Everywhere you turn, electric vehicles are in the news. People new to EVs may be confused as to how they compare to the cars they’re used to driving with internal combustion engines (known as ICE vehicles). Some of the differences might surprise you!
EV vs. ICE Efficiency: Differences and Similarities
When you fuel your ICE vehicle, you know how many gallons you’re purchasing and the price per gallon. And, the price of gas is basically the same in any given neighborhood (except for that odd station that seems to charge 25% more, and every time you drive by, you wonder how they stay in business). That price per gallon doesn’t change regardless of how many gallons you buy, or the speed of the pump.
In an EV world, there are no direct translations.
The price for electricity is determined by the public utility and varies by geography, time of day, and whether you are charging at home (which is true of most EVs) or at a public charger (which almost certainly costs more). Some public stations charge by the minute rather than by the amount of electricity consumed, leading to unpredictable pricing. Others have multiple subscription plans or charge different rates at different times of day. Also, are you using a Level 1, Level 2, or fast charger? That also makes a difference in both costs and speed.
Worried about getting stuck in the snow? If you’re driving an EV, there’s good news! ICE vehicles heat their cabins with waste heat generated from the engine’s moving parts, which means you’ll need to idle the engine to stay warm – burning fuel. In contrast, EV batteries don’t need to run the engine if you are stranded. Just the heat, so the car battery uses less than a couple of kilowatt-hours (kWh) of battery power each hour to keep you toasty – and that can last a long, long time.
Power the Grid
The ability to provide power back to the grid using vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology is already available for some electric vehicles, with more on the way. That capability isn’t available at all with traditional ICE vehicles. Why does that matter? At any given time 95% of cars are parked and their energy sits unused. V2G allows those cars to send some of the stored power to the grid if there is a demand spike. EVs can provide power to help balance grid loads by allowing charging at night, for example, when demand is low and sending power to the grid during the afternoon when demand is high. Peak load leveling keeps voltage and frequency stable, so utilities don’t need to build as many power plants to meet peak demand and homes/businesses have power during power outages – and a lower electric bill to boot.
Waste Not, Want Not
Did you know that ICE vehicles waste about 80% of the energy in their fuel? Most of the energy is consumed by the heat produced in the engine. Other energy inefficiencies stem from pumps and fans cooling the engine, mechanical friction within the transmission and drivetrain, and auxiliary electrical components such as heated seats, lights, and audio system. In fact, for every dollar spent on gasoline, only 20 cents of it is used to move an ICE vehicle along the road. EVs, however, operate at about 87% – 91% efficiency – in part due to regenerative braking, which recaptures energy that would otherwise get lost as heat from friction.1
While we’re talking about efficiency, I can’t pass up the opportunity to remind you that wireless charging is as efficient as plug-in charging. Check out my earlier blog post about wireless vs. wired charging for EVs.