How Pa. can get charged up for an electric vehicle future

Congress and the commonwealth each have a role to play. We can’t afford to wait any longer

By Flora Cardoni, Steph Lee, and Maya Ragavan

Electric vehicles (EVs) are gaining speed in Pennsylvania. In the past three years alone, EV registration has more than tripled with over 28,000 electric vehicles (EVs) now on the road in the Keystone State. In order to keep up with growing demand for clean cars, and drive the adoption of electric vehicles even further, it is crucial that the state provide ample access to public charging stations. Now, we have an opportunity to do just that.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — which passed Congress with bipartisan support and was just signed into law — includes funding to help install up to 250,000 EV charging stations across the United States, including thousands right here in Pennsylvania. And it came at a critical time.

We must speed up our transition from gas guzzlers to zero-emission vehicles if we’re going to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

Transportation is the greatest contributor to global warming emissions in the U.S., and the majority of those emissions come from everyday cars and trucks. In Pennsylvania, these vehicles account for nearly a quarter of our state’s global warming pollution. We’ve already felt the impacts of climate change here in Pennsylvania, from Hurricane Ida to more extreme heat waves and downpours. It’s clear that the time for climate action is now and electrifying our vehicles has a huge role to play.

Cars and trucks also emit harmful air pollutants that cause serious respiratory and cardiac illnesses like asthma and heart attacks. Children are particularly vulnerable, with air pollution leading to limited lung growth and function, higher rates of asthma, and even infant mortality.

As Pa. lawmakers evaluate the future of electric vehicles, this company is thinking strategically

Children’s health is directly impacted by the policies we implement. And sensible solutions, like improving EV infrastructure, are essential to improving their health and wellbeing.

In order to rein in climate and air pollution, we need a plan to transition the nation’s fleet of cars and trucks to 100% electric vehicles. To get there we need to do three things: strengthen emissions standards for remaining gas powered cars, make electric vehicles cheaper and easier to buy, and build out infrastructure to support electric cars.

The bipartisan infrastructure package puts one key piece of this puzzle into place — a historic investment in America’s electric vehicle infrastructure.

To make electric cars competitive with their gasoline-powered counterparts, it needs to be as easy to charge up your battery as it currently is to fill up your tank. Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Pennsylvania is expected to receive $171 million over five years to support the expansion of an EV charging network in the state.

Pennsylvania will also have the opportunity to apply for the $2.5 billion in grant funding dedicated to EV charging. These funds will help support charging station expansion across the Commonwealth, including the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Driving PA Forward program, so all Pennsylvanians can charge up when they need to.

The Build Back Better Act, currently being debated in Congress, could spur electric vehicle adoption even further. Not only would this bill mean even more funding for charging infrastructure, but it also includes fully refundable tax credits up to $12,500 for folks who purchase new EVs and up to $4,000 for the purchase of used EVs. These credits should make it cheaper and easier for more Pennslvanians to buy electric vehicles of their own.

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These investments will help Pennsylvania’s electric vehicle market continue to expand in the coming years, especially when combined with other state programs. In February of 2021, Gov. Tom Wolf started the process of joining the Advanced Clean Cars program, which could include setting a goal of 100% EV sales by 2035.

A recent report released by PennEnvironment found that joining the program could reduce vehicle global warming pollution equal to removing nearly 4 million cars off the road. Participating in this program would not only protect Pennsylvanians’ health and climate, but would also increase the availability of electric cars for sale in the state, and help us electrify our transportation sector even faster.

We are happy that Congress passed the bipartisan infrastructure package, which will help make sure Pennsylvanians have the charging infrastructure in place that they need to travel across the state.

Now, Congress should swiftly pass the Build Back Better Act and the state should complete the process of joining the Advanced Clean Cars program, both of which will help clean car sales increase even further and make it easier for Pennsylvanians to purchase electric vehicles. Our health and climate will thank us.

Flora Cardoni is the field director of the Philadelphia-based advocacy group PennEnvironment. Dr. Steph Lee is a pediatrician and preventive medicine specialist. Dr. Maya Ragavan is a pediatrician.

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Capital-Star Guest Contributor
Capital-Star Guest Contributor

The Pennsylvania Capital-Star welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation on how politics and public policy affects the day-to-day lives of people across the commonwealth.