The precipitous drop in costs for renewable energy technology—even from prices a few years ago—means that carbon emissions may decrease faster and hit the targets earlier than those envisioned by the Paris Climate Agreement. Here are three technologies making that happen:
1. Solar – the average price of a MWh of electricity from solar cells has dropped from $394 in 2009 to $55 today. Solar accounted for 39% of all new electric generating capacity last year, topping all other methods for the first time.
3. Electric Vehicles (EVs) – the changes in EV availability, cost, range and customer acceptance are remarkable.
EVs like the Tesla 3 and Chevy Bolt have a range of over 200 miles. Even the 25-30 mile range of many new plug-in hybrids covers over 80% of the trips most people take, with the gasoline engine available for the remainder. The cost of the new Tesla and Bolt is around $35,000, yet the average cost of a new car in the US this year is $34,000. Over 20 new EVs will be introduced in the next year, with the cost per mile for electricity usually less than half the cost of gasoline, depending on fuel costs in each area.
Recharging EV batteries takes less time today; some of the newer technologies can charge batteries to 80% capacity in 30 minutes or less—which makes the growing network of recharging stations at restaurants and highway stops more pertinent.
Tesla’s Model X was tested as the safest SUV ever, of any type. Without a gasoline motor or transmission, EVs can have larger ‘crumple zones’ and the batteries under the floor create a lower center of gravity reducing roll-overs. They often accelerate faster than gasoline-powered cars because of the greater range of torque in electric motors.
Non-hybrid EVs also win the maintenance test since they have no transmission, engine, radiator, water pump, oil pump, etc. to service. Because of their simplicity and the reliability of electric motors, EVs may last 500,000 miles or more.
While coal currently provides about 30% of US electricity, that number is declining with each passing year. In contrast, the share of renewables is growing rapidly and will surpass coal, perhaps sooner rather than later. Thus, as time goes on, EVs will be even better for the environment as their source fuel becomes cleaner.
The economic momentum of renewably-powered cars is also moving governments to support the trend. India’s new policy is that the country will sell only EVs by 2030. China is singing the same tune, with new requirements and support of their own EV industry. Britain and France just announced an end to fossil fuel cars in their countries by 2040.
Wayne Parker is a consultant who helped develop one of the earliest electric car competitions and was Deputy Director of California’s SolarCal office. He lives in Eugene, Oregon now and has a Tesla Model 3 on order. (Find him on LinkedIn)
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