Stuff that has everyone all agog with excitement
The whole phenomenon of climate change has been thrust upon us through our textbooks, newspapers, and social media, and for good reason. Every industry has adopted one or several ways to combat the issue. In the automotive industry though, the bulk of the burden of saving the planet has somehow fallen on the wheels of Electric Vehicles. For many who support this, the crux of their argument lies in the single fact that EVs have zero tailpipe emissions, which is the truth, but not the complete truth. They do come with a few negatives. Some of these are obvious, while some others are veiled under propaganda-driven marketing campaigns.
So, if you wish to take advantage of fossil-fuel-free travel or truly care about the environment, here are some things you should know before you buy or lease an EV.
Rage about range
Perhaps, one of the main concerns of EV skeptics has to do with range or rather the lack of it. But know that modern-day EVs are different, they have evolved to accommodate our driving needs. The Audi e-tron Sportback, for example, has an estimated range of 444km and the Tesla Model Y has a range of 533km. Both are respectable numbers. In comparison, Internal Combustion Engines or ICE vehicles, have a range between 400km and 700km, with some going up to 1,000 km. Also, with petrol or diesel-powered vehicles, you travel in the comfort of knowing that there is a fuel station around the corner. But this isn’t the case with the EV charging network. Charging points are few and far between and are mapped mostly in major public areas like shopping malls, which can be viewed via downloadable apps.
Nature of the temp-sensitive batteries
EV batteries are prone to range variations depending on the ambient temperatures. Soaring mercury levels can result in the reduction of EV battery life, whereas extreme cold can adversely affect the vehicle’s range. It helps to live in a region of moderate climates, quite unlike the Middle East, where we have to deal with sizzling climate.
If you disregard the sensationalist stories of EVs, especially Teslas catching fire, and get a hold of some legitimate statistics, you’d find that EVs are far less likely to catch fire than ICE vehicles. In fact, Tesla put out a statement that read, “From 2012 — 2021, there has been approximately one Tesla vehicle fire for every 210 million miles travelled. By comparison, data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and US Department of Transportation shows that in the United States there is a vehicle fire for every 19 million miles travelled.” This implies that ICE vehicles are 11 times more to catch fire than an EV, which is significant. Also, the time it takes for one to catch fire is relatively longer, giving passengers more time to get away from the damaged or faulty vehicle.
But the real issue is with extinguishing it. It is harder to put out an EV fire compared to fires in ICE vehicles. It may require stupendous amounts of water or a powder or C02 type extinguisher, one which is specifically intended for putting out electrical fires.
That being said, automakers are in a race to manufacture a new type of solid-state batteries that are non-flammable. This should eliminate the risk of battery fires altogether.
A time to charge, a time to wait
The other drawback to EVs is the time it takes to charge them. Your typical petrol-engine vehicle takes just a few minutes to fill to the brim, but with EVs, it’s different, a lot different. It takes between 15 minutes (for a small bump in range) to up to a day (for full juice) depending on which type of charger you’re using. The Level 1 charger, which refers to the AC domestic socket is the slowest. The Level 2 type is the fast-charging AC socket which works at a higher voltage and is what you’d find most commonly at charging stations. And finally, Level 3 chargers which use DC charge batteries the quickest, but are relatively rare. Also, if you get stuck in a queue, you may have to bust out a camper sleeping bag if you’re in the outskirts or if you’re in Dubai it is a sign to visit the mall.
Charging plugs aren’t standardised
Regardless of which fuel station you visit, you always get the same nozzle at every station, which means that any car can be accommodated. In the case of EVs, besides figuring out what charger is compatible with your vehicle, you also have to figure out what cables and adapters you may need. And you’d have to carry these cables and adapters in your trunk, which eats away luggage space. But eventually, you will get around to figuring out what is the best and nearest charging point(s), even if it is an added learning and a time-taking task.
Hopefully, manufacturers along with the help of governments will choose to standardise the whole setup soon.
They don’t make a sound
Although there is a lot of noise about EVs, they don’t make a sound. They are quiet machines. They lack the mechanical sound of a petrol/diesel engine and the associated exhaust noises, which have turned a small section of the auto community into haters. These are the guys who love the smell of gasoline and the guttural sound of a V8, even after they get beaten in a drag race by somebody in an electric family sedan.
The EVs can be silent killers and by that, I mean that you may not hear one coming yourself which may result in pedestrian casualties. Thankfully, to counter this, most companies have equipped them with sounds that resemble a plane or a vehicle from a sci-fi movie.
The electricity available at these charging stations is not necessarily drawn from sustainable sources. It is important that the electricity comes from renewable sources like tidal, wind, and solar power to keep the cycle clean, from production to transmission to consumption. If this ain’t the case, you’re forced to draw electricity from a grid fed by coal or natural gas power plants which emit large amounts of greenhouse gases like CO2, which kind of defeats the purpose. Ironically, this would make EVs, vehicles with External Combustion Engines. So EVs aren’t necessarily as green as one would think.
The price of sustainability
Right now, EVs are relatively expensive, for two main reasons. One, they are more of a novelty, the ‘it’ thing of the season, a garage ornament that you would leave in your driveway. And the other reason is that quite a bit of capital goes into the research and development of these vehicles and understandably so. None of this has been done before, at least not to this scale. But if EVs need to be a truly sustainable solution for Climate Change, they have to be a financially viable option for the billions that make up the working middle class that have to drive to work and back on a daily basis. But worry not, the price war hasn’t really hit the EV market yet and when it does, we will be seeing an EV in possibly every household.
The next step
So, you see in the grand scheme of things if ideas like the EVs aren’t carefully thought through they can also end up as part of the problem or add new ones.
But ultimately, the blame game doesn’t help anyone. In fact, consider this as a status update, a chapter on the collective effort to fight climate change. The road to a cleaner green future is long, one we must travel, side by side.
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