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Opinion | Electric vehicles take spotlight across nation

Mark Bentley

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This week, gasoline taxes in Alabama went up six cents a gallon. The costs of maintaining cars and trucks, well, they certainly aren’t going down.

How can drivers save money – aside from staying off the highway? One great way is to join the move toward economical, clean electric vehicles.

More than 1.2 million plug-in electric vehicles (EV) – not including medium- and heavy-duty vehicles – have been purchased in the United States as of June 2019. Major automakers are cranking out thousands of electric vehicles every day, including manufacturers associated with Alabama – Mercedes Benz, Honda and Hyundai. The Mercedes manufacturing plant in Vance has been building plug-in hybrid electric vehicles for years and will begin turning out all-electric vehicles soon.

There are currently 58 EV models on the market, with many more on the way, although not all are available in Alabama yet.

Plug-in electric vehicles, unlike hybrids (which are also better for the environment), do not use any petroleum products. That means there are no emissions, which means the air is not polluted by driving an EV. Driving an electric vehicle costs about 25 percent less than operating a gasoline-powered car or truck. Those costs are even less if drivers are able to charge for free or at discounted rates during off-peak hours – which is the case at homes served by Alabama Power Co. – at their workplaces or at public chargers.

EVs have fewer moving parts than a vehicle fueled by gasoline or diesel. Fewer moving parts means relatively little servicing is necessary and no engine to worry about. There is no starter motor, fuel injection system, spark plugs, transmission, valves, fuel tank, catalytic converter or radiator – just to name a few – parts that potentially break down in petroleum-powered vehicles.

Most manufacturers provide batteries for electric vehicles that have at least an eight-year warranty. Battery life technology is improving every year, too, so we can only imagine what is on the horizon.

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The technology for fueling an EV has been around for a couple of centuries. The “fill ’er up” request for an electric vehicle means you merely plug it in to an electrical outlet at your home – or one of the thousands of charging stations across the nation. With a home charger, EV owners can save on their electric bill with a rider available in Alabama Power’s service area based on overnight charging.

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Non-EV owners often point to a concern over the number of public charging stations available – commonly known as “range anxiety.” Not to worry. Technology in many electric vehicles allows you to plot your trip based on charging stations along your route. Remember, too, the median range for EVs is approaching 250 miles. Plus, the vast majority of your charging (more than 80 percent, nationally) will be done at home.

Electric vehicles are clean and quiet. The transportation sector in the U.S. accounts for almost one-third of our nation’s carbon pollution. Each year in the United States, we burn roughly 133 billion gallons of petroleum products in our passenger cars and trucks. Cars and light trucks on the road account for about 20 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions in the nation.

All-electric vehicles have no tailpipe emissions and, even taking into account the emissions from the electricity produced to charge EVs, these vehicles on average emit significantly less carbon dioxide than conventional vehicles. As we clean up the electric grid, electric vehicles will even get cleaner over time.

Electric vehicles do produce American jobs, including many in Alabama. Advanced technology vehicles and components are being built in at least 20 states, creating thousands of new domestic and well-paying jobs.

These smooth and quiet vehicles are fun to drive, too. EVs have high torque, even at low speeds, providing instant accelerator response.

You can get a hands-on look at new and used electric vehicles from Nissan, Chevrolet, Tesla, BMW, Toyota and Honda on Sept. 14 at The Market at Pepper Place (in the parking lot in front of Betolla’s restaurant on Third Avenue South) at Birmingham’s celebration of National Drive Electric Week. Talk with EV owners about the fun, excitement and cost savings they get from their choice in vehicles. The NDEW Showcase runs from 8 a.m. until noon.

This event is being facilitated by the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition, UAB Sustainability, Alabama Power Co., the City of Birmingham and ZEOG (Zero Emissions Owners Group).

About the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition:

Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition, a nonprofit membership-based organization, is the state’s principal coordinating point for alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles. ACFC is a member of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program. The promotion of clean, renewable, domestic energy sources helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil, improves local air quality and increases economic development opportunities in our local communities. For more information, please visit www.AlabamaCleanFuels.org or call 205-402-2755.

 

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