Top 10 Electric Vehicle Consumer Questions - Explained!
The 10 in 10 Podcast
BRANDON FISHER: Hello. Welcome to the 10 in 10 podcast. Electric vehicles are a hot topic with automotive buyers today. However, some consumers have concerns before making the transition to EVs. I'm Brandon Fisher, head of engineering for our eMobility, power distribution, and protection product lines.
DAN OUWENGA: And I'm Dan Ouwenga, senior manager of power electronics technical strategy for eMobility here with another Eaton 10 in 10 podcast. Engineer to engineer, we're going to be discussing 10 consumer misconceptions related to electric vehicles. Brandon, we've got 10 minutes and 10 questions. So let's get started.
To start off, one of the major factors that concern vehicle owners is related to range. What can you tell us about the battery range of EVs compared to gas or diesel vehicles?
BRANDON FISHER: Thanks, Dan. Most electric vehicles have over 200 miles of range today. Some even have options up to 300 miles of range. There's also a difference in how we use these electric vehicles. So we charge these electric vehicles at home, and I leave each day with a full battery charge, so that gives me over 200 miles a day.
Additionally, most users are driving vehicles roughly 50 miles a day. So that leaves plenty of battery for you to do your daily commute, return home, and charge for the next day.
DAN OUWENGA: Will charging availability become an issue for EV owners as adoption increases?
BRANDON FISHER: As I mentioned, with electric vehicles, we'll change the use in how we charge. So instead of driving to fuel, we'll actually do more of charging where we're parked. And so you don't actually have to go out of your way to fill up an EV.
In fact, most cars are parked 95% of the time. So whether you're at work, at home, at a shopping center, you can be charging these vehicles. And then, of course, when we have longer-distance trips, there are DC fast charges that are placed strategically along major highways for charging for long road trips. In fact, Eaton is working on a line of chargers, from smart chargers for your garage to DC fast chargers that would go along the highway or in parking lots.
DAN OUWENGA: Are there enough charging stations to support the growing number of EVs on the road?
BRANDON FISHER: The number of EV chargers available today is really strong enough to meet the current demand, and it continues to grow. So as of 2021, there were over 1.6 million public and commercial charging stations on the ground globally. That number is going to grow rapidly over the next few years to over 9 million charging stations in 2028.
When you add this to the fact that most people charge at home, and additionally, you've got workplaces and shopping centers adding charging centers, charging stations aren't going to be a problem for the adoption of electric vehicles.
DAN OUWENGA: Great. So next question is, will the electric grid be able to handle the influx of EVs?
BRANDON FISHER: The reliability of the electric power grid is definitely meeting the demand today. And the development of smart charging and bidirectional charging will actually make electric vehicles be advantageous to the grid. So as technology advances, EVs will become a dynamic part of the grid and not just an endpoint or a load on the grid.
Eaton is working with utility companies and building manufacturers to provide solutions that really enable more flexibility into the grid. And like I said, you'll be charging your electric vehicles, and there may be some scenarios where electric vehicles are actually generating energy or dumping energy back into the grid for some of the peak load situations today.
In addition, a lot of these vehicles are being charged at home, as I mentioned. And that enables them to be charged at night, when the grid is very lightly used.
DAN OUWENGA: And my final question for you is, are EVs as affordable as gas or diesel options?
BRANDON FISHER: Great question. So automakers are definitely responding to the demand for more affordable EV options with several makes and models that are really already comparable in price to their gas or diesel counterparts. In addition to that, first-time EV buyers can also offset some of that cost with state and federal tax credits that are still available.
And the other thing that you need to think about is in the long-term, these electric vehicles have a more affordable cost of ownership. The maintenance on them is very low. And so drivers are not being held hostage by fuel prices, for example. Electricity prices are very stable and much less than the equivalent full tank of gas.
In addition, fewer tuneups, fewer moving parts are on board these electric vehicles. And so what that means is essentially, it's new tires. It's windshield wiper fluid and brakes, but at a far less consumption rate than your gas vehicle.
Thanks, Dan. Now I'm going to ask you a few. Many consumers associate EVs as a greener alternative to internal combustion engine vehicles. Is this really true?
DAN OUWENGA: Let's start with the obvious. EVs have no tailpipe emissions, which automatically make them better for the local environment than gas or diesel-powered vehicles. For example, in the winter, I warm up my EV in the garage with the garage door shut. That's not really advisable with a gas or diesel car.
Then we're looking at the bigger picture for CO2. Even if your electricity comes from a coal power plant, it has lower greenhouse gas emissions than a comparable new gas or diesel vehicle. Electric vehicles are just incredibly efficient.
If you're curious about the impact of driving an EV in your community, there's an online tool called Beyond the Tailpipe Emissions Calculator developed by the EPA and Department of Energy that allows you to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with charging and driving your EV where you live.
BRANDON FISHER: Some vehicle owners feel disposing of EV batteries could become a sustainability issue. Should we be concerned about EV batteries filling up landfills?
DAN OUWENGA: The batteries in electric vehicles are highly engineered to last a long time, typically 10 to 15 years and 1,000 to 1,500 cycles, in some cases much more. For example, a battery with a 300-mile range and a 1,500 cycle rating would mean 450,000 miles of use.
Plus, there's a lot of development that continues to increase that cycle life rating of the battery. We could even see batteries outlasting the vehicles they're put in. Today, many automotive companies already offer battery warranties of greater than 100,000 miles. And once batteries are no longer useful in vehicles, they can have a second life used as energy storage for things like solar panels, backup power for homes or businesses, and many other things.
And finally, for the complete end of life, there's battery recycling, which right now is getting a big investment from the industry. Some recycling companies are already claiming to recover 95% of the valuable materials.
BRANDON FISHER: Should EV owners be concerned about running out of power if they get stuck in traffic?
DAN OUWENGA: When your EV isn't moving, your electric motor doesn't use any power. So the heating and cooling system uses energy directly from the battery. You don't need to have an engine idling, like an internal combustion engine car, to have heating or cooling.
With the small amount of energy used for heating or cooling and relatively large batteries in modern EVs, some people use their EVs for camping and can sleep with the cabin at a comfortable temperature all night and still have plenty of battery left in the morning. So the short answer is you'll have plenty of power to sit in traffic for a lot longer than you'd like to sit in traffic.
BRANDON FISHER: Excellent. What about the topic of safety? Are EVs safe to drive?
DAN OUWENGA: EVs need to go through the same crash safety testing as gas or diesel-powered vehicles. And in many cases, the EVs have very high safety scores. Some of the safest vehicles on the road are actually EVs.
There's a few reasons for this. First is the batteries on the bottom of the car, which lowers the center of gravity reducing the chance of rollover. Second, since there isn't an internal combustion engine up front, the crumple zones can be optimized for even better occupant safety. And for EVs, there's also an additional focus on battery safety. While you might have seen some high-profile EV fires reported in the news, electric vehicles actually catch on fire at a significantly lower rate than gas or diesel-powered vehicles.
Eaton works very closely with automotive companies around battery pack safety. One of our products called Breaktor can quickly shut down the battery pack within milliseconds in the event of a collision or short-circuit.
BRANDON FISHER: OK, Dan. I have one last question for you. Does driving an EV mean sacrificing speed or performance?
DAN OUWENGA: On the contrary, modern EVs are now getting a reputation for high performance. There are some EVs which are quicker than the latest gasoline or hybrid supercars. Plus, when you want to have a little fun without drawing any unwanted attention, EVs are quiet, even when accelerating quickly.
Anyone interested in performance vehicles should at least test drive one of these modern EVs. You won't be disappointed.
BRANDON FISHER: Thank you for the discussion today, Dan. To learn more about how we're enabling the future of electrification, please visit eaton.com/eMobility.
Brandon Fisher is the head of engineering for Eaton's eMobility, power distribution and protection product line. He originally joined Eaton as a project design engineer from the Cooper-Bussman acquisition and prior to his current role, Brandon worked as engineering product line manager for power distribution and protection systems. Brandon received his Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering at the California Polytechnic State University.
Dan Ouwenga is the senior manager of power electronics technical strategy for Eaton’s eMobility business. Dan has spent his career in the automotive industry focused on engineering vehicle powertrain solutions from hydrogen fuel cells to supercharging internal combustion engines for many of the global auto manufacturers. He is now focused on driving the transition to zero emissions vehicles. Dan has more than 20 patents. He received his master’s degree in Systems Engineering from Cornell University and his bachelor’s degree from Lawrence Technological University.