By Rory Christian and Larissa Koehler
Electric vehicles (EVs) don't make much noise on the road, but they're generating a lot of buzz about the future of this technology and what it means for business and the environment.
Cars, buses and trucks are the second biggest source of pollution in the U.S. after electricity production. They are responsible for more than 26 percent of emissions that adversely affect the health and well-being of the population, and put communities located close to highways and other major thoroughfares at risk. These communities, typically low-income, are often plagued by elevated asthma rates and other pollution-induced health conditions.
When thinking about ways to reduce pollution, EVs can make a world of difference. And, when charged using renewable energy sources, they produce no emissions and can be much cheaper to operate than traditional, internal combustion vehicles. As such, let's take a look at the global EV market and impacts in the U.S. on the electric grid in two environmentally progressive states—New York and California.
Electric Vehicles Enter the Here & Now https://t.co/mOSeXfvwvg @TeslaMotors @elonmusk @LeoDiCaprio @DeSmogBlog @PopSci @PopMech @VolvoCarUSA— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1501256237.0
The Global Market—and Future Outlook
More and more automakers are shifting their focus to EVs, a market that is expected to grow faster every year. A few examples:
- Tesla invested $5 billion in its Nevada gigafactory—where they will make batteries for EVs—and is grabbing headlines with the roll-out of its first mass-market EV, the Model 3.
- Volvo made waves by announcing its intent to focus new vehicle production solely on electric and hybrid vehicles. The company is owned by Geely Automotive holdings, a Chinese firm, and many speculate that China's pervasive air pollution problems and a desire to find a long-term solution were a motivating factor behind the announcement.
- Mercedes Benz is investing $740 million in a new battery factory.
These exciting developments all point to a trend where electric cars are much more than just a niche—indeed, they show that global competition is heating up quickly and that companies around the world see EVs as key to the automobile industry. These movements should not be understated, as it gives a hint of a clean energy future that can't come fast enough.
EVs on the Grid
Overall, strategic deployment of charging stations will be essential to EV growth—drivers need convenient places to charge. What's more ...
Here's what we can do now to prepare for a clean car economy:
- Chase innovation: Testing out more nascent technologies, such as vehicle-to-grid capabilities, will ultimately help make EV charging more convenient and ensure the electric grid can cleanly and reliably handle a significant uptick in electrified transport.
- Educate consumers: Utilities must ensure their customers are well-positioned to take advantage of EV benefits by educating them about how their charging behavior can impact the grid and the integration of renewable energy. More specifically, utilities must exercise load management via well-designed rates and other means in order to ensure their customers are charging their vehicles at times when renewables (rather than fossil fuels) are abundant and when the grid can best handle it. By reaching out to their customers through multiple means and languages, utilities can better ensure the robust participation needed in order to bring success.
- Emphasize vulnerable communities: Plans must genuinely consider benefits to and impacts on communities most likely to be harmed by pollution. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) recommends a minimum percentage of charging stations be placed in these communities where applicable, and that all projects focus on enhancing transportation electrification in areas positioned to benefit them most.
Earlier this year, New York State committed to the purchase of two thousand electric vehicles by 2025, more than doubling its current fleet of government automobiles.
New York is also doing its share to expand electrification to make it easier for customers to buy and use electric vehicles. The State's Reforming the Energy Vision aims to align utility needs with marketplace innovations, and is doing the following:
- Decentralizing the electric grid so customers can make and buy renewable energy, New York is working toward a future where EVs and less pollution are commonplace.
- Developing favorable electricity rates to encourage charging of EVs at times when renewable energy is readily available and affordable. This way, EV adoption will benefit the grid and the environment.
Con Edison's Smart Charge NY program, an early stage effort in New York City, is paving the way for mainstream EV use; the results will be an example for how other cities can adopt the policies and tools necessary to seamlessly integrate EVs.
With more than 300,000 EVs and more than 12,000 charging stations, California leads the nation in clean car sales. Moreover, that number is poised to grow rapidly—California EV sales rose 91 percent in the first quarter of 2017 from the same time last year.
Even in the face of threats from the current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt to take away California's waiver allowing the state to exceed national clean car standards, the Golden State has made clear its progress won't be stalled anytime soon. State legislators, cities and agencies have taken a tremendous amount of initiative on EVs, including:
- The California Air Resources Board has reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining stronger vehicle emissions standards.
- Volkswagen updated its plan for investing $800 million to accelerate electrified transportation in California, with input from the California Air Resources Board.
- Senate Bill 350 prioritizes widespread transportation electrification.
- In Los Angeles, half of all municipal vehicle purchases will be electric starting this year, and that share will increase to 80 percent by 2025. The city is also moving forward with a pilot EV ride share program to extend their benefits to communities with fewer car owners.
Moreover, as part of Senate Bill 350, investor-owned utilities filed applications with the California Public Utilities Commission for investments in light-duty, medium-duty and heavy-duty sectors.
The utility plans in particular represent an exciting new opportunity to accelerate electric transportation in all its forms. With planned projects from placing charging infrastructure for passenger EVs in single family homes, to providing car dealers with incentives and education to sell more EVs, to electrifying buses and ship ports—and everything in between—these plans are well-designed to clean the sector most responsible for harmful emissions.
Still, changes to the utility proposals would further strengthen them. EDF recommended to the California Public Utilities Commission that the plans focus more on load management as well as the other key elements listed above.
Despite obvious benefits, widespread EV adoption around the U.S. faces a number of challenges. For example, some analysts believe that even California will need another 200,000 charging stations to properly serve the number of EVs expected by 2030.
The internal combustion engine has had a long run, but it's about to burn out. As we work to address domestic barriers to EV adoption, it is important to note that even if it is a global effort, this is a race the U.S. may need to catch up on. As the electric vehicle market continues to flourish, EDF will continue to advocate and make sure environmental benefits follow financial rewards.
By Kieran Cooke
The car maker Volvo has shed its reputation for safe but rather boring models—sledges rather than sleek runabouts—as it takes a decisive step towards electric cars.
The Sweden-based auto manufacturer—since 2010 owned by China's Zhejiang Geely Holding group—is set to become the first of the world's major car makers to wave goodbye to the traditional internal combustion engine.
Emissions from cars and trucks make up a large proportion of climate-changing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Scientists in the U.S. calculate that cars and trucks account for up to 20 percent of the country's total greenhouse gas emissions.
The Road Ahead for Electric Vehicles to Create a Sustainable, Equitable Future https://t.co/oWTT1p6yhq @FordDriveGreen @evchels— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1500240006.0
Fumes from diesel- and petrol-fueled engines also cause severe pollution problems, particularly in big cities; there is increasing concern about the impact of these fumes on health.
Starting in 2019, Volvo will be producing only cars with electric motors, or hybrids—vehicles that run on combined electric and petrol-driven engines.
"This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car," said Hakan Samuelsson, Volvo's chief executive. "People increasingly demand electrified cars."
Volvo said it plans to launch five new models—all either fully or partially electric—between 2019 and 2021. Three of them will be marketed under the Volvo brand; the other two more powerful vehicles, designed to compete with the California-based Tesla high performance electric car, will be part of a new Polestar brand.
Volvo, which started producing cars in 1927, has been expanding its sales in recent years, with more than half a million vehicles sold in 2015, up eight percent on the previous year.
Heavy investment—particularly in electric and hybrid vehicles—by the company's Chinese owners is said by industry specialists to have spurred Volvo's revival.
China is the world's biggest market for both electric and hybrid vehicles, with approximately 350,000 sold last year. China gives considerable incentives to purchasers of electric vehicles with various subsidies and tax breaks available; there has also been multi-million dollar investment in networks of charging stations.
Many countries in Europe—where a total of 220,000 electric and hybrid vehicles were sold last year—are also planning to increase electric car sales.
Norway, with the world's highest number of electric cars per capita, and where 40 percent of newly registered vehicles last year were electric powered, aims to end all sales of petrol and diesel cars within eight years.
France recently joined the high-powered rush to electric vehicles, saying it would end all sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040 as part of its commitment to meeting the targets of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change.
Developments in technology, such as batteries capable of giving driving ranges of between 280 and 350 miles, are stimulating electric car sales.
The U.S. has tended to lag behind in the race to go electric, with sales of electric-only cars falling in each of the last two years; they now make up less than 0.4 percent of the total U.S. car market.
The big surge in electric vehicle use is expected to happen in the developing world; India, now one of the world's biggest car markets, announced plans earlier this year to have only electric cars on its roads by 2030.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
This makes Volvo the first traditional carmaker to fully embrace electrification.
"This is a clear commitment towards reducing our carbon footprint as well as contributing to better air quality in our cities," Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive, said. He then stated goals of selling 1 million electrified cars by 2025.
The company will still produce older Volvos with pure combustion engines after 2019, but its latest move signals its eventual phasing out conventional gas guzzlers. As the New York Times noted, other major car manufacturers have introduced EVs or hybrids to their line but none have entirely ditched making new cars powered solely by gasoline or diesel fuel.
"This is about the customer," Samuelsson added. "People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers' current and future needs."
The automaker is based in Sweden but is owned by China's Geely Automobile Holdings, which produces electric vehicles for China, a major market for battery-powered cars.
Volvo said it will launch five fully electric cars between 2019 and 2021. The rest of its fleet will comprise of plug-in hybrid cars and mild hybrid cars.