Solar Eyes

Seeing a lot of those electric vehicles around? Sales of EVs doubled last year, and are set to jump 67% globally in 2014. This has us thinking about what we can do to make places EV-ready, from building and zoning codes, solar access, and charging station demand ratios.

The Nissan Leaf requires 34 kWh per 100 miles.

The Nissan Leaf requires 34 kWh per 100 miles.

Let's assume we want clean power. The first step is shifting our focus from the gas pump to the plug: energy is stored in all kinds of ways, much of which hovers around us unseen. Wind and solar are great choices, but even if your EV charger is running on coal, you're still ahead of the game. By a measure known as well-to-wheel efficiency, electric engines beat out the competition, putting even the hybrid car to shame.

Using electrons produced in the great State of New York, the Nissan Leaf requires 34 kWh per 100 miles; driving those 100 miles in and around Albany generates 10.64 kg of CO2 equivalent. A regular internal combustion car on a similar jaunt will produce 39 kg of CO2e, three times what the electric car puts out. Yowza!

Cutting our CO2 emissions by three-quarters in the personal transportation sector? Where do we sign?! The good news is that a bunch of us are signed on already: last week, the governors of California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont signed a joint memorandum of understanding to help get more EVs on the road. These eight states, representing 25% of the vehicle market, are looking to get 3.3 million EVs on the road by 2025. Fabulous.

But much in the way our smartphones employ different chargers, there are three competing quick-charging standards for electric vehicles: CHAdeMO, in the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi MiEV, the SAE Combo Coupler, used by US and European manufacturers, and Tesla’s charger. So we've got a universality issue along with an energy demand management problem: What if everyone on our leafy block wants to charge after work? Connection to the grid matters, along with how data travels back and forth on the grid. This matters for pricing and supply, not to mention overloading local transformers. 

Of course, we're also thinking about mode shift and how we can get everyone where they need to go without always needing a vehicle. Even Forbes agrees: "The best way to reduce the environmental impact of transportation is for everyone to stop using their own individual cars and trucks."