Here’s the problem with electric cars

The need to reduce carbon emissions has led automakers to make major investments in electric cars, but sales remain low. Globally, electric cars made up around 2 percent of new-car sales in 2019. Jason Fenske of Engineering Explained offers an explanation for why EV adoption may be stagnating.

The main issue, according to Fenske, is that batteries simply aren’t as energy dense as gasoline. That means more space is required to hold a given amount of energy with batteries than with good old dinosaur juice. A gallon of gasoline is equivalent to 33.7 kilowatt-hours of energy, according to Fenske. So that one gallon contains more energy than the entire battery pack of a first-generation Nissan Leaf.

However, electric cars are generally more efficient than gasoline cars, Fenske noted. The 2ZR-FXE engine used in the Toyota Prius is one of the most efficient internal-combustion engines in production, at around 40 percent, according to Toyota. But most electric motors can consistently operate at 90 percent efficiency, according to Fenske.

But the efficiency difference is largely negated by other factors, Fenske said. Differences in driving conditions and cold ambient conditions can lower the efficiency of electric cars, he said.

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