My students at Colorado College are always a bit skeptical when I tell them that they’ll very likely be driving an electric car to and from work and simply to run errands after they graduate. In fact, it is my contention that the electric car may be one of the best solutions to single car transportation. There are many reasons for this bold assertion.
First, electric vehicles (EVs) are much more efficient than gasoline-powered cars. Much more raw energy makes it to the wheels to move you forward.
Second, because EVs are more efficient, they’re also cheaper to operate, much cheaper. Expect to pay about one fourth as much per vehicle mile traveled, and that doesn’t even take into account the much lower cost of maintenance.
Third, because they’re more efficient, they’re also much cleaner than gasoline-powered vehicles, even when powered by coal from coal-fired power plants, which are the dirtiest source of electricity. If powered by clean renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, EVs would be infinitely cleaner than the best gasoline-powered vehicles, even my beloved Toyota Gen II Prius.
Fourth, even if Americans powered EVs with electricity from coal-fired power plants, which I hope won’t be the case, fueling a massive EV fleet won’t require us to increase the number of coal-burning power plants. Electric cars can be recharged at night while power plants are typically “powered down.” In other words, we can charge a huge fleet of EVs with the extra electrical production capacity that’s idled at night.
Fifth, electric vehicles are ideal for most of our transportation needs. Studies show that, on average, 90 percent of all trips made each day in America by folks like you and me are less than 60 miles. Even with the current clunky lead-acid batteries, most EVs can easily travel that distance. Newer battery technologies, like the lithium-ion battery, could extend the range considerably.
Sixth, EVs are powerful. When most of my students think about EVs, they imagine clunky, slow-moving electric golf carts. Many modern EVs are fast-moving vehicles that accelerate rapidly so you can safely merge on to the freeway.
It’s for these reasons that I think the electric vehicle may become the predominant commuter car in the not-too-distant future. What is more, expect to see a dozen or so new EVs coming out in the next few years, even some from major auto manufacturers.
For those of us who care about the future of human society and the planet, that’s electrifying news.
Above: Fueling a massive EV fleet won't require the number of coal-burning plants to be increased. Electric cars can be charged with the extra electrical production capacity that's idled at night. Photo by ISTOCKPHOTO/LEE PETTET.
Contributing editor Dan Chiras is a renewable energy and green homes expert who has spent a lifetime learning life’s lessons, which he shares in his popular blog, Dan Chiras on Loving Life. He’s the founder and director of The Evergreen Institute and president of Sustainable Systems Design. Contact him by visiting his website or finding him on Google+.