ICE / Hybrid / PHEV / EV?
ICE = Internal Combustion Engine – A fuel (ie gasoline/diesel) is ignited to release energy. Only about 25% efficient – meaning up to 75% of the energy is lost!
Hybrid = Uses two different forms of power, most commonly an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. By utilizing both power sources, each can operate when optimal, increasing efficiency over a standard ICE vehicle. These have a smallish battery that is charged via the engine (as well as regenerative braking).
PHEV = Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicle – These are similar to hybrids but have larger battery packs, and they can be plugged in to recharge. For shorter commutes, these can function essentially as an EV, with the ICE available to provide additional range when needed.
EV = Electric Vehicle – These have even larger batteries, and are powered entirely by electricity – no gasoline/fuel at all. These are highly efficient – between 85-90%. As electric motors generate peak power at 0 RPM, they tend to have good to great performance characteristics.
How do EV's handle winter?
Incredibly well! Most EVs have a number of advantages over other vehicles.
- There is never a fear that they won’t turn start, even on the coldest days. As there is no oil, there is no worry that it becomes too cold and thick, nor is there a concern about a 12V battery getting too weak, failing to turn the engine over, or the starter motor failing.
- No more need to stand outside on a frigid morning refueling the vehicle at a gas station! It takes just a second to plug an EV in at the end of the day, and it will be full and ready to go well before you are the next day!
- Perhaps the best part of winter EV ownership is that they heat up super fast! Not relying on the waste heat of the gasoline engine, most EVs instead use resistance heating, which generates heat nearly instantly. Yes this does consume a bit of battery, but even with any range impact, almost all EVs easily handle the Canadian average daily driving instance. Additionally, as next generation EVs are coming to market, with their larger batteries and thus increased range, the impact of winter range loss is quickly becoming a moot point even for drivers that greatly exceed daily driving averages.
What about charging?
EV chargers are broken down into 3 categories or levels:
Level 1: This is the standard 120V that is EVERYWHERE in Canada. Every block heater plugin, and every garage already has the ability to charge an EV – zero additional expense needed. This is the slowest charging method – adding between 5-8km/hr. For those with short commutes, this may be sufficient.
Level 2: These chargers use 240V to quickly charge an EV. These can range from dryer plugs easily added in a garage to J1772 EV charging stations, oh and all RV parks have level 2 outlets! Almost all EVs sold include adapters to work with these outlets. These are typically what you find at public charging stations, using the J1772 plug for cross manufacture compatibility. Charging speeds vary depending on the amps available, typically 30-90km/hr, easily enough to bring an EV back up to full overnight. Tesla has its own version of this charging, using their proprietary Wall Connector.
Level 3: These are the public chargers that make long distance driving in an EV a breeze. They can provide an amazing 1600km/hr charge speeds on empty batteries, slowing down as the battery fills up. Typically it will take 15-40 minutes to rapidly recharge a compatible EV so that it is ready to continue on its journey. Tesla’s implementation is called a Supercharger. Other EVs usually use CHAdeMO or CCS stations.
What EVs are available in Alberta?
There is a wide variety of plug-in and full electric cars driving on roads year-round in Alberta.
Their numbers are growing dramatically every year as people experience the benefits of electric driving.
This is a list of electric drive vehicles sold in Alberta:
There are over 600 fully electric vehicles in Alberta. Amongst this fleet are the:
Smart For Two
Tesla Model 3
Tesla Model X
Tesla Model S
Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PHEV)
There are also over 600 Plug-in Electric Vehicles in Alberta. Amongst this fleet are the:
Mini Cooper Countryman
Toyota Prius Prime
*list source credit: FleetKarma*
How long does it take to charge an electric car?
How long does it take to charge your cell phone? Think of charging your vehicle as you would charge a cell phone. Plug it in and carry on with your day.
Most charging is done at night while you’re sleeping to replace what was used during the day.
Many owners also have the opportunity to charge while at work. The average commute in Canada is 44km a day which is well within the range of even smaller range EVs. With 240V Level 2 chargers installed at home, a charge time for an average daily commute can be less than two hours.
Aren't electric cars just coal powered in Alberta?
No. Alberta does not generate electricity from coal alone. Alberta’s electricity is sourced from coal, natural gas, and renewables. In fact, Alberta’s real-time energy production is published by the Alberta Electrical System Operator (AESO) and is called the Current Supply/Demand Report.
This Simon Fraser University study found that EVs charging with the mixed Alberta electricity grid can still reduce fleet-average GHG emissions intensity by 41% in Alberta. This percentage will only improve as efficiencies and renewable energy electricity generation increases over time.
Of course, an EV owner in Alberta can also choose to install a solar array on their property to fully offset electricity used from the electric grid to charge an EV. Another option is to purchase renewable energy from their Alberta energy retailer. Both options would make the associated emissions of charging their electric car ‘net zero’ for charging during the year from the grid. Meaning, GHG emissions generated were fully offset by the associated renewable energy fed to the Alberta electricity grid.
- 1kWh of energy produces:
0.909kg of CO2 if made 100% from Coal
0.465kg of CO2 if made 100% from Natural Gas
0.000kg of CO2 if made 100% from Solar/Wind/Hydro
1.5kg of CO2 if made 100% from Biomass
- 1L of Gasoline emits 2.3kg of CO2 (2.44kg of CO2e)
- The average EV consumes 200Wh/km but lets be conservative and say it is 300Wh/km. This converts to 30kWh/100km
- In terms of maximum capacity, Alberta’s power composition is roughly 35.6% Coal, 47.2% Natural Gas, 14.5% Renewables, 2.7% Other (lets assume Biomass is the ‘Other’ category)
Synthesizing these all together:
(Energy required per 100km) X (CO2 produced per 1kWh of energy) = (CO2 produced per 100km)
(30kWh/100km) X ([0.909kg/kWh X 35.6%] + [0.465kg/kWh X 47.2%] + [0.000kg/kWh X 14.5%] + [1.5kg/kWh X 2.7%]) = 17.50kg/100km
So when the typical Alberta EV drives 100km, due to our current sources of electricity, 17.50kg of CO2 are emitted into the atmosphere.
How does this compare to the typical gas powered vehicle?
(Litres required to drive 100km) X (CO2 produced per Litre) = CO2 produced per 100km
2018 Ford F150 fuel economy is 12.3L/100km
2018 Toyota Camry fuel economy is 8.4L/100km
2018 Nissan Rogue fuel economy is 9.1L/100km
So driving 100km emits 28.29kg of CO2 for a F150, 19.32kg of CO2 in a Camry, and 20.93kg in a Rogue.
Despite the prevalence of Coal and Natural Gas in Alberta’s generating composition, it is still less GHG intensive to drive an EV.
How long do the batteries last?
Most likely, longer than the life expectancy of the plug-in vehicle. The batteries in these vehicles are not the same as the batteries in our smart-phones. Smart-phone batteries are for a completely different market and are generally designed to last as long as the next replacement smartphone model. Well, perhaps not the ‘next’ model, but not too many new models down the road in the near future.
Many OEMs offer warranties covering eight years or 160,000 km of driving on their lithium-ion batteries. All batteries will lose capacity over time. The feedback coming in from owners in Alberta is that that range reduction seems to be about 1% every passing year. So it is reasonable to expect that an EV that gets approximately 120km per charge when new would still have approximately 108km of range after 10 years of use. That’s still well within the average daily commute of 42 km in Canada. EV’s that have larger battery packs that can get approximately 355km of range per charge when new would still have approximately 320km of range after 10 years of use.
What happens to the battery at the end of it’s life? Dumped in landfills?
No, not in landfills. It is illegal to dump these batteries in landfills. The general accepted useful life for an electric vehicle is when the battery gets to about 70% of its original capacity.
At an average range reduction of about 1% per year, 70% capacity would take a very long time to get to. Plug-in vehicles mostly use lithium ion, which is much more valuable than lead. Their inherent value will ensure that they are recycled, or better yet, used in “second-life” applications. These second-life applications include both on-grid and off-grid renewables (solar, wind) storage, peak shaving/shifting and battery backup systems. This application helps to further reduce the wheel-to-well carbon footprint of EV batteries by helping to delay the mining of elements that the batteries are made of.
What affects the longevity of batteries?
There are lots of factors. In no particular order they are:
- The quality of battery manufacturing
- The quality of electronics that are not a part of the battery but interact with it (voltage sensors, power inverters, etc)
- The controls for the charging system and battery system (algorithms, data curves, software-defined limits)
- Battery thermal management (cell to cell temperature variations kept at minimum and overall temperature kept in acceptable ranges while charging and discharging). Li-Ion batteries like to discharge between -20C and 65C, and charge between 0C and 45C. Active thermal management systems are superior passive thermal management systems.
- Regenerative braking system design. Must be dampened when the car is approaching high or low temperature limits. It must limit charging current when extreme braking is applied.
- State of charge throughout life (100% for long periods not good, neither is 0% for long periods)
- Number of charge cycles (higher is worse)
- High magnitudes of charge/discharge current (frequently racing people at red lights or frequently Level 3 Fast Charging)
- Some of these factors above are the users responsibility and some are the manufacturers. All ICE owners have the right to red line their cars and it’s no different with EVs.
On to actual data: