Plugging Into Electric Vehicles: Greener Technology Could Pave Way to Less Carbon Emissions - 27 East

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Plugging Into Electric Vehicles: Greener Technology Could Pave Way to Less Carbon Emissions

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Rosemary Mascali charges her Hyundai Kona. COURTESY ROSEMARY MASCALI

Rosemary Mascali charges her Hyundai Kona. COURTESY ROSEMARY MASCALI

The Sustainable Southampton Green Advisory Committee hosts

The Sustainable Southampton Green Advisory Committee hosts "Electrify Your Ride" last June at the South Fork Natural History Museum & Nature Center in Bridgehampton. COURTESY LYNN ARTHUR

A Toyota electric vehicle charging port. COURTESY LYNN ARTHUR

A Toyota electric vehicle charging port. COURTESY LYNN ARTHUR

Sustainable Southampton and Drive Electric Long Island bring a selection of electric vehicles to the San Gennaro Feast of the Hamptons in Hampton Bays. COURTESY LYNN ARTHUR

Sustainable Southampton and Drive Electric Long Island bring a selection of electric vehicles to the San Gennaro Feast of the Hamptons in Hampton Bays. COURTESY LYNN ARTHUR

A Ford F-150 Lightning at Storms Ford in Southampton. DANA SHAW

A Ford F-150 Lightning at Storms Ford in Southampton. DANA SHAW

Under the hood of a Ford F-150 Lightning at Storms Ford in Southampton. DANA SHAW

Under the hood of a Ford F-150 Lightning at Storms Ford in Southampton. DANA SHAW

Detail of a Ford F-150 Lightning at Storms Ford in Southampton. DANA SHAW

Detail of a Ford F-150 Lightning at Storms Ford in Southampton. DANA SHAW

Charging a Ford F-150 Lightning at Storms Ford in Southampton. DANA SHAW

Charging a Ford F-150 Lightning at Storms Ford in Southampton. DANA SHAW

authorMichelle Trauring on Oct 26, 2022

From the outside, the newest Ford F-150 Lighting looks like a standard pickup truck — with a spacious cargo bed, seating for up to five passengers and every luxury finish expected from a 2023 model.

All except for an engine, that is.

Lift up the hood and there’s not much to be found underneath, save for a 14.1-cubic-foot “fronk” — or front trunk — as coined by the auto giant, which began rolling out its first-ever electric pickup truck in April.

With more than 200,000 reservations and a three-year backlog by the end of 2021, the automaker plans to produce 150,000 F-150 Lightnings in 2023 — which is double the number of its inaugural run — and 600,000 electric vehicles, or EVs, total by the end of next year.

These figures put Ford on track to scale to an annual output of over 2 million EVs by 2026 — sending a strong message to the auto industry that the future is electric.

“We’re going at 100 miles per hour, I can tell you that,” Stuart Schoener, the general manager of Storms Ford in Southampton, said, adding, “Ford’s committed investments, between batteries and EV plants and so forth, in excess of $50 billion. So the train’s left the station. It’s happening.”

Of the 2.1 million registered cars on Long Island, nearly 33,000 are electric, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. That number has almost doubled from 2019, explained Rosemary Mascali, chair of the Drive Electric Long Island education and outreach committee, which reported 18,000 EVs on the road just three years ago.

A few months ago, Tesla signed a long-term lease to take over 54 Montauk Highway in Water Mill — previously the home of Pier 1 Imports, across the street from an Audi dealership — to be closer to its customer base. In Nassau and Suffolk counties, the manufacturer’s Model 3 and Model Y are the most popular EVs, by a wide margin, followed by Toyota’s Prius Prime and RAV4 Prime, according to NYSERDA’s EValuateNY tool.

“It’s really been taking off,” Mascali said. “Last year, it doubled from the year before. This year, it’s on track also, even with all the supply issues. If we didn’t have the supply issues now, forget it. I think we’d be at 50,000. There’s a lot of demand.”

Interest in EVs has reached an all-time high, but consumers still have questions about the ins and outs of the greener technology, especially when poised against a backdrop of volatile gas prices and the growing threats of climate change.

“The simple answer to support moving to electric vehicles is that we would be moving away from the direct burning of fossil carbons — diesel and gasoline fuels,” explained Mark Haubner, co-founder of Drawdown East End, a grassroots organization that aims to reverse global warming. “We are subject to the laws of physics, which tell us that we must live within a carbon budget. We are burning fossil carbons at the rate of 30 gigatons — that’s 1 billion metric tons, or the equivalent of 10,000 aircraft carriers — every year.

“Every gigaton we burn raises the temperature of the planet and we are looking at 2050 to be our tipping point of 2 degrees Celsius — about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit,” he continued, “at which point we would expect heat and drought and rain and storms to be wildly worse than they are now.”

In Southampton homes, the average greenhouse gas emissions are more than eight times the average in regional households, according to Lynn Arthur, the founder of PeakPower Long Island and energy chair of the Sustainable Southampton Green Advisory Committee. And a quarter of that is due to transportation, she said.

As New York aims to limit state greenhouse gas emissions to 60 percent of 1990 levels by 2030 and 15 percent by 2050, EVs could be an integral part of the solution, Arthur said.

“That target is very close,” she said. “That’s just eight years from now and it’s a pretty hefty objective.”

An all-electric vehicle, which does not emit greenhouse gases, operates using an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine. A large traction battery pack, installed in the bottom of the car, powers the motor, and is charged by plugging into a wall outlet or charging station. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles also use a conventional internal combustion engine, which takes over once the battery loses its charge.

“From just a car guy’s point of view, there isn’t a car in the world that doesn’t get better by putting an electric drive train in it — and not just a little better, like, a lot better,” Schoener said. “It’s unbelievable how smooth and powerful that drive train is. It’s unreal. Instantaneous power, no transmission, so there’s no gear shifts at all. It just goes.”

With the dawn of EVs, consumers experienced what has been dubbed “range anxiety,” or the fear that the car’s battery would die on them mid-trip. Technology has come a long way since the earliest models, Schoener explained, and there are now many EVs that can complete a 200-to-300-mile trip on a single charge — as well as public charging stations, and apps that direct drivers to them, across the country.

“There’s really not a lot of downsides to it, in terms of just the car,” he said. “It’s going to be transformational for the car business.”

Over the last decade, the cost of entry into the EV world has dropped, with lower-end models starting just under $30,000 and prices of high-performance luxury cars soaring into the six figures. What used to be a niche market now includes nearly every vehicle class, from compacts and SUVs to sports cars and sedans.

“The cars are a bit more expensive, but I think over time, that will take care of itself as they start to mass produce this stuff,” Schoener said. “The prices will come down and, eventually, you’ll have price parity with internal combustion cars — maybe even cheaper by the end of it, who knows.”

In a historic vote in August, California moved to require that all new vehicles sold in the state must be either electric or plug-in hybrids by 2035 — pointing to what could be a nationwide shift. Last month, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul said the state would aim to follow in the footsteps of the largest auto market in the country.

While new homes in New York are not yet required to come equipped with EV chargers, many have a “make-ready component,” Mascali said, allowing for the electrical work to be put into place during construction — which was not the case for her early 20th century home in Manhasset, she said.

Over the summer, she purchased an all-electric Hyundai Kona, which she and her husband frequently drive to their second home in East Quogue, as opposed to their Mercedes-Benz C-Class. “It was costing us, at the height of the summer when gas prices were crazy, about $20 round trip in our Mercedes C-Class, because it takes premium gas,” she said. “In my Kona, it costs me $8 round trip — big difference, big difference.”

Up until now, the couple has charged the car using a Level 1 charging station, which uses a basic house electrical current — 110-120-volt AC — and simply plugs into a standard grounded wall socket using a three-prong plug. Charging overnight during off-peak rates, the Kona gets 5 miles of charge per hour, which allows Mascali to top off the battery with 60 miles, which is her typical daily usage.

“We’ve gone almost 4,000 miles with a 110 outlet and it hasn’t been a problem,” she said, adding, “For about 1,000 miles of driving a month, it’s about $40 a month.”

That said, Mascali took advantage of a PSEG Long Island rebate for a Level 2 Smart Charger, paying just $150 for the $600 charger — though the discount has since decreased to $400 off — which is currently sitting in her living room, waiting to be installed.

“A Type 2 uses the 220-240 outlet, like you would use for a dryer,” she explained, “so it’s giving you more electricity through that and using more space, amps in your box.”

In order to accommodate the voltage, Mascali will upgrade her service from 100 amps to 200 amps, which will cost about $3,500, she reported. Next, an electrician will run a line from the electrical box to her driveway — “My driveway happens to be the exact opposite corner of my house from where my box is, it couldn’t be farther away,” she said with a laugh — which she expects to cost about $1,200.

“Once you do that, it really costs pennies on the dollar to charge the car versus what it costs to put gas in it,” Schoener said. “From a cost perspective that way, I would say it’s one-seventh or one-eighth of the cost of fuel. Right now, it’s probably closer to one-tenth, just because gas is so high. It’s a really cost-effective thing for a consumer.”

A Level 3 charger, which is designed for commercial use, can bring an EV battery up from discharged to a full charge in an hour or less. According to the U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center, there are over 6,500 public fast chargers across the country, with eight on the East End. In England, all new businesses and homes will be required to have EV chargers from this year forward, and many other European countries offer incentives and grants to make installation more affordable.

“There’s definitely a political thing to it,” Schoener said of some of the reticence in the United States. “You can’t say that Democrats like them and Republicans don’t, or vice versa, but there’s definitely some percentage of the market that’s very resistant to them because they’re resistant to the whole idea of it.”

The largest criticism lies in the process of mining key metals, such as lithium, copper and cobalt, that are used in EV batteries. Cobalt especially presents its own social issues regarding child labor and environmental damage in the Republic of Congo, where it is most prevalent, Haubner said.

“Without a doubt, we must consider applying these vast quantities of materials to vehicles of mass transit rather than hundreds of millions of vehicles used for personal transport,” he said. “On a positive note, there are small companies making great strides in recovering used EV batteries and other materials from EV cars.”

The average battery life of an EV is currently unknown, according to Schoener, though Ford batteries are covered for eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first, retaining a minimum of 70 percent of its original capacity over that period. He anticipates the next breakthrough will be in battery technology — making them smaller, lighter and offering twice the range, which will only increase demand.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Mascali said of the shift toward EVs. “I tell people, if you’re not sure, if you’re not ready for an electric vehicle, keep your old car. Don’t buy a new one, don’t put a new one on the street — because that new one is going to be around for 10, 15 years. And, pretty soon, you’ll be ready if you’re not ready yet.”

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