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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
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20 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. Pingback: Cost Update – 4.5 years at 172,000 km – Kootenay EV Family

  2. 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.

    1. Actually a long range rear-wheel drive… more to come on that choice in my next post (which I am trying every night to get time to work on haha!)

  3. As for the new EV lasting 500,000km, I think you are being optimistic on that one. Yes the Model 3 should definitely drive 500,000km without too many issues, but I doubt the battery will last 20 years without significant degradation or failure.
    The more we learn about electric vehicles, the more we see that age is the primary enemy, not mileage. Even the mediocre batteries in the Leaf do quite OK with high mileage, but seem to steadily degrade with age no matter how they are treated.

    1. I’d say it’s more about charge cycles than age actually. 100,000 km on my Model S which is coming up on 4 years of age. Degradation appears to be in the 1.5-2% range at this point. And data from Tesla owners worldwide seems to indicate that the rate of degradation slows after an early-ish drop. The Leaf battery is probably the worst system to use in modeling battery life and degradation. Thermal management is essentially zero.

      1. But you are talking about a battery that is 4 years old and using that to make assumptions about performance over 20 years. What are the chances that none of the thousands of cells in your Model S will fail over 20 years? We have no data on that.
        And the data on battery degradation is self-selecting and doesn’t account for all the batteries that failed completely. That is not an accurate guage of battery reliability.

    2. I’ll probably reach 400,000 km in 10 years, so I’m pretty sure I’ll get that far at least. As Brock notes, the Leaf has (so far) the worst degradation rate of any EV out there due to a combination of chemistry chosen and lack of high temperature thermal management (of any kind). My Leaf is at 82%, turns 5 in February 2019, and currently has 175,000km on it. If that turns out to be roughly linear, it will be at 64% in year 10 with about 212,000 km, which will still suit our local driving needs.

      Everything I’ve read on Tesla batteries is that they degrade at a slower percentage rate than Leaf packs, so I’m pretty comfortable that I’ll reach at a minimum 10 years.

      (A side-note on Leaf packs, I’ve seen anecdotal evidence that people who don’t drive them typically degrade as fast or faster… not because of lack of use, but because they keep the battery often charged pretty high (or even at 100%), which is a big driver of degradation – look up the Jeff Dahn presentation on “why lithium ion batteries fail” – interesting stuff in there!)

      1. Yes, leaving the battery either full or close to empty isn’t good for battery life. I’m not sure how many automakers allow the charge level to be controlled… certainly Tesla does. I leave my charge set to 70%, which likely helps maintain battery life. I have a used i3 that doesn’t seem to have any control… and I suspect the Leaf is the same. If you don’t want it topped up all the way, you have to run out to the garage in your jammies and unplug the car at the opportune moment… 😉

        I have no doubt that the LR RWD will be a great car for you. My mother took delivery of her Model 3 in September (she’s 80!) and is really loving it. Range is ridiculous. Everyone I know with a RWD S or 3 tells me the traction control is amazing. I can’t comment because mine is dual motor, other than to say that it just DOESN’T lose traction! You can mat it on a gravel road, or with one side of the car on asphalt and the other on gravel, and it accelerates straight and without a rooster tail of gravel behind.

        If you want any direct Tesla ownership answers or thoughts, Andrew, please feel free to contact me directly… brock at nanson dot net or 250 314 7769. My owners code is brock8103, which almost always gives a buyer some sort of perk – you’re welcome to use it. It used to be that the owner got something when a code was used too, but our provincial government decided owners aren’t licensed car salesmen, so can’t receive any benefit from the referral program… so it’s now more about providing a support system for prospective buyers and new owners. And having Tesla know we’ve been helping the mission.

      2. The data we have is that for Tesla packs that don’t fail, degradation seems to be low. However what we don’t have is the failure rate. I’m concerned that in the long term one of those thousands of cells will fail, and it seems that especially on the Model 3 they are not repairable so then you replace the whole pack.

        I’m sure you’ll make it 10 years, but 20? A complete unknown at this point. We don’t have any lithium batteries that old.

        As for the Leaf batteries. I have a 2013 with 65,000km on it, and it is currently at 86%. It gets driven 10,000 km/year and I completely baby it by keeping it stored at damn near 50% throughout the week when I’m not using it, and usually only cycling between 70% and 30% with the occasional full charge.
        Really hasn’t made all that much difference to degradation, the SoH still dropped steadily during my ownership period (2 years). When I bought it 2 years ago it read out 95% but I assume it was miscalibrated or had been reset because within 4 months it dropped to 90%.

        1. It’s true that we don’t have much data through time, but the indications are looking better with every passing year. It all relates to a blend of battery chemistry, thermal management, charge management, usage patterns and blind luck.

          The batteries in the Model 3 are a newer variant than what I have in my S. I fully expect them to be better than what I have… and what I have is looking good. 8 years and unlimited km’s for warranty, so I’m not at all concerned just yet. The Model 3 is 8 years and 192,000 km I believe.

          I’ve witnessed the technicians plug their laptop into the car and see the entire array of cells. I have no idea how they manage it technically, but they can see if a battery is failing. And the pack somehow adapts – meaning a failing cell apparently doesn’t take the pack down. Or so I inferred from the tech’s comments. And given that they’re in multiple modules, replacement may be more practical than one might expect. However, the key detail to recognize is that when a Tesla owner decides it’s time to replace the pack, the pack contents still have significant value as – for example – stationary storage. So there would presumably be an offset value (core credit) against a new pack. Tesla is closing in on the elusive $100/ kWh (USD) price point for cells we understand. I expect they’ll reach it and continue below it. So the batteries in my 85D would be worth $8,500 USD or so (plus pack cost) as of today. By the time I may need to replace at my own cost, the price will presumably be lower. And the core cost would likely apply.

          I have read that Nissan is also re-purposing Leaf batteries as they are cycled out of the cars.

          This link has some interesting data on battery life (first generation form factor) so far…

        2. The 3 has 4 modules, which should be replaceable individually if enough cells fail within a module necessitating replacement. Wouldn’t be cheap though, at about 20 kWh per module.

          One thing to note on checking the Leaf State of Health via LeafSpy, it has seasonal variation. It is only really accurate in mid fall and mid spring I find. Summer it is artificially low, winter it is high. Swings almost 5%!

          My Pentax K7 is a bit over 9 years old now, and the battery is still going pretty strong. I’ve taken tens of thousands of shots on it and cycled the battery a lot. I think if that little consumer battery can last that long, with no effort to prolong its life, I’m reasonably confident the Tesla pack will last that long at the very least.

          I do wonder about calendar life failure… my Leaf will be my canary!

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  5. Thanks for this, even if it is a couple of years old by now.

    Thanks also for the TANSTAAFL reference. It’s a concept that seems have been forgotten, and needs to be resurrected. I live in Quebec, which is effectively 100% hydro powered as well. Hydro is NOT blameless, but can’t compare with coal-fired generating stations at the emissions level.

    My biggest gripe about EVs is that no legacy auto maker is coming anywhere close to meeting demand for their products. I’m on a waiting list for a Kia Niro EV, and expect to be for a while. Unfortunately a Model 3 does not meet my cargo needs, and so I wait.

    1. If you’re waiting anyway, consider a Model Y. Should be coming into production this year and will likely be a significant improvement on the Niro.

  6. I’d love a Y! Only they’re starting with LR and Performance editions first, as with the 3. Std Range (+?) looks to be slated for mid 2021. The LR RWD price point is significantly higher than the Niro top end.

    I need the larger size for carrying stuff to farmer’s markets, and the boxy Niro will work quite well holding stock, tables, commercial canopy and assorted paraphernalia. The streamlined sloped back of the Y maybe not so much?

    1. Hard to say how much usable space it will have, but it’s not a small vehicle IMHO. The shape of the space may be more important to you than the actual volume. However, the difference in technology will be significant…

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