Charging Forward: Environment America looks at the electric car

In a report released today, the national nonprofit, Environment America, has quantified some of the benefits if more Americans drove electric cars. And, especially, if they charged the cars' batteries with renewable energy instead of the traditional grid mix that includes a lot of coal-fired power.

The group cites recent research by the Center for Automotive Research that concludes more than 460,000 U.S. drivers could purchase their first plug-in vehicle within the next three years.

If so, says Environment America in its report, Charging Forward: The Emergence of Electric Vehicles and Their Role in Reducing Oil Consumption, these vehicles would reduce our country’s fuel use by 111 million gallons per year.

And global warming pollution would be reduced by approximately 630,000 metric tons per year. If the plug-in vehicles were powered by clean sources of electricity, these savings would rise to nearly 2 million metric tons annually, the group said.

On Wednesday, city sustainability director Katherine Gajewski will join with Joe Spadaro, general manager of Nissan of Devon; Norm Zarwin, chairman of U-Go Stations, and Adam Garber, field director of PennEnvironment, to discuss the report and showcase 18 charging stations  at the Convention Center parking lot, near the Arch Street entrance.

The report also ranks states according to how many car charging stations have been installed. California, of course, is first, with 1,718 stations. Tenth on the list is North Carolina, with 2011.  Neither Pennsylvania nor New Jersey made the top ten.

To encourage more use of electric cars, the group outlined these steps for policymakers:

•Incentivize owning and driving electric vehicles both with tax credits and other financial incentives.

•Encourage construction of charging stations to allow drivers the option of recharging vehicles at work or during longer trips away from home.

•Invest in research to continue reducing the cost and improving the performance of electric vehicles.

 More than 15,000 Chevy Volts and more than 12,000 Nissan Leafs have been sold so far, the report's authors found.