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Rachael Nealer

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About the author: Rachael Nealer is an engineer and Kendall Science Fellow exploring the lifecycle environmental impacts of advanced vehicles, specifically hybrid-electric, plug-in electric, and fuel cell vehicles. See Rachael's full bio.

Electric Vehicles Are Getting Marginally Better, In A Big Way

Where does electricity come from? When you flip a light switch on, you’re getting electricity from somewhere—maybe a spinning gas turbine, or maybe a battery storing excess electricity generated by wind or solar power. When you flip the light switch off, the grid responds by shifting its sources around, ensuring everyone connected is receiving a steady flow of electrons. Read More

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Automakers Piloting the Reuse Market for EV Batteries

What happens when the batteries from electric vehicles (EVs) are no longer usable? We could throw them away, sure, but there are other options, including reuse and recycling. Several automakers are piloting efforts in these areas, with promising results. Read More

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The Latest on EVs: Battery Costs Down and Extended Ranges on the Rise

I’ve been thinking a lot about batteries. That’s not a sentence you hear everyday, but as I’m doing my research at UCS it has become a big priority of mine. Mostly because the lithium-ion battery is the largest difference between electric vehicles (EVs) and gas cars in terms of costs and environmental impacts. Recently, however, we’ve had some exciting news…

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5 Facts About Nissan’s Battery Manufacturing Plant

Just recently, I came back from a visit to Nissan’s headquarters to talk to them about the Leaf. While there I was lucky enough to get a tour of their battery manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Tennessee. Here are some surprising facts I learned, along with a video of their whole process: Read More

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What Would a Bike-only World Look Like?

Ever wonder what it would be like if only bicycles were on the roads? I spent a week in July biking across Iowa for an event called RAGBRAI where thousands of cyclists ride just over 400 miles across the state. While biking I began thinking about how our world would be different if bikes, not cars, were the norm. Read More

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How Clean are Electric Cars? A Life Cycle Assessment of Advanced Vehicle Technologies

As electric vehicles (EVs) gain popularity in the United States and policies to encourage EV sales are implemented, significant research has been done on reductions in global warming emissions and oil use associated with operating them. This includes research published in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ report State of Charge. However, the broader impacts of EV production and recycling remain less well characterized, and are important when assessing the total environmental impact of consumer vehicle choices. Read More

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Fed up with filling up? I am!

Just the other day I was driving back to the city from the suburbs after visiting family, and was in a rush. Of course, when I’m running late to meet friends is when the gas light on my little Honda Civic Coupe turns on! Frustrated that I needed to stop for gas when I was already pressed for time, I started thinking… How much time have I spent filling up at gas stations? And why is this rarely quantified and noted as a benefit to owning an electric vehicle (EV) where you can plug in at home and often times at work? Read More

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Don’t Just Google It: UCS Answers Your Questions about EVs

On May 19th Grist reporter Ben Adler held a Google hangout with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Gina McCarthy, and Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz. The discussion with the twitter hashtag #WHClimateChat focused on questions from the audience about the President’s Climate Action Plan. Many of the questions answered by McCarthy and Moniz were about fuel economy and vehicle technologies—topics that the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) works on regularly. Read More

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What do Indy Grand Prix Winner Simon Pagenaud and Warwick High School have in common?

While some of you were watching Pagenaud win the Indianapolis Grand Prix on television, there was another (dare I say lesser known, but equally as important) Grand Prix happening at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center National Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport outside Washington, DC: the annual Electric Vehicle Grand Prix! The Electric Vehicle (EV) Grand Prix is a competition between local high school teams who build and race custom EVs by applying what they learn in their science, engineering, and math classes. Despite some wind and rain, it was a successful event with a new reigning champion, Warwick High School. Read More

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Dear Tesla Gigafactory

Dear Tesla,

I’m excited about the recent announcement of your US-based battery manufacturing facility, which you’ve named the “gigafactory”, but I have a few concerns. The project sounds promising: you’ll be producing 500,000 electric vehicles per year by 2020, employing 6,500 people, installing new wind and solar power, and building the facility in either Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, or Arizona. But while you’re still deciding which site to pick can I offer you some advice? It’s all about location, location, location—and here’s why. Read More

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