As the world works to address climate change issues, electric vehicles are rapidly becoming a part of the solution. With the reduction of fossil fuel-powered electric generation and the addition of carbon-neutral sources of electric power production, traditional fossil fuel-powered forms of transportation have become the leading source of carbon emissions in the United States. A single electric vehicle, however, can reduce carbon emissions by 8,600 pounds per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
For this reason, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the local power distributors in its seven-state service area, including Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, are working to increase the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on the road in the TVA service area to at least 200,000 by 2028. TVA estimates that reaching this goal could save 4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in five years.
Why choose an electric vehicle?
There are many benefits to driving an electric vehicle, including:
- To save money — EVs cost less to fuel than gasoline-powered vehicles. While your electric bill may increase, the lack of a gasoline bill will more that offset it. EVs can travel about 43 miles on $1 worth of electricity, or about one-quarter the fuel cost of a typical gasoline-powered car. They are cheaper to maintain and more reliable because they have fewer moving parts to break down.
- To lower emissions — Even if the electricity used to power your electric vehicle is produced by fossil fuels and even though the production of EVs produce more greenhouse gases than gasoline engines, electric vehicles will emit less carbon on the road than gasoline-powered vehicles. It is estimated that electric vehicles will make up for those higher manufacturing emissions within 18 months of driving.
- For a better driving experience — Electric engines accelerate much faster than a gasoline-powered vehicle due to instant torque. They provide smooth acceleration and deceleration, are quiet and have all the amenities of a gasoline-powered vehicle. The lower center of gravity means improved handling, responsiveness and comfort.
- Reduced oil use — Electric motors are not reliant on motor oil. Therefore, in addition to cutting the use of gasoline, EVs can help cut the nation’s dependence on oil for transportation and offer a cleaner way to fuel our transportation needs.
- For convenience — Eighty percent of normal charging is done at home overnight. No more searching for the lowest gas prices or waiting in line at gas stations to fill up your tank. Plug it in when you get home and wake up with a “full tank.” Since battery-powered vehicles are much simpler than a gasoline engine, the maintenance requirements are often much less complicated as well. They don’t require oil changes or other engine maintenance and tune ups, saving time, money and inconvenience.
Why doesn’t everyone drive an EV?
While the numbers of EVs on the road are rapidly increasing, they are still only a small slice of the automotive “pie.” Projections are that the transition from gasoline and diesel to electric-charged batteries will only continue to grow in the Tennessee Valley and across the country, transforming both the energy and transportation industries in our region and beyond. Some of the key factors holding back consumers from purchasing EV’s include:
- The initial cost is still higher than a comparable gasoline-powered vehicle — However, the price of electric vehicles is coming down and in the next few years may be comparable to gasoline engines. The lower fuel and maintenance costs will help offset the original cost as well.
- Range anxiety — The fear that your car will break down in the middle of nowhere is the most frequent reason listed for not wanting to purchase an EV. This anxiety stems from the limited range of the electric battery. Over the past 40 years, the battery life, technology and design have improved, and with continuing research and development, great strides are being made each year. However, the range varies among manufacturers and models. Some battery-only electric vehicles now have an average range of 300 miles with some nearing 400 miles while others still have ranges closer to 100 miles. The range also varies on the outside temperature. When the heater or air conditioner is needed for comfort inside the cab, the battery will be depleted much sooner than normal.
- Being considered “city cars” — The “range anxiety” caused by the fear of running out of power and being stranded has, in the past, caused electric vehicles to seem practical only for those who live in cities and do not have to drive long distances for work, school, shopping or entertainment. However, research shows that the average daily total miles driven in an urban area is less than 40 miles and the average daily total in rural areas is less than 50 miles, well within the range of the modern electric vehicle.
- Concern for the availability of charging stations —One of the main causes of “range anxiety” is the concern over where drivers can charge their EVs while on the road for longer drives. While there is a network of public charging stations along well-traveled highways, they may not be available on less-traveled roadways. However, there are “apps for that” such as Plug Share, ChargePoint, EVgo and ChargeHub EV Map that help EV owners locate chargers, view station ratings and availability, give charging tips and reviews, let drivers pay through the apps and help plan EV road trips with planned charging stops.
TVA’s plan to increase the number of charging stations in its service area
In an effort to alleviate the concerns at the root of “range anxiety,” TVA’s plan is to work with local and state governments, local power distributors in the TVA area — electric cooperatives such as SVEC and municipal electric utilities such as EPB — car manufacturers and service stations to add additional rapid-charging stations along the main highways in the TVA area.
While 80 percent of EVs are recharged at home, many car buyers are still not comfortable about availability to recharge their vehicles quickly while on longer trips or multiple jaunts around town. Currently, there are only 25 rapid-recharging stations in the TVA area capable of recharging a vehicle battery to near capacity within 30 minutes. In addition to working with partners to add additional recharging stations, TVA’s board of directors has also taken steps to create a new set of power rates to help improve the price of fast-charging stations. All these steps are to ensure that motorists feel comfortable with the availability and affordability of charging options.
Expanding the use of electric vehicles will assist TVA in meeting its goals of improving energy, the environment and economic development in the Tennessee Valley.
Results of expanding TVA area EV use:
• Reduce TVA’s average cost of power by spreading the cost of generation.
• Cut emissions of carbon dioxide as compared to the emissions from gasoline-fueled vehicles.
• Cut consumer fuel cost up to a $1,000 per year.
• EVs are powered by electricity produced in the Tennessee Valley rather than imported gasoline or diesel fuel — providing jobs to local workers.
• Tennessee is becoming one of the top states in the U.S. for manufacturing electric vehicles — providing jobs for local workers.
• TVA can recharge new battery-powered cars at electric rates below 70 percent of other U.S. utilities.
• TVA has the third-lowest carbon intensity of any of America’s 100 largest utilities. As TVA generation becomes “greener,” the fuel that powers your EV becomes “greener” as well.