The technology of electric and hybrid automobiles has dramatically improved their performance and reliability over the past decade, and ownership of clean energy vehicles has become a badge of honor among environmentally conscientious consumers.
According to the latest statistics, 200,000 electric vehicles (EV) and hybrids (that operate on a combination of battery and petroleum fuel) were sold in 2017, a 26% increase over 2016. However, the 2017 sales number only represents 1.15% of 17.34 million total vehicles sold that year.
However, one of the most significant drawbacks to all-electric vehicles has been the distance these vehicles can travel before needing a charge. Tesla broke that barrier by redesigning both the automobile and the batteries to achieve a range of between 285 and 370 miles on a single charge, the same distance as many gasoline-powered automobiles but still restrictive in terms of cross-country driving.
On March 12th, over 150 enthusiasts of both EV and hybrid vehicles gathered to hear what government and industry officials had to say about the future of plug-in infrastructure during the Nevada Transportation Electrification Forum.
The event co-sponsored by Clark County Nevada along with Plug In America and Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, with speakers from Nevada state and local government, electric utilities, and environmental groups. Panel discussions included the benefits of Transportation Electrification in Nevada and the roles the utilities and government agencies play.
Key among the topics of discussion is the fact that as a result of Climate Change, Nevada is the fastest-warming State in the U.S., and the State’s urban areas have warmed by 6 degrees since the industrial revolution. Currently, Southern Nevada experiences an average of five days a year of temperatures exceeding 115 degrees. If not mitigated, predictions are that we could experience over 50-days of temperatures exceeding 115 degrees each year. Extreme heat causes ground-level ozone pollution to increase. In addition to the heat, Las Vegas has been listed as the 13th worst community, out of a study of 230 major cities, for poor air quality.
Science has shown that the primary cause of both climate change and air quality is vehicle emissions, spewing both carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses along with particulate matter that causes respiratory problems.
To address the problem, clean-energy champion Senator Chris Brooks sponsored SB385 during the 2019 Legislative Session. The Bill establishes greenhouse gas reduction targets, based on 2005 levels, of 28% by 2025, 45% by 2030, and Zero (or near zero) by 2050.
Most advocates see the answer to meeting these goals in the propagation of all-electric vehicles. The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project is promoting a nation-wide goal of 620,000 EVs by 2030.
To help encourage the sale of EVs, the State of Nevada, in cooperation with NV Energy and Valley Electric Co-op, has installed 38 vehicle charging stations in strategic locations along every major highway in Nevada. Many private companies and resorts have also installed charging stations for employees and guests. Nevada is also a participant in the Regional Electric Vehicle Plan for the West signed by the governors of Arizona, Colorado. Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, to accelerate the installation of an interconnected network of EV charging infrastructure that will enable EVs to travel the region.
However, there was an elephant in the room. The combination of increased fuel efficiency for gas-powered and hybrid automobiles and the increasing number EVs being sold has meant that less gasoline is being sold at the pumps. It is the Federal and State taxes on both gas and diesel fuel that pays for the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges.
As the State continues to push a green-energy agenda, the Nevada Legislature has formed a Legislative Committee on Energy to look for alternatives to the Fuel Tax revenues. Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, who chairs the Committee, explained to attendees that they have started gathering statistics on the number of miles traveled by vehicles within the State. One of the alternatives under consideration is to offset or replace the declining Fuel Tax revenue, is a tax on the Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT).
While the average work commute in the Las Vegas Valley is ten miles, the rise in the number of UBER and Lyft drivers and other ‘Gig’ workers skew the individual mileage numbers. The Committee’s challenge is to find an economically sustainable alternative that is also fair for each of the citizens of Nevada, regardless of social and economic status.
One thing is for sure, with sixteen models of EVs on the market, and twenty-four hybrid models, the number of green vehicles on the road each day is growing, and the amount of fuel dispensed is continuing to decrease exponentially.
As an attendee exclaimed after taking a pre-forum test drive in one of the EVs, “Not only do EVs help save the planet—they a freaking fun to drive.”
UPDATE March 31, 2020
As I prepare to post this article, the Trump administration is expected to announce its final rule to rollback Obama-era automobile fuel efficiency standards, relaxing efforts to limit climate-warming tailpipe pollution and virtually undoing the government’s most significant effort to combat climate change.
The new rule, written by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, would allow cars on American roads to emit nearly a billion tons more carbon dioxide over the lifetime of the vehicles than they would have under the Obama standards and hundreds of millions of tons more than will be emitted under standards being implemented in Europe and Asia.