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Are EVs as Green as they say?| Debunking Myths About EV’s



They’re coming, like it or not.


EV’s are taking over the production lines of almost all major car manufacturers due to a push from government and environmental lobbyists. This has sparked anger and debate on whether forcing everyone into using electric cars is really as beneficial as some experts claim. Let’s look at some of the arguments, both for and against the electric car movement and separate reasonable arguments from the propaganda and rhetoric.


EV’s are better for the environment... I think...


It’s true, most of the reason why governments are forcing people to switch to EV’s is based on environmental research that claims that electric cars are better for the environment. If these studies are correct, and they account for the overall environmental impact of the energy production, storage, raw materials etc. then we should be praising the technology. But is that the case?


Batteries


Most electric car batteries today are made from lithium-ion (Li-ion) technology. These batteries use a combination of lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2), lithium manganese oxide (LiMn2O4), or lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) for the cathode and carbon for the anode.

Lithium-ion batteries are widely used in electric vehicles because they offer high energy density, which means they can store a lot of energy in a relatively small and lightweight package. They are also durable and can be recharged many times without losing much of their capacity.

Other types of batteries, such as nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) and lead-acid, have been used in some electric vehicles, but they are less common than lithium-ion batteries due to their lower energy density and other disadvantages.

As with ICE cars, battery technology will continue to develop. Currently, all eyes are on solid state batteries made from sodium rather than Lithium. Solid state batteries offer a cheaper and more abundant chemical composition than Lithium, though they do not quite yet offer the same level of performance. Chinese battery giant CATL announced their plans to begin mass-producing the batteries in 2023.


Sodium batteries have the potential to be much better for the environment than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Aside from the lack of mining involved, sodium is one of the most abundant and least expensive elements on earth. It also happens to be the natural byproduct of the desalination process which we use to turn saltwater into fresh drinking water. Additionally, sodium is less reactive and more stable than lithium, which could make it a safer alternative for battery manufacturing and operation.


Sodium batteries also do not rely on cobalt, which is often associated with unethical mining practices and human rights abuses. This could make sodium batteries a more sustainable and ethical option while also being one of the most cost-effective for energy storage.


However, sodium batteries are still in the early stages of development, and there are several technical challenges that need to be overcome before they can be widely adopted. For example, sodium-ion batteries have lower energy density than lithium-ion batteries, which means they can store less energy per unit of weight or volume. Additionally, the current technology for sodium-ion batteries has a shorter lifespan and lower efficiency than lithium-ion batteries.


Overall, sodium batteries have the potential to be a more environmentally friendly option for energy storage, but more research and development are needed to improve their performance and overcome the technical challenges associated with their production and use. If perfected, sodium batteries have the potential to reduce the negative impact of battery production on the environment. Until then, the morality of battery production is still on the questionable side.


Comparing the environmental impact of oil production and lithium-ion battery production is complex, as both processes involve multiple stages that can have significant environmental impacts. However, in general, it is widely recognized that oil production has a larger environmental footprint than lithium-ion battery production.



Here are some of the environmental impacts associated with each process:


Oil Production:

  • Extraction: Oil extraction can involve drilling, fracking, or other methods that can cause habitat destruction, soil erosion, water pollution, and air pollution. It can also harm wildlife and ecosystems, particularly in sensitive areas like wetlands and coastal areas.

  • Refining: The refining process requires significant amounts of energy and can produce air and water pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions, volatile organic compounds, and sulfur dioxide.

  • Transport: Transporting oil can also have significant environmental impacts, including spills, leaks, and accidents that can harm wildlife and ecosystems, as well as air and water pollution from the transportation infrastructure.

  • Use: The use of oil for transportation and other purposes also contributes to air and water pollution, as well as greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.



Lithium-Ion Battery Production:

  • Extraction: The extraction of the raw materials for lithium-ion batteries, including lithium, cobalt, and nickel, can also have significant environmental impacts, including habitat destruction, soil erosion, water pollution, and air pollution.

  • Refining: The refining process for these materials can also produce air and water pollution, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Manufacturing: The manufacturing process for lithium-ion batteries requires significant amounts of energy and can produce greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollution.

  • End-of-Life: When lithium-ion batteries reach the end of their life, they must be recycled or disposed of properly to avoid environmental harm.

While both oil production and lithium-ion battery production have environmental impacts, it is generally recognized that oil production has a larger environmental footprint due to its impact on habitats, wildlife, and ecosystems, as well as the significant greenhouse gas emissions associated with the extraction, refining, and use of oil.

Efforts are being made to reduce the environmental impacts of both processes, such as developing more sustainable battery materials such as sodium-ion batteries and transitioning to renewable energy sources, but there is still a long way to go in achieving truly sustainable energy systems.


Charging the batteries

Another big critique of EVs is the source of the energy used to charge the batteries. The argument is that most energy is either supplied through coal and oil. Critics claim that the power used to produce the energy for electric cars is worse for the environment than just burning gas and diesel in ICE vehicles.

We did an in depth breakdown of the CO2 emissions from power production and based on a scenario where 100% of Canadian vehicles switched to electric. It concluded that the environmental impact of power production today, as it relates to EV battery use, resulted in a reduction of 50% less CO2 emissions.

This study shows that although EV’s are significantly better for the environment, they are not perfect and a lot more research is needed to create more renewable and sustainable energy production sources.



Infrastructure


Getting stuck on the side of the road when you run out of gas has happened to the best of us, but what happens when you can’t find a charger? This common concern highlights the lack of infrastructure required to support a large-scale transition to electric right?


According to Canadian statistics, there are 1237 active gas stations across the country but the amount of pumps at each is unknown. For this experiment let’s assume an average of 8 pumps per station for a total of approximately 9896 pumps across Canada.


In comparison, according to Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) data as of December 31, 2021, there were 6,723 public charging stations offering 15,723 chargers available for Canadian electric vehicles. he majority of these chargers (over 12,000) are Level 2 chargers, but there are also 1,237 stations across Canada that provide DC fast chargers for EVs. Map of all charging locations here In addition, the Liberal government has also pledged $700 million to install another 50,000 chargers across the country.


According to this data, not only has Canadian Infrastructure kept up well with the growth in electric car adoption, the amount of chargers has already surpassed the amount of gas stations in the country and will only improve. The good news is that newer EVs are programmed to find available chargers on their own so that you don’t get caught off guard when your road trip soundtrack dies in the middle of your big solo moment.



What about charging times?


Many critics cite the charging time as the main reason they wouldn’t switch to an EV. So how much of your day would be standing at a charger?


Let’s start with the devil we know. The average amount of time spent filling a gas tank can vary depending on several factors, such as the size of the tank, the fuel flow rate of the gas pump, and the type of fuel being dispensed. On average, it takes approximately 5-10 minutes to fill a standard gas tank of around 15-20 gallons (57-76 liters) in capacity.


Electric cars on the other hand, depend on the type of charger being used. It is true that if you plan on charging your car with a regular outlet, you can expect to be there quite a while. But how long does it actually take to charge an electric car? Here’s a look at the different charging methods and how long each takes.


Level 1 Charging


This would be your typical wall plug that delivers a 120v connection. This is the slowest method of charging but it’s also the most common type of power available. Unfortunately, you’ll need to clear your calendar if you plan to use this method of charging. A full charge can take anywhere from 20-24 hours for 80% and upward of-50 hours to get an optimal full charge. This is certainly less than optimal if you do a lot of driving or have a long commute.


Level 2 Charging


Most modern chargers are level 2 and they offer a bit of time relief at the plug, but not enough to compare to the speed of a gas guzzler. You can expect a 4-6 hour layover to hit 80% and around 10 hours for a full charge.


Level 3 Superchargers


Although there are only 1376 level 3 chargers stations with a total of 3464 ports available in Canada, these chargers make a huge difference in the time required to charge your electric car. These ports are capable of power transfer of upwards of 75-1200 miles per hour, depending on the make. That is to say that it takes around 30 minutes to charge an EV to 80% or the same amount of time to fully charge a Tesla running at optimal performance. The Tesla supercharger can recover roughly 75 miles per 5 minutes of charging.


While not all chargers are Tesla grade superchargers, Tesla has opened up their supercharger network to other brands in what it calls, “A mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”. They have also announced plans to install “many more in the near future” with 8 planned in Quebec so far.


There’s still a lot of room to go before EV’s can outperform ICE when it comes to filling up, but with any new technology, the more companies research it, the faster new advancements are made. New battery tech and charging capabilities might be just around the corner.


So what other criticisms do electric cars get from their opposers?



Maintenance


Since the invention of the combustion engine, people have had the ability to work on, rebuild and fine-tune their cars for the best performance. Unfortunately, EVs are not as straightforward and require specialized technicians that resemble computer repair more than traditional auto mechanics. This makes the adoption by the mechanically inclined backyard mechanic, a much harder pill to swallow.


Although it’s true that electric cars are more complex and home repairs are discouraged, it should also be pointed out that the mechanics that drive an EV also involve less moving parts. By removing most of what makes an engine go vroom, EVs have less parts to wear and break down. This isn’t to say that they necessarily last longer, just that there are less parts to fail.


What about the cost of maintenance and replacement parts? A lot of the concern seems to be around the cost of replacing a motor or the battery pack. Some people claim that you would have to replace the battery every 10 years and they cost as much as a new ICE car.


Currently, most automakers are just catching up to the standards Tesla has set for the EV market. This means that the true cost of replacing a battery, as well as the frequency in which it’s required, isn’t data that is available yet. As new battery tech is discovered and more research is done by several companies, the cost of battery replacement is dropping very quickly.


While it has been reported that a Tesla battery replacement can range as high as $20,000, most EV battery replacements today cost in the range of $5000 to $9,000, which is far less than the price of a new ICE car as claimed, and is in line with the cost to replace an ICE engine should it be required.


What about the rest of the car?


Well this can be true, it’s difficult to break down due to the lack of comparative samples. For example, most EVs on the road are Teslas, however, none of the gas powered cars are Teslas. This means that, for the most part, the comparison is more between the manufacturer than the type of car itself. It may mean that Teslas are just more expensive to repair than a Ford. This might be because there are more Ford parts due to the volume of cars they produce, reducing the cost due to economy of scale. It’s safe to assume that as more automakers join the EV party, the cost to repair an EV will even out with the cost of any other type of vehicle repair.



Cost of Purchase


Another common argument about switching to electric vehicles is the cost to purchase one. Due to the lack of demand, the cost of electric cars has yet to even out with that of the ICE car. That being said, are EVs really that much more expensive?


Again, comparing the price of cars should be based on an apples to apples comparison. Since there aren’t many cars where the same model can be purchased with gas or electric as an option, we decided to compare the price of two similar cars by the same manufacturer. For the purpose of this experiment we chose the 2023 Chevrolet Equinox LT with the 2023 Chevrolet Bolt EUV LT. The ICE driven Equinox came in at $34,837.


The Chevy Bolt, however, came in at $43,147, a whopping $8310 premium on the price of an equivalent ICE vehicle.


Another factor to consider is government incentives to go green. The Ontario government currently offers up to $5000 in point-of-sale incentives to switch to electric.


Based on this, the cost to buy an electric car is on average 19.24% higher than an ICE car before incentives. However, when taking advantage of these incentives, new EV owners would only be paying 8.6% more for their car, while also enjoying the added benefits of fuel savings.



Fuel Cost Savings


The cost of fuel vs the cost of electricity is another common claim from both sides. While EV owners claim that they save a ton on gas, ICE owners argue that the cost savings doesn’t account for the cost of the electric to charge the cars. So how much does driving an EV save you on fuel costs?


The average amount of gas (petrol or diesel) that an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) burns in 100 km depends on several factors, including the size and efficiency of the engine, the weight and aerodynamics of the vehicle, driving conditions, and driving habits.


According to data from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average fuel economy of new passenger cars in the United States is around 25 miles per gallon (mpg), which is equivalent to approximately 9.4 liters per 100 km. However, this figure may vary depending on the type of car, driving conditions, and other factors.

At the time of writing this article, the average gas price per liter in Kitchener Ontario was $1.38/ liter. Based on this information, the average cost to drive a combustion vehicle 100km would be $12.97.

In contrast, the average kilowatt hours used to propel an electric car 100 km is around 25 kwh/ 100 km. Based on the current mid-peak hydro price in Ontario at the time of writing, the cost of electricity is 10.2 cents/ kwh.

Based on this calculation, the average cost to power an electric vehicle is $2.55/ 100 km, which is a savings of $10.42/ 100 km driven in an electric car.


According to a study conducted by the Office of Energy Efficiency, the average Canadian drives approximately 15,200 km per year, which means the average ICE vehicle owner would pay roughly $1971.44/ year in fuel costs, whereas an EV owner could expect an annual increase on their electric bill of around $387.60. This is a significant savings for switching to electric and only gets better as new, more efficient methods of power generation and storage are created.


Conclusion


Based on the research we conducted, we can definitively say that, although EVs aren’t the miracle cure for sustainability that some EV owners would have you believe, however, it is undeniable that EV’s are a significant improvement in pollution reduction and overall can save you thousands over the lifetime of your vehicle.


With technology all pointing us toward more renewable and sustainable power generation, safer and cleaner battery tech and mass adoption, the price incentive to go electric will only strengthen until the rest of us are on board. Although it’s not likely that everyone will switch willingly, in time the option will likely be taken away with the exception of the few special permits still floating around the niece collectors.


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