Monthly Archives: February 2021

Electric Fleet Vehicles Should Lead the Way

President Biden, unlike his predecessor Donald Trump, has a rather aggressive plan to address global warming and climate change. His plan is not as aggressive as the green new deal proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez but nonetheless a much-needed plan which will be beneficial to society. The most important part of addressing climate change in anybody’s plan is to stop burning fossil fuels – coal, oil, and natural gas.

Of the three, coal is on the way out already due to economics. The share of electricity production from burning coal has fallen from over half to less than a quarter in just thirty years. It is being replaced by natural gas and increasingly by wind and solar.

To replace crude oil, the majority of which is refined for transportation fuel, will require electrification. Much greater electrification and for that matter expansion of our rail system. This can go a long way by itself but on the road vehicles must be converted to electricity as well.
Tesla automobiles started off the modern movement to electric vehicles, and represent the lion’s share of all-electric vehicles. Right now the total market for electric vehicles (EVs) represents only 1.8 percent of all. This will change in the future as every major vehicle manufacturer and several new companies are developing Evs.

Likely, light utility trucks will lead the way, especially fleet delivery vehicles. They are ideal for the current state of EV development. Right now two problems limit the expansion of the use of EVs, their somewhat limited range and its attendant range anxiety, and the time to recharge the batteries.
Generally, fleet delivery vehicles have a well-defined daily route so the size of the battery can be matched to the specific needs. Likewise, charging time can be planned for when the vehicle is not in use, usually overnight when electric rates are lower.

Long haul over-the-road trucks will take longer to develop as the charging needs for a large truck like a semi are considerable. A diesel-powered semi with a couple of hundred gallons of fuel has a range on the order of a thousand miles. The current leader in the development of electric semis, Tesla, has a truck with a range of five hundred miles and a charging time on the order of half-an-hour.

The move to electric vehicles, especially box trucks and vans is just beginning. Established companies such as Volvo and Freightliner already have delivery vehicles in production. Large corporations such as Walmart and UPS are placing orders. Amazon has invested three-quarters of a billion dollars in a truck startup called Rivian.

Additional advantages of electric propulsion for trucks are the fact that electric motors have essentially one moving part and therefore require much lower maintenance costs and electricity is much cheaper than gasoline and diesel on a per-mile basis.

The ultimate advantage to all of us is that they are much, much cleaner even when charged from the grid as it is becoming increasingly clean. Local air quality is improved and greenhouse gas emissions are decreased.

Dr. Bob Allen is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, Arkansas Tech University.

Electric Vehicles – Nuts and Bolts

One of the biggest advantages of electric cars is that there are fewer of those nuts and bolts. Also no oil, coolants, belts, transmissions et al. The fewer moving parts in the drive train, the longer it will last, other things being equal. Although electric cars are now more costly on the front end, the much lower maintenance and fuel cost result in lower cost over the long run.

The cost to own and operate a vehicle is the ultimate determinant for a lot of folks, but after that are a few other things about electric cars, one being fueling and the storage of the fuel. We’re talking about charging batteries. The unit of energy for electric cars is kiloWatt-hour (kWhr.) A fully charged battery pack will hold a certain number of kWhrs, (a Chevy Bolt battery pack will hold 60 kWhr) the more the battery pack will hold, the farther you can travel, just like a bigger fuel tank gets you farther.

How efficient the electric propulsion is in miles per kwhr is important A small to medium electric sedan can be expected to get about four miles per kWhr with all the caveats which influence an internal combustion engine (ICE.) Generally, the faster you drive, the poorer is your mileage. Colder weather and strong headwinds affect electric and ICE-powered cars alike. The United States EPA has made it easier to compare the efficiency of gas and electric cars. For electric vehicles, the EPA provides a number, miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) which allows a direct fuel efficiency comparison. For mid-sized electric sedans, the mileage is greater than100+ MPGe.

With a mileage that is three to four times better for an electric vehicle over an ICE, it will cost you one-third to one-quarter of the cost of buying gasoline for a given distance. One of the few drawbacks of electric cars is charging time, which varies depending on the charging technology.
The simplest way to charge an electric car is to plug it into a wall outlet. This will charge slowly because 110-volt outlets run at a minimal current. To fully charge an average electric vehicle will take a day or more at a wall outlet. For topping off a battery or for short errands around town this is sufficient. For longer trips, it is better to install a 220-watt charge station. This is referred to as a level II charger. These will fully charge a battery overnight.

If you’re ready for that two-week vacation with the family you will need to find level III chargers, just like you need to find gas stations along the way. Now it gets a little messier. Different vehicles have different connector plugs so you have to be sure you find the right kind of charger station. A small to mid-sized electric sedan can fully recharge in about one half an hour. A road trip in an electric vehicle will necessitate stopping every three to four hours for one half an hour. Enough time to stretch your legs, go to the restroom and get a bag of chips and a cold drink. As battery technology continues to improve, the distance you can go will increase, and the charging time decrease. Bon Voyage.

Dr. Bob Allen is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, Arkansas Tech University.