Individual Benefits of Urban Mobility Electrification
Electric mobility offers numerous benefits to individual vehicle owners and businesses, including lower operating and maintenance costs, the ability to charge vehicles in a variety of locations, and the ability to provide a backup power source during outages or natural disasters. In addition, individuals have an increasing choice of EV options as the market expands.
Electric micromobility can provide even lower purchase, operating, and maintenance costs relative to EVs, while also providing increased access to jobs and services and expanded travel options for underserved communities. Electric micromobility can also mitigate individual experiences of traffic congestion, crowded transit, or limited parking, and if scaled across many adopters, can yield a host of other benefits.
Although EVs can have a higher purchase price than similar gasoline- or diesel-fueled vehicles, their lower maintenance and fuel costs can yield significant savings for as long as an EV is owned. For most electric vehicle owners, even when their purchase prices are higher, their fuel and maintenance savings will result in a lower total cost of ownership. Moreover, some automakers project the upfront costs of EVs will continue to decrease, reaching purchase price parity with conventional vehicles around 2025 to 2030. At the same time, new and revised tax credits under the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act are designed to help consumers overcome financial barriers to obtaining electric vehicles.
EVs take advantage of the inherent high efficiency of electric motors, making the average EV 3.6 times more energy efficient than a similar conventional vehicle. EVs also use regenerative braking, which allows the vehicle to recapture energy when braking. Because EVs are more efficient than conventional vehicles, they use far less energy and, considering the lower cost of electricity compared to gasoline, have substantially lower operating costs. Efficiency for EVs is typically expressed in miles per gallon of gasoline equivalent (MPGe), which represents the number of miles a vehicle can travel using a quantity of electricity with the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline (33 kilowatt-hours [kWh]).
(Electric vehicle efficiency can also be expressed as kilowatt-hours per 100 miles or miles per kilowatt-hour. This calculator enables easy conversion between these units of measure.)
Most light-duty BEVs and PHEVs in electric mode can exceed 130 MPGe and can drive 100 miles consuming only 25-40 kWh. At the same time, EVs generally perform better than their conventional counterparts, with quicker and smoother acceleration and better towing capacity due to the fact that electric motors generate full torque at all revolutions per minute (RPMs) and EVs do not need a transmission.
While the cost of charging will depend on the cost of electricity in particular areas, the high fuel economy of EVs leads to lower fueling costs compared to gasoline or diesel vehicles. For example, the electricity required to drive an EV 15,000 miles in a year costs an average of $600, while the gasoline required to drive the same distance averages $2,700, representing a savings of over $2,100 per year. (The analysis assumes 55% city driving and 45% highway driving, and fuel costs of $3.999/gallon.)
Argonne National Laboratory’s EVolution tool allows users to compare the expected fuel usage and costs of specific EVs and conventional gasoline vehicles based on gas and electricity prices in a given area.
In addition to fuel savings, average maintenance and repair costs for an EV are up to 50 percent lower than a conventional vehicle, as EVs are free of many vehicle components that require regular maintenance (e.g., engine oil, spark plugs, air filter, transmission fluid). The use of regenerative braking also reduces brake maintenance costs. These cost savings are important for urban households, for which transportation is a significant part of the household budget, as seen in the table below. Drivers who switch to an EV could potentially save thousands of dollars in maintenance costs over the vehicle’s lifetime.
|Mean annual household transportation expenditure||$9,822|
|Transportation share of all annual household expenditures||15.7%|
Electric micromobility options are available at much lower price points than EVs or gasoline- or diesel-fueled vehicles, which helps explain why in the U.S. in 2020 more than twice as many e-bikes were sold compared to EVs. Even with EV sales doubling in 2021, e-bike sales were still almost 45 percent higher. Budget model e-bikes are now available for $1,500 or less, with mid-range models (including cargo models) costing up to about $4,000.
E-bike testing has demonstrated between 2,200 and 3,800 MPGe―18 to 29 times more efficient than an EV with 130 MPGe. Operating costs for an e-bike are generally less than $0.10 per charge and estimated to be $30-$50 per year for regular usage.
E-bikes may be cost-competitive with annual expenditures on public transportation for some individuals who use transit as their primary mode of transportation. And owning an e-bike or e-cargo bike instead of a car could potentially save tens of thousands of dollars over the vehicle’s lifetime.
Readily Available Fueling Infrastructure
EVs can be charged at home, as well as at workplaces, public facilities, grocery stores, and other locations that offer parking with EV chargers. While EV charging takes longer than refueling a vehicle with gasoline, convenient at-home and workplace charging is sufficient to support most urban travel and eliminates the need to drive to a gas station, saving time and money. In fact, more than 80 percent of EV drivers rely on home charging.
For longer trips, the growing number of publicly available DCFC stations can provide a near-full charge (80 percent) in under an hour. Additionally, owners of public or private vehicle fleets can establish EV charging infrastructure for business use at their own office locations or fleet depots. Charging stations will become even more accessible to drivers in all parts of the country as projects funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding are implemented.
Micromobility devices frequently do not require dedicated charging infrastructure and may also be charged at home or at work. Personally owned electric micromobility can be readily charged at home, regardless of whether households have access to car parking. Devices with removeable batteries can also be charged at work or other non-home locations.
New York City is one of the first cities in the U.S. to plan for publicly accessible e-bike and e-scooter charging for personally-owned micromobility, indicating a likely nationwide trend. This type of universal micromobility charging station is also being developed by multiple private sector actors.
For shared electric micromobility, service providers currently depend on either dock-based charging or battery swaps. The potential shift to docked e-scooters by some operators would address both the charging challenge (by eliminating the need for battery swaps) while also mitigating issues with e-scooter parking that can result in walkway obstructions, which have been a source of tension from the dockless systems.
The number of light-duty EV models for sale in the United States is growing at a rapid pace. In 2010, there was only one EV model on the market, while by 2022, that number had grown to 129 models (see the figure below). The expanding EV marketplace includes a wide array of vehicle types and styles, including cars, SUVs, and light-duty trucks, at price points ranging from entry level to luxury models. This is in addition to a steeply growing number of options for electric motorcycles, micromobility, and transit buses. The variety of vehicle types can meet diverse user needs. Smaller cars and compact SUVs are the most popular light-duty EVs in highly urban States, but electric bicycles have outsold even these. The U.S. imported almost 790,000 electric bikes in 2021, up from about 463,000 in 2020—finishing a second full year in which e-bikes topped electric cars.
About 30 models of BEBs and 15 models of ESBs are available in the U.S. market as of summer 2022.
As of 2021, there are 273 cities in the United States with shared bicycle and/or scooter systems with 202,000 micromobility devices available for use on an average day. Across the United States, shared micromobility systems enabled 107.6 million trips including docked and dockless bicycles, conventional and electric bicycles, and e-scooters. Bikeshare systems are providing more electric options for riders; in 2021, e-scooters accounted for almost half of all trips, up from approximately third in 2020, and e-bike trips almost doubled the 2020 level.
The number of models of e-bikes, e-cargo bikes, and e-scooters has increased dramatically in recent years, and this will likely continue. E-bikes are available in three classes defined at 23 U.S.C. § 217(j)(2): Class 1 provides pedal assistance and has a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph; Class 2 provides throttle assistance and has a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph; and Class 3 provides pedal assistance and has a maximum assisted speed of 28 mph.
Resilience and Power on the Go
Some EVs can themselves serve as a power source for electrical tools, equipment, and lighting for commercial and recreational purposes. When coupled with bidirectional chargers, EV batteries can even power homes during blackouts and extreme weather events in place of diesel generators. Several automakers have released EVs with bidirectional charging capability. While the amount of time that an EV could offer backup power depends on the size of the battery, at least one recent model could power a house for up to three days based on daily average usage of 30 kWh. EVs can be complementary to residential renewable energy generation like rooftop solar by providing battery storage capacity, acting as a backup power source for homes and potentially selling energy back to the grid at high-demand times.
Shared micromobility such as bikeshare systems can provide redundancy and fill service gaps during unplanned infrastructure failures and planned repairs (e.g., during extreme weather- or pandemic-related transit closures). For example, during Hurricane Ida in 2021, New York City’s bikeshare system broke its single day ridership record with over 126,000 trips.
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Benefits and Implementation Challenges of Urban Mobility Electrification