Nissan LeafQUEST Radio test drives the Nissan Leaf. Image: Josh CassidyFirst of all, let me say I wish we could all get around on trains and buses and bicycles and design our cities so that we didn’t have to have such ridiculous commutes. It is no wonder California is the largest automotive market in the country. We have designed much of our infrastructure so that we have to use highways to get anywhere. Like it or not, cars are a part of many of our daily lives. In my search for a greener car I have considered biodiesel but with the intensive use of crop land I am not convinced it is all that environmentally friendly. Then there is hydrogen. Well, I am still looking for an on ramp to that highway. I have heard good things about clean diesel. What looks most promising to me, however, are low and zero operating emission plug-in vehicles.

Nissan LeafThe Nissan Leaf hits the road. Image: Josh Cassidy

The Chevy Volt plug-in and the Nissan all-electric Leaf are only the beginning of a new generation of cars. Within the next ten years there could be hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles on U.S. roads. Toyota has plans to release a plug-in Prius, BMW, Tesla and Mitsubishi all plan to roll out EVs or plug-in hybrids. Help from the federal government, cities and air quality districts are making it possible for early adopters to buy these cars while the battery technology is still really expensive.

Things look different than they did in the days of the EV1. GM’s EV1, chronicled in “Who Killed the Electric Car,” never seemed designed to succeed. It was a limited release, two-seater car that customers could only lease. Unlike now, there was not the financial support going into a charging infrastructure and car makers had not even agreed on a standardized plug. In the wake of the BP oil spill, the public also seems ready for these cars.

Nissan LeafThe Chevy Volt. Image: General MotorsSouthern California Edison has a helpful site on getting plug-in ready. The utility addresses the biggest concern with these new cars: Range Anxiety. This new buzzword means the fear of being stranded in an electric car because the battery has run out. Bottom line – the production of the EV has jumped way ahead of the infrastructure. In our next story, we’ll go in search of a charge.

Listen to the Greening Your Drive radio report.

 

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Reporter’s Notes: Greening Your Drive 24 April,2013Andrea Kissack

  • DWR

    It’s time to think a little broader regarding electric vehicles. Just because there is no tailpipe, doesn’t mean no pollution. Coal, oil and gas are used for generation. These create emissions. Also, the amount of energy loss through transmission inefficiency is huge. Burning a fuel “on site” is still greener. DR

  • Kei Jidosha

    ^^ Unless you burn using a mobile power source (Car Engine), which is only half as efficient, with twice the emissions of a stationary coal power plant, even if you ignore the energy loss in refining and transporting the gas. Add in renewable power or hydroelectric, and the California average power content is 5 times cleaner. If you have distributed solar on your roof, you have no emissions.

Author

Andrea Kissack

Andrea has nearly three decades of experience working as a reporter, anchor, producer and editor for public radio, large market television news and CBS radio. In her current role as KQED’s Sr. Science Editor, Andrea helps lead a talented team covering science, technology, health and the environment for broadcast and digital platforms. Most recently she helped KQED launch a new, multimedia initiative covering the intersection of technology, health and medical science. She has earned a number of accolades for her work including awards from the Radio and Television News Directors Association, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the Associated Press. Her work can be seen, and heard, on a number of networks, Including NPR, PBS, CBS and the BBC.

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