In researching PSE&G’s 100th anniversary, I came across a purchasing memo:
Purchase request: Truck.
Reason: Horse died.
They got the truck.
Rarely can you find a document that captures a moment of dramatic change at, or near, its start. The horse, a tried and true component of transportation for decades, would begin to increasingly be replaced by engine driven cars and trucks – at PSE&G and in society. In fact, today it is jarring for us to even think of an electric and gas company that used horses to take people and equipment to string the electric wires and dig the ditches for gas lines still being using today.
The following memo does not yet exist:
Purchase request: Electric car.
Reason: Combustion engine obsolete.
Maybe it should. The benefits of electric cars are simply too great, especially in the areas of cleaning the air, combating climate change and boosting our economy.
Cleaning the air
Americans are great at hating some risks and learning to live with others. One risk we have collectively learned to live with is the health impact of automobile emissions. In New Jersey, car and truck emissions are the largest source of air pollution – greater than the power sector or general industry.
The impact is severe. Emissions from combustion engines can cause coughing, lung irritation, lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. They can cause or contribute to premature death in the young, the elderly and individuals with respiratory issues, such as asthma, as well as cause pulmonary problems in developing fetuses.
A 2013 MIT study concluded that in the United Kingdom more people suffer premature deaths from breathing in auto emissions than from auto accidents. And, the American Lung Association and Environmental Defense Fund released a study that asserts a transition to electric cars in California would prevent 600 heart attacks and 38,000 asthma attacks annually in that state alone.
The single most impactful action most people can take to improve the air quality and health of their own neighborhood is to drive electric.
Combating climate change
Concentration of CO2 in the environment is increasing. A broad scientific consensus has emerged that this concentration is causing climate change. Car combustion engines are a major contributor of CO2 and there is no current technology to reduce or capture carbon from combustion cars. An average car contributes 11,450lbs of carbon a year.
Even though sales of electric cars have been relatively small, all of the electric cars sold in America have driven more than 1 billion electric miles with no carbon emissions, avoiding between 400 million and 800 million pounds of CO2.
This is a big number, but not that significant when you consider the entire atmosphere of the planet – but you can see that as electric car acceptance grows, CO2 avoidance will add up.
Good for the economy
And, all of those electric cars have avoided the purchase of tens of millions of gallons of gas and diverted money that would have been sent to foreign oil producers back into the local American economy. And, 100 percent of electricity used in the U.S. comes from North America.
One state official in Georgia is justifying why that state is aggressively promoting electric cars, pointing out that Georgians spend $16 billion every year on gas. With every electric car purchase, that number shrinks and there is more money spent locally on other things – fueling the economy instead of their cars.
And, with incentives from the federal government, savings in gas and lower maintenance, electric cars are increasingly competitive in price with traditional cars.
Sept. 12-20 is National Drive Electric Week, with electric car shows around the country. PSEG is hosting one at our Newark general office on Sept. 17 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Come down and check out the electric cars driven by our employees (there will also be a Tesla courtesy of our neighbors, Panasonic).
With the tremendous societal benefits from driving an electric car, there is no better time to think about putting your old combustion engines out to pasture.
Paul Rosengren is Director of Communications for PSEG. He also spearheaded and manages the PSEG Employee Electric Car Incentive Program.