By Phil Tympanick, Millville MA
So now that Obama has jumped into the Chevy Volt and proclaimed victory over the "big bad oil companies", I want he and our law makers to consider the stark realities of the electric vehicle as we're likely to be embarking on a very costly, frustrating and futile experiement with your money, your safety, and your mobility at stake.
If you have a chance to talk with an electric vehicle zelot, please ask him or her the following "bold" questions.
- What will we do with all the millions of discarded batteries over the next two decades? These batteries have very heavy and dirty metals in them, and nobody is considering the enviromental impact the disposal of these batteries will have when they no longer "hold a charge". Just think of how many Lithium Ion batteries you have lying around your house from the sundry of cell phones, cameras, computers and almost everything else that takes a rechargable battery. We need to take them to the dreaded recycling center to properly dispose of them, but where do they go from there? If we choose to invest in recycling these batteries, it will cost you and me more in government subsidies to do so.
- What will happen when 50% of your neighborhood has an electric vehicle in the garage and everyone goes to plug it in for the night? If you don't blow up half the Big Screen TV's in the neighborhood, you'll most certainly blow up the transformers. You see, most of the transformer technology installed in your typical New England neighborhodd won't be able to support the draw of dozens of vechicles charging on 110V circuits. The time to charge the car on a 110V circuit will be twice what it takes to charge them at the recommended 240 or 440v. But putting in these higher voltage circuits will cost home owners thousands of dollars and may require an expansion of your older electrical systems (sub-panels, and heavy gauge wiring), but again the fed is there to provide a 50% subsidy for this too. Despite that, we're still likely to blow up all the transformers in the neighborhood before anyone figures out, it's all the damn electric cars everyone is plugging in! Never mind a "Brown Out", this will be called a "Green Out"!
- Has anyone estimated how much carbon-based fuel will be needed to charge millions of electric vehicles? My guess is that over the course of a year, it will rival the cost to fuel an economical conventional combustion engine on a vehicle of a similar size. After all, you'll have to charge the electric vehicle every night, even if you don't drive it that day, and people will be more apt to over-charge because of "range anxiety". That's not the case with a gas powered vehicle. So how are we any greener?
- What happens when the electric car dies on the highway because the car ran out of battery. The Nissan leaf is a full electric vehicle promising 100 mi range, and the Chevy Volt is advertising a high-end range of 40 miles on a single charge! 40 Miles? We Americans can put that kind of mileage on a vehicle just getting out of the driveway! Granted the Volt has a gasoline backup system that can extend its range, but if you still have to put gas in the car, what's the point? Now each day, you'll have to hit the gas station, and then after gassing up, plug it it? Does this sound like progress to you?
- What other tax payer money will be used to subsidize these vehicles into the "mainstream" of vehicles on the road and is that subsidy really as stimulus to the economy? At $7500.00 per car, you could buy a lot of gas. For example, one could run a vehicle for 3 years if they spent approximately $50.00 per week on gas. At 30 MPG that $50.00 per week would buy 16.6 gallons of $3.00 gas and would transport you 500 miles, almost double the miles you could drive a Volt in a week. At a per mile rate the government is paying $1.94 per mile for us to drive an electirc vehicle in the first year. They would be better off encouraging consumers not to buy any vehicle (now that's green), and use the subsidy to pay for a taxi! Not only would you save on the cost of the vehicle, but you would save on insurance, and maintenance of the vehicle. That $7500.00 would feel more like $10000.00, all of which would be sure to wind up in the economy as discretionary spending!
- How safe are these cars for first responders? If you're a first responder coming to an accident with an Electric Vehicle involved, you best be trained in high-voltage physics. If you don't properly disable the electrical system, a first responder risks serious injury by shock (how does 10K Volts or more to your heart sound), especially if they cut into a critical cable while deploying the jaws of life!
In my opinion there is so much more wrong with these cars than what is right. Given that I would encourage our good Senator to end the artifical incentives for people to go and purchase these electric vehicles. They simply don't make sense, and the money could be used for much better things, such as cutting the damn deficit maybe!