Possibly you’ve seen the “JetStones” TV business that makes use of the Flintstone’s and the Jetsons’ theme songs to contrast two drivers stopped at a visitors gentle — one in a boring “prehistoric” gasoline compact and the opposite in a shiny new Chevy Bolt EV. The narrator says, “With prompt acceleration, electrical automobiles are extra enjoyable to drive and extra affordin a position than ever.” As the sunshine turns inexperienced and the “George” leaves “Fred” within the mud, we hear the tagline: Electrical automobiles are right here. Plug into the current.
This TV spot is a part of Volkswagen’s Electrify America marketing campaign from its “Dieselgate” settlement by which the German automaker agreed to spend $2 billion within the U.S. to advertise electrical automobiles as reparation for purposely programming its turbocharged direct injection (TDI) diesel engines so the automobiles’ nitrogen oxides (NOx) ranges would meet U.S. air high quality requirements throughout regulatory testing, however emit as much as 40 instances extra NOx whereas being pushed.
“George’s” EV is quieter and extra enjoyable to drive than “Fred’s” dinosaur gasoline compact, nevertheless it’s not cheaper — at the least, not the sticker value. The 2019 Chevy Bolt EV pricing begins at $36,620. A brand new Nissan LEAF begins at $29,990 and goes as much as $42,550 for a fully-loaded Nissan LEAF Plus, which has a brand new battery pack that extends its all-electric vary from 100 miles to 226 miles. Elon Musk’s Telsa model leads the market in EV gross sales, however even its least costly EV, the brand new Standard Vary Mannequin three, begins at $36,200. Telsa’s prime mannequin, the “S,” ranges from $75,000 to $133,000. Volkswagen, which implies “individuals’s automotive” in German, needs to promote the “individuals’s EV.” VW’s first EV can be launched within the U.S. subsequent yr for round $22,400.
From Soiled Diesel to Clear and Inexperienced
4 years in the past, Adelina Hirstova, proprietor of AzBukiVeri LLC publishing company in State Faculty, traded her diesel guzzling, air-polluting Volkswagen Jetta TDI for an electron-sipping, zero emissions Nissan LEAF that prices solely about $zero.11 MPGe (miles per gallon gasoline equal) to function. LEAF stands for Main, Environmentally- Pleasant, Inexpensive Household automobile.
“The LEAF was a belated birthday current from my daughter and my husband for my 50th birthday as a result of the Jetta TDI that I really acquired on my beginningday didn’t work for me, because it was not ‘clear and inexperienced,’” mentioned Hirstova.
“We leased the LEAF for 3 years at $350 monthly, after which there was a tax incentive to purchase electrical, so final yr when the lease was up, we purchased the automotive and paid off the stability, which was about $15,000.”
This yr, she considered promoting the automotive earlier than its five-year guarantee on the batteries ran out, since a brand new battery pack prices $6,200. Nevertheless, Nissan launched a brand new program to exchange previous LEAF battery packs with “refabricated” packs for less than $2,850 — greater than sufficient cause to maintain her inexperienced journey.
“My daughter additionally bought a LEAF, however she offered it as a result of she wanted extra vary since she travels longer distances in Nevada than I do in State Faculty.
“That’s a shortcoming of the LEAF and most different electrical automobiles — they’ll’t go very far on one battery cost.”
Whereas the vary of the LEAF is rated at 100 miles, essentially the most Hirstova has gotten from hers has been 91 miles.
“The primary yr I had the automotive, I went to Tyrone and again with out a cost, and I discovered that the battery has reserves even after the navigation display screen says the battery is out of cost, so I don’t fear about working out of cost as a lot as I used to,” mentioned Hirstova.
“The display screen shows a map of the closest charging stations, so you’ll be able to plan brief journeys, and a few gasoline stations have quick chargers — I attempted Sheetz quick chargers twice, however each instances they have been out of order.”
To cost at residence, Hirstova purchased a gradual charger, which she makes use of overnight time.
“Supercharging” the Electrical Future
To widen the enchantment of EVs, the trade might want to “supercharge” the buildout of quick cost stations, which proper now are mainly present in and round huge cities, toll street service areas and at some interstate freeway interchanges. Final yr, there have been roughly 57,000 charging outlets and 20,000 fast-charging stations for plug-in EVs within the U.S., together with at 20 Sheetz comfort shops/gasoline stations in Pennsylvania.
“We plan to proceed including extra Tesla Superchargers charging places at Sheetz shops sooner or later,” mentioned Jennifer Donahoe, Sheetz spokesperson.
“Sheetz’s new Supercharging websites will assist develop the electrical automobile charging community for patrons whereas offering a fast and handy cease for drivers to re-charge and get again on the street once more.”
A 50% cost with a Telsa Supercharger can take as little as 15 minutes — sufficient time to eat a Sheetz MTO (made-to-order) sandwich and wash it down with scorching espresso or a chilly drink. An 80% cost takes beneath a half-hour.
Reinventing the Flywheel
The variety of EVs bought within the U.S. rose from 115,000 in 2015 to 358,000 final yr. To enchantment to the typical purchaser fairly than upscale house owners who purchase EVs or hybrids due to their “greenness,” EV automakers, which embody Telsa, Nissan, Chevy, Ford, Fiat, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, BMW and Volkswagen, might want to enhance their EVs’ driving vary with out considerably rising value.
In State Faculty, Penn State’s Superior Car Workforce is engaged on enhancing EVs to attain simply that. On Might eight, the staff showcased its student-made, gasoline environment friendly hybrid-electric Camaro, which it entered within the EcoCAR three competitors in Yuma, Arizona. EcoCAR three is a nationwide contest that includes 16 universities from throughout North America organized by Argonne Nationwide Laboratory and sponsored by Basic Motors Co. and the U.S. Division of Vitality. The staff’s mission is to “facilitate an unparalleled studying expertise for undergraduate and graduate college students throughout a wide range of educational disciplines by reengineering automobiles to decrease gasoline consumption whereas sustaining shopper demand.”
“From a fuel-cost perspective, hybrid automobiles are roughly half the price of traditional gasoline automobiles, and electrical vehicles are roughly 1 / 4 of the price of traditional gasoline automobiles,” mentioned Gary Neal, who’s the staff’s college advisor, director of mechanical engineering capstone design initiatives and teacher in division of mechanical engineering.
“Pure electrical automobiles have further value financial savings over gasoline automobiles and hybrid automobiles,” mentioned Neal.
“For instance, there aren’t any oil adjustments in an electrical automobile. There are additionally no required emissions inspections in an electrical automobile, and electrical automobiles with regenerative braking nearly by no means must have brake parts — pads, rotors, calipers — changed, as a result of these mechanical brakes are used little or no.
“Electrical automobiles will be much less complicated than conventional automobiles and far much less complicated than hybrid automobiles. As soon as electrical automobile know-how turns into extra mature, the decrease complexity means theoretically greater reliability and decrease upkeep prices.”
Do EV house owners actually have extra enjoyable?
“The moment torque out there from electric motors and the power to mount the batteries very low on the automotive’s construction really offers them a efficiency benefit,” mentioned Neal.
“Excessive efficiency Teslas are actually routinely outperforming sports activities automobiles with a lot greater value tags.”
So, what’s stopping EVs from competing with gasoline engine automobiles by way of vary?
“Battery know-how is actually the present limiting issue for electrified propulsion; nevertheless, battery know-how is ever-changing,” mentioned Neal.
“There are lots of completely different strategies and chemistries being developed and evaluated. Will probably be attention-grabbing to see how this know-how evolves.” .
R. Brock Pronko has labored as a communications supervisor, tech author, college teacher and journalist. He has written for Pennsylvania Enterprise Central since 1991 and Marcellus Enterprise Central since 2008. He majored in artistic nonfiction at Penn State and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1989. His first novel, The Final Prophecy of Baba Vanga, can be revealed this summer season.