Your Views: ‘Driving on sunshine?’ Perhaps not

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Your Views: ‘Driving on sunshine?’ Perhaps not
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To the editor:

Rev. Ian Markham’s notion of “driving on sunshine” in his Feb. 24 column strikes a hopeful tone about a transition to electric vehicles by drawing on historical analogies with the switch from horses to internal-combustion automobiles and trucks.

But the amount of sunlight reaching a typical roof, even of a seminary building, poses a challenge with charging electric vehicles: A typical solar panel produces 0.32 kW – and only during daylight when it isn’t cloudy – whereas a Tesla typically takes 50 kW for its battery to reach a normal charge, so 150 17.5-square foot solar panels would be needed for just one automobile.

Because it takes so long to charge an electric vehicle, overnight at home or half an hour even at a “supercharger,” compared to five minutes to fill up at a gasoline station, gasoline-powered vehicles are not going out of fashion anytime soon.

As a practical matter, electricity for electric vehicles will for the foreseeable future still have to rely on conventional electricity generation – from nuclear or fossil fuels – as hydroelectric has reached its upper limit and biomass and other avant garde forms popular with green groups have practical limitations.

The problem with horses is that they stink, dirty the streets and have to be fed even when not being used. But during the shift from horse-drawn vehicles to automobiles and trucks, whose pollution is less visible but more catastrophic, there was clean electric transportation in the form of electric street railways.

Competition with automobiles for street space and passengers ultimately caused electric street railways to become obsolete, but soon thereafter our metropolitan area realized we had a transportation need they fulfilled, and we began building the Washington Metro.

Had urban transportation experts been more far-sighted, they would have resisted more strenuously the shift to automobiles in the first place.

-Dino Drudi, Alexandria

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