Electric cars Offer range of benefitsIt is unfortunate...

the Forum

November 22, 1994

Electric cars Offer range of benefits

It is unfortunate that you don't appreciate the benefits associated with the use of the electric vehicle (EV) and, therefore, don't fully support its advent (Nov. 10 editorial, "Clean air and common sense").

The use of the electric vehicle would provide our society with numerous significant environmental, financial and national security benefits.

A recent report of the Union of Concerned Scientists, entitled "Emission Benefits Of Electric Vehicles in the Northeast" states that, taking into account associated power plant emissions, electric vehicles will "result in enormous carbon monoxide, volatile organics compounds, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide emission-reduction benefits -- 99.8 percent, 90 percent, 80 percent and 60 percent, respectively."

This is a result of the fact that electric power plants are much more efficient than gasoline-fueled internal combustion engines (ICE) and that emissions from hundreds of stationary, centrally located power plants are better controlled than those from millions of mobile vehicles.

EVs also use no power when idling and very little during stop-and-go traffic, precisely at the time when ICE vehicles are producing their largest concentration of emissions.

Also, as ICE vehicles get older they are more polluting. (The EV system only improves with age, as power plant emissions come under stricter standards).

Of course, from an urban perspective, there are no tailpipe emissions whatsoever to the environment.

Since oil only represents 4 percent of electric power plant fuel, no oil would be imported and less oil would be used overall to support this transportation need.

This would result in a significant reduction in oil spills and pipeline failures and their resultant impact on our coastal environment and our above-ground and underground waters.

Significant oil-use reduction would also result in a reduced trade deficit, freeing up billions of dollars annually for domestic investment.

Needless to say, if we would not be importing oil we would not have to expend American dollars and blood to protect our foreign oil supplies. Who would care if one Middle East dictator attacked another Middle East dictator?

Another benefit of a reduced need for oil as a fuel is that this depleting resource could be saved for its more useful purpose as a feedstock for the wide variety of petrochemicals that satisfy our many needs.

Unfortunately, the consumer of gasoline does not pay the full price of oil to our society and, therefore, receives no encouragement to look for alternatives, such as the EV.

The consumer only sees the convenience of the ICE vehicle and the current limitations of the alternatives. The marketplace does not provide for fair competition between ICE vehicles and EVs.

Currently the range of the EV satisfies almost all second-car and short-range fleet requirements (commuting and shopping).

Recently an EV, using a nickel metal-hydride battery, achieved a range of 214 miles, indicating that with further development a range approaching that of conventional vehicles is achievable.

In addition, because of its inherent simplicity, there is no reason to believe that an EV, when mass produced, would cost any more, if not less, than a conventional car.

Operating costs would be lower for the EV, because of its simplicity: no engine, no fuel system, no exhaust/emission control system, no tune-ups, no oil change and minimal fuel cost (about a penny a mile in comparison with 4 cents per mile for the ICE vehicle).

There is much activity in the area of EVs. All of the major automobile manufacturers around the world have produced EVs for demonstration and testing purposes.

Small EV manufacturers are currently supplying EVs to individuals and short range fleet users. The U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium, composed of the "Big Three" automakers, the Department of Energy and the electric power industry, have committed $260 million over a four-year period to battery development.

The city of Chattanooga has received delivery of electric buses recently, which have been very well received by their passengers. California requires the sale of EVs by 1998. And New York and Massachusetts have copied their legislation, requiring EV sales.

As we now know, EPA has decided to postpone its decision on whether it will permit the 12 Northeastern states and the District of Columbia to adopt the California legislation for regulating vehicle emissions. Hopefully, their decision will be positive.

I also hope that you will decide to encourage the development and use of EVs in the future, because they are truly for the benefit of us all.

Morris Altschuler


City lights

Astronomers and bird watchers are asking the Maryland Port Commission to hold a public hearing on a project to illuminate the World Trade Center with powerful lights.

The project will threaten migrating birds and inhibit stargazing, they say.

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