The nitty-gritty of EV greenness
What’s the real benefit of electric?
In New Zealand, we’re lucky to have more than 80% of our electricity coming from renewable sources, like wind and hydro power. This matters because EVs aren’t inherently good for the environment - they run on electricity, so how renewable they are depends largely on how renewable the electricity fueling them is. For New Zealanders, you can think of the running of your EV as being 80% renewable. If you have solar at home, or get your electricity from a renewables-only energy provider, your EV comes even closer to ‘carbon neutral’.
To use an analogy...
That means that for every petrol or diesel car, you would need 213 mature pohutukawa trees to undo the damage. Rather than planting more than 200 trees each year to even things out, we can just switch to electric!
P.S. electric vehicles also have no exhaust fumes, and are purringly quiet, reducing noise pollution.
Start of Life-cycle
Of course, even a pre-loved EV has a carbon footprint. EVs have to be manufactured, and that process requires energy. So how bad is it?
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the carbon dioxide produced from making a single electric vehicle is offset after that vehicle has driven around 7800 km. This is assuming that the EV has driven those kilometres in place of a fossil fuel car.
Since the EVs we import are pre-loved, the previous owner likely already offset your EV’s carbon footprint before it reached New Zealand, which is pretty cool.
So we’ve covered the birth of our four-wheeled friends, but what about...
End of Life-cycle
Over time, EV batteries degenerate and eventually become unsuitable for car use. So what happens to your battery at the end of its time in your EV?
Currently, a number of overseas businesses are working on ways to reuse EV batteries for residential and industrial energy storage. That means that old EV batteries will help us to transition to solar energy for our homes and businesses.
While New Zealand businesses are lagging behind in this field, as the EV population continues to grow the incentive for reusing batteries will grow as well. By the time your EV battery becomes unsuitable for your car, there should be plenty of uses for it, from letting you turn your house into a solar-powered home, to selling it to battery and solar businesses that will reuse it for others’ homes and businesses. It’s all pretty exciting.
Plus, that doesn’t have to be the end of life for your EV - businesses and manufacturers are also developing battery replacements, so in the future you’ll be able to remove your old battery and replace it with a shiny new one, practically giving your car a second life.
This probably leads to the question, ‘When will my battery no longer be suitable for use in my EV?’
You can go here for a thorough summary of all things Nissan Leaf longevity-related (as well as much more). But for a brief summary…
Each Nissan Leaf battery should be happy with driving about 200,000 km. However, there are variables, including how you charge your car, your driving style, and how you use it. Here are a few tips for battery longevity:
Try to keep the charge of your battery between 30 km and 80% charge. Going to the extremes too often is stressful for the battery.
Charge using slow chargers when possible. Fast chargers are excellent for efficiency, but again, they stress out your battery.
If you live in more extreme weather conditions, like down south, your EV will prefer a cosy home in a garage at night.
Also, the meaning of ‘unsuitable’ depends on what your needs are. If your commute has you driving 80 km daily without the ability to charge during the day, you’ll need a battery that can drive that far. However, the average daily commute in New Zealand is less than 29 km, meaning that for most people, even a battery with a range of 50 km will still do the job.