As the owner of the first Nissan Leaf electric car sold in Maine, it is my pleasure to give slide presentations to various groups about the history, benefits, and personal experiences of driving an electric vehicle.
After a showing of the movie Revenge of the Electric Car, I was participating in a question and answer session when someone in the audience shouted, "Your car is not zero-emission!"
Although the Leaf has no tailpipe and causes no local emissions, I had to acknowledge that my car's use of electricity indirectly contributes to smokestack emissions from power plants that burn fossil fuels.
In other words, it's a transfer of pollution to a different point in the 'carbon cycle'.
This of course begs the question: What's the point of driving an electric car from an environmental perspective if this is happening, the other benefits notwithstanding?
Chin up, my friends: All is not lost.
At this point, I'll direct you to a U.S. Department of Energy link that lets you determine your plug-in electric car's CO2 footprint.
As you know, power companies across the country produce electricity both by burning hydrocarbons and from renewable sources that vary from region to region--making electric vehicles 'greener' in certain areas of the country than in others.
Keep in mind an electric car gets cleaner as the sustainability movement grinds its way forward and individual power grids gain a higher percentage of renewables.
Not having the patience to wait for that to happen, I chose a different path: solar power.
During the past year, my Leaf used roughly 1800 kilowatt-hours of electricity, so I had a photovoltaic system installed that will offset the power required to fuel my car.
Since the utility rate where I live is $0.14/kWh, slightly above the national average, that works out to be $252 a year if I were to buy that amount of power.
So what's the payback, you're thinking?
For me, it's a combination of not buying gasoline--the savings of which will pay for the solar panels over a period of several years--along with the comfort of knowing my ride is truly zero-emission.
So, the question remains: Will your next vehicle be zero-emission …Yes or No?
Popsci fail, today isn't earth day.
Definitely has lower emissions that traditional all combustion engines but two important things are left out....
How much plastic is in a Hybrid? Does it really count as a zero emission if there is a substantial amount of petrol based plastics in it?
And.... The rare earth minerals, most of these minerals come from some very f*cked up warzones (Vice has a good doc about it), where people are literally being enslaved to mine the minerals that go towards eco conscious peoples vehicles (and smart phones, computers etc).
Not saying a Hybrid is worse than a regular car (Its not...) but it would be disingenuous to only focus on where the electricity comes from.
The car is not zero emissions. Just because it produces no more emissions after production (aside from the noted emissions from the power source) does not mean it is earth friendly. There have been several studies that show the production of the batteries alone produces more CO2 than an ICE produces over the course of 100,000 miles driven.
If you want a more environmentally-friendly mode of transport, get a bicycle. It's motor isn't zero emissions, but it is carbon neutral and bio-degradable.
"my Leaf used roughly 1800 kilowatt-hours of electricity, so I had a photovoltaic system installed" "not buying gasoline--the savings of which will pay for the solar panels over a period of several years"
What is the DOLLAR AMOUNT of the electricity paid from the electric company that was used to propel the car?
What is the DOLLAR AMOUNT of the photovoltaic system installed? Is this system going to produce 1800 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year?
What is the break even point where the cost of the Solar Panels supposedly pay for the gas that would have been used - or the electricity from the coal fired plant that delivers electricity to your home to charge the car's battery.
I own a 2007 Honda Civic that has a 4 cylinder engine. I can find out how much I spent on gasoline to operate this vehicle for a year. It is an ultra low emission vehicle.
The only green solution is to reduce, reuse and recycle, These green cars may be the way to the future if batteries or supercaps get much better and green power becomes available.
While I am very excited about the green car movement and look forward to where it is taking us, I feel(3) points should be made here.
(1) Restoring and existing gas guzzler is more green than building a whole new electric car. Indeed consumerism (the *need* to make and sell new things to replace existing working things) is what is destroying the environment.
(2) Electric cars are less advanced than their gas equivalents. Electric cars today are still being figured out, gas cars are way further along with various efficiencies both in the supply chain as well as in the use. I am certain that electric being a purely economic choice at this point isn't the case. Indeed humanity is still subsidizing and investing in this technology that will EVENTUALLY be more economic.
(3) "Why" are we moving all these people around is a more environmentally impacting statement than "How" we do it. A person that works from home with a 9MPG Pontiac GTO has a lower commuting Carbon Footprint than a 50 mile a day Prius owner.
I would argue that the conversation on Popular Science needs to be more on a level of a Ted Talk. In that regard, electrics are an efficiency solution to cost to maintain the flow of humans in a society. But is this smart? Is it smart to wake up, Commute to work, commute to lunch, commute back to work, commute to shopping, then commute home again? That is a lot of daily energy consumption, but to what end? I would call that an "unhealthy" emergent pattern that humans have had to adopt in order to compete and be successful in modern society, but go back 50 years and it wasn't this way. The growth of the suburb, the growth of the big box, the death of local business and monoculture employment system for communities is create a multi-deterministic problem that results in American families having to do a huge amount of energy consumption just to make ends meet. How do we solve that problem?
I believe Ford makes a car called Fusion. Do you think the is true or just a good marketing name, lol.
"...A person that works from home with a 9MPG Pontiac GTO has a lower commuting Carbon Footprint than a 50 mile a day Prius owner...."
shinkaze- That's a great point. I drive a 10-year old Chevy 1/2t pickup, but my daily commute is only 6 miles round trip. I only use about 15 gallons of gas per month. I tried to make your argument about carbon footprints with a self-righteous co-worker that owns a Prius and commutes around 40 miles to/from work each weekday.
I am not impressed by this articles handling of this subject. Anyone saying "Electric cars are not zero pollution vehicles" is missing the entire point. Internal combustion engines amount to far too much pollution. Electric cars reduce this by relying on clean energy.
Sure the mean to produce electricity is not clean yet but that does not mean we can't now go after the power plants too! There is no a one step cure for all our polluting, so this is just a step, an important one.
It is also important to remember that we do not need to be clean. We should never even try for that. We have thousands of years spent learning to not get along with our environment. We are now learning how to get along with it. When we learn to restore the Earth's ecosystems we can fix not just the damage being done but the damage we have done. A multi-billion dollar marketing word, "Green", is proof that people can and will support an ecologically sound civilization!
There is nothing wrong with electric cars being the poster child of a greener world! Once they are adopted, those polluting power plants can then become the next target.
I unabashedly support the adoption of electric cars. Oh, and those chanting that they are not zero emission vehicles and other irrelevant slogans better watch out, I am very good at stepping on stupidity.
Obviously electric vehicles aren't zero-emission. But for ICE cars you also need to factor in how much electricity it takes to refine gasoline. Hint: it's a lot.
A ZNE (zero net energy)solar package on my home is cheaper to finance than the electric bills I'd have to pay within 2 to 4 years. So the payback is occurring as the panels are installed. Savings are neutral until it pays for itself then you are lessening the cost for every kWh you produce after that.
The carbon cost of production is easily offset through use, when all energy is collected renew-ably.
It is understood that the creation and use of materials in creating any vehicle will produce emissions. So production of all cars can be measured as equal in this respect (unless you want to filter through some very fine numbers for not much difference)
Bottom line: Why promote EV's as harmful to the environment when they are our best answer? Even putting them near the impact of fossil-fuel using cars is an obtuse stance.
And to produce the components ans assemble the car, solar energy is used also? And to produce the raw materials for the solar panels, build and maintain them? Yeah, I know, we use solar energy. Brilliant!
Think of the supply chain:
Where do you get your Gas from? The gas station.
Where does the gas station get the gas from? Oil trucks
Where do the oil tucks get the gas from? Gas storage facilities
Where/how do they storage facilities get their gas? refineries by trucks (again)
Where do the refineries get the oil? Mostly Canada and overseas
Canadian oil is usually transported using trains. Oil from overseas is transported by oil tankers. Largely a gas/coal powered process.
THEN include how much electricity is used to refine the oil into usable gasoline.
You alone cannot improve, or shorten, this supply chain. With an EV, you can improve and shorten the supply chain by using solar panels.
Seems pretty obvious to me.
@ Shinkaze ; One answer about what Americans CAN DO, is simply to order groceries or what not. But people haven't really warmed to the idea, even though people will shop the same exact stores for many years and know every single thing the stores sell, and even the times and regular values of sale prices by item. It's not like there aren't things out there that people can do because there are. Most of the things that would truly have people saving money have nothing to do with going out and purchasing a new EV and a solar power setup, because they are already having their hours, pay, and benefits chopped while their home becomes more expensive irregardless of power prices(rising) or carbon issues.
When THAT bs gets fixed, people might be better prepared to drop 25 or 30 grand. Until then, the cars they used to get on two year lease are now being made to work 5 for them-which means less cars made, lowering emissions that way.
Call me a wasteful Neanderthal; but it's my view that if I were driving a 1 ton super duty with 4X4; on diesel--with no exhaust treatment at all, since 1970--150 miles per day-then I guesstimate that my carbon footprint is quite a bit lower than the progressive type that gets a new vehicle manufactured from scratch every two years. The author of the article is a good example. To get the first one in his state, he ordered it manufactured. Yet I'd take a guess and say his existing car was operating just fine. So what is zero emission now? Yeah, I already know. Blame it on the poor people anyway, regardless of irrationality. Keep laying that whip in there, the people are acting like they are numb.
How many years will it be before those solar panels pay back the energy used to make them? It used to be about twenty years, on a panel that might last thirty-five if well taken care of. Then figure in the cost to manufacture a new car, and I think you'd be farther ahead, fuel-wise, just restoring a 3-cylinder car. Bob Stuart