EVs are an inevitable future – this may sound like a broken record. Chances are you’ve shared a road with a Tesla or two, or maybe you’re driving one yourself. Automakers have been hard at work to widen the range of available models while also perfecting the existing tech. Governments around the world have been crafting policies paving the way for zero-emission vehicles. Ready or not, the bright green future is right ahead of us.
Change is inevitable. So is the choice. But the best decisions are made responsibly. Being responsible is good. Whether you buy a zero-emissions vehicle for the sake of the environment or a safer environment comes as a bonus, the important thing here is tapping into your own motivation that drives you to want to do something. And most humans want to feel they are contributing to something bigger than themselves anyways.
Best decisions are also informed decisions. So when it gets to EVs, you should be able to look at them with a critical eye – not only appreciate their advantages but accept the shortcomings as well. We often tend to exaggerate the virtues of EVs, turning a blind eye to their flaws.
Let’s open our minds and look beyond what’s comfortable; embrace the change, give constructive critique – inspire that perfect EV fleet. Let’s have an honest conversation about issues with EVs.
The charging station conundrum
Right now you are used to pulling up to a gas station and being out in a matter of 10 minutes or less. Even if there’s a line – the wait is still acceptable given the number of available fueling pumps.
Now, imagine having to charge your electric ride. The fastest charge would take you about 15 minutes. And what if there’s a line? How much of your valuable time are you willing to spend just waiting for your car to fill up on electricity?
The most obvious solution to this challenge is building more charging stations and optimizing charging time. It may be a valid option, we just need to be patient and wait for the infrastructure to grow and develop.
Besides, an average range today will allow you a trip of 200 miles on a single charge – we rarely drive more than that in a single day. So when we compare EVs with traditional, gasoline-powered cars, the difference is strictly psychological, according to some researchers. But should we really be justifying the slow adoption of electric vehicles based on the imperfections of human nature? Yes, the human species have a hard time parting with something familiar, something that gives at least an illusion of stability.
But curiosity and exploration are also intrinsic to humans. How about those of us who like to go on adventure trips, getting lost among the rugged terrains? Would we be willing to “contaminate” the virgin landscapes with charging stations? Because it’s not like we can just carry a jerry can filled with electricity around.
While this is still far off in the future, and we first need to get more EVs on our streets, this challenge will eventually catch up to us. We might as well start planning early and solve the charging time and battery capacity conundrums first.
The charging time conundrum
Let’s say the new improved charging stations will be able to supercharge your car in 15 minutes or less. Here’s the thing, though, – the faster you charge your battery, the more you reduce its life, and increase the possibility of fire. A flaming EV battery seems like something you wouldn’t want to experience.
So, there is a good reason why you usually trickle charge your batteries – as you do with your lawnmower or vacuum cleaner, or any battery gadget you have at home. But here’s the thing – you are at home and there’s usually no urgency. With EVs, we don’t have patience or time to wait for a slow charging battery to replenish.
I’ll charge my EV at home, overnight, you’ll say. Well, this leads us to the next conundrum.
The electricity supply conundrum
EV advocates have been dodging the attacks of EV skeptics on this front. To begin with, the latter claim that all EVs together will bring the electricity supply grid. Somehow they even got the CEO of Toyota on board, who has also expressed doubts about electrical grid capacity. Unless that’s a marketing trick to steer the attention towards hydrogen-fueled cars.
To counteract this claim, the Department of Energy produced a report that assures concerned citizens that mass adoption of EVs “will not pose significantly greater challenges than past evolutions of the U.S. electric power system.” And some automakers are feeling positive about EVs being able to even add stability to the electric grid.
Another concern hits closer to home. You can’t use your 120V plug to charge your electric vehicle. Or technically, you can – but prepare to stay home for days waiting for your battery to replenish because your standard plug only adds a few miles of range per hour! And I know you are not buying your EV only to stare at it in your garage for days. So you will need a 240-volt charging system at home, which adds a hefty number to the cost of owning an electric vehicle. And not all homeowners are prepared to assume it right away.
A survey at UC Davis found out that 21 percent of California drivers gave up on their plug-in vehicle after driving it for some time. 71 percent of these drivers didn’t have a 240-volt plug at home.
It seems that some EV enthusiasts are, well, being too enthusiastic, deeming the biggest challenge with EVs is actually getting people to try them. They claim that once you try an EV you are most likely going to stick with it. They say it’s fun to drive and joining the ranks of green-minded individuals should not be the last reason either.
But the reality paints a different picture – retaining drivers is paramount for our bright green future.
Will electric cars be just cars someday?
It’s hard to predict the future exactly as it will be. We can speculate, make projections, and set goals. EVs come with a lot of questions, concerns, and confusion, but also a great deal of curiosity and motivation to solve all the unknowns.
For electric vehicles to become part of our everyday life it will take a shifting mindset to learn to love them. But not just for the end consumer. Automakers, government regulators, scientists, regular drivers, and of course, the Big Oil companies would all need to come together and gear up for the challenge of bringing safe and efficient vehicles to our roads.