Electric Cars Are Critical To Stopping Global Warming, But That's Not Why They'll Take Off

The Nissan Leaf Electric Car

I wouldn’t blame you if you thought electric cars weren't green. There's a massive misinformation campaign against them, and part of that is trying to seed doubt about one of their top advantages -- that they are one of the best solutions to global warming. I'll tackle that point below, but first, let's get something straight: the electric car market is growing fast and set to really take off because of a couple of other big advantages. One is that electric cars are much more convenient than gasmobiles, and the other is that they have "instant torque," which puts their acceleration on another level from gasmobiles. I'll discuss both of these advantages in a bit more depth below as well.

First, global warming. More or less (it depends a bit on numerous assumptions, data sources, etc), about 13 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation industry (27 percent in the US), and much of this from cars. If we want to address global warming (as any sane human being would want to do), we need to cut those emissions. Conventional hybrids just aren't going to do it. Fuel cell vehicles are practically hopeless. And as much as I'd like to see everyone switch to bicycling and mass transit (which would make our cities much nicer), it's not going to happen (I worked for years promoting such a transition). Our only real option is electric cars.

Yes, if the electricity for your car is coming 100 percent from a coal power plant, that's a net negative, but the world is quickly moving away from coal. Approximately 30 percent of US electricity comes from coal now. China might have hit peak coal already itself. And, in general, coal is one of the most expensive options for new power capacity in much of the world.

Where electric cars are greenest

A plug-in electric car is already greener than a gasmobile on almost every existing grid, and since solar and wind are fast taking over the electricity market, driving an electric car is getting greener by the day. Of course, many electric car owners have solar panels anyway, so they are driving on sunshine.

So, with that out of the way, let's get to convenience and acceleration.

Again, if the mass media were to be believed, electric cars would be one dumb choice for most consumers. My goodness, there aren't charging stations on every other corner! And it can take hours to fully charge some cars using some chargers! Ah, but here's the thing: you can charge at home! You get home, you spend a few seconds plugging in, you go inside and enjoy your life, and then you unplug before leaving for your next trip. This is insanely convenient compared to finding a gas station, getting off the road, standing next to a smelly and carcinogenic gas pump, paying (and possibly buying some junk food at the register), getting back in the car, getting back on the road, and resuming your journey. All I have seen from electric car drivers who have to rent a gasoline car or go back to driving such a car is a realization that relying on gas is a huge pain in the arse (or, for the more polite among us, a huge inconvenience).

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About the Author: Zachary Shahan is the editor of Sustainnovate.ae, CleanTechnica.com, EVObsession.com, Gas2.org, and several other websites. You can make friends with him on just about any social network you like.

Image credit: mariordo59, courtesy flickr

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