Monday, May 3, 2010

It's Electric: Can Electric Cars Help New Jersey?

By Dave Ragazzo

Jackson, NJ is a long way from Mahwah. Just ask Ramapo senior Thomas Schiro. Schiro, a four year student at Ramapo, has made that trip many times as he has traveled too and from Ramapo College to his home in Jackson. And what is the one thing that he has noticed every time he has made this trip?

“There’s always so much traffic,” Schiro said. “Both Route 17 and the Garden State Parkway are more commonly parking lots than multi-lane highways. There are just too many cars on these roads at all times.”

These aren’t the only two roadways in New Jersey that have traffic problems. As of 2008, the estimated population of New Jersey was 8,682,661. Even with its small land area, it still ranks in the top ten of the most populated states in the Untied States. Because of these numbers, there are a large number of cars that are driven in New Jersey on a daily basis.

Being that climate change, or global warming as it is more commonly called, may have a direct correlation to carbon emissions, New Jersey drivers should be concerned that they are possibly causing much of the damage. Unfortunately, the American public does not think about this when they are in stand-still traffic. People need cars to travel every day, so what are New Jersey residents to do?

Electric cars may be the answer.

Electric cars are vehicles that are powered by electric motors instead of a traditional gasoline engine. Electric cars, which are also sometimes referred to as electric vehicles or EV, works quite differently from a standard car in which the United States and much of the world has fallen in love with, and also different from the much appraised hybrid cars. Electric cars function off of energy stored in rechargeable batteries, which are recharged by household electricity. For New Jersey drivers, this may help with the amount of emissions that standard cars send into the atmosphere.

Because many people do not use electric cars, it is usually unknown that there are many good things to owning one of these innovative automobiles. Besides not giving off tailpipe emissions, it would also reduce our dependency on oil. One of the biggest concerns of many in this country is the reason behind our country going into the Middle East. Oil has been the reason of much speculation, and if the majority of the people used electric cars, we would not need to rely on other countries for as much oil.

Some believe that as the new decade begins the era of the electric car will begin as well. Chris O’Hanlon, a senior at Ramapo College, has never owned an electric or hybrid car, but is not entirely opposed to the idea. His view keeps the environment in mind, and he thinks if more people begin using these cars, the atmosphere will truly benefit from it.

“I think New Jersey drivers are harming the environment because of all the cars we have,” O’Hanlon said. “Every person needs a car to get to their jobs, and other places on a daily occurrence, so no one is to blame for this. However, I do believe that if everyone in New Jersey had an electric or hybrid vehicle, New Jersey air would be much cleaner.”

Although O’Hanlon has a vision for New Jersey, many others do not share those same beliefs. According to the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car, the sale of the electric car is all but dead in the United States. This documentary focuses on the first electric car that was mass produced in the United States, the General Motors EV1, which was produced from 1996-1999.

One of the main focuses of the movie was that although this would be helpful to the environment, there was not a high demand for an electric car. One of the reasons for this is because oil and auto industries were working to kill the production of such cars. Oil companies were obviously against the EV1 because they had a monopoly over the transportation fueling market, and if electric cars were to ever get popular they would lose millions of dollars in profits. Auto companies campaigned against it by pointing out the weaknesses of electric cars, one of the main ones being that people would only get roughly 80-100 miles per charge.

Even though electric cars wouldn’t eliminate traffic, Schiro believes that with a little modification to current electric car ideas, electric cars could really become popular in the United States because of how helpful they would be to the environment.

“Electric cars could potentially help our environment, especially in New Jersey,” Schiro said. “There are so many cars here it’s kind of ridiculous. I understand that everyone needs cars, but because most people don’t use hybrids or electric cars, I can’t imagine all this driving helping our atmosphere.”

Dave Ragazzo is a graduating senior at Ramapo College who will have a degree in Communication Arts with a concentration in Journalism. Upon graduation, Dave would like to get into sports writing or sports reporting, as sports have been an instrumental part of his life. He currently has an internship at the Bergen Record, and hopes that this can lead to future job opportunities.

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