Plumb: Electric vehicle a logical next step

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by George Plumb, the executive director of Vermonters for Sustainable Population and the author of the 2011 report, “Vermont Environmental Trends: The Population Connection.”

“Without memory, our existence would be barren and opaque, like a prison cell into which no light penetrates; like a tomb which rejects the living. If anything can, it is memory that will save humanity.”

 — Eli Wiesel, Noble Prize Laureate and Holocaust survivor

Connecting the dots with increasingly devastating storms, forest fires, droughts, and rising sea levels with global heating I have been asking myself what more can I do to personally reduce my carbon emissions. I already heat with wood, generate my own electricity with an AllSun Tracker, drive a high gas mileage car, never fly in a jet plane, grow some of my own food, and use battery powered machinery such as lawnmowers and chainsaws. What more could I do?

The author, George Plumb, with his leased Mitsubishi electric vehicle, the MiEV, in front of his AllSun Tracker solar panel at his home in Washington. Photo courtesy George Plumb

After thinking about it a long time the one big thing left that I could do, and it is the big things that really count, I decided to start driving an all electric vehicle now that there are several models to choose from.

With my income about the median for Vermonters I couldn’t afford to buy a new one even with the federal tax credit of $7,500. So I decided to lease one instead. Mitsubishi has a deal where one can lease the MiEV for $199 per month which I can handle. Of course with the saving on gas and maintenance the final monthly cost is less than it would be if I leased a new regular low gas mileage car.

Driving an EV (electric vehicle) is at first a bit of a challenging experience as the technology is very different. However, the car feels and handles much like a regular car although it certainly is quieter. It is a also a wonderful feeling as I now pass the gas station where I used to fill up once a week and instead just plug the vehicle into my charger when I get home. Yes, it takes 22 hours to charge on a regular 120 volt charger but I usually only need half a charge so overnight I am ready to go again. And I could buy a 240 volt charger which charges it in about one-third of the time.

The MiEV goes about 62 miles on a charge so I can easily make it from Washington to Montpelier and back, and if I do need to go further, the Montpelier City Hall has a free public EV charging station where I can get an extra charge if I need to and enjoy being in a local café for a coffee and read the paper while I wait a half an hour or so. There are also several other communities in Vermont where there are public charging stations.

So now, except for my tractor which I don’t use much, I have no direct need to burn fossil fuels! Yes, I am well aware that indirectly I still am responsible for a lot of carbon emissions ranging from the majority of my calorie intake to the things I buy. I also realize that manufacturing the car itself has a huge carbon impact, to say nothing of the rare earth minerals that are used in the batteries. But out of compassion for my grandchild and people all over the world, I think I am doing my part to help slow global heating while we also work on political solutions to burning fossil fuels.

Is an electric vehicle right for you? That depends on several variables but I urge you to consider one as your important part in reducing your carbon footprint. If you have any questions feel free to contact me at [email protected]

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36 Comments on "Plumb: Electric vehicle a logical next step"

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George Plumb
3 years 2 months ago

For those who would like to learn more about electric vehicle driving in Vermont there is:
http://www.driveelectricvt.com/
They also have an interesting map showing how many electric vehicles are registered in each community.

3 years 2 months ago

I liked this piece and it’s inspired me to look into that Miev (sp?). I’ve been weighing several options to cut my carbon footprint. I’m still electrically on the grid and driving an Audi A4 wagon to get me around through the snow.

I think driving a cleaner car is a bigger step toward carbon reduction than getting PV. Would you agree? (I live in Cornwall, Vt.) I can’t afford to do both PV and EV right now. Any input appreciated

Steve Comeau
3 years 2 months ago

A small ($5,000) PC system might get you 1300 KwH each year. If you think of 1 kWH equaling about 1 mile for driving, the car is perhaps the better choice. But is owning 2 cars a good choice? The hard part is to reduce car travel, which is really the most important thing to do in the long run, no matter what the energy source. It’s the energy footprint that matters the most.

Jim Barrett
3 years 2 months ago

Key word here is FREE….FREE power plug ins and the wonderful gift of FREE subsidized purchase of car in the first place by the TAXPAYERS! What a wonderful deal ! While the state of Vermont is pushing all of us to conserver to save the planet from certain death, the state is pushing to cut down trees to burn and windmills to make limited electricity. Trees are supposed to be one of the best sources to reduce greenhouse gases and we destroy them without so much as a comment from the environmental wacho’s like McKibbon, VPIRG, etc! We send tens… Read more »

George Plumb
3 years 2 months ago

Gregory I agree that driving an EV would be more helpful in reducing carbon emissions that installing PV.

Jim, the free public charging station will probably not be free after enough people start using them. It is that way now to provide an incdentive. I share your concern about burning trees. The ultimate factor is that we have too many people consuming too many reasources. To have a truly sustainable future for all living things we are going to have to both reduce our population size and consume renewable recources no faster than they can be regenerated.

3 years 2 months ago

RE: burning trees, my understanding is that it’s more or less carbon neutral. Trees are a major storehouse of carbon, keeping it from entering the atmosphere and increasing global warming. It’s true that burning trees releases carbon, but if the burning properly scrubbed, the process of growing and burning trees adds little net carbon to the atmosphere.

Definitely agree with George about he need to reduce population.

3 years 2 months ago

Gregory, In New England, after 80% of it was stripped of its old-growth trees by about 1865, much of the top soil, a thin layer on top of rocks in most places built up over about 9,000 years, eroded. As a result, the new-growth trees that “reforested” less than 50% of New England can be only a pale copy of the old-growth trees. Acid-laden precipitation from Midwest coal plants has damaged the soil, sickened the trees, reduced their longevity and their CO2 absorbing capability. New England’s forest biomass quantity prior to 1865 likely was about 5 times greater than at… Read more »

3 years 2 months ago

Electric vehicles have been in Vermont for about 175 years, which suggests that we’d have more on the road if they were the way to go. I’m open to the idea that using electric motors in place of gasoline motors in certain applications makes a lot of sense, but I’m not sure if it does with personal transport, ie: cars. Eliminating exhaust, noise and expensive fill ups are all compelling reasons to “plug in.” The questionable reliability of the grid, its dependency on burning fossil fuels, and the lowered efficiency of power transmissions does help the case for vehicles that… Read more »

Glenn Chase
3 years 2 months ago

I’m curious to know more about these electric vehicles that existed in Vermont in 1837.

Martin WINLOW
3 years 2 months ago

Sorry Jim, but you are missing the point – several points actually. Do you know how much tax is being spent to support Big Oil in the US alone? The US share of the cost of securing our (the free world) oil supply alone is at least half the annual US total military spend, so $300 billion a year+. What is being spent to help kick-start the EV market and all the tax incentives on installing renewable power generation is tiny in comparison. The Planet won’t care if the sea levels are 10m higher than they are now nor if… Read more »

Martin WINLOW
3 years 2 months ago

@ Matt Fisken – What a completely mis-informed load of clap-trap! “The questionable reliability of the grid, its dependency on burning fossil fuels, and the lowered efficiency of power transmissions does help the case for vehicles that still burn liquid fuels.” You do know that petrol and diesel come from crude oil, don’t you? And if you want to talk about poor efficiency, the 20% efficiency of your average ICE powered car is hardly anything to crow about, is it? Using renewably produced electricity locally is a much more sensible and sustainable concept.

Jim Stack
3 years 2 months ago

I have a gaus meter and have checked all the new hybrids and Pure electric vehicles. The only one I even has a reading on was the old EV1 from GM. Those are gone so we are safe. You get more EMF from walking under a power like or the back on an olf Computer Monitor than an EV. Electrics save money ,it’s about $1 to drive my LEAF 50-60 miles. Most cars need2 or 3 gallons at $7-12 bucks to do that. EV’s don’t need a transmission, exhaust, catalytic converter and make energy while slowing down instead of waering… Read more »

3 years 2 months ago

Jim, you found no readings at all? You might want to replace your gauss meter… Here’s a study that was done a few years ago: http://www.eiwellspring.org/EMFMeasurementsOfCarsAndTrucks.pdf As you can see, no car emits zero EMF. The cars I drive regularly produce a magnetic field of between 10 and 25 milligauss on the driver’s seat. Some new car get down around 2 mG. Older cars without a lot of electronics might be even less. For the sake of comparison, the side of our house closest to the power line varies between 1-2 mG, while the far side is between .25 and… Read more »

Tom Pelham
3 years 2 months ago

George….Auto emissions are one of Vermont’s largest contributions to atmospheric carbon followed by fuel oil for home heating. Unfortunately, as your article implies, few Vermonters can afford to turn to electric vehicles (EV) as an alternative to fossil fuel powered cars due to the high cost of the vehicle, even with deep taxpayer subsidized tax credits. Compounding this barrier is that the cost of electricity in Vermont to recharge the EV is 40% higher than the national average and going higher. EPA says that on average your MiEV can travel 100 miles on $3.60 of electricity, assuming the national average… Read more »

Kathy Leonard
3 years 2 months ago

With solar costs coming down rapidly (our 2K array would cost half as much today as it did 5 yrs ago) – I’m looking forward to Vermonters adding solar panels that will power their home or office by DAY and charge their electric cars at NIGHT! The cost of that fuel will not increase for 25 or so years. I’m also excited by forward-thinking companies like Dell, who have at their TX headquarters a shaded 50 car solar parking structure called the Solar Grove, which can re-charge EVs. The structure was built by Envision Solar, and fully operational should help… Read more »

Tom Pelham
3 years 2 months ago

Kathy…I hope you are right and certainly there are some solar photovoltaic pioneers in Vermont. Unfortunately, to date the facts don’t indicate that solar is a viable economic alternative. Here http://www.eia.gov/renewable/state/vermont/ you can see that solar barely registers as a contributor to Vermont’s renewable electricity profile despite extraordinarily deep subsidizes paid by ratepayers and taxpayers to encourage solar usage — subsidies that allow solar developers to be paid up to $.27 per kwh when electricity purchased off the grid costs $.05 to $.06 per kwh. http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/04/vermont-raises-solar-and-small-wind-tariffs Further, solar photovoltaic has a long history of subsidized development that has yet to… Read more »

Kathy Leonard
3 years 2 months ago

Tom, you said “the facts don’t indicate that solar is a viable economic alternative.” I don’t believe your referenced link says that at all. Have you read the entire report? Have you read that: “National solar PV capacity is growing rapidly. Tracking this rapid growth is a challenge, however, because PV solar is more often used at a consumer’s location—e.g., rooftop solar panels—and less often in large, centralized generating stations like other technologies. An estimate of total PV capacity must therefore account for many small installations (often referred to as distributed solar capacity). However, while EIA maintains an inventory of… Read more »

3 years 2 months ago

A few different questions are: Will renewables (including PV) ever replace or match the amount of electricity produced by conventional means at an equal or lesser cost? Will the energy from the sun be increasingly important to capture (not waste)? Are there things many Vermonters can do to reduce their electricity and fossil fuel consumption by taking advantage of the Sun’s free energy? I think solar panels have their place, just like wind hydro turbines. Building large PV “farms” is one way, but I’d rather see every home with a 100 watt panel trickle charging a single deep cycle battery… Read more »

3 years 2 months ago

Kathy,

The actual capacity factor in Germany is 0.95, out of a theoretical 0.12 for true-south-facing, clean, unshaded, new, fixed-tilt systems. In Vermont it is 0.12, out of 0.143. Both are dismal, compared with the US Southwest and Spain.

2-axis sun tracking units are about 40% better.

Even though PV solar PANELS are down in price, the total system cost, with a good inverter, is about $5,000/kW installed, not accounting for federal and state subsidies.

Each kW installed produces about 1,250 kWh/yr, which reduces a household electric bill by about 1250 kWh x 0.15 c/kWh = $187.50/yr

Glenn Chase
3 years 2 months ago

“solar photovoltaic has a long history of subsidized development”

Just like nuclear, coal and hydro.

Bob Stannard
3 years 2 months ago

Fortunately, our utilities opted not to re-sign with Vt. Yankee and get power at a better price elsewhere, don’t you think?

As I recall, Tom, you and your organization were (and presumably misguidedly still are) big supporters of Entergy.

Tom Pelham
3 years 2 months ago

Bob….your recall falters once again. Neither Campaign for Vermont nor I have engaged in the Vt. Yankee debate, unless you want to stretch my support for Bill Sorrel for AG in both the primary and final election as such. There are enough voices, some paid like yours and some more altruistic, on all sides of that issue and to add ours would serve little purpose. Regarding your question on getting power at a better price than Vt. Yankee, are you referencing GMP’s recent 23 year deal for nuclear power from Seabrook?

Bob Stannard
3 years 2 months ago

http://campaignforvermont.org/cms-assets/documents/48012-635931.2.10.12.bl.energy.oped.bfp.pdf.pdf

Tom, this piece written by a man named Bruce Lisman in February of this year seems to imply that he supports Vt. Yankee.

I might suggest that you might be the only person in Vermont who doesn’t believe that Mr. Lisman and his (your) group supports the continued operation of VY.

If I’m not mistaken, I recall that Mr. Lisman founded CFVT. Perhaps he’s no longer involved.

Bob Stannard
3 years 2 months ago

The PDF in my previous post came from the “All Things Nuclear” website promoted by Meredith Angwin. I believe that if we posed the question to her as to whether or not CFVT and Mr. Lisman support the VY plant she might disagree with you.

Bob Stannard
3 years 2 months ago

http://campaignforvermont.org/cms-assets/documents/48012-635931.2.10.12.bl.energy.oped.bfp.pdf.pdf

Apologies, Tom, as I apparently didn’t hit post for that previous message.

As you stated, GMP/CVPS negotied a long-term deal with Seabrook. However, you failed to mention that deal also included power from Hydro-Quebec. I believe going forward GMP plans to reduce the amount of power from Seabrook and increase power from HQ, and other renewable sources.

How should we interpret your words, “neither you, nor CFVT, have “engaged” in the VY debate”. Does that mean that you don’t support the continued operation of the plant?

Tom Pelham
3 years 2 months ago

Hi Bob…I would be glad to answer your above inquiries. But first, I’d like to know whether I’m responding to citizen Bob Stannard or registered lobbyist Bob Stannard, possibly being paid to troll blogs like Vt Digger to carry the message of your clients?

In the meantime, you reference GMP weaning itself over time from its recently signed 23 year contract with Seabrook in favor of more power from Hydro Quebec. Given your embrace of “renewable” HQ, I thought you’d enjoy this relic denouncing my odd boss for his position on HQ.

Doug Hoffer
3 years 2 months ago

Mr. Pelham’s figures are based on a comparison of Vermont electric rates with the national average. While accurate, it paints a somewhat misleading picture. Here are the latest costs for residential electricity (cents per kWh, Sept. 2012). 12.33 U.S. average 14.81 Maine 15.08 Rhode Island 15.22 Massachusetts 15.65 New Jersey 15.82 New Hampshire 16.55 Vermont 17.26 Connecticut 18.97 New York All of the Northeast suffers from comparatively high electric costs, so Vermont doesn’t look like the terrible outlier Mr. Pelham would have us believe. And note that Vermont’s industrial rate is the second lowest in New England. In any case,… Read more »

Tom Pelham
3 years 2 months ago

Doug…my presentation is not misleading at all. The EPA’s analysis of the cost to recharge a MiEV was based upon national average electric rates as $.12 per kwh. My clarification relative to Vermont is that our rates, at 40% above the national average, are far removed from those in the EPA’s presentation. A forty percent deviation is quite significant. Further, while I do appreciate your observation that New England’s electric rates have tracked higher than the nation’s, it’s important to note that over recent years this trend has not prevailed. Vermont’s electric rates have been rising while New England’s have… Read more »

Doug Hoffer
3 years 2 months ago

The suggestion that changes in rates are the result of those dreaded subsidies is simply not accurate. For the most part, utilities in the rest of New England rely on short-term contracts for power so they suffer when prices rise and win when prices decline. And it’s no accident that Mr. Pelham used figures from 2008 forward because other New England states experienced “double-digit price increases when fossil fuel prices increased from 2005 to 2008.” http://vtdigger.wpengine.com/2012/11/07/smith-vermont-is-well-positioned-for-stable-electric-prices/ On the other hand (as Doug Smith pointed out in his recent vtdigger piece on this issue; see link above), Vermont utilities are betting… Read more »

3 years 2 months ago

Doug,

Please show the data for the past 5 years. They will likely show Vermont’s electric rates rising faster than of most other NE states.

3 years 2 months ago

Doug,

This shows Vermont’s rates have been rising WRT other New England states

http://vtdigger.wpengine.com/2012/11/08/pelham-electric-rates-on-the-rise/

Janet Santor
3 years 2 months ago

There are some very well thought out responses here and I agree with most of the ones in favor of EV’s. Having said that; there is one aspect of the EV that frightens me to “death” – SILENT!! We teach our children to “Stop, Look and LISTEN” before crossing the street. One or more of the folks commenting, addressed over population. The elderly, hearing impaired and wheel chair/scooter bound, cannot hear these vehicles turning a corner or darting out of an alley or drive-way. Yes, there has already been an elderly pedestrian fatality in Burlington, because of this. My grandson… Read more »

3 years 2 months ago

Doug,
Here are the latest costs for residential electricity (cents per kWh, Sept. 2012).

12.33 U.S. average
14.81 Maine
15.08 Rhode Island
15.22 Massachusetts
15.65 New Jersey
15.82 New Hampshire
16.55 Vermont
17.26 Connecticut
18.97 New York

Do you have the source URL?
Do you have data for the past 5 years?

Paul Gracey
3 years 2 months ago

Janet, I am a New Englander transplanted to California long, long ago. I would like to adress two of your criticisms from personal experience. One, Electric cars are not silent. They are no more silent than a Rolls Royce, and for the same reason. They make mostly tire and wind noise at speed. Even at slow speed zones where the onus is on the driver to avoid pedestrians there are noises made with or without a noisy engine from the fans, the radio and again the tires. That argument is just scare tactics amongst the nay sayers. Two, we in… Read more »

tina juarez
3 years 2 months ago

I love the shadow of the photographer balancing the Mi-EV omn their head.. I guess it is all a balancing act!

Martin WINLOW
3 years 2 months ago

George, Good for you and I hope it works out well. I test drove an iMiev under a Peugeot Ion badge (exactly the same car, as is the Citroen C-Zero) here in the UK recently as a local Peugeot dealer was offering them for UK£13 (about $20.8k). Ours have the ChaDeMo fast-charge socket (50kW DC) as well as a standard UK 13A plug which made it very appealing. I have a Vectrix electric motorbike at the moment and before that drove a DIY converted van EV. So I have been driving EVs for 3 1/2 years now over about 20k… Read more »

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