Time to get off the sidelines and into the game

December 23, 2020

Quick—how does your state or region make its electricity? If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably not sure. For most of us, our awareness of energy extends as far as our utility bill and not much further. As we prepare to enter 2021, here’s a public service announcement: we’re in the midst of an all-hands-on-deck mobilization to 1) transition to a clean energy economy and 2) tackle the climate crisis. As a consumer, citizen, and constituent, you might be surprised about how critical a player you are.

The reality is, most of us just don’t spend a lot of time thinking about energy and we don’t have a good understanding of how it all works. A lot of us conflate energy with electricity, even though electricity is only one of many forms of energy. For example, it’s common to think that our biggest energy guzzlers are everyday electricity-powered items like computers, TVs, lights, washing machines, and fridges. Although some of these things are indeed power hogs, studies show that, in fact, our biggest energy uses as individuals relate to how we heat our homes and how we move around (especially flying on planes and driving cars). So, while turning off the lights is beneficial, a climate jedi it does not make you.

So, what can we do to make a difference on energy—a real difference? We need to prioritize actions in our homes, communities, and government that will move the needle in a meaningful way.

A few ways to get in the game

  • Get educated. Get better informed about our energy system and which levers will yield the greatest impact. Gen180’s Boot Camp equips you with the knowledge, motivation, and skills to effectively make change happen in your community and beyond. Find videos, podcasts with industry experts, curated resources, and more. Browse at your own pace or subscribe to have Boot Camp delivered to your inbox over the course of six weeks.
  • Adopt high-impact solutions and behaviors in your own life. Among the most effective actions you can take, as identified by Project Drawdown and other science-based analyses are switching to an electric vehicle (for those that need to drive), powering your home with solar, and flying less.
  • Get active in your community. Your personal life can be a great place to start, but don’t stop there. Help accelerate your community’s transition to clean energy by helping your neighborhood schools go solar, advocating for electric buses, or starting a “Ready for 100” campaign in your city.
  • Be an active constituent for clean energy. Remind your elected officials why you voted for them. Voting for clean energy is crucial—but so is making sure they follow through on their promises.

As we enter 2021, it’s time to get off the sidelines and get in the game, moving from bystanders to active participants in the massive transition to a clean energy future.


2020: The good, the bad, and the ugly

December 16, 2020

On the whole, 2020 will undoubtedly go down in history as a total dumpster fire. But from the perspective of our country’s transition to a clean energy future, the year still had moments worth celebrating: renewable energy generation surpassed coal for the first time in 130 years, we may have hit peak oil demand, and a presidential candidate ran on a strong climate message and won.

Still, let’s not (ever) have another year like 2020, and let’s make sure we learn our lessons from it. In that spirit, here are five takeaways on climate and clean energy from the last twelve months:

The urgency of addressing the climate crisis wasn’t new news in 2020, but this year saw the scientific community ringing the alarm bell even louder. UN reports updated us on the growing emissions and fossil fuel production gaps between where we need to be (down) and where we’re still headed (up). Just weeks ago, public health experts showed how climate change is an immediate danger to American public health.

As 2020 drew to a close and election results were verified, it also provided a moment to reflect on what might be the Trump administration’s most enduring legacy: four crucial, irreplaceable years spent moving backwards on climate and clean energy instead of forward.

If it wasn’t already loud enough, 2020 made the alarm bell deafening. It’s crunch time.

The pandemic didn’t spare America’s growing renewable energy industry from a rough ride this year. Some parts of the industry, like residential solar installers, got walloped early in the year during strict shutdown orders (but even they saw a strong recovery in the latter half). But overall, wind and solar kept plowing forward surprisingly well and crossed some crucial milestones.

A Bloomberg analysis showed that wind and solar power are now the cheapest form of new electricity in most of the world. The International Energy Agency (traditionally a pessimist around renewable energy) reported that solar is now the “cheapest electricity in history.” Despite setbacks on the residential side, utility-scale solar carried its industry toward a record-breaking year for installations. These milestones and “crossover moments” give reason to expect clean, renewable energy to grow even faster than it already has. The transition is picking up speed.

2020 was the year that many white Americans woke up (or woke up more) to the ugly reality that systemic racism is alive and well in 21st century America. In addition to the protest-inciting displays of police violence, disproportionately high COVID-19 death rates among black and brown Americans provided some of the most shocking evidence to date that systemic racism impacts the health of millions of Americans.

As more Americans than ever began paying attention to our country’s ugly (past and present) realities around racism, the issue of environmental injustice came into greater focus as part of the problem: both how our fossil fuel-based economy has made health inequities worse and how climate change—an impact of all that fossil fuel burning—will continue to harm black and brown communities disproportionally.

For many Americans, this greater understanding of environmental injustice should only add to the list of reasons to transform our economy from one powered by burning things to one powered by clean energy. The climate crisis demands a (rapid) transformation of our economy; here now is our chance to make the structure and distribution of investment, opportunity, and benefits more equal than our fossil fuel-based economy ever was.


For years now, business minds have been pointing out how the transition to a clean energy future will be the economic opportunity of our generation: massive job- and value-creation, healthier communities, stable domestic energy sources, and more. The brutal ass-whupping that the pandemic delivered to our economy this year, however, has given us the chance to turn our recovery into a huge leap toward that clean energy future.

If our government must spend trillions of dollars recovering, we can do it in a way that moves us forward to a much better future rather than backward to a status quo ridden with critical underlying conditions. Let’s not waste this opportunity.

Despite the debate around how climate performed as a voting issue in November, there’s no denying the big result: President-elect Biden won the election (and key battleground states) while holding strong climate positions; he now enters the White House with a clear mandate to take action.

While support for the issue is still much stronger among Democrats, a Fox News / AP exit poll found that 67 percent of all voters (not just Biden voters) supported “increasing government spending on green and renewable energy.” That lines up with consistent polling data showing that a growing majority of Americans are alarmed or concerned about global warming, and support wind and solar power, tax rebates on solar panels and EVs, and more. Some believe four years of Trump scared many folks into caring about climate change, as the number of Americans alarmed about the issue has doubled over the last five years.

Whatever the cause, public support for bold action on climate and clean energy is stronger than ever. As we enter this second year of the decisive decade, let’s make it another one for the history books—but for different reasons than the last.


EV interest is growing—state policy can help

December 9, 2020

Earlier this year, a record 41 percent of drivers in the U.S. said they would consider choosing a non-gas-powered car for their next vehicle—up 29 percent from the previous year—and interest in electric vehicles (EVs) has remained strong, even during the pandemic. But let’s face it, things need to move even faster. According to studies, the U.S. needs to electrify around 40-50 million light-duty vehicles by 2030 to meet the emission reduction goals set out in the Paris Agreement.

Despite the prospect of greater federal support for EVs in the coming years, state-level action is equally critical. States can play a key role in helping to tackle some of the biggest barriers to EV adoption, including the higher upfront costs, the availability of charging infrastructure, and the lack of inventory in some locations. By stepping up their pro-EV policies, states can help meet rising consumer demand for EVs while reaping a slew of other economic, health, and climate benefits.

gas car versus electric car

State-level economic and health benefits of EVs

Fortunately, state support for EVs makes good economic sense. Replacing gas-guzzling vehicles with electric-powered ones means fewer dollars leaving state coffers to pay for out-of-state oil and gas, leading to greater energy security and independence while keeping money local. Studies in several states, including Ohio and Oregon, show that for every $1 million in direct savings from petroleum spending, the switch to EVs can also generate up to $570,000 in additional economic benefits, resulting in up to 25 new local jobs for every 1,000 EVs in the fleet. Transitioning to EVs can create and support jobs in areas such as manufacturing electrical components and batteries, building and installing EV charging stations, generating and supplying electricity, and producing and maintaining vehicles.

Going electric also brings health and climate benefits. In Virginia, transportation-related particulate matter, ozone, and nitrogen dioxide emissions led to an estimated 750 premature deaths in 2016, and in most states, low-income communities and communities of color suffer the highest air pollution-related costs. With zero tailpipe emissions, EVs can improve air quality and reduce health costs statewide through things like avoided asthma attacks, fewer lost workdays due to respiratory illnesses, and fewer premature deaths. From a climate perspective, EVs have lower emissions than gas-powered cars, even when the electricity used to charge them comes from today’s conventional power mix, and the climate benefits increase sharply with a switch to renewable power.

So, where can states get the biggest bang for their policy buck? Let’s consider a few of the top policies states can adopt today to accelerate EV uptake.

Texas state capitol building

Top pro-EV policies that states can adopt today

  • Provide state-level incentives: Although EV prices are expected to reach cost parity with gas-powered vehicles by 2027, their higher upfront cost continues to impede adoption. To boost EV uptake, states can provide financial incentives including tax credits, vehicle rebates, emissions testing exemptions, special access to no-fee vehicle lanes, and lower time-of-use charging rates.
  • Offer an equitably designed point-of-sale EV rebate: Several states already fund rebates for both new and used electric vehicles to help reduce the upfront cost of buying an EV. However, states should also consider offering specific rebates at the time of purchase for low- to moderate-income communities, who may not have access to incentives such as federal or state tax credits. Studies show that even a $1,000 increase in a state’s EV subsidies can lead to a 7.5 percent increase in EV registrations in that state. Another analysis found that the EV incentive programs in just six states (California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Oregon) account for more than 40 percent of EVs sold nationwide. In a recent Generation180 survey of consumers in Virginia, more than 60 percent reported that access to purchase discounts, such as rebates provided at the point of sale, would make them more likely to buy an EV for their next vehicle.
  • Adopt advanced clean car standards: Under federal law, California is authorized to enact their own emissions standards, which includes zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) standards. The ZEV standards require automakers to supply a certain percentage of ZEVs to the state to help reduce emissions. Fortunately, other states can also adopt these ZEV standards: 15 states have adopted (or are in the process of adopting) them. A 2019 study found that overall, ZEV states tend to have a higher EV inventory and number of vehicles available. As a result, residents of states without ZEV policies end up traveling to neighboring ZEV states to buy EVs due to a lack of availability back home. Adopting ZEV standards can help states keep EV purchases local, accelerating statewide adoption and bringing a host of clean air benefits.
  • Support statewide charging infrastructure and EV readiness: To boost consumer confidence about the range and convenience of EVs, more robust charging infrastructure is needed. While it’s not hard for individual homeowners to make the required upgrades, businesses, workplaces, and apartment owners face bigger hurdles to installing chargers, such as higher upfront costs, HOA or landlord barriers, and insufficient parking spaces. To expand equitable access to charging, states can incorporate EV readiness into state building codes and help offset the costs of building and maintaining charging infrastructure. Virginia, for example, is using funds from the Volkswagen settlement to prioritize the installation of fast chargers along heavily traveled roads and in high-demand areas, with the aim of having 95 percent of residents within 30 miles of an EV charger.
  • Issue bans and restrictions on the sale of new gas-powered vehicles. Recently, California took bold action by declaring it will phase out all sales of new gasoline-powered light-duty vehicles by 2035, encouraging drivers to switch to electric. According to the Coalition for Clean Air, electrifying transportation will create jobs and help California move forward in its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Both New York and New Jersey are considering similar policies. States can also incentivize EV access by raising road use or parking fees for drivers of gas-powered vehicles (and/or lowering them for EVs).
  • Collaborate with other states to fund carbon reduction programs. So far, 12 Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia have joined the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), affirming their commitment to decreasing transportation-related emissions. In 2018, nine of the members announced their intent to design a regional “cap, tax, and trade” system to reduce transportation emissions as much as 25 percent by 2032. The revenue generated from selling the tradeable emission credits in the TCI (and similar efforts elsewhere in the country) could go toward programs that expand public transit, electrify buses, and fund EV incentives.

These are just a few of the many approaches that states can take to boost EV adoption and reduce transportation-related emissions (other measures include supporting the electrification of school and transit buses, prioritizing and funding public transit, partnering with automakers and tech companies to boost micromobility options like e-scooters and e-bikes, and setting ambitious overall targets for electrifying transportation). It’s clear that Americans already support a transition to clean energy and electric mobility—how quickly we get there is a matter of consumer adoption and political will. 

What you can do

  • Check out Generation180’s Virginia Drives Electric report, which outlines the benefits of EVs, barriers to adoption, the policies we need, and how you can help.
  • Engage with your state’s policymakers and encourage support for pro-EV legislation.
  • Commit to making your next car electric by signing the ‘Going Electric’ pledge (or, of course, go buy one if you’re in the market for a car).
  • Become an EV Ambassador: Join Generation180 and our network of EV advocates to support transportation electrification.

The state of EVs in Virginia

December 2, 2020

Like many aspects of America’s transition to clean energy, the state of electric vehicle adoption varies widely by state. On one end of the adoption spectrum you have California, which accounts for nearly half of all EV sales in the U.S.; on the other end you have states that seem to still think electric cars only exist in sci-fi movies. Some states have smart, forward-thinking policies in place that are accelerating their progress toward clean transportation, while other states seem stuck in the last century.

That’s why we just published Virginia Drives Electric, a state-level report covering the status of EV adoption in Virginia—and identifying policies that can help move the Commonwealth forward.

Cover of Virginia Drives Electric report

Why write this report?

Generation180’s Electrify Your Ride (EYR) campaign exists to increase access to and availability of electric vehicles in states across the country, ultimately aiming to accelerate the arrival of a 100 percent clean energy future. We host educational events, partner with regional and national influencers, and tap local owners to become EV ambassadors within their own communities. When and where necessary, we also push for policies that will help drive adoption of electric vehicles as well.

Much of the time, the EYR campaign keeps busy doing the work of popularizing EVs among the millions of American drivers for whom switching to an EV today makes economic sense. But we also keep an eye out for key moments when smart policies could move EV adoption along much faster and more equitably. Virginia, a state in which Gen180 is both headquartered and active on the ground, is in one of those moments.

As we write in the report’s introduction, the past year has put Virginia on the map for clean energy leadership. In April 2020, Governor Ralph Northam signed into law the Virginia Clean Economy Act, making Virginia the ninth U.S. state or territory to mandate a move to 100 percent clean electricity. But while the Commonwealth has begun to tackle greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation within its borders, it has yet to formally address emissions from the state’s growing transportation sector.

Enter the Virginia Drives Electric report: an effort to 1) raise awareness of the benefits and barriers to EV adoption and 2) drive policy change in Virginia. In addition to leveraging existing data to inform our findings, we  collected new data as well. To round things out, we developed policy recommendations for Virginia’s lawmakers and governor in the coming year.

Inside spread from the Virginia Drives Electric report

What we found

Here’s the report’s bottom line: Virginians are overwhelmingly in favor of clean energy and electric vehicle technology, new-car dealerships appear optimistic, but there are real barriers—particularly around available inventory, high upfront costs, and public charging infrastructure—that can and should be addressed by Virginia’s lawmakers.

We ran a representative survey across the state which found, among other things, that over half of Virginians said they were “likely” or “very likely” to consider an EV for their next car. We surveyed new-car dealerships and found that inventory was one of the most significant barriers to selling more EVs. We conducted a six-city comparison that revealed that the availability of EVs is 44 percent lower in Virginia cities than in comparable Maryland cities.

Many of these findings closely align with what we’re seeing around the country, including strong consumer interest in EVs and a stark inventory disparity between states that have adopted pro-EV policies and those that haven’t. While the report isn’t chock full of shockers, it’s helpful to provide an actual look at Virginia’s current EV landscape and to put the whole roadmap together: where we are, where we want to go, and how to get there.

What to do about it

The good news for Virginia lawmakers is that they don’t need to reinvent the wheel or pioneer groundbreaking legislative territory—other states have paved the way and shown that these policy solutions really do move EV adoption forward. The report recommends a trio of policies that would have a meaningful impact on electric vehicle adoption: adopting the “Advanced Clean Cars Program” vehicle standards, funding a point-of-sale EV rebate, and signing the Transportation and Climate Initiative MOU.

So where do you come into the picture? Here are three ways to get involved:

  1. Download and share the report with relevant people in your network—friends, social media followers, colleagues, local politicians, or organizations of which you’re a part
  2. Attend the virtual town hall Gen180 is hosting on 12/15 at 7 p.m. ET. Given coronavirus times, this will be a rare chance to engage directly with Virginia legislators
  3. Sign the ‘Going Electric’ pledge: It’s a simple, easy first step on your journey to driving electric and a way to show legislators your interest in a crucial clean energy solution.

5 Things I Learned From Buying A Used Electric Car

December 2, 2020

Due to the popularity of certain electric luxury sedans and SUVs, electric cars have the reputation of being expensive and inaccessible to most consumers. In reality, many new EV models are priced around what the average car-buyer is paying for a new car in the U.S. these days (i.e. $37,000) even before federal and state incentives.

Even better, many low-mileage electric vehicles (EVs) are available to purchase pre-owned at stellar prices if you’re willing to look. I should know; in November of 2019, I found an affordable and gently-used 2017 Chevrolet Volt. The car had only 25,000 miles on it, yet I paid half of its original MSRP — quite the bargain for a first-time car buyer on a budget. Here are five things I learned from the experience.

1. Pre-Owned EVs Are A Good Value — And Sell Fast.

The rapid pace of technological improvement means that new EVs can have nearly twice the electric driving range as four-year-old models. As early-adopters trade in their cars for more advanced EVs, buyers on the pre-owned market are left with plenty of good options at affordable prices — a recipe for fast sales.

As I was car-hunting, I noticed that EVs I saw online were often gone within a week of posting. When I stumbled upon the car that was in my desired price- and mileage-range, I contacted the dealership the day after it arrived on the lot. The poor salesman didn’t even have the time to learn how to adjust the seats before I came in. I arrived to inspect the car and confirm its specs, it was a done deal.

One of my housemates, who happened to be in the market for a car at the same time I was, accompanied me to the dealership. Although she had no intention of buying an electric car, she was smitten with the Volt after the test drive. She ended up purchasing the one other pre-owned Volt on the lot, right then and there. Two Chevrolet Volts, on and off the market in less than 48 hours!

2. I Drive In Electric-Mode Nearly All The Time.

The Volt is a plug-in hybrid, with an all-electric range of 53 miles for daily driving and a gas engine for longer trips. Like a regular hybrid, the battery recharges when I break or coast downhill. Although 53 miles of electric range doesn’t sound like a lot, about 80% of my total driving miles over the last seven months have been on electricity. Based on my driving habits (mostly city-driving with the occasional trek for outdoor activities), a battery electric vehicle with 200 miles of range would have suited me as well, though I was able to find better deals on the Volt at the time I was shopping.

80% of my total driving miles over the last seven months have been on electricity.

I opted to buy the Volt because I regularly drive to New Hampshire to camp and hike, so the plug-in hybrid fit my budget a little better. But the charging infrastructure around the White Mountains is better than you might think, and making the 360-mile trip between Providence and the White Mountains is easy enough in a Battery EV if you recharge while you hike or stop at a DC fast charger once along the way.

3. Charging In Public Is Easy And Usually Free.

As a renter, installing a charging station at home isn’t an option for me. I rely on an outdoor outlet and the charging cable that came with my car for the majority of charging. I share this outlet with my housemate, who charges her Volt there, too.

However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the availability and convenience of public charging stations. I use these resources as much as I can because most of these stations are free to use. With the right timing, I can get a full charge without paying a cent.

While I don’t yet have access to charging at my grocery store or gym, it’s easy enough to look up whether there are charging stations near parks, movie theaters, or parking garages where I’m leaving my car parked. The possibility of recharging for free makes a little extra effort worth it. Since my car accepts both electricity and gasoline, I’ve found that it’s more inconvenient and time-consuming to stop for gas than to check charging apps like PlugShare, where I got the map of EV charging stations in the White Mountains used above.

4. Combustion Engines Are Loud.

The experience of driving on an electric powertrain is superior in almost every way. The quiet motor allows for better sound quality when I’m listening to music or speaking on the phone. Every single passenger I’ve had in my car has noticed and appreciated the difference. When I hop into a gas-powered car to carpool or rideshare, I find myself speaking louder to be heard over the roar of the combustion engine.

Since buying my Volt, I’ve driven two gas-powered cars that I rented while traveling. In both instances, I was underwhelmed by the lag time between pressing on the accelerator and feeling the car lurch forward. By comparison, the Volt’s ride, is smooth, responsive, and zippy, an experience consistent among all electric vehicles. I feel much safer driving in my car, which responds instantaneously to my maneuvers. It’s the kind of driving experience you used to only be able to get with luxury gas guzzlers, but in a eco-friendly, cost-effective package.

5. Weather And Driving Style Can Really Reduce (Or Extend) Range.

I bought my car in November, right as the New England winter started to kick in. Although it was relatively warm compared to previous years, I averaged about 40 miles of driving on a full charge — noticeably lower than the Volt’s EPA-estimated range of 53 miles. Throughout January and February, it was so cold that the gas engine often kicked on to optimize the battery’s temperature and operating efficiency.

The Volt, like many EVs, has a handy dashboard display that assesses the efficiency of my driving style, as well as the energy drain from terrain, climate control settings in the car, and ambient temperature. When I speed, blast the A/C, or overuse my brakes, my efficiency score goes down and my range decreases. Having access to this information encourages me to drive more efficiently, and I have a lot of fun trying to get my efficiency score as high as possible when I’m driving. Although I know I have gasoline to back me up if I run out of charge, getting familiar with the impacts of cold weather and driving style on my range has allowed me to drive my Volt as if it were a 50-mile range EV.

The Upshot

It can be scary to say “let me try something new and get an EV” when making the big financial decision of purchasing a vehicle. But buying a pre-owned electric car is easier and more affordable than most people might think.

Of course it’s an adjustment, but the value of owning an easy-to-maintain, cheap-to-fuel car is worth the learning curve. Still unsure? I learned everything I needed to know about buying an EV by writing for Green Energy Consumers. Reach out to me with questions at

Ready to learn more about electric cars?

If you live in Virginia, head to for more information on the latest electric models.

Not a Virginian? Don’t worry, you can sign the Going Electric pledge as a first step—then head over to the PlugStar Shopping Assistant, a great place to learn more about electric models currently on the market.

This post by Mal Skowron was originally published on the blog of Electrify Your Ride partner Green Energy Consumer Alliance.