Thursday, January 3, 2013

Open Letter: Electric Cars are not another Hybrid

Dear Senator Favola,

I drive an electric vehicle.  And Senator, I know what I'm about to say has fallen on so many deaf ears and it's not exactly the focus you've made as my duly elected representative, but please hear me out.

An electric car is most assuredly not a hybrid car.  12 years ago, when the Toyota Prius first came to America, this car was seen as expensive, barely tested domestically and were only available in a limited number of major dealer showrooms.  Now, the Prius is Consumer Report's pick for the best-valued car available, millions of miles have been driven in this car and other hybrids alike and you can pretty much walk into any dealer showroom and pick up a hybrid car of your very own.  That was yesterday's revolution and for taking that risk the Commonwealth awarded the privilege of Single-Occupancy access to Virginia's HOV lanes. Apparently for life.  What a wonderful reward!

But now hybrid cars are ubiquitous, and people have no concerns about buying one.  There are millions of hybrids on the roads today.  Do they really need an HOV subsidy on top of all this?

Over ten years of unequivocal, single-occupancy access to Virginia's HOV lanes is quite a benefit for a risk of that nature.

But an electric car is not a hybrid car.  Today, electric cars are expensive, barely tested domestically and are only available in a limited number of major dealer showrooms.  In short, electric cars are today where hybrid cars were 12 years ago.  Indeed, with all the sacrifices of distances practically obtainable and slow-to-arrive infrastructure, electric vehicle drivers are even more handicapped than hybrid vehicle drivers ever were!  And yet as far as the Commonwealth is concerned, an electric car is just another hybrid car.  No, it's worse than that, the electric car is seen as the millionth hybrid car, meaning it can't access I95 or I395 HOV, it can't even access I66 HOV with single-occupancy.  In effect, we're telling the people of places like Springfield and Arlington to please enjoy the reduced emissions of some hybrid vehicles but no, we don't want any zero-emission vehicles coming through your regions on your major highways.  We want you to be polluted with yesterday's technology.

Why does the Commonwealth not give the same benefit enjoyed by thousands of hybrid risk-takers, who've already had their day and then some, to those of us even bigger risk takers driving an electric vehicle?  Is that too much to ask?  Does it even seem fair to deny electric vehicles those rights enjoyed by hybrid cars just because they came later, as newer, better, revolutionary technology always does?

I hope now you can understand why I'm so saddened by the current state of affairs.  But I'm a pragmatist so I would like to ask you to make a motion in the Virginia Senate of the following nature:

  1. Enact a law which would issue a series of low-emission, adhesive stickers which are affixed to the rear of a qualified vehicle at a cost to the driver of approximately $25 per year.

  2. These stickers would only be authorized for cars which are plug-in electric or battery electric vehicles.  This non-exclusive list includes:

    • 2013 Chevrolet Volt 1.4L
    • 2013 Ford C-Max 2.0L Energi (not the Hybrid)
    • 2013 Ford Focus Electric[1]
    • 2013 Nissan LEAF[1]
    • 2013 Toyota Prius 1.8L plug-in
    • 2013 Tesla Model S[1]
    • 2012 Chevrolet Volt 1.4L
    • 2012 Fisker Karma 2.0L
    • 2012 Ford Focus Electric[1]
    • 2012 Mitsubishi iMiev[1]
    • 2012 Nissan Leaf[1]
    • 2012 Tesla Roadster[1]
    • 2012 Th!nk City[1]
    • 2012 Toyota Prius 1.8L plug-in
    • 2011 Chevrolet Volt 1.4L
    • 2011 Nissan LEAF[1]
    • 2011 Tesla Roadster[1]
    • 2010 Tesla Roadster[1]
    • 2009 Tesla Roadster[1]
    • 2008 Tesla Roadster[1]
[1](1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13) Battery electric, meaning no tail pipe emissions.
  1. On 1 July 2013, amend Virginia Code § 46.2-749.3 to disallow the transfer of Clean Fuel plates to another, newer vehicle if the vehicle being transferred from is one in the following list:

    • 2005 Ford Escape
    • 2005 Honda Civic
    • 2005 Honda Insight
    • 2005 Toyota Prius
    • 2004 Honda Civic
    • 2004 Honda Insight
    • 2004 Toyota Prius
    • 2003 Honda Civic (and earlier)
    • 2003 Honda Insight (and earlier)
    • 2003 Toyota Prius (earlier)

    These drivers will however have the option to purchase one of the cars in item 2 and obtain a low emissions sticker for that vehicle.

  2. On 1 July 2013, amend Virginia Code § 46.2-749.3 to cease Clean Fuel plate registrations for the list of cars specified in item 3.

    Thus anyone whose term for re-registration for any of these cars occurring after 1 July 2013 will be required to purchase a new plate without the Clean Fuel logo, and all HOV access will be rescinded for that particular vehicle.

  3. On 1 July 2013, allow all cars with the appropriate Low Emission sticker access to all of Virginia's HOV lanes as single-occupancy. Let part of the revenue generated from the adhesive go to the Virginia State Police fund for identifying vehicles qualified for single occupancy in an HOV lane.

  4. In subsequent years, phase out the rest of the clean fuel plates starting with the 2006 series, each year until Virginia Code § 46.2-749.3 is expired due to attrition and be replaces with the adhesive sticker system.

  5. Negotiate with Annapolis to come to a cooperative agreement whereby any vehicle with Maryland plates and the equivalent electric vehicle sticker is allowed the same rights as a Virginian in Virginia with the low emission sticker and that likewise Low-Emission be respected in Maryland for single-occupancy HOV access.[2]

[2]As most of Virginia's HOV lanes are near the border with Maryland, this would be of keen benefit to most who would be effected by this law.
  1. Annual engineering analyses shall be performed each year to determine if any of Virginia's HOV lanes are operating at a capacity no worse than the normal traffic lanes.  If the result be that the HOV lanes are near capacity, a second generation of stickers shall be issued which remove access to the most used HOV corridors.[3]
[3]Similar to what happened in 2006.

I believe this progression to be fair as it doesn't take away access for older hybrids right away and provides everyone with a way to be cleaner and allows an out for anyone who already upgraded since at least they're driving a cleaner hybrid rather than the dirtiest of hybrids from 2005 and earlier.  Engineering studies would need to be performed to make sure that the elimination of the older, clean fuel cars would make enough way for the Electric cars but if not perhaps in 1 July 2013 we could just give equivalent access to tier 3 clean fuel until such time that enough of the hybrid cars were retired to leave room for the electric vehicle.

In any case, thank you for reading and I sincerely hope you'll consider this in the upcoming General Assembly term.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey C. Jacobs