I am glad that Gaylord Nelson had the idea of Earth Day, the origins of which are nicely captured in a recent New York Times article. But given the mess that we find ourselves in, maybe we need a bit more than a day! How about Earth Decade or Earth Century?
Since my last post on the Cost of Driving, the United Nations report outlining strategies for mitigation of climate change was published. We don’t have much time to turn things around, but there are established technologies that can help us avoid the worst impacts of climate change. They note that electric vehicles and home roof-top solar energy systems can help and are readily available now.
This week, my wife and I took our first road trip with our new Kia EV6 all electric vehicle. It has been amazing around town where we can charge from home. But how does the ~300 mile range work on a trip away from home? As a test trip, we drove ~350 miles from our home in Athens, GA to Gainesville, FL. There are many apps that can be used to plan a trip away from your home charger, and my favorite is PlugShare. You can enter your vehicle into PlugShare, and it can show charging sites that will work with your car. You can also plan a trip and find charging stations along the route. PlugShare has information on many different charging networks, and users of PlugShare can enter the status and quality of charging stations in the network.
We planned the trip using PlugShare with a charge in Cordele, GA at an Electrify America charger at Walmart. It worked great! Cordele was about 156 miles from Athens, and we arrived with 47% a battery and an estimated 137 mile range remaining. In just over 30 min, we charged to 97% and an estimated 298 mile range, which brought us to Gainesville with about 110 miles remaining. It was a similar story driving back to Athens.
Bottom line: It wasn’t much different than a trip with a gasoline car, but it takes a bit more planning.
Some friends and relatives have asked whether EVs are actually any better than gas cars for the environment. The short answer is that they are much better, but they are not perfect. Even though electric vehicles do not emit any carbon when they are used, the power that is used to charge them does emit carbon. The Union of Concerned Scientists made a website that can be used to estimate the grams of CO2 produced by different vehicles at different locations. Even though they have not updated to our specific car, a similar all electric vehicle in our zip code produces about 155 grams of CO2 per mile. An average gas car produces about 381 grams of CO2 per mile, and an average plug-in hybrid produces about 229 grams of CO2 per mile.
Bottom line: An EV produces about 40% of the CO2 per mile than an average gasoline car in my zip code.
But it can even be better than this with rooftop solar. Our home solar and battery storage system produces nearly all of our electricity needs on sunny days in April. It will get better in the summer and worse in the winter. I will provide more detail about our solar system in a subsequent post. But to get an idea of how well these can work, I want to provide some details on our March electric bill. A year ago we had a 10 panel solar system, which we upgraded to a 24 panel system last December. We also added a battery. Our electric bill from March, 2021 was $110, and our bill from March, 2022 was $59. But the March, 2022 bill included about 570 miles of charging our Kia EV6 at home. 570 miles of driving an average gas car would have required about 20 gallons of gas. At the March, 2022 gas prices, that 570 miles would have cost us over $80. But our total home electric use and the car were only $59!
Bottom line: Charging an EV at home when electric demands are low can really save money
And since we are generating most of our electricity from our solar panels, driving our EV has an even lower CO2 production that the average electric vehicle in Athens, GA. Getting a rooftop solar system takes some investment and planning, but it is possible for many homeowners. There are federal tax credits that can help, and local governments sometimes have programs to make it even less expensive through bulk purchases. Keep your eyes out for opportunities in your area.
Bottom line: It is possible for individuals to help fight climate change. Collective action by many individuals can have a big impact.
Happy Earth Day!