Plug In Electric Cars

This is one post in a series, describing what I've learned while attempting to understand my ecological footprint.

By far one of the coolest green technologies I've learned about lately is the electric car. Until recently I didn't even know they existed! I was surprised to discover that compared to combustion engine cars, plug in cars, accelerate faster, cost less to fuel (the equivalent of ~70 cents per gallon) and can reduce the output of CO2 and other greenhouse gases by 100%. That reduction in greenhouse gases depends on how you generate the electricity you use to charge the car. Solar panels installed on your house get you to the %100 reduction in greenhouse gases but even using electricity from standard coal fired power plants you get a huge reduction. Sources at the end of the post...

I first learned about electric cars when I rented the 2006 documentary "Who Killed The Electric Car". More important than the story of how the cars came to be on the roads in the 1990s is the description of the cars features. These electric cars are amazing! They are silent, use no gasoline, have no emissions, accelerate fast, have almost no need for maintenance and charge while you sleep. Before I saw the movie I had no idea such a technology was possible, let alone existed. This is definitely a documentary worth seeing. This is the trailer:

Tesla Roadster
The Tesla Roadster is a plug in electric sports car being released this year that does 0 to 60 in under 4 seconds and has a 250 mile range on a single charge. There is a great uncut (video) interview with Tesla CEO Martin Eberhard on I've included a few other Tesla videos below, but the video is my favorite because it's the raw interview video. You get to hear a really interesting perspective on electric cars that you can't get from typical news show sound bites.

Hydrogen and Bio-Fuels
There is a lot of marketing effort going into bio-fuels (currently corn based in the US) and hydrogen fuel cells. In my opinion neither of these has the short or long term potential of the plug in electric car and both have some very serious down sides. Each of these technologies and the questions around them are worthy of its own focus so I'll save them for future posts.

Plug In Sources, Answers & More Information
The discussion of plug in cars brings up a lot of good questions about battery life, comparisons to the combustion engine, well to wheel emissions, the ability of our power grid to support electric cars and safety, to name a few.

Fortunately, I was not the first to ask these questions and there already exist well written and accurate answers. So here's where you can learn more.
  • Plug In America FAQ: This page contains a list of common questions and answers related to plug in cars, their practicality and environmental impact.
  • WELL-TO-WHEELS EMISSIONS DATA FOR PLUG-IN HYBRIDS AND ELECTRIC VEHICLES: AN OVERVIEW - a dense 12 page summary of 30 studies comparing different types of automotive technology compared to plug in electric cars. The summary is written by Sherry Boschert a medical journalist for 30 years and author of Plug-in Hybrids: The Cars that Will Recharge America. I searched for a publication contradicting her Well to Wheel paper and couldn't find a single one. Not even a blog! It's not the easiest read as it is littered with acronyms, but it does appear to be accurate and it paints a compelling argument for electric cars.
  • Plugs and Cars Blog - A blog that tracks plug in car technology, politics, and current events.
  • Below is a compilation of some educational and entertaining videos about plug in cars.