All the recent buzz about electric vehicles is great, although there?s one thing we should consider.
But first, let?s look at the good news.
Oak Bay?s July 21st decision to allow electric vehicles on its roads seems to bring us closer to an environmentally friendly future. Other B.C. municipalities are showing similar interest. Quebec has just begun a province-wide pilot project while other countries and some 44 American states already allow electric cars on their roads.
Electric vehicles can run on a penny or so per kilometre. They have no tailpipe emissions, no noise and require low maintenance. Everyone from do-it-yourselfers and innovative entrepreneurs to the industry?s traditional manufacturers are competing with new ideas and new models.
Future developments promise a lower purchase price as well as greater speed and longer distances between recharging, making the vehicles more realistic outside urban areas.
Furthermore what seems promising for cars has proven itself with trains, as Europe?s electrified railways have long shown. Glen Fisher, an expert in railway line electrification, has presented a research paper to Transport Canada with practical suggestions for converting Canada?s railways to electric. Among other benefits, he says, that would save over 2 billion litres of diesel a year.
So far, so good. But where would all that electricity come from? Just to meet current needs, B.C. imports about 15 per cent of its electricity from gas and coal-fired sources that are notorious for their greenhouse gas emissions. Even if we conserve, BC Hydro predicts we?ll need up to 45 per cent more electricity over the next 20 years. And that estimate doesn?t even account for increased demand from electric vehicles.
So unless we develop new sources of clean electricity, electric vehicles will just substitute one fossil fuel for another.