Yes, we can do renewable energy + electric cars

imiev-plus-solar1editors-blog-entry3One of the most common responses to solar-charged driving and, more generally, to the renewable energy + electric car combo, is that it can’t be done.

If you spend any time trolling the Internet for news coverage of electric vehicles and/or renewable energy, you see this criticism, in slightly different variations, again and again.

It’s too expensive. It’s inefficient. It’s not realistic. It’s pie-in-the sky. It will never happen.

Let’s deconstruct each of these faulty criticisms one by one.

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Faulty argument No. 1: Renewable energy is too expensive. Perhaps the most common criticism is that renewable energy is “too costly.” This claim often comes from those who want to conserve the status quo – meaning lots of fossil fuels (maybe + some nuclear) and a top-down fueling and power infrastructure.

In fact, fossil fuels are far more expensive than renewable energy forms like wind, solar, geothermal, wave energy etc., when you take into account their true cost.

Dominant – and simplistic – economic models reduce the pollution costs incurred by the search for, and the extraction, transportation and burning of fossil fuels to “externalities”, or costs that are “outside” the cost of fossil fuel production. True cost economics holds that the environmental costs incurred by fossil fuels are part of the whole cost. When you consider whole costs, the “advantage” fossil fuels appear to hold over renewable energy forms evaporates.

There are plenty of brilliant folks out there who have made this argument in persuasive fashion. However, for now, the misguided view that fossil fuels are “cheaper” than renewable continues to hold the pole position.

leaf-solar-rev-smallFortunately, the ground is beginning to shift underneath those who would prefer that we continue to conceive of the costs of fossil fuels in narrow-minded fashion. This is a big reason why those defending our status quo, fossil fuel ways are getting louder: When you’re losing ground, you shout — because you’re anxious you’re going to lose.

Expect the shouting that renewable energy is “too expensive” to get louder and louder as more and more people realize that renewable energy forms are in fact cheaper than fossil fuels when one takes into account the bigger picture.

Faulty argument No. 2: Renewable energy + electric cars is inefficient. Simply put, the claim that the renewable energy + electric car combination is inefficient is laughable. First, the hard data clearly show that electric cars are significantly more efficient than gasoline cars. Second, in many cases, locally generated renewable energy will flow into the batteries of an electric vehicle.

Contrast the following scenarios:

  1. An electric vehicle owner with solar panels on his or her home plugs in an EV. The electricity generated by the solar panels flows from the panels to the solar inverter to the home’s electric socket and into the car’s battery.
  2. A gasoline car owner drives to the gas station. There, he or she fills up with gasoline that’s been transported by tanker trunk to the gas station from the oil refinery. At the refinery, a huge amount of energy has been expended to transform oil into gasoline. That oil has arrived at the refinery by train after being delivered to the train by a giant, sea-going oil tanker, which has been belching highly polluting bunker fuel for thousands of miles. Finally, the oil in that filthy tanker ship had to be pumped out of a oil well and transported by oil pipeline for hundreds of miles before being pumped into the ship’s storage tanks.

Faulty argument No. 3: It’s unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky. First, note who’s typically making the claim that the electric vehicle + renewable energy combination is “unrealistic” or “pie-in-the-sky”: Folks with a vested interest in ensuring fossil fuels maintain their unfair advantage over renewable energy forms — according to the International Energy Agency, globally, subsidies for fossil fuels are 10 times higher for fossil fuels than for renewable energy forms.

Second, think about how un-realistic the claims of the pro fossil fuel folks are. For instance, only rarely do they acknowledge a basic fact about fossil fuels: They’re running out – fast, especially oil. This means alternatives, most notably renewable energy forms – those supposedly “unrealistic” energy forms – must be tapped, or, as the pro oil, gas and coal folks like to put it – “our way of life” will come to an end. (In fact, “our way of life”, especially in the U.S., is unsustainable, but that’s grist for another column.)

solar-panel-for-big-better2Faulty argument No. 4: It can’t be done. Finally, in response to the claim that “it can’t be done”, meaning electric vehicles + renewable energy, and, more generally, renewable energy: It is being done — right now. Take a look at SolarChargedDriving.Com’s people profile pages, where we’ve profiled a number of current solar-charged drivers. Or consider the new 5.59 kW solar system on the editor’s roof — a system which, in just three weeks, has generated enough extra electricity to power an electric car for nearly 2,000 miles!

The reality of real people solar-charging EVs and people banking solar-EV miles for future use proves it can be done.




What most of those who make claim that “it can’t be done” really mean is that it shouldn’t be done. They don’t put it this way because doing so is not to their argumentative advantage. Better to stave off a genuine threat to one’s status quo thinking by claiming the other side’s position is “pie-in-the-sky” than to have people carefully compare the two positions.

I think many of those who claim renewable energy and renewable energy + electric cars “can’t be done” know that it can be done. Indeed, it’s exactly because they recognize that not only are there hundreds of millions of people globally who could do it but that this vision also has tremendous popular appeal that they so vigorously assert that “it can’t be done”.

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They’ve got to convince people “it can’t be done” before people realize that, in fact, it can. Because once people realize it can be done, they’re going to want to do it, and they will do it, by the millions. If this happens, the “it can’t be done” folks will watch their vision for a status quo top-down, fossil-fueled auto transportation world go up in smoke. They’ll also look pretty silly for having claimed for so long it can’t be done when it is in fact being done.

Of course, only we can ensure that the self-serving naysayers are proven wrong. To do that, all of us who can do renewable energy + electric cars — and there are far, far more of us who can do it than are currently doing it — need to go out and do it. Now.

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