By Pam Frank and Liz Burdock
If using the wind to run your car makes you picture installing a big sail on the roof, think again.
While it’s true that the way we power vehicles is undergoing massive changes, turning cars into the clipper ships of old isn’t in the offing. But wind – and solar, too — will play a big role in helping us get where we want to go, on land.
The growth of vehicles powered by electricity is stunning. There are more than a million EVs on the road in the U.S. today and that’s expected to go up to around 20 million in 2030. As battery costs drop, sales rise: about 350,000 EVs were bought in the U.S. in 2018. New Jersey enacted a nation-leading EV law this year that included an EV rebate over the next decade and goals including 330,000 EVs registered by 2025 and comprising 85% of all vehicles registered by 2045.
So, if you don’t know anyone who drives an EV, odds are you will soon. If your next car isn’t electric, the next one you buy after that might well be. And it’s very likely the first car your children buy will be electric.
Gasoline is on the way out — and that’s a good thing because gas is a dirty fossil fuel. Burning it in a car’s engine gives off harmful emissions that endanger our health and worsen the impact of climate change. So, it’s no wonder that the transportation sector is the biggest contributor to air pollution. Electric cars, on the other hand, present no health or climate problems, and they’re more efficient.
As one expert put it, “As well as being better for the environment, EVs are also just better cars than their fossil-fueled equivalents.” He notes that EVs accelerate more quickly and have nearly no internal moving parts, which limits both noise and wear and tear, reducing maintenance costs.
But, from a clean environment standpoint, one might ask where the electricity that powers an EV comes from.
Fortunately, in New Jersey our electric grid is relatively clean, so a mile driven in an EV is 70% – 80% cleaner than a mile driven in a gasoline-powered car. But, even that won’t be good enough to reach our goals. We need to simultaneously clean up the grid and to increase the number of EVs on the road. Further, we’ll need more electricity – about 30% more when all light-duty cars on the road are EVs.
This is where wind and solar enter into the equation.
If the electricity you use to charge your car comes from renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuel, it’s the ultimate win-win situation. In the process, demand for renewable energy like wind and solar would increase, which would further lower their prices. Offshore wind energy alone has the ability to power the world 18 times over – let that sink in.
The magnitude of change could be historic, according to one analysis: