Many people hoped that electric vehicles (EVs) would solve the environmental problems of gasoline-fueled vehicles. Without question, EVs and hybrids are somewhat of an improvement over conventional gasoline-powered cars and trucks. But as consumers gain more experience with EVs, it's becoming apparent that the positives are greatly overshadowed by the negatives.

First and foremost is the problem of emissions. True, an electric powered vehicle releases no emissions and greenhouse gases at the tailpipe. But in the broader picture, an electric vehicle is only as environmentally clean as the power plant generating the electricity to charge the vehicle's batteries. 60% of the electricity to recharge EV batteries is generated from coal, a major source of greenhouse gases. Despite being smaller cars, EVs can leave quite large carbon footprints.

An increase in electric cars also threaten existing municipal power supplies -- commuter-heavy Los Angeles is already concerned that adding too many EVs to Southern California's car culture will result in brownouts and even blackouts because of the drain on the energy grid. A major influx of EVs across the country will necessitate building more power plants, with the environmental concerns of how those plants are fueled.

Further, an electric car is only as efficient as its batteries. Lithium-based batteries are often chosen for their high power and energy density; the problem is they have limited shelf-life and cycle time that can significantly increase the running costs over the life of the vehicle. Plus the range of an electric car depends on the number and type of batteries used. The U.S. Department of Energy notes that most EVs can only go about 100 to 200 miles before recharging. Fully recharging the battery pack can take 4 to 8 hours; even a "quick charge" to 80% capacity can take 30 minutes. The fear of running out of power has generated its own syndrome called "Range Anxiety." Drivers of EVs also need to park in locations where the cars can be plugged in, leaving fewer choices of places to live or work.


Manufacturers insist that research is underway to correct these battery problems. But there is no fix for the fact that manufacturing the batteries leaves the U.S. as dependent on foreign resources as we are for our oil. Ninety-two percent of the world's lithium used to make today's batteries comes from outside the U.S. Battery production also requires large quantities of neodymium, terbium, and dysprosium, chemical elements in such demand worldwide that the situation has been likened to a gold rush. Additionally, obtaining lithium and other heavy metals require mining processes such as open pit mines that present their own set of waste by-product scenarios.


Speaking of waste by-products, lithium-ion batteries irreversibly lose 20% capacity a year. Through the life of the vehicle that can mean replacing the batteries several times. What will we do with all those environmentally dangerous batteries once they're spent?


It turns out that electric vehicles as the solution to our environmental concerns are no solution at all -- in fact, they generate a number of new problems. The real solution? Vehicles powered by natural gas.


Natural Gas Vehicles (NGVs) use technology that is here today, not something that might be developed or improved upon in the future. NGVs are clean -- the "Cleanest Production Vehicle on Earth" is the American Honda Civic GX, powered by natural gas. NGVs are cheap, both in operating and part-replacement costs. NGVs are American, using our vast natural gas resources. And NGVs are a lot more fun -- you can drive what you want to, where you want to. Go Natural Gas!

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