Clean the Grid, Electrify Transportation, Reduce Miles-Traveled, and Ensure Access for All

Stan Cross | December 26, 2019 | Clean Transportation, Electric Vehicles, Energy Justice

We realized this yr that the transportation sector is now the most significant contributor to U.S. greenhouse gasoline (GHG) emissions, the pollution on the root of the climate disaster. We additionally realized that the human, financial, and environmental impacts of climate change are direr than beforehand assumed, requiring daring and pressing motion to minimize air and sea temperature rise. This is what the science says. 

So, how does daring and pressing motion within the transportation sector look? Firstly, look past vehicles, vans and buses alone. To make a significant influence in transportation emissions, we not solely want to switch gasoline-powered automobiles with electrical alternate options, however we additionally want to make sure EVs are powered with clear energy, that we concurrently implement efficient mass transit programs and walkable and bikeable communities, and that everybody all over the place has entry to the advantages electrical transportation provides. 

The Challenge

Making the shift to electrical transportation is a problem at each scale. Whether you’re a shopper available in the market for a automotive or a fleet supervisor changing transit buses, you’re participating in a danger vs. reward calculation. Below are a few of the perceived dangers and potential rewards typically weighed by customers and fleet managers contemplating EV purchases:


  • EVs are sometimes costlier
  • EVs have a restricted vary
  • Public charging stations are missing
  • EV batteries could lose capability over time and scale back vary 
  • EV electrical energy demand could result in powerplants burning extra coal and pure gasoline 


  • EV efficiency is way superior
  • Charging at residence is simple and handy
  • Save time and cash: no gasoline stations, no oil adjustments, little or no upkeep. 
  • Reduce transportation greenhouse gasoline emissions upwards of 60% on immediately’s utility useful resource combine
  • Breathe simpler—no tailpipe air pollution
  • Enhance energy safety by decreasing dependence on oil 

Accessing out there info to judge these dangers and rewards might be troublesome. Electric transportation is a nascent trade with out a variety of historical past to depend upon. The truth is if you’re using in an electrical automotive, truck, or bus immediately you’re a part of the early adopter wave. In this thrilling early market second, there exist alternatives to not solely change what sort of car we drive however to basically rework the transportation sector by holistic and progressive coverage. 

The Opportunities

Electric transportation coverage, whether or not on the native, state, or nationwide ranges, must be geared toward decreasing dangers and maximizing the rewards. Here within the Southern U.S., now we have alternatives to just do that. But to succeed, we should look past the car itself and take into account electrical transportation in a holistic context. 

A)  Clean the Grid

When it involves GHG emission, The economics of renewable energy has by no means regarded so good. Under sure circumstances, solar, wind and geothermal are cost-competitive with coal, gasoline and nuclear technology. Cities throughout the nation are committing to 100% renewable energy. Here within the South, govt orders by Governors’ in VA and NC have propelled clean energy and transportation planning, whereas FL’s Commissioner of Agriculture unveiled a state-vast climate plan on the latest Florida Energy & Climate Summit. 

These native and state commitments and insurance policies are pushing electrical utilities to scrub the grid, which is essential within the questto maximize the rewards of transportation electrification. How clear your EV instantly pertains to how clear your grid is. Union of Concerned Scientists data exhibits that in areas of the nation with the cleanest electrical energy, emissions from driving an EV are equal to driving a 191 MPG automotive, and the place the grid id dirtiest, a 38 MPG automotive. Hence, for EVs to ship the complete potential climate, energy safety, and public well being advantages, the grid wants extra clear energy. It is value noting that the electric utility sector is the second-largest emitter of GHG emissions within the U.S., which makes it much more vital to ramp up clear energy improvement alongside EV adoption.

B)  Electrify Transportation, Quickly 

Over the previous few years, the EV market has seen costs fall, and mannequin availability rise. Passenger vehicles are the place many of the consideration has been, however supply vans, and transit and faculty buses are in the marketplace and increasing every single day, and the lengthy-awaited choose-up truck is on the way in which. As EV choices diversify, the use circumstances for electrification develop. 

According to a latest evaluation by the Rocky Mountain Institute, to stay under the dreaded 2°C temperature rise threshold, we want 1 in 5 vehicles on the worldwide roads to be EVs by 2030. In the U.S. that equals 40-50 million EVs.

There are at the moment 44 models of electrical automobiles, each full-battery and plug-in hybrid, ranging in value from $24,000 to $140,000; Europe has over 200 fashions. There are 70 fashions of electrical vans and buses from 27 completely different producers. These electrical heavy-responsibility automobiles provide 44 to 79 percent lower GHGs than diesel. The U.S. has a fleet of 300 electric buses; China has 421,000. 

The excellent news is that customers and fleet managers have a rising collection of EVs to select from to fulfill a wide range of transportation wants. The even higher information is that in different international locations the place climate and emission discount coverage actions are accelerating the EV market, there’s better car availability and adoption. That signifies that robust climate and emissions insurance policies on the federal stage right here within the U.S. would possible improve availability and adoption as properly. 

In the absence of federal management, states have stepped in. The greatest present instance of state coverage is the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Program that units transportation emissions necessities per California’s stringent tips, together with setting EV gross sales quotas for vehicle producers. The ZEV MOU states embody Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. 

Here within the South, lots of the identical states and cities which have dedicated to scrub energy are creating plans, insurance policies, and implementation methods to extend EV adoption, each in state and metropolis fleets (passenger vehicles, transit, and faculty bus) and the broader shopper market. Initiatives like Protect our Coast—Drive Electric, Plug-In NC, and Drive Electric Florida are working to offer shopper, municipal, and state-stage schooling and outreach to help coverage and implementation work. But extra work must be achieved regionally to craft and implement the native and state polices that may 

C)  Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled 

The quickest and best approach to curb GHG emissions from transportation is to scale back the car miles traveled. This is simpler stated than achieved. In cities with strong public transit programs and established pedestrian and bike alternate options, getting residents to choose-out of private automobiles is simpler than in cities and rural communities that lack such assets. But that’s no purpose to not work on the difficulty! In response to congestion and parking shortages, many cities are increasing or retrofitting mass transit programs, most notably buses and lightweight rail. Greenways and bike paths have gotten extra commonplace in each cities and cities. Additionally, the emergence of experience-sharing and the encouragement of carpooling by entry to excessive occupancy car (HOV) lanes and different incentives, provide alternate options to single-occupancy vehicles. 

Reducing VMT can also be a public well being objective. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Decreasing annual VMT per capita can instantly enhance air high quality and the general well being of a inhabitants. And as a result of main transportation corridors typically run by and disproportionally influence economically deprived communities, VMT is an environmental justice concern as properly

In the South, the place many cities have been rising a sprawling, decreasing VMT is a problem. Advocate organizations are pressuring state departments of transportation to incorporate vital VMT reductions in lengthy-time period roadway planning. Organizations like The Congress for New Urbanism are reimagining metropolis and city design to create much less automotive-dependent communities. Pairing this lengthy-time period group planning work with transportation electrification is essential to realizing most GHG reductions and enhancing the well being and livability of cities and cities. 

D)  Ensure Equity and Access for All

This ultimate holistic consideration is essential. The shift to electrical transportation has many advantages, together with decrease value of possession, diminished publicity to air pollution, and superior efficiency. These advantages should be accessible and out there to all. The problem of electrical transportation fairness has emerged as a cornerstone objective of seemingly each electrical transportation plans at state and native ranges. In California, the Greenlining Institute has developed an electrical transportation equity tool kit and has gotten traction in latest utility and municipal coverage reform efforts. But a push for widespread fairness and entry stays a piece in progress. 

In the South, teams just like the NC Justice Center and EV Hybrid Noire are working to develop efficient EV outreach to historically underserved and economically deprived communities, collaborate with monetary establishments to offer financing for inexpensive used EVs, work with utilities and cities to put EV charging infrastructure in underserved city and rural neighborhoods, and argue for investments in electrical transit and faculty buses. Transportation fairness is ripe for innovation and funding and guarantees to offer one other layer of transportation electrification rewards. 

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