New Report: Electric Cars Are Putting the Brakes on Pollution

PennEnvironment Reseach and Policy Center

Contact info: Kristen Cevoli, 215.732.5897 x4, [email protected]

Philadelphia, PA—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 PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. In just the last two years, annual sales of electric vehicles have increased by 500 percent.

Now, with strong implementation of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and the development of more renewable energy, electric vehicles are set to deliver even greater benefits for the environment.

“It’s time to charge ahead,” said Adam Garber, Field Director for PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. “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 18.2 million metric tons of climate-changing carbon pollution annually nationwide.  In Pennsylvania alone electric vehicles could prevent up to 552,000 metric tons of global warming pollution annually by 2025. Nationwide, that’s the equivalent of saving more than two billion gallons of gasoline per year, or eliminating tailpipe pollution from 3.8 million of today’s cars and trucks.

“To transition from gasoline engines, which emit harmful pollutants, to electric vehicles, which are much cleaner to operate, is a powerful next step in our region—and our country’s—embrace of more sustainable practices,” said Ginette Walker Vinski, Communications Manager for Sustainable Pittsburgh.

Electric cars are cleaner than vehicles that run on oil, even when charged with coal-fired power, according to PennEnvironment’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.

“Tesla is excited to support the electrification of Pennsylvania,” said Will Nicholas, Senior Regional Sales Manager of Tesla Motors. “And we look forward to growing the charging infrastructure that will encourage more EV’s on the road.”

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 Garber “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.”

Thanks in part to smart policies adopted by states 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.

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:

  • Pennsylvania should adopt the Zero Emission Vehicle program, which would set ambitious targets for electric vehicle deployment.
  • The EPA should help clean up the electricity system by finalizing the recently announced federal carbon pollution standards for power plants, and Pennsylvania should support and implement them.
  • Governments at all levels should make it easier for people to own and drive electric vehicles. For example, Georgia offers up to a $5,000 tax credit and Colorado offers up to a $6,000 tax credit, while Washington offers a sales tax exemption for electric vehicles. Pennsylvania offers its own credit of $2000, but clearly other states are doing more, and so should we.  Ensuring convenient access to charging infrastructure is also important.
  • And finally, America should generate at least 25 percent of its electricity from clean, renewable sources of energy by 2025.  Here in Philadelphia, the City Council has recently made an important step in this direction by unanimously passing a city-wide goal of 20,000 solar roofs by 2025.

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


PennEnvironment Research & Policy center is a state-wide non-profit environmental group that promotes clean air, clean water, and protection of PA’s natural heritage.