Electric cars not on road to sustainability

Guest Column by Lee McClelland

If you step onto any car dealership lot, you will find three varieties of engines: internal combustion, electric or hybrid.

Recent advances in technology have allowed automakers to create vehicles with higher fuel efficiency, but there is debate as to whether or not creating cars that burn less gas is the solution to dependence on petroleum and the environmental impact incurred by exhaust emissions.

The argument for buying hybrid and electric cars is its reduced impact on the environment and money saved by consumers by getting better gas mileage.

That being said, it is important to know how a hybrid or electric car can have an impact on the environment. Let us start with the more popular of the two “environmentally friendly” engines: the hybrid.

The hybrid uses both an internal combustion engine and a battery system that can be charged by a household power source or by the car’s braking system.

It is a compromise between both types of engines; you still get the range of an internal combustion engine, but you also get the increased mileage and the satisfaction that you are, in a small way, contributing to the green movement.

Though one would assume that people would opt for the hybrid version of an automobile, it’s not always the case. Hybrid vehicles come with a substantially higher price tag than their internal combustion counterparts.

According to the Chevrolet website, the Silverado is priced at $22,195 and the Silverado Hybrid is priced at $39,640 — a difference of $17,445.

That makes being environmentally friendly with regards to transportation incredibly expensive.

The latest shift in the auto industry is the growing influence of the electric car. There have been many concept cars and a few entries into the market such as the Smart Car and the Nissan Leaf.

There has been a surge in the latest models of cars powered solely by electricity because of a growing demand in the market for cars that provide great range and a diminished environmental impact.

The Nissan Leaf, for example, gets an estimated 100 miles per charge. In comparison, the Smart Car gets 87 miles per charge.

Charging times for these vehicles takes hours rather than minutes, making fueling up less convenient. You can basically rule out any lengthy road trips with an electric car.

This is our future in automotive technology. I say this previous sentence with a twinge of sadness in my keystroke. People often hear the word “electric” without thinking of where electricity comes from.

The difference between an internal combustion engine and an electric engine is simple: one is a product of OPEC and the other a product of your local utility company. So where does electricity come from?

Generally, it is a coal-powered plant that generates the electricity for a populated area. While you can install wind turbines and solar panels in suitable positions, they cannot generate as much power as your local coal plant, at least not at the rate that modern day society consumes electricity.

If coal generates the power for your electric car and OPEC’s oil is the power for your internal combustion driven automobile, then what are the benefits?

Of course, cutting back the emissions released from gas-powered cars is a good thing, but coal and oil are both fossil fuels with limited supplies.

They are both obtained in environmentally unfriendly ways. Mountaintop removal comes to mind when I think of coal.

The problem that we face as a society, the limited supply of the lifeblood of industrialized society, is not being addressed, so the solution cannot be of the same category.

Utility companies have a hard enough time as it is keeping the power grid supplied with sufficient electricity.

When we start plugging in our cars, we’ll start to create a new problem that requires yet another solution.

I dreamt of flying cars and jet packs when I was a child, but all I have now is a rusted Volvo with a slipping transmission.

There is forward motion in the automotive industry, yet I don’t see any viable technology that will lead us away from our current trend toward environmental negligence.

It is not a matter of caring about the Earth; it is a matter of preserving the place that we will live on for future generations.

I don’t want my children to grow up in my filth. I don’t wish for the following generations to ride the bus into oblivion.

It is time for our generation to start looking for viable technologies and taking responsibility for the mistakes of proceeding generations; no longer will we pass the buck.

A sustainable future is a promising alternative to our current predicament.

Perhaps, instead of trying to figure out how we can find further resources to consume, we could, as a people, try and figure out how to cut our consumption and enjoy sustainable sustenance.

We can no longer afford to wait, Time is short. Our generation shall create the vehicle to drive us toward an attainable solution.