What Is An EV? What Do You Need To Know About Transportation Electrification?

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You were waiting your turn at the barber stylist, and you heard some people talking about Ford resuming production of the F-150 Lightning. “What’s that?” you asked your neighbor. “An EV. A truck,” they responded. “What is an EV?” you muttered to yourself, but the conversation veered off to a clean stock of battery packs. What?

“EV” stands for “electric vehicle,” and EV sales are escalating more and more each year. It’s a fact of contemporary life, one that you should understand in order to make good decisions about new and exciting transportation options for yourself and your family.

You see, the future of cars and trucks is electric, and it’s time for you to get up to speed (pun intended).

Let’s Start With EV Basics

An EV is a vehicle that can be powered by an electric motor. That motor draws electricity from a battery and is capable of being charged from an external source.

You may have heard of two types of EVs: battery electric and hybrid. A battery-electric vehicle (BEV), also known as an all-electric vehicle, draws electricity from rechargeable electric batteries. A 100% EV produces no tailpipe emissions and doesn’t have a gasoline tank, so, with a BEV, you don’t need to stop for gas anymore.

A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle can be powered either by an electric motor that draws electricity from a battery or by an internal combustion engine (ICE). A plug-in hybrid has two power choices. The ICE element of a plug-in hybrid is the conventional gasoline- or diesel-fueled engine you’ve likely been driving since you were a teen. Plug-in hybrids have an electric-only range from 20 to 60 miles, and you can charge them as you would a BEV. If you exceed the electric range, the ICE kicks in.

How Do You Charge An EV?

Most EVs are plugged in at home — you recharge your car for a series of hours while you sleep. Also, when you’re on a road trip, you’ll use a public charger. How long it takes you to charge depends on the charging equipment you’re using and the size of the car’s battery and its available charging capacity.

Charging looks a lot like filling up your gas tank. Whether you’re at a public facility or your home, you remove the handle from its resting source and pop open your charging port — which is like a gas cap. Your key fob will have a release button, and there’s also one available on your dash options. Next, grab the charging cable.

If you’re charging in your home garage or in public, your charging equipment is probably looped on a hook near the charger. If you have an outside plug, you may store your charging equipment in your car’s trunk. Either way, one end gets plugged into the electrical source (whether it is an EV charger, 220V socket, or traditional electricity outlet) and the other gets pushed into the car’s charging port. You might hear it click, but it depends on the model.

As you go about your non-driving routines, your EV charges up quietly and easily.

Will I Get Range Anxiety?

“Range anxiety” is a term that’s been coined to describe feelings of nervousness and concern about not being able to locate a charger when your EV is getting low on power. But you don’t have to succumb to fear of being stranded with an out-of-charge vehicle before reaching your destination or the closest available charging station.

Proving that EVs can power a typical trip is an important psychological hurdle to overcome for range anxiety. Getting accustomed to any vehicle takes time, and an EV is no different. Give yourself the freedom to say that you’ll experience a learning curve, but you can do this! All you need to do is plan accordingly and appropriately.

The need to own an EV with 300 miles of range is a myth. An oft-cited fact from the US Department of Transportation is that the average person in the US drives 1,200 miles per month, or about 39 miles per day roundtrip. 95% of our car trips are 30 miles or shorter.

For daily use, you will check the charge percentage periodically, think ahead to the itineraries of the upcoming days, and charge to have enough range for those trips.

For those times when you will be away from home and need to use a public charger, you’ll refer to apps on your phone to find chargers on your route and plan to make stops. Think of it as part of rest area breaks, in addition to getting out of your vehicle and stretching your legs. Charging/ rest stops rejuvenate your attention span and extend your ability to get those miles behind you.

How Does Driving an EV Help with Climate Pollution?

Understanding EVs and transportation electrification is important — it’s part of a larger equation of helping to decarbonize the planet. Reducing transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions through deep decarbonization is a foremost problem in the race against climate change.

Battery-electric cars may not emit greenhouse gases from their tailpipes, but some emissions are created in the process of building and charging the vehicles. Studies have found that, though it’s true that the production of a BEV causes more pollution than a gasoline powered counterpart, this greenhouse gas emission difference is erased as the vehicle is driven. Transportation output tends to be measured in usage: vehicle miles traveled (VMT) for cars and trucks, passenger miles traveled for transit, airplanes, and other passenger vehicles, and ton miles for freight. This metric reflects total activity in the transportation sector and directly relates to sector emissions.

An MIT analysis indicates that it’s difficult to find a comparison in which EVs fare worse than internal combustion. More broadly, when it comes to sustainability and the mobility industry, much attention is being paid to bringing down tailpipe emissions, since they account for 65 to 80% of the emissions automobiles generate.

Are There Electric Trucks, Too?

Demand for them is strong due to regulatory shifts to reduce emissions in the logistics and transport sectors. Zero emission trucks were hardly considered viable just a few years ago. Then again, with nearly 80% of all heavy duty trucks now traveling less than 100 miles each day, range is no longer the issue it once was. The continued reductions in the price of batteries have also influenced the growth in model availability. The benefits of electrifying heavy duty truck fleets are significant — recent studies have shown that operating costs for electric trucks can be between 14% and 52% lower and repair costs around 40% lower than their combustion-powered counterparts.

In addition to the noise and air pollution trucks generate, their greenhouse gas emissions reach 26% of the total of the road sector, while they represent only 2% of the vehicles in circulation. EU regulations now require new trucks to reduce carbon emissions 30% by 2030.

Medium- and heavy-duty trucks make up just 7% of California vehicles but are responsible for more than one-quarter of carbon emissions, more than 60% of smog-forming nitrogen oxides, and more than 55% of lung- and heart-harming fine particulate pollution from vehicles. The Advanced Clean Fleets (ACF) rule would require the largest, most profitable, and most polluting commercial fleets in California to begin transitioning to electric trucks in 2024, eventually requiring that the state’s largest fleets purchase only 100% zero-emissions in 2042.


Did this primer about EVs help? Don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comment area below. We at CleanTechnica want to help you to understand the importance of the transformation to electric vehicles.


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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.

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