Memo to Mitt: Cars can run on renewable energy

mitt2This column – which takes on the inaccurate claim by Mitt Romney that cars can’t run on renewable energy – was originally posted by “maggiesfarm” to a GM-Volt.Com forum. It clearly shows that, contrary to Romney’s claim, cars can, and do, run on renewable energy.

Back in May, presidential candidate Mitt Romney, in discussing energy policy, made a case for increased fossil fuel production by saying you can’t ride around with a windmill on your car.

Last November, my wife and I bought a Chevy Volt, and after driving it around for a month or two, liked it so much we decided to carry on with phase two of our electric vehicle plan: We installed solar panels on our garage roof to charge it.

In the six months we’ve owned the Volt, we’ve been to the gas station five times.

Our lifetime fuel efficiency to date is over 180 mpg. But that’s somewhat beside the point, because we seldom use gasoline. Almost 90 percent of the time, our car’s electric engine is powered by its battery, which is charged by our rooftop solar array.

So, while we don’t have a windmill on our Volt, our car does, in fact, run on sunshine.

Sunshine as fuel = slam dunk
If we can run our cars on sunshine, don’t you think that’s something we should, as a nation, as a culture, want to do? Why isn’t that an obvious choice, a slam dunk, a no brainer?

I’ll concede that putting solar on my garage was an investment. But in approximately five years, depending on fuel prices, it will have paid for itself. After that, the solar array will continue to power my car, and any future cars (and continue to offset a substantial amount of our household electric usage) for decades — with no further input or investment required.

We should all be excited by the prospect of moving to new and better energy technologies, such as solar-powered electric vehicles.They are here. They’re real. And you can buy them off the shelf.

What investor wouldn’t put money in a venture that is guaranteed to break even and create profits for decades thereafter?

Gasoline’s wasteful process
Then consider the cost of delivering a gallon of gasoline to your tank. From locating a well site, to drilling thousands of feet into the ground (or sea floor), pumping the oil, shipping it to a refinery (or sending it down a pipeline thousands of miles long), finally trucking it to your service station, so that you then can pump it into your car.

volt-under-solar-canopyAfter you’ve driven an hour down the road, that gallon is gone forever, and the whole process starts over.

Could we possibly devise a more wasteful, destructive, and energy intensive process? Why on earth would any individual citizen, much less leader (or group of leaders), cling to that 19th century process and not celebrate the advent of technologies that promise to move us beyond it?

Imagine how fast the cost of solar, wind and other renewables (read: hydrogen) would go down, if the resources we now devote to squeezing every last ounce of dirty fossil fuel out of the ground were devoted to new technologies. And think of how much the efficiencies of such technologies would increase, if we were truly committed to developing them.

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A ‘true revolution’
Of course the Chevy Volt is only one vehicle, and it has its limitations. I wish it were a little bigger, and if it had an all-wheel drive option, I’d already own two.

But the fact is, it represents the basis for a true revolution in vehicle technology.

Such a development, delivered to our door by a U.S. manufacturer, should make every American proud. Our leaders should be turning cartwheels at the prospect.

As citizens, we should all be excited by the prospect of moving to new and better energy technologies, such as solar-powered electric vehicles.

They are here. They’re real. And you can buy them off the shelf.

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