Posted on Feb 02, 2021

EcoEducation: Cleaner and More Efficient Transportation

There are 1.6 million electric vehicles on US roads.  There are 14K in Minnesota.  Our presenter, Jukka Kukkonen, former auto engineer and current strategist for Shift2Electric, started off our meeting with a prediction that by the end of this decade most of us will be driving electric vehicles.  With announcements by GM and Hyundai and Kia about the number of all electric vehicle models that will be available by 2025, you might not want to bet against him.  Along with several other initiative that support the shit to electric vehicles, Jukka also helped start the Minnesota Electric Vehicle Owners group in 2012.  This is one of the largest and most active regional EV Owner groups in the US. 
One of the reasons Jukka is passionate about EV is the energy consumption by the transportation industry.  As of 2016, 29% of the US Energy consumed by end-use sector was used by transportation.  A third of the 32% that is used by industry is attributed to petroleum refining - which of course is also used for our transportation needs.   
Jukka answered a lot of our questions about electric vehicles including: 
How long lasting are electric vehicles and the batteries inside them:  As an anecdote, he shared that he bought his daughter a used 8 year old Nissan Leaf and the battery had 84% capacity so he estimates that it will last another fifteen years. 
How does an electric motor compare to a combustion engine:  The combustion engine is quite complex and can require a lot of maintenance and is an inefficient means to propel our vehicles -- with only 15-25% of the energy of liquid gasoline being converted into mechanical energy.  In contrast an electric engine is simple in its mechanics and converts 85-95% of the electric power.  When the cost per kWh for an electric engine drops under $100, there will be few merits to the combustion engine. This is especially true when we look at emissions.  A combustion engine produces 11K lbs of carbon emissions annually when driven 12K per year.  An electric vehicle using electricity from electricity from the grid as it was in 2014 produces 4K lbs of emissions annually.  An EV using electricity from a 100% renewable electric grid produces 0 emissions.   Energy cost differences are big too.  With same distance driven, energy costs for an electric vehicle are about 30% of the costs for an internal combustion engine vehicle when gas is at $2 per gallon.  
How have batteries improved:  Tech advancement over the past decade has dropped the prices of lithium-ion batteries from over $1000 per kWh in 2010 to $135 per kWh in 2020.  There was a 13% decline in price from 2019 to 2020.  We are getting closer to that $100 per kWh price point. 
What about the range of EV?: In 2012 the range of a Nissan Leaf was about 60 miles. In 2018 it was about 150 miles.  And a new Leaf was about $3K cheaper than it was in 2012.  Now in 2020, the Chevy Bolt has a range of 250 miles.  And a new Tesla has a range of over 400 miles.  You can go to  and compare all EV models available in Minnesota.   
Are there safety concerns with EV:  All EV available in Minnesota have at least a "good" rating for safety and many are rated "top safety pick"
What about charging stations:  There are about 1000 charging stations in Minnesota.  But with the ranges that are available, 85% of charging actually happens at home using a 120V plug that works in a standard outlet.  Public charging stations are a bit more powerful at 240V and will charge a vehicle faster. There are also DC fast charging stations.  
Do insurance companies treat electric vehicles differently:  no
Is there a used electric vehicle market:  check out GS motors in Hopkins.  There are Apps that can help you understand the battery life remaining in a used car.  
Image credit:  Paul Brennan on Pixabay