Connecticut is among several states where electric vehicles are being tested by consumers, and several New England based groups, including Northeast Utilities, have been working together to build infrastructure for the new vehicles.
Watson Collins III, a project manager at Northeast Utilities, helped create the Regional Electric Vehicle Initiative in 2009, and told a group of environmentalists Monday that they’ve installed six charging stations at their facilities and are encouraging placement of charging stations in neighborhoods throughout the state.
Collins made his remarks at a forum sponsored by the Connecticut Fund for the Environment on global warming solutions.
Collins, who drove to the Goodwin College forum in a Chevrolet Volt, estimated energy costs for an electric vehicle to be around $600, compared to $2,000 he estimated for traditional gas powered vehicles.
But not all electricity is considered clean since some is generated by dirty energy sources, such as coal.
Matt Solomon, transportation manager for Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, believes the carbon emissions of electric vehicles will still fall far below gasoline.
Coal is a carbon intense fuel, but Solomon said that no system is primarily reliant on coal as the source of energy and other sources contribute to available electricity on the grid.
“When you do the math on the emissions, I can say that the life of the vehicle running on electricity from coal is equivalent to a really high efficiency hybrid getting 50 miles to a gallon,” said Collins.
Initiatives are underway to address cleaner alternatives for statewide electric power plants, but the breakdown still heavily favors nonrenewable energy sources including natural gas and coal.
One initiative, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which partners Connecticut with other Mid-Atlantic states, aims to decrease carbon emissions from large fossil fuel burning power plants 10 percent by 2018.
In order to encourage more electric car use, Northeast Utilities has been working on proposals for new rates for electric vehicle users, and they are considering new technologies to monitor rates, according to Collins.
“We want to have rates that will actually get you to changing your behavior,” Collins said. “So we want to look at the rates to give enough incentive.”
The problem is not solved by more efficient vehicles alone. David Kooris, vice president of Regional Plan Association, said changes need to be made to the miles traveled by drivers.
Kooris summarized a study from the Urban Land Institute that said the work creating more efficient vehicles and may be undone by the growth in miles driven by the average driver.
“As long as we continue to drive as much as we are driving and as long as the growth in vehicle miles traveled continues on pace we are going to negate any of those gains in efficiency because we will still have increasing emissions from transportation,” said Kooris.
Kooris believes developing housing around large areas of employment and utilizing the benefits of mass transportation, including the proposed New Britain Hartford busway, will help ease emissions in the Hartford area.