Earth Day 2022: Gas Prices Are at Record Highs–Is Now the Time to Transition to Electric Vehicles?
Geopolitical tensions triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have caused oil and gas prices around the world to spike, as crude oil prices approached a 14-year high in March. The average fuel price per gallon in the U.S. is now over $4.00 and rising, with areas such as California already topping $6.00. The situation is even worse across Europe, and home energy prices face parallel pressures.
These events combined have meant governments around the world are considering accelerating a switch to alternative energy sources for greater resilience against future global shocks to the energy sector. It has also made many drivers ask whether switching to an EV (electric vehicle) could make them less reliant on the spiraling fuel prices for internal combustion engines.
Calculating Environmental and Economic Costs
Let’s put into perspective how much personal cars contribute to fuel usage and CO2 emissions. In the U.S., the average number of miles each driver travels is around 14,000 per year, according to the Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. With the average car sold in the U.S. managing 25mpg, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (although older cars are likely to be much thirstier), that is at least 560 gallons of fuel per car. There are around 276 million cars in the U.S. , so that will total over 155 billion gallons every year, or about 7.75 billion barrels of crude oil (since each 42-gallon barrel of crude yields about 20 U.S. gallons). With crude oil prices hovering at about $100 a barrel, at the time of this writing, we are looking at a raw cost over $775 billion a year.
The CO2 figures are equally astronomical. The EPA estimated that the average U.S. car produced 356g of CO2 per mile in 2019, implying that the total U.S. fleet produces around 1.4 billion tons of CO2 a year. Europeans don’t drive as far on average, and tend to drive more economical cars than Americans, but that doesn’t make the situation significantly different. Wherever you live, relying on oil for vehicle transportation is expensive and a major contributor to the climate crisis.
The EV Advantage
EVs offer a route away from continued dependence on fossil fuels – foreign or domestic. The advantage of electricity is that it can be produced in a variety of ways, many of which don’t involve fossil fuel, and as a result there is a considerable range in grid mixes across countries.
If you look at Europe, Germany is presently more exposed to oil and gas prices than France, for example, because its primary electricity generation comes from fossil sources – 26.7% from natural gas, 31.8% from oil, and 17.9% from coal in 2021, according to AG Energiebilanzen. France, in contrast, gets 69% of its electricity from nuclear power stations and 20.1% from renewables, with just 6.2% from gas and 3% from other fossil sources, according to Ember. The UK sits somewhere in between, with 37.9% from gas in 2020, and the U.S. used 32% natural gas, 37% petroleum, and 11% coal to fuel its electricity grid in 2019, according to the Energy Information Administration.
While switching to EVs won’t eliminate the need for oil to generate electricity in America, other energy sources are available, so combining a switch to EVs with a move toward renewables or nuclear would mean a reduction in oil use and would also contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Even using the current U.S. grid mix, which is one of the most CO2-producing, a typical EV is only generating around 100g of CO2 emissions per mile from the electricity it uses, which is a 70% reduction over the average internal combustion car’s 356g. For grids using more renewables or nuclear, the savings would be even greater, in terms of reducing both oil usage and CO2 emissions.
Greener, Cleaner, Safer
BlackBerry has a long record of adopting and promoting better environmental practices. We have reduced direct and indirect carbon emissions across our operations by 88% since 2013, and in December 2021 we announced we are carbon neutral.
What’s more, our QNX® real-time operating system has helped automakers achieve higher performance, safety, and economy in more than 195 million vehicles. We expect a greater positive impact into the future as we have design wins with 24 of the world’s top 25 EV makers and because of the market reception to BlackBerry IVY™, a scalable, cloud-connected software platform, poised to unlock the potential of connected vehicles. We believe the capabilities carmakers can achieve, and the enhanced driving experiences they can deliver, using QNX and BlackBerry IVY, can help increase EV demand and adoption worldwide. In turn, that could help governments, automakers, and consumers, avoid dependency on oil and gas, and save the planet at the same time.