Living here in Portland, Oregon, I’ve become aware that we have the highest percentage of hybrid cars of any city in the nation. I’ve also observed that Portland General Electric (PGE) has the largest renewable power program in the country. (Disclosure: I’m married to Thor Hinckley, the manager of that renewables program.)
The new piece is that PGE has opened its first electric fueling station for electric cars on SW Salmon and First, downtown by the World Trade Center (KGW reported). It plans to open 12 such stations across Portland. PGE is initially offering electric fueling free to PGE customers (though it will start charging at some point in the future).
We live, breathe and talk sustainability at my house, my field of work being transportation while Thor’s is renewable energy. So our lines of work intersect precisely at electric cars. Wonks that we are, we naturally debate their merits.
Thor points out to me that if the electricity powering your car is renewable (wind energy is the predominant source in Oregon) then your driving is clean; it is sustainable. But I want to drill it down deeper. Renewables still just account for less than 3% of what’s in our grid here, with coal (the prime carbon-emitter) supplying 35-39%. So I think any electricity use, whether in vehicles or in our homes and businesses, still needs to be minimized. Also, electric vehicles cause congestion and wear-and-tear on roads and highways at the same rate as any other vehicle. Less driving all around helps preserve this enormously expensive infrastructure.
What do you think? Do electric vehicles hold the key to sustainable transportation? Please weigh in with a comment.