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A Sincere Accounting Of The Costs & Benefits Of Electric Vehicles, Part 4: From The Ground To The Sky

Brian Kent Mark Ruffalo

Brian Kent is a Nissan LEAF owner who is about to embark on a negative-carbon US road trip to all 48 contiguous states. (You can help fund the cause via that IndieGogo link.) He has written an excellent 4-part series for CleanTechnica and our sister sites EV Obsession and Gas2 on “going electric.” In this fourth piece, Brian discusses weighing the costs and benefits when considering whether or not to buy an electric car, a conventional hybrid, or a relatively efficient gasoline-powered car. Enjoy the article, and share it with friends! See part one herepart two here, and part three here. Thanks to Brian and (@100isNow) for the photo with Mark Ruffalo, above, taken last week at an event in New York State.

EV costs benefits 1

How close will we allow the train to get? Is the future ever so clearly valuable as this?

This final piece in the series will undoubtedly be anticlimactic for some. It is less about a sincere accounting of the costs and benefits of electric vehicles as they pertain specifically to individuals, and more about the ramifications of the decision to drive electric as it pertains to the world around us and the world to come. There’s nothing in the way of particularly shocking news here; I offer this part as a candid summary of what I thought about which finally provoked what I now see to be a welcome change to my driving behaviors. Moreover, it is a reflection on the things I tend to think about while driving.

Simply put, electric vehicles are skillful tools for a more advanced generation. They require slightly more from their operators, and reward those who choose to operate them with much greater efficiency and cleaner, quieter operation. Their extremely responsive throttles and regenerative brakes completely outclass those of ‘equivalent’ gas-powered cars, and the simplicity of their construction will ultimately lead to lower costs of repairs once comparable efficiencies of scale are reached. Yet such efficiencies can only be arrived at when greater use of electrics stimulates greater production and development.

Operating an electric vehicle is both cheaper in the now and cheaper in the future—especially when the inescapable costs of carbon pollution are accounted for. We cannot continue to quite literally burn our planet and deny that at some point we’ll have taken our unsustainable behaviors too far. There is mounting evidence to support that we may have already done this.

When I refer to the choice between “from ground to sky” or “from sky to ground,” I’m talking about just this point. The former speaks of our penchant for literally burning assets which have been around for millions of years in the blink of time since we’ve first found a simple use for them–the utterly primitive process of moving large pieces of metal. We can dress this up with however much chrome we like, but the fact remains: there may well come a day when we realize that the use of petroleum products for the production of plastics, for example, is far more critical to our way of life than our use of those same fundamentally limited products for the crude process of combustion-driven transport.

EV costs benefits 2

Will we yield to the freight train of oil or realize we’re at a crossroads and take action before it destroys our priceless future?

“From sky to ground” refers to the concept of our once lofty visions finally coming to real life fruition. It speaks of a willingness to reach out and grab advanced technology that is already within our reach. It means understanding that things are just not going to be the same anymore. It involves accepting that thinking and behaving differently do require some experiential learning—and that truly educating ourselves on something new necessitates abandoning our preconceived notions about what troubles we may face in the interest of improving the prospects of the generations to inherit this world after we’re gone.

EV costs benefits 3

Quite simply, it means turning around. Plenty of people drive electric already, and you can too.

I don’t want to see what happens if we wait too long on this, but it’s not up to any single one of us. The majority of us will decide what kind of future we have in store for us, and what we leave for our children. It’s a matter of whether we choose to think about this problem differently, now that we know that transportation using petroleum products really is a problem. It’s a matter of doing something different than what we typically do. It will be different, but it will also be better.

Given the choice below, which button will you press?

EV costs benefits 4

Can you already see the train, or do you really want to see what happens?

Find out why driving electric is both important right now and possible right now.

Studies show that 31% of American carbon emissions comes from transportation, but it doesn’t need to anymore. Beginning August 26th, I’ll dedicate about 31% of 2015 to show that the pollution we generate through motorized transport is by and large unnecessary. I’ll be driving fully twice as much as the average American travels in a year in just 100 days, relying solely on electricity to do so. I’ve arranged for hydro, solar, and wind-powered charging stops along the route, and a recent Stanford University study has shown that we can meet not just some but all of our power requirements nationwide using renewable energy by 2050. [You can find out more about this at]

Our transportation needs can be sustainable if we decide it’s important to us.

Please give some serious thought to the above video, and consider contributing to my efforts to improve awareness of locally-based sustainability initiatives—whether by pledging to my project on Indiegogo, or by sending me a heads up about sustainability efforts in your area [mail to: ] I read my mail promptly and I’ll do my best to ensure that your local project gets the attention it deserves.


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Written By

I'm a pretty average guy—except that I'm bent on changing the world through those little ten-second choices that make all the difference. Things like: *choosing vegetarian foods *recycling/upcycling *saving power/water ... and driving electric. Which in reality is a choice that takes you about 8 seconds. Eight seconds to plug in when you get home. Eight more when you leave your driveway. Stop believing it's harder than it is. Oil doesn't make it easier to drive. It just makes it more costly.


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