Their main value is reducing global warming
By L. David Roper
In a 2018 study (http://roperld.com/science/ElectricCarsTotal.htm) I used data for the total number of cars in the world, which has been rising exponentially over the last decade, and the number of plug-in cars (EVs = PHEVs and BEVs), which has been rising exponentially over the last decade, to roughly estimate when most of the cars in the world will be EVs:
This graph is created with the assumptions that the total-cars’ rise and the EVs’ rise at the same exponential rates as currently, and that the exponentials will gradually become decreasing around year 2035 toward a final asymptote of about 4 billion EVs at about year 2100.
If this rough estimate turns out to be reasonably accurate, the number of non-EVs (ICEVs) in the world will peak before 2030 at about 1.5 billion and almost all cars will be EVs, actually BEVs, at about year 2100.
The acronym for a gasoline car is ICEV = Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle.
The questions is: Why are the number of EVs rising exponentially and will they continue this rise until the number melds into the total number of cars (EVs) into a horizontal line (an asymptote) at about year 2100? There are many reasons, which I list here in my estimate of order of importance:
- The disasters caused by global warming, which are already occurring, will create the political will to reduce the causes of global warming, and burning gasoline in cars is an important contributor to global warming through the carbon dioxide they emit into the atmosphere. Many recent reliable studies have shown that the average BEV causes emission of less carbon dioxide over its lifetime than does the average ICEV, even though more carbon dioxide is emitted in BEV manufacture than for ICEVs and even if the electricity they consume is created by burning coal. In 2020 the average ICEV in the USA would have to have 91 mpg gasoline usage to equal the low carbon emissions of the average BEV.
- The exponential rise in renewable energy and energy storage to replace burning coal and natural gas as the sources of electricity will increase the political will to quit burning gasoline in cars and replace it with electricity.
- The cost of electricity per mile traveled by a BEV is about 1/2 the cost of burning gasoline in an ICEV, and is more pleasant and easier to use. Consider two cases: (A) Average midsize-ICEV: $3.00/gallon / 36-mpg = $0.083/mile; and, (B) Average midsize-BEV: $0.145/kWh / 3.5-mi/kWh = $0.041/mile charging at home; $0.35/kWh / 3.5-mi/kWh = $0.10/mile charging at fast chargers on long trips. Most BEV drivers drive over 95% locally; take 98% as the average; then the average total BEV driving cost would be: 0.98 x $0.041 + 0.02 * $0.10 = $0.042/mile. If your home has solar panels, your home charging cost will be much smaller; for the long term you need to prorate the amortization of the solar-system cost. If you are a good citizen of your country and the world you will reduce the amortization cost considerably by allowing the standard $100/metric-ton savings by not emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
- The simplicity of BEVs compared to ICEVs and PHEVs (hybrid cars with a large battery and plug) make for much less maintenance cost.
- Although most currently available BEVs cost more to buy than equivalent ICEVs, the total lifetime cost of a BEV has been shown by many reliable studies to be less than for ICEVs. As the BEV industry grows and the current high demand lessens, the cost of BEVs will be reduced and probably be less than ICEVs. In September the average price of a new car in the USA was $45,000; the least expensive Tesla, the Model 3 RWD, is currently priced at $46,990. There may be a large tax credit for buying an electric car after 1 January 2023
- EVs are very easy to fuel by slow AC 120-volts outlets (level-1) standard everywhere in the USA, often in a driveway or garage, by faster AC 240-volts outlets (level-2) standard in many countries or in may charging stations rapidly expanding, and by fast and very fast DC 480-volts, or higher, chargers (level-3) using two different charging protocols, Tesla and CCS, with adapters so all EVs can use both protocols. While refueling there is no noxious odorous gasoline fume and much less danger than gasoline fueling, because the electrical connection only occurs after a signal is sent by an EV cord to a charger that a connection is requested.
- Tesla has demonstrated that buying BEVs online is the best way for the seller and the buyer; legacy car companies have been forced to sell ICEVs through middleman dealers, which greatly complicates the process. Other new BEV companies are emulating Tesla and some legacy car companies are beginning to emulate Tecla’s online selling for BEVs. If many BEVs can be purchased online and ICEVs have to be purchased through dealers, that will favor the selling of BEVs.
- Tesla has demonstrated that mobile-repair service is much better than dealer repair service. Other new BEV companies are emulating Tesla and some legacy car companies are moving toward emulating Tesla for BEVs. If many BEVs have mobile repair service and ICEVs do not, that will favor the selling of BEVs.
- A BEVs’ battery can be used as backup for house power during a power outage.
- All of the above items make a BEV much more fun to drive than an ICEV!
The Transition from ICEVs to BEVs
The transition from BEVs to ICEVs will have many interesting aspects:
- The average BEV has much faster acceleration than does the average ICEV; BEVs can accelerate about three times faster than ICEVs using the same amount of energy. When BEVs are in front leaving traffic lights, they may get to the next traffic light before light synchronization changes it to GO. When BEVs are behind ICEVs at traffic lights, their drivers might become agitated that the cars in front do not accelerate faster. Perhaps some multi-lane highways with have separate lanes for BEVs and ICEVs!
- BEVs can be driven inside buildings with no adverse effects on air quality and do not drop oil on the floors; they might drop water expelled from air conditioners. This may change the design of buildings.
- BEVs are very quiet. Although some governments will require a minimum sound at low speeds, governments might enact legislation banning loud ICEV noises.
- BEVs electronics allows many car functions to be varied by the driver on a large computer screen, eliminating the confusing array of buttons and switches in most ICEVs. This should make driving safer.
- BEVs can be designed as self-driving cars easier than ICEVs. Probably by 2125 most BEVs will be self-driving.
Charging Station Deserts in the USA
The number of EVs in the USA will increase faster as more charging stations of the higher two levels (AC 240-volts and DC 480-volts) are uniformly distributed across the country. There are “charging deserts” in all states. An extreme case of the difficulty of doing this is represented by the state of West Virginia, mainly because of its extensive coverage by mountains.
This graph shows the level-2 AC 240-volts charging stations currently available in West Virginia:
The charging deserts are obvious: There need to be level-2 charging stations installed at Galipolis, Spencer, and at least three on US52 (Louisa, Williamson and Welch?). Many of the charging stations are at car dealerships or hotels, and may not be available to local residents or travelers; a detailed study needs to be done to determine if extra level-2 charging stations are needed at those locations.
This graph shows the level-3 DC 480-volts chargers currently available in West Virginia:
Four of the fast chargers shown are Tesla Superchargers (Huntington, Charleston, Mt. Hope and Princeton), the fifth is a CCS charger at a car dealership at Charleston. These fast chargers are necessary for making long trips in BEVs at about 100-miles intervals; the author has used all of them. Obviously, there needs to be a fast charger in the middle of US52, perhaps at Williamson.
A similar analysis needs to be done for Kentucky; a mountainous state adjacent to West Virginia.
© L. David Roper, 2022. Dr. Roper is a physicist and Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Va. Feature photo is of Dr. Roper.