Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center
Local governments have an important role to play in making clean transportation a reality. Every day, local governments make decisions about municipal purchasing, the use of public streets and parking garages, planning and zoning, and other issues that can either make it easier or more difficult for their residents to own an EV. By using a set of key tools to encourage EV adoption, local governments can help clean up the air in their communities and take meaningful action against global warming.
On November 14, 2018, the AP Environmental Science class of Akins High School in Austin, Texas, gathered in their school’s parking lot to witness the beginning of a more sustainable future for their school: the school’s first electric vehicle charger. One student noted to a reporter how seeing the unveiling of the technology made her want an electric vehicle (EV) herself one day. The parking lot is now a “living laboratory” in which students collect data from the charger and learn about the science behind it. As a result, these brand-new drivers and the generations to come were given the chance to be inspired by the possibilities of EVs and educated about the clean transportation of their future.
Introducing brand-new drivers to the future of electric vehicles is just one of many steps Austin has taken to promote the adoption of EVs. Growing concerns about climate change and air quality, along with a desire for long-term costs savings, led to policies in Austin that made it easier to buy and use EVs. Austin Energy, the city’s electric utility, made EV charging in Austin easy with extended rebates for the installation of EV charging stations in homes, as well as its Plug-in Everywhere network, which supplies over 1,000 affordable charging ports, many powered with renewable energy.
The city government also took action to promote EVs. The City Council passed a resolution to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in Austin by 2050 and included recommendations for expanding EVs in the city. The city further proved its commitment to EV adoption by purchasing 325 electric bikes for public use and 38 electric buses for public transit. Now, Austin serves as an example of how any city can promote the use of electric vehicles.
Climate change is already harming cities across the world, and fossil fuel-powered transportation is a significant contributor to the carbon emissions that continue to accelerate it. Cities and towns can help make a difference by encouraging the widespread adoption of EVs. And they have many tools they can use to do so – from expediting permitting for EV chargers to leading by example by purchasing electric vehicles for municipal fleets.
This report includes tools and policies that leading cities have adopted to make it easier to buy and own an EV. By taking these steps, local governments around the country can make the switch to clean, electric vehicles an easier choice for everyone.