By Karl Reitz
I recently purchased an all-electric car. It has been an interesting experience, with both pros and cons. My first problem was taking advantage of the free half-hour charging offered by the manufacturer. I finally figured it out after a couple of months—no thanks to the dealership.
My second challenge was with charging. The network I needed to access had a location with three charging stations not far from my home. Unfortunately, one of the stations was often inoperative.
Also, there were sometimes cars waiting to charge. Although they were fast chargers, my rate of charge tended to be much slower than that listed. Nevertheless, I could go from a 20% to 80% charge in the allotted free time.
Given that there were times when I wanted to make sure I had a full charge, I decided to purchase a level II charging station for home use. I ended up spending around $800 for the equipment and installation, which was much less than published estimates. I can now get a 100% charge overnight when I don’t have the time to go to a public charging station.
The free charging is obviously a plus, but what will happen when that offer expires? The rate I pay for electricity is among the highest in the country. However, some quick calculations show that I will be paying almost half as much per mile driving my EV as opposed to my old gas-powered car (almost exactly the same make and model).
Having a more efficient car is only part of the story. My driving experience with the EV is much better than with my previous car. It is super quiet, has improved performance, and requires far less maintenance.
Also, charging at home overnight is preferable to going to a gas station. Regenerative braking means using my brakes infrequently. Even my language is changing. I now step on the accelerator rather than the gas pedal.
The efficiency of electric motors is far superior to even the best internal combustion motors. On top of that, producing energy from solar panels, windmills, hydro-electric and geothermal is much more environmentally friendly than energy production from fossil fuels.
Both have downsides. The environmental destruction from open pit coal mines, oil spills from offshore wells, and super tankers are all part of fossil fuel production.
The problems associated with renewable energy production such as disturbing desert landscapes, mining for the necessary minerals, and bird loss from wind turbines are minor, in comparison. This does not even account for the ongoing destruction caused by the long-lasting consequences of adding carbon pollution to the atmosphere.
My next step is to electrify my home. I recently replaced my gas water heater with an electric plug-in heat pump water heater. I did not need to make any changes to my electrical system since it plugs into a nearby outlet.
It is amazingly efficient and quiet. Rebates and tax credits will make the transition less expensive than repairing the old one. Replacing my gas HVAC system with a heat pump is the next step.
The efficiency of renewable energy in contrast to that of fossil fuels will eventually doom the fossil fuel industry by market forces alone.
However, given the damage the use of fossil fuels does to our health and the environment, it is important that we make the transition as quickly as is feasible. The fossil fuel industry will, of course, try everything in its power to slow this down.
Karl Reitz is professor emeritus at Chapman University. He is a resident of San Clemente and co-leader of the Orange County South Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Education. He holds a Ph.D. in Social Science from the University of California, Irvine. He enjoys his eight grandchildren and two step-grandchildren and his walks on the San Clemente Beach Trail.