What if…? Test your imagination with these questions.


What if…

What if American households were all solar powered?

What if American households with more than 2 occupants and 2+ vehicles swapped a combustion engined vehicle for an electric vehicle?

What if American Cities with a population of over 100,000 did not allow vehicles to operate within their limits unless they ran exclusively on electricity?  One step further,

What if these cities limits served as an exclusion zone where only self/optionally self driving electric vehicles are permitted to operate?

The ability to imagine an alternate future has been at the forefront in recent years.  Greta Thunberg, environmental activist and Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” has put forth the challenge that all humans take an active role in preserving what is left of Earth’s habitable atmosphere.  Mahatma Gandhi once said made a broad statement, “everyone can do something.”  Paraphrasing, he meant that it isn’t always reasonable to expect people to radically change everything in their lives for the betterment of humanity.  However, it is reasonable to change what we can.

When we moved to Portland 10 years ago, we discovered our next door neighbor drove an electric car powered by the electricity generated from the panels mounted on the roof of his house.  Within a year, we became converts and incorporated solar power as our home’s main source of energy.  Since then, our electricity bill amounts to the monthly charge for connecting to the power grid.  What if all American households were solar powered? 

Given that the current state of technology involved in solarizing our home, there there is still a need to develop a capability to store unused electricity generated by renewable means.  Currently our home is connected to an electric grid so that energy we are unable to use goes directly to the grid.  We benefit from energy credits that are returned in the form of commercial electricity during the winter months. With this state of technology, it would be difficult to decommission electric plants powered by combustable fuel if all American homes were solar powered.  All said, technologies applied to this area are improving.  I’m one to be hopeful that within 5-10 years it will be an easy economic decision for developed societies to convert to solar both on an individual and collective/commercial basis.

The following is a proposed screen play for an electric car video advertisement.  This concept should appeal to people who falsely believe that the range for electric powered vehicles must be compatible with conventional gas operated vehicles:

– Premise

According to Transportation Lifestyles of American Families in 2015, 73.3 percent of households with two or more persons have at least two cars.  statista.com and US Census Bureau indicate there to be 127.6 million households composed of 2+ people.

According to ABC News, The average American commutes 32 miles round trip to/from work and average 26 minutes in each direction.

Electric cars do not consume energy when they aren’t moving (with the exception of auxiliary accessories – lights/radio/fan/defog).

Conventional vehicles are 6 times more expensive to own/operate than Electric cars (EVs).  EVs do not require oil changes, filter changes, coolant, or belt and hose maintenance the way that conventional fossil fuel consuming vehicles do. 

Hybrid electric vehicles are not a practical solution – the owner still has to maintain the on board gas engine.

An advertisement might look like the following:

Scene components (male commuter mid 30s, suburban house/garage, electric car – Nissan Leaf or similar)

Scene 1 – Man home from work pulls into driveway and presses a garage door opener, then rolls into the garage.

Man grabs his phone, sport coat, and brief case and as he closes the car door and heads into the house – pan to car’s plug receptacle and unused electric cord hanging from an electric box nearby (he forgets to plug in the car for recharge).

Scene 2 – Man enters kitchen sets his phone and keys on the counter, and sees a note from his wife. It reads, “Left overs are in the fridge. The kids and I look forward to you joining us out at the beach cabin after your presentation tomorrow morning. I’m sure it will be a hit. Luv, C”.

Man opens fridge and smiles at the well prepared dinner his wife left for him on the top shelf. He also sees the bottle of red wine and clean wine glass on the counter next to the fridge.

Cut to man getting up from arm chair in family room – dinner plate and empty wine glass on the coffee table. Pan to cell phone and keys on counter (cell phone isn’t being recharged).

Cut to man shutting off lights in Kitchen/family room as he heads down the hall for the night.

Scene 3 – Bright morning light streaming into house. Man fresh for the day in business attire, walks down hall toward kitchen. Sees his phone and keys on the counter. Picks up phone and discovers the battery died in the night. Pockets the phone anyway and grabs the car keys.

Scene 4 – Man presses garage door opener on wall. Light streams into garage and with an expression of disappointment, he sees he’d forgotten to plug in the car to charge the battery. He shrugs his shoulders, quickly gets over the oversight and grins as he gets in the car.

Scene 5Cut to man smiling while driving away – scroll at bottom of the screen with voice over – “The average commuter typically drives 32 miles a day to/from work.”

Maybe someone with screen writing skill will read this article and story board it for the advertising agency they work for?

The gist of the take-away is that your EV doesn’t have to have a lot of range to serve you and the environment.  Most of the EVs on the market today provide 150 miles of range and can achieve a rapid charge for 100 miles in just 30 minutes.  So, what if American households with 2+ conventionally powered vehicles swapped one for an EV?  That would mean 93 million carbon emitting vehicles would no longer be contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. If an individual car emits 6 tons of CO2 – saving over a half-billion tons per year.

According to the US Census Bureau statistics our country has approximately 300 incorporated places with populations of over 100,000.  What if cities of this size not only prohibited use of fossil fuel powered vehicles within their limits but also required them to be capable of self driving?  In other words, if the 300 or so cities of this size were bounded by an exclusion zone where participating vehicles had to be capable of self driving, the traffic picture would be completely different.  The possibilities are mind blowing.

The average American commute is 26 minutes in each direction. Throw in traffic (According to the New York Post, the commuting population burns 19 full work days per year stuck in traffic), we should be highly motivated to reduce commutes in private vehicles, particularly those that polite the air.  Self driving mass transport (buses, trams etc) in combination with smaller self driving vehicles employing a concept similar to Uber and Lift would mean better, safer traffic flow going into out of and within cities. 

There would be a reduced need for parking – pickup-drop-off zones could replace street parking entirely. Self driving EVs would be constantly analyzing best routes for picking up and dropping off passengers and never have to park until there is a need to recharge batteries.  Even privately owned/operated optionally drivable vehicles could take a person into the city and drop off their rider before retreating in self drive to a convenient recharging station on the edge of town until recalled.  There are currently 10 cities in the USA with a population of over 1 million.  We could start with those.  Imagine the immediate reduction of carbon emissions even before tackling the other 300 cities.

What about construction and other utility vehicles (delivery, etc).  Think of how much less ambient noise there would be if such vehicles were electric powered!  It is true that electricity must be produced and transported.  With increased demand, it may not be possible to shut down coal fired power generation plants. Unfortunately, according to World Coal Association, it takes 9000 tons of coal per day (90 100 ton rail cars) for a coal fired power plant generate electricity. However, isn’t it easier to mitigate carbon emissions at one source vs millions of sources? Imagine the possibilities once this problem is solved – no more mining for coal, no more transportation of it from the mines to the power plants – the list goes on.

I believe that if highly motivated, the human brain trust will at some point develop energy production sources using exclusively renewable, non polluting resources.

2 thoughts on “What if…? Test your imagination with these questions.

  1. Scene 5 – Vehicle stalled in middle lane of traffic. Unable to push it because there is no way to disengage the generators from the wheels and humans can’t push that hard. In the distance you see a man lugging a 35 pound battery instead of a half gallon gas can. Shoulder not wide enough so he is always less than two inches from death.

    I wonder how long it would have taken me to drive to Portland from my home in Illinois with an EV. It took five days with a Buick Rendezvous that got about 26 MPG. One of those days snow bound in the mountains because they closed the Interstate. I might still be driving there

    Until a reasonably priced EV can provide the same 400+ miles per “fill up” as most gas vehicles, they just won’t be viable. I tried the hybrid route and really liked it. Well, until after I put my second tank of gas in it and some 10 or 12 year old kid decided to torch the carport I and others were paying to park under. That shiny new ride with its custom leather interior still had the temp tags on it. Replaced it with a crude oil using Avalon.

    Really impressed by your solar panels though. Given Portland only gets 15 minutes of sunshine per year, that’s some stunning output. Here in the Midwest we get lots and lots of snow. Could be wrong, but when the solar panels are under a foot of snow I don’t thing they do much.

    Ah well. There is snow on the ground and it is really cold. Tomorrow’s high is supposed to be only 19 degrees. Time to help warm up the planet by driving my Jeep. It used to get upwards of 25 MPG but with “winter gas” and a torque converter only intermittently locking up, it now gets closer to that 16 MPG most Jeeps are famous for.

    Great post by the way!

  2. I do not advocate switching to EV for those of us who own/drive only one vehicle. My old VW TDI got 54 MPG on trips between Portland and Glenwood Springs, CO. I let VW buy it back and now I drive a TSI that only gets 34 MPG. What I am advocating is for families with two cars, that one of them could easily be an EV. Maybe not a solution in rural areas, but you know what it is like in these urban centers.

    We will be converting our Colorado rental to solar in the coming years. I do have some concern about the snow covering over the panels, but I think if mounted at s steep enough angle, accumulation wouldn’t be such a problem. The snow on the south/sunny side of our roof sublimates after a couple of sunny winter days (dry climate). Though maybe not viable where you live, there may be enough summer sun to do the job. Some of the new collection systems don’t even look like panels anymore and they are more resilient (can survive hail storms).

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