Insights · May 11th, 2011
On May 4th I had the pleasure of attending a Washington Clean Technology Alliance (WCTA) Lunch Seminar to hear James Billmaier, author of JOLT! The Impending Dominance of the Electric Car and Why America Must Take Charge.
After listening to Jim speak, I was fully convinced that America will soon become an “electriconomy” as he puts it. The way he explained it, it will be similar to the evolution of the internet, which existed for a fair amount of time before it became easily accessible to the general public through the introduction of the internet browser. Soon electric cars will be mass produced, charging stations will be easily found, and battery life will last longer to make it not only feasible, but desirable to own an electric car as your primary vehicle.
Jim had a number of enlightening facts about the current gas economy as well. As much as we complain about gas prices, they are currently paying $9/gal in France and the U.S. is not even in the top 100 for gas prices around the world. As gas imports increase, jobs will be lost to overseas production. Some would argue that there is gas to be found within our nation, which is true, but not nearly enough to meet our current needs. A much brighter picture will be painted as energy production becomes a higher priority. There are many ways to keep this production within our borders and increase the number of jobs here with it. Currently the government is still subsidizing gas and defending the pipelines in the Middle East, but even on this uneven playing field the current electric technology is highly superior.
Some people are unnecessarily worried about our current electric grid being overwhelmed by the increasing amount of cars that will need to be charged. Jim put this in perspective for us and explained that electric companies currently produce enough energy to meet the highest demands during the day, but the demand lowers so dramatically at night that even with a conservative estimate, 100 million cars can be charged at night on the unused energy that is currently available. And the future of energy production will only increase that amount. Charging an electric vehicle is equivalent to hooking up a new fridge, NOT a new house. Even air conditioning units take up to 75% more watts than are used to charge an electric vehicle for a 40 mile commute, and AC is more of a luxury than a necessity in many places.
Gas continues to sound more and more wasteful as it is compared to energy use and dollars spent on electric cars. It takes 6-7 kilowatt hours to make 1 gallon of gas. Even one of the newest electric cars, the Nissan Leaf, goes 30 miles on less than 6 kilowatts! In 2010, on a good day, $1 could buy you enough gas to get about 8 miles in a standard car, but in an electric car that same $1 could take you 50 miles! For those interested in sustainability, the Nissan Leaf is made from 90% recycled material and is fully 95% recyclable. And the lithium that batteries are made from is also endlessly recyclable.
Jim currently has two fairly new cars that he told us about, one that runs on gas, and one Nissan Leaf that he could not bring himself to wait to buy. It sounded like he bought it based on ideals, but he drives it because it is such a comfortable and efficient ride. He said that 95% of his miles are driven in his electric car and the other one is kept around now for longer trips or weekend holidays. I had expected to be convinced by the end of his speech that I should read his book, but instead I am convinced that my next car will be electric. If you ever have the chance to hear James Billmaier speak, you should take it. Until then, I would highly recommend his book because if it is half as informative and entertaining as he is in person, it will be one of the best of the year.
He has an even better conclusion on his Jolt! website:
There is no longer any question of whether or not we will adopt an electric-based transportation system. We will. And the transition will come much more quickly than most “expertsâ€ predict. All major auto-makers have some type of plug-in vehicle coming out in the very near future, with the first cars due out at the end of 2010. The U.S. can’t afford to be left behind. But we’re going to need to move fast to become the undisputed market leader.
The good news is that we’re halfway there, at least in terms of ability. The U.S. has a well-established history of economic leadership and is renowned for its innovation. It also has a resourceful and skilled workforce able to capitalize on every aspect of the coming electriconomy, from conception and development to manufacture and delivery. In short, the U.S. workforce is a veritable Dream Team.
And the electric vehicle is a Dream Car. EVs are good for us individually. They’re good for us as a nation. And they’re good for the planet.
Hang on, America! The EV is going to take us on an amazing ride.
– James Billmaier
Writer: Catherine Otten was a Program Manager and Administrator for Futurist.com in 2007 and again in 2010-2011. We lost her to cancer in 2016. An avid outdoors woman and mountain climber, Catherine was especially passionate about the environment.