Dear Car Talk:
I was out for my biweekly run, and I saw that one of my neighbors had parked some wheeled conveyance in his driveway that I didn't recognize. It had no markings or emblems.
So I said to him, "Greetings, Pilgrim, what breed of Detroit Horse you got parked there in your drive?"
Well, he smiled and proudly told me: "This is a Tesla. I'm doing my part to lessen carbon emissions and pollution. I'm going green and doing my part to save the Earth for my grandchildren."
Well, not knowing too much about anything and having a mouth that runs faster than my brain, I said: "Well ... unless you have a windmill farm or solar panels in your backyard, all the electricity generated around here is from burning fossil fuels. So you're not really decreasing carbon emissions or helping the planet."
Surprisingly, he let out a string of every expletive I've ever heard, a few new to me, expertly strung together that conveyed that he wasn't in agreement with my evaluation.
Was I right? If I was wrong, Pilgrim, I do apologize, I stand corrected, and if I may say so, it has been a privilege having you as a neighbor and an honor knowing such an exemplary American and parent!
If I was right, Pilgrim, with the "green" you spent on that Tesla, you could have bought each of your grandkids a new Corolla. -- Mark
knowledge of electricity generation is also behind the times.
Utilities have been adding natural gas and renewable sources to their generation mix for years now. So in the vast majority of the country, electricity comes from a mix of fossil and renewable fuels.
Some states are further along than others in this transition. But the percentage of solar and wind has increased markedly in recent years and is increasing all the time. Obviously, every solar panel or wind turbine that's added to your state or regional grid makes electric cars that much cleaner. But they're already cleaner than the equivalent individual gasoline engine -- by a significant margin.
Plus, it's easier to control pollution at a handful of power plants than to control pollution in the engines and exhaust systems of millions of individual cars.
Any particular car can be running too rich, have a bad sensor or be driving with a worn-out catalytic converter. And that's hard to police. Power plants, simply because there are fewer of them, are easier for regulators to keep an eye on.
Finally, electric cars remove air pollution from our most crowded places. So if you live in a city or the suburbs, where the sheer density of people and cars concentrates pollution, driving an electric car is a kind thing to do for your friends, family and neighbors.
So rig up the Santa Maria, Mark, sail back down to your neighbor's house, apologize and invite him over for Thanksgiving.