green symbolPresident Obama’s goal of 1 million plug-in hybrids on U.S. roads by 2015 seems like a good idea for the environment, but is it really possible?

With new advances in battery technology, electric cars can go almost 100 miles on a charge. And for those who fear being stranded with a dead battery miles from a plug in, there is a gasoline engine as well. This range should be enough to suit up to 80% of U.S. drivers on the road. With federal government incentives for EV buyers, such as tax credits of up to $7,500 for buyers of the first 200,000 vehicles from each manufacturer, this could be true. According to Jason Wolf, an executive at Better Place, a Palo Alto firm aiming to provide charging services for plug-in drivers. “Over 70% of major manufacturers have some kind of mass plug-in coming in the next two years.”

This however, involves a huge change to the nation’s electric grid infrastructure. People charging cars in their garages may need to upgrade their home circuits, which often requires permits, building inspections and other headaches. Neighborhood upgrades like new transformers would also be needed. These upgrades would be expensive, and in the interest of encouraging electric cars, the utility companies would most likely pay for it through our electric bills. In the end we need to ask ourselves, “Would the emissions released by the utility companies making extra electricity really be less than the emissions from the car itself?”

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