Could the electric car be making a comeback?

04/12/12 Samuel Johnson
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The future of the electric car may be already here. That was the topic in March at The University of South Florida’s Patel School of Global Sustainability. Before the discussion, 40 people saw the documentary “Revenge of the Electric Car”, the sequel to the popular “Who Killed the Electric Car.” Tonight the film will be Thursday (4/12) at the UU Church in Tampa and Friday (4/13) at the UU Church in Clearwater.

Christian Well, an associate professor of Anthropology at USF, moderated the discussions. Well says that in order for the electric vehicle to be successful, scientists need to analyze societal norms and perceptions.

”Social scientist are uniquely trained to go and study peoples' values and their world view and determine the extent to which different kinds of communities will be early adapters or mainstream adapters or be interested in alternative energy at all.”

The electric vehicle market is becoming a viable option alongside traditional gas burning vehicles because some consumers are choosing the new technology. Richard Nimble, owner of Suncoast Electric Vehicles of St Petersburg, says without the pioneering attitude of those consumers, electric car advancements would not be occurring as quickly.

”The more early adapters there are then obviously that’s the impetus to improve battery technology.”

The success of batteries to store power could determine whether the electric car has a future. Detractors of switching from fossil fuels to battery power see it as substituting one scarce commodity for another. Carolyn Amon, vice president for trade and energy at International Advisory Services Group, says that electric vehicle batteries enable Americans to redefine manufacturing techniques.

”The battery which is the largest component you could have more of a cradle-to-cradle approach because it is recyclable; because you can reuse it for utilities to store energy. So there is much more of a sustainability aspect to EV’s as opposed to conventional vehicles.”

In order for the electric vehicle to enter the day-to-day lives of Americans there needs to be a perfect storm of cooperation between government, manufacturing and consumers. Amon says that this convergence is taking place now.

”And what this movie really showed is that now all three actors are fully on board.”

Although electric vehicles contribute to a cleaner environment, they represent only a piece of the total puzzle. Phil Compton, from the Sierra Club Florida regional office, highlighted the need for a holistic approach.

”Here in Tampa Bay though it’s a little different; about half of our air pollution comes from all of us driving our cars and trucks. We don’t have a choice but to drive a car or truck. Although ridership with HART and PSTA is going up as people use the buses that we do have. Bus we don’t have light rail. We don’t have rapid bus transit yet. That’s coming soon. EV’s won’t do a thing to reduce traffic congestion but they will make the air a lot cleaner.”

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