Connecticut’s departments of Energy and Environmental Protection, and Transportation, are promoting the expansion of charging stations for electric vehicles, in order to reduce fossil fuel consumption and air pollution and to limit our national reliance on imported power. So far, so good. The specific goal right now is to have a public charging station within a 15-minute drive of any place in the state, according to DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty, and that certainly sounds like progress. There are already three such stations in Wallingford, although all of them are at Barberino Nissan. Mary Mushinsky, who represents part of Wallingford up in Hartford, would like to see more.
Many consumers seem to shy away from electric cars because they fear running out of juice, which could be very inconvenient, but they should keep in mind that they could charge an electric car overnight, at home; and, if they added up their daily mileage, they might find that their commute falls within an electric car’s range. Electric vehicles have advantages over gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles in that they’re more energy efficient and quieter. And, as the U.S. Department of Energy points out, they produce no tailpipe pollution.
Trouble is, the power plants that produce the electricity for electric cars do emit pollution, and lots of it; the power for a “clean” electric car has to be generated somewhere, and two-thirds of our electricity in this country still comes from burning fossil fuels, mainly dirty old coal (42 percent). Then comes cleaner natural gas (25 percent). And, although many environmentally conscious people may have mixed feelings, at best, about nuclear plants, they produce 19 percent of our electricity, followed by hydro power, at 7 percent. The renewable sources that people may think of first, and that certainly hold great potential, are still almost negligible factors in this country: wind and solar each account for 1 percent of our power, or less. So let’s have more charging stations, but let’s not forget that most of the power for electric cars is still coming from fossil fuels.
Another caveat: The state hopes to encourage new charging stations with a program of $2,000 grants that will require the grantee to provide free charging for at least three years, but there’s no guarantee that anyone will take that bait. In the long run, building a network of charging stations extensive enough to make electric cars feasible for the average consumer will require that someone figure out how to make it profitable.