Celebration of National Drive Electric Week

Guest Blog | September 19, 2014 | Clean Transportation

National Drive Electric Vehicle is wrapping up today and tomorrow. I’ve been excited to see many new allies and information shared touting the new vehicles available or soon-to-be available vehicles and the benefits of electric vehicles to consumers. It is clear from our view that electric vehicles are here to stay. Unfortunately, we continue to get frequent questions about the feasibility, costs and benefits of EVs–they continue to be perceived as impractical, expensive and with limited range and charging infrastructure.

So, let’s take a look at what’s happening. For one, Georgia is now on top nationwide for electric vehicle sales. This is great news and Georgia should be very proud of this accomplishment. Not only is Georgia now on top, but we have been leading the way in electric vehicle (EV) sales in the US for the past year (and maybe longer). Just earlier this year, we were ranked 4th in the U.S. for electric vehicle registrations.

Electric vehicles are a proven path forward in a transition to cleaner transportation. Georgians are already benefitting from fewer emissions, less dependence on oil and price fluctuations, and cleaner air. The expansion of electric vehicles is also bringing economic benefits to the state–the electric vehicle industry is creating jobs, bringing new businesses to the state, saving money on fuel costs to individual drivers and fleet managers and ultimately the companies and governments who utilize them, and helping drive innovation.

One question that I often get is, “Don’t EVs just move pollution from the tailpipe to power plants?” It is true that while electric vehicles do not have tailpipe emissions, the electricity used to power EVs do. Here in the Southeast, this is concerning due to our heavy reliance on coal and natural gas. The good news is studies show that electric vehicles are driving much-needed reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

According to Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) 2012 State of Charge analysis, driving an electric vehicle is cleaner than driving the average gasoline vehicle, even in regions of the country with the dirtiest electricity grid, such as Georgia. In fact, according to a recent update to that report, sixty percent of Americans now live in regions where electric vehicles (EVs) produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions per mile than the most fuel-efficient hybrids. This has increased by 15% in just two years, up from 45 percent in 2012. We also expect that with the many new policies and renewable energy projects now implemented and with more expected, such as through programs implemented as a result of the proposed federal Clean Power Plan, the overall electricity grid will continue to get cleaner and cleaner every year. And, so will EVs.

Another common question is on the range of existing, affordable EVs. The truth is, EVs are no longer simply a niche market for environmentalists and technology geeks. According to a UCS survey, EVs could meet the current needs of 42% of Americans (this includes meeting cargo needs and access to charging) and can meet the daily driving needs of nearly 70% of U.S drivers. The battery technology is evolving quickly and we are going to continue to see improvements in this area in the near term.

In addition to the emissions and oil reductions that EVs are providing, EVs are also saving consumers money. Owners can save between $750-1,200 a year or close to $13,000 over the lifetime of a vehicle driving an EV compared to driving an average new compact gasoline vehicle. But while things appear to be very positive for the future of electric vehicles and the scale of growth, there are some real threats to this success story. Some folks still want to impede the progress that Georgia is experiencing by threatening Georgia’s state tax credit for electric vehicles. See articles herehere and here.

We agree that modifications may be necessary, but elimination of the tax credit is bad news for Georgia. While Georgia is currently a leader in EV ownership, electric vehicles are still less than 2% of vehicle registrations in the state. Georgia’s tax credits for EVs are making them more affordable, saving consumers money and helping support this still emerging market. If we are to reduce our dependence on oil and our transportation emissions, we need to substantially increase the number of EVs used instead of gasoline vehicles, plus increase the number of fuel-efficient gasoline vehicles, use biofuels and develop new advanced vehicle technologies.

Let’s continue the celebration of EVs all year long and work together to ensure EV growth continues in Georgia and throughout the Southeast.

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