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Report: Electric Cars Could Save Families Hundreds this Summer

by Katie Pyzyk May 31, 2012 at 1:45 pm 4,092 97 Comments

As summer travel season ramps up, a lot of money will be put toward filling up the car with gas. But a new report claims the average Virginia family could save $560 at the pump this summer by using more fuel efficient cars.

The Environment Virginia Research & Policy Center, an organization aimed at promoting cleaner energy options, released the report. It highlights President Obama’s proposal to increase fuel efficiency to 54.5 mpg by 2025.

Organization representatives presented the findings today at a press conference at the River House Apartments (1400 S. Joyce Street) in Pentagon City. There, they highlighted the electric car charging station in the parking lot, and urged Arlington residents to consider purchasing an electric car.

The report claims that the improved standards would save the equivalent amount of pollution as taking three coal power plants offline for the summer, on top of the $560 each Virginia family would save.

“Not only could you take that trip to Virginia Beach while burning much less oil along the way, but you could book the family a hotel for a couple of extra days with the money you’re saving,” said John Cross, Federal Transportation Advocate for Environment Virginia.

Congressman Jim Moran (D) backs the proposed standards mentioned in the report.

“From an economic, environmental and national security perspective, we must reduce our dependency on oil,” said Moran in a statement. “This new report from Environment America highlights the importance of moving forward with cleaner, more fuel efficient cars.”

Cross noted that buying an electric car now has a positive environmental impact, even though the standards aren’t yet to the 54.5 mpg mark.

“Drivers do not have to wait until 2025 to reap the benefits of cleaner cars,” Cross said. “A bumper crop of fuel efficient cars have already started coming to the showroom floor.

  • novasteve

    Yes, buying cars with rare earth elements strip mined in china will no doubt save the world!

    • relievedcyclist

      you’re right, we should focus on biking, walking, transit and smart growth instead

    • drax

      Sure beats cars that run on fuel shipped from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuala.

    • esmith69

      Yes, actually the increase in global temperatures is much more of an immediate issue to the planet than the loss of these rare earth elements (which, by the way, are almost entirely recycled and reused when someone discards a hybrid vehicle).

      • drax

        His point is that they make us dependent on China for a certain product. As if that’s something new.

        • novasteve

          Yes, seems all this green stuff seems to make us dependent upon China, especially solar panels. Even with Obama’s solar tariffs I don’t think it will change much, and wonder what their retaliatory measure will be.

      • marie antoinette

        LoL, still believe in Global Warming? ROFLMAO. How are the glaciers holding up?

  • right wing freak

    Saving money and not polluting the air is SOCIALISM.

  • Rick

    The thing about this is you still have to pay to charge your vehicle. And depending oh where exactly our power comes from, isn’t the power plant just burning more coal to charge these vehicles? I’m all for fuel efficiency and electric/hybrid cars and all that but shouldn’t the power grid get some attention to support all these “clean cars”?

    • redstang423

      You’ve got it completely right, Rick. Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) do nothing for the environment unless the grid is being fed by renewable resources, or to a lesser degree nuclear. Although it does typically cost far less to drive the same distance using the current market PEVs compared to a gas powered vehicle. If you get 33 mpg on a gas vehicle and drive 100 miles (~$10-12 gas), electric would need to cost about 30 cents per kWh as opposed to the ~15 cents it costs now.

      • SteamboatWillie

        So you’re asserting that the emissions created to generate electricity, even from a coal-fired power plant, sufficient to charge a plug-in vehicle are equal to or greater than the emissions of traditional combustion engine vehicle?

        Do you have a link to that?

        • redstang423

          I don’t have any stats, but it probably is marginally better for PEVs SOLELY from the per vehicle pollution contribution from driving. If you want to bring in total pollutant “costs,” look at the environmental impacts of manufacturing and recycling batteries for the cars.

          One thing that I’m pretty sure none of the studies will account for is how electric generation ACTUALLY works. They look at the marginal cost for each PEV, which has no impact on the grid in reality. If it takes into account additional generation, it assumes generation will always equal demand. In reality, generation is almost always greater than demand. Generation companies need to provide capacity to match peak demand. As these vehicles become more common, peak demand will increase, and so will generation capacity. First, that makes electricity more expensive in general. Beyond that, often times it is more economical for power plants to simply generate un-needed electricity and basically “throw it out” than it is to attempt to scale back during lower demand periods to get close to actual demand. As the demands for electricity during peak times grows due to more PEVs coming on line, then it becomes that much more wasted electricity and that much more pollution due to PEVs.

          The better solution for reduction of pollution is to first get the grid connected to more renewables, then worry about chaging the transportation fleet from oil to electricity.

          • relievedcyclist

            why would you charge them at peak? Why not charge them off peak to balance load? Why not use demand management to encourage that?

          • Rick

            What’s the incentive of buying it if I have to wait to charge it? Wouldn’t gasoline emissions be worse at 4pm than electricity use at 4pm?

          • drax

            You charge it at night while you sleep, then you save money during the day when you drive it without buying gas.

          • Rick

            What if you’re out on the town and need a charge, or risk using gasoline? A true liberal dilemma.

          • drax

            This isn’t a liberal thing. That nonsense is what makes you not think clearly about this.

            If you need to use gas, you just use it. Duh.

          • Zoning Victim

            The problem is that afternoons and evenings during the summer are the peak times for electrical usage. So people will be charging their cars during peak times. That’s no reason not to use electric vehicles, but saying that you’ll be charging your car while you sleep makes it sound like that’s the best time to charge your car, when that’s actually not the case.

          • AH

            Why doesn’t Dominion give discounts for off-peak usage?

          • redstang423

            They don’t have smart meters implemented in any large scale yet. They wouldn’t have any way of measuring it otherwise.

          • drax

            http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_vehicles/smart-transportation-solutions/advanced-vehicle-technologies/electric-cars/emissions-and-charging-costs-electric-cars.html

            “Nationwide, EVs charged from the electricity grid produce lower global warming emissions than the average compact gasoline-powered vehicle (with a fuel economy of 27 miles per gallon)—even when the electricity is produced primarily from coal in regions with the “dirtiest” electricity grids.”

          • redstang423

            That study doesn’t list exactly how it they calculated the figures, but I can say with a high level of confidence it simply compares the pollution caused by generating enough electricity required to drive X miles to how much pollution is generated by burning gas to drive X miles. Again, that is not how the grids actually work. If there is a grid-wide demand of 1000 kW right now and the power plant is generating 1000 kW, if someone flips on another light, there will be brownouts until the generation increases to match the new demand. The utilities generate at some percent higher than demand – and it isn’t even exact demand, it is expected demand. That capacity also ALWAYS needs to be there, by utility commission laws. During lower volume times, it is usually cheaper for the generation plant to continue generating at high capacity and simply waste the electricity than it is to scale back production and scale it back up at the next daily peak.

            You can attempt to drive behavior by using demand management, but until there is a technology that will allow quick charging of PEVs to times comparable to gas vehicles, it won’t do much. Even if you implement it, it will have minimal impact on anything right now since consumer behavior for PEVs now and in the forseeable future display “range anxiety.” Range anxiety is the fear of not being able to get where you need to go on the existing charge since it takes several hours to charge to anything more than a down-the-street level of use. Consumers have proven to charge the vehicle at every opportunity they get to reduce that anxiety. There are three major times this occurs – when they get to work, when they get back from lunch, and when they get home. These are the three peak times for electric consumption in the United States.

            If there were to be any sort of significant adoption in an area, it would increase the required capacity at peaks and wouldn’t really have a profound affect on the non-peak consumption. Based on my explanation above, during those non-peak times, there would be significant waste of energy, and excess pollution generated that isn’t accounted for in the studies.

          • Josh S

            Interesting stuff. Isn’t part of the answer, then, to work toward more distributed energy generation? So instead of one power plant supplying 10,000 houses, there are multiple “plants” generating electricity for a much smaller group of users. I seem to remember hearing that this model has many benefits.

          • redstang423

            @Josh S (for some reason, I can’t reply to your post directly) – Sort of – that’s part of an overall solution, but won’t necessarily fix the issue. The main problem is the current design limitations of EV vehicles. Until they can be charged in a reasonable amount of time that is similar to time to fill a gas tank, this problem will not go away since people will always be charging during peak times.

            Distributed generation will slightly mitigate the issue, but not come close to eliminating it. The bigger problem is right now distributed generation isn’t even close to economically feasible on any mass scale.

      • EVfan

        Electric more are much more efficient than gas engines and there are many studies that show the grid can handle the load. Electric vehicles would dramatically reduce the amount of CO2 produced even with coal fired power generating (see http://www.saxton.org/EV/efficiency.php). One should examine the literature before spouting inaccuracies.

        • redstang423

          Read above for an basic explanation of how electric generation works and why the studies are flawed. PEVs in any significant number are a MAJOR problem for utilities all over the country.

  • MC 703

    Auto industry lobbyists will continue to fight mandatory MPG improvement benchmarks and alternative fuel (corn lobbyist step in) until way past 2025.

  • redstang423

    Sure, you could save $560/year in fuel… but what about the costs of actually buying a new car. I’m guessing for most people, that would cost them more than the $560 they saved.

    And also, using plug in electric vehicles on a non-renewable energy grid simply shifts the pollution from being spread out across operational areas to more heavily concentrated at the power plants themselves. If they had the switchover they’re using in their stat about removing the pollution of 3 coal fired plants, that MAY be true (but I doubt it), but what they’re failing to realize is they’ll now need more coal fired plants to support the significant additional electricity demands of the EVs.

    • Brennalm

      I think a lot of people don’t realize that you’d need to have the car for 25+ years to just break even combining gas money and car payments. 25 years just to break even. At year 26, that is when you would be beginning to save money.

      I tried explaining this to my parents. I think I got the point through to them, but their overarching reason for buying a hybrid was “we want to pay the oil companies as little as possible.” It’s their money I guess.

      • esmith69

        There is definitely something to be said about your parents’ line of thinking–mine offered the same reason when they bought a Prius. They’d rather pay extra money that helps invest into technology that uses less foreign oil.

        • Whitney Wilson

          Actually, at least in Arlington a Prius provides about $600-$1200 in operational savings over a comparable gas-powered vehicle (between gas savings of about 150 gallons per year (based on driving 10,000 miles) and personal property tax savings. So depending on what car you are comparing to the Prius, it only takes a few years to “break even.”

          • redstang423

            Whitney – is that still the case? I thought Arlington discontinued that incentive. I tried looking for it, but every reference to it is a broken link. I just may not be looking in the right spot.

            Also, that only applies if you were going to purchase a new vehicle regardless of fuel economy savings. If you’re purchasing a vehicle solely to get better gas mileage, you need to factor in that you’ll have an extra X monthly payments in addition to any amount your monthly payments increase.

          • R. Griffon

            My calculations show about a $600/yr. savings with a Civic Hybrid vs. Civic Sedan assuming 12,000 mi/yr and $4/gal. gas.

      • R. Griffon

        25 years is some really bad math – it’s about 1/2 of that. I tend to keep my cars for at least 8-10 years, so that’s coming close.

        But that’s not why I bought a hybrid, and nor is it the reason for any other hybrid driver that I know personally (which is anecdotal, granted). If scraping together every penny I could was my chief concern in life, then I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t live in Arlington in the first place.

        • Zoning Victim

          Actually, I see no math in either estimation. The only incentive to buy a PEV is to feel better about yourself for helping out the environment (presumably), which isn’t a bad reason to do it, but claiming that it will save “each Virginia family ” $560 is disingenuous at best. The average age of a car in the US has climbed to almost 11 years; meaning they’re paid off. If you were looking to trade in an $8,000 car on a new $35,000 PEV and got a 6 year loan at 3% interest, your payments will be $415 and you’ll pay a total of $37,906 for the PEV over the life of the loan. At an annual “savings” of $560, you’d have to drive that car for 68 years before you actually saved your first dollar.

          Obviously, this is a simplistic comparison since neither car would last 68 years without major systems overhauls, but just subtracting the cost of electricity and battery maintenance of a PEV from the gasoline, oil change and tune-up costs of the average car on the road today and saying that you’ll save $560 a year if you buy an electric car is even more ridiculous. In fact, it’s downright irresponsible.

          • redstang423

            Average age does not equate to a vehicle being paid off. If it is length of ownership, then yes. But if the vehicle gets sold every three years, it’ll potentially never be paid off. The current average length of ownership is now 6 years – which still likely means the car was paid off. Either way, in the mathematical analysis, you’d still need to have the payments kick in once your original vehicle WOULD HAVE been paid off – if it already isn’t.

  • dirty biker

    So- today is the last day of Bike to Work month, I rode 600 miles over 12 round trips to my office which saved me:

    720 miles (toll road is longer than the WO&D)
    $144 on gas (20 mpg/$4 per)
    $60 on tolls
    $72 on lunch (I bring food when I ride but not when I drive for some reason…)

    $276 for May alone AND I didn’t spend a penny at a gym.

    I’ll probably commute 4K miles total this year which will save $1840- that’s real money. Figure that my bike cost that (3 years ago), it’s a 1 yr ROI. The volt? 26 years…

    http://www.plugincars.com/new-york-times-calculates-roi-leaf-and-volt-120066.html

    • CW

      Wow you live a long ways from work.

      Do you only work 12 days a month, or did you drive the rest?

      • dirty biker

        Yup- Sterling. 30 miles driving, 25 miles riding. Good thing that I live within spitting distance of two metros that won’t take me remotely close to my office 😉

        I drove the rest- need to bring in food, clothing and such and frankly, can’t wake up at o-dark thirty every day. I’ve never done this cost analysis before- the cost of my commute is ridiculous ($4250 on gas and tolls alone) even before you get into vehicle wear and tear, depreciation and traffic PTSD.

        The funny thing about the riding is that it nets out to almost the same time as driving since average driving commute is an unpleasant 100 minutes/day (up to 130 minutes on bad traffic days); Riding is 165 minutes + 15 minutes cleaning/changing (more in the winter). If I weren’t riding and wanted to stay in shape (in reality I’d probably just sleep in and get fat…), I’d be swimming which would easily eat that 80 minutes and cost $8 a pop at my pool.

        • marie antoinette

          Forget the savings, your body is probably thanking you the most. That a haul. Keep it up.

    • Brennalm

      How long does it take you to get to work each way? Please include shower time when you get there in the morning.

      • dirty biker

        See above on total time… and shower? hahaa:

        http://www.amazon.com/ShowerPill-Athletic-Body-Wipes-Pack/dp/B0061QL8EE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338493139&sr=8-1

        Most people shower/get ready anyway- I just do it at work sans shower. What takes the most extra time is winter riding- I have to dress up like the little kid from Christmas Story- it takes about 10 minutes when I have to wear shoe covers. Also, riding in the dark is slower by about 5 minutes each way.

        • dirty biker

          dang… it got moderated- total time is 180 minutes a day riding (including 15 minutes changing/cleaning) vs 100-130 driving depending on traffic

      • cyclist

        My commute is about 8 miles – same as Metro/bus trip. Driving might be faster. Only cycling is 100% delay-free and 100% free, not counting breakfast.

        • CW

          I cycle commute daily and this is the same duration as mine.

    • MC 703

      You are my new hero. I drive from Shirlington to Sterling everyday.

      • dirty biker

        Oh, my commute is nothing- there’s a guy that does 56 miles a day Ashburn to DC, every day, all year long but starts work at 2:30 am- sooo that’s 14K/year, most of it in the dark. Guy is in his 50’s. He’s my hero.

    • redstang423

      Being fair in your analysis, you could definitely bring your lunch when you drive – you just choose not to, so it probably shouldn’t include that in your savings. Still pretty significant either way. Also, don’t forget the saved costs in wear and tear on your car and any discount your insurance company gives you for driving fewer miles. Potentially even the car payments/depreciation cost if you’re able to transition to a complete car-free diet.

  • Rick

    http://www.energy.vt.edu/vept/electric/index.asp It’s hard to say whether we get more nuclear than coal, or whether any of that nuclear power gets up here from Richmond, but I feel like Virginia Tech is a good place to get energy stats on Virginia.

  • John Fontain

    “they highlighted the electric car charging station in the parking lot, and urged Arlington residents to consider purchasing an electric car. The report claims that the improved standards would save the equivalent amount of pollution as taking three coal plants offline for the summer”

    The predominant source of electricity is coal. Therefore, a plug in car is essentially a coal-powered vehicle. Yet these lobbyists claim that using a plug in car will help reduce coal usage? Say what?

    • relievedcyclist

      it uses coal, but not alot, cause they are very efficient, IIUC.

      OTOH still not as good as walking or cycling, or, usually, transit

    • Josh S

      Wouldn’t you also have to figure in the efficiency of energy use? I mean, a barrel of oil has X BTUs of stored energy. After refinement, shipping, and being burned in your car’s engine, how many BTUs of actual work come out? How much carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere per unit of work?

      All of that versus the same for a ton of coal being converted into electricity and stored in your car’s battery.

      And then for a ton of natural gas. I agree that for now, we probably don’t have to consider anything else in Northern Virginia since such a tiny percentage of our electricity would come from anything else.

      I have no freaking idea what the answer is – it’s enormously complicated.

      But here are of a couple of things – we got the coal and natural gas here. No need to go to war to protect the oil being shipped over from afar. Global warming is bad enough, let’s not add war on top of it.

      Also, an electric car emits virtually no pollutants locally, thus improving smog levels. Whether our coal-fired electric plants are effectively capturing their pollutants at the smoke-stack I don’t know. They are supposed to. It certainly is a lot easier to capture pollutants coming from one smokestack versus thousands of tailpipes, it seems to me.

      Finally, it seems to me that the price pressures on electricity are and will be much lower than those on gasoline. So, the future costs to fuel a gasoline-powered car will continue to rise, in all likelihood, while the costs to power an electric car will not rise anywhere near as fast.

    • R. Griffon

      Read it again.

      “The report claims that the improved standards would save the EQUIVALENT AMOUNT OF POLLUTION as taking three coal plants offline for the summer”

      Nowhere in that sentence does it say that it will reduce coal usage.

  • John Fontain

    I recently read an interesting view on hybrid vehicles. The author predicted that interest in hybrids would eventually diminish because gas engines are becoming so efficient that there will at some point in the future be only a marginal benefit in MPG from hybrid engines. Interesting.

    • R. Griffon

      Because gas prices always stay the same, right? Once peak oil hits (many say w/in 20 years), we’ll dream of the good ‘ole days when we used to pay $4/gal for gas.

      FWIW, I don’t particularly love hybrids either; I just think they’re a mediocre stop-gap until we can abandon the internal combustion engine altogether.

  • Chris M.

    I realize it was convenient that all of the article’s “facts” matched up well with your predetermined narrative and world view, but you really should try spending just a few minutes looking for a comment that challenges the obvious flaws and biases in this article. You’ll be a better and more well-rounded blogger for it.

    • drax

      So offer them yourself.

  • Tesla Girls

    Tesla Model S here I come!

  • esmith69

    Yikes, there are so many ignorant and uninformed comments on here that it is truly frightening. Everyone just seems to be in complete denial about global climate change and they’ll use any excuse they can come up with to justify continuing to drive gasoline-powered cars without concern for the consequences (i.e the whole rare earth metal argument, give me a break!)

    1. Thankfully, there are many localities in the country that are no longer using dirty coal for electricity generation. In all of these places, the benefits of plug-in hybrid and full electric cars are enormous, even over the super efficient gasoline hybrids such as the Prius or Insight.

    2. I believe we have energy provided by both natural gas and coal. Please correct me if I’m wrong about this. But assuming that’s true, per this NY Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/15/automobiles/how-green-are-electric-cars-depends-on-where-you-plug-in.html?pagewanted=all), the total greenhouse gas footprint of a pure electric model would be about equal to that of the most efficient gasoline cars available today. Once we can start switching over to some cleaner energy sources, the benefits of plug-in hybrid and pure electric cars get much greater than any expected increases in efficiency/greenhouse gas output of pure gasoline cars.

    Bottom line is that people need to become more well informed about things. Read that article in its entirety before coming to conclusions about what is good and what is bad. Unless you’re currently driving a Prius, Volt, or Insight, you’ll probably find that whatever vehicle you drive now is significantly worse for the environment than a plug-in hybrid or full electric.

    • Rick

      Please read my link RE: power sources in Virginia and tell me how you feel. The “Union of Concerned Scientists” is probably less trustworthy as VT. The points made were that the sustainable power needs to increase before more people plug into the wall.

      And yes the “carbon footprint” of a prius is toploaded in the production of it and it’s battery. That’s not disputable. http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/08/31/us-mining-toyota-idUSTRE57U02B20090831

      • Josh S

        Waiting around never got anyone anywhere.

    • Ghost of Global Warming Past

      Is “global climate change” the currently accepted term…I can’t keep up with the current propoganda verbiage. Because if “global climate change” is the currently acceptable term, it doesn’t really resonate with me since there has been “global climate change” since the beginning of Earth’s existence…like those ice ages and stuff.

      • Josh S

        It’s shorthand for anthropogenically-induced climate change. Which is, of course, the key difference. Yes, of course the Earth’s climate has gone through many dramatic changes over the millenia. But the pace has always been much slower and caused by natural processes.
        We could burn every drop of oil and every lump of coal tomorrow and the Earth will survive. It wouldn’t be a very hospitable place, however, And that’s the rub. Faced with the choice, will we continue with the status quo and face what appear to be very unpleasant consequences or will we take positive action to seek to avoid those consequences.

        • redstang423

          My only counterpoint is we’re looking at such a narrow data sample with what’s happened in the past 100-150 years. Even towards the beginning of our data sample, the data is very unreliable – recording errors are high, let alone the actual measurement errors. Plus, looking at the data we can estimate over the past millions of years by sampling ice cores doesn’t allow us to get so granular to make real, legitimate comparisons. We’re looking at a very, very localized trend in the past 150 years compared to the life of a planet. Similar fast temperature changes could have happened 30,000 years ago and it easily could been lost in the wash. Anyone who claims to be able to determine with certainty the average yearly temperatures from tens of thousands of years ago is full of it.

    • redstang423

      Check out some of my comments above about how the electric generation model works. Most studies will just look at how much pollution is created by the amount of electricity required for the car to drive X miles, rather than the pollution for how much electricity must GENERATED to drive those X miles. The two numbers are not the same. It is very correct though, that the answer depends on where you live and from what sources the electricity generated. If it’s renewables, there’s no argument.

      Also keep in mind the manufacturing costs. When the Prius was first manufactured, the total environmental impact was worse than that of the Hummer H2 when you factor in the manufacturing processes required for the car – especially the batteries. They’ve long since fixed that problem and made it far more environmentally sound. Basically, the whole process is something often overlooked. The recycling process also needs to be considered, and is a major negative hit for PEVs. This is very, very rarely accounted for in studies promoting EV’s since it reduces their apparent benefits.

    • marie antoinette

      Always love a well-reasoned poster who carries the moniker “Faux News” and drops the words ‘ignorant’ and ‘uninformed’ in his/her 1st sentence, and provides links from the New York Times.

      Definately someone willing to hear another point of view!

      The reality sir, is that you are in very sense of the word cut from the same cloth as right-of-Glenn Beck; only you are located on the far left of the blanket.

  • Garden City

    The benefit of plug-in cars is that you are not chained to one source of energy. The electricity does not have to come from coal-fired plants but can be from hydo plants, solar plants, nuclear plants, natural gas-fired plants, etc. The cost savings? That’s a bigger challenge. If you are saving $560/year in fuel, how does that play out against the difference in the purchase price between the electric vehicle and the conventionally-fueled vehicle? How many years to break-even? As far as the mileage standards, the engineers will meet these if the managers will let them. Engineers live for a challenge like that, and the managers have been wrong about the cost of every federally-mandated auto requirement. For example, the auto industry said requiring catalytic converters would add nearly $1000 to the cost of a car. Actually, it was about $200. Airbags? Industry said $800 per car. Actually, it’s about $250. Seat belts and safety glass? Henry Ford II said the cost would destroy the industry. So when the auto industry managers say that the 2025 mileage rules are impossible/too expensive, you have to take it with a large grain of salt.

    • Rick

      Yeah, but most of these charging stations don’t have a toggle switch for which kind of energy to use.

      • drax

        If you charge at home, as you will most of the time, I think there’s a program to choose your source of power (and pay accordingly). Don’t know if it still exists, but it was a pilot program. So yeah, you can choose to power your car with wind or whatever.

        • redstang423

          That’s only works in theory, not reality. There is literally no way to choose from what source the actual electricity supplied to your car physically was generated (unless, of course, you have a private windmill or solar panels on your house and a microgrid on your house). The best you can do is some type of device that interacts with the utility to tell it what source you want to “use.” You’re first limited to only the types of power source your electric supplier purchases or generates if they own their own generation facilities. That’s the end game. Sure, the device will track how much energy is used, and that money goes to paying for increasing, for example, wind power somewhere on the grid. But guess what? You’ll be paying a much different rate to do that – you’ll pay however much it costs to generate the electricity at that type of plant. In most areas, if you select wind or solar, it’ll be FAR more expensive than “generic” electricity. There goes your cost savings.

          • drax

            I know how it works. Obviously you don’t get exactly the power you ordered through the power lines. But the result is the same – you order up the power you want from the source you want, and that much more power comes from that plant.

            And no, I wouldn’t say wind is that much more expensive than coal that it would wipe out any savings. Not even close.

          • redstang423

            You can only “order” the power from whatever source your utility provides. Not whatever you want. And that’s even if the program even exists – which it doesn’t right now.

            And you’re straight up wrong. Wind power – in this area and most of the US – is currently FAR more expensive than any conventional power source, particularly when you remove all the subsidies that the consumer doesn’t realize are there. That increases the actual price of wind power by as much as 200%. You’ll see some studies claiming it’s on par with coal in some areas of the country, but they look at for the consumer – which means the subsidies are still factored in. Those costs are still placed on the consumer, but you don’t see it as a kWh cost directly. Generally, the places where wind becomes most economically feasible are the most rural areas of the country. Those areas, coincidentally, are the least viable locations for use of PEVs.

        • Rick

          I was talking about public chargers.

    • nom de guerre

      All of the charging stations in Arlington will utilize vibrant energy!

      • marie antoinette

        +10

    • Zoning Victim

      But they originally did cost that much. Catalytic converters still cost around $800 for some makes. As for the 2025 mileage rules, they’re really just a goal. For all we know, we’ll actually solve our rectal-cranial immersion problem and be on a totally different fuel source (for the most part) by then. If not and it comes to pass that the mileage goals aren’t attainable, they’ll just change the law.

      • marie antoinette

        1.1 Gigowatts is all we need!

  • Guy LeDouche

    “Not only could you take that trip to Virginia Beach while burning much less oil along the way, but you could book the family a hotel for a couple of extra days with the money you’re saving,”

    Hmmm, burning much less oil??? I think in the typical traffic getting out of DC on 96 south, the miles the Volt pictured could go on electric power before requiring all gas would get you to about Dumfries…Stafford if you were lucky. Nothing like a beautiful family vacation in Stafford…hopefully you can find a charging station there in order to get home again.

    • R. Griffon

      Why would you need to charge if you were driving a Volt? The whole point of them is that you can use gas on long trips and never have to worry about it. Charging is optional.

      Pure EVs (like the Leaf), on the other hand, are city cars meant for day-to-day city driving. Nobody would ever take one on a road trip for exactly that reason.

  • JamesE

    I got to the outer banks on half a tank of gas averaging. 30+ mpg in a v8, just make cars lighter with tall sixth gears.

    • redstang423

      Exactly. Several years ago I had a 2008 Mustang GT (300 hp, 4.6L V8) and I would regularly hit 30 mpg for trips to NC cruising at 75 mph on the highway. That only had a five speed.

      • esmith69

        Under those same ideal driving conditions, a gasoline-hybrid would have likely gotten around 50mpg…

        • redstang423

          Hybrid vehicles have a significantly reduced competitive MPG advantage over comparable gasoline powered vehicles at highway speeds and under the conditions described. The hybrid usually still outperforms the conventional vehicle MPG-wise, but usually by no more than a few MPG. Not nearly the differences you see in city driving.

          The point is if you can get that type of mileage out of a performance oriented gas engine, it’s obviously very possible to do just fine out of a fuel economy oriented conventional gas engine.

          • R. Griffon

            Hybrids excell in stop-and-go, true, but you’re discounting the advantages too much considering that most hybrid drivers aren’t simply driving the hybrid version of the same car, but rather an entirely different car. I think that the Prius and the Civic probably make up the lion’s share of hybrids, and they both get well over 40 mpg on the highway.

            For a better comparison, maybe use a diesel. I regularly get nearly 50 highway in mine.

            But if you do mostly un-congested highway driving, you’ve got no business in a hybrid as a rule of thumb. But 99% of DC area residents don’t, making it kind of moot.

          • redstang423

            The only real comparisons you can do are between conventional engines and the diesel or hybrid version of the same car. Otherwise there are way too many other variables contributing to the equation – particularly, different weight. Look at the BMW 3-series for example. You can get a small engine (328i), sport engine (335i), diesel (335d), or super high performance engine (M3). 4 different engines in the same car with significantly different intents for performance levels and fuel economy levels. That’s the only way to truly see the benefit of a hybrid versus conventional vehicle.

            There’s really only one hybrid model on the market that’s a completely different car – and that’s the Prius.

        • Fryer Oil Joe

          And a diesel would have gotten 60 mpg.

  • R. Griffon

    EVs are cool and all, but I just can’t see them ever being more than a niche market. The real problem IMHO is that most people in the key demographic that could really benefit them (people in high-density areas) don’t have the infrastructure to support them. You basically have to be a single family homeowner in order to install the requisite charging station.

    Until/unless you can get a full charge at a filling station in like 5 minutes, I just don’t see it happening. And even then I’m not sure as a single charge is probably only good for a day or two. Who wants to “fill up” that often? As long as it’s inconvenient it won’t fly.

    • Josh S

      This is why you are starting to see the charging stations pop up in parking lots. The Lee-Harrison underground lot, for example, just opened three.(or two).

      I wonder if Zip Car will have some installed on the street at their parking spaces…..

    • redstang423

      @R. Griffon – you hit the nail on the head with your entire post, but particularly this comment “Until/unless you can get a full charge at a filling station in like 5 minutes, I just don’t see it happening.”

      Until it’s on par with conventional fuels, PEVs will never be adopted on a large scale by US consumers. Heck, GM looses tons of money on the Volt itself, but only produces them because it brings their fleet MPG up so much, they don’t need to spend the money elsewhere to make the vehicles people will actually buy and drive more efficient. Good job, government.

  • PhilT

    I am on the fence about the savings and the environmental benefits, but I will not forget when a local snow storm hit before evening rush hour, gridlock ensued, and many hybrids simply didn’t have the longevity to keep the passengers warm and make it to their destinations, resulting in abandonment and adding to the gridlock.

    • drax

      It might conk out after being stuck for several hours in a freak snowstorm that happens every 10 years or so in this area? Not a good reason not to buy it.

      • redstang423

        OK. Try taking a 200 mile drive. That ~3.5 hour trip now takes 7 hours since you have to stop to charge the vehicle – assuming you can even find a charging station. Is that a reason not to buy it? The Volt is the only semi-reasonable trade off, but those are outrageously expensive for what you get relative to the rest of the automotive market.

    • Josh S

      This is why I never buy pistachios. I saw this one guy once get one stuck up his nose. It was terrible, man.

  • marie antoinette

    I suppose I could buy a Volt, but it would catch on fire. Here is another question…could an electric car make it to Virginia Beach on a single charge?

    • redstang423

      It depends on the vehicle. The two mainstream PEVs on the market right now are the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf. The plug in hyrids aren’t the same, so I’m not looking at them. The Volt could since it has a gas engine that acts as a generator. You can also refill the gas engine, so technically it doesn’t have range limitations. The Leaf cannot.

      If you look at the specialty PEVs you expand to the Tesla Model S, Tesla Roadster, and the Fisker Karma. Both should be capable (it would be close though), but I’m not sure if you start factoring in typical traffic. The Fisker should be able to make it too.

  • redstang423
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