Looking at the environmental, economical, and political impact of electric vehicles.
By Patrick Peterson of GoodCar
Electric vehicles (EVs) have had a remarkable glow-up in a relatively short period. It wasn’t so long ago that public opinion labeled them as overpriced, inefficient options with poor mileage to boot.
However, rising climate concerns and the volatility of gas prices have pushed more people to refresh their understanding of the technology. While misinformation is rampant, people’s faith in EVs has risen enough that over 40 percent of Americans would seriously consider making the switch.
Growing interest pressures manufacturers to reorganize their supply chains with a stronger emphasis on EVs. This sounds simple, but there are significant differences in EV development compared to gas-powered cars.
This post will discuss the history of the modern electric vehicle and how its most recent developments are shaking up the automotive industry.
- The Benefits of Driving an Electric Vehicle
- How Safe Are Electric Cars?
- The Industries That Will Benefit Most From Electric Cars
History of the Electric Vehicle
The longstanding dominance of gas-powered vehicles makes most people believe it was the only option up until now. But that’s wrong. The idea of electric vehicles has been experimented with since the early 1800s.
Robert Anderson is credited for inventing the first electric vehicle. The Scottish inventor used primary cells (single-use batteries) to power a motor he fixed to a carriage. This idea for a “horseless carriage” was a pivotal moment in history that gave future inventors a foundation to work on.
EV’s next big breakthrough occurred in 1859 with rechargeable batteries. Until then, electric vehicles were more of a one-time parlor trick than a viable means of transportation. By 1884, English inventors had prototypes for electric-powered trams and cars.
It took a few more years for the electric car to make its American debut. William Morrison developed an electric car that he claimed had a top speed of 20 mph and could travel 50 miles on a single charge. His invention first appeared in a city parade in 1888 and then at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.
The first attempt to industrialize EVs in America began in 1897. Isaac Rice founded The Electric Vehicle Company, which operated an electric cab service in New York, Baltimore, and Boston. This enterprise failed due to disagreements between the partners, and the company dissolved in 1907.
The 20th century was a difficult time for EVs. Limitations on battery technology prevented vehicles from improving driving range or acceleration. Besides a handful of attempts, manufacturers “improved” existing models to meet zero-emission mandates set by certain states.
It wasn’t until 2008 Tesla’s Roadster hit the scene that things started to look up. The car used lithium-ion batteries and was the first EV to reach a 200-mile range. The Roadster was a turning point that proved electric cars could still compete.
Jump to today, and EVs have skyrocketed in popularity. They’ve proven to be a more sustainable option and have a lower overall cost than gas-powered cars.
Environmental Impact of Electric Vehicles
Opponents of adopting EVs argue that battery-powered vehicles aren’t entirely emission-free. And they’re right.
Carbon emissions are created during the manufacturing process and when charging the battery. This is because fossil fuels are required to mine the minerals used in batteries and to generate the power used to recharge them.
However, these emissions are substantially lower than those released by cars using an internal combustion engine. A study performed by MIT found that electric-powered cars created about 25 percent fewer carbon emissions per mile than a gasoline alternative.
This study even assumed the cars were in less eco-friendly states. When Washington was used as the backdrop, the study reported that an EV would create 61 percent fewer emissions. This is due to Washington drawing a lot of its energy from hydropower. Norway, Europe’s biggest EV market, takes a similar approach.
Over half of Americans are willing to pay more for sustainably responsible products. A comparable number of citizens say the same thing about gasoline. This support for greener brands shows the automotive industry how the future will look.
Manufacturers’ supply and production procedures must start adapting now to prepare for the future. There are even various government incentives to make the process easier.
Government Incentives for Electric Vehicle Sales
Government regulations regarding emission-free vehicles are nothing new. One of California’s mandates in 1996 encouraged General Motors to create the Toyota RAV4 EV. While the RAV4 was a failure, it did contribute to the design of cars like the Chevy Volt.
However, a significant difference between now and 1996 is that manufacturers have the resources to create viable EVs. These regulations, extended into 2023 by the Biden Administration, are designed to bring America closer to being an electric-centric country.
Currently, electric vehicles cost $11,000 more than their gasoline counterparts due to the high price of minerals like lithium, cobalt, and nickel. This deters many people from taking the plunge. The Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Credit, also known as the Clean Vehicle Credit, provides up to $7500 in credit.
Consider the lower maintenance, repair, and refueling fees for EVs, and it becomes much more reasonable for consumers to switch to electric. In fact, in the past two years, electric cars have doubled their percentage of total vehicles sold in the US.
The incentives don’t stop at just making the vehicles more affordable. The Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit also encourages businesses to purchase a charging station.
As the name “Infrastructure Tax Credit” suggests, this incentive was devised to increase the number of charging stations and create a more comfortable driving environment for EV owners. The more charging stations available, the less anxiety drivers have about running out of a charge. This credit is for 30 percent of the charging station’s cost and has been extended into 2023.
These credits are substantial, but most Americans still struggle to commit to EVs. This is true even if they support legislation increasing the use of emission-free vehicles. This indecisiveness is likely due to a lack of understanding of how EVs work.
Most supporters of electric cars consider it a small part of combating climate change rather than a separate issue that needs to be researched. For example, 42 percent of Americans still believe all-electric vehicles need a little gasoline.
It’s unlikely that most car shoppers know about the available incentives. The automotive industry needs to create systems that educate its consumer base to leverage Federal aid in the coming year fully.
Electric Car Manufacturing
Although they serve the same purpose, the manufacturing process for electric cars is unique. It requires different parts, procedures, and skills from a team. One of the most impactful changes is the attention to the battery.
Not only are EV batteries much more expensive to make, but they need to be protected instead of the engine. This means restructuring the vehicle for that purpose and introducing brand-new processes.
A few differences between EVs and gasoline cars include the following:
● Increased use of gluing, rivets, and laser welding for joining parts
● Pedestrian warning systems
● Lack of exhaust systems
A Changing Workforce
New production demands mean that the manufacturer’s existing teams may not have the necessary skills to succeed. With the demand for EVs growing, there’s a high possibility that they will hit a production cap if they’re unprepared. China’s demand for electric cars nearly tripled in the past year.
The problem doesn’t lie with assembly alone. Most electric cars come with a “brain.” These computers handle features like safety measures and tracking nearby charging stations. Traditional engineers at manufacturing plants don’t have the expertise to work with the millions of lines of code electric vehicles need to function.
That requires a software engineer. And there aren’t enough to go around. The position is expected to see a shortage of 1.2 million by 2026.
Due to labor shortages and lack of training, the chances of getting a faulty or improperly installed part increases. EV owners should pay close attention to any announcements their manufacturer makes for vehicle recall checks.
Charging Stations vs. Gas Stations
The number of gas stations in the US has been dropping for decades. Between 1994 and 2011, about 30,000 gas stations disappeared. This happened for many reasons, including urbanization and real estate deals.
Whatever the reason is, the trend bodes poorly for gasoline vehicles. Companies like Electrify America and EVgo Network are on a crusade to create a tight network of charging stations across the US. This destroys one of the barriers people have over going electric, which is the fear of running out of power before being able to recharge.
Many EVs owners are also opting to install charging stations at their homes. Some apartment buildings have designated chargers for their residents as well. The more popular electric vehicles become, people will need fewer gas stations. While it’s improbable that gas stations will fade from existence, they’re certainly on the decline.
The massive growth and social backing that electric vehicles saw in the past few years is staggering. It’s forcing the automotive industry to adapt its supply chains and manufacturing processes at unrealistic speeds.
The Federal government has created multiple incentives to facilitate this transition. It subsidizes part of the cost of the vehicles and makes them easier to buy. These incentives also promote the growth of a charging station network by giving a considerable amount of credit.
EVs have even created a massive demand for qualified software engineers. What we’re seeing are the growing pains of necessary technology. The automotive industry needs to make an infrastructure capable of supporting these changes while the country moves towards emission-free roads.
About The Author
Patrick Peterson is a content manager at GoodCar. Born and raised in the automotive world. He’s an enthusiastic expert who writes exquisite content pieces about everything regarding cars and bikes.