Notwithstanding the limited range of electric vehicles, can current electric cars considerably reduce greenhouse-gas emissions that are causing global climate change? According to a new study, conducted by a team at MIT, electric vehicles are likely to make a significant contribution to achieving our climate change mitigation goals if coupled with decarbonized electricity.
The investigations revealed, that a replacement of conventional internal-combustion vehicles by electric vehicles can meet the nation’s stated near-term emissions-reduction targets for personal vehicles’ share of the transportation sector. According to the scientists, “…the daily energy requirements of some 90 percent of personal cars on the road in the U.S. could be met by today’s EVs, with their current ranges, at an overall cost to their owners — including both purchase and operating costs…”. The transportation sector is responsible for about a third of the overall greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The majority of emissions is caused by privately owned, light-duty vehicles.
Batteries in affordable EVs are able to cover the daily energy demand of the large majority of cars
“Roughly 90 percent of the personal vehicles on the road daily could be replaced by a low-cost electric vehicle available on the market today, even if the cars can only charge overnight,” Trancik says, “which would more than meet near-term U.S. climate targets for personal vehicle travel.”
Well-known drawbacks are the still-limited driving range, missing charging stations in many places and the required time to recharge the battery compared to simply filling a gas tank. But it is particularly interesting to note that the today available batteries in affordable electric cars are able to cover the daily energy demand of the large majority of driving cars. This presupposes that people recharge their battery at work or overnight at home. In these two cases, the lack of charging infrastructure does not matter.
Paradox situation – Conventional cars promote the breakthrough of electric cars
It is important to be conscious of the fact that the lower maintenance and operating costs offset the acquisition costs of adequate electric cars such as, for example, the Ford Focus Electric or the Nissan Leaf. However, when it comes to vacations or an intensive need for cooling or heating, it is strongly advisable to choose a conventional car by renting or using a car-sharing service. In this way, cars with combustion engines paradoxically could have a decisive influence in promoting the breakthrough of electric vehicles.
“The adoption potential of electric vehicles is remarkably similar across cities,” Trancik says, “from dense urban areas like New York, to sprawling cities like Houston. This goes against the view that electric vehicles — at least affordable ones, which have limited range — only really work in dense urban centers.”
According to MIT, the project took four years, including the integration of two huge datasets which comprise millions of trips made by drivers all around the country:
1. A very detailed investigation of second-by-second driving behaviors with the support of GPS data
2. An extensive national data collection based on travel surveys
The GPS data was collected by state agencies in Texas, Georgia, and California. The less detailed, but more extensive, nationwide data are taken from a national household transportation survey. The researchers needed to understand “the distances and timing of trips, the different driving behaviors, and the ambient weather conditions,” Needell says.