This really does seem like a gimmick. Yes, there's a small bit of renewable energy being put into the grid. There's also a small bit of renewable energy being pulled from the grid. The only way you can be sure that you're getting those "spraypainted green electrons" is to live in a place that allows you to contract with a 100% renewable energy company. Where I live, in South Jersey, there are a few such choices, including the Atlantic City Wind Farm. These also require parting with a little more green... the money kind. I pay about $25-30 more per month to buy energy from a renewable supplier than just take from the grid.
And of course, what this means is that my money for power goes to the renewable supplier. In theory, they're putting as many of those green-colored electrons into the grid as I and other subscribers are pulling out, if not more. At best, Chevy's plan is counting on making you feel good about charging your Volt during one of those "more" periods.
The Volt, on the other hand, is one possible first step toward being able to drive on renewable power. Most users won't until there's more renewable power. In fact, if every consumer in the USA switched to BEVs tomorrow, the capacity of the US power grid would have to double... and that's not going to happen with windmills and waterfalls, not that fast. So it's good this grows, but grows at the right pace. But the possibility of running on renewable power doesn't exist for most vehicles; even my 2003 Prius is simply managing fossil fuel better to give me 40-45mpg and lower emissions... it's still running on dino-juice.
I guess that some people are going to buy a Volt because it will make them feel good that they are theoretically doing a little bit to help the environment. If the system tells that set of consumers that they are also pulling energy from renewable sources, it will make them feel better, and a happy consumer is someone that will buy from you again.
No, you're not off base here, Alex. This is essentially a marketing effort. I think it's really targeted at those who want to feel that they're not using coal to power their Volt. They hope they're using renewables. But it's impossible to know where your particular energy is coming from and the chances that it's coming from renewables is very, very slim today.
I agree with Beth's first comment. Obviously we're not "there" yet, whether "there" means having enough energy in the smart grid to power up our electric cars, replacing all petro-based plastics with bio-based ones, recycling all plastics, or making all plastic items only out of recycled plastics (note those last two are not the same thing). But if we don't start we'll never get there, either. Many European countries, as well as Japan, started tackling some of these issues 20 years ago (*only* 20 years after the first Earth Day) and they are much more advanced than anything we've got going in the US after 40 years of dithering or ignoring the problems instead of working on their possible solutions.
I would have to agree with you, Alex. I interpreted it as a fancy way of referring to the smart grid which we hear so much about, and more about apps that allow you tap into on-demand energy capabilities, not any real engineering innovation that had any to do with physical electrons.
For me this begs the question as to what's the definition and/or usage of the term "Renewable Electrons." Looking at it in an engineer sense, I would say that this is really a marketing term that refers to power sourced in a certain way --i.e., excess energy available from the grid, incrementally cost essentially zero (other than the adjudication of the delivery via apps, Onstar etc.) because on a pure technical basis the term doesn't on the face of it make any sense. Am I off base here?
So I'm guessing that Renewable Energy generators will voluntarily spray paint their electrons blue while there will be additional regulations passed requiring dirty (Natural gas, Coal, Nuclear) Energy generators to paint their electrons red. And then the lithium-ion recharging station will preferentially utilize the "good" electrons according to color?
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