By Kristy Plaza, 18, Duarte HS
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Kristy says she would love to drive an electric vehicle one day to help the environment.

I love my city, Duarte. Nature is everywhere! It has eight parks and there are hiking trails that lead into the nearby San Gabriel Mountains. Since I moved to Duarte my love for the environment has grown. I care about conserving energy and keeping the air clean. My biology teacher told me that electric cars decrease air pollution, but I don’t see many electric cars on the road. I interviewed Shannon Law, who worked in communications for Southern California Edison’s electric vehicle program (Edison is a power company). Shannon said she believes that electric cars will become popular in the future.  

L.A. Youth: What is an electric car?
Shannon Law: An electric car uses a battery-operated motor; it has no gas.

L.A. Youth: Even the one that still uses gas?
Law: No, that is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, so it’s not totally electric. There’s a hybrid, there’s a plug-in hybrid and then there’s the electric vehicle. So the hybrid would be your Toyota Prius. The plug-in hybrid is the Volt. The hybrids have gas and a battery where pure electric vehicles have nothing but a battery.

L.A. Youth: How do electric vehicles help the environment?
Law: They’re not putting emissions into the air; therefore they’re cleaner.

L.A. Youth: Will they help reduce smog?
Law: Yes, once we get enough of them on the road they will help reduce emissions. Every little bit counts but for them to truly make an impact, more people have to purchase the vehicles.

L.A. Youth: What’s the history of these vehicles?
Law: The first manufactured electric vehicle was an EV1 in the early 90s. And then from there Toyota did pure electric RAV4s. Edison purchased 300 of those vehicles and that’s what our meter readers used to read meters daily. The first initial offering of EVs didn’t go as planned so they died out … And then the electric vehicles came back around.

Shannon Law explained that this plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt recharges using a special plug you can have installed in your home.

L.A. Youth: What does Edison’s electric vehicle program do?
Law: Now that they’re back again and we’re looking at a large adoption of these vehicles, we want to make sure they don’t cause our [power] grid to be unstable or unreliable. So now our mission is to let customers know they need to contact us— because a vehicle is like adding a home to a transformer—so that we can make sure that their power works and that there are not any outages as a result of a bunch of vehicles being put on the grid.

L.A. Youth: Did you care about the environment when you were younger?
Law: I did. I was always very conscious of not being wasteful and my environment. I had asthma as a child so the air is something that’s very important to me.

L.A. Youth: What’s it like driving an EV instead of a regular car?
Law: Besides the fact that you can’t hear it, there’s really not any difference. It goes as fast as a regular car; it’s a little more efficient because the battery is more efficient than a gas motor. You could probably get from 0 to 60 quicker than you could in a regular gas car because it’s more efficient.

L.A. Youth: How far can you drive in them before you need to recharge?
Law: That one [the Volt] you can go up to 40 miles on all electric … The [Mitsubishi] i-MiEV you can get up to 100 miles on a charge.

L.A. Youth: Are there enough stations to charge?
Law: Today there is not enough infrastructure built to charge, but that is something that’s being worked on.

L.A. Youth: When do you think they will be more common?
Law: Right now there’s not a large variety. There are prototypes—different cars you can go look at right now—but there are not a bunch of cars you can buy. So within the next couple of years those cars will be rolled out. I think when there’s more variety people will purchase all three kinds.

L.A. Youth: What other types of alternative fuel cars will be coming in the future?
Law: I think that once people get over what I call range anxiety, the fear of not being able to plug in like they can go to a gas station and fuel up, once they get over that I believe the electric vehicle will be the winner because it’s most efficient. The average commuter commutes 40 miles. And most of these cars are equipped to handle that type of mileage.

L.A. Youth: My dad has his own business and he drives everywhere. Gas costs a lot of money. I know this would probably help him. Do they make EV vans or trucks?
Law: Our company has a plug-in hybrid bucket truck [which Edison uses to work on the power lines]. So there are different types of vehicles, it’s not just cars. It’s vans, trucks and cars.

Other stories in our Spring 2012 environment package:

Doing my part to help the environment. Kimberly, 16, learned that even her small steps can help fight global warming.

The jobs of the future will be green jobs. You can make a living out of helping the environment. (March – April 2012)

These stories were made possible by a grant from Edison International to write about the environment.