“How much does it cost to drive an Electric Vehicle?” and “How much cheaper is it to drive an Electric Vehicle than a petrol/diesel car?”
Those are two questions I get asked a lot and it’s not as easy to answer as you might think. Why? Well, it depends on two main factors
the price of the fuel (electricity/petrol/diesel) in your area and
the fuel efficiency of the vehicle we’re talking about
2008 Toyota Prius
2018 Nissan Leaf 40kWh
Price of Fuel (per kWh or litre)
Cost per km
Cost for 10,000km a year
From 2008 to 2018 I drove a Toyota Prius and it used to get around 5.5l/100km (42.8mpg), and petrol here in Spain costs around €1.30 per litre (roughly $5.93 per gallon). I drove an average 10,000km (6,000 miles) a year so that cost me about €715 in petrol expenses alone (ignoring oil changes, maintenance, etc.).
In 2018 I traded in the Prius for a Nissan Leaf 40kWh. The Leaf can drive 6.25km per kWh of energy in the battery. If we round that down to 6km to make the calculations easier (and to be a little conservative), then because our night rate electricity costs €0.09/kWh, that gives us a cost per km of €0.015 and a total of €150 for the full year’s 10,000km.
Of course, I plug the Leaf in to charge often during the day when the sun is shining so as to take advantage of the “free” electricity being generated by our dollar panels, so the figure of €150 is much higher than I pay in reality.
And then there is the issue of maintenance. I didn’t keep a record of how much maintenance I paid for the annual maintenance for the Prius, but when I took delivery of the Leaf the first maintenance scheduled in the Maintenance Manual was at 30,000km. Electric vehicles require far less maintenance than internal combustion engines.
These were my costs. Substitute in your own local costs to see how much you would save by switching your car to an electric one (if you haven’t already!).
The science is in. We need to significantly reduce our carbon emissions to limit the amount of warming our planet undergoes as a consequence of climate change.
The good news is, technology is rising up to meet this challenge. The bad news is it needs to do far more, and do it faster. How is technology helping? Well, if we check out some of the industries with the highest carbon footprint (energy, transportation, and agriculture), we can see some of the massive disruptions that are happening there, and how they are impacting emissions.
The energy sector is undergoing a massive transition globally from a system powered by centralised, thermal generation based often on fossil fuel combustion, to one increasingly powered by decentralised renewable sources. And while it would be great if this was happening for reasons of climate concern, it is, in fact, happening for reasons of economics, which is better because it means it is sustainable in the long term.
Why do I say it is because of economics? Because the cost of wind, solar, and lithium-ion battery storage are falling. Falling fast (due primarily to the experience curve). Since 2012 the cost of wind power has fallen 50%, solar power has fallen 80%, and battery storage has fallen 87%. It is now at the point where unsubsidised, combinations of wind and battery storage, or solar and battery storage are able to beat natural gas on price.
Don’t take my word for it. At the Wolfe Research 2019 Power & Gas Leader’s conference last month (October 2nd, 2019) Jim Robo, Chairman, and CEO of NextEra Energy the biggest and most successful utility in the US said
“We see renewables plus battery storage without incentives being cheaper than natural gas, and cheaper than existing coal and existing nuclear… And that is game-changing”
Then, when you consider the amount of time it takes to deploy a power plant, renewables win again.
And consequently, the share of new power generation being deployed globally that is renewable is rising rapidly, while the share of new fossil fuel generation is falling fast.
And it is not just the supply side of the equation that is changing. The demand side is changing rapidly as well.
More and more organisations are demanding that their energy provider only supply clean, renewably sourced electricity. In fact, RE100, “a global corporate leadership initiative bringing together influential businesses committed to 100% renewable electricity” counts at time of writing (November 2019) 212 of the world’s largest companies (including my own employer SAP) as members. All 212 companies are either sourcing all their electricity from renewable sources or have committed to doing so in the near future. Companies do this because it is good for business. Consumers feel better about purchasing goods if they know they were produced using renewable energy, and employees feel better about working for organisations committed to renewable energy.
So the carbon intensity of electricity, one of the main carbon polluters is falling worldwide on a gCO2/kWh basis. What about one of the other big polluters I mentioned at the start, Transportation. Well, fortunately, electric grids the world over are embracing renewable energy, because transportation is now starting to use electricity as a fuel, instead of dino-juice!
Why is transportation going electric? Three main reasons:
Increasing environmental awareness among consumers
Regulations from regions, countries and local governments and
Economics – the costs to operate an electric vehicle (EV) are significantly less than a fossil fuel one
Greta Thunberg has done an amazing job of raising awareness in younger generations particularly about the dangers of climate change, but even before she burst on the scene, the 2019 regulations governing NEVs (New Energy Vehicles) in China and the 2020 emissions regulations for vehicle manufacturers in the EU (as well as local ordinances by cities restricting access to older, more polluting vehicles and countries on the phase-out date for the sale of Internal Combustion Engined vehicles) meant that vehicle manufacturers have had no option but to get on board with the electrification of cars and increasingly other modes of transport as well.
And it is not just cars, motorbikes are also going electric with announcements of electric bikes from all the major manufacturers including Vespa, Yamaha, Honda, all the way up to Harley Davidson.
Buses, trucks (from the large class 8 all the way down to delivery trucks), and refuse collection vehicles are also going electric. This is important not just for reducing their carbon emissions, but also because these vehicles often work primarily in urban centres so converting them from diesel to electric will improve air quality, reduce noise pollution, and significantly reduce the cost of operation for these machines.
Also, when you take into account the fuel use by categories of vehicle, you can see from the chart above that class 8 trucks, buses, and refuse collection vehicles consume far more fuel than other vehicle categories. Fuel use is of course, not just a good proxy for their potential to pollute, but also for their running costs so the economic case to shift these to electric is very strong. In the case of buses, battery-electric buses cost 20c per mile to operate over their lifetime, whereas diesel buses cost 75c and so, battery-electric buses will dominate the market by the late 2020s.
easyJet is collaborating with US company Wright Electric to support their goal for short-haul flights to be operated by all-electric planes within 10 years
It is hard to think of a mode of transportation that is not moving towards electric drivetrains. And as we saw above in the section on energy, as our grids are getting cleaner daily, shifting transportation to electricity quickly drops transportation’s carbon footprint too (as well as reducing noise pollution, and cleaning up our air quality).
3 Food Production
Food production is the third industry where technology is about to play a huge part in reducing our carbon footprint. Agriculture globally accounts for about 13 percent of total global emissions. That makes the agricultural sector the world’s second-largest emitter, after the energy sector. And this doesn’t include emissions associated with deforestation to clear land for more agriculture.
However, shifting away from our current practices of food production to one where our plant food is grown in massive indoor vertical farms has the potential to significantly clean up agriculture’s environmental toll.
Indoor vertical farms use 95% less water and 99% less land than conventional farming practices. They use no soil, require no herbicides or pesticides and they can produce food in the middle of cities, thereby reducing drastically the crop’s food miles. When you are producing food so close to the point of consumption, you no longer need to optimise your produce for shelf-life, and you can instead choose to optimise for taste, and/or nutrition.
Then there is the clean meat movement. Clean meat is meat that is produced from either cultivating animal cells (without having to slaughter the animal), or by converting plant protein to take on the taste and consistency of animal protein as companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are doing so successfully.
Our current means of producing plant food and meats are vastly inefficient and have a huge carbon footprint. This won’t scale to feed the population of 9-10 billion inhabitants that we are projected to reach in the coming decades, especially as the middle classes grow in the developing world and their meat consumption expectations grow too.
Converting to a system where we produce plants in massive vertical farms, and then using that plant food to create clean meat solves a lot of the problems associated with agriculture today such as the unconscionable cruelty we visit on the animals we breed for slaughter, the vast amounts of antibiotics that are used in agriculture leading to the development of multi-drug resistant superbugs, and agriculture’s massive carbon footprint.
If we return the land we have stolen from nature for agriculture back to the wild we can restore the enormous losses we have seen in recent decades in biodiversity, create a huge new ecotourism industry, and through reforestation sequester from the atmosphere much of the carbon we have emitted in the last century, mitigating the or possibly turning back the worst effects of climate change.
ESB Networks has so-far approximately 1,000 electric vehicle public charging points currently available, with a target of installing 1,500 on-street charge points and 30 fast charge points. ESB also have Android and iPhone mobile phone apps to help drivers locate charge points throughout the country.
The IT system being created by IBM and ESB will allow drivers to access, charge and pay for a car charge using an identification card. According to the release:
The IBM EV platform will enable EV drivers to select convenient payment options and access all charge-points using one ID card – a process that will aggregate usage costs and simplify billing. This smart charging capability allows consumers to charge anywhere at anytime, regardless of their electricity provider and without the need to carry multiple access cards. Additionally, drivers will also have the option to use a mobile device or browser to locate the nearest charge post, check its availability, and make a reservation if the post is available.
This gives tremendous flexibility and ease of use to drivers of electric vehicles, while also providing valuable data to utilities on energy usage. This usage data will allow better forecasting of demand and help balance the load on the power grid as well as help ESB Networks to monitor the health and status of the charge-points to ensure service reliability.
The changeover to a national fleet of electric vehicles is always going to be a difficult proposition which will take considerable time and faces the familiar chicken and egg issue. However a move like this from ESB and IBM will certainly help reduce the chicken and egg issue somewhat and should contribute to a faster adoption of electric vehicles in Ireland.
Full disclosure – IBM and ESB Ireland are not GreenMonk clients (though in the past IBM has commissioned work from GreenMonk).
The graph above is taken from the Greenhouse Gas Footprint page of SAP’s Sustainability Report and it shows SAP’s global GHG footprint for 2010. Of particular note in this graph is that globally SAP’s 2010 carbon footprint for corporate cars is 24%. This is up from 23% in 2009 and 18% in 2008. This is obviously a problem for SAP who have publicly committed to reducing their Greenhouse Gas Emissions 51% (from their 2007 baseline) by 2020.
In an effort to help address this SAP decided to embark on a small scale Electric Vehicle (EV) project called Future Fleet. Future Fleet uses a fleet of 30 EV’s charged solely from renewable sources supplied (along with the charging infrastructure) by project partner MVV Energie.
SAP Future Fleet electric vehicle
SAP are using this project to test employee attitudes to EV’s but also to test their own EV eMobility charging and fleet management software which is being developed, and tested in tandem with the project. The software allows employees to log in and book cars for specific journeys between SAP sites in Germany, or for a day or a week at a time. The software also intelligently prioritises charging of cars based on expected upcoming journey duration, current battery state and other factors.
All good and laudable stuff. However, one major issue I have with the project is that for purely political reasons SAP chose an electric car for the project which seemed to be designed with the distinct purpose of turning drivers off EV’s…
I love the idea of electric cars and have done for a long time.
Recently, one of my best friends Ray Flynn, proprietor of Flynns Garage (a Nissan Dealership in Carlow, Ireland), contacted me to let me know he is one of only 15 Nissan dealerships in Ireland who have been approved to sell the new all-electric Nissan Leaf. As such he had a limited number of slots available for a test drive and he wanted to know if I’d like one of them. I jumped at the chance!
The Leaf is a totally electric car relying completely on its 24 kW·h/90 kW lithium ion battery pack for power. The battery pack is rated to deliver 100 miles on a full charge but this can vary from about 62 miles (100 km) to almost 138 miles (222 km) depending on driving style, load, traffic conditions, weather (i.e. wind, atmospheric density) and accessory use.
Nissan Leaf under the hood
The car is a five seater with a spacious interior. It is very responsive to drive. My own car is a 2008 Toyota Prius and this is a much nippier car than the Prius. It handles well on the road and because there are 300kg of batteries under the floor, the car sticks to the road on corners!
Charge time varies on the type of charging (normal or fast) and whether the battery is fully depleted or only partially. Using a standard 220/240 volt 30 amp supply the battery can be fully charged in 8 hours. Fast charging using a 440V level 3 charger charges to 80% in around 20 minutes – these are typically the kinds of chargers you will see deployed in places like McDonalds, Tesco’s and motorway café’s I assume.
Nissan Leaf interior
There is a lot of technology built in to the car. It is connected to a global data center which provides support, information and entertainment at all times. The GPS navigation system delivers a constantly updating display of your range as well as showing all the charging stations on your route and it allows you to book a charging station to ensure that it is available when you arrive.
Mobile phone apps will allow remote turning on of aircon and heating as well as setting charging times to coincide with time of use rates from utilities…
Forty years is a long, long time from now, so making predictions about the state of the world in 2050 is a pretty easy thing to do. Who’s going to remember to fact check you? Nobody, that’s who. Still, it’s worth noting that Shell chief executive Peter Voser said yesterday that he expects plug-in vehicles to make up up to 40 percent of the global car market in 2050
“Energy efficiency can create 38,000 new jobs for North Carolinians while saving consumers $3.6 billion in energy bills, according to a new report released today by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The report, North Carolina’s Energy Future: Electricity, Water, and Transportation Efficiency, suggests a broad set of policies that can meet nearly a quarter of the state’s energy demand and enables North Carolina to become a national leader in clean energy development and deployment while boosting the state’s economic growth.
The largest airport in the country, with the “greenest” parking lot, is in a bit of environmental trouble: a DIA raw sewage spill may have sent a million gallons of disgusting into waterways that can feed into the Barr Lake fishery and bird sanctuary (enjoy that, bald eagles).