“Change is the law of life.”
This quote, spoken by President Kennedy in a 1963 speech and repeated countless times over the many years since, appears to be proved true once again. According to a recent news article in “The Guardian,” a movement in California is calling for a moratorium on new gas stations - and with it a transformation of the U.S. transportation system.
In March of this year, the town of Petaluma in Sonoma County became the first city in America to temporarily ban future gas station construction or the installation of any new gas pumps on existing sites. A final vote on the resolution is scheduled for September.
If upheld, the ban could be the beginning of a seismic shift away from gas-powered vehicles. California now has the highest sales of electric vehicles (EVs) in the country, with EVs accounting for almost 11% of all new vehicles sold in the first three months of this year.
But some 20% of earlier buyers of EVs chose to return to gas after experiencing problems with recharging or disappointments with the limited range of their vehicles.
An article in the July/August issue of “Car and Driver” magazine deals with many of the issues regarding EVs and regard most of them as solvable. Others, however, may prove more troublesome.
Take, for example, the question of temperature, both inside and outside the vehicle.
“The further the ambient temperature deviates from the mid-70s, the more energy is devoted to keeping the cabin’s occupants - and, in some cases, the battery - comfortable,” says the article.
Testing found that range, on average, dropped by 41% when the temperature fell from 75 degrees to 20, and 17% when the heat went up from 75 to 95.
Regarding the net environmental impact of EVs versus gas vehicles, the research gets a bit trickier. EV batteries are energy-intensive to manufacture, and while they don’t emit greenhouse gases, the electricity they pull from the grid often does.
“According to a model devised by the automotive consulting firm FEV, the life-cycle emissions of a small gas car will surpass those of a small EV after roughly 27,000 miles of driving.” Larger EV vehicles, crossovers and trucks, being less efficient and requiring larger batteries, will need to be driven twice that distance before proving less pollutive than their gas counterparts.
As to range, the issue gets even more complicated, depending upon the vehicle owner’s geographical location, distance from work, average climatic temperature range, etc., as well as the fact that technical improvements promise to increase the dependable distance any given EV can cover (though the article predicts that breakthroughs to affordable solid-state batteries are at least a decade away).
One question that looms large for those of us who live in rural areas is how to prep a garage for an EV. The “Car and Driver” article suggests you’ll want to install a dedicated 240-volt circuit for charging your electric vehicles, and further recommends installing a NEMA 14-50 outlet, which plugs into a 40-amp circuit and can be taken with you if you move.
As to the feasibility of charging an EV at home on a standard 120-volt household plug, the article considers it impractical unless you regularly drive less than 30 miles a day or have access to additional charging equipment at work.
As to ultimate cost, the article compared the five-year cost of ownership for the electric Volkswagen ID.4 and the similarly sized and equipped gas-powered Tiquan. Given the much greater initial cost, interest payments and lower resale value of the ID.4, and subtracting the current $7,500 federal tax credit, its estimated five-year cost was $37,874.
But given the much higher fuel and maintenance costs of the Tiquan, its estimated cost was $36,378, or nearly equal to the EV.
So is now the right time to buy an EV?
You call it.
Collections of Craig Nagel’s columns are available at CraigNagelBooks.com.