Electric cars diversify automotive industry

December 12, 2015

As the U.S. has grown increasingly informed of the effects of climate change, the automotive industry is being revolutionized by the increased popularity of zero emission electric vehicles.

Electric car company Tesla Motors has made strides the current electric vehicle (EV) market. Although their vehicles are only available to the affluent early-adopters of the electric car revolution, they plan to make their technology more affordable in coming years.

Bradley Buss, Tesla board member and Chief Financial Officer of SolarCity, a Tesla subsidiary that specializes in solar energy, shared his reasons for investing in the industry.

“Tesla has changed the way people use vehicles, along with getting off fossil fuels, and Elon Musk is convinced that these fuels are destroying the world and he did something about it,” Buss said. “Public adoption will increase as electric cars become more inexpensive, as you will see in the upcoming Tesla Model 3, a car that will be more affordable at around $35k.”

Tesla has not yet announced or confirmed the $35,000 Model 3 cost; the car will be officially unveiled next March.

The Electric Power Institute (EPRI) and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) created a joint study of the long-term effects of electric vehicle adoption across the country.

Their base simulation reported that starting in 2050, carbon emission could reduce by 430 million metric tons every year with the general adoption of electric cars, which equates to the removal of 80 million people from today’s roads.

The Department of Energy compared the traditional combustion engine with other eco-friendly vehicles. A conventional gas automobile produces 99 pounds of carbon dioxide at the cost of $11.60 for a 100 mile trip, while an all electric vehicle produces just 54 pounds of carbon dioxide and costs $3.56.

As of November 2015, there are more than 10 fully-electric models available in the automotive market. However, innovation in the EV sphere does not come entirely from traditional sources, as many Silicon Valley startups are becoming involved with the technology, and tech giants Apple and Google are also building electric cars. Microsoft and the ABB Group have partnered to work on faster electric car charging stations.

According to the Center of Sustainable Energy, California boasts 30% of all EVs driving on America’s roads, and Silicon Valley has the highest number of electric vehicles per capita in the country, at 0.007%. Several Harker students, faculty and parents own electric cars, which include the Nissan Leaf, the BMW i3 and Teslas.

Spanish teacher and Green Team advisor Diana Moss has driven an electric Nissan Leaf for the past three years.

“We have solar panels on our house and so we generate our own power, so this was a way of not only saving money, but also reducing our carbon footprint,” she said.

Krishna Bheda (10) and her family converted a 1989 Volkswagen car into a fully electric vehicle several years ago.

“It was a family project, and we wanted to find ways to help the environment,” she said. “[In the future] I would get an electric car because it’s good for the environment, and with all the innovation and technology, I think it would be able to have more miles than the car that we built.”

Senior Raghav Jain’s parents own a Tesla, but he says he would prefer to buy a gas-powered vehicle in the future.

“When there’s more variety of types of cars, studio models and maybe bigger SUVs, it would be suitable for more [people],” he said.

Moss had recommendations for students who drive gasoline-powered cars.

“They can look for ways to carpool, so you can try to conserve in that way. They can drive to use public transportation when possible,” she said. “The campaign that we started last spring was to try to get everyone who’s waiting in line to get dropped off at Harker to turn off their engines because emissions contribute a lot.”

According to the International Energy Agency, as of 2012, only 0.02 percent of cars on the road were EVs, amounting to 180,000 cars total. Projections for sales in the United States in 2020 are 3 million electric vehicles on the road.

As events like the Paris Climate Talks bring more attention to climate change, the popularization of EVs in the greater automotive market will change the way transportation impacts the environment. It is only a matter of time before millions of electric vehicles hit the roads.

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