Energy Efficiency: Consider an Electric Vehicle

Nov 4, 2022

If you’re looking for a way to reduce your carbon footprint and potentially save money in the long term, investing in an electric vehicle (EV) is worth considering.

You may be surprised to learn that EVs were actually the first cars to be built almost 200 years ago before steam-powered or gasoline powered cars. The first prototype EV was built in the 1830s by Scotsman Robert Anderson and the first commercially available EV, the “Electrobat” was built in Philadelphia in 1894.

“Although interest in the environmental benefits of electric cars has increased in recent years, electric vehicles have actually been around longer than internal combustion engine cars.” – factretriever.com

However, because gasoline was so inexpensive and batteries very large, heavy, and inefficient, internal combustion engine cars relegated EVs to the side-lines. Although EVs continued to be built and refined for the next 100 years of gasoline powered car dominance, they never met with commercial success until the last decade or so.

EVs are more efficient. EVs convert 59% to 62% of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels. Conventional gasoline vehicles only convert 17% to 21% of the energy stored in gasoline to power at the wheels.– solarchargeddriving.com

According to a report on Global EV Outlook for 2022, produced by the International Energy Agency2, sales of EVs doubled in 2021 from the previous year to a new record of 6.6 million vehicles sold. In 2012, just 120,000 electric cars were sold worldwide. In 2021, more than that many were sold each week. Nearly 10% of global car sales were electric in 2021, four times the market share in 2019. This brought the total number of electric cars on the world’s roads to about 16.5 million, triple the amount in 2018. Global sales of electric cars have kept rising strongly in 2022, with 2 million sold in the first quarter, up 75% from the same period in 2021.

The first car Porsche ever made had an electric engine. The 1898 “Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton model,” or “P1,” which required over 1,000 lbs of batteries, could drive almost 50 miles on a charge and reached speeds of 22 mph.” – factretriever.com

While Bermuda doesn’t have an official policy of phasing out gas-powered vehicles yet, according to the IEA3, to date, more than 20 countries have announced the full phase-out of internal combustion engine (ICE) car sales within the next twenty years. Moreover, more than 120 countries (accounting for around 85% of the global four-wheel, road vehicle fleet) have announced economy-wide net-zero emissions pledges that aim to reach net zero in the coming few decades and EVs will be an important part of achieving that goal.

What types of residential EVs are available?

While a variety of EV vehicles are in market—electric trucks, electric cars, electric buses, electric bikes, electric boats and so on—there are four types of electric vehicles to be considered:

Note: Local automotive dealers in Bermuda offer different options. To find out what is offered and available, please contact dealerships directly.

Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)
A hybrid EV is a low-emission vehicle that has an electric motor as well as a small, traditional internal combustion engine that is used to charge the vehicle’s battery, but doesn’t have the option of plugging in to re-charge. All energy for the battery is gained through regenerative braking.

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)
A plug-in hybrid EV is similar to the HEV but has the option of plugging in to charge the battery, which is larger. Unlike conventional hybrids, PHEVs have batteries that can be charged by plugging into an outlet—which means they can substitute electricity from the grid for gasoline. They can also recharge their battery through regenerative braking. The traditional motor can be used if the charge is low and you aren’t able, or don’t have the time to plug the vehicle into a charger.

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV)
Battery electric vehicles are fully electric vehicles that only have an electric motor and rechargeable batteries. These vehicles have no gasoline engine, have longer electric driving ranges than PHEVs, and never produce tailpipe emissions. Though there are emissions associated with charging these vehicles, the average BEV produces much lower carbon emissions than a gasoline vehicle.

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV)
Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV) use an electric motor like a BEV, but instead of recharging a battery, FCEVs store hydrogen gas in a tank. The fuel cell in FCEVs combine hydrogen with oxygen from the air to produce electricity. The electricity from the fuel cell then powers an electric motor, which powers the vehicle. As with BEVs, there is no climate-changing pollution from a FCEV’s tailpipe—the only by-product is water. Unlike BEVs or PHEVs, however, FCEVs don’t need to be plugged in, since their fuel cells are recharged by refilling with hydrogen.

How do Electric Vehicles Work?

All EVs not powered by a fuel cell need a battery to store the energy used to power the vehicle. Most commonly, those batteries are made of lithium-ion—basically industrial-strength versions of the battery in your mobile phone.

EV batteries are typically constructed from stacks of cells organised into units and laid out in a large bank along the bottom of the vehicle. The battery assembly is charged with electricity from the grid, via a charging station, or by plugging the vehicle into a home power socket.

The EV market is growing fast as customers seek greener alternatives to diesel and petrol. However, many people do not know that batteries make up roughly 40% of the cost of an electric vehicle. Currently, China is the leading battery manufacturer producing over two-thirds of the world’s batteries. But the EU hopes to contend with China by increasing its share from the present 3% to 25% by 2028.– policyadvice.net

Electric cars are also built with other features to extend battery performance, like regenerative braking, which is an energy recovery mechanism that slows down a moving vehicle or object by converting its kinetic energy into a form that can be either used immediately or stored until needed. An EV’s motor spins in two directions. One lets the motor power the car’s wheels during acceleration. The other lets the wheels power the motor when the car decelerates, turning the motor into an electric generator. Part of the kinetic energy goes to the battery, and the rest goes to the brake system to generate the friction needed to stop.

Internal combustion engines powered by gas use compressed, ignited fuel to move pistons connected to a crankshaft, which turns the vehicle’s wheels. An all-electric vehicle uses the same principle of rotation to push a vehicle forward, it’s just powered differently.

The electric motor is actually a very simple piece of technology: it is a device that uses magnets to convert electric energy into motion. The technology behind electric cars is attributed to the work of physicist Michael Faraday, who discovered electromagnetic induction in 1831.– factretriever.com

Instead of pistons, an EV uses electromagnets to get the crankshaft moving. The electric motor in an EV has a system of magnets, some of which are stationary and some of which rotate. The magnets are made to rotate by continuously switching the polarity of the magnets that need to spin. At a very basic level, the resistance you get when trying to push two magnets facing north-to-north or south-to-south together is what rotates an EV’s motor and spins the vehicle’s wheels.

To create the required resistance, the rotating magnets need to always have an opposite charge to the stationary ones. That’s achieved by a device called an inverter. The inverter draws power from an EV’s battery to switch the polarity of the rotating magnets somewhere around 60 times a second. The constant switching creates sustained magnetic resistance and powers the motor.

Why consider investing in an EV?

There are many reasons to consider an EV over an ICE vehicle, some of which are as follows:

Low or Zero Localised Emissions
The obvious one is the lack of localised emissions. We say localised because, while the vehicle doesn’t have an exhaust, so can’t contribute to city centre smog like a petrol or diesel vehicle, there is still pollution caused during the construction of the car—and in many cases the production of the electricity it runs on, too.

There are many debates to be had here, regarding the environmental impact of producing electricity from a fossil-fuel powered station, and what happens to the lithium battery pack once the car is no longer roadworthy, but that is for another article.

As it is more efficient to generate electricity at a central plant, EV owners will be lowering their carbon footprint and thereby helping the environment. Once large-scale renewables are incorporated into Bermuda’s energy mix, having an EV will become even more green with the possibility that, in the future, charging an EV will be done entirely with renewable energy.

However, if you install a charger at home (as almost all EV owners do) and power this with solar panels, then you can reasonably expect some car journeys to cost you nothing at all beyond the costs associated with maintaining your solar array, while removing any emissions from the charging process as well.

“Decarbonising personal transport is imperative in keeping the globe’s temperature from rising by 1.5°C. Cars and vans accounted for around 8% of global direct CO2 emissions in 2021. However, road transport alone is responsible for 17% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and has grown by 2-3% each year over the past 20 years.” – loveelectric.cars

The Government of Bermuda set vehicle emissions standards in 2004 with the Motor Car (Emissions Standards) Order 2004. Vehicle emissions are regulated based on several international standards including the Automobile Standards Internationalization Center of Japan, the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States Clean Air Act and the European Council, regulations of which are contained in the Official Journal of the European Communities. While there are no specific local vehicle emissions standards currently in force, this may change with the Government’s pledge to update the Clean Air Act in the coming legislative session.

Reduced Noise Pollutions
Unlike traditional combustion engines, electric motors don’t require mechanical valves, gears, or fans. Electric motors involve creating magnetic fields that attract part of the motor to move around the axis of the power shaft. This is naturally a much quieter process than releasing burning or just-burned hot gasses into the surrounding air at hundreds or thousands of times per second.

An electric motor is nearly silent, meaning “rolling noise” from tires and wind are the main source of EV sound. While idling, an EV motor hums quietly. When moving, passengers can hear only the tires and wind.

“Electric cars can run completely silently. However, a new EU rule in July 2019 requires that all electric and hybrid vehicles emit an artificial noise so that they can be more easily heard by cyclists and pedestrians. The noise kicks in at speeds of 13mph and below.” – nltelectrical.co.uk

According to treehugger.com, noise pollution is one of the greatest threats to wildlife. Traffic noise suppresses frogs’ immune systems. It decreases the ability of birds to communicate with each other and to detect predator threats. And it reduces terrestrial wildlife’s ability to forage, care for their young, and reproduce.

“During coronavirus lockdowns in 2020, noise levels in urban environments dropped 35% to 68%. This contributed to a temporary wildlife rebound.” – treehugger.com

Reduced Costs on Fuel
According to a study by Consumer Reports1, the average EV driver will spend 60% less to power their vehicle than the owner of a gas-powered vehicle. The Consumer Reports study used a price of $3.02 per gallon over the next decade, which resulted in cost savings of $9,000 over the lifetime of the car or 200,000 miles. Bermuda’s gasoline price is three times higher at approximately $9 per gallon, so local savings will be higher over the lifetime of an EV.

While it is likely that EV owners will have a higher BELCO bill due to charging their vehicle at home, these higher costs are likely to be offset by avoiding buying gasoline and lower maintenance fees.

Low Operation & Maintenance Costs
Electrical vehicles feature 75% fewer moveable components than regular vehicles, resulting in a substantially lower maintenance expense, and their costs are decreasing year after year4. For example, there is no need to buy engine oil, and less of a need for replacing the disc brakes and pads, because of the regenerative braking mentioned earlier.

In some cases, you will find parking is also reduced or free (as is the case in some London boroughs as an incentive to promote EV adoption). Although, this form of an incentive Is not yet available in Bermuda, it could potentially be seen in the future as charging stations are installed and as the Government encourages residents to invest.

“EV owners spend on average half as much on annual maintenance and repair compared to gas-powered vehicles.” – advocacy.consumerreports.org

Safety Benefits
Electric vehicles are safer to drive because they have a lower centre of gravity, making them more stable on the road in the event of an accident. They’re also more fuel-efficient and quieter to drive4.

“EVs are known for having a lower center of gravity than traditional cars, making them less likely to roll over while improving the overall ride experience and decreasing the risk of death in case of a car accident.” – policyadvice.net

Investment Incentives
In the US, federal tax incentives range from $2,500 to $7,500 for each EV purchased, but this offer will only last until each manufacturer has produced 200,000 electric vehicles. Tesla, specifically, reached that milestone around 2018, at which point the incentive value started to gradually decrease. As incentives such as these are designed to encourage EV ownership, they will likely be adjusted or abolished once EVs become the norm.

While the Government of Bermuda is not currently offering incentives to invest in EVs, some local companies are. Enquire with your company as to whether they have any EV related incentives on offer and stay on top of the changing EV landscape locally in case the Government moves towards incentive programmes.

Residential Energy Storage Back Up
Another advantage of owning an EV is that some models can act as energy storage for the home and provide back-up power in the event of a power outage.

What challenges should be considered prior to investing?

While electric vehicles present a multitude of benefits, the following challenges should be considered prior to purchasing to ensure you are making your investment based on realistic expectations:

Battery Charge Duration & Range
According to ev-america.com, electric vehicle manufacturers have worked hard to lengthen the amount of time that cars will last without recharging. Currently, a regular electric vehicle will last for around 250 miles on a single charge before needing to be recharged. For ‘elite’ electric vehicles, such as those by Tesla, this is even longer, with cars lasting around 350 miles. It is essential to remember that this mileage is calculated on the basis that your vehicle is fully charged. If it is not fully charged, then the distance your vehicle will last without requiring charging will be significantly less.

It is also important to remember that your battery duration can be affected by the size and age of your EV battery, how the EV is driven, the driving conditions and the ambient temperature.

Battery Life Span
Most car manufacturers guarantee EV batteries for eight years or 160,000km (whichever comes first), with some estimates suggesting electric car battery life is somewhere between 10 and 20 years. Most manufacturers’ guarantees state that the battery should still be holding at least 70% capacity after eight years. As the battery ages, the performance will progressively diminish. However, dealers can replace EV batteries as necessary, and prices vary depending on the size of particular batteries. It is also important to remember that battery technology is being improved constantly.

“Unlike a petrol or diesel car, which is completely scrapped at the end of its life, electric cars have a circular economy. That is, even when a battery pack degrades to the point of being unusable in an electric car, it’s recycled. The precious heavy metals within the old battery are recovered and reused in fresh new batteries.” – loveelectric.cars

Recharge Time
Due to the time it takes to recharge a battery, charging electric vehicles takes longer than refueling at a gas station. In fact, 80% of EV charges take place at home on a sluggish charge. While contemplating this, you must also consider that due to our shorter travel distances the time in between your charges may be less. This means in a month you may not be charging as many times as others in larger countries. Again, this is something that you can ask your vehicle dealer about prior to purchase.

“The Netherlands is the nation with the most charging stations. As of February 2020, it has more than 37,000 public charging stations or one station per 459 inhabitants.” – policyadvice.net

Initial Investment Expense
Purchasing an electric vehicle is expensive. There are a variety of fossil fuel options on the market at various price points, while electric vehicles, on the other hand, have fewer options, and the better ones are more expensive. An EV Is an investment that will require you to assess your finances prior to purchase.

While current EVs may often be more expensive to purchase than similarly sized gas-powered cars, there is the potential to end up paying less to operate an EV car over its lifetime while also reducing your carbon footprint and helping the environment.

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