Santa Monica is once again EV central, EV being short for electric vehicle. Back around the turn of the century, Santa Monica led the country in EVs, but those were the EV1s and Toyota RAV4 EVs of a decade ago. Most of those great cars were destroyed by their manufacturers in a failed attempt to kill the technology.
After the 2008 oil price increase when we saw gas prices blow past $4 per gallon for the first time, and the car companies lost 40 percent of their business, the industry realized that it would have to offer cars that used no gas or those carmakers that didn’t would eventually go out of business. Thus, today we see virtually every car maker in the world in production or development of vehicles that run on electricity.
2011 is a watershed year for EVs. Starting with a handful of deliveries in December of 2010, both GM and Nissan delivered their first Chevy Volts and LEAFs respectively. Deliveries grew steadily and spread across a dozen western states by spring and then into the southeast this summer. By early next year, all 50 states will have these cars for sale, and they’ll be joined by EVs from Ford, Mitsubishi, Mercedes, Tesla, Volvo and many others.
Why is this important? Three reasons.
The environment. Driving on electricity means no gas is burned and therefore no pollution generated. Decades of burning petroleum has resulted in a deadly mix of pollutants that prematurely end the lives of thousands of Americans every year. Millions more are affected to varying degrees with increased cancer, lung and heart disease and the lost productivity of those sickened.
Studies show that charging an EV on coal-generated electricity is cleaner than burning gas, however most of the electricity used in Santa Monica comes from non-coal sources, so very little pollution is generated when charging on our relatively clean Edison grid mix. Even better, many EV drivers have discovered that the economics of combining an electric car with solar photovoltaic systems are powerful, resulting in returns of more than 15 percent on your investment. A recent survey found that 30 percent of Nissan LEAF drivers were running their homes and cars on sunlight-generated electricity, in other words, they are driving on sunshine!
The economy. Since the Carter administration, we have increased demand for oil while our domestic supplies have diminished. We are now importing over 60 percent of the oil we use. So when we buy gas, 60 percent of the money leaves our country. This now exceeds $400 billion each year, a full 45 percent of our trade deficit. Worse, when we buy gas, over 90 percent leaves our community. Californians spent $55 billion for gas last year and $50 billion of that left our state. Consider how strong our state economy would be if that $50 billion stayed here and was spent on local goods and services creating jobs for us instead of going to the oil companies, and by extension, the Saudis.
Which brings us to the third reason, our national defense. Clearly, the wars we’re fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan have their roots in oil. Osama bin Laden explicitly stated that he attacked us on 9/11 because we are in Saudi Arabia. We are there because of oil. Iraq sits on one of the largest reserves of oil in the world and it’s clear that is the reason we started that war. If we weren’t completely dependent on oil for our transportation, we would not need to be fighting wars over this resource. To make matters worse, some of our own money is used to buy the bombs and bullets that kill our soldiers. This has to stop!
And now we can see that it will. The only question is how fast we can transition to clean, renewable, domestic electricity instead of dirty, expensive, foreign oil.
On Oct. 16, the first ever “National Plug In Day” will be held in over 20 cities across the U.S. to celebrate the resurgence, some would call it the revenge, of the electric car. See www.pluginamerica.org/pluginday. Each city will hold its own unique event. Santa Monica is slated to be the flagship with the largest gathering of plug-in cars ever held on Earth. Our intent is to demonstrate what the future will be like when all cars are electric.
Starting at 10 a.m. on that Sunday morning, over 200 electric vehicles will parade down Main Street from Pico Boulevard to the Venice border. Those who sip coffee or eat breakfast at the outdoor cafes will be treated to quiet and clean vehicles instead of the noisy polluting cars that normally intrude on their enjoyment. So, please join us this coming Sunday on Main Street. The press conference is at 9:30 a.m. in front of City Hall, and the parade starts at 10 a.m.
Paul Scott is a co-founder of Plug-In America and an electric car salesman.