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Climate advocates boost EVs as anti-EV ads run in Pa.

  • Rachel McDevitt
An electric vehicle charger in Harrisburg on May 13, 2024. (Jeremy Long - WITF)

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

Rachel McDevitt / StateImpact Pennsylvania

EDF Action President David Kieve speaks outside the capitol on July 2, 2024.

Holiday weekends often bring up conversations about gas prices.

But electric vehicle advocates want more people to consider skipping the pump altogether.

The advocacy arm of the Environmental Defense Fund says EVs are getting more affordable and convenient each year.

The push comes as an oil refining trade group is running ads that claim new pollution limits for cars will hurt consumers by effectively banning gas cars.

The clean cars rule the Biden Administration released in March does not mandate a shift from gas. It does lower the amount of carbon dioxide that can be produced from the tailpipe per mile traveled for model years 2027-2032. The administration says the final rule is expected to avoid 7.2 billion tons of CO2 emissions through 2055, which is about four times the emissions of the entire transportation sector in 2021. Twenty-five states are suing to block the rule. Pennsylvania and 21 other states are backing the rule.

During a news conference at the state capitol Tuesday, representatives with EDF Action said electric vehicles will benefit Pennsylvanians’ health by helping reduce air pollution from gas 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 that are exposed to higher levels of poor air quality have a two-to-three-times higher rate of asthma.

Climate change can increase the number of days with poor air quality. About a third of the country’s climate-warming emissions come from transportation.

Battery-electric cars produce no tailpipe emissions, and studies show they create less pollution over their lifecycle than gas-powered cars.

An EDF analysis says ownership costs of an EV are less than those of a similar gas-powered model over 10 years, when factoring in fuel, maintenance and trade-in value.

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

Common concerns with EVs are how far they can travel before being recharged, and the availability of public chargers.

A June survey from consulting firm McKinsey & Co. found 46% of American EV owners said they were likely to switch back to a gas vehicle, mostly because of the difficulty in finding public chargers.

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

Ed Hill with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said more are coming.

“The funding is out but it does take a while to develop these projects,” Hill said. “There’s engineering requirements, there’s product requirements, and there’s permit requirements and that does take time.”

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

David Kieve, president of EDF Action, said the private sector has invested $188 billion in EVs and battery storage in the past few years.

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

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