The Rise of Electric Vehicles

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There's no denying that electric vehicles are the future of the automotive industry. As consumers and governments continue to grow increasingly concerned with their environmental footprint, the demand for electric vehicles will continue to rise. In addition to environmental interests, demand is fueled by government incentives and manufacturing innovation.

Electric Vehicles – How “Clean” Are They?

With environmental considerations having an impact on demand, some may ask, how "clean" are electric vehicles? Whether a hybrid (HEV), plug-in (PHEV), or all-electric (EV) model, electric vehicles produce fewer emissions contributing to climate change than conventional, gasoline-powered vehicles.

These emissions are broken down into two categories: direct emissions and life cycle emissions.

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Direct Emissions vs. Life Cycle Emissions

Direct emissions are those emitted through the car’s tailpipe, including greenhouse gases (GHGs) and other dangerous pollutants. Life cycle emissions are those emitted from the product’s life cycle, including fuel production, distribution, and recycling or disposal. Similar to direct emissions, life cycle emissions are harmful to human health.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, PHEVs and EVs emit zero direct emissions when running solely on electricity. However, PHEVs can release direct emissions when running on gasoline. All vehicles produce substantial life cycle emissions; however, electric vehicles produce fewer. The exact amount varies depending on several factors, including car models and geographic location.

Measuring the Impact

In order to measure the impact on the environment, we can analyze carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e), the standard unit for measuring a vehicle’s emissions. The higher the CO2e, the more global warming pollution produced. According to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), the average gasoline-powered car in the U.S. emits 11,435 pounds of CO2e annually, compared to the average all-electric vehicle, which emits only 4,091 pounds of CO2e annually, a significant amount less. In addition to national numbers, the EERE offers numbers state-by-state.

One consideration of environmental impact is the amount of CO2 emitted in the production of electricity and the manufacturing process. According to a 2020 study from scientists from the universities of Exeter, Nijmegen, and Cambridge, published in the journal Nature Sustainability, electric vehicles and heat pumps generate less CO2 than fossil-fuel-powered cars or boilers in 95% of the world.

In addition to the current-day benefits of electric vehicles, this study demonstrated that EVs become greener over their lifespan, as electrical grids continue to become less carbon-intensive. Aligning with industry trends, the study projects that by 2050, every other car on the streets will be electric. If this were true, global CO2 emissions would be reduced by up to 1.5 gigatons per year. To put this number in perspective, that's the equivalent to the total current CO2 emissions of Russia.

What Is Your Carbon Footprint? 

There are plenty of online tools to help you determine how much of your carbon footprint you are reducing by driving an electric vehicle. This includes the aforementioned tool with the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and an even more granular tool created by the U.S. Union of Concerned Scientists, which analyzes zip codes, model makes, and other information.

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Government Incentives and Innovation

In addition to environmental interests, demand for electric vehicles is fueled by government incentives and manufacturing innovation.

The government plays a vital role in the adoption of electric vehicles, often supplying tax credits, subsidies, rebates, and other financial incentives to purchase or manufacture electric vehicle charging equipment. In addition to financial motivations, consumers benefit from local incentives, including HOV lanes and designated parking.

In certain U.S. states, EV-ready building codes mandate or encourage implementing EV-ready building infrastructure to easily facilitate charging stations, benefiting both property owners and consumers in the long-term. In states such as California, building codes require electrical wiring to be installed for electric vehicle chargers in both commercial and residential settings.

Innovation also plays a critical role in the adoption of electric vehicles. As technology continues to evolve, manufacturers are significantly improving battery life while simultaneously decreasing the cost, improving the quality and cost of electric vehicles for the consumer. Car manufacturers continue to drive innovation, as the number of companies offering electric vehicles continues to grow. By 2040, over 60 million electric vehicles are projected to be sold.

The availability of public charging stations is also growing. This increase in availability drives user-acceptance and the appeal for electric vehicles, as drivers feel more comfortable in their ability to charge and get from place to place efficiently.

The Future of Electric Vehicles

As the growth and demand for electric vehicles and public charging stations continues to expand, it's important to be aware of the current-day benefits, environmental impact, and government incentives. Not only are electric vehicles better for the environment, but they can present a new opportunity for many businesses to increase their value. Are you ready to get started with an EV charging solution?

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The opinions expressed in this piece are solely Leviton's. They do not necessarily represent WESCO’s views.