Ready to Buy an Electric Vehicle? Here's What You Need to Know
That loud sound you hear over the horizon might just be the electric car finally revving up to enter the mainstream American auto market. Except that electric cars don't really rev—they’re practically silent, handle beautifully, save you money at the gas pump and do the least harm to the environment of any vehicle currently on the road. But until recently, delivering that package of benefits in a car with reliable range and an affordable price tag has been an elusive goal for manufacturers and eco-conscious drivers alike.
In 2010, there were just a few models widely available to consumers in the U.S. Today, thanks to the rapid pace of innovation in the making and marketing, the number of electric vehicles (or EVs) and plug-in hybrids on the market exceeds 20 and competition among automakers to get into the electric game means many more models and vehicle types are on the way.
The unveiling of Tesla’s new Model 3—a sporty $35,000 battery-operated sedan with a reported range of more than 200 miles—proved how mass the appeal of EVs has become. Within a matter of weeks after the new Tesla was announced in April 2016, more than 370,000 enthusiasts put down $1,000 deposits to pre-order the new model due to hit the streets in late 2017.
With rapid improvements in battery life—and prices falling— “it’s a great time to drive electric,” said Luke Tonachel, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) Clean Vehicles and Fuels project. Federal and state tax credits of up to $10,000 per purchase make the switch even more tempting, he added. But what are the key differences between owning an EV or plug-in hybrid, versus driving a conventional car with an internal combustion engine, that a driver should take into account?
Here are all the pros and the cons, of going electric:
Performance and Handling
Electric motors produce instant torque, making acceleration on the road fast and smooth. “It’s a great driving experience—you hear people talk about drivers with an ‘EV smile,’" Tonachel said. Top speeds in EVs are comparable with similar styles and models of gas cars and the large battery packs, usually located under the floor of the car, make them stable on the road. EVs are available in front-, rear- and all-wheel drive setups where the fast-response electric drive can help maximize traction and maneuverability. Still, some motorists prefer the more mechanical dynamics and gear shifting of a gas-powered sports car.
This will depend on which type of electric car you're driving. There are battery-only electric cars (EVs); hybrid models with both gas and electric engines and a battery pack charged from an external source (plug-in hybrids or PHEVs); and hybrids that generate their own electricity (HEVs). All these vehicles cost less to operate than a car that runs only on gas. The cost of recharging varies from region to region and also depends on the time of day (peak vs. non-peak). Based on the average of electricity prices nationwide, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the cost of driving on grid electricity is equivalent to paying around $1 per gallon at the gas pump. The department's Alternative Fuel Data Center has calculated that light-duty cars operating in electric mode can have fuel efficiency equivalent to more than 100 miles a gallon in a conventional car. Hybrids also have gas tanks, of course, but they burn much less of that type of fuel than conventional cars.
No contest here: EVs and hybrids are generally more eco-friendly than gas-only vehicles. Cars running on electricity produce zero tailpipe emissions; hybrids, when running on gas, do emit some carbon pollution and particulate matter, but less than conventional cars. Of course, electricity itself isn't entirely “clean,” especially in parts of the country with heavy reliance on old fossil-fuel power plants that emit greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Nevertheless, the typical electric-powered personal vehicle accounts for less than half the carbon pollution spewed by a conventional car over the course of its lifetime, according to research conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute and NRDC in 2015. That number is expected to fall further as older fossil-fuel power plants are phased out and replaced with cleaner sources such as renewable wind and solar power.
Two words have dogged the battery-operated auto industry from the beginning: range anxiety. This is the notion that drivers will find themselves stuck on a busy highway with a low battery—and nowhere to recharge it. “It’s an understandable concern,” Tonachel said. To drive a current-generation EV with a range of 80 miles from New York City to Albany, New York—a distance of 147 miles—“you would have to plan it very carefully,” he said. But the average American driver uses his or her vehicle 29.2 miles on a daily basis and that is well within the range of today's average EV. The next generation of EVs to hit the market, like the all-electric 2017 Chevrolet Bolt, which has an advertised range of more than 200 miles, should give consumers even more confidence. This also explains the appeal of a hybrid; it has a gas engine that kicks into gear when the battery runs low.
Fans of the internal combustion engine insist that nothing beats the convenience of the nation’s vast network of gas stations. There were 112,000 of them in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, versus about 13,500 public electric charging stations. Expanding that recharging infrastructure is critical as EVs make greater and greater inroads into the market and states, municipalities, utility companies, car dealerships, restaurants, hotels and retailers such as Walmart and Kohl's are all working to increase capacity. What these statistics don’t reflect is the large number of charging outlets in private homes, which is where the majority of EV drivers now replenish their batteries, said Tonachel. A standard two-prong 110 volt household outlet powers an EV at a rate of roughly four miles of range per hour of charging. Paying an electrician to install a $500 to $1,000 240-volt recharger allows you to top up the EV in your garage up to six times faster. And that's very convenient indeed.
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By Zahida Sherman
Cooking has always intimidated me. As a child, I would anxiously peer into the kitchen as my mother prepared Christmas dinner for our family.
Falling in Love With Food All Over Again<p>Slowly, through my most intimate relationships with friends and partners, I began to see the beauty — and rewards — of cooking.</p><p>I got tired of giving in to defeat and always bringing chips or paper products to social gatherings. I started asking my mom to send me her Christmas and Thanksgiving recipes. I even volunteered to host Thanksgiving dinner at my place.</p><p>Each time I heard my loved ones sing the praises of the foods I prepared for them, I felt a tinge more confident that I could carry out our traditions my way.</p><p>In reaching out to other relatives for their favorite recipes, I learned that they had a little help of their own. They didn't rely solely on their ancestral cooking instincts. They turned to Black chefs for guidance.</p><p>These 7 cookbooks by Black chefs have inspired my family and fed us in nutrients, joy, and spiritual sustenance. They're also helping me overcome my personal fears of cooking.</p>
Get CookingWhether you're in recovery from cooking fears like me, or are just looking to expand your culinary confidence with dishes honoring Black heritage, these Black chefs are here to support you on your journey.Turn on some music, give yourself permission to make mistakes, and throw down for yourself or your loved ones. Glorious flavors await you.
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By Tara Lohan
The conclusion to decades of work to remove a dam on the Middle Fork Nooksack River east of Bellingham, Washington began with a bang yesterday as crews breached the dam with a carefully planned detonation. This explosive denouement is also a beginning.
The History<p>The Middle Fork Nooksack drains glacier-fed headwater streams that run off the icy summit of 10,778-foot Mt. Baker. The Middle Fork joins the North Fork and then the mainstem of the Nooksack River, which travels to Bellingham Bay and Puget Sound. The entire Nooksack watershed stretches 830 square miles across Washington and into British Columbia.</p>
A Plan Comes Together<p>The Middle Fork dam is not a pool dam built for water storage. Much of the time, water flows over the top until dam operators drop a floodgate to divert water to new locations. That water travels about 14 miles through tunnel and pipeline to Mirror Lake, then Anderson Creek, and to Lake Whatcom before finally being delivered to residents' taps.</p><p>Before removing the dam, engineers had to move the water intake 700 feet upstream and situate it at an elevation that still enabled city water withdrawals throughout the year, regardless of flow conditions.</p><p>They also needed to make sure that the rushing water didn't sweep up fish and accidentally send them through the water-supply system.</p><p>"The solution required a fairly complex design in the intake structure, including a fish exit pipe out of that structure to put fish back into the river in a way that meets current environmental permit standards," explains LaCroix.</p>
Project layout for the removal of the Middle Fork Nooksack diversion dam and rebuilding of water intake. City of Bellingham<p>Despite the cost and the work, she says, being able to continue to meet their municipal water obligations while opening up habitat for threatened species has been a win-win.</p><p>"I think there's a lot of benefits to having a dam removal versus fish passage — the main one being that you get a free-flowing river that can be a dynamic ecosystem and change over time," she says. "A static fish ladder just can't provide that same level of ecosystem benefit."</p>
Restoration Success<p>Despite local authorities' championing dam removal on the Middle Fork, the project has largely flown under the radar, overshadowed in the Pacific Northwest by heated discussions about a much larger potential project — removing <a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/feds-reject-removal-of-4-snake-river-dams-in-key-report/" target="_blank">four federal hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River</a>, a major tributary of the Columbia River.</p><p>Proponents of dam removal there see it as the best chance for recovering threatened salmon populations, including Chinook, which could help starving Southern Resident killer whales. Those dams also provide irrigation water, barge navigation and hydropower, so there's been more pushback against removal efforts.</p><p>Previous dam removals around the country, however, have proved successful at aiding fish recovery and river restoration.</p><p>Most notably the 1999 demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/edwards-dam-removal/" target="_blank">Edwards Dam on Maine's Kennebec River</a> restored the annual run of alewives, a type of herring essential to the food web. The fish run has gone from zero to 5 million in the two decades since dam removal. Blueback herring, striped bass, sturgeon and shad have also extended their reach. And the resurgence has brought back osprey, bald eagles and other wildlife, too.</p><p>The overwhelming success of river restoration on the Kennebec helped to spur a nationwide dam removal movement that's now seen 1,200 dams come down since 1999. Last year a record <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/conservation-resource/a-record-26-states-removed-dams-in-2019/" target="_blank">90 dams</a> were removed in 26 states, including <a href="https://therevelator.org/cleveland-forest-dam-removal/" target="_blank">20 dams in California's Cleveland National Forest</a>.</p>
Spider excavators remove on dam on San Juan Creek in California's Cleveland National Forest. Julie Donnell, USFS<p>The results have been seen in the Pacific Northwest, as well, which boasts the largest dam removal thus far in the country. In 2011 and 2014, the demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/elwha-dam-removal/" target="_blank">two dams</a> on Elwha River, which runs through Washington's Olympic National Park, opened up 70 miles of habitat that had been blocked for a century. Scientists have started seeing all five species of salmon native to the river coming back, particularly Chinook and coho. Bull trout, they've observed, have increased in size since the dams were removal.</p>
Benefits on the Middle Fork Nooksack<p>McEwan hopes to see a similar outcome on the Middle Fork.</p><p>Like the Elwha the Middle Fork Nooksack is a relatively pristine river with little development, and dam removal is expected to provide a big boost to fish. The additional miles of spawning habitat are important, but so is the temperature of that water.</p><p>The dam removal will open access to cold upstream waters, which are ideal for salmon and getting harder to come by as climate change warms waters and reduces mountain runoff.</p><p>"This is really great for the climate change resiliency for these species," says McEwan.</p><p>Steelhead will get back 45% of their historic habitat in the river, and scientists expect Chinook populations to increase in abundance by 31%.</p><p>That <em>could</em> help Southern Resident killer whales.</p><p>"When you get to the ocean, it's a little bit of a black box in terms of what you can model and say definitively is going to help, but more fish is better for orcas," McEwan says.</p><p>Upstream habitat will see benefits, too.</p><p>Oceangoing fish like salmon enrich their bodies with carbon and nitrogen while at sea. When they return to their natal rivers to spawn and die, the marine-derived nutrients they carry back upriver become important food and fertilizer for both riverine and terrestrial ecosystems — aiding everything from trees to birds to bears.</p><p>"Once the fish start making their way back, it will start changing the whole ecological system," says Delgado.</p><p><span></span>But any ecological benefit from salmon restoration, either in the ocean or the upper watershed, won't be immediate.<br></p><p>"The population of salmon on the Middle Fork is so low that we expect it's going to take quite a while to rebound," she says. "But the big picture is that what's good for salmon is good for the region — our history and our destiny are intricately intertwined."</p><p>After decades of work, that process of restoration has finally begun.</p>
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A new tool called The Food Systems Dashboard aims to save decision makers time and energy by painting a complete picture of a country's food system. Created by the Johns Hopkins' Alliance for a Healthier World, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Dashboard compiles food systems data from over 35 sources and offers it as a public good.
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It can grow to a maximum of six inches (16 centimeters), change color depending on mood and habitat, and, like all seahorses, the White's seahorse male gestates its young. But this tiny snouted fish is under threat.
Building an Ocean Seahorse Destination<p>Seahorses are found in tropical and temperate coastal water worldwide, but are most abundant around Australia, China and the Philippines. </p><p>Trade in the tiny creatures is strictly regulated because of their use in traditional medicine, aquariums and their sale as dried curios. But because they are poor swimmers and cannot easily move elsewhere, habitat loss is a particular threat for these curious animals. </p><p>Seahorses wrap their tails around seagrass and corals to avoid being carried away on currents. They use the habitat to spawn and hide from predators such as crabs, while also feeding on riches of plankton and small crustaceans living in the reef.</p><p><span></span>Where corals aren't available, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/aqc.1217" target="_blank">scientists</a> found seahorses taking up residence in fishing nets and old crab traps abandoned at the bottom of the ocean. </p>
Mixing With the Locals<p>Baby seahorse mortality is high in the wild because they are easily caught, so those bred in the protected environment of the aquarium weren't ready to be released into the wild until early May.</p><p>The team released 90 new arrivals into Sydney Harbor, placing some directly into the purpose-built hotels, and others onto a net that wild seahorses had already settled on.</p><p>Before setting them free, the researchers marked each young seahorse with a fluorescent tag with unique IDs inserted just beneath the skin to track how they get on in the different environments. </p><p>"The most exciting part was being able to put these animals into the wild and then go back a month later and still see them surviving and growing," said McCracken. </p><p>The seahorses will be old enough to mate and reproduce around October or November 2020. And researchers hope that by then, they will be able to breed with the wild population. </p>
Building a Global Seahorse Hotel Chain<p>With seahorses everywhere facing the loss of their coral reef homes, similar projects have sprung up in places like Greece and South Africa, home to the world's most endangered seahorse, the Knysna seahorse. </p><p>"The endangered South African seahorse is benefiting from something quite similar, even though it wasn't intentional," said Peter Teske, professor at the Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg.</p><p>In the South African <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322649251_An_endangered_seahorse_selectively_chooses_an_artificial_structure" target="_blank">case</a>, seahorses have bedded down in "Reno mattresses" — wire cages filled with rocks — that were used to build a new marina. Researchers from NGO Knysna Basin Project found the structures acted as a refuge for the animals.<span></span></p><p><span></span>While Teske describes the seahorse hotels as "a positive news story" and a great way to create public awareness of conservation, he added that establishing artificial habitats in some areas will only prevent the extinction of local populations.</p><p>"For a complete recovery, it is necessary to give the natural habitat a chance to regenerate," said the seahorse expert. </p>
Underwater Mascot<p>In Australia, the researchers hope the project could provide an opportunity to raise awareness not only of the plight of the Sydney seahorses but the other animals with which it shares its ocean habitat.</p><p>The waters around Sydney and the east coast are rich in biodiversity and include several threatened species like the weedy seadragon — a relative of the seahorse — and the grey nurse shark. Like the seahorse, they're also under pressure from pollution, ocean traffic and habitat loss through storms and coastal construction. </p><p>"It's a good thing to get people's support and interest. The seahorses are a useful vehicle to get people concerned if the harbor is in trouble," said David Booth, professor of marine ecology at the University of Technology Sydney who is also working on the project. </p><p>The hotels have become an attraction for divers hoping to catch a glimpse of these small but near mythical creatures. </p><p>"Everyone loves seahorses," added Booth, "they are so popular." </p>
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