Though the demand for EVs is growing in the United States, electric vehicles only make up a small fraction of total car sales in the country. There are several hurdles to going 100% electric, ranging from supply chain issues to the lack of charging stations and it’s going to take a while to reach the goal of having no ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles on the road. How can we get there faster? The answer is solar power.
California’s New Law
In 2022, California announced that it would ban the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) cars within 13 years, making it the first state to impose such a sweeping reform against gas-powered vehicles. It follows in the footsteps of the European Union’s new law and might trigger other U.S. states to do the same.
Starting in 2035, new car buyers will only be able to choose from electric vehicles, although they can still buy used gas-powered cars from individual dealers. ICE car owners will also be allowed to keep their vehicles until they’re no longer driveable. Automakers will face a steep $20,000 penalty for every gas-powered car they produce in California, which would effectively cancel out most or all of their profits from selling such vehicles.
Cars have a life span of about 15 years. Therefore, it could be around 2050 by the time the last gas-powered vehicle retires from California’s highways. That’s still a shockingly short time from now, considering that only 5% of total U.S. car sales are currently electric.
Compared to a nation like Norway, where EVs dominate over 80% of the market, California has a lot of legwork to do to achieve its ambitious goal. But using solar panels to generate electricity will help since solar power can take some of the strain off the grid.
Challenges to Overcome
Before California can make the switch to all-electric vehicles, there are a few obstacles to surmount.
- Few Charging Stations
For people who just want to commute to work, a 200-mile range is excellent. But it’s daunting if you want to take a road trip through a rural part of the state.
People living in apartments also face barriers to charging an EV — without a personal garage, where will they charge their car overnight? Will landlords be willing to install charging stations for every tenant?
President Biden’s 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will invest money to repair roads and build 500,000 electric vehicle chargers across the country. This is good news, as the lack of charging stations is one of the biggest hangups preventing people from buying an EV. Having regularly spaced chargers in both urban and rural areas will increase people’s confidence in driving long distances.
- Long Charging Times
Fully recharging an EV at home can take hours. Even using a roadside station to charge an electric vehicle partially takes longer than pumping gas, which is a major drawback to EV adoption.
However, scientists are working on reducing battery charge times, which could make it more feasible to fill up the battery during a quick highway stop. Furthermore, if people had personal solar panels on their homes, everyone could generate enough electricity to charge their cars overnight without overloading the grid.
- A Short Supply of Batteries
Auto dealers are having a hard time keeping EVs on the lot because the demand for them far exceeds the available inventory. Why? In a nutshell, batteries are hard to come by.
The price of lithium — a critical component of making batteries — has surged recently. That makes it harder to acquire. As a result, it’s harder to find an electric vehicle for sale.
Even people wealthy enough to buy a new EV often can’t find one. Until batteries become more widely available, it’s a tough time to be shopping for an electric car.
- Overseas Lithium Processing
China processes most of the United States’ lithium. American car companies are under pressure not to depend on China, since tensions between the two countries are running high.
The U.S. needs to ramp up domestic battery production as soon as possible or it could be out of luck if China decides to stop supplying lithium. This is a potential barrier to wider electric vehicle production.
- Destructive Battery Production
Mining the metals used to create car batteries is a dirty process. Zinc, lithium, cobalt, nickel and manganese all come from the ground and people must dig enormous mines to retrieve them. This is destructive to the surrounding ecosystem and the leftover mining waste can also pollute the environment. Furthermore, manufacturing batteries emits a lot of carbon.
Auto manufacturers must look for ways to use less of these minerals, such as by improving their batteries. There also needs to be a focus on recycling used EV batteries to reclaim the metals inside them. This will help avoid the need to open new mines.
- High Electric Vehicle Prices
As is the case with solar panels, many people are on board with the idea of reducing their carbon emissions. Who wouldn’t want to use less fossil fuel and make a positive impact on the environment? One challenge is electric vehicle batteries are simply more expensive to produce than internal combustion engines, so the cars themselves are pricier.
There are federal and state incentives to produce cheaper EVs and to help consumers purchase them. But the average price of a new electric vehicle is $55,000, which is outside most people’s budget. The current battery shortage is driving up the cost even more.
Hopefully — as with all new technologies — prices will fall enough over the years that the average person will be able to afford an electric car.
- An Unprepared Power Grid
The power grid will have to change to accommodate electric cars. For example, if most people charge their vehicles around the same time after they get off work, the transformers might not be able to handle the demand. What’s the solution? For one thing, utility providers can potentially install smart meters and transformers to measure energy usage, then distribute it at peak hours.
An even better solution is for people to put solar chargers on their homes. Unlike fossil fuels, solar panels don’t create emissions, so they’re a green alternative to relying on the main electric grid. By generating their own power, residents can lower their electric bills, become self-sufficient and reduce their carbon footprint.
This is especially pertinent given that many people are seeing outrageously high Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) bills in states like California. A summer heatwave put excessive strain on the electric grid as people ran their air conditioners more.
In response, utility companies warned people they would face rolling blackouts if they didn’t reduce their electricity usage. Installing solar panels would reduce the strain on the power grid, lower people’s energy bills and prevent power outages. Without solar panels, charging an EV might be unaffordable for people already getting high PG&E bills.
- Job Shifting
When California’s new law takes effect, automakers will need to hire more people with the skills to design electric motors. Additionally, some gas station workers might be out of a job.
It’s also possible, however, that their roles simply might change. After all, people still need somewhere to wait while their car charges, so gas station attendants might become baristas or deli workers. The shift to electric cars probably won’t cause a catastrophic wave of unemployment.
We’re a Long Way From Having All EVs
Sustainable energy is critically important to the environment — even if progress is slow, the world is starting to take action. The state’s new law is a massive step in the right direction and signals the shift in mindset that people are beginning to adopt. Every retired gas-powered car is a victory. California may be a long way from electric vehicles, but it can get there faster by going solar. Our solar energy experts can show you a wide range of solar solutions and help you find the best one for you. Contact us today to get a free quote!