I walked into today's Salem City Club program, "Charging Ahead: Is Oregon Ready for Electric Vehicles?," feeling positive about electric cars. I walked out feeling super excited about them.
Jessica Reichers got my enthusiasm ramped up with her kick-off presentation. She's with the Oregon Department of Energy.
She noted that there's a lot of jargon associated with electric vehicles, EVs. ZEVs are zero emission vehicles. They don't emit any exhaust gas, so a fully electric vehicle would be a ZEV. As would a bicycle, of course. Reichers described four types of electric vehicles.
(1) Fuel cell. (no fueling stations exist in Oregon so far)
(2) Battery electric. (no gas engine at all)
(3) Plug-in hybrid. (goes for a while on electricity, then shifts to gas engine/generator)
(4) Hybrid. (doesn't need plugging in)
These are some of the advantages of fully electric vehicles. Plug-in hybrids, such as the Chevy Volt (we've leased three Volts) share the advantages to a large extent.
The main disadvantage for many people is range anxiety, worrying you will run out of battery power on the road. Plug-in hybrids and hybrids don't have that worry, but they also aren't zero emission. With many more ZEVs expected in Oregon, our state has to keep up with the need for charging stations.
Currently we have enough, according to Reichers. Tesla owners are especially fortunate, since Tesla has Superchargers on major highways that can charge a vehicle much more rapidly than Level 2 (240 volt) chargers. Many people get by with using regular 120 volt charging overnight at home.
For me, as for most people attracted to electric vehicles, a prime motivation is acting to preserve our one and only planet Earth for human habitation. Global warming produced by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions is real, getting worse, and poses a major threat to civilization.
This slide showed the environmental benefits of electric vehicles. The transportation sector is the biggest contributor to Oregon's greenhouse gas emissions.
Many electric vehicles qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit. Of course, you have to pay at least that much in federal taxes to benefit from it. Some electric car manufacturers, such as Tesla, have sold so many vehicles, the federal tax credit has gone away wholly or in large part. This example is for an all-electric Hyundai that qualifies for several incentives.
Fuel is another obvious source of savings, since electricity here in Oregon is quite inexpensive compared to some other parts of the country.
Yes, part of the electricity in our state comes from fossil fuel sources, coal and natural gas. This slide shows how PGE, Pacific Power, and Salem Electric (part of COU/BPA) stack up, carbon emission-wise, if used to power an electric vehicle. All are much less carbon-intensive than an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle.
The other City Club presenter was Joe Wachunas, an electric vehicle information consultant with FORTH, a non-profit based in Portland whose web site has a lot of valuable information. FORTH offers test drives of electric vehicles.
He showed this mildly-depressing slide of electric vehicles as a percentage of new car sales. Just 2% nationally, about 4% in Portland, yet 21% in San Jose, California and a whopping 48% in Norway -- which shows that electric cars work just fine in cold weather.
Lastly, this slide debunked a criticism of electric vehicles that I've heard from skeptics. Namely, that the carbon emissions involved in making the car and its battery outweigh the emissions that aren't produced in operating the car.
Actually, even with battery manufacturing included, the life-cycle global warming emissions for electric cars are less than half of the emissions for a gasoline car.
After the program, we got to see electric vehicles that City Club members had brought to the meeting. There was a good variety: Jaguar iPace, Chevrolet Spark, Chevy Bolt and Volt, Tesla S, Honda Clarity, others I can't remember, and...
City Councilor Chris Hoy's Tesla X. I'd never seen an actual Tesla X, so this was a thrill for me. I got to sit in the driver's seat and peruse the "romantic" mode (or whatever it's called) that features a relaxing fire on the giant touchscreen.
Even better, Chris demonstrated how his Model X can dance. If anybody you know says that electric cars are boring, show them this video.