On-campus car charges electrifies a cleaner future

by Sheridan Reed

Tesla Model S carOn March 22, Naval Base San Diego changed its marching tune, when it held a grand opening for the first electric vehicle charging station at a West Coast Navy Exchange. In an interview with CBS 8, officials said supporting electric vehicles would improve the quality of life for military families.

I support the sentiment, but wonder how effective it will be. Simply installing electric chargers isn’t going to bring about a large influx of electric car purchases. Typically, the battery life of an electric car only allows for traveling within limited distances, something electric car owners must keep in mind.

An owner of an electric car is not going to plan a trip farther than he or she can drive and get back. The need for chargers will only arise once electric cars have hit the market in an impactful way. Even then, they would only be really useful for long trips. Imagine if the roles were reversed. Say you drive a gas-guzzling Hummer, and the only place to refill is at home—which also happens to be cheap and convenient. You’re limited to how big your gas tank is because there aren’t gas stations everywhere.

That’s fine because you still have a range of several hundred miles, which is more than you need to drive around town, to school and work. You wouldn’t fill up your gas tank unless you were dangerously close to empty, because you would be home soon and be able to refuel there. The same goes for electric cars—the charging stations are only really necessary for long trips.

Even considering limited charging options, electric cars are the future; they have to be. The world doesn’t have an endless supply of fossil fuels, not to mention the pollution fossil fuel cars produce. Electric just makes sense. As technology progresses, electric cars will be able to go farther using less energy. If anything, charging stations may become almost obsolete in the future, except for a few strategically placed to allow for long-distance travel.

By the time they are completed and fully developed to fit the needs of current consumers, electric cars could drive across the country without using gas.

With the unveiling of the Model S by Tesla Motors, the electric car company announced its first-ever profitable quarter. In addition, Tesla will pay back its government loan five years early. Regardless of The New York Times scandal earlier this year, when a negative review questioned the quality and reliability of the car, the current Model S in production has a range of nearly 230 miles.

I’m not the biggest commuter, but I drive to work daily, run errands and drive to school, yet that’s less than half of the available distance of an electric vehicle. I realize critics might argue that there will be more electric cars on the road as the industry grows, overloading the few charging stations available. An option worth exploring could be the latest advancements in fast-charging technology, but hopefully the number of stations will grow alongside to match the need.

In February, San Diego State received grants from the U.S. Department of Energy to open 14 charging stations around school in the various parking structures, according to SDSU NewsCenter. While this is incredibly positive and forward thinking, it’s not clear what impact the stations we have on campus or at the Naval Base, but hopefully these stations are the first step toward a cleaner future.