New Report: Electric Cars are Putting the Brakes on Pollution

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Rikki Seguin

With electric vehicles, Oregon could save nearly 24 million gallons of gasoline annually by 2025

Environment Oregon Research and Policy Center

More than 220,000 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are on America’s roads today, delivering real benefits for our health and our environment, according to a new report released today by Environment Oregon Research and Policy Center. In just the last two years, annual sales of electric vehicles (EVs) have increased by 500 percent.

“It’s time to charge ahead,” said Rikki Seguin, conservation advocate with Environment Oregon. “It’s not just because electric cars are speedy, quiet and cool-looking – they are also one of the most important tools we have to break our dependence on oil, clean up our air, improve our health and protect our climate.”

The report, “Driving Cleaner: More Electric Vehicles Mean Less Pollution,” shows that electric vehicles could prevent more than 213,000 metric tons of climate-changing carbon pollution annually in Oregon by 2025. That’s the equivalent of saving nearly 24 million gallons of gasoline per year, or eliminating tailpipe pollution from 45,000 of today’s cars and trucks.

Electric cars are cleaner than vehicles that run on oil, even when charged with coal-fired power, according to Environment Oregon Research and Policy Center’s report. That’s because electric motors are much more efficient than the internal combustion engine. And as our electricity system incorporates more wind, solar and other forms of zero-emission energy, electric cars will only get cleaner. Ultimately, an electric vehicle charged completely with wind or solar power can operate with little to no impact on public health or contribution to global warming.

With new advanced cars – whether a plug-in hybrid model like the Chevy Volt, or a fully electric model like the Nissan Leaf, or the Tesla Model-S – Americans can travel increasingly longer distances on electricity alone.

“But we need more electric vehicles on the road,” said Seguin. “So we’re calling on our leaders to get in the driver’s seat and make electric cars as convenient, affordable and widespread as cars currently powered by oil.”

John Christian, Chairman of Oregon Electric Vehicle Association, added “[Electric vehicles are] positively affecting the business and commerce of Oregon. Approximately 3 billion dollars are spent on fossil fuels per year in Oregon, and about 70% of that leaves the state. Let’s keep those dollars local.”

Thanks in part to smart policies adopted by states like Oregon and the Obama administration, most major automobile manufacturers are now offering fully electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles powered primarily by electricity instead of gasoline.
According to State of Oregon Chief Electric Vehicle Officer Ashley Horvat, “We’re home to the nation’s most robust EV fast-charging network, the West Coast Electric Highway. Through Governor Kitzhaber’s strong leadership we’ve partnered with the public and private sector to create the most ideal place to own an EV.”

However, there is much more that governments can do to accelerate the market for electric vehicles and make them a viable and attractive choice for more drivers. The report recommends the following:

  • Oregon should follow through on the ambitious goals for electric vehicle deployment set through the Zero Emission Vehicle program. In particular, by following through with the electric vehicle action plan that Governor Kitzhaber announced at the end of May, Oregon can get more electric vehicles on the road. 
  • Governments at all levels should make it easier for people to own and drive electric vehicles, for example, ensuring convenient access to charging infrastructure is also important. Through projects such as the West Coast Electric Highway and the TIGER II Grant for EV infrastructure, Oregon continues to install EV fast-charging stations along major corridors. 
  • Oregon’s own Clean Fuels Program is good for Oregon jobs, economy, and health by requiring transportation fuels to become cleaner and less carbon-intensive over time. Oregon can continue to support these diversified fuel choices for business and consumers by lifting the clean fuels sunset.
  • America should generate at least 25 percent of its electricity from clean, renewable sources of energy by 2025, much like Oregon’s own Renewable Portfolio Standard.
  • And finally, the EPA should help clean up the electricity system by finalizing the recently announced federal carbon pollution standards for power plants, and Oregon should support and implement them.

“Let’s steer toward a safer climate and a cleaner, healthier future,” said Seguin. “Future generations will thank us for it.”

Horvat concurs, “If you love this beautiful place we call home, likely proudly displaying that love with the ‘Heart in Oregon’ bumper sticker, ditch the gasoline car and show Oregon how much you really love it. Drive an EV in Oregon and keep its air, communities, forests, coast, wildlife, and ultimately its economic resiliency strong and healthy so you can travel Oregon forever.”

Event speakers included Rikki Seguin, conservation advocate with Environment Oregon; Ashley Horvat, State of Oregon Chief Electric Vehicle Officer; John Christian, Chairman of Oregon Electric Vehicle Association; Jeff Allen, Executive Director of Drive Oregon; and Patrick Connor, Plug In America.

Read the full report here