It isn’t surprising that under 5 percent of cars on Martha’s Vineyard are either electric or hybrid electric. It’s unfortunate, but given how long the combustion engine has reigned supreme, we can give ourselves some slack.
A new state database recently released is tracking how well each municipality is doing when it comes to making the switch. The 5 percent of Vineyard vehicles is out of the nearly 27,000 registered total. Not a significant percentage by any means, given where we are headed. The future of electric cars is no longer a hippie pipe dream, but a mandated future that’s coming fast. If you want to drive a car, it will likely be electric in the next decades.
California, one of the largest car markets in the world, wants 100 percent of new cars and light trucks sold to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035. Regulators made the decision amid a changing climate, saying that 50 percent of carbon emissions are from vehicles.
California’s decision will have, and is having, a large impact across the country. Massachusetts has also pledged that all new cars on the market will be electric by 2035. And Martha’s Vineyard, with its own pledge, is attempting to be emission-free by 2040.
The Vineyard is actually primed to be an ideal location to go electric, given its size and layout. The switch is attainable, and probably easier than most people think.
The biggest hurdles for the transition to an electric vehicle are “range anxiety,” cost, supply, and general unawareness.
“Range anxiety” is the fear that you might run out of power in the middle of a drive. It’s an understandable fear. Public charging stations aren’t ubiquitous, like gas stations. Towns across the Island have set up recharging infrastructure that’s open to the public, but they aren’t everywhere.
Because the Vineyard is relatively small, there isn’t a great need for locals to have access to public charging infrastructure. Tourists coming to the Island, yes, but most of us here live in single-family homes, where setting up our own charging station is fairly easy and inexpensive. And a charge overnight will get you where you need to go on the Island. All you need is an outlet and electricity. New electric cars now get about 300 miles on a charge. So unless you’re driving around the Island several times, range anxiety shouldn’t be a major concern.
As for supply, major car companies have only recently begun to fully endorse the idea of electric, likely after California’s major decision. With a slow supply chain, it’s been difficult to buy electric. But that is changing.
According to the latest Global EV Outlook, a total of 14 percent of all new cars sold across the world were electric in 2022, up from around 9 percent in 2021, and less than 5 percent in 2020. The report also found that 2.3 million electric cars were sold in the first quarter this year across the world, about 25 percent more than in the same period last year. Production is ramping up.
Anecdotal evidence: The car commercials during the latest Super Bowl were largely for electric vehicles. They are coming, and they will be more available.
As for the cost, with more cars arriving on the market, the price will ultimately come down. There are also federal and state incentives that make the costs comparable to the combustion engine. And as we get closer to 2035, more used electric cars will be available at a lower price.
For the Vineyard to get beyond that 5 percent mark, public awareness will likely make the biggest difference. Bill Lake, member of the Aquinnah Energy and Climate Committee, helped set up a car show on the Vineyard during Earth Day this year, when about 20 residents brought their electric cars for a little show-and-tell. He says that beyond making the switch for ethical reasons or for costs, neighbors seeing their neighbors drive an electric car will have the biggest impact.
Agree or not, it certainly can’t hurt. These types of initiatives are strongly encouraged, and could go a long way in convincing Islanders that going electric is the smart option.
As for the benefits of driving electric, aside from the obvious climate benefits: maintenance issues tend to be far fewer without the the complication of a combustion engine; the torque on electric cars is impressive; air quality will likely improve in major cities; and you don’t need to stop at a gas station ever again.
Beyond locals having their own electric cars, more could be done to encourage public and private entities to make the switch. The Steamship Authority hasn’t given us much hope they are endorsing a fossil-fuel-free future, and that’s unfortunate. The state and towns could push harder for rental agencies to offer electric options. And taxis and ride-share companies could do a better job promoting electric.
Where credit is due, the Vineyard Transit Authority has made gains adding electric buses to its fleet.
Still, there are some complications and questions to think about as we aim toward the golden age of electric vehicles. There are issues with mining for minerals for car batteries. Can our grind sustain the emergence of electric cars? Also, is the electricity we use to charge our cars just burning more fossil fuels?
We are making strides in these areas and it will take time, but the reality is, the world needs to shed its addiction to oil. The climate is already changing, which is impacting lives daily.
Part of the transition comes down to individuals making choices. So consider buying electric the next time you’re in the market for a car.