Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have questions? We've compiled some of the most common ones we get into this one page.
Do heat pumps work in colder climates?
Heat pumps absolutely work in cold climates. Not only that, but often they are the most energy efficient and cost effective solution available. A few decades ago, most heat pumps stopped working when the temperature dropped below 20 or 30 degrees fahrenheit. By contrast, today’s heat pumps can run more efficiently than any other HVAC system all the way down to about -25 fahrenheit. Just ask the millions of homeowners in Scandinavia. People in Norway, Finland and Sweden are installing heat pumps at a faster pace than anywhere else in Europe.
In colder climates, a potential hurdle to installing heat pumps is home insulation. You may want to get a blower door test to determine how much heat you are leaking from your home.
Electric Vehicles (EVs)
Are EVs really lower emission, even with a dirty grid?
Based off of information from the EPA's page on electric vehicles, here's the short answer:
Electric vehicles almost always have a smaller carbon footprint than gasoline cars, even when accounting for the electricity used for charging, and even if your grid is very carbon intensive, like coal.
The longer answer: Electric vehicles (EVs) have no tailpipe emissions. Generating the electricity used to charge EVs, however, may create carbon pollution. The amount varies widely based on how local power is generated, e.g., using coal or natural gas, which emit carbon pollution, versus renewable resources like wind or solar, which do not. Even accounting for these electricity emissions, research shows that an EV is typically responsible for lower levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) than an average new gasoline car. As more renewable energy generation is brought online (or if you charge your car using your own solar panels) the total GHGs associated with EVs could be even lower.
If that sounds confusing, think about it this way: a gas car runs completely off of gasoline, and doesn't even burn it that efficiently. We already have some renewables (which have no emissions) and a large fossil fuel power plant can convert more of that chemical energy into usable electricity, rather than heat.
EPA and DOE’s Beyond Tailpipe Emissions Calculator can help you estimate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with charging and driving an EV or a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) where you live. You can select an EV or PHEV model and type in your zip code to see the CO2 emissions and how they stack up against those associated with a gasoline car.
How long does it take to charge an EV?
This one is a bit complicated, but most new EVs support fast-charging at public charging stations, which (at the highest speeds of 250kW) can get most EVs to 80% in around a half hour.
Learn more from Tom's Guide - EV Charging Explained.
Why are EVs so expensive?
EVs require large battery packs, particularly if you are looking for a very long range. However, it's worth keeping in mind that an electric vehicle has lower fuel costs (electricity per mile is generally cheaper than gasoline) and lower maintenance costs, since electric vehicles are much simpler mechanically speaking and have lower brake wear due to regenerative braking.
Learn more from Consumers Energy - EV Cost of Ownership.
Do we have enough Lithium to make all these EVs?
This is also complex, but ultimately speaking there is enough Lithium on the planet to meet our EV needs, but we're going to have to rapidly ramp up Lithium exctraction to meet our needs.
But are electric cars really the best climate transporation solution?
In short, no, but they are a big part of the solution. Electric cars and trucks require a lot of minerals and energy to manufacture, consume a lot of energy per mile due to their weight. In dense urban and suburban areas, we should work towards moving away from cars towards trains, buses, biking, and walking, which are much more energy resource efficient. However, as we mentioned before, an electric car is basically always better emissions wise than a gas car.
As an example, an ebike (let's say Gazelle Ultimate T10) may have a 500 Wh battery (0.5 kWh) that gives it a 25 mile range, or 50 miles per kWh. Meanwhile the Tesla Model 3, one of the most efficient EVs out right now, gets around 4.2 miles per kWh, making thee-bike 12 times more energy efficient! This does not even take into account the signifcantly reduced material cost and manufacturing emissions of making a 50 pound e-bike compared to a 4,048 lb electric car with at least 100 times the battery capacity (54 kWh).