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Will Electric Cars Run on Renewable Energy?

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Electric cars generate zero-tailpipe emissions, making them one of the best tools to fight climate change, helping reduce the 27% of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions generated by the transport sector in the U.S. and 37% of the emissions worldwide. Currently, many Electric Vehicles (EVs) are powered by an energy mix that includes fossil fuel energies, coal energies, and a few cleaner energies.

Figure 1: U.S. GHG Emissions by sector

However, it is possible to reduce the overall GHG emissions released by the transport sector by combining electric vehicles and renewable energy. In this article, we will explain how is possible to recharge EVs entirely with renewable energies,  assess the positive impact of EVs on the environment, and explain many other interesting things about EVs.

What Is Renewable Energy?

Before diving into the subject of how it is possible to recharge EVs with renewable energy and produce renewable energy cars, it is important to understand what this type of energy is, its impact on the environment, and more. There are many natural resources on Earth in constant movement and by changing their state renewable energy can be harvested by taking advantage of those natural resources, without disrupting the natural ecosystem of the Earth.

Renewable energy could be potentially harvested for unlimited periods, but only under the available limited flow of energy.  .

 One of the oldest and most important renewable energy sources is hydropower, which can be harvested using a large-scale hydropower plant. Other popular renewable energy sources that can be used to power electric vehicles include wind energy and solar energy. Wind energy can be harvested using a wind turbine, while solar energy requires solar panels, both of these clean energy sources can be harvested directly in a home. Bioenergy, tidal energy, biomass, and others can also be valuable renewable energy alternatives.

Will Electric Cars Run on Renewable Energy?

Since electric power generated from a renewable energy source can be used like traditional energy from the grid, it is entirely possible to power an EV charging station using renewable energy. This can be achieved by either charging the vehicle at the moment power is being harvested from a renewable energy source or by storing that energy in a battery storage system for later usage.

Charging EVs with renewable energy is as simple as setting up the energy source when you power the EV charging station. If for instance, you are using solar energy, you can charge your vehicle during the day when the solar energy is being generated or store that energy to charge the vehicle at night. In this case, you use a solar inverter to convert DC energy stored in the batteries into AC energy used by your EV charging station.   

Figure 2: Peak Sun Hours (PSH) map

The best way to understand how to power electric car charging stations with renewable energy is with an example. Assuming that you are located in one of the States that have an average of 5 Peak Sun Hours (PSH)   and that you drive an EV with a 50 kWh battery which range lasts for a week, you could think of charging your vehicle solely on renewable energy. By selecting a 2kW PV system, you would be able to partially charge your vehicle on a daily basis to cover your daily needs.  In order to make this completely fossil fuel free, you would need to install a 10kWh battery  to store the energy generated by the PV system and then charge your vehicle on a daily basis using the energy stored inside the battery.

The Positive Impact of Electric Cars on the Environment

EVs have a great potential to benefit  the environment. Since electric cars convert 77% of the energy consumed into power at the wheels, while Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles only convert up to 30% of it, EVs pollute much less than fuel-based vehicles even if powered with dirty energies.

Manufacturing an electric car indeed generates more pollution than manufacturing an ICE vehicle, but GHG emissions break even after driving 17,400 miles. In general, EVs produce 64% lower GHG emissions over their life cycle, which shows their potential to improve the environment.

Emissions generated by an EV can be reduced by as much as 89% if electric cars and renewable energy are combined. Powering EVs with this type of energy and switching from gas gives humanity the potential to reduce emissions to 90% of the current levels by 2050, which would not only save a great number of lives, but also improve life quality, and deliver many other benefits.

Myths about Electric Cars

There are many myths about electric cars. In this section, we want to debunk some of the most common myths spread as a misconception about this technology.

1. Myth: Electric vehicles are worse for the environment because they produce more GHG emissions when manufactured.

o   Fact: EVs indeed produce more GHG emissions during manufacturing, but they easily break even emissions with gas vehicles after nearly a year and a half of driving. This expectancy can be reduced by combining electric vehicles and renewable energy.

2. Myth: There are not enough EV charging stations available to charge EVs.

o   Fact: There are 146,302 EV Service Equipment (EVSE) units distributed in 55,000 different locations around the United States. This means around 13 vehicles for every charger, without considering residential EV chargers.

3. Myth: The average EV range is not enough for the average American.

o   Fact: The average EV features a 234 miles driving range. This means that charging your electric car around 5 times a month is enough, considering the 13,476 miles driven per year in the country.

4. Myth: The price for an EV is too expensive.

Fact: EVs do tend to have a higher upfront cost, but currently there are EVs under $30,000 before incentives. To top that, driving an EV is 60% less expensive than an ICE vehicle, making Total Ownership Cost (TCO) for EVs similar to or lower than for gas vehicles.

Why Is It Important to Continue Incorporating New Technologies into Electric Vehicles?

Currently, EVs have great potential to help the environment and fight climate change. These vehicles are cheaper to drive, produce zero tailpipe emissions and lower GHG emissions in general, and deliver many other features that put them over conventional gas vehicles.

Incorporating new technologies into electric vehicles will make them more efficient, reduce their cost as EV batteries become less expensive, and make them more attractive for the general public. Aclear example of new technologies incorporated into EVs is the Lightyear One, one of the new solar powered cars featuring cutting-edge technology and the highest efficiency thanks to the inclusion of PV modules on the vehicle.

As technologies advance, the design and engineering of current and new EVs should be improved. An interesting and promising alternative is the hydro electric car, powered by hydrogen. A hydroelectric power car produces no tailpipe emissions, can be recharged as fast as a gas vehicle and has the potential to produce as little emissions as an EV powered with solar power.

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Nick Zamanov is a head of sales and business development at Cyber Switching. He is an expert in EV infrastructure space and he is an EV enthusiast since 2012, Since then Nick strongly believed that electric vehicles would eventually replace Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars.

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