Climate advocates push electric vehicles as anti-electric ads run in Pennsylvania

Climate advocates push electric vehicles as anti-electric ads run in Pennsylvania

Climate advocates push electric vehicles as anti-electric ads run in Pennsylvania

  • Raquel McDevitt

An electric vehicle charger in Harrisburg on May 13, 2024. (Jeremy Long – WITF)

Rachel McDevitt/Impact Pennsylvania

EDF Action President David Kieve speaks outside Capitol Hill on July 2, 2024.

Holiday weekends often bring up conversations about gas prices.

But EV advocates want more people to consider ditching gasoline altogether.

The advocacy arm of the Environmental Defense Fund says electric vehicles are becoming more affordable and convenient every year.

The move comes as an oil refining trade group is running ads claiming new pollution limits on cars will hurt consumers by effectively banning gasoline-powered cars.

The clean-vehicle rule the Biden administration released in March doesn’t mandate a shift away from gasoline, but it does reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that can be produced from the tailpipe per mile traveled for model years 2027 through 2032. The administration says the final rule is expected to prevent 7.2 billion tons of CO2 emissions through 2055, roughly four times the emissions from the entire transportation sector in 2021. Twenty-five states have filed lawsuits to block the rule. Pennsylvania and 21 other states back it.

During a news conference at the state Capitol on Tuesday, representatives from EDF Action said electric vehicles will benefit the health of Pennsylvanians by helping to reduce air pollution from gasoline-powered cars.

Dr. Deborah Gentile, who specializes in pediatric asthma, studied 1,200 children in western Pennsylvania and found they are exposed to higher levels of air pollution than the national average. She said children who are exposed to higher levels of poor air quality have two to three times the rate of asthma.

Climate change may increase the number of days with poor air quality. About a third of the emissions that cause global warming in the country come from transport.

Battery electric cars produce no tailpipe emissions and studies show they generate less pollution over their life cycle than gasoline-powered cars.

An EDF analysis says that ownership costs for an electric vehicle are lower than those of a similar gasoline-powered model over 10 years, when fuel, maintenance and trade-in value are taken into account.

According to PennDOT, there were more than 61,000 battery-electric vehicles registered in Pennsylvania as of January 2024. There are also more than 33,000 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which have both a battery and a gas tank.

Common concerns with electric vehicles are how far they can travel before recharging and the availability of public chargers.

A June survey by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. found that 46% of American electric vehicle owners said they would likely return to a gasoline-powered vehicle, largely because of the difficulty of finding public chargers.

The federal government has a goal of building 500,000 charging stations across the country in the next six years, but so far the effort has been slow. Pennsylvania has awarded $51.9 million in federal funds to 81 projects across the state. Only two are up and running.

Ed Hill of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said more are to come.

“There is no funding, but developing these projects takes time,” Hill said. “There are engineering requirements, product requirements and permitting requirements, and that takes time.”

Hill said IBEW members have already installed hundreds of EV chargers at homes and businesses across Pennsylvania. He expects funding and demand for EV chargers to create 160,000 new jobs by 2032.

David Kieve, president of EDF Action, said the private sector has invested $188 billion in electric vehicles and battery storage in recent years.

“Because they recognize that they’re going to have a captive audience for a while and as more and more people buy electric cars, trucks and SUVs, they’re going to want to buy a snack, they’re going to want to eat something, they might want to buy their groceries.”