fbpx

Logo Biosphere 2



Conservation, Sustainable Development, Capacity Building

Electric Vehicles

 

Electric Vehicles (EVs) are set to rapidly replace Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles (ICEVs) over the next decade. Governments worldwide are setting ambitious EV targets in order to drastically cut global greenhouse gas emissions, and avoid the worst effects of Climate Change. This page is an educational resource for anyone looking to learn about EVs. It is also meant as a starting point for more in-depth research about the rapidly growing world of EVs - be sure to explore the many links to other great resources!

 

Natural Resources Canada has a short but informative site on purchasing an Electric Vehicle.

 

Key Terminology on this Page

(EV) Electric Vehicle - Refers to zero-emission, battery-powered electric vehicles.

(ICEV) Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle - Vehicles that use gasoline or diesel as their fuel source.

(kWh) Kilowatt Hour - A measure of electrical energy. 1 kWh =  consumption of 1,000 watts for 1 hour. Used to describe EV battery size and electricity consumption. Watch this short video if you would like more clarification on Kilowatt Hours. 

Fuel Efficiency - A measure of how much fuel a vehicle uses over a certain distance. EV fuel efficiency is commonly measured in Kilowatt Hours(kWh)/100km, and ICEV fuel efficiency is commonly measured in Litres (of gas or diesel)/100km.

 

Table of Contents

Click to skip ahead.

 

Benefits of EV Ownership

See the stats that are driving the Electric Vehicle revolution: Lower fuel and maintenance costs, drastically reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and more. 

 

How do EVs Work?

Click here to learn more about charging, regenerative braking, batteries, and more!

 

Common Myths and Misconceptions

Are Electric Vehicles really "greener"? What's the deal with lithium? What about range?! All these questions are answered, and more!

  

Resources for EV Owners

Already own an EV? Here you will find resources on EV ownership, including fact sheets you can use to convince your friends and family to join the EV revolution.

 

 
 The Volkswagon EV family. Source: https://electrek.co/2020/11/16/vw-race-tesla-investments-electric-cars-self-driving/

Benefits of EV Ownership

 

Benefit #1 - Lower Fuel and Maintenance Costs Mean Lower Lifetime Costs

See how an Electric Vehicle could save you up to $20,000 over the lifespan of the vehicle! 

 

Benefit #2 - Drastically Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

See how in Ontario, switching to an Electric Vehicle can cut your personal transportation emissions by 97%.

 

Benefit #3 - A New Driving Experience

Added benefits of an Electric Vehicle include: Always leaving home with a full tank, instant acceleration for a more enjoyable ride, tax rebates, and more.

 

Benefit #4 - Government Cash Rebates

Find out more about cash rebates when purchasing a new or used EV. 

 

Electric Vehicle Quick Facts 

 

Benefit #1 - Lower Fuel and Maintenance Costs Means Lower Lifetime Costs

 
 The Tesla Model 3 is the best selling EV in North America. (Photo by: Vauxford, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2019_Tesla_Model_3_Performance_AWD_Front.jpg)

Currently, Electric Vehicles tend to cost more to purchase than their Combustion Engine counterparts. This is likely to change as EV technology becomes more mainstream. However, because of drastically lower operational costs like fueling and maintenance, in many cases EVs are already the more cost-effective option.

 

When deciding between a new EV and a new ICEV, even if the EV is $20,000 more expensive, it will likely still have a lower total lifetime cost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calculating Lifetime Cost of Driving an EV vs. an ICEV

Calculating and comparing lifetime costs of EVs and ICEVs is as simple as adding up the estimated fuel and maintenance costs. The chart below shows how EV owners can save more than $20,000 over the vehicle's lifespan. In fact, an ICEV can cost more to operate after 5 years than an EV costs in its entire lifespan!

 

This Consumer Report study found that EVs offer overall lifetime fuel savings of 60% or more. The study was conducted in the USA, where fuel prices are typically significantly cheaper than in Canada. 

This chart uses the following assumptions:

EV fuel efficiency and cost = 18kWh/100km at $0.14/kWh

ICEV fuel efficiency and cost = 8L/100km at $1.25/L

Vehicle lifetime distance = 250,000km over ~17 years at 15,000km/year 

EV lifetime maintenance costs = $4,600

ICEV lifetime maintenance costs = $9,200

 

The following will provide a more in-depth breakdown of how these fuel and maintenance costs are calculated.

  

Fuel Costs

To compare fuel costs between Electric Vehicles (EVs) and Internal Combustion Vehicles (ICEVs), we need to understand the price of electricity. With an EV, unless you live off-grid, you pay your fuelling costs to your electricity provider. In Ontario, electricity costs vary depending on the time of day, week, or year. Below is an example of how these prices differ.

 

Click Here to find out what current electricity prices in Ontario are.

 

This means your fuel costs for an EV will be lower if you charge overnight or on weekends, versus if you charge during the day. How much lower, and how does this cost compare to fuelling an ICEV? Look at the tables below to see how an EV owner driving 15,000km/year could save up to $1,200 yearly on fuel costs alone!

 

Use the tables below to find approximate yearly fuel costs based on different scenarios. Prices can be found at the intersection of two scenarios. For example, using the EV chart on the left, if you are charging an EV during Off-Peak Hours and you travel 10,000km/year, annual fuel costs will be $198. Or, using the ICEV chart on the right, if average gasoline prices are $1.25, and you travel 10,000km/year, annual fuel costs for an ICEV will be $1,000. Calculations are based on a fuel efficiency of 18kWh/100km for an EV, and 8L/100km for an ICEV, the full formula can be found below.

 Annual Electric Vehicle Fuel Costs

  Annual Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle Fuel Costs

Formula for chart: Fuel Cost = Distance Travelled/100 x (Fuel efficiency x Fuel Cost)

*Fuel efficiency used for EVs = 18kWh/100km. Fuel Efficiency used for ICEVs = 8L/100km

**Electricity prices have been increased by $0.03/kWh over current rates to account for higher delivery charges from higher use.

 

Maintenance Costs

According to this study by Consumer Reports, maintenance costs of EVs are about 50% that of ICEVs.Total average lifetime ICEV maintenance costs were $9,200, while average lifetime maintenance costs of EVs were only $4,600. Additionally, it is predicted that EVs will have much longer lifespans than ICEVs, though this is still unknown. 

 

 

Skip ahead to the "How EVs Work" section to find out why EVs cost so much less to maintain. 

 

Hint: No exhaust, no transmission, no oil changes, and much less frequent brake repairs!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benefit # 2 - Drastically Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

For those who are considering switching to an Electric Vehicle for the environmental benefits, this section covers how EVs significantly reduce personal transportation emissions. In Ontario, switching to an EV can cut your emissions by 97%!

 

 

The following will provide a more in-depth breakdown of how emissions are calculated.

 

Calculating Total ICEV Emissions

Calculating lifetime emissions from ICEVs is straightforward. According to Natural Resources Canada, every liter of gasoline emits 2.3kg of CO2.

 

If average fuel efficiency is 8L/100km, and vehicle lifespan is 250,000km, that equates to 20,000L of gasoline, or 46,000kg CO2.

 

Calculation Total EV Emissions 

Calculating lifetime emissions of EVs is a little more complicated, because it depends on where the electricity used to charge the vehicle comes from. Each provinces has a different mix of power generation, and therefore different levels of emissions from electricity consumption. For example, in Saskatchewan about 83% of electricity is generated by fossil fuels, whereas in Ontario about 96% of electricity is produced from zero-carbon sources.

 

However, EVs are still far more climate friendly than ICEVs, even when the electricity they use comes from carbom-producing sources like coal or natural gas. 

 

The following will calculate different emissions totals based on different electricity generation mixes. For each, we need to know the total lifetime electricity consumption of an EV in kWh. Using average fuel efficiency of 18kWh/100km, average electricity prices of $0.11, and a vehicle lifespan of 250,000km, we can calculate that an average EV will consume about 45,000kWh of electricity.

 

Total EV Emissions (Ontario) = 1,395kg CO2

This represents a 97% reduction in GHG emissions!

Total EV Emissions (Saskatchewan) = 29,250kg CO2 

This represents a 37% reduction in GHG emissions!

CO2e emissions in Ontario = 0.031kg / kWh

45,000kWh x 0.031kgCO2 = 1,395kg CO2

CO2e emissions in Saskatchewan = 0.65kg / kWh  

45,000kWh x 0.65kgCO2 = 29,250kg CO2

 

In a future where all electricity comes from zero-carbon sources, EVs will be a truly zero emission technology. 
 

Benefit # 3 - A New Driving Experience

Along with the substantial economic and environmental benefits, there are a few other interesting things to note when switching to an EV:

  • Instant acceleration makes driving an EV very fun.
  • EVs provide  clean, quiet ride. No exhaust smells or noises.
  • Never leave home on empty. Just plug in when you get home, and wake up to a full tank in the morning!
  • Never worry about an oil change again!

Benefit # 4 - Government Cash Rebates

CAA has created a site highlighting all EV incentives. Includes Provincial and Federal rebates for new and used Electric Vehicles. 

 

Click Here to visit the site!

How do EVs Work?

EVs have a few key components that separate them from combustion vehicles. First, they are much simpler mechanically. EVs have no transmission, exhaust system, pistons, timing belts, or hoses. This means they do not require oil changes, transmission fluid, or many of the other routine maintenance procedures associated with ICEVs. Watch this short video for an overview, and look at the following sections for more in-depth information. 

 

 

To summarize, EVs are far more efficient than ICEVs. Only about 20% of energy produced by an ICEV is converted to motion, compared to 90% in EVs. Below is a comparison of where energy is lost and gained in ICEVs and EVs.

Regenerative Braking

Regenerative braking is a technology specific to EVs that allows them to recover kinetic energy from a slowing vehicle and return it to the battery. In ICEVs this energy is normally lost as heat through the brake pads. The chart above indicates that regenerative braking can recover up to 17% of a vehicles energy that would otherwise be wasted. Watch this short video for more information

 

 

Charging

Charging is another important concept that EV owners should learn about. The charging environment can be complicated because there are multiple brands, speeds, and types of chargers. In North America there are two charging ecosystems - Tesla and everythings else. Only Tesla's can charge at Tesla stations, but any EV (including Teslas) can charge at non-Tesla public stations. In Europe this confusion has been solved with the implementation of a standardized charging system. 

 

Click Here for more information on charging terms and standards.

 

Charging speed is a little less complicated than charging standards. Below is a summary of different charging speeds. 

 

 

Click Here for more information on EV charging from Charge Hub.

 

Common EV Myths and Misconceptions

 

There are plenty of rumours and misinformation surrounding EVs. This section aims to address some of the more prominent myths circulating about EVs and provide some context to the false claims. 

 

Click to skip ahead.

 

1. "EVs actually have higher GHG emissions because of the batteries." 

 

2. "What about lithium mining? Isn't it bad for the planet?"

 

3. "If we all had EVs, the electrical grid couldn't handle it."

 

4. "If we all had EVs, electricity prices would skyrocket."

 

5. "There isn't enough public charging infrastructure for me to buy an EV."

 

1. "EVs actually have higher GHG emissions because of the batteries." 

  

Manufacturing an EV emits more greenhouse gases than manufacturing an ICEV mainly because of battery production. Estimates for emissions from battery production for EVs range from 5 - 17.5 metric tonnes of CO2 depending on battery size. This is a significant amount, but not enough to blow the whistle on the climate-friendliness of EVs. For 2 reasons: 

 

a) First, referring to our GHG calculations above, in Ontario an EV will emit about 1,395kg CO2 over its lifetime, while an ICEV will emit about 46,000kg. So even with an extra 17,500kg of CO2, the EV still emits 60% less than an ICEV. 

 

b) Most ICEV emissions calculations do not account for emissions from oil extraction. Using data from IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates we can estimate that extraction emissions for motor gasoline equals about 1.5kg per Liter. A typical ICEV driven for 15 years, at 10,000km/year burns about 12,000L of gasoline. This equals an extra 18 tonnes of emissions that are not accounted for in most ICEV emissions calculations. 

 

In sum, emissions from battery production are matched by emissions from oil extraction. The difference being, the cleaner our energy grid is, the fewer emissions there are from EV manufacturing. Oil extraction and use will always lead to significant levels of GHG pollution.

 

Read this article by CarbonBrief that explores this myth in more detail.

 

 

2. "What about lithium mining? Isn't it bad for the planet?"

 

Reliance on lithium mining for battery production is another common criticism of the EV industry. Particularly, the direct ecological impacts and emissions from the process have prompted critics to question the “green-ness” of EVs.

 

Lithium mining has an impact that needs to be monitored and mitigated wherever possible. However, if the choice is between lithium mining for EVs, and fossil fuel extraction for ICEVs, there are some important differences. Both lithium and fossil fuel mining projects are capable of damaging local ecosystems at a watershed scale if improperly managed. However, if lithium is extracted and disposed of (or recycled) responsibly, the threat of negative ecological impact is eliminated. Whereas, even the most responsible fossil fuel extraction practices are mining a product that is driving a climate crisis and threatening all life on the planet.

 

The impacts of the lithium industry  and the impacts of the fossil fuel industry are separated by an order of magnitude.  If you calculated the impact of every lithium mine that has contaminated a water source, negatively affected a threatened species, or has had any other kind of negative environmental impact, you would fall far short of the toll that fossil fuels are taking on our planet. Not only are fossil fuels prone to inflicting local ecological damage in their extraction (see: Deepwater Horizon, Exxon Valdez, Rainbow Pipeline, and many more.), but their use is threatening the biosphere as a whole – every waterway, every species, every ecosystem is at risk because of the widespread use of fossil fuels.

 

This is not meant to absolve lithium mining companies of responsibilities. They should be held accountable for any ecological or social damage they may inflict as lithium demand increases. The point is that every critique levelled against lithium mining could be directed at fossil fuel mining and then some.

 

A final difference is that the lithium industry is in its infancy, and society can still shape how it operates. Popular modern understandings of equity, Indigenous rights, and environmental justice can still be applied to lithium mining policy and practice to ensure accountability – something that the fossil fuel industry has never fully been subjected to.

 

3. "If we all had EVs, the electrical grid couldn't handle it."

 

EVs are ultra efficient. 90% of the energy you put into an EV is used to move the vehicle. With internal combustion vehicles, 80% of the energy you put into it is lost out the tailpipe, or radiator.  The result is EVs use drastically less energy than gasoline vehicles.  A typical EV will use 3,250 kWh/year to drive 20,000 km.  A typical home uses 12,000 kWh.  So, the EV increases electricity demand for the homeowner by about 30%. However, only 1/3 of the electricity we consume is used by homes – the other 2/3's is used by industry and commercial businesses.  So, if all vehicles were electric, electricity demand would only go up by about 10%.  It will take years to convert all vehicles which means we have lots of time to expand the grid.

 

Furthermore, night-time is when the majority of EV charging is done and is also when there is the least amount of strain on the grid. Mass EV charging, for the most part, will not be occurring during operational hours of the industrial or commercial world.

There is also the interesting prospect of EVs reducing strain on the grid by acting as batteries when they’re not in use. While still a new technology, “bi-directional charging” is when your home can power your EV, and your EV can power your home - or the streetlights in front of it. As it was put in a recent Forbes article,

 

 

“The idea is that you leave your EV plugged into the electricity when not in use, and it can supply energy as well take it. It will basically act like a mobile Tesla Powerwall, a domestic battery that can absorb energy at times of overproduction, and then put it back into the grid during peak demand.”

 

4. "If we all had EVs electricity prices would skyrocket."

 

Part of this concern is addressed above where we see that EVs will not have as massive an impact on electricity demand as critics would have us believe.

 

Further, since 2007, mid-peak electricity costs have risen from 7.5 cents/kWh to 11.3 cents/kWh – an increase of 3.8 cents/kWh, or 51% over 14 years. The Canadian government recently announced that by 2035 (14 years from now), all passenger cars and light truck sales will be electric.

An EV being charged during mid-peak hours ($0.11/kWh), costs far less than fuelling an ICEV even if gas prices are as low as $0.90/L. Fuelling an EV is so much more cost effective that even if electricity prices increase by 300% over the next 14 years (6 times the rate of increase from the previous 14 years) EVs would still be more cost effective to operate than ICEVs running on 90-cent gasoline. If gas prices stay at today’s rate of about $1.30/L, even a 500% increase in electrical prices leaves EVs as the more cost-effective choice.

 

 

5. "There isn't enough public charging infrastructure for me to buy an EV."

 

There are over 4,000 public charging stations in Ontario alone and that number is rapidly growing. Furthermore, most people travel well below 100km per day by car, and all new EVs have a standard range between 200km and 500km. As long as you remember to plug in overnight, that's plenty of range for a large majority of driving days. Take a look at a few of the maps below, and see if there is anywhere you wouldn't be able to get to even with today's charging network (keep in mind that you leave home with a full tank!) 

 

Or, visit PlugShare to find hundreds of public EV charging stations.

 

 

 

 

Resources for EV Owners

 Coming Soon!

Email Ryan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are an EV owner or prospective owner with questions or suggestions for this resource!

 

 See a probem on this page? Let the Climate Action Program Manager know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Want to stay in the loop?
Get Your Climate Action News