Electric Car Sales Have Increased Steadily – What Is The Social Impact?
Update 05/10/2023 – we added an extra impact on economic shifts that is happening now as resources shift to electric cars.
The number of electric cars in use has increased steadily in the last decade.
This is due to better technologies, government incentives, more and better manufacturing capacity, greater electric vehicle infrastructure, and a consumer population willing to switch to vehicles that have a lower carbon profile.
But what is the social impact of electric cars? How do they benefit society as a whole?
In the US, the new “Inflation Reduction Act” directs $369 billion of government incentives to manufacturing and resource extraction for support of electric vehicles.
Whether you agree with the act or not, the future impact almost is certainly an increase in the number of electric cars.
There’s a lot more to electric cars than meets the eye.
In this blog post, we will discuss the social impact of electric cars and how they are changing the world for the better.
Introduction – Social Impact
Electric cars have been around for over a century, but they only recently started to become popular.
The first electric car was built in 1891, and the technology has come a long way since then.
Today’s electric cars are much more efficient and reliable than their early ancestors.
And thanks to advances in battery technology, they can now travel for hundreds of miles on a single charge.
One of the main reasons why people are interested in electric cars is because they’re environmentally friendly.
The zero-emissions performance of electric cars is great for reducing an individual’s carbon footprint. Travel, including personal travel and commuting to work, is a major contributor to carbon emissions.
And because EVs are so efficient, they use less energy than traditional gasoline cars.
The combination of higher efficiency in terms of miles per kWh of energy used and the nature of the electric grid containing renewable sources powering it means electric cars reduce your carbon footprint in multiple, synergistic ways.
Another reason is electricity is cheaper than gas on a per mile basis for both United States and Europe.
This obviously only holds true as long as gasoline prices stay at their prices and not drop too far.
Given the geopolitical events of 2022, and the energy crisis engendered by the Russia-Ukraine war, in the short term electrical vehicles seem like a smart move.
In short, you’ll save money on fuel costs with an electric car.
And because electric cars lack the complex set of moving parts of an internal combustion engine, they require less maintenance than gasoline cars.
As a result, you’ll save money on maintenance and repairs with an electric car.
What Are The Social Impact Of Electric Cars?
The social impacts of electric cars are many and varied.
They range from increased environmental awareness to reduced dependence on oil-producing countries. Here are top 7 social impacts of electric cars:
1. Greater Integration And Decentralization Of Power Consumption And Generation – Vehicle-to-Grid Technology
Car batteries are large energy store devices.
The largest Tesla battery is 100 kWh and the smallest ones are over 30 kWh.
Even the smallest one has enough capacity cover the average power needs of a home for one day. Given the scale of car batteries, they are viable as energy stores.
Consumers will take advantage of drawing energy from both solar and the electric grid, optimizing for off-peak usage times, and returning energy into other cars, their homes, buildings, and the grid.
In other words, an electric car becomes a player in the storage and delivery of energy. This concept is also known as vehicle-to-grid or V2G.
The other way that electric cars decrease centralization is due to the concurrent adoption of personal renewable energy generation systems.
Solar panels for the home installed over the annual home capacity is well-suited to redirect to the refueling of electric cars parked at home.
For medium distance travel this is viable with Level 2 chargers that will add about 200 miles of range for a modern electric vehicle of moderate efficiency.
This additional use-case incentivizes the adoption of renewable energy systems.
2. Development Of Electrification Infrastructure
In the above, we suggest that cars will assist in decentralization.
The flip side, better centralized infrastructure, will also be helped by greater adoption of electric cars.
From the beginning, electric cars and charging stations have faced a chicken-and-egg problem or the network-effect challenge.
Without the cars, there’s no incentive to build a large charging infrastructure, and conversely, without a large charging infrastructure, there’s a disincentive to buy electric cars.
Tax credits for buying cars, car owners profiting from V2G, have the effect of overcome the challenges to building such infrastructure.
In May 2023 Tesla and Ford announced a partnership to share in Tesla’s charging network which gave both companies a shocking 7% boost.
Investors must have found the synergy compelling – Tesla’s angle being that there would be investment coming from Ford to use their network and therefore further cementing the dominance of their already fantastic charging network.
3. Greater Environmental Awareness
Electric cars are often seen environmentally friendly compared to conventional petrol or diesel cars.
This is because they produce zero emissions at time of using, which helps to reduce air pollution and combat climate change. Of course, electric cars use power usually has a carbon footprint.
For example, a power generation facility that burns coal to make electricity has a dirty footprint of 500 to 1000 g CO2 / kWh.
As our share of electric cars creep into the low single digit percentages, the visibility will have a positive effect of informing and convincing others that the time is right to impact the environment positively by switching to an EV.
4. Reduction In Dependence On Natural gas and Gasoline/Oil-Producing Countries
Electric cars don’t rely on oil for fuel, so there’s less need for imported oil.
This reduces dependence on oil-producing countries and increases stability in energy prices.
Where would the electricity for cars come from if not fossil fuels? The major ones are nuclear, hydropower, wind and solar.
Each country has its own energy source profile.
A country like France has very low-carbon electricity derived from nuclear sources.
Powering an electric car in France would therefore have very low carbon intensity.
A country like the US is already decoupled from foreign oil sources because of the rise of fracking in the 2010s. The increase in EVs means a greater freeing of the energy sources for other uses.
5. Improvements In Local Air Quality
Because they emit little to nothing, electric cars replacing internal combustion engine cars will contribute to an improvement in the quality of the air in urban areas.
That improvement is not due to the reduction of carbon dioxide, which in these amounts is relatively harmless short term but terrible long term for climate.
The improvement will be due to the reduction in PM2.5, or “particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less”.
Although no one has done a controlled trial of the harmful effects of PM2.5, the observational evidence, with caveats that come with any non-controlled observational study, is that these small particles have adverse effects on lungs, heart, and possibly other organs.
People who suffer from cardiopulmonary conditions will benefit tremendously.
On the other hand, emissions will continue to be generated indirectly via our electricity generation grid.
The health impact of such emissions are variable: they will be high where the grid depends on fossil fuels especially if its coal or oil, and low where the grid is biased to renewable fuels.
Certain countries like South Africa still use a lot of oil in electricity generation and therefore switching to EVs will have a blunted impact on carbon emissions compared to countries like Iceland and Sweden which have successfully switched to geothermal and hydropower.
6. Quieter Journeys, Roadways
Electric cars are much quieter than petrol or diesel cars, making for a more relaxing journey.
This is also beneficial for people living near busy roads who would otherwise be constantly exposed to noise pollution.
Reducing noise on a highway will not have as much impact as reducing it in dense city streets.
The reduction of noise, on first impression, seems to be entirely beneficial because most people will say that noise is not pleasant.
However, studies have found that a reduction in noise has the potential to be dangerous, because it decreases the detection of a nearby vehicle thereby endangering other pedestrians and vehicles as a large, heavy, high speed object with the potential to injure.
7. Reduced Costs to Operate
Electric cars are cheaper to run than conventional gasoline cars because the distance traveled per unit of energy for an electric car is higher than that for gasoline cars. E
ven after accounting for the different costs per unit of energy of electricity vs gasoline, we find that this conclusion holds true: electric cars cost less to run than gasoline equivalents.
This will save you money in the long run, especially if you have a long commute.
8. A New Interest And Hobby Niche For Car Culture
Hobbyists can explore new technologies such as battery management and regenerative braking, as well as modify the electronics and software in their vehicles.
Additionally, electric vehicles can be used for drag racing, autocross, and other motorsports activities.
Electric cars can also be used for restoration projects, allowing hobbyists to explore the design and engineering of the vehicles.
In short, electric vehicles provide car hobbyists with a new set of challenges and opportunities.
The net effect of this is the development of a new hobbyist niche, that of modifying electric cars.
Electric vehicles have successfully penetrated mainstream racing entertainment and a very popular event is Formula E racing which involves electric cars.
Interestingly, the race is characterized by technology spectacles that aren’t available or less prominent for combustion engine cars.
9. Economic Shifts
A massive shift toward electric vehicles will lead to a restructuring of the auto industry. This can lead to both job creation and job losses.
On the one hand, the new factories for EVs will create jobs, and the need for EV charging infrastructure can stimulate employment in related industries.
On the other hand, jobs related to the traditional internal combustion engine vehicles, such as gas station employees, mechanics trained for gasoline cars, and workers in industries tied to petroleum, may see a decline.
10. Greater Disconnect Between Rural And Urban Areas
Access to charging infrastructure may be more limited in rural areas, leading to a potential divide in EV adoption between urban and rural areas. Policies will be needed to ensure that rural areas are not left behind in the transition to EVs.
The widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in the U.S., fueled by $369 billion federal stimulus in 2022, will have profound social impacts.
The transition is expected to lead to significant economic shifts, creating new jobs in EV production and infrastructure but potentially threatening traditional auto and petroleum-related jobs.
Environmental benefits include reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved air quality, leading to better public health outcomes.
The demand for electricity will rise, driving innovation in renewable energy and changing our dependency from oil to battery raw materials.
Infrastructure needs will alter city and home design, while transportation habits and views on car ownership may evolve.
However, challenges exist, such as potential rural-urban divides in EV adoption, ensuring social equity in the transition, and the need for professional retraining in the auto industry.
This massive shift could also affect national security, reducing reliance on oil-rich regions.