Quiet roads and clean air.
Imagine if everyone commuted to and from work or school via electric car or electric bike. We could improve our health and tackle the climate crisis.
Of course, walking, human-powered biking, and riding on public transportation can be good for your health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions too, but these are worthy topics for another time.
Technically a vehicle is a machine that transports people and/or cargo—everything from airplanes to wagons. The term electric vehicle (EV) can refer to any type of vehicle that runs on electricity including cars, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, and trucks. For this post, we will use the terms electric car and electric bike.
If you are worried that I am going to suggest that you rush out and buy or lease an electric car or an electric bike, relax, this post is about becoming informed and perhaps having some fun while doing it. After the brief overviews of transportation greenhouse gas emissions, electric cars, and electric bikes, we will talk about the fun part.
Transportation Greenhouse Gas Emissions
You probably do not need me to tell you that the internal combustion engines powering most of our transportation burn fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide which is a greenhouse gas that is a major cause of global warming and the climate crisis. These engines produce air pollution and particulate matter which are harmful to everyone’s health.
The graph below shows that in 2018 the transportation sector consumed a whopping 37% of all the energy used in the United States and that 92% of our transportation was fueled by petroleum.
The source of electricity affects the greenhouse gas emissions associated with operating electric cars and to a lesser extent electric bikes. The charts below illustrate the issue.
Transitioning to clean renewable energy sources and electrifying our transportation go hand in hand. Each goal drives (pun intended) and supports the other.
Electric cars and electric bikes are part of the solution. Chances are you know several people in your neighborhood, at work, or at school who drive electric cars or ride electric bikes. If you already do yourself, thank you. If not, you can join the decarbonized transportation movement at any time.
Today, there are over a million electric cars driving around the United States refueling (charging) at homes, businesses, and charging stations scattered across the country.
The car market is already disrupted. Manufacturers around the globe are revamping their factories and retraining their workers to produce more electric cars.
Models range from the pricey Porsche Taycan to the more moderately priced Nissan LEAF and include tiny Smart cars (photo) and Teslas.
This is good news for electric car shoppers and people considering buying or leasing an electric car in the future.
We can and should thank early electric car adopters for this wonderful state of affairs.
An early adopter is a person who begins using new a new product or new technology as soon as it is available, often paying a premium for doing so. Early adopters help create market demand and drive product improvement and lower prices.
Photo: Porsche Taycan
In addition to electric cars and bikes, other examples of products that benefited from early adopters include organic food, rooftop solar panels, and high-efficiency toilets.
Some of the benefits of electric cars include:
- Zero tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide or particulate matter.
- Refueling (charging) can be accomplished at home, work, and on the road while you are doing something else.
- Electric motors are quiet.
- Fewer moving parts decrease the need for preventative maintenance and repairs.
- Operating costs can be less expensive.
Driving an electric car is a way to help our country get off burning fossil fuels and create healthier and more resilient communities where we live.
Photo: Nissan LEAF
Like any product, especially one as complicated as a car, manufacturing an electric car (or any car) is not an environmentally benign process. Analyzing life cycle greenhouse gas emissions is one method for evaluating the environmental impact of cars.
The video below explains life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of fossil fuel-powered and electric cars and addresses concerns about the lithium batteries used in electric cars. I thought it was worth the 13 minutes it took to watch it.
If you have ever ridden a bike, you know the exhilarating feeling of getting yourself from point A to B using your own power.
Electric bikes are good for the environment because, well, they are bikes and not cars. The battery does add to their environmental footprint, but not much.
I think electric bikes have two main benefits over solely human-powered bikes.
One is that it can decrease your car use. For instance, being able to ride further with less effort may encourage you to leave your car at home and ride your electric bike to work or school. Expanding your range with an electric bike can increase the number of times you ride a bike to go grocery shopping or to run errands.
The second benefit is really cool. Electric bikes can make biking accessible to people of all ages, abilities, and incomes.
The short video below provides an overview of the different types of electric bikes.
Fortunately, for you and me, we can learn about and try out electric cars and electric bikes during National Drive Electric Week occurring September 14-22, 2019.
National Drive Electric Week
This is where the fun comes in.
The first national day to raise awareness for electric vehicles occurred in 2011 when 29 cities held events for what was then called National Plug In Day.
In 2014, it expanded to encompass a week and the name was changed to National Drive Electric Week. Last year, 296 cities in 3 countries and in all 50 states in the U.S. participated in National Drive Electric Week giving tens of thousands of people the chance to learn about and try out electric cars and electric bikes.
Visit the National Drive Electric Week website to find a 2019 event near where you live.
San Luis Obispo, CA
In 2018, the SLO Climate Coalition led the effort to bring National Drive Electric Week to San Luis Obispo, CA for the first time ever.
This year the Coalition is hosting two free events. If you live or work in or near San Luis Obispo or plan to be in the area on September 14 or 19, please join us to learn about electric cars and bikes and to talk with owners and dealer representatives. On the 14th, you will have a chance to take an electric bike test ride and/or an electric car test drive.
Ride & Drive
Date: Sat. September 14, 2019
Time: 10:00 am- 3:00 pm
Location: Madonna Inn at 100 Madonna Road
Drive Electric Showcase
Date: Thurs. September 19, 2019
Time: 6:00-9:00 pm
Location: San Luis Obispo Downtown Farmers Market
Click here to register. If you register and complete the 8 question survey (I did), your name will be entered into a drawing to win $250.
If you have questions or need more information, please contact EV fan and our hardworking leader for this event—Barry Rands at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am planning on attending the Ride & Drive event on Saturday because I want to learn about electric bikes and attempt to ride one.
Although I enjoy walking for fun and to run errands, sometimes I just do not have the time to walk and riding a bike that is only human-powered is beyond my ability on the hilly terrain where I live. You would understand if you could see how steep my street and driveway are.
It has been a while since I have ridden a bike so if you see me wobbling by, please wave and give me a smile of encouragement. (Update – I did do it. Click here for the proof.)
Featured Image at Top: Electric car battery charge gauge close-up – photo credit juniorbeep.
- Demystifying All-Electric Homes and Buildings
- SLO Climate Coalition – Our Kids are Counting on Us
- SLO Climate Solutions Series – Kickoff Celebration
- SLO Climate Solutions Series – Climate Action that Works for Us
- The City of SLO Wants Your Climate Action Plan Ideas
Resources – Electric Cars
- Colorado’s most powerful climate tool isn’t what you think – by David Roberts, Vox, 08/12/19
- Department of Energy commits $20.5M to spark lithium-ion battery recycling – by Cole Rosengren, Utility Dive, 03/13/19
- Effects of battery manufacturing on electric vehicle life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions – by Dale Hall and Nic Lutsey, The International Council on Clean Transportation, 02/2018
- Electric Drive 805 (information for San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura Counties)
- Electric Vehicle Charging Station Permitting Guidebook – by California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, July 2019
- Gasoline vs Electric—Who Wins on Lifetime Global Warming Emissions? We Found Out – by Rachael Nealer, Union of Concerned Scientists, 11/12/15
- Harley-Davidson Trades Loud Pipes For Pedals With Reveal Of Three Prototype Electric Bicycles – by Bill Roberson, Forbes, 08/27/19
- New Data Show Electric Vehicles Continue to Get Cleaner – by David Reichmuth, Union of Concerned Scientists, 03/08/18
- Now on Used Car Lots: Great Electric Vehicles for Cheap – by Alex Davies, Wired, 08/05/19
- PG&E, City of San Luis Obispo Partner to Electrify Downtown with EV Charging Stations – by Mark Mesesan, PG&E, 04/24/19
- Plug In America (nonprofit advocacy group)
- Plugin Cars (information)
- PlugShare (charging stations locations)
- Tesla and other EVs to reach price parity with petrol by 2023, predicts noted futurist – by Simon Alvarez, Teslarati, 08/26/19
- That Tesla Battery Emissions Study Making the Rounds? It’s Bunk. – by Ezra Dyer, Popular Mechanics, 06/22/17
Resources – Electric Bikes
- Cambridge’s New Bike Lane Law is ‘Bikelash’-Proof – by Laura Bliss, City Lab, 04/11/19
- E-Bikes Are Getting More People Out of Their Cars – by Selene Yeager, Bicycling, 03/21/18
- E-Bike Regulations – People for Bikes (lots of resources in addition to regulations)
- Four wheels bad, but three sehr gut. Germans climb aboard cargo bikes – by Philip Oltermann, The Guardian, 08/25/19
- How to choose your first electric bicycle: an e-bike buying guide – by Micah Toll, Electrek, 04/18/19
- SB-400 Reduction of greenhouse gases emissions: mobility options – CA State Legislature (adds e-bikes)
About the Author: Linda Poppenheimer researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same. She writes as The Unlikely Environmentalist at Green Groundswell.