My husband and I just bought an electric car. Driving is thrilling due to amazing acceleration and power, built-in internet access (to use when charging) and an intuitive sense for anything that would make a trip easier or more pleasurable, but there are more serious benefits.
Burning fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide and other gases are causing our Earth’s atmosphere to warm with the disastrous changes we see. In the United States transportation accounts for 28% of total greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest contributor. Electric vehicles reduce ecological damage by decreasing emissions that contribute to climate change and smog with its detrimental effects on public health.
We also don’t have to worry about gasoline prices. The United States used 9 billion barrels of petroleum last year, two-thirds going to transportation. Reliance on petroleum makes us more vulnerable to supply disruptions and price fluctuation. Electric vehicles depend on electricity, most of which is produced from domestic sources in the US: Coal, nuclear, natural gas and renewables. We plug into a 240-volt line installed in our garage or on a long trip away from home, use a supercharger. Electric vehicles increase our country’s diversity in fuel options for transportation.
Electric vehicles reduce noise pollution and are less expensive to maintain with one motor as compared to hundreds of moving parts in petroleum or diesel cars and trucks: No oil, no belts, no water pump, alternator or valves. The regenerative braking results in less wear and tear on brakes.
Electric vehicles are evolving, however, and are not flawless or without environmental impact. A recent study by the Norwegian Union of Science and Technology examined production, use and dismantling of electric vehicles. Production of electric vehicles has a greater negative environmental impact than the manufacture of those powered by fossil fuels. Battery production requires a number of toxic metals, the mining of which can be damaging to the earth.
Electric vehicles still use electricity. In areas where electricity is powered by less carbon-intensive sources, they can offer a decrease by 10-24% in global warming potential. The more the United States shifts to renewable sources of energy, the more benefits we will harvest from electric vehicles.
The longer an electric vehicle stays on the road, the greater the benefits over gasoline and diesel-powered engines. An electric vehicle driven for 124,000 miles offers a 27-29% benefit in reduction of global warming potential compared to gasoline and a 17-20% decrease over diesel.
An electric car’s longevity depends on how long the battery lasts. Our battery warranty is 8 years but it is expected to last for 30 years. Battery technology and storage are constantly improving. Our car can travel for 353 miles on a charge, a dramatic improvement over the earliest batteries.
Life cycle emissions for an electric vehicle are typically lower than for traditional vehicles. As electric vehicles become more popular, there is reason to expect they will become “greener.” For this reason, it is important to support the development and improvement of this technology.
Senator Chuck Schumer proposed a $ 454 billion plan to shift the United States from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids or fuel-cell cars. The plan provides rebates to individual buyers to help transition 25% of the US fleet within 10 years. The plan would reduce the number of carbon-emitting cars on the road, create thousands of good-paying jobs, and accelerate the transition to net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century. It also includes money for additional charging stations and incentives for automakers to build new factories or retool existing ones to assemble zero-emission vehicles or charging equipment with a goal that by 2040 all vehicles on the road should be clean. This proposal is supported by The Sierra Club, the National Resources Defense Council and the League of Conservation Voters as well as labor unions including the United Auto Workers.
If you are in the market for a new car, I urge you to consider “going electric.” I predict that you will not regret your choice.
Michelle Mitchell, of Lewisburg, is a retired Registered Nurse, mother of 3, grandmother of 5 and member of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby and Climate Reality Project.