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Catastrophic Climate Change: We Caused It; We're Going to Have to Fix It.


In Canada, about half our GHG emissions come from light duty vehicles and the oil industry that fuels them

Personal Transportation

For many of us, this is the one where we can make a big difference with a small number of changes. In short, if you're burning gasoline or diesel fuel to move yourself around, time to downshift on your fossil fuel consumption. Assuming you have a job you commute to most days of the week, could you work from home one of those days each week or two? I know it can't work for everyone. But if you can do it, I don't think you'll miss the traffic. In my experience, it really reduces the interruption factor, and allows me to get more actual work done. It also forces me to plan my work more effectively, knowing meetings have to be on 'office' days, and I need to get the information I'm going to work with before taking a 'work from home' day. Huge bonus if I can set a 'work from home' day to accommodate some service call which would otherwise require me to take a day or half-day off.

If you have a gas or diesel fueled vehicle, get rid of it. In the past, I would have suggested using net-zero carbon biofuels, but after many years I have concluded it just won't be possible to find reliable commercial sources for fuels like E85 (which could be used in 'flex-fuel' engines) or biodiesel blended fuels. Unless mandated by government, the oil industry fueling stations simply don't offer these options. (Some jurisdictions have E5 to E10 in regular gasoline, which acts as a fuel system cleaner and gasline anti-freeze, but doesn't make a big dent in CO2, NOx and other vehicle emissions. I have seen a couple of independent fueling stations offer B20 or E85 fuels, but they have not been able to maintain reliable sources of supply and have gone out of business.

If you can live without your own car or truck, why carry the expense? In 2013, CAA said it costs on average about $9,500 or more a year to own a light-duty vehicle. For most of us, that's in after tax dollars. (You can try your specific case at CAA's online calculator.)

Perhaps you could manage with occasional access to a car. If so, you could join a car-share organization like Vrtucar, CommunAuto, ZipCar or others. Or you could establish an account with a car rental company, and rent a car for a day when you need one. Or you could have an arrangement with a friend or family member to use a vehicle they own on an occasional basis on some mutually beneficial basis. There are also ride-share services like Lyft, or taxi companies. While taxi fares may seem expensive, if your need is occasional, they will be less expensive than owning your own car.

If you think you need a car (e.g. no transit option where you live), or can justify the cost (e.g. it's critical to how you make a living), then it's time to shift to a plug-in vehicle. It could be an e-bike, an electric motorcycle, plug-in hybrid vehicle or go all-in on a battery-only electric vehicle (EV). Multiple jurisdictions have said they will not permit the sale of gas-only or diesel-only vehicles by dates ranging from 2025 to 2030. So, if you have one now to get rid of, might be a good idea to trade it in earlier than later, while it still has remaining value.

There are currently 2 catches to buying a plug-in vehicle. 1) The automakers don't want to sell you one, so you are going to have to make additional effort to actually get one, and (gasp), you might have to wait for delivery because they don't have any in the showroom or sitting in the inventory lot. That's because a bunch of smart people are already buying them despite the obstacles. 2) The EV may have a higher sticker price due to the cost of the advanced battery that comes in it. If so, and you don't have the cash, finance it. Preferably at a reasonable interest rate, which probably won't be offered by the dealer. If you drive a typical amount, the fuel cost savings will easily offset the monthly financing cost.

There are a few other reasons you may still be reluctant to get an electric car. Let's go through those.

Who will fix it if something goes wrong?
The dealer. Look for 8-year and longer warranties on the major vehicle components and the entire drive train. They come standard on most plug-in models.

I drive more than 600 km most days, and I don't think an EV will work for me.
Wow, that's over 215,000 km a year. If you are getting 10 litres/100 km and gasoline is $1.25 a litre, you're spending about $27,000 a year on gas, so I imagine you are looking for some ways to lower that cost. You should seriously look at buying a Tesla with the full Supercharger support package which will save you pretty much that entire $27,000 a year. How's that for a way to cut your fuel costs? Personally, I can't imagine spending more than 7 hours a day in my car unless it's how I make a living. That's about 15 times the distance the average light duty vehicle goes, and way more than a taxi travels in a year. So, you have a couple of options.
1) Get a plug-in hybrid whick can do some travel in all-electric (zero-emissions) mode, and then automatically switches to liquid fuel when the battery gets low.
2) Find the fast charging stations along your route and use them. These are becoming increasingly common, and can refuel the electric vehicle in 20 minutes or less (long enough for a bio-break, pick up a fresh beverage and possibly food, check your email and stretching your muscles).
However, if you drive a more typical distance most days, a battery EV will likely fill your range needs without need for charging during the day (assuming starting with a full charge from overnight charging).

I heard driving an electric car causes more pollution than driving a gas car.
I have heard that, too. However, it's simply wrong. It doesn't matter if coal is burned to make the electricity. The electric car is so much more efficient than a gas car (or diesel - no matter how much VW cheated), that an electric car is always less polluting than a fossil-fueller. This has been hashed over in study after study, but the truth can't get past the mainstream media (which rely on automaker and oil industry advertising revenue) and into the collective consciousness. Here's yet another such study put out recently by Bloomberg showing the same conclusion. Further, electric cars eliminate air pollution where it does the most harm to humans - at ground level where we live. Those emissions are easier to clean up at a single smoke stack than at a million tailpipes. Finally, while gas cars emit more pollution as they get older, the electric grid is getting cleaner as renewables continue to displace coal and natural gas in our electric generating mix - because renewables are less expensive per kWh over their lifetime than new-build coal or natural gas generating stations.

I have been driving electric cars since 1978, so I can tell you a couple of other things you may not know about them. They're peppy, thanks to the instantaneous torque the electric motor delivers at zero RPM. Seriously, it will make you smile. The effect is so common it has a name: the EV Grin. Try it. A quiet car is amazing! You have to not hear it to believe it. Many insurance companies offer discounts for owners of electric and hybrid vehicles. You can live without making stops at gasoline stations (but you will smile every time you go past one and see the price posted on the big signs). Our electric cars cost less than 2 cents a km (3 cents a mile) for the electricity cost (at conventional retail utility rates). If you live where time-of-use or interval pricing is available, electricity goes on sale every night and weekend.

When the battery wears out, it will just go to landfill.
No, it won't. First, the battery will likely either be repaired/refurbished or repurposed. Moving a vehicle is a demanding application for a battery, so when it isn't good enough for that, it will get used for something else, like backup power for buildings. So far, every EV maker takes back the batteries they replace. And the materials in the battery have value, like lead-acid car batteries. Today, car batteries don't go to landfills, they go for recycling because the materials have value. The recycling facilities for advanced EV batteries are being built now, for the same reason - profit.
Myth Busted: Battery Recycling Is Already Feasible

When the battery in my EV dies, it will cost over $10,000 to replace.
Almost certainly not, though the size of the battery will be key factor in determining final price to you. The price of replacement packs (and so far not many have been required outside warranty replacement), is falling. Within a decade, the industry forecasts the price of batteries will be much lower than today - likely about 75% less. By comparison, consider how much it costs to replace an engine today in a gasoline car.

So, a superior driving experience. A quiet vehicle. Lower operating, insurance and fuel costs. Most new models have plenty of range for typical driving missions. Fast charging stations are becoming increasingly common. And you can help save the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, toxic and carcinogenic air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, thermal pollution and noise pollution. There may even be purchase incentives where you live.

If you drive a fossil-fueller now, this is probably the single biggest change you can make to combat climate change. You can drop your emissions from over 4 tonnes of CO2 [the U.S. EPA says, "a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year"] (plus some NOx), to zero (at the vehicle). That is per gasoline or diesel burning light vehicle, per year. For a vehicle which lasts 20 years, that means about 100 tonnes of GHG emissions avoided - per car! No matter where you live or how the electricity you use is produced, your overall emissions WILL go down, almost certainly by at least 50%, and in those places which use no coal or other fossil fuels to produce electricity, by 100%.

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