/ Sustainability

Rush's Warped Electric Car Nightmare

Rush Limbaugh published a piece back in early October titled "The Electric Car Fantasy and it's been bothering me for awhile. I commented on a friend's Facebook share of this post, but I really couldn't do the debate justice on a Facebook comment thread. There is such a dramatic shift happening in solar energy and technology. This makes it difficult to even agree that these shifts can actually happen. Nevertheless, I felt that I needed to put out a long form response to this.

Rush makes the assertion that "We’re gonna have to get rid of filling stations and replace them with charging stations." Fortunately, this isn't true. First off, the vast majority of people can recharge their cars at home in the night instead of going to a gas station before they go home. With range that exceeeds 300 miles on some newer models, even those with long commutes and lots of errands can safely charge at home.

Rush goes on and on about how each station that is replaced will need to spend $24 million on chargers and that each is going to require 30 megawatts of capacity. All of that might make sense at first glance, but the truth is that we are changing the paradigm. The box is changing.

When people are charging at home, they don't need electricty charging stations set up on every corner like the current gas stations. The biggest fallacy of his piece is that with electric vehicles we still need dedicated stations for recharging them. Sure, we will need them, but not in the number analogous to gas stations.

Where will charging stations be located? Right where they are now: stores and shopping malls where people stay long enough to charge their vehicles. More charging stations will be located at office buildings, schools, industrial plants, and anywhere else where people leave their cars while working or doing business.

Rush says that the shift from fossil fuels to alternative energy just can't be made because solar is so expensive. This has long been true, but things are quickly. Rush says the most optimistic price for solar panels is "a buck a watt," but any one of us can go to Amazon and pick up a solar panel for less than a buck a watt. The trend has been for prices to keep dropping. In fact, large scale solar projects are coming in at prices less than fossil fuels.

Rush further claims that electric cars will have an unsustainable effect on the grid because the sheer volume of cars placing a huge drain on the grid as people charge them. That's partially true, but technology can actually turn this around. Smart charging technology is on the horizon.

After arriving home, an EV owner can plug in, but the smart charger can hold off charging until later in the night when the power grid has less demand. This shifting from peak demand times to less demand can greatly soften the deamnd on the grid where peak demand is what needs to be planned for. In fact, the smart charging technology can actually transfer power to the home from the EV's battery bank to ensure the house's electrical usage stays stable.

I used to be very leery of electrical vehicles. I felt that they were a bad technology that would probably restrict our ability to travel and tether us to a technology that was expensive and restrictive. I've changed my mind over the last few years. I see EV technology as liberating. Lifespans of batteries have increased as has capacities. Moreover, the electricity to run an electric car can all be produced right in your home from solar or wind. Technology like the PowerWall can ensure that you always have enough power on hand. You can be independent of the electric grid and the oil oligarchy.