Friday, September 30, 2022

Why Electric Transportation Matters






Over the last many months, I have been working with the Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance on the Texas Electric Transportation Roadmap. It will be published early next year as both a book and a web site.  It's going to be called Getting There.


Here is the first part of the first chapter:


With all the hubbub about electric cars these days, it’s not surprising that some of us wonder why.  Why do we need to replace our existing infrastructure of cars, trucks, filling stations, and oil change centers? We have seen our transportation system improve and modernize over the last 100 years to become a very reliable way to get from home to office, or from home town to your favorite ocean side beach.


It's reliable, you can buy hats while you fill up with gas and you can load up with sugar and starch while you do it.  Many of us have experiences where the car heats up, or the AC breaks, or the fuel pump goes out, and in the vast amount of experiences, things work out.  We find a mechanic after asking around, we call triple A, or in the worst case, we call a wrecker and simply rent a car at a fairly reasonable price.


The system works.


But the transportation system doesn’t work with the rest of our infrastructure.  You can’t power your house with your car with this system.  And you can’t power your car with your house.  When you park 40,000 of our cars into several square miles of asphalt, they can’t power the lights at the football stadium. We can’t use our cars to power the grid when a snow storm freezes the gas fields which shuts down the power plants. 


So we have two very large systems in our advanced world and they don’t communicate or share with each other. Electric transportation solves that problem


Even though electric cars seem new to most of us, they have been around longer than our gas powered cars. Here is what the Department of Energy has to say about the early days of ET.


“It’s hard to pinpoint the invention of the electric car to one inventor or country. Instead it was a series of breakthroughs -- from the battery to the electric motor -- in the 1800s that led to the first electric vehicle on the road.


In the early part of the century, innovators in Hungary, the Netherlands and the United States -- including a blacksmith from Vermont -- began toying with the concept of a battery-powered vehicle and created some of the first small-scale electric cars. And while Robert Anderson, a British inventor, developed the first crude electric carriage around this same time, it wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century that French and English inventors built some of the first practical electric cars.


Here in the U.S., the first successful electric car made its debut around 1890 thanks to William Morrison, a chemist who lived in Des Moines, Iowa. His six-passenger vehicle capable of a top speed of 14 miles per hour was little more than an electrified wagon, but it helped spark interest in electric vehicles.


Over the next few years, electric vehicles from different automakers began popping up across the U.S. New York City even had a fleet of more than 60 electric taxis. By 1900, electric cars were at their heyday, accounting for around a third of all vehicles on the road. During the next 10 years, they continued to show strong sales.


To understand the popularity of electric vehicles circa 1900, it is also important to understand the development of the personal vehicle and the other options available. At the turn of the 20th century, the horse was still the primary mode of transportation.


Yet, it was Henry Ford’s mass-produced Model T that dealt a blow to the electric car. Introduced in 1908, the Model T made gasoline-powered cars widely available and affordable. By 1912, the gasoline car cost only $650, while an electric roadster sold for $1,750. That same year, Charles Kettering introduced the electric starter, eliminating the need for the hand crank and giving rise to more gasoline-powered vehicle sales.”


In 1905, Henry Ford sold 500 cars.  In 1915, he sold 500 thousand.  Take a look at any photograph of a western city and the change in our cities is profound. In 1905, there were no cars, and in 1915, there were no horses.


So electric vehicles have been around a very long time.


But besides unifying the global energy system, why else would we supplant our existing transportation system which arguably performs well enough.


It’s the carbon.


When Drake drilled his breakthrough well in Pennsylvania in 1859, change was on the horizon.  But when Captain Lucas drilled through the overburden in East Texas in 1901 and his Lucas Geyser blew oil 150 feet into the air at a rate of 100,000 barrels per day, change had come.  Rock oil became plentiful and cheap.  No longer would we need to send New Englanders out to spear Whales for oil for our lamps.  We literally had oil to burn.


And it was cheap, cheap enough to drive electric vehicle technology into a 100 year slumber.


But now by burning all that carbon that was sequestered deep in our geologic inheritance and releasing the carbon dioxide that was formed in the process, our climate is changing.


And we simply have to stop doing it or our children will be harmed and our grandchildren will die.


Why do we need to transition to electric vehicles?


We simply must.


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