Opinion: Commentary: Driving into the Future

Opinion: Commentary: Driving into the Future

Did you know that the largest carbon emissions, upwards of 3 trillion pounds of pollution into the air, comes from American passenger cars and trucks? This pollution is not just from the tailpipes but from extracting, refining, and transporting the oil to our cars and trucks. I learned this and much more last week when I attended the Electric Vehicle Car Show of the Future put on by the Clean Cars Campaign Environment Virginia. They are a statewide citizen-based environmental group promoting an increase in the usage of electric vehicles across the Commonwealth, and they told a compelling story of the need to transition from gas to electric cars that I want to share with you today.

The future is with fuel efficiency, and what’s more fuel-efficient than electric vehicles? Imagine how much gasoline is wasted during rush hour driving when a vehicle is idling in standstill traffic. There are now over 50 models of electric cars and trucks that you can purchase. And their prices are increasingly affordable. In fact, when you factor in gas and maintenance visits, electric cars compete financially with their gas counterparts by their fourth year. And, with falling battery prices and economies of scale, it won’t be long before their sticker price will soon be equal or even lower to that of the comparable gasoline-powered car!

Furthermore, electric vehicles do not use energy when stopped, except to run utilities in the vehicle. Given that most electric cars can now go 150-330 miles on a charge, there is little reason for “range anxiety.” And, more and more charging stations are popping up everywhere. There are fewer and fewer reasons not to purchase one. In fact, I am seriously considering sponsoring a bill during next year’s session to promote the installation of electric vehicle charging stations at each state government building in the Commonwealth. This move would further show Virginia’s commitment to a clean energy future.

Moreover, it is crazy to say “I prefer the convenience of gasoline-powered vehicles” because electric vehicles have 85% fewer moving parts than a gasoline-powered vehicle. The Tesla I sat in has only eight moving parts! This allows for much fewer maintenance visits. All you need to do to maintain your car is rotate the tires and fill up the windshield washer container. No waiting at the gasoline pump. No oil changes every 5,000 miles. No routine maintenance at 15,000, 30,000, 45,000 miles. Which car is more convenient?

One big environmental advantage for electric vehicles is that it’s easier to contain emissions of all kinds at a central point than to do it across hundreds or millions of individual locations. And, of course, nearly every electric utility uses some mix that includes nuclear, hydro, wind, natural gas, and now solar. So, compared to gasoline, there will be a higher percentage of energy that is clean in the first place. And that percentage is growing as we grow our renewable energy portfolio.

From the perspective of energy use, electric vehicles are about 80-85% efficient in converting electricity to power, compared to around 20% for gasoline-powered vehicles. There is, of course, meaningful loss of efficiency as the electricity is generated and transmitted, with coal-producing the least efficiency and wind the most. Electric vehicles are far more efficient. And, if you can’t measure it any other way, at current prices the cost of the electricity used to move an electric vehicle one mile is much less than the cost of gas to do the same thing, which certainly suggests that electric vehicles are significantly more efficient from an energy-usage perspective.

Electric cars are the cleanest, most efficient, most cost-effective mode of transportation around. But more importantly, increasing the use of electric cars is a critical step in reducing air pollution and tackling climate change.

My next car will be an electric vehicle, will yours?