What does it take for a community to change how it thinks about transportation?
Change is never easy, especially when it means modifying long-standing behavioral habit. It’s a huge undertaking, and only happens with committed people willing to take on leadership, cobbling together resources and doing time-intensive outreach. Through Central Maine Power’s EV Pilot 2B Project , I am very proud to have had the opportunity to work with a great group of committed leaders motivated to bring electric vehicles and their infrastructure into Greater Portland, Maine and Northern New England.
The EV 2B Pilot was responsible for installing Maine’s first public high-voltage EV charger and workplace charging clusters at two large employers.
The project’s efforts, success and look forward are summarized here. As Director of Electric Mobility NE, based in Portland, Maine, I look forward to continued collaborative and innovative efforts to drive that transformation forward.
Since it is the Holiday Season, and some traditions continue, such as busting PEVs because they allegedly use dirty electricity and can’t then be zero emission, I include this brief op-ed from last week for your reading pleasure. The final take away is simple- where you live and how your local utilities get their electricity do play a role in how clean your PEV runs and since most states increasingly support alternative forms of renewable energy, your PEV will likely continue to get cleaner. So enjoy the season and stop feeling guilty!
Tuesday’s Portland Press Herald Article by Seth Borenstein, titled, “For electric cars, it’s not simple to be green,” offers outdated and misguided commentary on the issue of “dirty” electricity and whether electric vehicles are more of a problem than a solution when it comes to transportation-based emissions. As a study released by the Union of Concerned Scientists in 2012, “State of Charge; Electric Vehicles Global Warming Emissions and Fuel-cost Savings across the United States” concluded, EVs are vastly superior in their emission profiles over most regions of the US. It boils down to where the electricity comes from. If you live in the Wyoming where coal is used for base load generation, your EV does contribute to GHG emissions on a par with a combustion engine. That is one reason why coal-fired power plants are no longer viable for electricity generation and are being moth-balled. Conversely, if you live in Maine, with an increasingly healthy mix of renewable energy generation sources, including wind, tidal, hydro, solar and biomass and the cleanest grid in New England, operating your electric vehicle is much less carbon intense than your neighbor’s gas-powered car. The good news is most states, like Maine, have a renewable portfolio standard that has resulted in ongoing efforts to clean up their electricity generation, so an EV actually drives cleaner the longer you own it! That is not true of your gasoline vehicle. Mr. Borenstein chooses to highlight the coal connection rather than the clean connection. I leave you with the final sentence of the PNAS study quoted by Mr. Borenstein, which reads, “Consideration of potential climate change impacts alongside the human health outcomes described herefurther reinforces the environmental preferability of EVs powered by low-emitting electricity relative to gasoline vehicles.” (Emphasis added).
Maine, and all the New England states, should be proud of their efforts to promote clean electricity and their EV-owners can drive with clear consciences.
At the end of December, 2013, we saw total PEV domestic sales topping 95,000 units- an increase of 89% over the previous year, clearly establishing an exponential sales curve for the past three years. PEV sales rates exceeded those of HEVs when compared to the first three years of introduction. Sales were evenly divided between all battery electrics, like the LEAF, and extended range electric vehicles, like the Volt. “Huzzah!” became the cry from those of us involved in the industry. But is everything really rosy? Is the struggle to bring EVs back to life over?
There are warning signs that all is not as it should be or could be. Closer view reveals several recurring and troubling themes. Cars that are purposefully handicapped. Passive-aggressive marketing. Lukewarm autodealer involvement.
First we see a new set of industry participants, like Cadillac, whose new model is frankly lukewarm, overpriced, and poorly advertised. On the latter issue, the TV spot says NOTHING about the plug in feature and everything about certain American demographics to be classist and out of touch with the virtues of electric transportation. Do we need to be told that we must forgo a vacation in order to purchase a PHEV? The messaging is so misdirected, it makes one wonder if GM has a tin ear when it comes to the driving force behind EVs. In fact the ad prompted some really excellent responses- including this one by Ford.
As we watch major manufacturers present themselves to this new and evolving market, be discriminating. Support the ones who truly get it. Your money talks.