In a world battling irreversible climate change, electric vehicles are hailed as a solution to our climate woes. Most people don’t realize, however, that electric vehicles can produce up to 200 percent more pollution during the manufacturing process versus traditional gasoline vehicles. In addition, an electric vehicle can produce up to 60 percent the pollution of a comparable gasoline vehicle. This depends on how green the electricity charging the electric vehicle is − whether it’s coming from a coal power plant, or a renewable source. This varies by location – electric vehicles are much cleaner to operate on the west coast, where the grid is much greener, with hydro power, and wind and solar farms. On average though, over a fifteen year period, an electric vehicle will save about 50 percent the emissions of a gasoline vehicle, depending on location. Though the production of the batteries in electric vehicles produces a large amount of pollution, they can be recycled, which is a much greener process. Given the limited range of electric vehicles, and the difficulty in finding charging stations, electric vehicles are not yet the zero-emissions saviors they’re made out to be.
Megan Haley-Quigley, the Manager of Sustainability and Green Initiatives here at Union, said that the installation of charging stations was about enabling the Union community to drive electric vehicles. It’s one of many measures the school has taken in recent years to reduce its impact on the environment. Since 2008, Union has reduced its carbon footprint by 20 percent, and strives to involve the community through President’s Green grants and the Green Fee grant. This is just one more step on Union’s path to being 100 percent carbon neutral. Student projects funded by these grants include the solar panels on Garnet Commons, the water bottle filling stations, Octopus’s Garden, Campus Kitchens and Ozone café. Though each of these projects has made the campus greener, they all arose from students looking around, noticing something that bothered them, and doing something about it.
Associate Professor of Spanish Daniel Mosquera championed the idea of the new charging stations. Previously, there were no resources on campus for electric vehicle owners. As an electric vehicle owner himself, Mosquera decided it was about time Union began supporting the electric vehicle community. Thanks to a Planning and Priorities grant, Union was able to set up four electric vehicle charging stations next to the facilities building. Haley-Quigley stated that the charging stations, like the 12kV solar array on the facilities building and the cogeneration plant, are all part of infrastructure changes and upgrades on Union’s Path to Carbon Neutrality. Though it’s a process of decades – Union has committed to being carbon neutral by 2060- when the grid is 100 percent green, electric vehicles will be 100 percent clean to operate, and battery technology will eventually enable cleaner battery production. However long it takes, Haley-Quigley encourages each of us to look forward to when Union finally reaches that ultimate goal. In the meantime, Union is here to support the staff, faculty, and students who have electric vehicles.