May Cool Drinks: Sustainable Vehicles for the 21st Century
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For our final Cool Drinks of the 2014/15 season, Eve Hou, Colin Armstrong and Sylvain Celaire reviewed three types of vehicles that are more sustainable than conventional gas powered vehicle: electric and hydrogen vehicles plus car share programs. The main benefits and attributes of these vehicles are featured below for citizens that are interested in purchasing or sharing one in the future.
Eve Hou, Planner, Metro Vancouver
Several major auto manufacturers now offer an electric model of car. These vehicles may be pure electric cars like the Nissan Leaf (117 km range) and Tesla Model S (300 km range) or plug in hybrid electric vehicles such as the Chevy Volt (56 km electric range and 500 km on gas). To recharge the batteries, three types of chargers are used: 120V that fully restores a car’s battery in 8-16 hours via a wall socket; 240V which rejuvenates a battery in 4-6 hours; and 500VDC Fast that recharges a battery to 80% capacity in less than 30 minutes. The latter two forms of chargers are usually found in public spaces. In Metro Vancouver, there are presently 235 public charging points. Across British Columbia, 600 public stations feature 240 V chargers while 13 offer DC Fast. These supplement more than 300 residential and over 140 multi-unit residential building stations. The large number of charging locations reduces prior concerns regarding not being able to drive long distances with these vehicles.
Electric vehicles offer a broad range of benefits compared to gas powered vehicles. First, these cars significantly reduce air pollution due to no tailpipe emissions. Currently, gas fueled cars account for 25% of smog forming pollutants (e.g. hydrocarbons) and 33% of greenhouse gas emissions (e.g. carbon dioxide) in our region. In addition, they produce hazardous pollutants like benzene. By driving a more sustainable vehicle, we improve our health and the environment as well as tackle climate change.
Another advantage of electric vehicles is lower long term operating costs. Based on a BCAA study, electric vehicle owners spend about $400-600 annually on fuel, while owners of traditional cars pay $1800-2300 per year on gas. Electric vehicles also have fewer moving parts, which means less maintenance and further cost savings. The smaller number of parts also improves reliability.
Owners of electric cars also cite additional reasons for wanting to drive these vehicles including excellent power, speed, and a quite ride.
To facilitate the purchase of electric and other clean energy vehicles, the BC government reintroduced an incentive program on April 1. It is once again offering up to a $5000 rebate on these vehicles.
Colin Armstrong, President, Hydrogen Technology Energy Corp.
To capitalize on this new market, HTEC currently produces and distributes hydrogen as well develops dispenser systems for service stations. To facilitate future expansion of this form of vehicle, a larger number of hydrogen service stations need to be installed. Presently, only two exist in Metro Vancouver. In North America, California is the jurisdiction with the most ambitious goals to expand hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles due to its legislation to limit car emissions. While only 9 fuel stations were installed by 2014, 87 are planned by 2020, which could service 35,000 cars.
When comparing hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles to vehicles powered by other fuel sources (e.g. battery electric, ethanol plug in hybrid electric, gasoline hybrid electric), the former source will limit greenhouse gas emissions the most by 2100 according to a recent research study since they generate zero emissions. This should support market expansion of this type of vehicle.
Sylvain Celaire, Business Development Manager, Modo Coop
Car share programs offer consumers and commuters numerous benefits over owning a vehicle. Each one of these vehicles removes 9-13 personal cars from Metro Vancouver roads, which subsequently lowers pollution and traffic. They are also more affordable – $1200 per annum instead of $8000 per year in operating costs. Since most cars are parked the majority of the time and they depreciate in value, it simply makes sense to have a car when you need one, particularly if you use it infrequently.
Of the four car share companies in Vancouver, Modo Coop was the original one and the first car share cooperative in North America. Now the company offers a diverse fleet of more than 375 vehicles in 13 municipalities in Metro Vancouver and Victoria with most situated in the City of Vancouver. The organization offers two membership options for consumers with the following inclusions:
1) Member Owner – $500 share deposit each year, $20 registration fee, $4/hour up to $40/day, no fee between 11:00 pm to 8:00 am, 20-40 cents/km depending on km driven
2) Monthly Member – $5/month + $50 monthly deposit, $20 registration fee, $8/hour up to $64/day, a maximum overnight fee of $64, and free km up to 200 km
With either rate plan, membership includes gas, insurance, maintenance, road assistance, and Metro Vancouver bridge tolls.