As a new-energy vehicle option, EVs are growing in popularity. They are a good fit for some customers, such as full-time cab, Uber, and Lyft drivers who drive long distances.
EVs are also important for the environment as they reduce GHG emissions. However, their high production cost makes them less profitable for OEMs.
How EVs came to be
It took 171 years for electric vehicles to make their way to today’s roads. The first successful EV was the Electrobat, invented by Philadelphians Henry G. Morris and Pedro Salom in 1894. The heavy, steel-tired car had a top speed of only 20 miles per hour and was loaded with 1600 pounds of batteries.
Other inventors tried their hand at making EVs in the 19th century, including Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. But they were limited by a lack of available electricity and a market flooded with gas-powered cars.
During the early 1990s, interest in environmental issues reemerged and auto manufacturers began developing hybrid vehicles. But it wasn’t until the early 2000s that they started making electric versions of their traditional models, such as the GM EV1. But this car was a failure due to its low range and lack of consumer demand. EVs continued to evolve and today are more advanced than ever before.
Why EVs are so popular
Unlike steam engines, EVs produce no harmful emissions and don’t need oil pumps or fuel tanks. This allows them to operate more efficiently, and they’re significantly cheaper to maintain and run than gas-powered vehicles.
Moreover, EVs’ low emissions reduce pollution, which is in turn beneficial for health. Princeton University researchers who work on clean energy models estimate that switching to EVs powered by renewable or other zero-carbon electricity would avoid up to 170,000 premature deaths and $1.5 trillion in damages by 2050.
The first big breakthrough came from a Silicon Valley startup called Tesla. The company produced a sporty, all-electric car called the Roadster that cost less than $100,000 and could travel up to 207 miles on a charge.
The company’s success prompted legacy automakers to begin developing their own electric models. However, these cars weren’t always as fast or as long-ranged as the Roadster. And they were still a costly luxury for many consumers.
The future of EVs
EVs have grown to a huge scale, and they’re only going to continue to grow. EVs have a role to play in decarbonizing road transport, and the growth of EV sales could help bring us closer to the IEA’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario.
Despite the fact that electric cars were once very expensive to buy and run, the initial cost has dropped significantly over the years. This, coupled with the growing selection of models to choose from, means that EVs are increasingly attractive to prospective buyers.
Battery prices have also dropped substantially, largely due to increased production and new technology. Combined with lower development and manufacturing costs, this has helped to narrow the price gap with traditional vehicles. This, in turn, has helped to increase the adoption of EVs around the world. EVs are now on the verge of replacing some ICE vehicles in major markets such as Norway, where the average EV is already cheaper than an ICE car.
The cost of EVs
Thanks to advances in technology, EVs are much more affordable than they used to be. Many electric car models are now available for the price of a typical crossover SUV, and even less when factoring in federal and state incentives.
That said, EVs still cost more than regular cars to make. This has everything to do with lithium batteries, which are more expensive in materials and design than batteries for conventional vehicles.
Fortunately, EV prices are expected to come down as demand increases and manufacturers reap the benefits of economies of scale. The same kind of supply-and-demand economics that we learned about in Microeconomics 101.
EVs also don’t require hundreds of complex mechanical moving parts, so they tend to run more smoothly and cost less to maintain. And they don’t produce exhaust, which means they cut down on dangerous pollutants that have been linked to disease and premature death. These benefits can be hard to quantify, but they’re certainly real and substantial.