Hybrid and electric cars (EVs) hit their highest levels yet in March, in a blowout month for car manufacturers overall, mostly in efficient cars.
The 52,000 hybrids and EVs sold were 3.64% of all US car sales, and could rise to 4% for the year if gas prices stay high, Paul Lacy of IHS Automotive told the Washington Post. He thinks the category will rise to 8.5% of sales by 2017, in part because there are so many more options - there are 35 hybrid and EV models, double that of 2008.
And the price of batteries is coming down, the most expensive part of the car. The average price of a lithium-ion battery pack for EVs is now $689 per kilowatt hour (kWh), down from $800/kWh a year ago, and 30% lower than 2009 levels of over $1000/kWh, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Along these lines, a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) shows that EV drivers save lots of money on fuel.
Based on 11,000 miles of driving, EV owners can expect to save $750-$1,200 a year on fuel costs compared to those that drive an average conventional car that gets 27 miles per gallon at $3.50 per gallon. An EV driver saves an extra $250 a year for every 50 cent rise in the price of a gallon of gasoline.
In terms of global warming emissions, many people wonder if it's worth buying an EV because their electric grid is supplied by coal.
People should feel confident that driving an EV yields lower global warming emissions than the average new compact gasoline-powered vehicle, says UCS.
45% of Americans live in areas where renewables and natural gas supply the grid (that includes hydroelectric), making EVs the clear cleanest choice. If you live on the East Coast- Maine through South Carolina, or in the Western US, you're in the "best" area for EVs.
Only the mid-section of our country has the "dirtiest" grid, which still delivers the equivalent of 31-40 mpg gasoline fueled car. And EVs will still eliminate oil consumption in those areas.
Carmakers Invest in Renewables
To address this situation, some European carmakers are investing directly in renewable energy so that customers know they're EVs are charged cleanly, reports the New York Times.
Germany gets 21% of its electricity from renewables now, and carmakers - Volkswagen, Daimler, BMW and Audi - are taking further steps.
Volkswagen, Europe's largest carmaker, owns a wind farm and plans to invest nearly $1.3 billion in renewable energy, including a stake in an offshore wind farm. Its goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2020.
Audi, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, wants to develop "e-gas." Wind energy would produce hydrogen by electrolysis, which would then produce synthetic natural gas, which can feed the grid to offset the electricity used in its EVs.
BMW is building four wind turbines to power the factory where it builds EVs.
Daimler is a buying a wind farm that will produce the amount of electricity equal to the number of E-Smarts (the electric version of the Smart Car) it makes.
Wind turbines provide electricity at Renault's Morocco factory and biomass generators provide steam and heating. Its currently putting solar on its factories in France.
Read "State of Charge: Electric Vehicles' Global Warming Emissions and Fuel Cost Savings Across the United States":