EVs are on the right track

Is it enough to get over the finish line?

The engine compartment of a 2021 Chevrolet Volt - photo: Brian Bahouth/the Ally

Opinion

Electric Vehicles (EVs) used to be exotic and expensive. But times have changed. I was on the phone with my friend Anna a few months ago. She just got a new car. It’s a 2020 Nissan Leaf. Fully electric. She leased it. I was floored. This is my financially conservative friend who’s never leased a car before and doesn’t buy new cars. What is going on? 

Turns out she got a great deal on leasing the Leaf. First, she researched the car’s range, charging time, safety, and performance. Then she took a test drive. It was the most fun, zippiest, and quietest car she’d ever driven. She closed the deal. Now that she’s got an EV in her garage, she says she’ll definitely consider buying one in the future.

I think this is a turning point for EVs. One automaker after another has recently announced big plans. As manufacturers ramp up production, and competition heats up, prices will come down.

GM’s 2021 Chevy Bolt EV has an MSRP that’s $5,000 less than last year’s model. Analysts expect price parity between EVs and internal combustion vehicles by 2024. 

The sticker on a 2021 Nissan Leaf at Untied Nissan Reno – photo: Brian Bahouth/the Ally

Even today, some EVs are cost competitive over the life of the car. They are cheaper to own and operate. Consumer Reports says you’ll spend $6-10k less in auto repairs. Taking my car to the shop is annoying. I would gladly avoid the hassle and pocket the avoided costs of repairing a combustion engine. When you drive an EV, you save money on fuel. Electricity is relatively cheap in Nevada. You don’t need to be green to get an EV—just practical.

Although EVs have some issues related to mining, gas-powered cars are a dead end. Tailpipe emissions from combustion engines are harmful to our health and warm the planet. 

Tailpipe emissions include particulate matter (PM), which is also known as soot. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which react with sunlight at ground level to create ozone, are a tailpipe emission and one of the main ingredients in smog. These are dangerous air pollutants that can damage the heart and lungs, increasing the risk of sickness or premature death. 

This used , 2013 Chevrolet Volt at the Litiha Auto Group in Reno, Nevada has 71, 612 miles on it and is selling for $8,890 – photo: Brian Bahouth/the Ally

The American Lung Association publishes the “State of the Air” report every year to educate the public about exposure to unhealthy levels of particle pollution and ozone. Cities in Nevada rank among the most polluted cities in the US. Getting gas-powered cars off the roads will improve air quality for everyone.

Another harmful tailpipe emission is carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas (GHG) that is warming the planet. Climate change is increasing average temperatures, and it’s also causing more severe heat waves. In addition to the risk to human health, heatwaves dry up the environment, increasing the risk of wildfire and worsening drought. In Nevada, we have some of the fastest-warming cities in the US, so we’re feeling the heat.

Like most Nevadans (63 percent), I’m worried about climate change. My kids will face more harm from climate change than I ever will. So, I’m glad that Nevada has set aggressive goals for GHG emissions that are in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. 

Unfortunately, the recent inventory of GHG emissions in Nevada shows that we are a bit off track. By 2030, we miss our target by 18 percent. 

Transportation is the biggest emitter of GHG emissions (35 percent). That’s why Governor Sisolak announced the Clean Cars Nevada initiative in June 2020. It’s designed to reduce emissions from passenger cars and trucks by setting emission standards for new passenger vehicles sold in Nevada. However, it doesn’t go into effect until model year 2025. When it finally does go into effect, the impact of the program will be modest because of all the used cars on the road. This seems like slow going for such a big problem.

Nevada is considering other policies to address climate change. One example is the Nevada Electric Highway. Implementing new policies takes time, staff, and budget. Meanwhile, Nevada is falling behind. The need to reduce carbon pollution is pressing. Although EVs are part of the solution, they won’t solve the problem alone.

A 2021 Nissan Leaf at United Nissan Reno. Nissan offers an eight-year warranty on the battery or 100,000 miles –  photo: Brian Bahouth/the Ally

We need to reduce GHG emissions in all sectors. Polluting should not be free. Companies that sell products that pollute should pay for the damage they cause. Putting a price on carbon pollution would do just that. It charges a fee when all coal, oil, and natural gas is removed from the ground. This is the easiest way to make sure that the cost of all of the damage caused by burning fossil fuels is actually reflected in the price of fossil fuels.

When extractive industries have to pay a carbon fee, they will pass some of that cost on to their customers, like power plants, refineries, plastic manufacturers, chemical companies, etc. When prices go up, people will look for better alternatives. For example, utilities will switch to clean energy. And more people will buy EVs. 

One example of a carbon fee is the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA). The fee starts at $15.00 per metric ton of carbon pollution and goes up $10.00 per ton each year until we hit our emissions reduction target. 

A carbon dividend is an important part of the EICDA. The fees collected from extractive industries are returned to the U.S. taxpayer as a rebate. So even though the price of gas is expected to go up between 10¢ and 16¢ per gallon, 68 percent of U.S. taxpayers will receive more than enough to compensate for higher prices. Low-income households will generally benefit the most. Households in the top quintile have much higher carbon footprints so will pay slightly more in higher prices.

In addition to ensuring the most vulnerable are not harmed by a carbon fee, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is extremely effective. It would reduce GHG emissions 40 percent over the next 12 years. That’s a lot! This is exactly the kind of strong action we need from Congress.

I urge you to contact Senator Cortez Masto and Senator Rosen in support of carbon fee and dividend legislation. With bold action we can accelerate the reduction in GHG emissions and drive into the sunset in our EVs.


Michelle Hamilton is the Marketing Communications Manager of the Reno/Sparks Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. http://citizensclimatelobby.org/


The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of the Sierra Nevada Ally. Our newsroom remains entirely independent of our opinion page. Published opinions further public conversation to fulfill our civic responsibility to challenge authority, act independently of corporate or political influence, and invite dissent.