We can save the planet and the plant: Plug-in cars can lower global warming emissions, oil consumption and create good jobs

Environment Minnesota

Saint Paul, Minnesota—Increasing America’s use of plug-in electric and plug in hybrid cars would dramatically reduce emissions that cause global warming and air pollution and would curb our dependence on oil, according to a new white paper released today by Environment Minnesota at the United Auto Workers Local 879 Union Hall located in Saint Paul across from the Ford Assembly Plant.  

“With more Americans focused on the environmental and economic consequences of our oil dependence, carmakers are scrambling to offer customers the cleanest, most fuel efficient cars”, said Ken Bradley “Dramatically ramping up electric vehicles can bolster America’s efforts to wean ourselves off of oil and to reduce pollution that causes global warming and create domestic jobs in the process.” 

A “plug-in” car is one that can be recharged from the electric grid. Some plug-in cars run on electricity alone, while others are paired with small gasoline engines to create plug-in hybrids. Many plug-in hybrids can get over 100 miles per gallon, while plug-in electric vehicles consume no gasoline at all.   Plug-in vehicles produce direct no tailpipe pollution when operating on electricity and there is already a vast electric power infrastructure to fuel them.   As renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, meet a larger share of our electricity needs, electric car could contribute to little or no air pollution. 

“The current electric system has the capacity to fuel up to 73 percent of American vehicles without building another power plant by charging vehicles at night or using solar panels by day,” said Lynn Hinkle with Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association. “However, the nation will need to clean up its electric grid to reap the full benefits of domestic renewable energy and jobs from plug-in cars.”

This technology can make a major contribution to America’s efforts to reduce global warming pollution. Switching to plug-in cars will improve air quality for most Americans while reducing oil consumption.

The technology needed to build workable plug-in vehicles exists today, and plug-ins has several advantages over gasoline-powered cars including the fact that they require far less regular maintenance including oil changes. “America’s current fleet of gasoline-powered cars and trucks leaves us dependent on oil, contributes to air pollution problems that threaten our health and produces large amounts of global warming pollution,”  said Environment Minnesota Program Director Ken Bradley.

Rob McKenzie, United Autoworkers Region 4 International Servicing Representative says,  “With the automobile industry in transition, we have a once in a generation opportunity to transform our nation’s vehicle technologies.  We can do so in a way that reduces pollution and secures hundreds of family sustaining jobs right here in Saint Paul, but it will require state, local and federal leaders to come together and work with Ford Motor Company create a plan.”

Plug-in Cars: Powering America Toward a Cleaner Future answers many questions about plug-in vehicles and lays out a strategy for how to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road. It highlights data from existing research to show that electric vehicles can help to improve Americans’ standards of living. The key points of the paper include the following:

  • Powering a car on electricity would result in 93 percent less smog-forming volatile organic compounds and 31 percent less nitrogen oxide emissions than powering a car on gasoline. If half of the light vehicles in the United States were electric vehicles powered by completely clean electricity in 2030, total fleet emissions would be reduced by 62 percent.
  • If three-fourths of American vehicles including cars, pick-up trucks, SUVs and vans were electric, oil use would be reduced by about one-third.
  • Operating costs of plug-in cars are likely to be significantly lower than those of gasoline-powered cars. Electricity costs three to five cents per mile with average electric rates, or the equivalent of $0.75 to $1.25 per gallon of gasoline.
  • Utilities can structure electricity prices so that it is cheaper to charge cars at times of the day when there is lower electric demand, ensuring that a large number of plug-in cars do not put a strain on the utility.
  • Unlocking the full environmental and economic potential of plug-in vehicles will require efforts to clean up and modernize America’s electric grid. The United States should adopt a renewable energy standard requiring that, at least, 25 percent of our electricity come from renewable energy by 2025.

“Environment Minnesota urges our state and local officials to fully harness the power of plug-ins by setting clean car standards, offering financial incentives for buyers of plug-in vehicles, creating a low-carbon fuel standard that allows plug-ins to contribute to lowering global warming emissions, promoting renewable energy and adopting ‘smart grid’ technologies that would allow plug-ins to help stabilize the electric grid,” said Bradley.

“At the same time, we must ensure that federal officials at the state and federal level maintain their authority to regulate global warming emissions and create economic opportunities for our state,” said State Representative Frank Hornstein.   “We urge our officials to oppose efforts to eliminate or weaken EPA authority to regulate sources of global warming emissions. “

“And lastly, we urge the Senate –- and Senator Franken and Kobluchar, Governor Pawlenty and State legislative leaders here in Minnesota — to pass a comprehensive energy and global warming bill that, among other key steps, encourages the development and deployment of plug-in hybrids and that special consideration be given to working with Ford Motor Company to create a plan to transition the Saint Paul Assembly Plant to building electric vehicles of the future right here in Minnesota and keep good paying jobs in our state,” Bradley concluded.