So what are we getting?

So what are we getting?

If you haven’t heard already from our recent 4.5 year cost update post, we are selling our fossil car, retiring the 2014 Nissan Leaf to be a city commuter, and purchasing a new long range EV.

Edit:  and no, I’m not telling you which vehicle yet 🙂  Look for another blog post soon(ish).  Feel free to guess by leaving a comment below!

And believe it or not, for our personal situation with the cars we already owned, switching the remaining gas vehicle with a new EV is cheaper over the long haul (I’ll explain more in another post).  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, due to the fact that EVs have a fundamentally different life cycle cost profile from gasoline vehicles – operational & maintenances costs are much lower for an EV, more than offsetting the current additional capital outlay in a typical vehicle’s lifetime.  The good news is that as EVs reach cost parity with fossil cars… you’d be literally burning money to keep that “sweet” gasoline/diesel exhaust fume smell and infernal racket under the hood (i.e. you probably are a fossil if you elect to hold onto technology that has clearly peaked).

Comparing life-cycle costs of a typical gas car, typical gas small SUV, typical long-range EV (click to enlarge)

All future vehicle choices, once the EV revolution levels out and gas cars are largely replaced, will follow the generally accepted adage of buying used to be fiscally prudent (of course someone has to buy new cars, thanks to those of you who have the means to do so!).  The next 5 – 10 years is quite possibly the most confusing time to be purchasing a vehicle since we switched from horse drawn carriages to cars because of the huge technological shift.

Is it environmentally-friendly to be getting another car and replacing our gas car early?  Our Subaru Forester is a 2011 model with only 108,500 km on it.  It has at least double that left for its lifetime before someone eventually scraps it.  Here are two ways to look at it, one a thought-experiment, the other some numbers!

  1.  Thought experiment:  if we sell our current (well maintained!) gasoline car and buy an EV, is that a net benefit?  Well, whoever does buy our gas car would have been buying a vehicle anyways, and likely replacing an older beater of some kind that is now in poor condition and producing a lot of other pollutants beyond just CO2.  By supporting the current EV industry, we are helping to drive down costs overall and voting with our $.  My opinion is that it is a net benefit.
  2. Most studies have shown that driving an EV now produces less (to far less!) CO2 (and other emissions) in the operations phase of the vehicles life-cycle.  But what about manufacturing those “nasty batteries”?  I get this comment (either snidely, or out of curiosity) a fair amount.  Take a look at the graphs below, borrowed from the excellent Union of Concerned Scientists “Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Crave” report:
Life Cycle Global Warming Emissions – fossil cars compared with EVs

Figure 7 from the report reproduced above shows that the battery manufacturing is a relatively small component of producing the vehicle for the EV.  The other thing you’ll note is the astonishing amount of emissions from the Operation phase for fossil cars!  The study assumed end-of-life at only 135,000 miles (~217,000 km), and I was contemplating driving on dino-fuel for 4 more years *shudder*, which would have brought the total to about 270,000 km!  (This would make the Vehicle portion smaller in the graph above, but the incremental increase of the absolute amount of emissions would exceed that of manufacturing a whole new full size long range BEV!)

In other words, even just running the Subaru (with fuel mileage equivalent to the full-size car) to a “normal” life of 217,000 km would yield a high amount of emissions, much more than in the manufacture of a new long-range BEV.  (Again, as noted above in the financial section, this is a once-in-our-lifetime phenomenon due to the game-changing technological superiority of EVs.  Once we are talking about replacing EVs in the future with other EVs, we will be back to the normal “keep your car until it is dead” as being better for the environmentYeah future EVs might be a bit more efficient both in materials usage in production and operations, but it will be nothing as compared to switching to powering your vehicle with renewables instead of burning ~25,000 L of gasoline in an average vehicles lifetime!)

But wait, it gets better!  We live in beautiful BC, the land of hydropower, so check out the next graph below:

Comparing energy mixes for emissions… and yes we are the far right (or possibly even further to the right off the graph) – note a minor typo in the graph for the colour of the gasoline car, that bar should be orange, not blue.

And yes, hydropower does come with many of its own issues… TANSTAAFL (from one of my fav authors, Robert Heinlein).  Generally hydro is far better than coal – I think we can all agree on that one!  The crux of the matter is that only with an EV can your source of energy become cleaner over the next few decades.  Fossil fuel is only getting dirtier, as we clean-out the Earth’s interior of the light “sweet” crude and start refining the “dirty sour etc” crude.  (If you really want to go down the rabbit hole, check out the diminishing EROEI value of the latest fads of crude refining… doesn’t look good.)

Lastly, the new long range EV we are purchasing should last roughly 500,000 km (or maybe even more, check back with me in 20 years!), meaning our emission reductions from this one purchasing choice will be on the order of 90% less than if we continued to drive gasoline vehicles.

Edit:  I guess I didn’t give this post a very accurate title, since I didn’t tell you which car we are buying, nor did I intend to haha!  Look for the answer soon.  In the meantime, leave your guesses in the comment section. 🙂

kootenay andrew

kootenay andrew

Andrew is an environmental engineer by day, "kid activity/school volunteer" by evening, and EV advocate / blogger in his remaining spare time.

He is very passionate about the future of energy generation & usage.He prefers bikes to cars, but acknowledges that Canadian cities have been developed primarily with cars in mind, so if we're going to drive, let's make them all EVs!(But let's get EV buses and take those where possible first.)
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kootenay andrew

Andrew is an environmental engineer by day, "kid activity/school volunteer" by evening, and EV advocate / blogger in his remaining spare time. He is very passionate about the future of energy generation & usage. He prefers bikes to cars, but acknowledges that Canadian cities have been developed primarily with cars in mind, so if we're going to drive, let's make them all EVs! (But let's get EV buses and take those where possible first.)

5 thoughts on “So what are we getting?”

    1. So I wasn’t clear – I didn’t intend to say which vehicle in this post specifically, just generically (ie a long range BEV). Any guesses? 🙂

  1. Smart money says Model 3. But if you’re looking for a different form factor, maybe a Kona or Nero. Hopefully a 3, because the lack of reliable Level 3 CCS/CHAdeMO is a contradiction to the ideals of owning a long range EV. Unreliable and few and far between…

    If you are going the Tesla route, feel free to contact me for any user-oriented questions… there’s a 3 in the family now in addition to my S, so I’ve got a pretty good feel for both. And you’d be fine to use my owners code for whatever benefit it provides if/when you buy… brock8103.

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