Electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt are generating a lot of excitement, especially as production models start showing up on the streets of North America including here in B.C.
But how clean and environmentally friendly are these vehicles really going to be if the electricity that powers them is not being generated by clean renewable energy sources? In the U.S.A., nearly three-quarters of the electricity generated is produced by burning non-renewable, carbon-emitting fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.
So that’s what will really be powering the Volt and other plug-in electrics in much of North America.
How is that going to be an environmental improvement over the oil and gas that powers the cars we drive right now?
One could certainly argue that, here in B.C. at least, we are a perfect fit for electric vehicles like the Volt because our electricity mostly comes from clean hydro power.
But now that BC Hydro and the provincial government are talking about increasing the amount of imported electricity being used in B.C.’s electrical system, most of which will come from burning fossil fuels, we’re not really going to be much better off environmentally either.
Electric vehicles themselves are not the entire solution.
In order for electric vehicles to have the kind of positive environmental impact we’re expecting them to have we need to make sure that the electricity we’re feeding into them is coming from clean renewable energy sources.
Importing electricity generated by burning fossil fuels to power electric cars is like taking one step forward and two steps back.