So electric vehicles are better – now what?

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We know that electric vehicles produce about 50% fewer emissions over their lifetime than gasoline cars. But how do we encourage their deployment?

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UCSUSA

In our recent report on electric vehicles, we found that battery electric cars produce about 50 percent fewer global warming emissions over their lifetime than similarly-sized gasoline cars. We showed that even with the greater global warming emissions from manufacturing (largely because of lithium-ion battery manufacturing), a battery-electric vehicle still results in significantly lower global warming emissions over its lifetime than its gasoline counterpart. Other studies on this topic have come to similar conclusions.

So what’s next? How do we produce even cleaner EVs and encourage their deployment across the country?

Given the potentially major role of battery electric vehicles (BEVs)—if they are widely deployed—in reducing global warming emissions from the transportation sector, we recommend the adoption of innovative policies in the following areas: (1) increased renewable electricity generation; (2) advanced battery technology; and (3) facilitation of electric vehicle accessibility.

Limit power plant emissions and expand renewable electricity generation

How electricity is generated greatly affects the global warming emissions of electric vehicles, both in their manufacture and operation. As such, renewable electricity will be the main mechanism for reducing global warming emissions from electric vehicles (EVs).

Congress should enact a federal Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), and encourage the strengthening of state RESs, as an effective method for decreasing the global warming emissions from electricity generation (and consequently, EVs). Over the past 15 years, state-level RESs have proven to be one of the most successful and cost-effective means for driving renewable energy development in the United States. Currently, 29 states and the District of Columbia have adopted some kind of RES. The Figure below shows the stringency and type (mandatory or voluntary) of each state RES from Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE). California recently expanded the nation’s largest market for renewable energy by increasing its RES to 50 percent by 2030. Earlier in 2015, Hawaii increased its RES to require 100 percent renewables by 2045. Other state governments should follow suit.

DSIRE-map

Consumers and organizations should invest directly in renewable energy technologies. Homeowners, businesses, and diverse institutions can also accelerate the transition to greater renewable energy use through on-site generation, green power purchasing, and REC purchases. Net metering allows consumers who generate their own electricity from renewable technologies—such as a rooftop solar panel or a small wind turbine—to feed excess power back into the electricity system and thereby “spin their meter” backward. Forty-four states and the District of Columbia now have net metering requirements.

In some deregulated utility markets, consumers have the ability to select their power provider. In those locales, choosing a provider that supplies electricity from renewable sources or that maintains a green pricing program may be distinct options. States offering this type of choice for at least some consumers include California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Virginia. The District of Columbia offers such a choice as well.

Purchasing RECs, which are available nationwide, is another option. RECs are directly tied to electricity generated by renewable sources and are sold in a voluntary market.12 By providing additional revenue for renewable energy projects, the purchase of RECs can help increase the supply of renewable electricity.

Directly invest in battery technology

Policies that support additional battery research and development should be pursued in order to increase EV batteries’ efficiency, lower their costs, and reduce the global warming emissions attributable to them from their manufacture and at their end of their service lives.

Congress should continue to fund federal battery research programs in order to reduce battery costs and increase EV affordability. Government investment in battery technology has already played a significant role in reducing battery costs. In 2007, lithium-ion batteries cost about $1,000 per kWh, but by 2014 they were at $300 per kWh.

This achievement was largely the result of several key federal programs, run mostly by the DOE. Research funded by the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and Joint Center for Energy Storage Research helped to modify batteries for EV use. ARPA-E and the DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office are presently funding research into novel battery chemistries, which have the potential to greatly extend batteries’ range and durability, and funding technology- transfer processes to expedite such improved batteries’ commercial availability.

Congress should fund programs that facilitate battery recycling or reuse. Although today’s market for recycling large lithium-ion batteries is limited, given that most of the first-generation EVs have not reached the end of their service lives, it is important to ensure there will be a ready market for used batteries when their time comes.

Facilitate Electric Vehicle Accessibility

2013 survey conducted by UCS and the Consumers Union found that 42 percent of American households, representing nearly 42 million American homes with a vehicle, could benefit today from using an electric vehicle. To help EVs grow into this large potential market, their upfront costs must be reduced.

Congress should protect the existing $7,500 federal EV tax credit and reinstate the infrastructure tax incentive. Offsetting EV purchase prices through incentives such as the $7,500 federal tax credit and additional state tax credits have helped stimulate the markets for EVs across the country. In California, for example, more than 3 percent of new vehicle registrations were plug-in hybrid and battery-electric vehicles in 2014. Governor Jerry Brown has also set a goal of 1.5 million zero-emissions vehicles on the state’s roads by 2025. California was an early adopter of state-level incentives for EVs, influencing others—Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont—to follow suit. These eight states’ governors have signed an agreement establishing action plans in each state that would put a total of 3.3 million zero-emissions vehicles into service by 2025.

Congress should support unifying guidance on charging installations. At present there are three ways to charge EVs: AC Level 1 and Level 2 chargers; and DC fast chargers. Each type of charger replenishes the lithium-ion battery at different rates. Typically, the Level 1 charger adds two to five miles of range per hour, the Level 2 charger adds 10 to 20 miles of range per hour, and the DC fast charger adds 50 to 70 miles of range in 20 minutes. There also are various types of connectors and plugs for EVs. The DC charging connectors are not uniform across all vehicle manufacturers. Tesla has its own connector and charging infrastructure, which can only be used by Tesla owners. Nissan, Kia, and Mitsubishi vehicles use a different type of connector, and BMW and Chevrolet utilize yet another connector. This situation can make understanding charging difficult for potential EV drivers.


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11 Comments
  1. john 4 years ago

    I can see in the not too distant years where everyone in an urban environment will be using an EV not an ICE vehicle.
    The simple fact that EV is so more efficient will be the reason that this technology will be used.
    The fact it is beneficial is a benefit however not the real driving force pure cost saving will be the winning factor.

  2. Jacob 4 years ago

    We should have said “do you want to keep importing oil from KSA or Hugo Chavez” whenever an ignorant voter said that EVs cause as much pollution as petrol cars.

    • Mike Dill 4 years ago

      Or: “Do you think we should keep sending our money there to fund terrorism?”

      • philofthefuture 4 years ago

        The vast majority of our oil comes from the western hemisphere so we are not contributing much to terror funding. Oil is a world wide commodity so as long as people around the world fill their tanks terrorism will be funded.
        There are over a billion fossil fueled vehicles in the world, we’ll add another 77 million this year, likely 85 million next. I don’t see that trialing off any time soon. That means we will need oil for at least two decades, likely twice that. Heavy equipment, trains, planes, long haul trucks will have to wait for hydrogen fuel cells, unless a miracle occurs no battery will be suitable for those applications.

        • Mike Dill 4 years ago

          My guess is that flow batteries will start to dominate rail and shipping in a few years as the costs continue to decline. A 600 container ship would need 60 containers equivalent of flow batteries to cross the Pacific. About six to ten percent of a train would similarly be required to go all electric. Right now it is just a mater of economics.
          EV production and sales are ramping at an exponential rate, and could be half the market in ten years. Buses and long haul trucks will be electric when the battery packs get down to $90/KWH, which should be in about four years.
          Elon Musk thinks medium range electric passenger planes may be feasible in a few years as well.
          I like being optimistic about these trends.

          • philofthefuture 4 years ago

            You could be very well right but after an entire career in R&D the marketing hype outstrips reality by about 10 to 1.

            Personal example: I was on a conference call with my CEO and a customer who asked for a new feature. The CEO muted the phone and asked when it could be done. I said realistically 6 months. The CEO unmuted the phone and told the customer two weeks! That was the worst example but you get the idea.

            From the CellCube site it doesn’t appear that their performance is up to long haul trucks, let alone trains. Flow’s claim to fame is cheap KWH, not size or weight. I would think the weight alone would greatly cut into it’s viability.

            What makes Li-Ion batteries viable for cars is their relatively high KWH/lb. Flow’s are great for utility or perhaps home where the size and weight have no bearing and cost is the issue.

            I’d love to be wrong though!

          • Mike Dill 4 years ago

            Phil, 1. Flow batteries are heavy and bulky. Heavy and bulky still works for trains and shipping. Trains already have electric drive motors, which can easily use electricity from another source.

            2. Yes Flow batteries are very well suited for fixed installations where space and weight are not concerns, if those things are concerns then Li chemistries are a better choice.

            3. A 300KWH battery pack on a typical long-haul truck in the USA would have a range of least 300 miles. This probably would be less when going over the Continental Divide, but would be enough for most of the long haul trucking, assuming that high power fast DC chargers were generally available.

            As I have mentioned before, the only real sticking issue is price. When the bigwigs in the shipping and trucking companies figure out that they can save money by going electric it will happen overnight. (If anyone else here has better numbers for long haul trucking I would appreciate the feedback.)

      • Jacob 4 years ago

        A politician cannot say that. But it is ok to say that we want to be self sufficient in energy.

    • philofthefuture 4 years ago

      The fact is over 99% of cars sold are still fossil fueled, both in the US and worldwide. Unless you think over 99% of voters are ignorant, that isn’t the problem.
      My take is progressives think government will sprinkle magic fairy dust and save them so they don’t actually have to do anything. Conservatives see progressives aren’t doing anything despite all the hand wringing and think it’s all just a scam. End result, basically NOBODY is doing anything, sales numbers speak for themselves.

  3. Robin_Harrison 4 years ago

    EVs and battery storage technology are in their infancy so improvements are large, frequent and prices are dropping like a rock. In my EV experience, I now have batteries with 50% more energy density in 25% of the weight for the same price as 15 years ago. With manufacturers scrambling to increase production of EVs and batteries R&D is getting huge, so that’s likely to rapidly improve.
    Given all of that, I think the rise of the EV will be a lot faster than most people think.

  4. trackdaze 4 years ago

    This year worldwide saleswill go close to half a million. Which is a drop in the ocean but….

    Next year projections are that it will top 700 thousand that’s 40% growth. This number is robust as November sales are 50thousand. Many new models are planned.
    China have regulated for 5million new energy cars by 2022 and taxed cars over 1.5litres.

    Cost and improvements to batteries are trending in the right directions. Bosch jv has a stated goal of 50% weight/cost and twice the power by 2020. Even if they or others only manage to go close to that the electric/hybrid car will become the default choice for new car purchases soon after.

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