Increasing the use of plug-in electric and plug-in hybrid cars in Pennsylvania and nationwide would dramatically reduce emissions that cause global warming and air pollution, all while curbing our dependence on oil, according to a new white paper released today by PennEnvironment.
A “plug-in” car is one that can be recharged from the electric grid. Some plug-in cars run on electricity alone, while others are paired with small gasoline engines to create plug-in hybrids (which are different than the Toyota Prius and other conventional hybrids common today).
Many plug-in hybrids can get over 100 miles per gallon, while plug-in electric vehicles consume no gasoline at all. Plug-in vehicles produce no direct tailpipe pollution when operating on electricity, and as renewable energy sources like wind and solar meet a larger share of our electricity needs, electric cars could create little or no air pollution. The technology needed to build workable plug-in vehicles exists today, and plug-ins have several advantages over gasoline-powered cars including far less required regular maintenance and no oil changes.
“Electric cars could be a game-changer in the effort to wean our country off of oil and tackle global warming,” said Nathan Willcox, PennEnvironment’s Energy & Clean Air Advocate. “Now, with the auto industry in transition, we must seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to move plug-in cars into the fast lane.”
PennEnvironment was joined by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Philadelphia City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, and Axion Power International, Inc. in releasing today’s white paper.
The new PennEnvironment white paper, entitled Plug-in Cars: Powering America Toward a Cleaner Future, answers many questions about plug-in vehicles and lays out a strategy for how to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road. Key points of the paper include:
- If half of the light vehicles in the United States were electric vehicles powered by completely clean electricity in 2030, total fleet emissions of global warming pollution would be reduced by 62 percent.
- Powering a car on electricity would result in 93 percent less smog-forming volatile organic compounds and 31 percent less nitrogen oxide emissions than powering a car on gasoline.
- If three-fourths of American cars, pick-up trucks, SUVs and vans were electric, oil use would be reduced by about one-third.
- Operating costs of plug-in cars are likely to be significantly lower than those of gasoline-powered cars. Electricity costs three to five cents per mile with average electric rates, or the equivalent of $0.75 to $1.25 per gallon of gasoline.
- Utilities can structure electricity prices so that it is cheaper to charge cars at times of the day when there is lower electric demand, ensuring that a large number of plug-in cars do not put a strain on the utility.
- Unlocking the full environmental and economic potential of plug-in vehicles will require efforts to clean up and modernize America’s electric grid. Pennsylvania and the country as a whole should adopt renewable energy standards requiring that at least 25 percent of our electricity come from renewable energy by 2025.
PennEnvironment urged state and local officials to fully harness the power of plug-ins by setting clean car standards, offering financial incentives for buyers of plug-in vehicles, creating a low-carbon fuel standard that allows plug-ins to contribute to lowering global warming emissions, promoting renewable energy and adopting ‘smart grid’ technologies that would allow plug-ins to help stabilize the electric grid. The group also called for a comprehensive federal energy and climate bill to help drive support for plug-in cars.