What You Always Wanted to Know About Electric Vehicles

By Wayne Olsen

Have you been dreaming about having an electric vehicle (EV), but you are undecided because of conflicting information you have heard? Here are some myth busters for you to consider: 

  • Many EV makes/models are now price-competitive with their gas-powered counterparts
  • With significantly fewer moving parts, EVs as a group will most likely have much lower life cycle maintenance cost than gas-powered cars, in addition to a longer life
  • A gas-powered car idling in heavy traffic still consumes gas; an EV doesn’t idle. No electricity is consumed when stopped (other than a/c, radio, etc)
  • EVs do not emit particulate matter or nitrogen dioxide (NO2), the prime contributors to air pollution from internal combustion engines. Medical studies have shown that air pollution makes people more vulnerable to respiratory infections. In recent news, respiratory infections caused by environmental hazards are being linked to vulnerability for COVID-19. To read more about these studies see this article by InsideClimate News, discussing the research from Harvard University on the issue. 
  • Regardless of energy source for recharging, EVs provide the means for major carbon emission reductions. Gas fueled vehicles are less efficient at converting energy than even fossil-fueled utility power plants producing electricity for EVs. For example, driving 100 miles in an EV costs about half as much as the cost in a gas-powered car, according to nation-wide utility and gas averages. To learn more, read this article on FAQ about EVs. 
  • In 2018, fossil fuels provided about 56% of Puget Sound Energy’s electricity production (36% was coal). By 2019 Washington State legislation (CETA), utilities must transition to coal-free power generation by 2025, greenhouse gas neutral by 2030, and 100% carbon-free by 2045. EVs are a natural choice over fossil-fuel vehicles in the coming years for carbon footprint considerations.
  • Even considering a possible extra carbon-intensive cost to build EV batteries, EVs still emit much less carbon over their life-cycle than gas-powered vehicles, with a cross-over point at about two years of ownership, according to this Carbon Brief article. Tesla makes this EV advantage even greater  because its Nevada battery “gigafactory” is totally powered by renewable energy, primarily solar panels on its roof.  
  • EVs win hands down if recharged by solar panels on the owner’s residential roof. For example, this author’s 36 solar panel residential system produced electricity to cover all his family’s home consumption, plus enough extra electricity to charge an EV (if he had one) for about 10,000 miles annually, with only a nominal $8 monthly electricity bill for infrastructure
  • If you’re worried about running out of charge on longer trips, consider a plug-in hybrid (battery plus backup gas engine)

About 35% of Thurston County residents’ carbon emissions comes from our on-road transportation usage. Thus, significant carbon reductions in this category must be a keystone to our carbon-free future. The draft of the Thurston Climate Mitigation Plan, to be released about mid-June, will most likely contain a number of transportation incentives, policies, and building code additions aimed at reducing our collective carbon footprint. The Plan’s overall goal is 45% carbon emission reduction by 2030 and 85% reduction by 2050. Please contact your City Council and County Commissioners with your comments about the Plan, and let them know you care.

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