Want to do your part to fight climate change? Buy (and drive) a battery-powered car, suggests Environment Maryland. The green group says the state could begin to whittle away at the massive amounts of climate-altering pollution produced here if more people drove electric vehicles.
Whether that's a realistic vision or pipe dream depends on whether consumers warm up to plug-in vehicles more than they have so far.
Drawing on analysis done by the Center for Automotive Research, the environmental group predicts that 11,683 Marylanders could buy their first electric vehicle by 2015.
That many plug-in cars (and trucks?) would produce 16,000 fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, the center calculated. They could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by three times that if the juice used to recharge them came from renewable sources like wind or solar.
That also could reduce the nation's insatiable need for oil by nearly 2.8 million gallons per year, Environment Maryland predicts.
"For decades, owning a car has meant consuming oil. Today, drivers finally have a choice," Sam Feigenbaum, organizer at Environment Maryland, said in a statement accompanying the report.
Electric vehicle sales are picking up, car makers report, but they have a long way to go to make a dent in all the gasoline-powered vehicles out there.
General Motors reports it sold about 1,800 Chevrolet Volts nationwide in June, and more than 17,000 overall since launching its battery-gasoline flex car in 2010. A Nissan spokeswoman says it's sold about 13,000 all-electric Leafs since its rollout that same year. Neither auto maker could provide Maryland sales figures, but GM spokeswoman Michelle Malcho says the Washington area is one of its strongest markets, along with California, New York and Michigan.
New fuel efficiency standards being pushed by the Obama administration could boost EV and hybrid sales, advocates say. According to a recent release by Hybrid Owners of America, Ford, which recently rolled out an electrified Focus, predicts that by decade's end, a quarter of its fleet will be either "traditional" hybrids, plug-in hybrids, or fully battery-powered.
Maryland ranks 8th nationally in the number of EV charging stations it has, but Environment Maryland says that network needs to be expanded and upgraded.
But faster and more convenient charging stations may not help that much, as long as gasoline prices remain relatively low and the cost of an EV substantially higher than its increasingly fuel-efficent internal-combustion competitors. While sales of electric and hybrid cars and trucks have more than doubled in the past year, according to data from the National Automobile Dealers Association, they still account for just 3 percent of the nation's overall vehicle sales.