Above all, we need fewer vehicles of any kind — car-sharing is the way
Re “Undesirable features stall rise of electric cars: High price tags, slow charging still limiting popularity in US” (Page A1, Aug. 13): Thanks to Hiawatha Bray for this informative article. However, what’s missing from the analysis is that car ownership modes are changing, and will have to change, as we transition to a more sustainable future.
Swapping internal combustion engine vehicles for electric vehicles is a daunting proposition, for all the reasons Bray listed. But the reality is that most of our cars sit idle most of the time, occupying lots of space on public and private property that could be put to much better use.
More efficient car-sharing systems, where vehicles are available on demand rather than having to be individually owned and stored, could allow us to meet our transportation needs with far fewer vehicles in circulation. Combined with robust (and also electrified) public transit systems, we should be able to move around in the future with far fewer cars. This mirrors what needs to be done in the building sector, where we need to both reduce total energy consumption and electrify the consumption that remains.
Manufacturing and shipping cars, be they electric or not, requires enormous amounts of energy and generates great emissions, separate from operating the vehicles themselves. This is an important reason to reduce how many vehicles we actually produce rather than focusing only on how they are powered.
Finally, and significantly, it’s a form of injustice itself to effectively require car ownership for people to participate fully in our economy and society. Particularly in the urban context, where public transit could meet most people’s personal transportation needs, it’s critical that we think beyond the individually owned electric car.
The writer is a Cambridge city councilor.
EVs are an easier fix than some would have you believe
The online headline of Hiawatha Bray’s article reads, “Despite all the hype, electric vehicles are no easy fix for the climate crisis. Here’s why.” The author is correct that we have a long way to go to achieve the level of electric vehicle ownership required to meet this moment. However, the article’s doom and gloom tone is the last thing we need, given the recent report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which indicates that we must take action now.
Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts. Switching to an EV the next time you buy a car is perhaps the easiest thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.
Bray writes that these vehicles “are more expensive than many popular gas or hybrid models, and they take too long to charge.” Both points are misleading. First — and Bray mentions this in passing — EVs are less expensive over a vehicle’s life, and upfront costs are comparable given federal tax credits and Massachusetts rebates. Second, 240-volt home chargers provide plenty of range for typical daily use. There also are charging stations in workplaces and shopping centers, and National Grid has a pilot project installing chargers streetside on utility poles.
So, take heart. EVs are an easier fix than you might think.
Leslie Zebrowitz and Philip Vergragt
Newton EV Task Force
This technology is just one of many climate solutions we need to pursue
Although I agree with Hiawatha Bray that electric vehicles are not an easy fix for the climate crisis, the fact is there is no easy fix. The cumulative pollution emitted by human activities is not going to be eliminated easily. EV adoption is but one of many solutions that would make a positive difference.
Within the article Bray also compares a Tesla Model 3 to a Toyota Camry, noting the cost difference. What he did not mention is that lifetime emissions, including manufacturing and operating life, essentially break even after about 13,500 miles. After only one year, the emissions of an internal combustion vehicle exceed those required to manufacture an EV, which would continue to provide emission-free transportation for at least 10 years.
EVs may not be a quick fix, but they are an important and appropriate transportation technology for our time.
Apples-to-oranges price comparison is no help
“The Tesla Model 3, a popular electric sedan, carries a starting price of around $40,000,” writes Hiawatha Bray. “By contrast, a gas-powered Toyota Camry starts at around $25,000.”
Contrasting the price of a premium model sedan to an economy base model sedan is an apples-to-oranges comparison. A BMW 3-Series sedan starts at over $40,000, but unlike a Tesla Model 3, most readers are familiar enough with the BMW brand to understand that, due to its performance and other premium characteristics (just as with the Tesla), it would be a grossly misleading choice to compare with a Toyota Camry.
If price concern is to be the topic, then one should consider that there are a half-dozen long-range all-electrics available in Massachusetts for between $20,000 and $30,000 after available state, federal, and/or local incentives, or often as low-cost leases. In addition, one can find several more plug-in hybrid models — an option not mentioned in the article — in the same price range.
Pomfret Center, Conn.
So the move to electric cars is complicated — c’mon, we can do this
I disagree with the disparaging premise of Hiawatha Bray’s article about electric vehicles. This is not about how complicated it is but, rather, how we adjust to the “inconvenient truth” of the climate crisis. It’s how we get it done.
It is indeed inconvenient to adapt to EVs and learn something new, but we can. I’ve driven my Chevy Bolt to Rochester, N.Y., and plan to drive to Washington, D.C. soon; it will require planning out the Level 3 recharging stations (and backup stations) along the way and using phone apps. But we can do this.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2019 the largest sector of total US greenhouse gas emissions was transportation, at 29 percent. All the more reason to tackle the problem directly. At the State House, Representative Dave Rogers has proposed a bill to do just that: a measure that would provide incentives to retire high-emissions vehicles.
Are we really interested in finding solutions so we can survive on this planet or not? We have solutions, but we need government, utilities, car manufacturers, dealerships, and individuals to partner together, and fast, to make them real.
Think of your driveway as a simple charging station to fit your needs
Electric vehicles aren’t perfect, but they’re better than as portrayed by the reporter. For example, the issue that it takes hours to charge an EV at home is a nonissue. Don’t cars often sit idle all night long? Also, how many people normally drive 300 miles in a day? For many, plugging in their car at home sounds sufficient. It also sounds easier than stopping once a week to fill a car up with gas.
Auto industry creates speed bump with incompatible charging stations
In the article about issues facing the growth of electric car ownership, Hiawatha Bray points out that Massachusetts would need about 18,000 charging stations to support an anticipated tally of 300,000 electric cars in the state. But he does not mention the incompatibility of fast-charging stations. The auto industry needs to shed these proprietary designs for a standard interface.