Category Archives: Electric Vehicles

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.

It is time to abandon fossil fuels

The transportation sector of our economy has recently become the number one contributor of greenhouse gasses, surpassing electricity production just this year. Oil production is up due to improved recovery methods, essentially fracking. This causes a lowering of the price of gasoline stimulating the purchase of bigger cars and hence more fuel consumption.

Meanwhile, greenhouse gas production from the electricity sector is down because of increases in electricity production from renewables such as wind and solar. Coal-fired plants are on the decline with much of that production being replaced with cleaner-burning natural gas.

The obvious need now is to wean our transportation systems off the use of fossil fuel products such as gasoline and diesel and convert them to electric power. Electric vehicles are inherently more efficient even when charged from the grid. Gasoline and diesel are pure fossil fuel whereas electricity from the grid has contributions from fossil fuel free wind, solar, nuclear, and hydro. Much electricity is produced from natural gas but it is cleaner burning than gasoline and diesel.

Most types of transportation are accessible to electrification. Some rail lines, particularly passenger trains in the east are already electric powered and there are no great impediments to extending this to all rail traffic both freight and passengers. Long-haul trucking will soon see the first generation of electric 18-wheelers. Tesla Motors is currently testing a semi with a 500-mile range. In the wings are delivery vans and pickup trucks.

Several totally electric passenger vehicles are on the market now. Tesla model 3 and Chevrolet Bolt are small sedans showing up across America. They both have a range of about 250 miles and the build-out of rapid charger networks will transform passenger car traffic.

Short range delivery vehicles are ripe for conversion to electric power. They have defined routes and predictable energy needs plus a central location for charging when not in use. Charging delivery vehicles at night is especially beneficial because there is excess generating capacity so rates are lower.

One of if not the best application of electric fleet vehicles are buses. Clean running buses in urban locales can greatly improve air quality over fossil fuel powered buses, even those employing clean burning natural gas. With electric buses there are no local pollution emissions and greatly reduced greenhouse emissions from remote generating plants.

Everyone with a child or grandchild, a niece or neighbor, who rides a school bus daily is exposed to noxious emissions from those buses. The bus that idles while waiting to pick up a load of children at school, the bus that idles while picking up and dropping off children in the community, the bus that runs up and down our highways and byways are all significant sources of pollutants such as fine particulates, carbon monoxide, and the components which form smog and ozone.

And finally, if climate change and the health of children aren’t enough, consider the fact that electric vehicles are cheaper. Electricity as a fuel is one third to one quarter the cost of gasoline and diesel. Maintenance costs are considerably lower for electric vehicles – fewer moving parts, no oil changes, radiator fluids, longer brake life due to regenerative braking, etc.

It’s time to start talking to superintendents, school boards, the PTA – anybody that will listen. Electric school buses are good for both our children and our pocket books.