Las Cruces Should Adopt Electric Vehicles

Oct 3, 2018

Commentary: In early September at an electric car presentation we gave at the SWEC, the CLC Sustainability Officer, Lisa Larocque, spoke about the resistance the city had to purchasing electric vehicles. The vehicle service department expressed concerns they were unprepared to service electric vehicles.

These concerns, while understandable, are mostly without merit. Electric Vehicles (EV’s) are a class of automobile technology that is fundamentally simpler than the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE). The IC engine along with the automatic transmission for delivering torque to the wheels is composed of some two thousand moving parts.

The Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) electric motor and its attendant gear reduction drive train (EV’s have only one gear) is composed of less than a hundred moving parts. They are not only simpler; they are more reliable, and durable.

Service problems, such as they exist, reside with the electronic controls such as the onboard inverter, related computer controls, and controls for delivering the precisely needed high voltage power from the battery to the drive unit.

Some members of the CLC service department will need training and certification to deal with issues pertaining to these electrical control items. They should receive training to ensure safety in working with high voltage equipment, but they will be rewarded in learning new skills that will serve them well into the future. In the meantime the vehicles can be serviced under warranty.

The City of Las Cruces cannot make a decision concerning the adoption of electric vehicles on the basis of unspecified fears. Electric vehicles not only represent the future, but opportunities for savings in both the operating cost and the servicing cost of the vehicle fleet.

Let’s compare two vehicles, one an ICE vehicle rated at 28 MPG, and one BEV rated at 108 MPG-e in city traffic. Unlike ICE vehicles EV’s perform at their highest efficiency in city traffic.

At 12K miles a year, a gas car will consume 428 gallons of gas at $2.50 a gallon for a total cost of $1,071. An electric car will consume the equivalent of 111 gallons of energy. There are 32.777 kWh of energy in a gallon of gasoline so that means it will use 3,642 kWh.

Some power is lost charging the battery (called charging loses) and at 240 volts for a 40 amp service this would be 10% for a 90% charging efficiency. This increases our needed power to 4,046 kWh. At 6 cents a kWh for off peak demand metered power that represents $242.79 a year. This is an $828 savings per vehicle.

Electric vehicles can do this because they are miracles of efficiency. Electric motors and the gear reduction units are from 90% to 95% efficient at delivering power to the wheels. Internal combustion engines are about 20% efficient at delivering energy to the wheels. The remaining energy is lost as heat.

A substantial savings in servicing electric vehicles also exists. The potential for using solar generated electricity to charge electric vehicles with zero emissions is possible whereas it is just not possible with gas cars.

El Paso Electric has no coal fired generating plants (they claim) so I calculate a kWh only entails the emissions of 0.42 pounds of CO2 per kWh. Our electric car would emit 14.15 pounds of CO2 per 100 miles. Our fossil car at 19.6 pounds per gallons would emit 70 pounds of CO2 per 100 miles.

The City of Las Cruces needs to get more serious about saving taxpayers money and addressing environmental concerns. The CLC should adopt electric drive technology as soon as is practical. There is no better way to address servicing concerns than to add electric vehicles to the fleet and gain real world experience.

EV’s do not need oil changes, air and oil filters. Brake maintenance is less because of regenerative braking which uses the electric motor to slow the vehicle by putting power back into the battery.

The City of Las Cruces is missing out on substantial savings in the operating costs for their vehicle fleet by not adopting electric vehicles as well as important environmental benefits. It is 2018 and it is the 21st century so the time has arrived to embrace the future in Las Cruces.