Springtime is the time of year where we start to see the first signs of growth; the green shoots of what will turn into a verdant garden or a bountiful harvest. As the first quarter of 2014 comes to a close, we are seeing some encouraging signs that both electric sales, and their benefits, will continue to grow this year.
Fuel cell vehicles are coming!
Toyota and Hyundai will be rolling out their new fuel cell vehicles within a year. Hyundai’s hydrogen-powered SUV will be leased in Southern California starting this spring and Toyota will follow with a sporty sedan in early 2015 in “significant numbers,” according to the manufacturer.
Hydrogen fuel cells marry the advantages of clean, efficient electric vehicles with the convenience of fast refueling. Hydrogen made today from natural gas gives about the same total emissions per mile as charging a plug-in vehicle with electricity generated from natural gas. But hydrogen can (and will, based on California’s renewable hydrogen requirements) also be made from renewable sources like biomass and solar power, so in the future hydrogen-powered vehicles will be even cleaner.
A key advantage of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is that they can be refueled at a filling station in a short time. This means that drivers who would rather not plug in a battery electric car can still use a clean electric motor to get around. The filling time is about the same as a gasoline vehicle, about five to ten minutes for a 300-mile range.
EV sales doubled in 2013 and more plug-in models are on the horizon
Sales of electric vehicles (EVs), including both plug-in hybrids and battery electrics, continue to rise. More than 90,000 EVs were sold in the United States in 2013 — more than double 2012 EV sales. In California, sales of EVs also increased more than 100 percent in 2013 compared to the previous year, and the state was home to nearly half (46 percent) of all new plug-in vehicles in the U.S. In 2013, plug-in cars were 2.5 percent of new vehicle sales in California.
Looking forward to 2014, new models of EVs will hit showrooms this year. BMW is already reporting significant interest in its upcoming battery electric i3 car and other EVs from Kia, Cadillac, and VW are either in showrooms or on the way. As new models and types of electric vehicles become available, consumers will have more choices to reduce fuel costs and emissions than ever before.
The benefits of electric vehicles are growing
Electric vehicles are reducing oil consumption and global warming emissions while saving consumers millions of dollars at the pump. Americans have purchased almost 170,000 plug-in vehicles in the last three years. These vehicles are avoiding the burning of 45 million gallons of gasoline per year and saving Americans over $100 million per year in avoided fuel costs.
Californians have saved the most – cutting $40 million in annual fuel costs and reducing emissions of carbon dioxide by 140 thousand tons per year.
If the spring’s trends continue, these benefits will only increase.
David Reichmuth is a senior engineer in the Clean Vehicles Program, focusing on oil savings and vehicle electrification.