Climate Dispatches: Making the switch to an electric car |

Climate Dispatches: Making the switch to an electric car

Over 40% of California’s GHG emissions comes from transportation, according to a CA Air Resources Board report.
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Three years ago I picked up my new Tesla in Rocklin and took it onto Highway 80 for the ride home. I stepped on the accelerator, and zoom, it felt like I was taking off in a rocket! I was up to over 90 mph in seconds. It was exhilarating! While also being less-polluting, electric cars are just flat out fun to drive.

I’d been listening to my friend Geoff Ainscow, Sunnyvale, a technology innovator, promoting electric vehicles (EVs) for years. His first EV was a Leif and lately he enthused, “I’ve owned my Nissan Leif for ten years and not paid one penny for maintenance, oil or gas.” He added, “It feels so good driving on a ‘spare the air’ day not producing one molecule of CO2.” It’s that kind of talk that convinced me to buy my EV. I became one of our state’s early adopters, purchasing an EV instead of a gas-burning internal combustion engine (ICE) car.

Here’s what other Californian colleagues with EVs have said:

  • Beth DeVincenzi, San Jose, Tesla 3 owner: “Happy to be free from fossil fuel cars and don’t miss the gas stations.”
  • William Myers, Elk Grove, Toyota Prime plug-in hybrid owner: “Have driven nearly 30,000 miles, completely problem free and averaging about 175 mpg.”
  • Carmen Carr, Truckee, Tesla Y owner: “It made sense from the purchase price, maintenance cost, efficiency, reliability and most of all the impact on our planet!”

We are in an early stage of transitioning in the type of vehicles we drive, one that hasn’t occurred since the early 1900s when Americans switched from horse and buggy to ICE automobiles. Maybe one of the reasons they made that move was to eliminate the horse manure that fowled their streets and senses. Little did they know that they were transitioning from polluting the streets to polluting our atmosphere with greenhouse gases.

It bears repeating: The greenhouse gases we generate by burning fossil fuels causes our atmosphere and oceans to continually rise in temperature (“global warming”). The heating affects our climate, magnifying draughts, violent storms, and hotter weather. Because of increased Greenland and Antarctica ice melts, coast-dwellers are experiencing rising sea levels with more severe storms. Across California and throughout the West, warmer air and longer droughts cause longer wildfire seasons with more intense, destructive fires. In Truckee we are getting more rain and less snow. This climate chaos will continue to worsen as our atmosphere’s temperature continues to rise. So, what can we each do about this increasing threat?

From a CA Air Resources Board report[1] (See diagram), over 40% of California’s GHG emissions comes from transportation. ICE passenger vehicles are the dominant source of this pollution, and addressing this segment is where we, by our own actions, can be highly effective in supporting GHG reduction; we need to transition rapidly to EVs coupled with clean, renewable sources of electricity to power them. Truckee’s town council resolved in late 2017 to have community-wide renewable electricity by 2030 and an 80% reduction in baseline greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. We can support the latter by choosing to drive EVs.

We are fortunate that California has a progressive government with representatives who don’t question science, know we are threatened, and want to evolve our regulations and processes to attenuate our contribution to global warming. CA’s higher automobile emission standards will eventually become our nation’s standards. Governor Newsom has issued an executive order that all new CA car sales by 2035 will be EVs. The Center for Biological Diversity report[2] opines that this 100% change is needed by 2030 (based on the average life of a car being 20 years) to meet the 2050 IPCC goal of keeping our temperature rise below 1.5 degrees C. Californians are answering this appeal with over 8% of new car purchases being EVs. The rest of the US is only around 1% EV purchases, which will increase.

Major automobile manufacturers (e.g., Ford, GM, Toyota, Volkswagen) are making the switch, too, and we can expect to have many additional EV choices in the next few years. Battery prices are decreasing with improved technology to provide better range. With increased competition, EVs will be more affordable. Over time, a viable used EV market will allow consumers greater choices in price and performance.

Cars are not the only transportation means that are changing. Electric pickups, buses, and long-haul semis are in the works. Aircraft manufacturers are designing electric planes. All of these are quieter and more environmentally friendly, but that’s a story for another day.

In the meantime, if you haven’t made the switch, test-drive an EV. You’ll be thrilled and, I’d bet, be convinced to become an EV owner soon.

John Sorensen is a Truckee resident and founder of Elders Action Network and its Northern California climate action project.

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