Electric vehicles (EVs) have quickly become a hot topic with potential solar clients. Some already have an EV, while others are considering purchasing one soon. Either way, it's essential information for a solar energy consultant to size the system properly.
I generally get positive feedback about the coming EV revolution. But, occasionally, I'll receive mild pushback and sometimes even downright angry responses. To some, accepting EVs is a political decision, while others have concerns about the new technology.
These are some of the common misconceptions I often hear about EVs:
Where are we going to get all of that electricity? My utility company can't even keep up with current demand.
In a single hour, power from the sun that strikes the Earth is more than the entire world consumes in a year. It's an abundance of energy we can harness and store for future energy needs.
Non-polluting solar farms are a viable way to collect solar energy on a large scale. These grid-tied photovoltaic power stations generate power for local utilities and their consumers.
The wholesale cost of electricity from a solar farm is about 2 ½ cents/kWh. So
there is plenty of profit at 20 cents/kWh. If a typical EV has a 100 kWh battery pack that will drive 300 miles, the cost to fully charge would be about $20. Compare that to filling your standard car with enough gas to drive 300 miles!
The next question I usually get is: "All that solar is great, but what about when the sun goes down?" In addition to large-scale battery facilities, advances in energy storage include Pumped Storage Hydropower, Gravity Energy Storage, and Two-Way Charging.
Two-way or bi-directional charging will become the localized storage solution within a few years. EVs equipped with the capability can charge during the day when solar power is plentiful. At night the EV can then feed back a predetermined amount of energy to run the household or specific appliances.
Suppose most people drive EVs and the average EV has 100+ kWhs of storage. The majority will use a fraction of those kWhs daily, resulting in surplus energy that can power the home or feed the grid.
"I can't possibly drive an EV from here to L.A." or any city more than a few hours away. I get this one a lot, but let's be honest. How often does the average person drive more than 300 miles daily? So for most people, range per charge will rarely be an issue. Once the EV arrives home for the day, it's plugged in and fully charged for the following day.
Longer road trips will require planned stops at available charging stations. As more are built and brought online, this will become as easy as finding a gas station. And as battery technology improves, charging will be faster, and EVs will have longer ranges.
Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Limited (CATL) is the largest battery manufacturer in the world. The Chinese company announced that starting in mid-2023, they will be offering battery packs with a range of 500-600 miles. And they can be charged from 10% to 80% in just 10 minutes.
EVs Cost Too Much
There is no arguing that most EVs are pricey. The main reason is the cost of batteries. But as more and more factories come online, the flood of batteries will drive prices lower. Eventually, it will be cheaper to manufacture an EV than a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle.
Consider the cost of the F150 Lightning. While Ford has less expensive versions, the higher-end models will run $80,000+. However, consumers spend as much or more on gas or diesel-powered trucks. So which will take you further into the future?
Another benefit of EVs over ICE vehicles is maintenance cost. EVs require far less servicing because they have fewer parts. A typical ICE vehicle's drivetrain has over 2,000 moving parts. An EV has around 20.
EVs are Too Slow / Not Enough Power
Anyone who says an EV is slow has never driven one. The fact is that EVs are anything but slow, as seen in this "Tesla Performance Reactions" video.
As for power, the Ford F150 Lightning will deliver 775 ft-lbs of torque - far more than any other F150 has ever offered. The bottom line is that EVs are faster and have more torque than ICE vehicles.
EVs Catch Fire
Yes, it's true; EVs can spontaneously combust (as can ICE vehicles). The fault lies mainly in the chemistry of the batteries. Most EVs currently use a variation of Lithium-Ion batteries which can catch fire under the right conditions. And they also need to be cooled, which can present an issue if something is functionally wrong.
The good news is that better batteries are available and will be coming soon. For example, Lithium Ferro Phosphate (LiPo4) batteries have more stable chemistry and don't have the overheating issues of Lithium-Ion. They also provide around 8,000 - 10,000 charge cycles before they start to deteriorate, while Lithium Ions have about 1,200 charge cycles.
Expect new batteries that will be safer, more energy-dense, and made from more abundantly available materials within the next ten years.
Mining the Materials and Disposing of the Batteries
There is a lot of social chatter about Lithium mining causing environmental damage. While there is some truth to the destructive nature of Lithium mining, there are solutions. Such as newer battery development that uses readily available, less harmful materials.
In a win for the environment, some companies are now recycling Lithium-Ion batteries. And claims are circulating that cathodes made from recycled Lithium perform better than cathodes made from scratch.
As battery technology and charging infrastructure improves, EVs will become more abundant and affordable. Surely pushback will continue, but the writing's on the wall: the future of transportation is electric.