The drumbeat behind electric cars (EVs) grows louder every day. And while such vehicles may be ideal for some people right now, it may be years – even decades — before the world at large is ready for a fully electric fleet.

Getting there writes Charles Lane, will require some very hard choices, and overcoming some very big numbers:

Time for a reality check on what this means for cutting carbon emissions — starting with two numbers.

The first is 281.4 million, which is how many vehicles there are in the United States’ light-duty fleet, 99 percent of them powered by internal combustion engines. The second is 19.6, which is how many years it would take for this fleet to become 90 percent electric — assuming it stayed at around 280 million and that every new vehicle sold from now on is an EV.

Even if the fleet becomes mostly electric by that time, Lane says there’s still the problem with the electricity powering all those EVs:

As of 2040, the U.S. electric grid will still run on 11 percent coal and 40 percent natural gas, according to Energy Department forecasts. That is, the fuel for our imagined 90 percent plug-in fleet would still be half fossil.

The bottom line, though, is that a 90 percent EV fleet would not reduce carbon output by 90 percent — far from it.

So it won’t be easy going green. That should have been obvious all along. But so, too, should the even more powerful numbers confronting the EV future: those on the price tags, which put electric vehicles out of reach for most Americans.

Never fear: Sen. Chuck Schumer has a plan to use buckets of taxpayer money to solve that problem. The overall cost to cure EV sticker shock? $392 billion.

Yes, it’s inevitable vehicles will move away from gasoline and diesel to other forms of power – be it electricity, hydrogen, or some other source. But it won’t be easy, and it certainly won’t be cheap – if government is left in charge.

Image Credit: Smnt / CC BY-SA (