EVs make car sharing even better

June 30, 2021

Visit any big city, and you’ll witness how shared transportation options have grown, from electric scooters tossed along sidewalks to bike and car sharing services. These can be a (relatively) cheap and easy way to zip around city streets. But the real potential of these shared services goes well beyond cities and well-heeled urbanites. In the case of car sharing, if the program is designed strategically—including prioritizing the use of electric vehicles (EVs)—there are prospects for a triple win:  convenient transportation, lower emissions, and more affordable mobility options for under-resourced populations.

Cost savings and convenience

Car sharing has a lot going for it. Worldwide, membership in car sharing organizations like Zipcar and Getaround—which offer users access to a fleet of ready-to-drive cars, typically via an app—doubled between 2016 and 2018, to more than 30 million. People are flocking to shared cars for a lot of reasons, but the main ones are convenience and cost savings. Car sharing (which is different from car rentals or ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft) offers the benefit of using a vehicle without the high costs associated with private car ownership, like insurance, gas, maintenance, and parking. Usually, vehicles are stationed in locations like residential neighborhoods or near public transit stations and universities, making them convenient for a wide range of users.

Lower emissions

Car sharing, if done well, can also be a great way to tackle rising emissions from transportation, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Studies show that when people gain access to a shared vehicle, they may get rid of their private car or avoid buying a new one; they also tend to walk, bike, or take public transit more. This brings other cascading benefits, including reducing the overall vehicle miles traveled and lowering traffic congestion and the demand for parking—all of which help slash driving-related emissions. Overall, the research points to a decrease in net greenhouse gas emissions among car sharing members, although it can depend on the context.

When electric vehicles enter the picture, there’s no question that car sharing is a win for the climate. Over their lifetime, emissions for EVs are three times lower than for internal combustion vehicles. While specific data on the emission savings from EV car sharing aren’t available, studies show that if you replace a conventional ride-hailing vehicle (like an Uber) with an EV, this can result in three times the emission reductions compared to a conventional vehicle. When EVs are powered by clean energy, like solar and wind power, they can contribute near-zero emissions. That’s why some ride-hailing services are starting to roll-out EVs.

The equity opportunity

Car sharing also has real potential to provide more equitable access to transport. So far, car sharing companies have focused on urban centers, but rural communities can actually benefit most from these services, due to the lack of density to support traditional public transit, biking, or other options. The typical car sharing user today tends to be young, with more education, a higher income, as well as easy access to the Internet, a smart phone, and banking services. Many popular car sharing services, which rely on an app linked to a bank account, end up excluding populations like the elderly and low-income households.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. If designed with these audiences in mind, car sharing presents an opportunity to provide mobility to people who may not be able to afford the high cost of owning a car, or who simply don’t have access to other good transportation options. By making these services available to more people, including in lower-income and more remote neighborhoods, we can go even further in reducing emissions. Strategies for broadening access and improving equity in car sharing services include providing subsidies for low-income users, making these services more accessible to the “unbanked” and those without smartphones, and developing more inclusive and adaptive services.

Getting car sharing right: a few examples

To optimize the potential for car sharing to both reduce emissions and meet the needs of diverse and under-resourced communities, it has to be “done right.” So far, car sharing has been mostly led by private companies. But in recent years, non-profits and governmental agencies have also gotten in on the action, forming alliances and partnerships focused on shared mobility while keeping in mind equity and the benefits of electrified transport. Here are a few examples of car sharing that tick these boxes:

  • In 2016, the City of Los Angeles, California, signed a contract for an electric car sharing pilot project aimed at serving low-income residents. As of April 2019, BlueLA had deployed 80 EVs and 26 charging stations, all located in disadvantaged neighborhoods throughout Central LA. The goals of the program include: 1) recruiting at least 7,000 new car sharing users, 2) avoiding the purchase or sale of 1,000 private vehicles, and 3) reducing 2,150 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
  • In the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, the car-sharing nonprofit HOURCAR is developing an all-electric car sharing service and a network of charging hubs in historically underinvested communities. The EV Spot Network, set to launch this year, is a collaboration with Xcel Energy and the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and aims to add 150 shared EVs and 70 charging stations on city streets. The planning process has been largely community-driven. Based on feedback from local residents, HOURCAR has upgraded its system to approve new users quickly (within 24 hours), cut membership costs by 40 percent, and provide materials in several languages, including Somali and Hmong.
  • In Hood River, Oregon, Forth Mobility aims to show how EV car sharing can serve rural communities while also benefiting low-income residents and local businesses. The Clean Rural Shared Electric Mobility (CRuSE) Project is one of the first efforts in the country to bring lower-cost car sharing to a rural area. Under the three-year program, five EVs are stationed at affordable housing sites, the city center, and tourist destinations in Hood River. To make the program more accessible, the platform is providing iPads at the affordable housing sites to help people sign up, and is creating a Spanish version of its app. It also offers alternate payment options to support users without access to credit or banking, and tiered pricing (including subsidies) for different user groups.

Innovative transport solutions like EV car sharing are needed to help decarbonize the transport sector in an equitable way. By shifting away from private vehicles and toward less carbon-intensive (but still convenient!) modes of transport, by adding EVs to the mix, and by targeting programs at under-resourced communities, we can move even closer to that goal.


Take Action: Protect Clean Cars + Clean Air

June 29, 2021

Generation180 is joining electric vehicle advocates, climate organizations, and public health experts nationwide to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to restore state leadership on vehicle pollution regulation through the Advanced Clean Car Standards.

Not sure what that means? That’s okay! We’re here to walk you through it. Long story short, the Advanced Clean Cars Program is one of the most effective policies states can pass to accelerate electric vehicle (EV) adoption, but states need permission from the federal government to implement this program. The previous administration rescinded this permission, but now the EPA is considering reinstating it. To ensure that this authority is restored and accelerate EV adoption nationwide, the EPA needs to hear from EV advocates like you!

Submit Comments to Support EV Adoption

So how can you get involved? By helping us tell the EPA that it’s time to get more EVs on the road and restore the clean car standards! Comments are due by July 6th, and we’ve made it easy for you. Simply copy the text below and go to this link to submit your comment. Easy peasy!

Script to copy:

As an American who supports our nation’s transition to clean energy, I know that electric vehicles are an important solution to addressing the climate emergency. Therefore, I’m writing to express my support for the EPA’s restoration of the Clean Air Act waiver for state greenhouse gas pollution and zero-emission vehicle standards for cars and trucks.

The transportation sector is the largest source of climate pollution in the U.S., accounting for nearly one-third of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. The transportation sector also contributes significantly to pollution that negatively impacts public health, and these impacts are felt disproportionately by low-income communities and communities of color.

The previous administration’s decision to undercut state authority to tackle air pollution from vehicles took away a crucial tool for addressing climate and air pollution. It’s imperative that the EPA restore the clean car standards so that states can continue to lead in fighting climate change and transition to a clean energy economy. Enabling states to adopt and implement clean car standards will ensure we are protecting our communities and driving further investment in pollution-free transportation solutions.

Together, we can ensure that the U.S. enjoys zero-emissions vehicles, cleaner air, and a clean energy future for all.

Click here to submit your comment to the EPA by July 6th!


Will the feds get an “A” for electric school buses?

May 5, 2021

This article is from the May 5, 2021, issue of Flip the Script, a weekly newsletter moving you from climate stress to clean energy action. Sign up here to get it in your inbox (and share the link with a friend).

There’s so dang much happening in clean energy these days that it can be hard to keep up. Here’s one key trend that’s largely gone under the radar until now: electric school buses. Public health advocates have been promoting the benefits of these zero-emission kid transporters for a while, but only recently have both lawmakers and school districts jumped in on the action. Why? Electric school buses are a win-win for our children’s health and the climate—and much-needed investment from the government may soon actually happen.

In recent months, unprecedented federal funding opportunities have opened up to convert the nation’s 500,000 school buses to electric. At least three bills introduced in Congress this year—the Clean School Bus Act, the CLEAN Future Act, and the Clean Commute for Kids Act—call for billions of dollars to speed this transition over the coming decade. Aspects of these bills will likely be integrated in some form into the final version of President Biden’s newly unveiled $2.3 trillion infrastructure package, the American Jobs Plan. The plan would make at least a fifth of the nation’s school bus fleet electric, covering the costs of both buying the buses and building charging stations.

School buses might seem like “small potatoes” compared to other clean energy issues, but they’re actually a big deal. More than half of all public school kids in the U.S.—nearly 25 million children on a typical school day—ride the bus to attend classes and events. School buses account for a whopping 90 percent of all buses in the country, so if we’re aiming to tackle the problem of rising greenhouse gas emissions from transportation (which we need to), then school buses are a key target. With almost all of these buses still running on dirty diesel fuel, there’s an electric revolution waiting to happen in the school parking lot.


Clean buses equals healthier kids

Clean buses, healthier kids

Anyone who’s ever waited for the bus knows what it’s like to breathe in diesel fumes: they’re thick, choking, and clearly unhealthy. Studies have found that pollutant levels on diesel buses are 5 to 10 times higher than those in nearby areas, and there are strong associations between even low-level air pollution and deadly respiratory diseases. School children are at particular risk: breathing polluted air can lead to short-term struggles with cognitive tasks and focus, and over the longer term, diesel fumes can negatively affect brain development and overall academic performance.

In contrast to diesel, electric buses pollute far less, even if the electricity used to charge them comes from power plants that burn fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. (In the future, of course, the buses would ideally be powered by solar and wind power.) One study found evidence that retrofitting school buses improves kids’ test scores. Electrifying school buses is also an important step in addressing climate change and economic inequities, since the areas with the highest air pollution levels are also often poorer communities and communities of color.


Lowering the sticker price

Lowering the sticker price

Despite the attractiveness of going electric, the main barrier for school districts has been economic. The upfront cost of an electric school bus is nearly three times that of a diesel bus. However, if the full life cycle of the bus is considered—from its purchase to decommissioning—electric buses are actually competitive with diesel buses, mainly because of the lower lifetime operating costs. Estimates put lifetime savings for each electric school bus in the tens of thousands of dollars when compared to a diesel bus—driven largely by reduced fuel costs and maintenance.

To get over the cost hurdle, school districts around the country are taking various approaches, from obtaining grants and using funds from the Volkswagen emissions scandal settlement —which usually enable districts to buy 1-2 electric buses at a time—to more creative tactics that lay the path for full-fleet electrification. California’s Twin Rivers Unified School District, one of the country’s first districts to start operating electric buses (in 2016), has used funding from the state’s emissions trading program to assemble the largest zero-emission school bus fleet in North America, with 40 total buses. The district plans to shift all 130 of its buses to electric in the next 2.5 years.

In contrast, Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland is using a leasing arrangement to transition its fleet over the next 12 years. The county recently signed a four-year contract with a vendor to switch out 326 diesel buses (more than 20 percent of the total) with electric versions, paying a fixed rate that will cover the use of the new buses, plus all charging infrastructure and the electricity and maintenance costs. The vendor, meanwhile, is responsible for buying the buses upfront and aims to recoup at least some of its investment through savings on fuel and maintenance. (The project will also earn revenue by using the bus batteries to store energy, which can then be sold back to the grid.) “I am hoping this will be a model that opens doors for others that have the same reluctance that I did to say, ‘I can do this with existing funds,’” said Todd Watkins, the district’s transportation director.

A third district, Bethlehem Central School District in New York state, aims to fund its transition to all-electric by using money saved from reduced bus operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as obtaining at least $1 million in grants from the state. The grants and other funding would put the upfront cost of a new electric bus within $40,000 of the cost of a new diesel version, and bring down the total cost of ownership to within $800 of a diesel bus.


federal action

Federal action to amp things up

The economic calculus will only get easier if the funding proposals currently making the rounds in Washington end up becoming law. Pushing this legislation through Congress could be a struggle given the Democrats’ slim lead. But even if the scope of funding shrinks during negotiations, a significant chunk of change (possibly in the billions of dollars) will likely be available to support electric school bus purchases. Importantly, the proposed funding doesn’t just center on children’s health but also has a strong equity component, earmarking a share of the grantmaking to districts with high pollution risks.

With the current laser focus at the federal level, electric school buses could rapidly hit the mainstream, giving the industry the boost it needs to prove itself in the market, and leading to broader adoption of the buses for both city and private fleets.  E-bus technology is advancing quickly: one bus recently set a record by driving more than 1,000 miles on a single charge, and a new fast-charging system being tested can “fuel” a bus fully in 10 minutes. As Senator Alex Padilla (CA) recently noted, shifting to zero-emission school buses isn’t just a smart market move, it’s “an essential aspect of building equitable, sustainable infrastructure and is a wise investment in our children, our environment and our future.”


New comic: Generation Electric

April 12, 2021

While we usually tell our stories with words and video, we decided to draw one out. Below is a preview; head here for the full comic.

Head here to finish reading!


It’s time to celebrate Virginia’s new EV policies

March 2, 2021

Bust out some bubbly, y’all: the 2021 General Assembly, which officially wrapped up yesterday (Monday 3/1), took huge strides to electrify Virginia’s transportation sector, the leading source of carbon emissions in the state.

This progress came on the heels of last year’s historic session, in which Virginia adopted landmark legislation to transition the state to a clean energy economy. It’s worth taking a moment to understand what these new EV policies mean for Virginians, outline what we need to do next, and—most importantly—celebrate a bit. We’ve made fantastic progress, and it’s time to keep the momentum going.

With support from a broad coalition of environmental nonprofits, industry voices, and constituents, five bills that promote electric vehicles successfully passed both the House of Delegates and the Senate. Earlier in the session, Del. David Reid, chief patron of the EV rebate, summarized the key areas that the package of legislation helps address: “These bills are part of a comprehensive program to address the supply, demand, infrastructure, and funding components of a broader electric mobility transition, with a particular focus on helping low-income Virginians.” The simple goal that these bills work toward: make it as easy as possible—as quickly as possible—for all Virginians to switch from a gas-powered ride to an electric one. 

Here’s an overview of what this means for you and how we keep the up the momentum moving forward:

What this means for Virginians

At this point in the game, everyone agrees that electrifying transportation is a crucial step in any state (or country’s) shift to a 21st-century clean energy economy. It’s a step that will bring a myriad of recognized economic, public health, and climate benefits. 

Economically, these bills will better position Virginia today to capture the economic benefits of tomorrow. With over half (53%) of Virginians saying they’re likely to consider an EV for their next car and nearly 100 new electric models (including SUVs and pickup trucks) set to hit the market by the end of 2024, waiting to get on the EV bandwagon would’ve meant missing out on major economic opportunity. 

Economically, these bills will better position Virginia today to capture the economic benefits of tomorrow.

Another result: Virginians are on their way to cleaner air and better public health.  Making EVs more available on dealership lots and more affordable to Virginians across the economic spectrum will do real work tackling an air pollution problem that accounts for 92 deaths, 2,600 cases of exacerbated asthma, and 10,000 lost workdays in Virginia every year. Cruelly, this suffering hits communities of color and vulnerable populations the hardest, research shows. The EV Charging Infrastructure bill, additionally, requires the State Corporation Commission to focus charging policy proposals on low-income, minority, and rural communities.

Lastly, these bills together are a strong response to a critical window of opportunity in the climate crisis. Given that most of these bills will take years to kick in, get funded, or have an impact, it was vital that Virginia start tackling its largest source of carbon emissions: transportation. There’s simply no time to waste.

Here’s a quick summary of what each bill will do:

  • Availability of EVs: the Advanced Clean Car Standards will require manufacturers to send more EVs to Virginia’s auto dealers
  • Affordability of EVs: the EV Rebate Program will reduce the upfront price of new and used EVs by $2,500 (and more for low- and moderate-income buyers)
  • EV buses for Schools: the EV Grant Fund and Program creates a new fund can receive federal or philanthropic dollars and use them to help schools replace diesel school buses with electric ones
  • EV chargers: the EV Charging Infrastructure bill directs Virginia’s public utility commission (the State Corporation Commission) to consider transportation electrification policies and ensure better access to charging stations across the state.
  • Include EV charging in the bigger plan: The Virginia Energy Plan & EV Infrastructure bill amends the Virginia Energy Plan to include an analysis of electric vehicle charging infrastructure needed to support the 2045 net-zero carbon target in the transportation sector.

What needs to happen next

There are two main things that need to happen in order to build off this positive momentum: 1) legislators need to put the money where their mouth is, and 2) constituents like us need to make clean energy action a priority in this November’s election.

Two of the bills, the EV Rebate Program and the EV Grant Fund and Program, now need funding. Without funding, of course, these programs won’t functionally exist. While passing them is indeed a win worth celebrating, each has a critical second step. This step must be taken in the 2022 General Assembly session.

Two of the bills, the EV Rebate Program and the EV Grant Fund and Program, now need funding.

Secondly, all House of Delegate seats are up for reelection this year. This is the moment when voters can have their most direct impact on the system. Ask candidates how they’ll continue this momentum that’s been building over the last two years. Put your energy behind candidates that prioritize clean energy. It’s hard to overstate that forward progress is essential; we don’t have time to pause, move sideways, or (please, no) move backwards.

So let’s take a moment to celebrate: Virginia now has a suite of electric vehicle bills that match the urgency of the moment. Let’s keep Virginia moving in the right direction.

Live in Virginia? Use our tool to quickly send your elected officials a “thank you” email.


Moving beyond fossil fuel cars

February 17, 2021

This article is from the February 17, 2021, issue of Flip the Script, a weekly newsletter moving you from climate stress to clean energy action. Sign up here to get it in your inbox (and share the link with a friend).

There are a number of good reasons why Biden is making electric vehicles an early priority in his administration. Investing in EVs will bring American jobs and innovation, while also addressing a massive emissions problem: Transportation is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. (accounting for 28% of all emissions). While the transition to clean energy is making strong advances in the power sector, we need to move a hell of a lot faster on the transportation front. Electric vehicles (EVs) are a key solution for steering us away from fossil fuels, but they still only account for around 2 percent of new-car sales. To get where we need to be with electric mobility—and fast—we need to take even bolder steps.

Here’s an idea: maybe we need to… take gas- (and diesel-) powered cars out of the equation altogether—while making it cheaper and easier to go electric. Sound impossible? Think again: around the world, countries, states, and cities have taken steps to do exactly that (including China, Germany, and Japan). As more zero-emission vehicles arrive on dealership lots, banning fossil fuel cars may be just the kind of bold market-signaling action that’s needed to push the U.S. to a safer, healthier, cleaner future.

Timeline of countries banning fossil fuel powered vehicles
Click on the image to take a look at Business Insider’s timeline showing who’s ditching gas cars (and when)


What does it mean to ban fossil fuel cars?

At its simplest, banning fossil fuel cars means that national, state, or local laws restrict vehicles that burn gasoline and/or diesel in a certain place by a certain date. The ban can apply to a whole country or to a single city or district.

For example, a ban could mean that manufacturers and dealers are prohibited from the import, sale, or registration of new fossil fuel vehicles after a specific date (while existing internal combustion vehicles can still ply the roads). Other bans are geared more toward keeping polluting vehicles out of certain areas like the main downtown zone.

For governments, banning fossil fuel vehicles is attractive because it offers a pretty clear-cut way to reduce emissions and meet climate commitments. Other good reasons for getting rid of gas and diesel cars include reducing the health risks associated with tailpipe emissions (notably particulate matter and nitrogen oxides) and achieving greater energy independence by not having to import oil products.

High-level commitments

Laws to move beyond gas cars are increasingly popular—including in some of the world’s biggest auto markets. So far, at least eighteen countries, states and provinces have committed to banning sales of fossil fuel vehicles (mainly cars and buses) by 2050 or before. The list includes China, Germany, Japan, and most Scandinavian countries. In many places, the bans are just one tool for eventually achieving a zero-emission future. The UK, in its ambition to be carbon-neutral by 2050, recently moved up its ban on sales of new gasoline or diesel cars by a full decade, from 2040 to 2030.

At least eighteen countries, states and provinces have committed to banning sales of fossil fuel vehicles (mainly cars and buses) by 2050 or before.

The U.S. hasn’t come close to any such commitments—but it’s inching nearer. In his first week in office, President Biden announced that the federal government will start phasing out its use of gas-powered vehicles and replace its entire fleet of 645,000 cars and trucks with U.S.-made EVs—a move that would boost the total number of EVs in the country by at least 40 percent. Bolder proposals are also making the rounds: in 2019, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) outlined a plan to replace every gas-powered car on the road with an electric one by 2040, and the more recent Zero-Emission Vehicles Act of 2020 would require all new cars sold in the country to be zero-emission by 2035.

A few states have gotten in on the action. In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order requiring all sales of new passenger cars and trucks in California to be zero-emission by 2035. Other states have issued similar plans in the past year, including Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. Governors, like Colorado’s Jared Polis, are clear about the benefits they stand to gain from these plans: “This roadmap is a significant step forward to continue to reduce pollution for the benefit of the health and well-being of our communities and our economy.”

Cities taking the lead

Globally, action at the city level has been faster and “furious-er” (okay, worth a try), with the focus being on stopping people from using fossil fuel vehicles. By the end of 2019, at least 35 major cities (many in Europe) had plans to ban or heavily restrict the use of diesel cars and trucks, while some cities are phasing out all vehicles that have internal combustion engines. In a novel approach, Reykjavik, Iceland plans to slash the number of city gas stations by half by 2025 to deter people from driving conventional vehicles.

In the U.S., a handful of cities are taking similar steps. Los Angeles, through its Green New Deal, hopes to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, which includes upping the share of EVs in the city to 100 percent. Seattle aspires to fully electrify its Metro bus fleet by 2035, and New York City issued an executive order in early 2020 calling for a 100 percent electric, carbon-neutral city fleet by 2040. Six U.S. cities—Austin, Honolulu, L.A., Santa Monica, Seattle, and West Hollywood—are also among the 35 signatories of the Fossil Fuel Free Streets Declaration, a non-binding global pledge to ban fossil fuel vehicles on some or all city streets by 2030.

Getting into the (fossil-free) zone

Cities worldwide have rules banning drivers of fossil fuel vehicles from entering the city center or other zones, while allowing in folks that drive low- or zero-emission vehicles. The main goal of these efforts is to improve local air quality, but they also help push residents to go electric. As of 2020, there were at least 250 “low-emission zones” in European cities and around two dozen elsewhere, including in Beijing, Hong Kong, Jerusalem and Tokyo. Some cities, instead of full-time restrictions, issue temporary bans on polluting vehicles during periods of heavy smog, like Rome was forced to do in January 2020. Although temporary bans don’t directly contribute to phasing out fossil fuel vehicles, they make owning and driving them less attractive.

As of 2020, there were at least 250 “low-emission zones” in European cities and around two dozen elsewhere, including in Beijing, Hong Kong, Jerusalem and Tokyo.

The U.S. doesn’t have any designated low-emission zones—yet. However, L.A. is planning one for 2030, and Santa Monica, California is piloting the country’s first “zero-emission delivery zone” in a one-square-mile area of its main shopping and dining corridor. Although the project is only voluntary for now, the city is encouraging any deliveries of goods that occur in the zone—from food takeout to packages—to be transported in a zero-emission vehicle, like an electric delivery van, hydrogen fuel cell truck, or e-cargo bike. (Some other U.S. cities, like New York, use tools like congestion pricing to deter people from driving in high-traffic areas, but this isn’t the same as an actual vehicle ban.)

Industry’s response, and moving forward

Partly in response to the clear market signals that worldwide bans are providing, automakers are shifting away from conventional gas-guzzling offerings and introducing a wide range of EV models. In January, General Motors became the first major U.S. automaker to pledge to stop making gasoline and diesel light-duty cars and SUVs altogether by 2035 (an about-face from just months ago). As more manufacturers start electrifying pick-ups and SUVs—the most popular car types in the U.S.—bans on the sale and use of fossil fuel vehicles could start to seem a lot more palatable in the country.

The bottom line, however, is that automakers know where the industry is headed. “We’re not going to cede the future to anyone,” Ford’s CEO told CNBC last Friday. As society looks to employ the strategies that will get us to this electric endpoint the quickest, bans on last century’s technology should be part of the discussion.


“Local energy” in 2021

January 6, 2021

This article is from the January 6, 2021, issue of Flip the Script, a weekly newsletter moving you from climate stress to clean energy action. Sign up here to get it in your inbox (and share the link with a friend).

Phew. 2020 was a year, for so many reasons. With attention fixated on the global pandemic and a contentious U.S. election, it was easy to miss news from the clean energy front. Among other headlines, solar power continued its upward surge and electric mobility took big steps toward going mainstream. Against this backdrop, the paradigm-shifting concept of “local energy” is poised to take even bigger steps forward in 2021.

What’s so important about “local energy”? It’s a profound systemic shift, much like “local food” was years ago: you’re still eating a salad, but instead of the lettuce being grown thousands of miles away by ACME Farms, Inc. and traveling on planes, trains, and automobiles to get to you, you picked it up at Rebecca’s farm 15 miles from your house. The economic, environmental, and nutritional impact is largely beneath the surface, but when you stop and think about it—it’s kind of awe-inspiring. After a century of powering our lives with energy from big, centralized fossil-fuel power plants and oil tankers from the Middle East, millions of Americans are now getting electricity from their rooftops and powering their cars at home. We’re bringing power (literally) back to our communities.


Getting energy from your roof: the 2021 update

Residential and community-based solar installations continue to spread across the country, from the sun-soaked roofs of the rural southwest to neighborhoods in New England. With the costs of solar power falling by the day (in 2020, photovoltaic panels were 12 times cheaper on average than in 2010), solar is now the fastest growing energy source in the U.S. Recognizing the benefits of local solar, federal and state regulators are opening markets to affordable, distributed renewable energy, and even utilities are embracing this future

In many states, feed-in tariffs and net metering policies enable homeowners with solar (and other independent power producers) to feed their extra power back to the grid and get compensated for it. In South Carolina, net metering (the policy that lets you sell the power your solar panels make back to the utility) has helped increase the number of homes with rooftop solar from less than 500 in 2014 to more than 20,000 today. Many states and the federal government also offer rebates and/or tax credits for installing solar, and some have pro-solar mandates. For example, in 2020, California became the first state to require that all new homes be outfitted with rooftop solar panels (or, alternatively, meet the requirements by connecting the homes to offsite solar). Part of the broad end-of-year legislation that Congress recently passed included a two-year extension of the solar tax credit that has helped fuel solar’s growth. 

The bottom line? “Local solar” is no longer an isolated trend. Every 90 seconds, another U.S. household goes solar. During the third quarter of 2020, “small” solar (on homes and businesses, or in community solar gardens) accounted for nearly a quarter of the new capacity added to U.S. power grids (throw in big wind and solar farms and you account for 96 percent). Across six southeastern states, the number of homes and businesses with rooftop solar more than doubled since 2018.

Solar installations strengthen our local economies, not only providing “local energy” but creating good jobs and boosting local resilience in the face of volatile energy prices. Over the next decade, “solar installer” will be one of the top 3 fastest growing occupations in America (wind turbine technician is #1).

electric vehicle

Electric vehicles step on the accelerator

When electric vehicles enter the mix, things get even more interesting—and impactful. Imagine meeting your household’s power needs with rooftop solar, then also plugging in your car to solar-charge it for your morning commute. You’ve eliminated your reliance on fossil fuels, which means: you’re saving money, reducing your carbon footprint, and supporting your local economy.

While EVs still only account for a small percentage of new vehicle sales in the U.S., 2021 will be the year when the EV market can finally offer a model for most every lifestyle: commuter hatchbacks, luxury sedans, pickup trucks, family-sized SUVs—even MINI coopers. There are plug-in hybrids (which run about 40 miles on electricity and then switch to gas) and all-electrics that can range up to 520 miles (but typically go about 250 miles). Dozens more models are coming soon, as automakers see the writing on the wall: an estimated 100 new EV models are set to debut by the end of 2024. The long list of benefits (fuel cost savings, quieter ride, no tailpipe emissions, lower total ownership costs) are still not widely understood, however: only 30 percent of American drivers report knowing much about EVs—even though 71 percent are considering buying one in the future. Once more consumers become “EV aware” and get access to a variety of models, it’s expected that adoption will accelerate quickly.  

A new reality is taking hold, made possible with the arrival of low-cost solar power and electric vehicles to the mass market. Everyday people across the country can transform how they power their lives.


WATCH: Do something to make your 7 yr-old self proud (drive electric)

January 5, 2021

To kick off 2021, we decided to have some fun with YouTube creator Esteban Gast. We asked ourselves, “what would we do differently if our past and future selves showed up and gave us some real talk?”

These three videos are the result. Enjoy, sign the Going Electric Pledge, and share.


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. 


Breathing easier with EVs

November 11, 2020

When people talk about the benefits of switching to electric vehicles (EVs), there’s a huge opportunity that’s often overlooked: the boon to our overall health and well-being. A recent report from the American Lung Association (ALA) estimates that a widespread transition to EVs could help avoid more than $72 billion in public health costs across the U.S. in 2050. These savings come from things like preventing asthma attacks, premature deaths, and workdays lost due to respiratory illnesses.

The reality is that the fossil fuel vehicles that we’re used to driving are perfect polluting machines. As they burn gas and diesel, they release fine particles of soot and dirt (PM2.5) that can lodge deep in the lungs, causing asthma and other respiratory illnesses, diabetes, developmental problems in children, and even premature death. Other harmful tailpipe emissions include hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, benzene, and formaldehyde. Carbon monoxide is particularly dangerous to infants and to people suffering from heart disease because it interferes with the blood’s ability to transport oxygen.

ALA report: a widespread transition to EVs could help avoid more than $72 billion in public health costs across the U.S. in 2050.

These burdens aren’t distributed equally. Studies in California as well as in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions show that African-American, Latino, and Asian-American residents, and low-income communities overall, are exposed to far more air pollution from cars, trucks, and buses than other demographic groups. The racial inequities are well documented: in California, exposure to PM2.5 pollution is 43 percent higher among African Americans and 39 percent higher among Latinos, on average, compared to white populations. In the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, communities of color breathe 66 percent more air pollution from vehicles than white residents, and the shares are even higher for Latinos and Asian Americans specifically.

In many cases, it’s the folks who don’t even own cars that are being exposed to higher levels of vehicle pollution—simply because they’re surrounded by traffic throughout their daily routines. Just living near a major roadway can increase a person’s chance of developing asthma, especially for children who are exposed at an early age and aren’t able to fully develop their lung capacity. An ALA “State of the Air” report released this spring found that people of color are more than twice as likely as white people to live in counties with high particle and ozone pollution days, as well as unhealthy annual particle levels.

By comparison, EVs are veritable clean air dynamos. Because fully electric vehicles release no tailpipe emissions, they eliminate a wide range of contaminants, leading to vast improvements in air quality. Even when the electricity used to charge EVs comes from today’s conventional power mix, EVs are more emissions-friendly, producing less than half the emissions of comparable gas cars over their lifetime. Meanwhile, EVs charged with 100% renewable electricity—typically generated from wind and solar power—have ZERO direct or indirect emissions, making them a win-win for people’s health and for the climate. 

Even when the electricity used to charge EVs comes from today’s conventional power mix, EVs are more emissions-friendly.

In total, the recent ALA report found that emission reductions from EVs could prevent more than 93,000 asthma attacks, 6,300 premature deaths, and 416,000 lost workdays in 2050. In addition to bringing positive economic impacts and creating jobs, transitioning to 100% EV use would avoid climate impacts worth $113 billion in 2050. Although most of the benefits would come in big cities like Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco, the report notes that 18 states would reap public health benefits of at least $1 billion each.

Here’s the catch: these huge health and economic benefits will only be realized if 100% of passenger car sales are electric by 2040 and all sales of heavy-duty vehicles are electric by 2045. This means we need to rapidly transition to electric for everything from commuter cars and city buses to delivery vans and long-distance cargo trucks. In addition to choosing electric for our personal wheels, we need to support wider government efforts to adopt stricter vehicle emissions standards, build out the nationwide charging infrastructure, provide rebates for EV buyers (especially low-income residents), and invest in electric public transit (including school buses). “The benefits…are by no means automatic,” noted Will Barrett, the ALA’s director of clean air advocacy. “We need leadership, we need policies, we need investments in this transition to zero emissions vehicles at every level.”

Of course, going electric goes hand in hand with a rethinking of our wider mobility needs. The quickest pathway to blue skies—as the COVID lockdowns this spring clearly showed us—is to cut back on our vehicle use altogether. But when that’s not possible, driving electric is a sure bet for cleaning up our emissions act and helping all of our communities breathe easier. Start today by pledging to make your next car electric.