Green Living: Electric automobiles let commuters kick gas

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      It’s no secret that the use of gasoline-run vehicles is one of the biggest drivers of climate change.

      But in case you need the numbers, here they are: Statistics Canada estimates that, in 2014, the transportation sector contributed 23 percent of the country’s total 732 megatonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent released that year. It was the second-largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions, behind only the oil and gas sector.

      In the same 2016 report, the governmental agency notes that Canada’s greenhouse-gas emissions increased over 100 megatonnes from 1990 to 2014 due in part to carbon dioxide produced during transport.

      Yet, despite our best efforts to car-pool, bike, and walk, many of us continue to utilize fossil-fuel-burning vehicles as our primary modes of movement.

      It’s a predicament that baffles Randy Rinaldo, codirector of the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association, a nonprofit advocacy group that encourages the mass adoption of electric automobiles across B.C.

      “It’s insanity that we’re still using the 100-year-old internal-combustion engine,” he tells the Straight by phone.

      Powered by electrical energy that’s stored in rechargeable batteries, electric vehicles remove the need for gasoline, thus eliminating the production and release of harmful greenhouse gases. Besides the eco-friendly element, however, Rinaldo stresses that electric cars also run a lot smoother than their gasoline-fuelled counterparts.

      “An electric motor has one moving part,” he explains. “It requires no oil changes, never breaks down, and propels your car forward more efficiently and faster than an internal-combustion engine.”

      Given that 98 percent of the energy produced by B.C. Hydro was considered “clean” or renewable in 2015, Rinaldo states that B.C. is especially suited for electric-vehicle use.

      “Our electric cars have close to zero emissions,” he says, “whereas with electric cars in Alberta or Saskatchewan, for example, you’re still using coal electricity.”

      What’s stopping B.C. residents from embracing electric cars? A lack of available options is one factor, states Rinaldo, though the increasing popularity of electric-car manufacturers like Tesla has helped greatly in that regard.

      Hundreds of eager drivers lined up outside the Tesla Motors showroom on Robson Street earlier this year to nab a spot on a waiting list for the company’s new Model 3.

      The sporty sedan—which offers all-wheel drive and an autopilot feature—also crushes stereotypes of electric cars as unattractive, slow, and dinky.

      “I think they used to have a bad reputation of not being very fast—kind of like a golf-cart-type car,” says Rinaldo, though he notes that there’s still work to be done if we’d like to see B.C.’s carbon footprint reduced significantly.

      The Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association would like to see incentives for electric-vehicle drivers implemented by municipal and provincial governments. These measures include discounted meter parking and more charging stations across the suburbs.

      Made up of informed citizens from all sorts of cultural and political backgrounds—“people who built their own electric cars when the auto manufacturers weren’t giving them the option”, explains Rinaldo—the group is always open to new members.

      It meets monthly to discuss new developments and ways in which it can lobby the government to better facilitate the adoption of electric cars.

      “It’s only a matter of time,” Rinaldo adds optimistically. “Without a doubt, in the next 10 years, we’re going to see mostly electric cars on our roads.”

      Follow Lucy Lau on Twitter @lucylau.