Voicing Support for Electric Vehicles Despite Struggles and Criticism

Do you support electric cars? If you do, these could be discouraging times. Sales have slowed in early 2012, critics are legion, and startup businesses are scuffling for traction. The struggles are real, and any added bump prompts headlines that build on a well-documented flawed narrative.

So RMI today is kicking off a solution-oriented forum. We know the problems (some of them exaggerated) that others are writing and talking about a lot. As gas prices spike again—as they are certain to do periodically as long as we rely on oil for transportation—how can we offer encouragement and perspective amid these setbacks?

At RMI, we believe a transition to a clean energy future is critical. But we don’t expect that change to be easy or quick, or the path to a brighter future to be straight. And we believe that electric vehicles hold the single greatest promise to address America’s dependence on oil, a challenge identified by every president since Richard Nixon, but one that remains unsolved and dangerous.

Oil use endangers our country’s economy, health, security, and natural environment. This country uses 13 million barrels of oil a day on transportation at a direct cost of $2 billion. Our oil dependence also incurs hidden costs totaling roughly $1.5 trillion a year, or 12 percent of GDP—more than our annual budget deficit—plus untold costs to human health and the environment.

None of the headlines or setbacks involving electric vehicles changes these facts, dismisses the need to change, or disproves the potential of EVs to address these risks.

Reinventing Fire, Rocky Mountain Institute’s blueprint for a business-led transition from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewable energy by 2050, shows how electric vehicles made from ultralight, ultrastrong materials can provide radically improved fuel efficiency without compromising performance and safety. It shows their potential to store energy and feed it back to the electric grid to help equalize power generation from renewable sources, further moving us away from fossil fuels toward a cleaner environment.

Progress is being made. We are heartened by California’s new Advanced Clean Car rules, which will help accelerate adoption of EVs and plug-in hybrids. We are encouraged that major automakers continue to add electric offerings to their lineups. We are encouraged by the military’s commitment on alternative fuels and reduced energy use, and by the U.S. Department of Energy’s move last month to invest $14 million in accelerating adoption of lightweight automotive materials.

We believe EVs are too good an idea to not catch on. Sticker prices remain high, but research shows that 40 percent of Americans are extremely or very interested in buying an EV. Early adopters are extremely satisfied.

We believe manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and our leaders will find solutions, improve battery range, and bring down costs. We think EVs are a key part of the way to build a cleaner, safer world as they help reignite America’s innovation machine, reinvigorate our economy, help transform our aging electricity system, and enable us to rethink and rebuild our communities.

How about you?

Join our discussion in comments below, on our Facebook timeline, or on Twitter using the hashtag #EVsupport