In Defense of the Electric Vehicle
In his recent article titled "Would You Buy an Electric Car?", Isaac Martin appears to be suffering from a misconception that electric vehicle technology is intended as a petroleum replacement for long-distance (250-300+ mile) highway driving. That, or he is intent on creating a fallacious straw-man argument that he can easily knock down in a cynical attempt to discredit the benefits of electric vehicles (EV).
Monday, May 25, 2009
This story popped up on my Google alert. The author of this piece is Adam Hasner. He's a Republican state rep from Boca Raton and is the majority leader of the Florida House of Representatives. He is a conservative.
When I read the essay, I was very impressed that a conservative Republican wrote such a beautifully articulated and balanced EV piece. I was thinking of forwarding it to my list with some comments, and then I looked closer at the site I was on.
I Knew I was in a strange land when I read the comments. I decided to respond to some since they were so hilariously wrong. If you have some free time, and want a laugh, read through the comments.
Also, do read Rep. Hasner's piece. It's quite good.
April 13, 2009
While I share Martin's critical view of President Obama on issues too numerous to count, on this matter, it is Martin's cul-de-sac mentality that needs to be addressed.
While it is no secret that I am charged up about the possibilities that EVs offer in transforming our nation's transportation sector, I also understand that they are only a part of our overall energy security solution. No serious EV advocate would ever suggest that current electric vehicle technology offers the best solution for long-distance highway driving. That's an inappropriate misapplication of the technology that would make about as much sense as trying to use a screwdriver to hammer in a nail or a microwave oven to cook the Thanksgiving turkey.
Advances in lithium battery technology over the past several years has made driving longer highway distances in all-electric cars more feasible and future developments will only increase the mileage per charge capabilities of EVs. But Mr. Martin's criticism of mileage "discrepancy" in the Tesla completely misses the point of the potential benefits of EVs since approximately 80% of Americans drive less than 40 miles a day. It is satisfying these more typical everyday mobility needs that will drive us in the direction of mass consumption EVs and plug-in EVs to replace most of the petroleum we use for daily driving, as opposed to the occasional long distance trip.
While cost decreases in lithium batteries will likely continue in the coming years, their current price compared to the current price of gasoline represents enough of an upfront cost premium that it only really makes economic sense at the present time to install enough onboard battery capacity to provide adequate electric range for the typical person's daily driving needs. The remaining small fraction of distance driving will eventually be powered by liquid petroleum or biofuels in a fuel/electric hybrid vehicle. It is this compelling economic logic currently driving automakers' plans to produce 40-mile (initial electric range) plug-in hybrids as the sweet spot of the market.
Consensus market forecasts predict that these plug-in hybrids will represent the lion's share (around 80-85%) of the total market for electric vehicles over the next decade, while "pure" all-electric cars will represent the remainder of the market. A 40-mile range plug-in hybrid (dubbed PHEV-40 by the engineers) will allow 80% of Americans to power between 75% and 95% of their daily driving with grid-generated or self-generated electricity (increasingly renewable energy), with the remaining balance of their daily driving powered by liquid fuels.
So what does this mean to you and me? A net average fuel efficiency of 120+ miles per gallon from an affordably priced car. This would reduce our national petroleum consumption by up to two-thirds which coincidentally is the proportion that the U.S. now imports from overseas. Imagine a steep reduction in energy dependence from nations hostile to us that would result in a new paradigm of energy security and national security.
Beyond this, consider the stimulating effect on our economic security by redirecting the several hundred billion dollars a year we currently spend on foreign oil purchases to investments in "Made in America" electrons. The result will be the creation of innovative high paying jobs, economic stabilization and revitalized energy and automotive sectors.
The best part? When you want to take the family (or your gambling buddies) on that 300-mile weekend trip to Vegas, you can do so in that same PHEV-40, driving 70 mph the entire way and not have to worry about charging along the way. Just jump in and go. The simplicity of plug-in hybrids is that they combine the best of both worlds: electric power for daily driving and petroleum/biofuels power for longer-distances in a single, affordable vehicle.
The economics are fundamental. At today's prices, the fuel cost of petroleum-powered propulsion is currently over 3 times that of electrically-powered propulsion. At last summer's $4.30/gallon, it was 6 times more expensive to drive on gas than on electricity.
I know a little bit about this subject since during the final months of last year's election, I drove a 2002 Toyota RAV4-EV production all-electric SUV every day as part of my campaign. With a 120 mile range to easily enable daily travel throughout my coastal district, it also covered some longer-distance highway trips to events in West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale. There were no stops to get gas since all I had to do was plug it in every night and the next day it was ready to hit the trail.
Electric Vehicles are not some distant dream far out on the horizon. EV's are here today, and they are going to forever change the way we think about transportation while having the profound impact of making our nation stronger and more secure.
So to answer Mr. Isaac's question. Yes, I would buy an Electric Car - and you can bet the White House teleprompter on it.
State Representative Adam Hasner (R-Boca Raton) is the Majority Leader of the Florida House of Representatives. He currently drives a hybrid vehicle and this year is sponsoring HB 879 which will provide state tax incentives for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and charging infrastructure. Adam can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org