Updated Introduction to Electric Vehicles (October 2022)

By Robert Lockhart

[ez-toc]The world of Electric Vehicles is changing very rapidly. This article updates our previous posts on EVs. We will continue to publish updates, but it is now impractical to keep track of models available in Canada. For current information on Electric Vehicles available in Canada visit PlugnDrive.  Based in Ontario they do a pretty good job at keeping up with the market.

What are Electric Vehicles (EVs)?

  • They’re vehicles that run on electricity stored in an on-board battery and are propelled by one or more electric motors.
  • EVs do not emit cancer-causing pollution or global warming Green House Gas emissions.
  • The carbon footprint to build an EV is currently higher than a fossil fuel vehicle and ‘dirty’ electricity can reduce the environmental benefits associated with fueling EVs. However, not all regions have dirty energy – and the trend is moving in the right direction.  New types of batteries will reduce the imbedded carbon footprint of an EV.
  • Since EVs don’t burn fossil fuels, the carbon footprint over the life of an EV will be much lower than an equivalent fossil fuel vehicle, even if burning high-carbon electricity (19%-68% lower).
  • EVs cost much less to ‘fuel’ (depending on the relative cost of electricity and fuel). If charged at home, an EV costs 2 to 3 cents/km.  Using fast chargers the cost is about $0.10/km.
  • EVs have 99.99% fewer moving parts – therefore, they cost a lot less to service and maintain.
  • Electric motors in EVs are expected to last a million or more kms.
  • The four-million-km battery is imminent. They’re expected to be in service for 25-40 years.
  • EVs already cost less than gas vehicles. g., over 8 years & 160,000 kms, an electric Hyundai Kona will cost $24,000 less than the gas Kona to purchase, ‘fuel’ & maintain (@ $2.00/litre for gasoline).  The cost spread is less for premium vehicles. (Clean Energy Canada, March 2022)
  • EV range is currently 160-1,000 kms (average around 400 kms). However, only about 300 kms of that 400 km of range is available since you can’t use all of the battery’s capacity.  Ideally, you operate within 20% & 80% of battery capacity – so you can charge faster and protect the battery.
  • EV batteries lose about 1% of their range/year. So, they’ll be effective for 10-15 years in a vehicle.  With 75-80% of storage capacity left, they can then be removed and used in other applications – or recycled.  Lithium-ion batteries are 95% recyclable into material for new batteries, but the recycling process produces GHG emissions.
  • Manufacturers are working to eliminate Cobalt, which is required to stabilize Lithium-ion batteries.
  • More efficient, environmentally friendly batteries are in development (e.g., Sodium and Sulfur).

What About Charging?

  • Ideally and whenever possible, EVs are charged at home, with 90-95% of charging done that way.
  • Fast charging should be minimized to prolong battery life and lower the cost of operation.
  • Public chargers are mostly used for long trips. They’re located along major roads and where people stop for a while.
  • Slow chargers (Levels 1 & 2) – use 120-volt and 240-volt AC current respectively.
  • Fast chargers – use 480-volt DC current (up to 400 kWs of power).
  • Three different ‘plug’ configurations are in use (this should be sorted out in the next few years).
  • Fast chargers take 15-60 minutes to charge to 80%, depending on the amount of charge needed, the charger’s power output and the vehicle’s technology.
  • Level 2 chargers take up to 12 hours to charge to 80%, depending on the amount of charge needed, the charger’s power output and the vehicle’s technology (these are the chargers of choice for home-based charging, but 120-volt current can also be used).
  • Cold weather reduces driving range, although some manufacturers have found ways to reduce that, and future batteries may overcome this problem.
  • Major highways are pretty well serviced, especially for Tesla’s – but some urban and most remote areas are deficient to very deficient.

Some of the Remaining Challenges Associated with EVs

  • Current state of the charging infrastructure (both home-based and public). It’s most problematic for the many people who live in multi-story housing where installing EV chargers is expensive and difficult – and there is often resistance from ownership and HOAs.  However, EV charging companies are coming to the rescue with offers of low-cost installation and maintenance over an extended contract – in exchange for the ability to locate their equipment on the host property.
  • Range anxiety – The useable driving range of many of today’s EVs (about 300 kms) is still less than a gas vehicle. However, what you’ll find is that ‘range anxiety’ quickly disappears, unless you can’t charge at home, or you live in a remote area where the charging infrastructure is sparce.
  • Purchase price ($10-15,000 more than a comparable gas vehicle). However, the price differential will narrow, and rebates are available for many vehicles.  Lower operating costs quickly make up the difference (e.g., the annual ‘fuel’ saving for a Tesla Model Y is in the $3,000 range).
  • Supply Problems – Delivery time is currently up to 3 years. Demand is much greater than supply.
  • Limited choice of vehicle type – That’s improving with 100s of makes and models on the way.

What’s Coming?

  • The transition to electrification is accelerating – driven by the urgent need to reduce Green House Gas emissions, government mandates, improving charging infrastructure and changing consumer sentiment. Depending on the survey, between 50% and 70% of respondents are considering an EV for their next purchase, with about 25% actually making the switch.
  • Hundreds more models and types of EVs will be introduced over the next few years – all types of passenger vehicles as well as many types of light- and heavy-duty trucks and buses.
  • All types of transportation are being electrified (aircraft, trains, buses, RVs, watercraft, snowmobiles, motorcycles and farm tractors).
  • Within this decade, battery improvements will provide increased vehicle range (800+ kms) and faster charging time (as fast as 5-10 minutes may be possible).
  • Many more public charging stations are being installed (both slow and fast chargers).
  • Purchase price parity with gasoline-powered vehicles is only a few years away. Total cost of ownership over 8+ years is already MUCH lower for an EV.
  • Every automaker has one or many EVs in production and in their pipeline.
  • Many automakers have committed to electrifying their entire fleet within 8-15 years.
  • Hundreds of billions of dollars are being invested in EV and battery development.
  • Governments are proving purchase incentives and mandating various levels of EV sales by 2030-2035 – may not be entirely achievable, but a worthy goal to shoot for.
  • Types of low carbon fuels are being discovered – some processing fuel from water and carbon dioxide. Some of these fuels can be used in conventional engines, without modification.
  • So, a decade from now, we should see a blend of electric, hydrogen, low carbon fuel, and fossil fuel propelled vehicles – with gas and diesel in steady decline.

Some Canadian Electric Vehicles Sales Stats

  • In Q1 & Q2 2022, EV sales represented 6.9% of light duty vehicle sales in Canada – up from 6.5% in Q4 2021, 3.8% in 2020 and 3.1% in 2019.  EVs include plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles. 
  • In BC, 13.8% of Q1 & Q2 2022 light duty vehicle sales were electric (rebates).
  • In Quebec, 10.5% of Q1 & Q2 2022 light duty vehicle sales were electric (rebates).
  • In Ontario, 5.6% of Q1 & Q2 2022 light duty vehicle sales were electric (no rebates).
  • Fully electric vehicle sales are increasingly outpacing plug-in hybrid vehicle sales.
  • EV sales would be much higher if there was sufficient supply to meet demand.