Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fleet Purchases by States Could Kick Start Plug-ins

This is a remarkably well written op-ed by Denis Hayes and Steve Marshall on a little discussed aspect of the economic case for EVs. I strongly recommend you read and pass it along.

This post is essentially an open letter to Washington Gov., Chris Gregoire, asking her to enact a simple plan that will hasten the adoption of plug-in cars. I want you to forward this to your respective governors since the concept is relevant to all 50 states.

Essentially, Hayes and Marshall propose that Gov. Gregoire enact a moratorium on the purchase of new fleet vehicles. Just keep the three-year-old cars a bit longer. This would save several million dollars the first year alone. Then, when the Leaf and Volt enter the market, Hayes and Marshall want the state to buy as many as possible for their fleets with the saved funds, ensuring a strong demand from the start. In other words, "No Plug, No Deal" on a statewide scale!

How to pay for it?

The Washington State Transportation Commission estimates $16 billion leaves the state each year for foreign oil. Every person who fills a tank with gas or diesel sends over 60% of his or her money out of the country. Additionally, the Washington taxpayers spend tens of millions of their money to fuel the state fleet.

This is important because, for every EV that replaces a gas burner, the money spent for the energy to move it stays local - $16 billion dollars in the case of Washington. Imagine what it is for California? For the whole country?

With each plug-in car that's sold, the spigot of money that's going full blast to the oil companies right now, will gradually close, until decades from now, it's shut off entirely. All those billions of dollars that had been lining the pockets and robes of the most evil people on earth - and I don't make that statement lightly - will instead be staying in our own pockets, with a little going to the utilities.

And if you buy or lease a solar system, you can even pay yourself the profit you would be giving the utilities.

What Gov. Gregoire could do on a state level could easily be done across the country. Make no mistake, the economic benefits to us as individuals, and to us as a nation, are massive.


BTW, as I write this, I'm listening to a great promo for the Nissan Leaf on one of my local NPR stations, KPCC. I've been reading and hearing promos for the Volt, too. The media hits for EVs are coming faster and faster. Pretty soon, they'll be all over television.

"Steve Marshall is one of the co-authors of “Plug-in Electric Vehicles” (Brookings Institution Press) and a senior fellow at the Cascadia Center. Denis Hayes, longtime environmental leader and the national coordinator of the first Earth Day in 1970, is President of the Bullitt Foundation."


  1. As a transitional step, this concept has many merits. It would be wonderful if we would see communities across the country take these steps and install community solar, wind, micro-hydro, geothermal, chp, etc., taking it a step closer to being sustainable. And, we should never overlook the benefits of conservation and reduction.

    All told though, there's still plenty to do by bicycle. In fact, every week I read about some new use for bicycles for hauling, traveling, commuting, shopping, etc. So, as for me and mine, we'll see you out there, on our bikes of course...

  2. "According to the Washington State transportation Commission,
    Washingtonians spent $16 billion in 2008 to buy gasoline and diesel

    A more direct stat would be just the state's annual gasoline bill!

    Compare that to what the electricity bill would be if the entire
    fleet was EVs. (even better if electricity was compared after a
    hypothetical installation of massive State Solar)

    There are 50 states. Is Washington the only one with stats like this?

  3. As laudable as it is, the plan to delay purchases would deepen the automotive recession -- possibly impacting local car dealers in WA state. Better would be to require new purchases to be plug-ins when such are available. When the money remains the same, it is only which dealers suffer -- those without plug-ins should suffer.

  4. Paul,
    This is innovated thinking! And I think it could even appeal to people who are typically skeptical, critical of EVs: liberatarian, fiscal conservative types.

    I followed your suggested and sent an e-mail to Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, who, by the way, has been a real champion of renewable energy in COlorado, and who's up for re-election in 2010. Sure hope he wins, so we can keep up the momentum.

  5. Hi Paul,

    I have been a big fan ever since we met at Santa Monica Airport, at the Alternative Vehicles Show, a few years ago. I have been an enthusiastic supporter of the "Electric Revolution" in the automotive world and your blog in particular, never missing a chance to proselytize about the cause whenever I get an opportunity.

    Having said all that, it pains me to point out that your comment of "lining the pockets and robes of the most evil people on earth" can be read as just another example of ethnocentric & jingoistic language that has become so prevalent in mainstream media today. I am sure you meant no real harm, but it is unhelpful to employ such inflammatory rhetoric especially since we have so many in our community who are from the Middle East who also may be looking for alternatives to the transportation status quo.


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