Thought Piece: Electric Vehicles & Moving Towards Renewable Energy

By Rob Baxter

Can you imagine a world where we get around in self-driving electric vehicles, hailed from rideshare services like Uber and powered by solar? What if these breakthroughs were coming, not in 50 years, but in the next decade? That was the gist of a recent video I watched at a 350PDX NE Neighborhood meeting, based on the work of Stanford University futurist Tony Seba.

Does this sound too good to be true? Too ambitious? That’s what I initially thought as well. And though I remain skeptical, this video got me thinking about the role of technology in powering our future and combating the threat of climate change.

Already we are seeing ways in which technology is helping. Eighteen percent of electricity in the United States is produced by renewable sources. The cost of solar and wind energy continues to drop. Hybrid vehicles have been on the road for years, while we are seeing increases in the sales of electric models. The picture isn’t all rosy, but green technology is here to stay.

There is plenty of room for growth in these evolving technologies. What do we do in the meantime? There are still many coal-fired power plants in existence. The transportation sector is responsible for a lot of carbon going up, into the atmosphere. It’s clear we are not where we need to be. So do we just wait around for clean tech to reach a tipping point and eventually conquer the market? I would argue the threat of climate change requires a little more urgency than that.

There are ways we can all make a difference in reducing carbon emissions. For example, there are many resources online for reducing your carbon footprint. There are even carbon calculators (such as this one from the Nature Conservancy) to help you get started. Since we are on the topic of renewable energy, you can also look into renewable energy options from your local utility. An example is the Blue Sky Renewable Energy program through Pacific Power.

Before we know it, we could all be riding around in autonomous electric vehicles from Lyft, with a grid powered by renewable energy. But there are many actions we can take now to address climate change. What do you think? How can technology shape our future? What role do we have in the transition?

Author: Brent Swanson