Electric vehicles have a lot of hurdles to overcome if they are to become the standard. There’s doubt among the general public about their environmental benefits, as well as concerns about their cost and range limitations.
Those doubts are well-known, says Evan Ferrari, executive director of eMERGE Guelph Sustainability, an organization dedicated to helping local residents transition to a 100 per cent renewable energy economy.
What Ferrari finds surprising is that many people leading the fight on climate change issues also doubt the benefits of electric vehicles, as illustrated by a recent study from the University of Guelph titled Benefits and Barriers to Electric Vehicle Adoption in the City of Guelph.
“That’s a group that we rely on to spread the word on positive things we can be doing about electric vehicles,” Ferrari said. “There’s no doubt there’s been obfuscation out there, or attempts of misleading people on different issues related to fighting climate change.”
In response to the study’s findings, eMERGE is set to host a speakers’ event on Thursday aimed at addressing myths and misconceptions about electric vehicles and convince “doubters” to ditch their internal combustion engine for an electric one.
“We want them to come with their doubts … ask the hard questions,” said Ferrari.
“There is an environmental benefit once you consider all aspects of it, from the manufacturing, generation of electricity, all the way to when the whole vehicle has to be disposed of, it’s still better,” he continued. “Even in other jurisdictions in Canada where there’s a higher percentage of fossil fuel use for electricity generation. Even in Alberta there’s a benefit to electric cars.”
The event, Are EVs Bad?, runs from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and will be streamed live. Limited tickets are available through Eventbrite.
Guest speakers include Karen Nelson from the University of Guelph and Paul Gipe, Renewable Energy Analyst from Wind Works of California.
Gipe is “one of the architects behind Ontario's Feed-in-Tariffs (FIT) and the Green Energy and Economy Act (GEAA),” notes a post on the eMERGE website. The FIT program sees households compensated for small-scale solar and wind energy generation initiatives.
Nelson is the research shop coordinator at the university’s Community Engagement Institute. She trains and manages graduate students involved with community-engaged research projects with local community partners.
Ferrari hopes the event helps people understand the benefits of electric vehicles.
“We know people are still addicted to cars and that’s why we’re focused on the electric vehicle,” he said, noting eMERGE promotes active transportation such as walking and cycling as a primary method, followed by an electric public transit system, then private electric vehicles.
“We’d rather you didn’t drive a car at all, but we’re not so naive to think people are going to abandon cars right away.”
For every gas vehicle replaced by an electric, the annual emission of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is reduced by 3.5 tons, Ferrari said, based on travelling 20,000 km per year.
“The average household in Guelph produces somewhere around 15 tons, so one decision can be quite significant in reducing that household’s CO2 emissions,” he said. “You’d have to do dozens of things in your home to be able to come to the same benefit to the environment that that one decision would make.”
As for cost, Ferrari said electric vehicles are more expensive upfront, even with a $5,000 rebate from the federal government, but that cost is more than recouped.
“When you look at the 10-year life of a car, it’s still cheaper to own an electric vehicle,” he said. “You’re saving somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000 a year in gasoline and maintenance fees.”