Electric vehicles are making Texas healthier and cleaner

By Emma Pabst
Environment Texas Associate

In his recent article, Electric vehicle subsidies don’t help the environment, author Drew Johnson cherry-picks statistics to denigrate electric vehicles (EVs). To the contrary, EVs are already making Texas a healthier, cleaner place, and will continue to do so -- especially as more clean energy like solar and wind comes on to the electric grid.

In 2016, carbon emissions from transportation outpaced those from the electricity sector, making transportation the largest source of carbon pollution nationally. To slow global warming, we need to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Getting more Texans behind the wheel of EVs is a great place to start.

According to the US Department of Energy, charging an EV in Texas produces less than half the carbon pollution that comes out of the tailpipe of a gasoline-powered vehicle.each Nationally, that number’s closer to a third. By 2025, a national shift towards electric vehicles, coupled with a cleaner electricity grid to charge those vehicles, could avert 18.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution per year  -- the equivalent of taking 3.8 million of today’s cars and trucks off the road.

In addition to reducing our carbon footprints, EVs can reduce smog in our cities. According to an MIT study, gasoline-powered vehicles now produce more air pollution than the electricity sector, causing an estimated 53,000 early deaths each year. Those premature deaths disproportionately impact people who live near freeways and other heavily traveled roads.

Fortunately, our federal and state governments are working hard to make EVs an affordable and effective alternative to gasoline-powered vehicles. This summer, thanks to $5 million in funding from the state Legislature, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality began an incentive program for electric and hybrid vehicles, offering car buyers a $2,500 rebate. Combined with federal rebates, this can shave up to $10,000 off the cost of a new EV.

State incentive programs like these, combined with federal rebates, push the market forward and spark technological developments that help companies develop more efficient and affordable EVs. Contrary to Mr. Johnson’s assertion, EV buyers aren’t just rich people purchasing luxury Teslas. Today, middle-class Americans can choose from a wide variety of budget-friendly EVs such as the Nissan Leaf, priced at $30,000 before state and federal rebates that make lower-end EVs even more accessible.

With more than 22,000 EVs on Texas roads as of August this year, and a projected 835,000 statewide by 2030, Texas has made great progress on electric transportation. Unfortunately, the purchasing price of EVs remains an obstacle to many consumers. The market is still developing, and in the face of climate change, we need to get it up to speed.

For now, Texas’ EV rebate program is slated to end on May 31st of 2019. For those of us hoping to take advantage of our state’s great incentive program, now is a better time than any.

In the long term, in order to continue reaping the benefits of cleaner, more affordable transportation, Texas should reinvest in these incentive programs during the coming legislative session. We encourage the legislature to charge ahead and double the program’s funding to $10 million.

As we confront increasingly frequent and intense hurricanes, wildfires, and droughts, it’s more important than ever to think ahead, and start building a sustainable future. Electric vehicles, coupled with clean, green, renewable energy, can drive our society for generations to come -- but to get there, we need to invest in our planet’s future, today.