The Gulf of Mexico oil spill now polluting fragile wetlands of several states is an environmental and economic disaster.  This is the downside of an addiction to oil, and it should serve as a potent reminder of the strategic value that electric vehicles will have to eliminating significant sources of carbon emissions and that crap coating every remaining living sea creature unlucky enough to be in the Gulf right now.  

Electric vehicles (EVs), a key component of the Smart Grid, serve many beneficial purposes.  First, even those that get electricity from fossil fuel power plants still have a far lighter impact on the environment than gas powered vehicles.  The cumulative greenhouse gas emissions from coal power plants powering EVs are still less than the cumulative emissions from millions of gas powered vehicles.

EVs also help shape electricity loads through smart charging, which uses communications and charging control software to manage the timing, pace, and extent of charging loads from utility to EV and manage the load stored in the EV.  It can respond to fluctuations in demand on the grid, so it charges when electricity is readily available and suspends charging when it senses peak load times.  EVs can help stabilize the grid, and avoid grid purchases of expensive peak power, keeping costs down for everyone.

EVs can earn money for their owners through carbitrage.  Carbitrage is defined in the 2nd Edition of the Smart Grid Dictionary as:  “The capability for an EV or PHEV (Plugin Hybrid EV) or charging station to communicate with the electrical grid to schedule charge/discharge activities based on conditions including pricing signals, tariff agreements, TOU (Time Of Use), DR (Demand Response) programs, and manual overrides by car owners.”  Just imagine – one day there will be an iPhone app that calculates how much money that sweet little EV you’ve been thinking about purchasing will earn for you.  Contrast that to the mental subtraction of a couple thousand dollars we all do as we drive a gas-powered car off the dealer’s lot.

EVs are much cheaper to operate than gas-powered vehicles, and electricity pricing has more predictability to it than barrels of oil.  And then there’s the convenience factor.  I can’t wait to eliminate filling up the tank as one of my chores.  How much better it will be to pull into my garage and plug in the EV – which my smart charging system will juice up when prices are at the lowest. 

But even more significantly, a shift to EVs means the beginning of the end of costly Big Oil.  You can take your pick of studies that calculate the sum total of US federal and state subsidies that go to these companies.  The eye-popping numbers range from $330B between 1950 – 2003, to a mere billion dollars a year.  That’s right fellow US taxpayers, at least a billion dollars a year in subsidies to mature, profit-engorged multinational oil corporations.  I’d much rather see those sorts of subsidies going to domestic, renewable energy  and EV businesses that will make the petroleum spewing a mile deep in the Gulf as obsolete and cringe-inducing a fuel as whale oil.   Wouldn’t you?