How green are electric vehicles?


Electric vehicles claim to be the green and sustainable solution. But where does this electricity come from?

Electric Vehicles, also called EVs, can either be recharged via a plug connection or by exchanging the drained battery with a charged one at designated locations. The latter variant is referred to as AC charging (Alternating Current) or fast charging and enables to reach 80% of the maximum capacity within 30 minutes. DC charging (Direct Current) on the other hand can reach 100% in about 3 to 8 hours.

The most common AC type is Combined Charging System . It enables to reduce charge times for an EV with a large battery up to 40%. Therefore, charging stations need less powerful circuits that are easier to install.

In case EVs become more popular, the network of charging stations will need to be extended and modernized. An interesting effect is that these evolutions typically escape from being adopted by a free market mechanism due to the missing infrastructure for buying and selling green electricity . How green are electric vehicles?

So far, most electric vehicles recharge at night when demand is low and power plants produce excess electricity, which in many countries is not used in the evening. The advantage for the power plant: it can sell excess electricity at a high price to “load leveling” companies that distribute it when demand peaks during the day. The disadvantage: when load leveling companies cannot purchase this excess electricity, they have to buy power from a nearby power plant at a high price as well.

Theoretically, this situation offers an interesting option for the use of green electricity in electric vehicles: load leveling companies could install their own charging stations, which would enable them to get their expensive electricity for free. However, the unavailability of green electricity at night, when demand drops anyway and thus power plants produce more than enough electricity, makes this option unattractive.

Another possibility is that EV owners can install solar panels on their garage roofs and thus provide energy for charging stations during the day. This option is attractive for individual users but becomes less promising due to the limited amount of roofs on which this scenario would be viable.

The overall result is that recharging EVs at night or on weekends brings us closer to a green electrical grid , while fast charging during the day does not. The latter option can even contribute to polluting the atmosphere due to the higher demand for coal power plants when no “green electricity” is available.

How green are electric vehicles?

In order to make charging EVs greener, 2 solutions are conceivable:

1. Charge them via DC fast charging at night when demand is typically low and green electricity can be provided for free by load leveling companies. However, this solution requires a massive extension of the power grid and “green” power plants, because individual home owners cannot provide energy for the whole country.

2. Provide cheap green electricity over night via load leveling companies and make it available to EV owners during the day, also for fast charging . While this solution is economically more reasonable, it would mean that not only green power plants are required but also a market mechanism to buy green electricity from power production companies at night and sell it to EV owners during the day.

The power grid has to be better developed and individual households and companies might even need to purchase new solar panels. In addition, a market mechanism has to be created that allows load leveling companies to buy green electricity from power production companies at night and sell it to EV owners during the day.

In case EVs become more popular, this scenario will also reduce demand for coal power plants as a consequence of an extended charging infrastructure . The latter effect is typically neglected by most reports considering the question, “How green is an electric vehicle?”

How green are electric vehicles?

electric vehiclesIt is worthwhile to know about how long it will take to charge your electric vehicle (EV) before buying it, and hence, many prospective buyers would probably research the charging times for different EV models. Charging times would vary by the type of the EV, and the type of the charging station in question.

1. Type of EV

EVs today are classed by the degree of electricity used as their energy source. As such, we have three main types of electric vehicles, including BEVs (Battery electric vehicles), PHEVs (Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles), and HEVs (hybrid electric vehicles). This article is about BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles).

Battery Electric Vehicles are typically referred or called EVs and are fully electric with rechargeable batteries and no gasoline engine. Electric vehicles use electric motors other than internal combustion engines (ICEs).

EVs store electricity on their high capacity battery packs and use battery power to run their electric motor and all other functions of the EV.

When it comes to charging times, this can range between 30 minutes to 20 hours or more based on the type of the EV, as well as the kind of battery, how depleted it is and capacity. In this case, BEVs take longer to recharge when their cells are entirely used up than their hybrid EV counterparts.

Most EVs seem to use lithium-ion batteries of various designs, similar to those used in cellphones and laptops computers, but use these types of cells on a much larger scale. For instance, the Nissan LEAF uses lithium-ion batteries and can charge at about 8 hours using a 220/240-volt Nissan charging dock at your home or charge at a 110/120-volt outlet but would take a little bit longer.

electric vehicles

However, other EVs for instance cars from GEM (Global Electric Motorcars) use lead-acid batteries which is much an older technology that is proven to be reliable and charges in about 6 to 8 hours at a standard 110-volt outlet.

2. Type of charging point

Your charging point is another determinant of how fast you can charge your EV. There are three types of chargers, that is level 1 charging stations, level 2 charging stations, and level 3 charging stations.

  • Level 1 stations use the regular 120-volt connection or the standard household outlet and hence do not have their extra costs. However, this type of charge is a little bit slow.
  • Level 2 uses a higher-output 240-volt power source, like the one that you plug your oven or clothes dryer into and charging times are much faster than with a Level 1 EV charging station.
  • Level 3 chargers are fast-charging devices that use very high voltage and can add 90 miles of range to an EV in just 30 minutes in some cases. These chargers, however, are costly, costing tens of thousands of dollars, and routinely using a Level 3 chargers can ultimately hurt your car’s battery.

Why solar panels compliment EVs?

How long it takes to charge an EV is just one consideration; however, you also want to save money despite what type of charger or EV you have. Charging your EV with solar energy is probably one of the most exciting aspects of driving a fully electric vehicle because you increase your energy efficiency by utilizing the power from the panels

As such, the EnergySage has written an article about why solar panels compliment EVs. According to the EnergySage, a solar PV system will charge your electric car just as it will supply energy for the rest of your home appliances. Even a small solar panel array with only ten (10) solar panels can provide enough power to charge your vehicle’s battery.

Click here to learn more about why solar panels compliment EVs.

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