Saturday, June 2, 2007

Zero-Carbon Drive to Sacto Anti-Carbon Rally and Back

Rainforest Action Network (RAN) held a rally in Sacramento Thursday outside the lobbying offices of the Association of Automobile Manufacturers to protest their continuing lawsuit against California's greenhouse gas legislation. Dan Kalb of the Union of Concerned Scientists and Bonnie Holms-Gen of the Lung Association were there to lend their voices of protest against the auto industry's continuing legal assault on California. And I was there representing Plug In America.

What's most interesting, however, is how easy (and cheap) it is to do a carbon emission-free 200 mile day in a 100 mile range electric vehicle, my 5 year old Toyota RAV4 EV. (It's about 90 miles from my house in San Francisco to the Capitol in Sacramento.) Tom Gage of AC Propulsion was driving up in the eBox on the same day to see some folks at SMUD and CARB, so we met up for breakfast in Vacaville.

Plenty of public charging in what's come to be called Voltageville. We chose the solar-powered Park n Ride just off 80. About 55 miles from my place in San Francisco and 100 miles from Tom's on the Peninsula. After an hour or so of breakfast and conversation, we unplugged our respective vehicles and went off to our appointments in the Capitol. The EV chargers one-half block from the RAN rally at which I was to speak were charging other RAV4 EVs, so I drove to another parking garage 2 blocks away. Plenty of available chargers there.

The 11 am demonstration went off without a hitch. (See my remarks below.) Afterward, I paid a quick visit to Assemblywoman Fiona Ma's office and then unplugged at around 12.30 to begin my journey back to SF. Stopped in Vacaville on the return trip to eat lunch, charging while eating of course. Arrived back home around 3.15 with about 25% (at least 25 miles) still available in my battery after 197 miles.

Total cost: $6. Should have cost me nothing to do the trip, but I had to pay for parking in Sacramento. Sacto is meant to have free parking for ZEVs, but that parking lot didn't respect my ZEV parking decal. Zero Emission Vehicles don't pay bridge tolls during commute hours in California, so I saved about $5 each way zipping past the toll collectors. In a Prius or Civic Hybrid at 50mpg, the trip would have cost about $30 in gas, tolls and parking in Sacto.

Electric cars don't emit carbon (or anything else) as they drive, so there's one additional saving quite relevant to speaking at a rally decrying carbon emissions. At 20 lbs of carbon emissions per gallon of gasoline burned (US Energy Information Administration estimate), a Prius or Civic would have released about 80 lbs of carbon for this one round trip.

My comments at the rally:
We’re all here to demand that the auto makers stop suing California as we attempt to lower, and eventually eliminate, greenhouse gas emissions from tailpipes. We’ve seen this all before. The auto manufacturers have sued to stop progress before.

Our group, Plug In America, began as, to fight the destruction of the great electric cars produced to meet the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate of the 90s. The great zero-carbon emitting, zero-particulate emitting, zero-petroleum consuming electric cars. They sued back then, too. With our protests, we saved about 1000 Ford and Toyota electric cars, and I drove here today from San Francisco in one. If you’ve seen the film Who Killed the Electric Car?, you know what I’m talking about.

One of the great things about plug-in cars is that they offer us a pathway to true ZERO. Plugging into the California electric grid today would lower the carbon emission of cars tremendously. And due to all our efforts, the grid is getting even cleaner and more renewable. As consumers, we want to tap into that cleaner source of energy for our driving. Because plug-in cars actually get cleaner over time. We want to power our cars from non-polluting, zero carbon emitting electricity from wind and solar photovoltaic systems on our roofs. The best way to eliminate tailpipe carbon emissions is to eliminate the tailpipe.

Choice is what we want. The market for the cleanest possible cars is huge. Unfortunately, the offerings from the carmakers sparse. A few gasoline-dependent hybrids won’t placate us when we already know better alternatives with lower or zero-carbon emissions are proven and ready today –all-electric cars and plug-in hybrids that can plug into cleaner, cheaper, domestic electricity. When it comes to cars, it’s time to say No Plug? No Deal.

The automakers must stop blocking the will of California and the nation and make the zero-carbon emitting cars they’ve already proven they can build.