2DI has been around for 14 years, although it rebranded in 2015 to align with its focus on helping individuals and families make better decisions to shrink their carbon footprints. The organization wants to enable people to do their part directly, as there are many NGOs focused on pointing governments and industry in the right direction. The 2 degrees part is, of course, a reference to the 2 degrees Celsius agreed-upon limit to warming, set at the COP21 conference in Paris.
2DI has an excellent group of science advisors stocked full of solid researchers, science communicators, and several respected institutions represented.
- Dr. Pieter Tans, NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory
- Dr. James Hansen, Columbia
- Dr. Paul Slovic, UofOregon
- Dr. Jeremy Shakun, Boston College
- Dr. Hendrik Wolff, Simon Fraser
- James Hoggan, DeSmogBlog
- Dr. Edward Maibach, Center for Climate Change Communication
- Dr. Geoff Dutton, NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory
According to Ryan Logtenberg, 2DI’s Director, the Board has accrued slowly over multiple projects and years as the Institute grew and developed its network and strength. The Institute is mostly self-funded, but Logtenberg told me that the second-largest source of income is through an annual grant from the BC’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
For the report in question, Logtenberg pulled together a small team including himself and two regular collaborators, Prof. James Pawley of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a 2DI Board member, and Barry Saxifrage, self-proclaimed chart geek with the National Observer and Visual Carbon. They realized that while there were good studies done in other parts of the world, they wanted to create a Canada-specific version to help families in each province make better choices for themselves and their children.
Their methodology is transparent and good. They gathered gasoline, electricity, and vehicle maintenance costs for each province from credible sources. They selected basic family cars available in Canada in both internal combustion and electric drivetrain options, the Volkswagen Golf and the Kia Soul. No Tesla Model S100D drag racers in the group, just cars that average families might own.
They looked not at the annual distance individual cars were driving, but at household mileage to ensure that families would have information most relevant to their needs. They looked at both a 10 year and 250,000 kilometer (155,000 mile) lifespan of cars to ensure that they were not artificially picking a sweet spot.
What they found surprised even them.
We knew that EVs were less expensive to operate, but after running the numbers, we were completely surprised by how substantial the savings were.
— Prof. James Pawley, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Certainly, one of the things which surprised me was the claim that none of the top 10 repairs done on cars applied to electric cars at all. It seemed unlikely, so I reviewed the source and it not only seems credible, the statement is true as well.
Catalytic converters? Not on an EV.
Evaporative Emissions (EVAP) Purge Control Valves. Nope.
Fuel injectors? That’s just silly.
Loose fuel cap? Sure.
Ignition coils and spark plugs? Wait, do cars still have those? It turns out that they do — they are just buried in the engine and are one of the things you generally are supposed to let professionals with computerized toolkits play with. Gapping your own plugs is apparently a thing of the past.
So, how big were the savings? About $27,000 (Canadian) for fuel and maintenance over the lifespan, more than the price of many new cars in Canada.
This varied somewhat by province, with oil & gas–dominated Alberta seeing by far the highest savings of roughly $36,000, partly because people in that province drive the furthest per year. Tiny Prince Edward Island of Anne of Green Gables fame saw the lowest savings of around $22,000 over 10 years.
Of course, there are inevitable questions about the underpinning assumptions of the report, but it’s transparent about those as well. The initial cost of vehicles is well-explored with per-province subsidies. Unfortunately for the report, something which will likely be addressed, the new conservative Ontario government eliminated electric car subsidies along with a raft of other positive programs, including 758 renewables contracts, just as the report was released.
Similarly, the potential for battery replacement was explored. Their choice to not include battery replacement costs in the 10 year lifespan seems reasonable, but could be argued. For a Tesla Model 3, a battery around the size of those in the cars in the study is projected to cost around $6,500 (US) or about $8,400 (Canadian). That would eat into the economic case somewhat, but would still leave close to $19,000 (Canadian) to put toward the next car. EVs will be cheaper then and batteries likely more robust as well.
The report is another data point showing that a family’s total cost of ownership of electric cars is better than for gasoline or diesel vehicles. And with all of the other benefits — including health, much lower greenhouse gas emissions, and typically greater safety — it’s not hard to see that the shift to electric cars will only accelerate.