Recently we participated in an Earth Day event at a library in Door County, Wisconsin. The event offered us an opportunity to interact with the general public so we decided to conduct a short survey on electric vehicles (EVs).
Now attendees at an Earth Day event aren’t “typical” consumers. We knew this audience would tilt green but we also thought it would be useful to understand what this greenish audience thought about EVs.
Just under 40 people completed our survey, which means it’s a small sample and we won’t draw any big conclusions. More, folks did this survey on their phone or our iPad while standing at our table, sometimes while also juggling toddlers, which means they had limited time and attention. (Arguably that makes them a little more typical—everyone we’re all trying to reach has limited time and attention.)
What we heard was interesting.
It’s exciting to see numerous communities committing to 100% clean energy. At this point half a dozen states and more than one hundred local communities have committed to eliminate carbon emissions. That means about 1 in 5 Americans live in a community that’s committed to eliminate fossil fuels by mid-century.
These commitments are important and exciting. As we’ve discussed before, public commitments are a great way to jump start action while also influencing others to act as well.
To address climate change it’s critical, of course, that these communities succeed in transitioning away from fossil fuels. That’s where the rubber hits the road (and in many places the local roads are currently congested with single-occupancy vehicles, mostly running on gasoline).
Once the commitment is made these communities need to make change happen.
In preparation for an Earth Day talk about electric vehicles (EVs) I did an informal survey of EV owners. The survey was not scientific, but it was informative. I simply posted a question in the Nissan Leaf Owners Group on Facebook to which I belong.
The results surprised me and they might surprise you too.
In the US about 30% of all emissions come from the transportation sector with about two-thirds of that from personal vehicles. The emissions from an EV vary, based on how clean the electricity charging the EV is. (Union of Concerned Scientists has a great calculator where you can explore this.) In Wisconsin, where we still get 55% of our electricity from coal, an EV emits 37% less carbon that the typical gasoline vehicle. The emissions reduction is even better in states with cleaner electricity.
Transitioning from gas vehicles to EVs will help us reduce our emissions. The faster the transition the better.
EVs have other advantages: gas costs at least 2X as much per mile as electricity as a fuel, even at today’s cheap gas prices. EVs have fewer moving parts so maintenance costs are lower—another savings for consumers. Plus EVs are clean, safe, quiet and responsive—all of which makes driving fun again.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Surely all that means consumers are lining up to buy these vehicles, right?
Well, not exactly.
I spent a few hours at the Kennedy Space Center recently. In the course of the tour there were at least three times that I saw footage of President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 speech urging Americans to work together to reach the moon. In the clip Kennedy talks about the need for US leadership and our collective willingness to take on hard tasks.
The third time I heard the speech—when it was coupled with a dramatization of engineering challenges NASA scientists overcame during the space program—I started thinking about climate change.
What if US leaders talked about the challenge of climate change in the way that Kennedy talked about going to the moon?
I saw the best sign last week.
We were on vacation in Florida when I spotted the sign (yes, geek alert…she takes pictures of signs while on vacation…).
If you own an electric vehicle (EV) or follow the technology, you might be aware that sometimes EV drivers have challenges accessing public charging stations because non-electric vehicles are parked in front of the chargers. (In the EV world this is called being ICEd—an internal combustion engine (ICE) is in your way.) In some regions of the country ICEing seems to be the latest exemplification of ongoing culture wars—a Tesla versus pickup truck battle. The issue is significant enough that there are webpages devoted to parking protocols.
Achieving aggressive sustainability goals—whether within corporate operations or as part of a community’s quest for zero carbon emissions—is an enormous task.
In the early phases of any entity’s sustainability efforts a committed green team can do a lot. A small group of people can identify and address opportunities. As a company (or community) become more efficient, though, the projects get more complicated. And the projects involve more stakeholders. One of the ironies of sustainability efforts is that the more you succeed the more challenging it is to expand that success.
Sooner or later—especially if you’ve got aggressive goals—success requires all hands on deck. A company can’t achieve zero landfill unless everybody does their part in the lunch room. Similarly, a dramatic reduction in fleet emissions is possible only if every driver does their part.
At Cool Choices we talk a lot about the need for culture change. We share stories from partners who’ve got “an entire employee population moving in the same direction.” We love that moment when our partners get it–when they see culture change happening in their organization.
Over the last eight years Cool Choices has implemented numerous engagement programs, inspiring thousands of people to adopt sustainable practices at work and home. We successfully helped corporate and community partners accelerate sustainability efforts, changing social norms in the process and prompting thousands to ask friends “what cool choice did you make today?” Our platform is easy-to-use and effective—if you haven’t tried it you should.Read more
A decade after the Great Recession, we’re now in the midst of a tight labor market. Wisconsin’s unemployment hovers at 3%, which is lower than the 4.5% to 5% unemployment that the Federal Reserve targets. How should employers view this tight labor market, and how can they use sustainability to attract and retain talent?Read more
Transportation represented 28% of US greenhouse gas emissions in 2016. Reducing transportation emissions is critical to tackling climate change. Yet inspiring more people to adopt walking, biking, and public transit, as well as electrifying cars and trucks, is a major hurdle. How can we reduce transportation emissions quickly, and what have we learned from the successes of other energy-saving initiatives?Read more