Electrifying Transportation 

Monday, April 20, 2020 - 7:49pm

With around 9 million vehicles registered in North Carolina, we have a large amount of emissions that affect air quality and contribute to climate change.  It can seem overwhelming-how do we address an issue that is so central to our society?  The convenience and independence of driving a personal vehicle is necessary for many people; they don’t want to or are unable to consider alternate forms of transportation.  Additionally, we have to think about the emergency response teams, transport of goods, buses, and more that are required for our society to function.  It’s safe to say vehicles are here to stay, which means so are their emissions.  However, with emerging technology we have more options than ever regarding alternate fuel sources.  What does this mean specifically?  We’re talking about electric vehicles (EV’s).  Buckle up! 

For starters, what is an EV?

An EV is any vehicle that is powered by one or more electric motors that receive electricity by plugging into the grid, and then they store that electricity in batteries.  While there are plug in hybrids and standard hybrids that use both gasoline and electricity, the EV doesn’t rely on gasoline at all. There are an abundance of benefits to driving an EV.  Let’s start with the obvious: the environmental benefits. 

EV’s have zero direct emissions. Direct tailpipe emissions from combustion engines are a main contributor to air pollution via smog and particle pollution, both of which have negative health impacts on respiratory systems.  Tailpipe emissions from combustion engines also contribute to climate change by producing carbon dioxide.  Electric vehicles do not have any of these emissions-they don’t even have a tailpipe!  EV’s also have reduced lifetime emissions (emissions related to production, distribution, and disposal).  Calculating exact lifetime emissions is difficult, but on average electric vehicles produce less than conventional vehicles.  As technology continues to improve, and demand increases, the lifetime emissions will continue to decrease. 

If the environmental reasons don’t have you convinced, let’s talk about economic savings.  An obvious place you’re saving money with an electric vehicle is gas cost.  The US Department of Energy shows that an eGallon (cost to fuel vehicle with electricity compared to similar vehicle with gas) is about half as expensive on average as a gallon of gas.  In NC, as of March 14th 2020, our average gas prices are $2.18 and an eGallon is $1.00.  Additionally, electricity prices are less subject to change  than gasoline, and are consistently lower than gas prices.  The savings add up quickly. 

When thinking about the lifetime of owning an EV, you’re also saving money on maintenance costs.  There are fewer moving parts in an EV engine than in an internal combustion engine, meaning less to replace.  EV’s have a single speed transmission since they have full access to the battery power consistently, which means no shifting gears, resulting in less wear and tear.  They utilize regenerative braking to recharge battery life, and it also reduces wear on breaks.  We saved the best for last-no oil changes required.  That’s right, there is no oil needed to run the engine, so you’ll never have to get an oil change again. 

So with all of these benefits, why doesn’t everyone have an EV? 

Although that could be what we’re moving toward, there are some concerns people have .  Right now, many EV’s have a high initial cost since it is still fairly new tech.  However, it is rapidly becoming more comparable, and initial cost discrepancy can often be made up with savings throughout lifetime of car (depending on the model).  Another concern people cite is the short mileage achieved per charge.  Most EV’s get around 150 miles per charge, so for day to day travel this isn’t a concern.  Newer models are getting up to 300 miles, with the technology for energy storage always improving.  In the meantime, you can charge overnight at home to prevent running out of battery during the day, and new chargers are popping up everywhere.  More demand will result in more public charging stations, minimizing risk of running out of charge before reaching your destination.  There are also apps and websites available to map trip routes and find charging stations along the way when planning a longer trip. 

As the technology for EV’s improves, North Carolina is looking to join the movement  to be cleaner, greener, and healthier.  In 2018 Governor Roy Cooper released Executive Order 80.  Within this statement, he called for NC to have 80,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2025, up from less than 10,000 when the order was signed.  This is a lofty goal, but we are confident that with additional infrastructure and information our citizens will rise to the challenge for a better North Carolina!