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Environmental group: Plug-in cars key to cleaning Arizona’s air

SCOTTSDALE – Plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles can help clear Arizona’s air, and the benefits will increase with more on the road and with utilities developing renewable energy sources, leaders of an environmental group said Jan. 21.

“As we face higher pollution levels from transportation and electricity generation, electric cars can be a good solution to reducing air pollution and smog,” said Bret Fanshaw, an associate with Environment Arizona Research & Policy Center.

The group released a report touting the benefits of the vehicles, noting that they produce no tailpipe pollution when using electricity and can be recharged from the power grid. Meanwhile, gasoline-powered vehicles contribute 36 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions in Arizona, the group said.

“It’s a no-brainer for our next generation of transportation needs,” said Adam Slusser, a customer advocate for California-based electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc., who participated in the news conference.

While generating electricity to power the cars can produce greenhouse gases, Fanshaw said that electric vehicles still have a much smaller carbon footprint than vehicles burning fossil fuels. With Arizona requiring utilities to get 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025, that benefit will only increase, he said.

Fanshaw noted that the U.S. Department of Energy has provided a grant for construction of charging stations for electric cars in Phoenix and Tucson and in four other states. Nissan has committed to offering a total of 4,700 plug-in electric vehicles in those areas.

“In the next two years Arizona is going to see a lot more electric cars on the road and hopefully, in turn, will see reduced pollution levels, better air quality and hopefully people will be paying less to get around,” Fanshaw said.

Jeanine L’Ecuyer, spokeswoman for Scottsdale-based Ecotality, an electric transportation and storage company that will build the charging stations, said making it easier for people to charge electric cars is key to expanding their use.

“Infrastructure makes all the difference,” she said in a telephone interview.

Mark Shaffer, communications director for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, noted that Maricopa County is under a federal mandate to reduce air pollution by 5 percent annually over the next three years.

“One of the solutions is these electric cars,” he said in a telephone interview.


Environment Arizona Research & Policy Center lists these as advantages plug-in electric vehicles have over gasoline-powered cars:

Plug-in hybrids converted from conventional hybrids can achieve 100 miles per gallon or more.
Some electric cars for sale in the United States can go more than 200 miles on a charge.
Rapid chargers have been developed that in less than 30 minutes can give batteries a charge good for 100 miles.
Electric cars are easier to maintain that gasoline-powered cars.

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