Conservation Law Foundation, state of Vermont miss point on why we’re not buying electric cars

By Guy Page

A Conservation Law Foundation op-ed in the Oct. 6 Rutland Herald reports on a Vermont Public Utilities Commission workshop aimed at getting more Vermonters to drive electric cars. CLF recommends the state of Vermont and Vermonters drive more electric cars, in response to climate change. A few thoughts on CLF’s conclusions.

CLF makes several relevant, accurate points: electric car range is improving; some plug-ins now have a 200-mile range, almost equal to some gasoline-driven cars. And their clean-air advantage is important and undeniable. But it errs in several other areas.

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Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, and Physicians, Families & Friends for a Better Vermont.

As CLF notes, electric cars are cheaper to fuel than internal-combustion vehicles. But CLF fails to say that plug-in electric cars are freeloaders on the state’s highways. The state of Vermont taxes gasoline and diesel fuel to build and maintain the state’s roads. Every time you and I fill up our gas or diesel tanks, we’re also filling up the Highway Fund. Plug-in electric cars pay no comparable tax. And it’s not like they haven’t been asked. Every year someone in the Legislature says, “make electric cars pay their own way.” And every year the renewable power industry and other voices say ‘no way, they’re already expensive. If you make them more expensive, people won’t buy them.’ And they get their way.

This is fundamentally unfair. Electric car drivers use the roads and they should help pay for them. They can pay at the charging station, or they can pay an annual mileage tax at inspection or point of sale, but either way they should pay like the rest of us.

Until that inequity is resolved, the ‘free ride’ enjoyed by electric car owners — many of them quite wealthy — will be just another example of poor and middle class Vermonters subsidizing the right-thinking affluent. Like carbon taxation and solar power subsidies, electric car freeloading is resented as economic injustice in the name of environmental progress.

Also, CLF errs when it claims the federal government will “roll back” mileage requirements. The Trump EPA wants to increase required MPG by 28 percent in 2021.

More specifically, the Trump administration plans to stick to the Obama plan of raising the blended (city/highway) new car mileage standard from the current 29 MPG to 37 MPG in 2021. That’s already far above Vermont’s preference for 25-30 MPG fuel-efficient all-wheel drive vehicles, such as the unofficial “state car,” the Subaru. Vermont car owners — including Rep. Peter Welch, who reportedly drives a Subaru — will be hard-pressed to meet that target. It’s true that the Trump administration has waived the 2025 target of about 47 MPG, but for good reason as far as Vermonters are concerned: safety.

My nephew is a car geek. He sells Volkswagens in Connecticut and can tell you everything about every car on the road — just ask him. On our way back from a Yankee Stadium road trip a couple of weekends ago, sitting behind the wheel of a new VW Atlas SUV, he turned to me and said, “I don’t know why any driver above the Mason-Dixon Line would drive anything but an all-wheel drive vehicle.”

He’s got a point, and so does the Trump administration: right now, the 47 MPG electric cars are just not as safe to drive-as my Honda CR-V. When it’s snowing and the roads are icy, do you want your teenager driving a two-wheel drive electric compact, or an all-wheel drive SUV? So far, there are no AWD cars getting 47 MPG.

There’s a reason why 10 of the 11 most popular cars and light trucks in Vermont are either AWD or 4WD. In Vermont, most 2WD cars just don’t pass the white knuckle test. Until the market delivers a selection of affordable, all-wheel drive plug-in electric cars, Vermonters can be forgiven for choosing their family’s survival over making a miniscule reduction to global emissions. Vermont is the state that restricted gun rights because of a school shooting that didn’t happen. Priorities don’t get much higher than child safety.

Vermonters concerned about the carbon threat can buy an electric car, if they want. They can also use alternate transportation, car pool, bike, walk. They can keep their furnace tuned. They can support existing Canadian and New England hydro and nuclear plants against the renewable power and fossil fuels lobby that would see shut them down. They can lease peak-shaving home batteries from GMP at $10 per month. The number of climate-saving choices is endless, and information is as close as a Google search.

Vermonters should not be forced to pay the pothole bill for electric car drivers. And they shouldn’t be denied the right to purchase a Vermont-safe car deemed MPG-deficient by the federal government. For people who fret that Vermonters will make the “wrong” choices, the good news is that the market will likely soon deliver an electric car so affordable, safe and reliable that its owners won’t mind paying the road tax and concerned mothers and fathers won’t mind sending their teenager off to school in a snowstorm.

And when the market finally delivers such a vehicle, the State of Vermont won’t need workshops or advertising campaigns or subsidies to get Vermonters to buy electric. We’ll buy them for the best reason of all: because we want them.

Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Bahnfrend and Page Communications

5 thoughts on “Conservation Law Foundation, state of Vermont miss point on why we’re not buying electric cars

  1. Guy,
    Unless EVs have 4WD they are a non-starter in New England.
    Few folks will shell out $40,000 for an EV to get 150 mile range but NO 4WD.
    I have a moderately steep driveway
    I drive a Subaru Outback, 4WD, 30 mpg, just to get out of my driveway and to have good traction during winter and mud season.
    My personal physician parks her Nissan Leaf EV in the barn during the winter, because it is a dog in winter.
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/replacing-gasoline-consumption-with-electricity-in-vermont

    EVs Charging, Impact on VT Grid and CO2 Reduction

    RE proponents claim EVs would be charged at night, and that it would “flatten the demand” curve. In reality, peak demands would occur at night, instead of during the day.

    – VT monthly average travel is about 6.252/12 = 0.521 billion miles; summer monthly maximum about 0.521 x 1.14 = 0.594 b miles, winter monthly minimum about 0.521/1.14 = 0.457 b miles. Daily averages, such as for a holiday weekend, likely would vary more than 14% from the annual average.

    The mix of light duty vehicles, LDVs, is assumed to require 0.350 kWh/mile, as measured by the VEHICLE meter, which would require 55.313 TWh/y to be fed to the NE grid and 2.646 TWh/y fed to the VT grid to charge the LDVs during the year, if gas turbines were used at 50% efficiency. BTW, wind and solar would be unsuitable/useless without TWh-scale energy storage, as people do need to reliably charge their vehicles to get to work.

    – If the charging of VT EVs were EVENLY distributed from 10 pm to 6 am, every day, the VT summer nighttime demand increase would be 1.14 x 2.646 billion kWh/y/(8 x 365)/1000 = 1032 MW. See table 1.

    – If the charging of VT EVs were EVENLY distributed during 24 hours of the day, the VT summer around-the-clock demand increase would be 344 MW. See table 1.

    – That would be a significant increase of the normal nighttime demand of about 500 MW. The normal daytime peak demand is about 700 MW, and about 900 MW during the late afternoons of hot summer days.

    – NG requires much less source energy than LNG (the Conservation Law Foundation is in favor of imported LNG and HIGHER NE electricity prices)
    – NG emits much less CO2 than LNG
    – NG is domestic; would not adversely affect the US trade balance
    – NG has 1/3 the cost of Russian/Middle East LNG
    – NG requires much less capital cost than LNG and wind and solar

    • Kenneth,
      Yes, they do.
      Here are the numbers regarding fuel consumption. EMBEDDED CO2 is ignored

      Table 7/Prius plug-in $/y $/mile
      Cost of travel/y, 50% electric mode 0.2533 x 18 c/kWh x 0.50 x 12000 274
      Cost of travel/y, 50% hybrid mode 12000/54 mpg x 0.50 x $2.80/gal 311
      Total cost of travel/y 585 0.0492
      g/y g/mile
      CO2 emission, SE basis, electric mode 0.2533 x 12000 x 374 NE grid x 0.50 568405 95
      CO2 emission, SE basis, hybrid mode 12000/54 x 23.451 lb x 454 x 0.50 1182973 197
      Total CO2 emission, PE basis 1751378 146

      Tesla, Model S, 4wd $/y $/mile
      Cost of travel/y, 100% electric mode 0.381 x 18 c/kWh x 12000 823 0.0686
      g/y g/mile
      CO2 emissions, SE basis 0.381 x 12000 x 374 NE grid 1709928 142

      Tesla Model 3, 4wd, Edmunds road test $/y $/mile
      Cost of travel/y, 100% electric mode 0.302 x 18 c/kWh x 12000 652 0.0544
      g/y g/mile
      CO2 emissions, SE basis 0.302 x 12000 x 374 NE grid 1355376 113

      Future compact IC vehicle @ 38 mpg $/y $/mile
      Cost of travel 12000/38 x $2.80 884 0.0700
      g/y g/mile
      CO2 emissions, SE basis 12000/38 x 23.451 x 454 3362133 280

      Subaru Outback, 4wd @ 30 mpg $/y $/mile
      Cost of travel 12000/30 x $2.80 1120 0.0933
      g/y g/mile
      CO2 emissions, SE basis 12000/30 x 23.451 x 454 4258702 355

    • There is no way RE people can be serious, if subsidies can be had for their dubious RE projects

      Massachusetts used its Volkswagen money to buy $350,000 electric school buses.

      After about a year it was found there were NO SAVINGS.

      MORE MONEY DOWN THE DRAIN

      Just Google, legislators and you will have the report on the fiasco.

      Go and repeat that mistake just to feel good.

      Convince the voters you are doing at least doing something useless wasting their money to save the world, and that you deserve to be re elected.

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