. Even in progressive Nordic countries like Sweden and Denmark mystery shoppers were dissuaded from buying EVs by car dealership sales personnel. Studies show the same is happening in North America Lynes says.
That, and the lack of EVs at dealerships to test drive and long waits to get an EV delivered, are the biggest barriers.
Can’t stop the EV tsunami
Despite those barriers EVs outsold traditional vehicles in Norway last year, while EVs sales increased 186% in the United Kingdom. In total, nearly 1.4 million new EVs were sold in Europe last year, four times as many sales as the US, and outpacing China’s EV sales for the first time.
What needs to change is the dealership model because they won’t make as much money servicing EVs, Lynes says. “Many more people would buy an EV if they could get their hands on one.”
It’s notable that Tesla, a company that sells more EVs than any other automaker, does not have dealers.
Final thought: EVs are great but public transit powered by electricity is our best transportation option. One day, even in rural areas, compact autonomous electric buses may eliminate personal vehicles entirely because they’re cheaper and more convenient.
You may also find this article in leahy.substack.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.