How efficient is an electric car?

Celeste Vervoort — Copywriter

There is no doubt that in the coming decades there will be many more electric cars and other electric vehicles entering the streets around the globe. Leading this trend is Europe, one of the continents where we already see an accelerating growth in the purchase of electric cars. This blog will shed a light on an important yet seldom asked question: How efficient are these cars, and why does that matter?

The Paris Climate Agreement is driving governments worldwide to finally define their approach to reducing CO2 emissions. It’s clear: If we are to make the agreement’s goals we need to step up our electric car game. However, more electric cars in itself will not necessarily solve our emission problems.

One of the obstacles that has repeatedly been pointed out by the automotive industry is how there are far too few charging points to supply all future electric cars. Moreover, charging these cars requires much more electricity than we currently produce, which in turn results in an increased strain on the electricity infrastructure, especially at ‘peak hours’. Our infrastructure is not yet ready for an electric future, and significant investments are needed.

*Based on an average use/driving distance of 20.000 kilometers per year and 10.000 kilometers on solar-powered energy per year (in the Netherlands)

Not all electric cars are equally efficient

More worrying is the way all the needed electricity will be produced. Most of the electricity used to charge electric vehicles today is so-called ‘gray’ electricity. Gray electricity is generated predominantly using coal and other CO2 emitting sources. In short, we are just moving the problem rather than solving it. Instead of cars directly polluting the environment we will have more power plants than ever before doing the exact same thing. We need to find a way to charge our electric cars sustainably, and without breaking the grid.

Producing enough energy for all of us to drive electric sustainably is a challenge. Sure, the sun provides plenty of power, but getting this power in the right place at the right time still requires an enormous effort. If we one day all got our electric cars and plugged them in around the same time in the evening, we would trigger a power cut. The grid as it is now is not at all able to process immense peak demands like that.

We need to think about efficiency if we want to make electric vehicles scalable. In the near future everyone should be driving an electric car, but the grid cannot make the transition as fast as we can.

We cannot solve the emission riddle by making more of just any kind of electric vehicle. Instead, we need to rethink how we handle our energy. Not every electric car is equally efficient. Some require significantly more energy than others, which means not every electric car cuts emissions as much as another electric car.

 We do not need heavier infrastructure and bigger batteries: We need more cars that use less energy so that they can supply their own.

Lightyear One is not just an electric car, but a solar-electric car. Having solar cars removes pressure from the grid but perhaps more importantly, Lightyear One is an incredibly efficient electric car. The less energy our cars use, the less energy we need to produce. We do not need heavier infrastructure and bigger batteries: We need more cars that use less energy so that they can supply their own.

The industry is at a crossroads: Are we going to stay put and wait while we slowly rebuild our entire system, placing charging points and batteries, or are we going to optimize our cars so we can go ahead without delay?

We cannot expect charging stations and clean electricity production facilities to just pop out of the ground. Building those takes time – too much time. We need to move forward right away. This is why we are working on the ultimate solution. By combining the power source with the vehicle we can create a car that ‘charges itself’, one that generates its own energy. Lightyear One is a first step to emission-free transport for all.

Want to read more about how we see the energy transition? Read our CEO Lex Hoefsloot’s blogpost here.

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