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What 10 EV lovers from around the world say about their cars » Yale Climate Connections

Cartoon showing a car dissolving into question marks. The caption says, "A lot of questions about EVs are cleared up once you start driving one."

No matter where in the world you live, you might have questions about EVs: How do you charge it? How often? Can you charge at home? How much range do you need? 

To get firsthand answers to those questions, I (David Carlson) connected with international EV-driving friends I met during a career working in science. Collectively, we operate 10 different EVs from BYD, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes, Nissan, Renault, Tesla, and Volkswagen (for details on our vehicles, see Table 1). Our insights offer a glimpse of the on-the-ground realities of driving an EV today in seven different countries on four continents. 

Our most important finding: Driving an EV is fun. Yes, we face different choices and constraints depending on where we live. Across countries and careers, however, we agree: We would not go back! And we hope that, within a decade, EV charging becomes as easy and routine as gasoline fill-ups. 

What does it cost to charge an EV?

Various official reports state that EVs prove cheaper to operate than equivalent-sized internal combustion vehicles. Our driving experiences confirm those reports.

  • “I can drive my EV for about 3 to 4 cents per mile. There is no internal combustion engine vehicle that comes close to that low operating cost.” [U.S.]
  • Fuel cost for our 300-mile trip (helped by a free top-up and including home charging back to the 100% we started with) was slightly less than 10 USD.” [Australia]
  • “If I only use rapid charging, the cost is still a lot lower than if I run a petrol or diesel engine. For sure also less maintenance.” [Scotland]
  • “Our power company has been increasing the electricity rates and decreasing the differential between peak and off-peak pricing, making it less advantageous to charge in off-hours at home. It still is far cheaper than buying gasoline.” [U.S.]

How much range do you need? 

Reported vehicle ranges, which vary with location, windiness, hilliness, and season, often played only a small role in our choices. With prior knowledge of elevation changes, chargers at destination, and vehicle performance, many of us feel comfortable returning to home chargers with battery charge levels as low as 5%.

  • “I arrived home with only 4% battery charge remaining. So long as I feel confident of home charging, I no longer worry.” [U.S.]
  • “If you are planning to do long-distance trips, your car should not charge with less than 100 kW and should have a realistic range of at least 185 miles.” [Germany]
  • “Driving range of EVs drops substantially in cold winter, but we adjust easily by more frequent charging” [Norway]
  • “After more than three years of daily use, I never considered charging my EV as a constraint. With its range of 200-250 miles (winter/summer), I can easily drive back and forth to any place of interest in the region.” [France]

Read: I drove 6,000 miles in an EV. Here’s what I learned.

How do you charge your EV? 

The Society of Automotive Engineers has described three types of charging systems, including Level 1 (slow, plugs into a typical U.S. 110-volt home outlet), Level 2 (faster, requires at least 220 volts), and Level 3 (fastest; sometimes called DC fast-charging, or DCFC). 

Most of us installed Level 2 systems to charge EVs at home. Because most of us drive mostly locally, the absence of higher-voltage chargers in some locations does not — at this moment — impose severe restrictions.

  • “It’s easy to use a phone app like PlugShare, ABRP, or Chargemap to plan your route for charging during long trips. It’s as easy as using a car’s navigation system.” [U.S.]
  • “Tesla’s U.S. West Coast supercharging infrastructure is far ahead of other companies: frequent sites with abundant charge units at each site, nearly all units functional. The car’s nav system and Tesla’s phone app tell you a site’s peak power (we’ve seen ranges from 75 kW to 250 kW), how many units are available at each site (from eight to 50), and nearby amenities. At high-use sites, you also get alerts about fees imposed if you don’t move your car once you finish charging to encourage turnover.” [U.S.]
  • “A local restaurant provides free Level 2 service out at their new location. Forty miles away, at a rural crossroads, but definitely a key spot! Charge while you eat!” [U.S.]
  • “Many hotels now offer free Level 2 charging.” [Norway]
  • “In Europe, many Tesla superchargers are also open to non-Tesla cars.” [Germany]
  • “I’ve noticed the number of DCFCs in my area growing rapidly. It’s not difficult to plan a route from point A to B.” [Germany]
  • “When you own a home in a condominium arrangement, with shared (underground) parking, you may need to overcome hesitations of your co-owners. Cooperative use of a charger will depend much on the regulatory framework (and/or trust).” [Germany]
  • “Level 2 is broadly installed for charging at home or working places, while DCFC becomes more popular in the last year. It is easy to find a charger in large cities but not that common in a small county.” [China]
  • “For a long trip, over 200-300 miles, DCFC has been installed in expressway service areas, close to large cities. It is convenient to charge in an expressway service area during non-holidays but, as reported by many newspapers, there is a disaster during holidays. Chargers remain far from sufficient relative to demands.” [China]
  • “A major gap is chargers at hospital car parks. A family member had to go to hospital but my car was only partly charged. When queried, medical staff responded that they plan on chargers only for their own cars. I used Google Maps to quickly find a charger nearby.” [Scotland]

Read: How to charge an EV if you’re a renter

How much time does EV charging take? 

In general, we find that Level 2 connections might require several hours (five to seven hours overnight in one’s garage) for charge sessions. We encourage others reporting on charging to include time avoided for fueling stops because of home charging. 

Many EVs include options for scheduling charging sessions to take advantage of lower electricity rate times, avoid competition with neighboring EVs, ensure full charging immediately before departure, and so on. 

At DC fast chargers, we expect to spend 30 or 40 minutes, and perhaps as long as an hour, to charge. On long trips, most of us need a break from driving on roughly two-hour schedules. If rest stops include charging and bathroom, dog walking, eating, or shopping, plus occasional opportunities to talk to and learn from other EV drivers, so much the better.  

  • “It is so convenient to plug the car in when I get home. I don’t miss the time wasted at gas stations at all.” [U.S.]
  • “We schedule charging at home to begin after 9 p.m. when off-peak pricing begins.” [U.S.]
  • “We have seen fast Tesla supercharger units that will charge the car at over 1,000 miles per hour. We could charge our EV to its full ~300-mile range in about 20 minutes. Our Tesla EV begins to precondition its battery several miles before a chosen charging site.” [U.S.]
  • “Driving across empty rural landscapes, getting a bit of charge while one stops to eat, use restrooms, etc. makes a lot of sense. With a place to walk the dog? We would definitely stop.” [U.S.]

Describe the driving experience. 

  • “We recognized other EVs far more than we would in a petrol vehicle and waved to them.” [Australia]
  • Passengers in our vehicles comment on quiet rides, ‘soft’ driving styles, and comfort. We share concerns about longer-term battery performance and future recycling but those concerns (not different than for internal combustion engine vehicles in many cases) have not deterred our interest in EVs. We report that EV ‘quickness’’ makes driving these vehicles fun! [U.S.]
  • “Good clearance, good visibility, good acceleration. With winter tires, good in snow. This thing goes!” [U.S.]
  • “We were impressed by how easy the vehicle was to drive in all conditions and particularly by the rapid and seamless acceleration.” [Australia]
  • “Participants in my hiking club used to share free seats in their cars. Many people have a preference to come in my EV: it is silent, offers a soft driving style and our car is never the last to arrive on the hiking spot!” [France]
  • “EVs are fun to drive because they are so peppy! They have lots of acceleration because they deliver high torque at low RPM. That lets you merge into traffic safely and get out of a tight spot when driving defensively.” [U.S.]

What about the cost of replacing the battery for your EV? 

  • “My EV came with a standard 10-year or 100K miles warranty on the full drive train, so I don’t worry about a surprise cost to replace the battery. I have a friend with 14-year-old EVs that are still on the original high voltage and 12V battery with less than 10% loss of charge!” [U.S.]
  • “After more than five years of daily use, including local commutes, long-distance drives, and mountain climbs, our maximum range has dropped from about 304 to 285 miles (6.25% loss). That is disappointing but not yet a hindrance.” [U.S.]
  • “The interesting question: How long will the battery last? It seems to have lost a bit of runtime over its more than five years of lifetime. In dark winter months, it can be around 100 rather than 168 miles, and when it’s very cold or raining hard even slightly lower, but the indicator seems very accurate and I have returned to the charger on single digits, no problem.” [Scotland]
  • “I bought my EV, but the battery is not my property. There is a monthly leasing fee, and the battery will be replaced by a new one when its performance has declined.” [France]
  • “I expect a continuous warranty for secondhand EVs. It is very strange that for most EVs, the warranty for a battery is only effective for the first owner.” [China]

What are the biggest surprises you’ve experienced in owning or driving an EV? 

  • “An astonishing difference between EVs and internal combustion engines is how little maintenance is required because there are so many fewer moving parts. Recommended maintenance schedule: Check the brakes every five years and replace the cabin air filter.” [U.S.] 
  • “Driving in mountainous regions requires me to take the height of passes into account! However, when driving downhill, up to 85% of the potential energy is recuperated and fed back into the battery.” [Germany]
  • “Tesla’s ‘dog mode’ initially sold me on the car; we use it regularly. Cabin temperatures stay at whatever level you set. A notice on the car’s touch screen indicates: ‘My driver will return shortly and the cabin temperature is …,’ with a cute cartoon of a tail-wagging puppy.” [U.S.]
  • “Energy for heating reduces range when you drive many short distances. Cooling seems to use less power in (Northern European) summer than heating in winter.” [Germany]
  • “The battery of my EV came equipped for bidirectional charging: The car battery can serve as a short-term (day/night) energy storage of a home PV system while plugged into the carport wall box.” [Germany]

What does the future hold? 

  • “We welcome visitors driving EVs. So long as they or we have an appropriate connector, we enjoy offering an hour or more of free charging.” [U.S.]
  • “I expect truly affordable EVs used by a majority of drivers by 2024 or 2025. I expect EVs in the current price range with true long-range capabilities, even for impatient drivers. By 2030 I anticipate that combustion engines will be collectors items for nerdy users (think Porsche 911).” [Germany]
  • “In large cities, getting a plate for a gas car is difficult or expensive. For example, a friend has not gotten a plate for a gas car for more than 10 years! Like a lottery. I would need to pay more than $12,000 to license a gas vehicle. So more and more people want an EV car in large cities.” [China]

Table 1: Details of our electric vehicles

Location Vehicle Type Battery Size Max charge rate, kW Nominal range, miles Cost (USD)
Shanghai, China BYD 2022 Dolphin 45 kWh 7.4 AC60 DC 260 miles (summer)
180 miles (winter)
17,500 after federal and dealer incentives
Hobart, Australia Hyundai 2022 KonaHighlanderSRF 64 kWh 7.2 AC100 DC 300 34,000 (2nd hand)
Ohio, U.S. Kia 2020 Niro EV EX trim 64 kWh 7.2 AC 77 DC 238 (~220 winter, ~295 summer) 32,000 after federal and dealer incentives
Bremen, Germany Mercedes EQA 250 66 kWh 11 AC
100 DC
260 (mix of summer & winter) 62,800, lease for 470/mo
Bergen, Norway Mercedes EQC 400 4Matic 85 kWh 11 AC112 DC 270 66,450
Edinburgh, Scotland  Nissan Leaf 39 kWh 3.6 AC46 DC < 165 ~25,000 (2nd hand)
Montpellier, France Renault ZOE 52 kWh 7 AC100 DC 245 37,350
California, U.S. Tesla Model 3 dual motor 75 kWh, Long range (300 mi) 11.5 AC150 DC 286 (after 5 years) 55,000 (9,500 rebate)
Jena, Germany VW ID.3 77 kWh 11 AC170 DC 323 46,975, lease for 436/mo
Montana, U.S. VW ID.4 77 kWh 11 AC135 DC 250 50,100

Tom Toro is a cartoonist and writer who has published over 200 cartoons in The New Yorker since 2010.

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