It may be a little while before buying an electric car becomes an option in Pittsburgh, and it might be better to wait until more ‘green’ electric power is available, but the following ‘myth-busting’ is worth reading. Of course, the real savings come from use of public transport, and just driving a lot fewer miles.
Myth 1: Switching to an electric vehicle will just mean that the same amount of pollution comes from the electricity generation rather than from the tailpipe — I’ll just be switching from oil to coal.
Reality: An electric car leads to 35 to 60% less carbon dioxide pollution from electricity than the CO2 pollution from the oil of a conventional car with an internal combustion engine. As we retire more coal plants and bring cleaner sources of power online, the emissions from electric vehicle charging drop even further. [A caveat to consider, according to some studies, is that when coal plants supply the majority of the power mix in a given area, electric vehicles may emit more CO2 and SO2 pollution than hybrid electric vehicles.] Learn where your electricity comes from, what plans Pennsylvania has underway for shifting to renewables, and whether you have options for switching to greener power.
Myth 2: Plug-in cars will lead to the production of more coal and nuclear plants.
Reality: Even if the majority of drivers switched to electric, the existing electrical grid’s off-peak/nighttime capacity for power generation is sufficient without building a single new power plant. Studies have shown that electric vehicle owners will largely charge their vehicles at night when there is plenty of capacity on the grid.
Myth 3: Electric car batteries pose a recycling problem.
Reality: Internal combustion engine vehicles use lead-acid batteries, and their recycle rate is about 98% in the US. The newer batteries for electric vehicles, such as those made of lithium-ion, include even more valuable and recyclable metals and will have a life well beyond the vehicle.
Myth 4: My electricity bill will go way up.
Reality: While you’ll spend more on electricity, the savings on gas will more than cover it. If you drive a pure battery electric vehicle 12,000 miles a year, assuming $.12 per kilowatt hour, you’ll pay about $389 per year for the electricity to charge your battery, but you’ll save about $1,200 in gas (assuming $3 per gallon, a 30 miles per gallon vehicle, and 12,000 miles driven). So $1,200 minus $389 equals $811 in savings in fueling costs.
Myth 5: Electric vehicles will just fail again like they did before.
Reality: Manufacturers are serious this time — rolling out more than a dozen new plug-in models in the next couple of years, starting now. With higher gas prices and climate change worrying many consumers, stricter fuel economy standards for new vehicles required of auto manufacturers, and billions of public and corporate dollars being spent on an EV infrastructure and research in the US, EVs are here to stay.
Myth 6: My battery will run out of juice.
Reality: The majority of drivers in the US drive less than 35 miles each day, sufficient for a fully charged pure electric vehicle (most can go 80 to 140 miles on one charge). Using a 220-volt outlet and charging station, a plug-in hybrid recharges in about 100 minutes. A regular 110-volt outlet will mean significantly longer charging times, but for plug-in hybrids, this outlet may be sufficient.
Myth 7: Electric vehicles are much more expensive than traditional vehicles.
Reality: While the initial sticker price of EVs is higher than traditional vehicles, you need to account for a variety of factors. For individual consumers, there is currently a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 for the purchase of an electric vehicle, as well as a partial federal credit for the charging unit. Additionally, the average EV driver will save more than $800 a year in fuel (the cost of electricity compared to gasoline).
Myth 8: Electric vehicles are only available in California.
Reality: The fully electric Nissan Leaf is being sold to customers in California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, and Tennessee. The Chevy Volt, an extended range plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, is currently being sold at select dealerships in California, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Washington, DC. By 2012, many other models will become available nationwide, including the Ford Focus EV, Tesla Model S, and the Mitsubishi iMiev.
Myth 9: Charging an EV on solar power is a futuristic dream.
Reality: The technology to power your EV with solar power is already available. The investment in solar panels pays off faster when the solar power is not only replacing grid electricity, but replacing much more expensive gasoline. Utility credits for the daytime solar power can offset the cost of charging the car at night.
This is an abridged version of a longer article at the national Sierra Club Website.