Car culture is changing—EVs are the new normal

September 28, 2022

This week’s blog is a firsthand account from the desk of Stuart Gardner, Electrify Your Ride Program Director. With over 10 years of auto industry experience and multiple cars and motorcycles, you could say he’s a “car guy.” 

My first car was a 1971 Volkeswagen Type III Fastback.  A lot has changed since then, but it sparked what has become a lifelong appreciation for all things automotive. This week is National Drive Electric Week, and as more and more Americans consider making their next car purchase electric (see Gen180’s brand new National Drive Electric Pledge campaign here), we thought it would be fun to take a tongue-in-cheek approach to the classically American automotive technological breakthroughs that brought us the electric car.

In the early 1900s, cars were started manually with a hand crank. The driver would turn a crank in the front of the car in order to start the internal combustion process of the engine.  Sometimes, the crank would bend, so a useful tool many drives carried was a hammer to bang it back into shape. I really miss those days. The electric starter ruined everything. 

Until 1914, the bodies and frames of cars were made of wood. Then the Dodge Brothers came along. Steel has since become the standard.

Rowing the boat, three on the tree, four on the floor. Manual transmissions are cool and connect the driver to the vehicle. Then in 1939 General Motors came along and introduced the “Hydra-Matic.” Today, manual transmissions make up only about 2.4% of new cars. Sure, today’s automatic transmissions are more responsive and shift faster than even the quickest manual, but I miss spilling my coffee while trying to drive and answer the phone and shift into third. 

The blast of hot air in the summer, you can see the heat rising up from the tarmac. Feeling my skin stick to the boiling hot surfaces of my seats. Can you believe some nut came around in the 1940s and introduced air conditioning in a car?  Ridiculous.

Did you know there isn’t a new car to be found in the US with a carburetor?  How am I supposed to tune this thing?  Sure, fuel injection is more efficient and prevents many of the issues carburetors have to deal with (altitude, flooding, hard starting, etc.), but what am I to do with all my wooden clothespins to prevent vapor lock? (motorhead alert)  

Seatbelts, airbags, anti-lock brakes, and the review camera. Can you believe all of these things are now REQUIRED by the government?  Absurd, right?  

Which brings us to cars powered by an electric motor.  They’re insanely fast, amazingly quiet (they can rumble loudly if you’re into that), and require nearly zero maintenance. But they are new. And while new may sometimes mean different, it doesn’t mean bad. Electric vehicles dramatically open the aperture of what’s possible, enabling designers to push the limits beyond what’s already been done with an internal combustion engine. Electric vehicles do not have a drive shaft, fuel tank, or transmission. This opens up all sorts of possibilities for interior passenger space, and of course “frunks.” Cool, right? 

And U.S. car companies are certainly taking notice. General Motors recently launched a marketing campaign, “EVs for everyone, everywhere,” which debuted during the kickoff of the NFL season this month. This complements the eight EV ads that aired during the 2022 Superbowl, not to mention the expectation that more than half of US car sales will be electric by 2030.

New GM spots w/ Fleetwood Mac music

The evolution of something as culturally beloved as the automobile may take time, but we don’t have to fear electric vehicles will kill American car culture. No one is taking away the cool classic cars of the past. We’re talking about new cars. We can embrace electric vehicles for how amazing they are in both design and performance. We can wax nostalgic when we think back to the hand crank, lack of air conditioning–and soon, oil changes.  

Car culture is changing. EVs are the new normal. Don’t fall behind on the trend—sign the Going Electric pledge.

— Stuart (a car guy)


I want to buy an EV… now what?

July 20, 2022

With many of us grappling with months of high prices at the pump, it’s no wonder that 36% of people recently polled by Consumer Reports said they plan to buy or lease an all-electric vehicle (EV). Hundreds of thousands of prospective EV owners have pledged to make their next car electric. If you’re ready to go electric today, after talking to an EV owner – what’s your first step?

1. Consider your driving habits

Do you live in an urban area where you routinely take short trips (the average daily commute is only around 30 miles) or will you need a vehicle with a greater range? This will impact what type of EV you’re looking for: an older EV model (typically with a smaller battery capacity) or a newer model with an extended range. (The Hyundai Ioniq 5 can go more than 300 miles on a single charge!)

2. Map out your accessibility to charging infrastructure

In the Consumer Reports poll, 61% of those responding they were not planning to get an EV cited charging logistics as a barrier, while 52% pointed to costs. Many EVs can charge using a common 110 volt electrical outlet (the same type of outlet you’d plug your toaster into), but it will take longer to charge the battery. Faster charging options cost more to install, but give greater certainty you’ll get into a car with a fully charged battery. 

Charging infrastructure now is widely available in many cities across the country in shopping centers and other areas where people tend to drive and leave their cars for long periods of time. More workplaces are even jumping on the charging infrastructure wagon to encourage employees who may want to return to the office. You can also have a Level 2 charger installed at home for even faster charge times—it runs on the same power as your dryer—but requires an electrician to install. Many dealers can help you find an experienced local electrician to help.

3. Check your insurance coverage

With any large, long-term purchase, you’ll want to protect your EV whether you are leasing it or outright buying it. Calling ahead to check auto insurance rates will give you a full picture of any potential changes in coverage amounts, deductibles, or other unanticipated costs. While you’re at it, confirm with your homeowners or renters insurance carrier of any changes that might occur to that policy should you install a charging system. 

4. Check for incentives to cash in on all of the benefits of EV ownership.

Many states offer their own financial incentives – in addition to the federal rebate – for EVs. Remember, the federal government also offers up to a $7500 rebate on most models to EV drivers when they purchase the vehicle – and that’s money that can go toward insurance, charging infrastructure, or buying a car with even more range. 

5. Review your past three months of electricity bills. 

While you’ll no longer be at the mercy of the world oil market prices, you’ll still need to fuel up your EV. Being aware of your current electricity rate will give you a sense of the long-term savings after the upfront installation costs. Also think of the time you’ll save not taking those trips to the gas station and charging up at home—that’s time and money you get back.

6. Plan your trip to the DMV. 

Most U.S. states treat electric car purchases no differently than a traditional fossil-fuel-powered purchase. Whether you get your car in or outside of the state you live in, the DMV of your home state will want the following information. Tip: if you buy from an auto dealer, they do all of this for you.

  • The vehicle’s title 
  • A record of the odometer mileage (if the vehicle is less than 10 years old).
  • A smog certification (check with your state – no tailpipe might mean no smog test)
  • Applicable state and EV fees and a use tax.

7. Start Shopping

It is a seller’s market for EVs right now with most models being very tough to come by, but that shouldn’t stop you from jumping into the test drive process. Start by contacting local dealerships to see if they carry the model or meet the criteria of the type of EV you’re looking for. If they don’t have a model currently on the lot, ask if they anticipate a delivery or get their recommendation for who to contact next. You can also search car sites like,, or to learn more about inventory in your area and where you’ll soon drive off with the EV vehicle of your dreams. 

8. Can’t get your hands on an EV? 

You can still sign the pledge to make your next car purchase electric and become an ambassador for electric vehicles to drive public adoption and bust misconceptions. Already signed it? Send the link to a friend (or teenager and soon-to-be-driver) who should join you. 

Remember, at the end of the day, an electric vehicle is still just a car—it’s just a better car that is more fun to drive, saves you money, and has zero tailpipe emissions.

Want more? Here are some excellent resources that won’t leave you driving a lemon.


Should I buy carbon offsets for my summer vacay?

June 22, 2022

After a grueling couple of years, that summer vacation you kept putting off is right around the corner.

Between thoughts of piña coladas and palm trees, a wave of guilt washes over you—how much environmental damage will that round-trip plane ticket cause?

You’re not alone in this thought. Businesses and consumers alike have embraced the carbon offset market in recent years as a way of canceling out environmentally-damaging activities like flying.

The process for buying these offsets as an individual is a breeze—websites like Cool Effect make estimating your planned emissions and purchasing equivalent offsets easier than kicking back on the beach.

But, when you look under the hood, problems with this market start to emerge. Offsets can be greatly exaggerated, allowing companies to greenwash their efforts by claiming “net zero” operations while still producing substantial emissions. In many cases, that money could be better spent elsewhere.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of carbon offset ethics, let’s take a step back to understand how they work.

Carbon Offsets 101

Carbon Offset Guide defines an offset as “a reduction in GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions – or an increase in carbon storage (e.g., through land restoration or the planting of trees) – that is used to compensate for emissions that occur elsewhere.”

It’s as simple as it sounds—your seat on a plane to Cancún represents a percentage of the flight’s total emissions, which is theoretically offset by a carbon-reducing activity initiated from your purchase.

Credit: The Guardian, Berger & Wyse

The more emissions you’re responsible for, the more offsets you need to buy. Bill Gates, who racks up emissions jetting around the world, has said that he spends “about $5 million every year to offset [his] family’s carbon footprint.”

While carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most well-known climate change culprit, it isn’t the only pollutant traded in these markets. 

Other compounds like methane and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) also have a warming effect. In order to compare apples to apples, each compound is calculated as a “CO2 equivalent” (CO2e). In simple terms, if a compound has triple the global warming potential (GWP) of carbon dioxide, it would have a CO2e of three.

Methane and CFCs have much more GWP than CO2—so why the incessant focus on carbon?

Mostly, it’s because CO2 makes up the overwhelming majority of GHG emissions. Other compounds have higher GWP, but their concentrations in the atmosphere are far lower.

The point is—emissions offsets are priced in terms of CO2 equivalents, even if CO2 isn’t the compound being offset.

Voluntary vs Cap and Trade Markets

There are two types of carbon offset markets—voluntary and cap and trade. When you’re thinking about purchasing credits to offset vacation emissions, you’re in the former camp. Just as it sounds – voluntary means that individuals and companies are proactively opting into choosing to offset their emissions debt. This practice can be both altruistic and a form of greenwashing by some companies looking to gain public goodwill.

Cap and trade works a bit differently. In order to incentivize emissions-reducing innovations, governments allot a total number of metric tons of CO2e that each company within an industry is allowed to emit each year. Companies that stay under this cap can sell their excess emissions capacity to others whose operations put them over the limit.

With each passing year, the cap gets lower and lower until it eventually hits zero. The idea is that this scheme gives companies time to adjust their operations to a net-zero world, with innovative companies being rewarded in the meantime. Cap and trade is a mandatory policy lever that more than a dozen U.S. states participate in to meet their climate goals.

And some companies, like Tesla (ever heard of it?), have cashed in.

In the first quarter of 2021, Tesla generated an eye-popping $518 million in emissions credit revenue, representing nearly all of its profit for the quarter. As an automaker, the company receives credits that it doesn’t use, since it exclusively produces electric vehicles (EVs). It sells those credits to combustion-engine producers that need more than their allotted share to stay under the cap.

This all sounds good on paper. Tesla is doing the environment a favor by mass-producing EVs, and is rewarded with a double advantage—its competitors lose money from purchasing credits, and that cash goes directly into Tesla’s pocket. I imagine there’ve been many curse words directed towards Elon in Detroit boardrooms.

So, what’s the issue?

While offsets may work relatively well in the auto market, credits sold from other sources—especially protected forests—are more dubious.

Not all credits are created equal

Many assert that offsets have rightly hastened the transition to an EV future. But the question becomes thornier when offsets in the form of forest protections are sold.

Municipalities across the U.S. have their eye on the pot of money offsets represent. Michigan has already gotten into the game.

The state anticipates generating 10 million credits via forest protections over the next decade, creating a windfall for its government. The problem is, its forest managers don’t expect any change in how the land is managed as a result of the credits. There will be no reduction in timber harvesting and no increase in protected areas.

So, if management of the forests isn’t changing as a result of the credits sold, have the credits actually done anything to reduce GHG emissions?

Welcome to the problem of additionality. An offset is considered ‘additional’ if its purchase creates an environmental benefit that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. So, credits sold in the name of protecting a forest that’s already protected wouldn’t meet this criterion. States like Michigan assert that, in the absence of the revenue generated from selling offsets, timber harvests would drastically increase. Upon closer examination, this claim seems suspicious.

Forest management is a delicate exercise. Competing interests such as ecological protection, timber harvesting, recreation, and wildfire management all need to be balanced, and it isn’t easy to drastically increase or reduce harvesting quotas without knock-on effects.

And additionality isn’t the only cause for concern. Permanence is the second pillar of a high-quality carbon credit—it refers to the likelihood that the offset-induced carbon reductions will last forever, or at least a really long time.

In the case of forests, this is a precarious assertion. Just last year, the Bootleg Fire in Oregon burned nearly 400,000 acres, wiping out a fifth of forests set aside for offsets. Purchasers of those offsets were promised a one-hundred-year survival.

With the majority of carbon offsets in the U.S. being designated as “Improved Forest Management,” additionality and permanence concerns cast doubt on the future of the market.

Keep it local for a greater impact

If it’s not clear by now, the carbon offset market has a long way to go to become sufficiently transparent and reliable. It’s a good concept, but needs more robust enforcement.

In the meantime, there are better ways to reduce your footprint rather than purchasing carbon offsets:

  1. Instead of flying, take a train to your destination, if possible. Travel by train cuts your carbon footprint in half versus flying. (Author’s note: The problem is, there aren’t many trains to island destinations).
  2. Better yet, calculate the cost of offsetting your emissions using a calculator like Cool Effect. Once you have a total cost, donate that money to a local environmental initiative. This way, you can actually see a tangible climate benefit from your cash.
  3. Put that money towards savings for an EV or solar panel for your house. Switching to renewable energy sources is one of the most high-impact behaviors individuals can take to battle climate change.

This is all to say that navigating the carbon offset market is murky right now. But, there are a number of nonprofit groups, businesses, and individuals working to make it clearer for the millions of altruistic individuals and companies that want to make good on their intentions for the planet. Funding climate mitigation projects thousands of miles away may make sense for some companies making large offset purchases. In the meantime, individuals can make the biggest difference to minimize their carbon footprint through local choices made every day about where to eat, what to buy, or the types of transportation to use.

By keeping your climate impact local, you can inspire others and see a tangible benefit from your actions. Until carbon offset markets have matured, this is your best bet for minimizing your carbon footprint and inspiring action in others.


When Should I Buy an EV?

December 1, 2021

This post was written by Matt Turner, Creative Manager at Generation180

When we got our first electric vehicle (a used 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf) two years ago, my family, friends, and neighbors became curious. Many began asking me if they should buy an EV. Now, as EVs have quickly become more mainstream and the number of available models has skyrocketed, the question changed from if they should buy an EV to when? Is the price at the right point now, or should I wait a couple of years? Are there enough models to choose from that fit my lifestyle? Is it hard to find a place to charge?

Maybe you have a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) car that works fine…for now. But within a year or two, maybe you expect to be needing a new (or new to you) car. Should it be an EV? Does it make sense to swap my ICE car a little early to begin saving money now? When do I pull (or plug in) the plug? 

In this post, I share my decision-making process — one you can follow to help you make the right decision at the right time that makes sense for you. Buying any vehicle is a big decision with lots of variables and nuance, but hopefully, I can help you get pretty close. 

For the sake of simplicity, whenever I mention an EV, I will only be discussing Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and not Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), unless I specifically call them out. 

After studying the many questions Generation180 gets around EVs, and from lots of personal conversations I’ve had, it seems to me that there are two main determining factors to see if now is the time to buy an EV:

1. Practicality: Can I do the same things with an EV that I usually do with my ICE vehicle?
2. Cost: Can I afford the initial cost, and will I save money compared to an ICE vehicle?

Note: each section contains a “short answer” and a “long answer”. If the short answer gives you all you need, feel free to move on. Or if you want a little more detail, check out the long answer. Each section has a “the bottom line” at the end to give a quick summary.


The fact of the matter is: EVs are cars just like traditional ICE vehicles, but with a different (and better) way of moving from place to place. Manufacturers know what Americans’ needs are, and they are meeting them. It seems most EV models coming out are mid-sized SUVs, and a mid-sized SUV just so happens to be the best-selling non-truck vehicle in America so far this year. 


The second most popular question I get about EVs is “What’s the range?”—we’ll get to the most popular one later.

The short answer:
It’s probably more range than you need. The average driver drives only 39 miles round trip per day. Considering there isn’t a single new battery electric vehicle available that has less than 110 miles of range (and the majority have more than 250), it’s safe to say no matter what new EV you get, most people will have enough range to do their daily driving. 

The long answer:
The average range doesn’t work for everyone, so let’s discuss some more specifics. Especially in rural areas, the miles driven are higher. In states like Wyoming, the average daily drive is the highest in the nation at 65 miles per day. However, even the smallest range EV will have nearly double the needed range.

What about long-distance commuters? There are at least 26 BEV models available in the U.S. right now, and 22 of them have more than 200 miles of range standard, and they offer as high a range as more than 400.

The bottom line:
If your daily commute is within 200 miles roundtrip, it’s very easy to find an EV that has enough range as your daily driver without the need to charge during trips.


Speaking of charging, it goes hand in hand with the range conversation. Most EV owners charge at home (81% at home, 7% at work, and the rest at public chargers). Think of charging your EV as you charge your phone. By and large, most of us charge our phones at home overnight, but at times you may want to plug it in somewhere away from the house. EV charging is like that. So what does charging look like with an EV?

The short answer:
Just like there are three main types of gasoline available at the pump, there are three main types of charging available for EVs. Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 (being the fastest). Charging at home is either Level 1—plugging into a standard wall outlet—and gets you 4-5 miles per hour, or Level 2—think of a dryer or stove plug—and gets you 25-75 miles per hour. Level 3 chargers are usually the ones you see out in public and can get you as fast as 180-300 miles per hour depending on the charger and the car.

The long answer:
Level 1 charging is the cheapest way to get started charging your EV. Every car comes with a cord that you plug directly into any standard wall outlet in your home. While slow, it still covers what most people drive on a daily basis. For example: if you drive 30 miles per day, plug in your car when getting home at 6:00 PM, and unplug it when you leave for the day at 7:00 AM, you still charge at least 44 miles.

Most Level 2 chargers can be installed in your home for around $1,200. This price can be reduced as many states and localities offer hundreds of dollars in rebates when installing.  The convenience of being able to more quickly charge your car can make this install worth it. Many Level 2 chargers also have capabilities for more advanced charging schedules and energy monitoring to see how much money it’s costing to fill up. While I used a standard Level 1 charger for my EV for months without issue, I highly recommend getting a Level 2 charger installed if possible.

Both Level 2 and Level 3 chargers are usually what you will see in public charging areas. Some of these are free, and some cost money to use. There are a number of different companies that offer the services, and you usually need to download an app to your phone to use the chargers. Like gasoline prices, the cost to use varies depending on location and service provider. The one thing you can count on is that if the charger isn’t free, then it will likely cost more to charge at a public station than at your home.

One nice thing about charging stations around town is they are often installed at places your car will be parked at for some time like shopping centers, restaurants, and grocery stores. While on road trips you can find charging stations at popular hotels to charge overnight, at national parks, and more and more, large gas stations are installing EV chargers. Both Apple Maps and Google Maps show electric vehicle charging stations within their route planning, and there is a growing movement of smart planning options to help you find charging stations while you stop for lunch or to stretch your legs.

The bottom line:
You’ll do the vast majority of your charging at home, which is more convenient than having to go to the gas station. If you do need to charge, the network is large and growing, and there are tons of resources to make it easier.

Model availability

So now you’re thinking “All of the above is fine and dandy, Matt, but are there any EV models that actually do what I need them to? I have kids, a dog, and we go mountain biking on weekends an hour away. Is there an EV that lets me do that?”

The short answer:
Probably. Check out the list of currently available models to find the features you need. But most EVs available today are SUVs with hundreds of miles of range. I personally know a few families who fit the above description and love their EV. I have three kids myself, and we love our EV too.

The long answer:
Probably. When thinking about what car to purchase, it’s important to think about needs. What do you most need your car to do? Many EV households still maintain one gasoline-powered vehicle and drive their EV 70% of the time. This is probably the most difficult question to answer as every person’s lifestyle has its own unique needs. To help illustrate the potential of EVs, I’ll lay out a few lifestyle examples below.

Frugal local commuter. I live really close to my work, grocery store, and favorite restaurants. I probably drive 10 miles a day and love to take my dog to the local dog park and enjoy my city. On the weekends I might go to the next town over to visit a friend or family member.

What EV works for me? Basically any of them. If this describes something close to your life then your only real decision is what style you like and what your price point is.

Outdoorsy couple: The local commute isn’t what concerns us, we need to make sure our car can get us an hour out of town and back with a trunk full of camping gear and our mountain bikes in tow.

What EV works for me? More and more every day. Look at the Hyundai Kona EV, Volkswagen ID.4, and the Ford Mustang Mach-E. These have hundreds of miles of range, roof racks and trailer hitches for equipment, and space in the trunk for more gear.

Family with 3 kids: It’s not camping gear I’m hauling, it’s three kids in car seats. Please tell me there is an EV with a third row!

What EV works for me? The Chrysler Pacifica PHEV, Tesla Model Y, and Tesla Model X. Third-row EVs are currently limited but still available, and next year and the following, a slew of third-row EVs will hit the market.

Personally, my family has three kids, all in car seats, and we do 80% of our driving in a 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf that has 85 miles of range. It’s not uncommon for the five of us to go to the grocery store and still fit an overflowing diaper bag and a trunk full of groceries comfortably enough. When you weigh in what you actually need from a vehicle, often you come to different conclusions than what the manufacturers are trying to upsell you.

The bottom line:
Especially in two-car households, there is an EV model that fits just about everyone’s needs. List out your needs and see how an EV can fill them.

Bonus: Lifetime emissions

This question is one I hear a lot. Given the materials needed to manufacture electric vehicle components, and the fact that many electrical grids in America are still majoritively powered by natural gas, do EVs actually have a lower carbon footprint?

I won’t get into a “long answer” here as this topic warrants its own article. But the short answer is:  yes. From cradle to grave, electric vehicles are better for the environment than conventional cars everywhere.

Three separate, independent, high-quality studies have shown that even if you take into consideration all lifecycle stages of an EV, including vehicle production (extraction of raw materials, processing, assembly, painting, etc.), vehicle use (driving, charging, maintenance, etc.), and end-of-life (re-use, recycling, disposal to landfills, etc.), electric vehicles, hands down, are better for the environment and produce far fewer emissions than ICE vehicles.


When we discuss costs, it’s helpful to think in terms of the total cost of ownership over time.  That just means that over the course of the time that I will own the car, will it cost me more, or less money than a comparable ICE vehicle would’ve cost me. 

To figure this out, let’s start with the initial investment. The fact is that many EVs have an initial sticker price that is higher than a comparable ICE vehicle—which is a big deal for most of us. For example, the most popular non-truck vehicle of 2021 so far is the Toyota RAV4 which has a starting price of $26,350. A comparable EV is the Hyundai Kona Electric which has a starting price of $34,000. That’s a $7,650 price difference.

But those numbers are a bit deceiving when we think about the total cost of ownership. Overall, you will spend less money when owning an EV than an ICE vehicle. Let’s dive into why.

Tax incentives

The short answer:
Most new EVs on the market today qualify for a federal tax credit of up to  $7,500. This generally brings the cost of a new EV in line with a traditional ICE vehicle.

The long answer:
Once you file your taxes, you can use the $7,500 federal tax credit towards reducing your tax bill. In the above examples I gave, this immediately brings the EV and ICE vehicles to an almost identical price point. And even better, it looks like that tax incentive may be increased up to $12,500 next year, which would put those EVs at around $4,500 less than their ICE counterparts.

On top of federal incentives, take a look at state incentives for EVs where you live. Some states like California and New York offer grants and rebates from $500-$5000 depending on the model. As more and more states adopt friendlier EV policies, we should see more states adopt more incentives.

The bottom line: tax incentives often bring the upfront cost of an EV to a similar (or cheaper) price point as an ICE car.

Filling Up

This is by far the most common question I get: “How much does it cost to charge?” Just like with ICE vehicles, this varies depending on the model, how much you drive, and how much you pay for electricity.

The short answer:
One simple way to suss this out is to compare the cost of a gallon of gasoline to a similar amount of energy you get from electricity (called an e-gallon). In Virginia, I spend about $1.00 per “e-gallon” at the time of this article. Compare that to the gas station near my house which is currently selling gasoline at $3.19 per gallon—more than three times as much.

That’s a very generalized figure, and it varies from state to state, but feel free to try it out here. If that number is as detailed as you need, skip down to the next section. But if you’re interested in figuring out exactly how much driving an EV would cost/save you, I’ll lay out a (hopefully) simple illustration here.

The long answer:
To compare appropriately, I’ll use the two vehicles I mentioned earlier, and some current US averages on gas and electricity costs. I’m also assuming you’re charging at home like the vast majority of EV owners do.

U.S. Average miles driven per year: 14,263
2021 Toyota RAV4 efficiency: 30mpg
U.S. Average price per gallon of gasoline: $3.29
2021 Hyundai Kona EV efficiency: 2.7 kilowatthours (kWh)/mile
U.S. Average price per kilowatthour (kWh): $0.14

ICE Driver: I drive my Toyota RAV4 14,263 miles per year and get 30 miles per gallon. It costs me $3.29 per gallon of gasoline, and so I spend $1,564.18 on gasoline for the year. (14,263/30) * 3.29 = $1,564.18

EV Driver: I drive my Hyundai Kona EV 14,263 miles per year and use 2.7 kWh of electricity per mile driven. It costs me $.14 cents per kWh, and so I spend $739.56 on electricity for the year. That’s more than 50% cheaper than driving an ICE vehicle. (14,263/2.7) * 0.14 = $739.56

This equation gets even better if your utility has a time-of-use rate that lets you pay cheaper rates when charging on non-peak times. For example, I schedule my electric car to charge from 12:00 AM to 5:00 AM when electricity is only 7.3 cents per kWh. Meaning driving 14,263 miles only costs me $359.03 compared to more than $1,500 in one of the most fuel-efficient ICE vehicles on the market.

The bottom line:
EVs are far cheaper to drive on a daily basis; conservatively ½ as much and as little as a ¼ as much.


Let’s move on to normal wear and tear costs. You may know that EVs have far fewer moving parts than ICE vehicles, which is a great thing when it comes to maintenance costs (a Chevy Bolt, for example, has 80% fewer moving parts than a comparable ICE vehicle). More moving parts means more wear and tear. EVs also have no exhaust system, less need for cooling, less wear on braking, and no need for oil changes, fan belts, timing belts, head gaskets, spark plugs, etc. The list goes on.

The short answer:
EVs can save owners $4,600 in maintenance costs over the life of the vehicle. In general, most of the more expensive repairs for cars happen at around the 5-year-mark, so that’s where you will really begin to avoid potential repair costs.

The long answer:

There aren’t zero repair costs for an EV, of course. Like an ICE vehicle, you still have a heating and air conditioning system, tires, and suspension components, but those are the same to maintain as an ICE vehicle.

There are two main things an EV has that an ICE vehicle doesn’t: an electric motor and a large battery. How much do they cost to repair? The good news is that while an electric motor is expensive to fully replace ($6k-$9k), it almost always outlasts the life of the vehicle and lasts much longer than a traditional internal combustion engine. It’s not something you’ll need to worry about.

Replacing an EV battery outright could cost you $5,500 (about the same price as replacing an engine in a midrange gasoline vehicle). EV battery warranties are as generous as eight years and 100,000 miles. Even if there was an issue with the battery, they don’t usually need to be fully replaced. Unlike gasoline engines that can unexpectedly blow a gasket and leave you stranded on the side of the road, an EV battery simply degrades over time. So after 10 years, your EV’s range may be reduced from say, 300 miles to 270 miles — still more than most people will need on a daily basis.

The bottom line:
Over the course of the vehicle’s life, EVs can cost $,4600 less to maintain. Even if you don’t own the vehicle that long, it still costs less to maintain than an ICE vehicle.

Next Steps:

We’ve covered the main things you need to know to help you determine if you should purchase an EV or not. Now use this handy decision tree we made to determine if it makes sense for you.


NDEW 2021: Electric School Buses: Communities in the Driver’s Seat

October 1, 2021

This live event occurred on October 1, 2021 as part of Generation180’s event series celebrating National Drive Electric Week.

Half a million school buses are in use in the United States, most of them running on diesel. For the sake of the 20 million children who ride the bus each day, school buses need to be at the forefront of transportation electrification. In this event, we heard directly from those who are advocating to make the switch:


Tish Tablan: Hello, everyone, my name is Tish Tablan. I’m a program director at Generation180, and I’m excited to be your event host today. We’re glad to have you join us today for National Drive Electric Week. Generation180 has been hosting an event each day of this week. And I’m honored to get to wrap up the series with today’s topic: Electric school buses, communities in the driver’s seat. Each day, 25 million students ride school buses, which are mostly loud, polluting diesel buses that are harmful to the health of children and communities. Parents, students and community members are leading the charge to electrify the school buses. And today we’ll get to hear from two of those community leaders who are sparking change in Phoenix, Arizona, which is known for having some of the worst air pollution in the country. And in Miami, Florida, which houses the fourth largest school district in the country. So we’re glad to have you with us today. So you can join us and hear their stories.

Before we get started, I will share a few reminders. All attendees are already muted with video turned off. If you have any questions, we will answer them at the end. But please put your questions in the Q&A box instead of the chat, and we will have a recording available after the session and you’ll be receiving an email with a link. So let’s get started. Next slide, please.

So today’s event is brought to you by 3 non-profit organizations working together on the electrification of school buses, Generation180 works to inspire and equip people to take clean energy action in their homes and communities. We focus on helping school districts access the benefits of clean energy technologies such as solar and electric buses. We empower school community leaders to be champions for clean energy and support other school districts to make the switch. Our partner, World Resources Institute, is a global research organization that develops practical solutions that improve people’s lives and protect nature. We have with us today WRIs director of the Electric School Bus Initiative, which aims to make healthier and more equitable electric mobility the new normal for an entire generation by electrifying the entire US fleet of 480,000 school buses by 2030. It’s an ambitious vision. CHISPA envisions an inclusive and reflective democracy where the Latinx community is rights to clean air and water. Healthy neighborhoods and a safe climate are well protected for generations to come, and we’ll be hearing more today from our panelists about the success of their Clean Rides for Healthy Ninos campaign in Arizona. So thank you to my colleagues at Generation180, WRI, and CHISPA for your support and putting together a fantastic event today. Next slide.

I now have the pleasure of introducing our amazing speakers today. Sue Gander, the director of the electric school bus initiative at WRI, will be playing a dual role of both presenter and co-host today. So prior to WRI, she was the managing director of policy for the electrification coalition, where she worked to accelerate the adoption of EVs at scale. So these previous work also includes directing the energy infrastructure and environment division at the National Governors Association and serving at the US EPA center for clean air policy. Sue is also the founder and chair of the Women of electric vehicles DC chapter. So it’s my pleasure to hand it over to Sue now, who will introduce our other two panelists? 

The ‘Going Electric’ pledge:

“I want to help accelerate the transition to 100% clean energy. I pledge to make the next vehicle I purchase an electric car.”

Sue Gander: Great thank you so much, Tish. It’s great to be with all of you to help celebrate National Drive Electric Week, and we’re looking forward to the day where every week, every day when we drive, we’re driving electric. And school buses are a really important part of driving electric in, particularly because kids can’t drive. So we need to make sure that what they ride in is as safe as healthy as possible and really thrilled to introduce you to the two folks on the ground that are helping make this happen. Amazing leaders in this space. So we’re going to hear from both Masavi Perea today, as well as Michelle Drucker. Let me just say a little bit about them. Normally, I don’t give a full bio of speakers, but they are both such amazing people. I really think you’ll appreciate what they have to say, even more by getting to know them a little bit.

So Masavi Perea is the organizing director for CHISPA Arizona. For the last five years, he’s been building coalitions across Arizona. It’s a program of the League of Conservation Voters. It’s growing Latinx voices, political power and civic engagement for a cleaner future in Arizona. He helped launch the Clean Buses for Healthy Nino’s campaign in Arizona, and as Tish mentioned, it’s a state with really poor air quality. It’s the fifth-worst air pollution in the country. Before this role, Masavi was an organizer with the roofers union and a painters union. And in those roles as a labor rights activist, he helped establish a Workers’ Center in Phoenix in the Phoenix area. He’s originally from Chihuahua Mexico, which if folks know it’s the land of the indigenous Murray people and he’s been involved in immigrants rights movements from early on. Really important personal statement here. Masavi believes that working together with those who have been in the front lines and organizing our communities from the base are the most effective ways to positively impact individuals, families, neighborhoods, communities and our Mother Earth. And you’ll get to hear him say more of that for himself, but really delighted to hear from him and hear about the work going on in Arizona. And, you know, just really excited about the work that CHISPA has been doing in this area.

We’re also going to hear from Michelle Drucker. She’s a PTSA leader with the miami-dade County Public schools, and I’ve gotten to know Michelle through her work with DuVernay in advancing their efforts there. She serves as the vice chair for the 100% clean energy task force at the miami-dade County Public schools. It’s the fourth largest school district in the country, so again, a really large area that’s going to have a lot of impact overall, I guess. In her day job, she serves as assistant Chief Counsel for the Department of Homeland security, where she’s worked for over 2 decades, and she found her passion for sustainability. She’s been recognized for sustainability efforts within that department. And has turned her vision there and her passion there to working towards sustainability at her children’s school. So she’s a PTSA leader at the mass Academy High School, and she launched the green champions program for students and parents, and they’re working towards making the school a net zero energy and net zero waste school. Their advocacy has spread across the city and led to the district passing an ambitious resolution, committing to 100% clean energy by 2030. So really inspiring leaders, and I think they demonstrate how small efforts lead to larger efforts lead to a movement, and we want to see that movement succeed across the country. So excited to have them with us. We’re going to get into a little bit of a panel discussion with them and then have some time for Q&A.

But I’m going to start off with just a quick set of slides to kind of level set everyone on where are we with the electrification of the school bus fleet so we can kind of get that out of the way. So thank you for teeing up those slides here. So why? Why do we care about electrifying the school bus fleet? We heard about the die, very ambitious goal, and one reason is that we can the technologies here today. We’re already meeting the needs of students and school districts. !invisible!, through buses that are being deployed across the country, but it’s also a matter of we can’t not do this if we want to address the need to decarbonize the transportation sector, also improve air quality health outcomes, provide resiliency opportunities, integrate renewable support economic development in an industry that’s very US focus. This is our answer here and we have the opportunity to do it. So we’re excited to move quickly with a sense of urgency that entails. The next thing I really want to lean in on is the focus on equity at debris. We’re sending our work on equity. And we encourage others to think about this as well. We know that kids everywhere are being exposed to pollution. That’s affecting their health and their cognitive abilities. But we also know that kids from disadvantaged communities and communities of color are more likely to ride the bus. And and, you know, therefore or are more exposed to these damaging impacts than their counterparts. And those same kids also face underlying conditions that affect their ability to learn and to thrive. So we’re sending X-ray to help ensure that the benefits of electric school buses are attainable and accessible to those that are facing the greatest challenges. And by doing that, we’re creating benefits for everyone. So electric school buses, there are great technology, they have multiple benefits, they’re here today. What’s standing in the way? There’s a number of challenges out there. We know that there are higher costs up front. The current price tag is approximately three times that of a diesel bus. We need to work on getting that lower and making them more accessible. We know that infrastructure development takes time, takes money. We need to have the interconnections and the availability for the buses to be able to charge up. We know this is a new technology on. Most school districts are not familiar with it. So we need to make them comfortable, help them get comfortable and have them share out their experiences. We know also that there’s a number of technology myths that persist. One of the largest ones that we continually hear about is that school buses don’t have the range to meet the needs of school districts. But what we’ve seen in the data has shown is that the current buses fulfill the needs of about 90% of the routes that are out there in terms of the ability to travel long distances. So getting information about those myths and demystifying this technology is really critical. And we also need to scale quickly if we really want to address the urgency of air quality and the urgency of climate change. And that’s going to take a lot of effort to move to that move to that point of where we want to be in 2030. Overall, these challenges do impact disadvantaged communities disproportionately. So again, it circles back to the opportunity and the need to focus on equitable solutions. So where are we now? We’re just getting started. We’re kind of out of the depot, but we have a ways to go to reach what we hope is a tipping point for electric school buses in the next five years. So we have about 100 electric school buses that have been procured, delivered or an operation in the US out of that fleet of 480,000. So it’s less than 1% If you’re kind of doing the math at home. But we also know that there’s at least one electric school bus in 33 states, so we’re showing that it works. We’re showing that there’s demand and there’s interest across the country. They are concentrated in more of a handful of school districts. Of the 13,000 school districts that are out there, about 300 of them have 2% of all the, Ah, there’s 2% of those have the electric school buses. So, you know, that’s a relatively small number. There they are in areas that are most vulnerable. And so that’s good to see that there’s a connection there, and they’re largely in suburban areas, but kind of spread across the kind of towns and rural areas. So again, we’re seeing that there’s, you know, there’s interest, there’s demand and there’s applicability across all sorts of geographies as well. So what’s on the horizon? One of the big topics going on is the funding that is, we hope, going to be available. I know it’s, you know, up and down on an hourly and a daily basis at the federal level. But we’re pleased that the infrastructure investment and Jobs Act has included two funding streams to support electric school buses. One is a $2.5 billion pot over five years for zero emission buses only, and one is another one that includes also low emission school buses. And of course, we’re hopeful that most of that goes towards zero emission buses. There’s also a current program that just got released yesterday that I want to flag for folks. It’s under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. There’s a $7 million pot coming out through EPA to fund electric school buses only, and it’s targeted towards underserved communities with air quality and health challenges. So really encourage folks to look into that. The deadline is in November to get those applications in. It’s a pretty easy as we understand application, it’s a two page application, so we really encourage people to look at that. It’s a limited number of buses. It’s going to be about, you know, maybe in a couple of dozens of buses, but it’s a $300,000 opportunity per bus. And then, of course, there’s also opportunities for additional allocations of VW settlement funds. There’s utility programs for vehicles and infrastructure and a host of state and federal regulatory efforts. So there’s a lot of action happening at all levels of policy making, and that’s a great platform for the community action that’s happening and that we’re going to hear about from our two panelists. So turn it back over to you, Tish, to lead us into that discussion. 

TT: Great, thank you so much, sue, for setting up the landscape of where we are in the country with advancing electric school buses and sharing some resources we should know about. So it sounds like we have a long way to go with a number of buses we have on the road. So I hope this gives our audience a real sense of just how ahead of the curve, our two panelists are here today and working with their communities. They are true leaders and I’m excited to dive in and have them tell us more about their campaigns. So Masavi, can you turn your video back on, please? And michelle? Michelle, why don’t we start with you? It would be great if you can just give us an overview of your community’s electric school bus campaign. Just describe the school district’s commitments and the progress and the implementation that’s been achieved. And then also circle back to how did it get started. You know, I think this is a great story to tell, and we’d love to hear it.

Michelle Drucker: OK, thank you. And I am a little late to get here because we were just finishing up 100% clean energy task force meeting where we talked about those funds that you mentioned as well, too. So and that really all got started because of an initiative within one school. We have a program at a Marine Stewardship and stem theme school in Miami called mast academy, and we were seeking Florida Department of Florida Department of Environmental Protection green Apple school status. And one of the recommendations is a no idling campaign. And we have a covered loading zone and the emissions were quite bad. So the student went out. She measured the emissions. She was shocked to see that the emissions were 10 times higher than the EPA’S recommended, I guess 500 parts per million just for CO2. And it was a simple little syringe full. It wasn’t even sophisticated equipment, and she won a statewide science fair competition. Based on that, she brought the data to her school board member. At this time, we were learning about the Volkswagen settlement funds and we showed up at a school board meeting and Holly presented her information. I mean, it was just three minutes. That’s all you get to speak, and we said, hey, please, let’s pursue this funding. The air quality is a big problem at our school with the buses and the first go around, there was a lot of resistance. We’re really not interested, but we just kept coming back. And we just applied that pressure because how can you say no to free? And it is hard when you’re dealing with old habits and inertia and things like that. And you have a bus, there’s a bus driver shortage. I mean, it feels a little bit tone deaf, I guess, to say, hey, we want electric buses when they can’t even get drivers, but it’s been well received and we actually showed up a second time we had the bus drivers union also show up. The second time to make sure they did apply for these funds, and they said, we really want this as well for our drivers because Lifetime drivers get COPD and terrible lung conditions. And the other benefit of these buses is they’re quiet. So we brought an electric bus down to Miami to really just put that final nail in to make sure that they did apply for this money. So miami-dade schools, not every district apply, but miami-dade schools applied for 50 buses. They’re getting $11.6 million over a four years. It’ll be 10 buses, 10, 15, 15 out of a fleet of 1,200. So we are looking to scale up the electrification faster because our kids are very motivated to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030, as urged by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on climate change. So that really motivates our students and our families, and that’s how we ended up with in front of you guys today. So thank you for wanting to hear about our story.

TT: Yeah, Michelle, that’s so exciting to hear about the students start the spark to this campaign and really having students be the ones to speak up and measure emissions in your own kind of parking area where the emissions are just collecting underneath that canopy. And I love that you got bus driver voices included as well, but they want to advocate for their own health. And in case you missed that, Michelle was mentioning she was late because her job, her volunteer had as an advocate never ends. She was just coming from her 100% clean energy task force meeting where they were talking about this. So it truly gives you a sense of how dedicated they are to this. This is I have they’re wearing all the time, Masavi. I’d love to hear your story as well. If you can give us an overview of how your campaign got started and where you are and what kind of progress you’ve made with electric school buses in the Phoenix area.

Masavi Perea: Yes, absolutely. Thank you. Good morning and good afternoon, everyone. Alex is nice to hear from you. You know, I’m very excited because of this conversation, because when we started almost five years ago, you know, we didn’t know how to start. We were connecting environmental justice with our community. And then we learn about the bushwhacking sentiment and we saw that as an opportunity. So after many conversations with the community, you know, we kind of agree that as they reported before, right in Phoenix, Maricopa county, the air quality it is, it is horrible. So we were like, OK, how can we work in this? So and then we say, OK, let’s start with the youngest. Let’s start with the most vulnerable community, which are the kids. So that’s when we start looking for options, and that’s when we start that clean buses for healthy meals. And it was a lot of conversations with community with parents, but also very interesting because when we were talking with electoral officials, they were like, OK, that’s a good idea. And then when we were talking with administrators a little bit, when Michelle said they were like, no, we have many other priorities, right? So for me, like this conversation this week, this is kind of like a dream because four or five years ago, we never thought that this could be possible. You know, actually, the background picture that I have here is that when I met the first electric bus and I have my two kids there, right? This one of the reasons why I’m doing this too, right? But I mean, they were very excited because they were like that. I don’t think that that ever that’s going to happen to have electric bus, you know, but now it’s a reality. So, so we did a study with many conversations like so was one issue that in Maricopa is affecting our community. The latinx community or Niños or kids is asthma in. There are rates in Maricopa County that are in some places and some school districts. We have up to 40% of kids are affected by asthma. And of course, those kids are brown and black. Right so that was an excuse to continue organizing. And now we are very happy, right? As the report bus at the beginning of this conversation, right? There are some electric buses around. And in Arizona, we have two electric buses running right now and then we have more coming up. And the good news is that our other school district there start calling us like, hey, how can we work together? You know, after four years of knocking doors that no one was listening of, you know, being on all these very interesting school district meetings, right? But the most important to have parents like buying the idea and fighting for environmental justice. 

SG: I just wanted to actually pick up on that a little bit. Masavi, and, you know, through your experience and in, you know, just so glad that you kept up the fight, right to be able to be here when hopefully we’re on the precipice of getting additional funding that you and others can use? Do you have any advice for the parents, the advocates that are out there listening to this? What can they do if they want to get something started in their community or want to help support the movement that might be started in a community just in any kind of tidbits or advice you want to offer?

MP: So that’s a very good question. Thank you for that. Well, the base is to start a conversation with the community, right? Our community is very noticeable. You know, we are very resilient, you know, but also we are very open to the change. We are very open to the challenge, right? So to have that conversation with the community, you know, and ask them, like, how do you think that we can get better? How how do you think that we can solve these issues? Right so participation, engagement and be very open? You know, I remember like a couple, a couple of moms, they used to ask me, hey, we can just put like a solar panel, one of these buses, and then it’s going to be electric. And I’m like, whoa, I love that it will be that easy. You know, so has to be like a process of education and also something very interesting. So as we know, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, right? There are many organizations who are already working and they have a lot of information. So we have to bring also the experts, right, because we choose Verizon, right? Let’s say that we are experts in community, right, engaging in community, but we are not experts in anything and in technology, but the technology is out there. So I think the eye opening the aha moments that we have us as an organization parents, but also elected officials and administrators, that was amazing to see like that all these technologies are already available, right? And of course, right. One of the conflicts at the beginning was a lack of resources. Right but I mean, also what we learned later is that the schools, they are going to be saving money. And most important, the health sector is going to save a lot of money too, right? Because our kids are going to be more healthy. And that is also something that pushes. I don’t know if the rest of the community right, but on the Latino community, when you start talking about your kids, you know, parents like, OK, now I’m listening, you know, and that was I think that was a very important moment in your campaign, and that’s something that I will recommend, right? Let’s talk about their kids are present and future kids.

SG: Yeah well, Michelle, I’m wondering maybe if you can add on to that with your experience and your advice to other parents, other students and folks that want to support them.

MD: So I can tell you that, honestly, following Holly’s model and she it was maybe a $10 syringe with a little tube and she measured emissions and go to your school board members, show up at your school board. There is so much data. Test scores have been shown to go up. There’s actually a Wall Street Journal article that they said poor English because they are measuring about almost an 8% improvement in English scores. Also, the buses are quieter and I think things like bullying and if a child’s in distress, you can hear the kids on the bus. I think it just creates a calmer experience for the children. They brought a bus down and the kids rode it and they loved it. The drivers love it. It’s just a win-win all around, and I would just go, talk to your school board member, say, hey, they’re doing this in Miami. There’s money out there. Why can’t we do this? What do you need from us to move this forward? One other thing we reached out to because we’re a STEM school and it’s in it, even though it’s a magnet, it’s a pretty affluent student population. We did reach out to the NAACP and a lot of their drivers. You know, a lot of these blue collar jobs are from that community. So it really resonated with them and getting that, getting that, that equity piece in there, it just makes the messaging. So much more palatable than, you know, kids that privileged kids saying, I want an electric bus. It just comes more powerfully when you include the whole community. And that wasn’t hard for us to do because there is an equity inclusion part with NAACP as well as you’ve got the CHISPA program as well. So everybody wants this. It’s just a matter of showing them that the political will is out there.

TT: I love that. That’s a great point, Michelle. I mean, really, this is a bunch of school buses benefit everyone. I think that’s such a compelling reason to transition to electric buses. And, you know, miami-dade County Public schools in particular, it’s the fourth largest school district in the country, with over 350,000 students. And you’re part of this big metropolitan area, you know, kind of tapping into what you’re saying about reaching out to other people and other partners. Can you talk a little bit more about how do you transform such a large district? There may be other folks and big districts out there, though, like how do I even start touching this? And it seem daunting, so you can add on to like, how do you start getting by? You know, you started with one student in a STEM Academy in your district, and it seems like it’s grown well beyond that. So how did you get from the one student and a couple of parents phase to a big district commitment, going 100% clean energy?

MD: You just keep showing up. Just be persistent. We live, we live here and down in Florida. We have the Everglades and the mother of the Everglades is a Marjory Stoneman Douglas. And she used to say, you know, be persistent when it counts. Just be a nuisance. Keep showing up. You know, pick your battles, don’t be in their face. But if you just keep showing up, it’s such a no brainer that someone is going to finally get traction. We did get news coverage as well. And we had a lot of kids that were interested. There’s just there is a lot of interest in there. You just need to ask the kids if we’ll show up to a school board meeting and I think you’ll get a lot of response.

SG: With that, so Masavi, I’m wondering if you can circle back or we can circle back a little bit to what you were seeing in your community and you mentioned the asthma rates, the high, high pollution. Is there anything that jumps to your mind in terms of specific stories that you heard or when you were talking with parents, you know how, how they kind of connected with you on that point? You know, just love to kind of bring it to life a little bit. 

MP: Sure I think something very important about environmental justice is that this field is very intersectional, right? So and there is a question here, right, about workers and organizers and how not to burnout, because at the beginning it was a very hard campaign like how we are going to start talking about that no one else talked before, right? Like like in. Right so like in Maricopa county, right? Like the movements were for immigration movement. Stop police brutality, jobs for that right? So how to bring this new field into this conversation? So I think that that was very important. But again, going back to the intersection, all right. I think to me by connecting with the health sector, right, that was very important. There is a one hospital in Phoenix, the Children’s Hospital. They have what they call asthma mobile, right? And they focus on and on, on areas where the Latino and Black community lives, right? And talking with these people that they are doing their job, their amazing job. They told me there were some schools that the kids have the rate on asthma. It was all the way to 80 percent, you know, so I was like, 10. Does you know so so I have to learn a little bit more like understanding of asthma and all that else, you know? So with that, I think we were able to put a sense of urgency into this, right? I love Michele story about what is happening in Florida, right? But I think something that we are very proud in Arizona, right? And this is with no competition or anything right? But we focus on the most. Well, details on the most vulnerable communities, right, like in our community, like with so Kai Wright and Phoenix union, right, those two districts, they are like probably 95% of brown and black kids, right? And we were able to accomplish that because we create a momentum, but also because the most important we create a sense of urgency. You know, when a lot of people is talking about climate change, right, they put a sense of urgency, but they put it like out there. If we talk about environmental justice, that our kids are getting sick and sicker every day, I think that’s when, when, when we push the needle, we, you know, and we put also fire into the people that need to do the work.

TT: Yeah I’m so glad that she was able to kind of capture this need and concern in the community. 80% asthma rate is shocking, and I’m trying to envision what you’re calling an asthma mobile like. Is that like a cart or something that drives around with just because the asthma rates are so high? That’s amazing. You know, this is such a, you know, important work. And Michelle and Masavi, it seems like it’s very personal for you to be able to dedicate so much time to this. Michelle, can I throw it to you? Like, do you have something that’s personally driving you to be part of this campaign or what kind of personally motivating for you about this work?

MD: Sure so I’m a lifelong Floridian, I’m a career public servant, I actually work for Homeland Security and I and I’m a mother of three, and I believe the biggest threat to the Homeland absolutely is this climate crisis. You know, I’ve seen I work on the Miami river and I can see the river rising year by year, and I feel I shouldn’t be able to observe this geological phenomenon with the naked eye. And 50 years, I’m 50 two, so I find it the place where I grew up. In Martin county, it’s the Indian River Lagoon. It has now a toxic green algae blooms that’s killing manatees. People’s pets are dying. I mean, these are the waterways that I enjoyed as a child. I want my children to have those experiences. They have terrible sargassum seaweed blooms. Now here down in Miami. I mean, just the environmental degradation is so fast and so frightening. And I think I had that aha moment actually with my agency, we created a Green Team. And there is a sustainability plan at the federal level. And that’s when I understood, oh, these are the most important things that we should be doing to reduce emissions because there’s so much alarmism, but not a lot of action items that people understand they can be involved in. So I just this one little anecdote. I remember listening to this recommendation to buy loose tea instead of tea bags to reduce your waste. And I thought, I don’t think tea bags are causing like the Arctic shelf to melt. I think we got to you got to find the things that are most important. So car emissions, actually, food waste is a huge one. Food waste and plant based diet. I didn’t know these things and you start learning and it’s scary. I know, 2021, 30 is around the corner that’s cut emissions 50% or it’s irreversible. That creates a sense of urgency and that I’m seeing it every day and. So, yeah, it’s a little bit my family is like, can we go a day without talking about climate change, mom? So it cuts both ways.

TT: Yes, I hear you. Yeah, that’s kind of amazing that you can sort of see climate change happening in real time out your window. That’s incredible. Masavi, how about you? Do you have kind of something personally motivating you to keep you going in this work?

MP: Well, I mean, absolutely right. And that’s why I choose this picture, right? Because when I showed my kids the electric bus, they were like, oh, so this is what you are talking about, you know, this is what. And then and then they are people that probably we are not going to see these buses in our timeline, but they have right and also right. I mean, other than I’m a father, I’m an uncle. You know, I’m a neighbor. You know, I’m going to be very soon, grandfather, you know, so. So I’m excited, right? For for all these changes. But I absolutely my family and my community, you know, try me to do my best and to make a change. And also, right, like the indigenous communities philosophy, they say that we need to leave this world better for the next generation. So if we are not, you know, if we don’t do that, we are not doing our job, we are not doing our responsibility.

SG: Yeah so you all have been amazingly successful, you know, because of all the hard work and the persistence and the great stories. Just if I was just wondering if there’s one or two things that jump out to you as like a particular barrier that you faced when you were, you know, pushing on the local school districts or facing, you know, resistance because we know this wasn’t just like, hey, you know, tell the story and everybody stands in line and and lines up to help. So is there a barrier or two that you want to speak to and kind of how, you know, take a step by step? Like, how did you how did you overcome that? Because we, you know, we talked about funding or infrastructure, you know, just the technology barriers, just anything that jumps out at you. And I don’t know Michelle, you want to go first. We’ll give Masavi a break and then we’ll go back to Masavi.

MD: I think you have to be a reliable source of information if you’re asking for things, so you do need to inform yourself on what resources are out there. You have to kind of know what’s happening with the buses at your school and how long, you know, maybe how long they’re idling or what kind of hazard is out there. I mean, just to school boards here from demanding parents all the time. And I think if you highlight like, OK, here’s a problem, but there’s a solution and we want to help you get to the solution. We want to make you guys the hero of the story. Not, not necessarily. They don’t want the parent to be a hero of the story. So you’ve got to really appeal. It is political relationship building is super important. You’ve got to be respectful, and you have to come with answers. So I think that that’s part of it. And there are answers out there like WRI has a great resource. And so I would just say, you know, educate yourself and then be persistent, be polite. And it’ll happen. It just you have to keep showing up.

SG: Great, Masavi, any other thoughts?

MP: Absolutely, no. I think the resistance it was there and probably still there. You know, I mean, from all the angles, from all the angles these like since companies incorporation, there is no secret that there is. There are companies making millions on the diesel and all the stuff. You know, there is no secret. There is no secret that utility companies were at the beginning. Like probably this is not a good idea because it’s going to be done more work, you know? But I mean, with technology, is it? It looks like utility companies also are understanding like this is a win win, right? But also, you know, very interesting parents because parents, we trust in the school system. Right so so we thought, well, I mean, the schools, I’m pretty sure they are taking care of my kids, you know, and they are, you know, but they don’t have all the tools, they don’t have all the resources, you know? So I think also that was part of the conversation, right? So, you know, and in the community, you know, I think sometimes we do the approach in a little bit different, right? We we have been for God in for so many times, for so long, you know that our approach has been sometimes unapologetic. You know, it’s like calling us as it is, you know, and in a lot of people, we’re not very happy with me or we choose at the beginning, right? But now it’s very interesting. Now they are calling us back, like, hey, remember three years ago that you were talking about electric buses? Can we have a conversation? And I’m sure we will.

TT: That’s great, you turned it around on them, but first you were a nuisance to them and now you’re a resource, that’s great speaking of building on that success, I know in Maricopa County they already have a couple of buses on the road. Can you share some of the reactions you’ve gotten from parents, students, drivers, administrators? What’s been the experience now that you have a couple on the road? Did anything stand out to you?

MP: Yes, no. It was very nice to see the mayor of Phoenix, you know, in one of these inaugurations. It was very nice to see the excitement of the administrators of the school district because again, as you said, right at the beginning, we were like, Oh man, again, we are going to talk about this. We have too many things about to talk about in this school district meeting why you want to talk about buses, you know, so I think that and for kids who have been in our campaigns and parents, that that is possible, that we can make a change like right here right now. You know, if we organize well and if we, you know, if we bring all the community allies, you know, because some conversation that I used to have with the other community organizations, we’re like, yes, we need an immigration reform. We need to stop police brutality. We need better education. We need better help. But we need a better environment because if our kids are sick, we are not going to be able to work. We are not going to be able to learn, you know, we are not going to be able to do many things. You know, so so let’s work all together, you know, with patience and with respect, you know, acknowledging those who have been working on these issues like way before then us.

SG: Great, I actually love how you can act, you know, maybe what people might think of as a small thing, you know, the electric school bus to these sort of concentric circles, right? Because it’s the kids, it’s the learning, it’s the whole fabric of the community in a way not to put too much onto it, but, you know, really does have those connections. So maybe for each of you and Masavi, you can start off. What’s next on your campaign? Where do you hope to go in the next year, a couple of years? Just give us a sense of the direction for you all.

MP: Sure, well, in Tucson, Arizona, as I say, we are having conversations with the other school districts. We are thinking about options to bring more money, right, and also like to create coalitions. About about that and to bring like different levels of government and compromise and also on a national level, I’m very happy to see a national also very open in conversation with other states that there are no us so. So I think right now it’s going to be again to connect with, you know, like with all these organizations that are impro of a better environment. And yeah, that’s yeah, it’s great to see it happening. Michelle, what’s next on your end?

MD: getting through December of this year and making sure our task force report is tight and compelling and that our school board adopts our recommendations. But we did draft a somebody asked about the Sierra Club’s climate parents was the one who kind of helped us come up with this task force resolution. We did one as a PTA first and then we had webinars in the summer for school board members as they were running for election and said, hey, we want clean energy schools, we want buses. And they came and then sort of once you get them hooked in and they internalize it. And they make it part of their campaign, getting these board members on the record is the other thing that you need to do to make sure that you can close the loop on these things. We don’t have one electric bus yet here in Miami. We have a promise to get buses, but it’s not here yet. And until it’s here, I don’t feel our job is done. I think quality control matters. You’ve got to be successful before you can scale up. But I know for the County council, we’re hoping to elevate our resolution to the Florida PTA so that other school districts and PTA will consider adopting the same and getting their school boards on. Get on the bus as well.

TT: Awesome, thank you. So I think we’re just going to throw out one more question, and I’ll really open it to Sue, Masavi, and Michelle. You know, you both had amazing campaigns. I know Michelle, you’ve talked to me about what you’ve learned from other school districts, even in the Florida area. And I’ll just say, like, what have you learned from other school districts or other campaigns that are doing it that were helpful for you as you’re getting started or kind of or takeaways that you’ve seen in other places? And actually, I’ll start with Masavi.

MP: Sure, I think, something that we learn, right, we will learn from other school districts that they were already using the electric buses like in California. Right so we are by Arizona. We we compromise with all our school districts, with the school that we were working. We were working with Phoenix Union and car right and Roosevelt, right. And we pay the two. We pay for the transportation directors to take a trip to California. So they can see with their own eyes how they were working. So I think again, that was an eye opening. And again, we need to work in different levels. Elected officials, administrators and community. So we focus a lot on the administrators. So they can learn again what other entities were already doing. And after that, they were like, yeah, let’s do this. And since then, we have been working together.

TT: All right. How about you, Michelle? Any other campaigns?

MD: We got a lot of help actually from Sierra Club’s climate parents and drafting a resolution? And to be able to say, oh, well, well, actually, we also looked at other districts within our state. And when you’re the fourth largest district, but you’re not pursuing electric buses. Our superintendent is kind of inherently kind of competitive. So I think like leveraging that piece of it helped and being able to say, oh, Los Angeles has already done this, or California has already rolled out of 10 of these buses. And in fact, what was great is we actually talked to the drivers. I can’t remember the California district that’s almost already transitioned. That was huge. Like, that was wonderful. They had the mechanic, the drivers talk to our drivers and I think that kind of brought our campaign to the next level was to be able to provide assurances that this is a transition that you will be really happy with.

SG: I’ll maybe jump in there, I mean, again, these are the folks on the ground, but we’ve been talking to school districts across the country and hearing a lot of really similar stories. It’s interesting. I, I think maybe teeing off of both of what Masavi and Michelle said, what I wrote down in response here was first off, you know, we’re hearing Yes about a lot of challenges and questions, but also that it can be done. And the story that jumped to my mind was one of the representatives on the advisory council that we have at the World Resources Institute. For our work is Bill Rosso’s, who works at Stockton, California. And he has an amazing story of how he is in the midst of the pandemic, which we know was a very challenging time for the entire country and school school people involved in schooling. In particular, they were able to start their deployment of electric school buses within 11 months. In terms of, you know, yes, they had access to great funding available through California in particular. So fortunate to be there but working with the utility and working with the community involving the kids, just a great story that shows it can be done. You know, it’s not easy, but let’s not think it’s a tomorrow thing. It can be a today thing. Absolutely And then the importance of peer to peer stories, again, we know that that’s what’s really going to be useful and important for this to take hold, you know, just sort of like, you know, picturing, you know, kind of that pebble in the water that then kind of expands out and has those ripple effects. You know, it’s every time we hear a great story of a driver or a student or a fleet administrator or school board member that sees how this works and then can tell their peers, yeah, this, you know, this can be done and we can do it. You know, that has such a huge impact. So I’m really excited to see all of that happening as well.

TT: Yeah, thank you, sue, for sharing some of that, it looks like we just lost Michelle for a moment, but we’re going to go ahead and circle on circle up to the Q&A and we’ve got lots of great questions in the chat. So I’m going to actually put it back to you because one of the first questions is about technical assistance, as Michelle mentioned, you know, she had to really learn this herself. I know WRI is providing a lot of resources. So can you talk a bit about the technical assistance that WRI has to offer and other resources that are available? 

SG: So well, I’ll start by saying there’s a lot of great folks that have done a lot of great work already. She’s been out there for a long time working on these issues, other organizations as well on the ground that have developed great, great resources. So definitely want to give shout outs to them as well. What we’re working towards is first off, helping with a cohort of school districts and really diving in deep with them, helping to develop a roadmap for their efforts. And miami-dade is one of those, but then scaling up to provide those resources in terms of the steps that need to be taken. And, you know, kind of each note along the way, how do you work with the different players? How do work with the community. And how do you move that forward? We’re going to be posting it’s more of an intake form for this because we’re getting tons of questions and we want to be able to have a systematic way for doing that. So encourage folks to check back on our website for that. And really, we’re at the early stages of working with different partners that are out there to develop those tools and those resources. One of the things that was in the slides was just the story about where are the school buses? So we’ve got a great map and a great database so people can learn like, oh, where are these happening? And we’re working on a number of case studies. So that folks can see how did this actually play out in Stockton, in white plains, in other places around the country so that we can learn from that? So I’m really looking forward to pushing those out and providing that. And ultimately, we need to get to scale and that’s through folks at the community level, you know, kind of helping each other as well because it’s, you know, as I said, 13,000 school districts and, you know, many times more that schools. So just really excited for that and for partners around the country that have been working on this for a long time.

TT: Yeah, thanks Sue. Yeah, it’s incredible what his vision is for us to scale quickly. And I’m so glad that your resource out there for community members who want to make this happen. Masavi there’s a question in the chat that I’d love to ask you. The question is: Has has your has CHISPA found any support from white allies, and do you have any advice for what white allies on how to support this work?

Yes, absolutely. That’s a great question, and the answer is Yes. We that we have CHISPA world. We work with committees or committees, and we create this what we call interface committee and mostly white people. And they have been an amazing partner. They help us on making phone calls and emails. I mean, there have been just fabulous and something also that I want to acknowledge about that and that I respect and that they gave us this space. You know, they are they were not here like telling us what to do. They were here like, OK, how can we support you? And we appreciate that a lot because, you know, they respect us and they help us like. And absolutely, I think the interfaith the community has been super helpful on that. Sending emails, letters, you know, attending our events. And I want to thank for that. And yes, this is a very right. I mean, everyone is welcome, right? I mean, if you know they are respectful, absolutely everyone is welcome. So I want to acknowledge that the interfaith community has been super helpful and mostly they were like, white allies?

TT: Yeah now you mentioned intersectionality before Masavi, and your campaign really lives and breathes it, so that’s amazing. Thank you for that answer. We have a couple of questions about financing. And I’ll pose that maybe to Masavi first of just how did you? Maybe you can explain how did your district afford the buses that you have? And then how did you get them to buy in to kind of how we’re going to purchase the next buses? So can you explain the purchasing part and maybe you, Sue, you’ll be able to kind of fill in. And like how other districts are doing it to you, but I’ll start with you, Masavi.

MP: Sure well, as I say, the way how we begin was sending the transportation director to California to see that. And then they were making the right questions to the right people. Right I’m just I’m a community organizer, right? So I didn’t know anything about that. So, so these people, they were asking those questions, right? And then later we connect them with a federal grant. Right and I think a different departments got connected the Maricopa air quality. They have like federal grants, you know, so so I think that has been again right connections because again, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are organizations who are doing an amazing job on that. So I think which is connect the connection and then they did their part because something where it was like, I remember when a school district. Person who told me when that person just moved in, he she told me, Masavi, we are going to do this. I mean, we need to do a lot of research, but we are going to do it, you know, and she did it, you know? So that was an amazing experience. So connecting that and connecting agencies, right, that they have the money. Yeah, there’s money out there. You kind of have to find it. There’s the VW settlement funds is what’s funding a lot of buses around the country. I think there were there’s some local funds pitched in. I think there was a bond in the County was part of it, a paid for locally as well, in your case, Masavi? Yes again, that was going back to the intersectionality, right? The schools were or the district were like, OK, this is something that we want, but how can we do it, you know? And then they say, OK, let’s create a bond. And then our parents were very involved on the band and on the bond, you know, like asking other people knocking on doors like, hey, let’s support this bond. And you know, because again, right when we asked people to give money taxes like people normally like, no, we don’t want to raise taxes, but our community was like, no, this is good. This is for the common good. So, so our parents were very involved in that, too.

TT: I love that. Yeah, that’s I don’t hear about many other communities that have invested through bonds. And in that way to fund buses. That’s a great example. Sue I’m going to kick it to you. You know this better. What are some other ways you’re seeing schools can kind of overcome that cost difference?

SG: Yeah, no. Well, Masavi, you know, picked up a lot of them. It’s kind of got to turn over every stone and think about that. And that’s one of the things we’re also pushing for in the rollout of any federal program is to be able to stack those different resources. And you know, I think already mentioned some of the federal money that’s out there, the VW settlement money, certainly more and more funding coming through utility programs and making those accessible are kind of the bigger pots of money. And we’ve seen some interest within green banks that states are setting up. Connecticut green bank is one, but there’s a real opportunity there to again, it’s about leveraging it can be private or public capital to try to move forward on things. There’s some new models that are out there to approach this more through a leasing or kind of transportation as a service approach that a number of different companies are looking at. And certainly that’s an approach that could be done on the public side or the private side as well. When you look at the magnitude of investment that we need, it’s going to definitely be a combination of all those sources. And you know, I think it was Masavi that mentioned this is a real health issue. So, you know, one of the things we’re looking at and thinking about like, how do we tie this into that piece of funding? How do we look at resiliency aspects of school buses if there’s value there, you know, and it’s, you know, we need to work through the technology. And it’s not going to work everywhere. But you know, if there’s value there, what’s the value stream that can be applied to school buses? Because we, you know, it can meet so many different needs. So I think there’s a good base of both funding and financing that’s out there. And as we think about moving from where we are now and then moving to scale, this is where we really need to just amp those all up. And, you know, think about the opportunities there. We we had a great conversation with or have been looking at the Department of Energy’s loan office loan programs, and there’s two programs out there already or one program out there already that can benefit school buses. So how do we lean into that, that funding as well? So I think it’s a matter of just being intentional about there’s a suite of funding out there. A lot of it’s been used for clean energy and for other forms of electrification. How do we adapt that and make that something that school buses can use?

TT: Thank you so much for sharing all of that. I’m sure that is the number one question that people start with is we love this. It makes so much sense for clean air and clean transportation, but how do we pay for it? So thank you so much to sue and Masavi and Michelle for sharing your expertise and your stories with us today. That’s unfortunately, that’s all the time we have today. I feel like I could keep talking to all of you all day long, but we’re going to wrap up our webinar today. Thank you to our partners for helping us put on the event today. Thank you to all of you listening and for spending your valuable time with us.

So each registrant will receive an email with a link to the recording and the transcript of today’s events, you’ll actually also be able to find the video recording and the transcript on our website at So there will be a blog post for each of the events that we posted throughout national drive electric week from Monday through Friday. You can check it out on our website. I think we also had a couple more resources to share. We there are some great videos of students and community members in Arizona and in Miami that we wanted to share and ran out of time. I think we’re going to post it in the chat here as well, just so you all can link to it and learn more because there’s just more content about these great stories as well. So let’s see if we can pop those in the chat. OK, great, I think they’re in. But that’s it, thank you so much for joining us today and have a wonderful rest of your day and enjoy your weekend. Thanks again.


NDEW 2021: EVs or Public Transit: a False Dichotomy?

September 29, 2021

This live event occurred on September 29, 2021 as part of Generation180’s event series celebrating National Drive Electric Week.

The path toward equitable transportation modernization can be compared to a two way street. It will take a variety of approaches, including both electric vehicles and public transit. Dig into the conversation we had with our panel of policy experts as we discussed the various approaches to move toward a carbon free transportation system:


Blair St. Ledger-Olson: Hello, everyone, welcome to Generation180’s National Drive Electric Week event, Electric Vehicles or Public Transit? A false dichotomy. And today I’m joined by my co-host from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Kim Jemaine. If you’re here to learn about multiple pathways towards transportation decarbonization. You are in the right place. We’re joined by 3 fascinating panelists today Katherine Garcia, who is Director of Clean Transportation for All campaign with the Sierra Club. Ryan Gallentine, Policy Director for Electrifying Transportation at Advanced Energy Economy. And Linda Linda Khamoushian, Director of shared mobility at GRID Alternatives.

Before we get started, I just want to tell you really quickly about Generation180. Next slide. So we’re a national nonprofit based in Charlottesville, Virginia, working to inspire and equip individuals to take action on clean energy. My name is Blaire st. Leger Olsen, and like I said today, my co-host is Kim Jemaine, Virginia director at the Chesapeake climate Action Network. And such a special thank you to our team members working behind the scenes to help support this event. Next slide. So here’s just a quick look at Generation180’s major focus areas of work, we’re working to flip the energy script, helping us move from a narrative focused on climate doom and gloom to a story focused on where we need to go. A world powered by 100% clean energy. It’s a story that says we can do this and we all have a role to play. We focus on individuals and their homes and communities because your energy matters, certain behaviors and technologies not only help to fight climate change, but they also help to build the social momentum and the political will that we need to get big system level changes. We lead two nationwide campaigns, Solar For All Schools, and the one you’ll hear from today, Electrify Your Ride, which works to make EVs more accessible. 

Solar and EVs are clean energy solutions proven to address two of the largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation and transportation. Next slide. OK, so just a few quick housekeeping items. We had over 100 people register for this event, there’s lots of joining us. So everyone’s going to stay on mute. Please use the Q&A to submit your questions, not the chat, and we’ll get to them as many as we can over the next hour. So without further ado, let’s stop hearing from me and start hearing from our co-host and our guests. Kim, do you want to kick us off?

The ‘Going Electric’ pledge:

“I want to help accelerate the transition to 100% clean energy. I pledge to make the next vehicle I purchase an electric car.”

Kim Jemaine: Yeah, of course. Thanks, Blair. Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us. My name is Kim Jermaine. And as Blair said, I am the Virginia director for the Chesapeake climate Action Network and the associated Action Fund. The Chesapeake climate Action Network is the first grassroots nonprofit dedicated exclusively to fighting climate change in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. Our mission is to build and mobilize a powerful grassroots movement in this region that surrounds our nation’s capital to call for state, national and international policies that will put us on a path to climate stability. We’ve been around for 20 years, and we have recently stepped into the transportation sector because, as Blair mentioned, it is the driving force around carbon emissions here in Virginia. So it had to be a fight that we took on. So happy to be here with you all, and I’ll let our panelists. Take it away.

BLSO: Awesome, Katherine, let’s hear from you.

Katherine Garcia: Great Hello and good afternoon, everybody, I’m currently I’m Katherine Garcia, and I’m currently living in Washington, D.C. I lead Sierra Club’s national clean transportation for all campaign and I’ve worked for the club since 2017. Sierra Club is the nation’s largest and oldest environmental organization, and clean transportation for all is just one of the many campaigns that Sierra Club runs. And we have chapters across the country. We’re a community of nearly 4 million people dedicated to building a better tomorrow for our friends, family and our planet. So for the first few years, I was leading our transportation work specifically at the California chapter, and our team and allies were really focused on pushing for the electrification of cars, trucks and buses in the state. And at the time, I lived in Davis, California, which is considered a platinum ranked, bicycle-friendly community. I would regularly bike to work in Sacramento, and if I wasn’t biking in, I was taking the bus or the train. And I know I was really fortunate and very grateful to have safe bike infrastructure and to be able to take public transit because I’ve lived in plenty of cities that haven’t had reliable transit routes or bike infrastructure. And that’s part of the reason why I’m so excited for this national drive electric week panel because it has such a brilliant premise, one that isn’t really talked about in a practical way very often. I really believe that we won’t achieve our climate goals unless we are adopting electric vehicles at the pace required and also cutting vehicle emissions. Travel via vehicle miles traveled as quickly as possible, and I’m excited to dive into why that’s a false dichotomy. I’m also a mom to a sweet 1 and 1/2 year old who loves learning new words. He loves dancing and speeds huddling around outside. For years, I was involved in the environmental activism world because I wanted to stand up to polluters and protect the planet. But since my son was born in 2020, it’s really put this work into perspective for me, and I get up every morning to ensure that he and little kiddos around the country grow up with clean air and healthy and safe communities.

BSLO: That’s awesome. And if anybody’s kids want to make a guest appearance, we welcome, we welcome children and puppies and all of the friendly Zoom interruptions we’ve become more familiar with during this pandemic.

BSLO: Linda, let’s hear from you next.

Linda Khamoushian: Hi thank you. Linda Khamoushian, I’m with GRID Alternatives and I’m the director of shared mobility, and it’s really exciting to actually be part of this conversation because I dedicate a good part of my life to understanding the problems that we’re talking about today and working in the area of solutions. And so I’m from Los Angeles. I grew up here. I grew up taking the bus. I grew up walking. I got to know my city and my environment from an early age with a visceral experience of what it’s like to be out and with people and not just in a car, you know, siloed with my parents or my family. And that really had an impact on how I see the world, how I see transportation and what its purpose is in our lives. Transportation is about mobility, it’s about mobility justice. It’s about people being able to get to where they need to go efficiently, affordably with dignity. And so that’s really placed a strong emphasis in my work. And so I’ve spent the last 10 years or so studying and also working in transportation policy. My my conversation today, my inputs will come from a California context. That’s the policy landscape I know best. I worked alongside Katherine in Sacramento for three years working on active transportation, advancing active transportation policies at the state level. And now with grid. We’ve we are a, you know, primarily solar industry focused, and we bring the benefits of solar and clean energy to communities, all communities. And we focus on environmental, justice, communities, economic justice, communities. But we’ve seen the opportunity in and also extending the benefits of clean mobility to our clients and to the communities that we serve because it’s important to it’s an important factor in the reduction of carbon emissions, as we will talk about here today. So, you know, I come from my personal experience. My professional experiences will play a role in the conversation today, but I’m happy to be here and excited to speak with you all.

BSLO: Awesome, we are really, really thrilled to have you. Ryan, do you want to bring us home?

Ryan Gallentine: Yeah, sure. Thanks, Blaire, and Thanks to the other panelists as well, it’s really great to be here. Ryan Gallentine, I’m the policy director for electrifying transportation here at advanced energy economy. I’m based in the Bay Area as well, although I’m originally from the Chicago area. So yeah, I work in the clean energy tech public policy space. I spent time doing residential solar at solar city and then I moved on to Tesla. And then most recently I was at lime, the scooter company doing government relations roll. So I’ve thought about transportation policy for vehicles of all shapes and sizes, from scooters up to semi-trucks. So, you know, I’ve done advocacy and coalition building around a lot of the topics we’re going to cover today. So even it is in urban planning or two of my favorite topics to nerd out on. So this is great. A little bit of background on where a national trade association of businesses working to advance 100% clean energy. We represent over 100 companies in that space, variety of technologies to help us get there to 100% We have a 501(c)(3 partner organization Institute and a C for advanced energy work. So I work specifically to engage policymakers advancing priorities around 100% zero emission vehicles by 2035. That’s our sort of organizational goal. We work at the federal and especially the state level. So right now, we’re actively working in about a dozen states on transportation issues and our approach is really to try to integrate thinking around EV policy within the broader energy system, thinking about how cities work because we know that none of these technologies exist in a vacuum. Smart planning for our energy needs are going to impact all those areas. So happy to be joining the conversation today.

BSLO: Awesome thanks, Ryan. I didn’t know that I’d accidentally recruited three people who happen to have lived or currently live or might live again in California. But yeah, right. It’s telling me something that maybe I need to look into, too. But Ryan, we’re actually going to start this first question with you and hopefully just get a quick level set an overview of the transportation sector as a whole in the US right now. So like we’ve said today, we know that the transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US I think it’s 28% Now of our greenhouse gas emissions pie, but we want to take a look at what makes up that. 28% Ryan, do you think you can explain that breakdown?

RG: Sure Yeah. So this happened a few years ago that the transportation sector surpassed the electricity generation sector as the largest gas source, as you said, about 28% So within that transportation sector, light duty vehicles make up about 60% of those emissions and then sort of medium and heavy trucks make up about 24% And then the rest come in at a little less than 10% between aircraft, rail and various water transportation and other sources. So the light duty sector obviously huge and incremental progress that happens there on electrification, huge cumulative effect there. That’s what I think most people think about when they think about these issues. I would also say that the medium and heavy duty sector is a key one to look at, though, because there’s less than 4% of the total road vehicles are in that sector. And I’m talking about everything from delivery trucks driving around, doing mail deliveries and package deliveries all the way up to semi trucks. They account for 4% of vehicles, but they account for 25% of emissions because heavy usage for all those vehicles and their heavier vehicles so just takes a lot more energy. So emissions are those engines are often diesel. It meant a large amount of pollutants, deadly particulate matter beyond just carbon dioxide. So cleaning up that segment is also a huge benefit. So that’s kind of a broad overview.

BSLO: Awesome, thank you.

KJ: And I will go next, the next question is for Linda taking a 30,000 foot approach? I want us to consider how the transportation sector in the US was created and the impact that has on people today. Why is our transportation system. So dominated by gas powered cars?

LK: Thanks, Kim. Yeah, that’s speaking to basically Ryan laid out the output of our transportation sector is a direct result of what we’ve designed it to be, and we can have a whole history lesson on the whole sector. But I would say what it is that the transportation sector and the energy and energy policy are interrelated. You know, people think electric cars is a newer phenomenon. It’s actually been around since the mid 1800s. Which I find always find fascinating. And so it’s had this history alongside the the, you know, the combustion engine where different points of time have allowed for the Advancement of what we now see as the gas powered cars. So, you know, at the turn of the 19th, at the turn of the 20th century, really electric cars were actually very popular. And then the Model T came out and Ford really, he changed the landscape of manufacturing and actually made it very cheap for cheaper to purchase a gas powered car. Then there was other advancements. Of course, electric cars just took a back burner. And in the investment in the technology, to the back burner when essentially until the 70s when we had a shortage in gasoline, oil. And so these things are very interrelated with why we are where we are today. On top of that, we want to look at the infrastructure and how our cities have been developed, how suburbanization happened in the mid century, last century. And really, you know, it’s a combination of designing the entire system for the purpose of the gas powered car, creating a way where people are dependent on that mode because there’s disinvestment in other modes and it’s a political process. You know, some of the top lobbying money goes towards or is coming from the oil and gas industries to make sure the system stays as it is. There’s profit in this process. And so, you know, it’s a combination of designing our environment for that, engineering our roads to be dominant for, you know, occupancy engineering our communities so that we are driving for distances where, you know, pre-pandemic, of course, people were commuting commuting patterns for different but and also just investing in communities and other modalities. You know, not everyone can drive or wants to drive, but sometimes it’s relegated to do so. And what that has impacted is also disenfranchisement. You know, the US highway system really disenfranchise Black and brown communities across this country on purpose, you know, it was not. And so these things are interrelated. It’s intersectional, and we have to look at it from a racial and social and economic justice perspective, environmental justice perspective and these emissions that Ryan is speaking to, you know, who do they impact most? That’s that’s a key issue that we at grid are trying to tackle and elevate in the solutions that we’re presenting, but also in the influence of how policies laid out. So, you know, I’m not going into great detail about each and every advancement, but what I wanted to highlight is that they’re all interrelated and it’s a social, political and economic structure, and it’s also an intentional structure. So things when you look around the world, it’s designed that way on purpose and people are left out of the process.

KJ: Awesome, thank you so much for that answer, Linda, I know we tasked you with giving us a brief history lesson, but Thanks for giving us that information. I’m glad you mentioned the Model T because we did see a big announcement from Ford yesterday that they’re going to be investing heavily in electrification and electrifying their fleet. So good news for us. Maybe we’ll see a sea change there.

BSLO: Maybe we’ll see an electric Model T come out just for fun. But yeah, thank you, Linda. You knock that out of the park and really appreciate you tackling that really complex question. So it seems pretty clear that addressing the number of gasoline-powered vehicles on our roads is crucial to tackling emissions from the transportation sector. Katherine, this question is for you. What solutions do we have, both from a policy perspective and also a behavior change perspective to reduce these emissions?

KG: Thank you, Blair, and Thanks to Linda and Ryan for really outlining where we are right now and where we need to go. You know, so the way I really look at this is, of course, I’m going to talk in a minute about policies to electrify personal vehicles. But really tackling the transportation sector and emissions from the transportation sector require a lot of complementary tactics. And that really, I want to start off with reducing vehicle miles traveled first and then electrifying the vehicles that remain. This means that expanding clean transportation options that don’t rely on single occupancy vehicles like buses, trains and investing in high speed rail. Right now, states across the country are advocating for their transit agencies to electrify their bus fleet. That’s one of the campaigns I was involved with in California, and my colleagues this year were involved in a major campaign with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit authority, which operates buses and d.c., Virginia and Maryland, and they committed to fully electrifying its public transit fleet by 2040 five. And that’s a direct result of local advocacy. So the policies around public transit are very important for reducing vehicle miles traveled and also reducing the amount of transportation emissions. We also want to make sure that people have the infrastructure to be able to walk and bike safely in their communities. I’m also reminded if I’m walking down the street that some people drive without really taking into account that pedestrians have the right of way. And that’s really unacceptable. We need to make sure that we have the sidewalks and the curb cuts and intersections to make sure people feel safe. We can’t really tell people to bike, to school or to work if their communities don’t have wide and protected bike lanes. It’s on us as advocates to really ensure that folks who want to get around via active transportation can do so safely. And of course, you know, this is really the conversations around EPA and right now. We need strong regulations that will push automakers to manufacture a range of electric vehicles that are affordable, along with policies that really maximize the incentives for income qualified people who live in high pollution areas. So we need to make sure that the manufacturers are delivering on electric vehicles, that they’re cars that people want to buy and that they can afford, and that there’s also a robust network of charging infrastructure. I don’t want to sugarcoat it. New technology is hard. Many of us in the room are already committed to electric vehicles and that’s part of the conversation is electric, whether it’s electric bikes or electric cars or electric buses. But it hasn’t. We still see that there needs to be a ramp up and that’s where policy comes into place. But Blair, you mentioned what are the behavioral elements of this two? One thing that I’ve, you know, I often talked to folks about is if they don’t think an electric car is for them, often it’s because they really rely on a gas car. They’re not really seeing charging infrastructure on their commute or on the road trips that they take one or 2 times a year. And I really I. Part of my conversation with them is usually really checking out to see what infrastructure is around and if and if the infrastructure, you know, is going to ramp up over the next few years. But they’re considering buying an electric car, whether it’s a new car or used car, sometimes thinking about just renting a car for that long road trip that they need to take once a year and then driving an electric vehicle when they’re commuting in town or, you know, just driving a few miles a day, which which is kind of a typical commute. So I think that’s a part of the behavioral element that we can talk about, and I’ll wrap it up there.

BSLO: Absolutely we talk with so many people who are thinking about electrifying their ride and the questions we get a lot are. But what about the one trip I take every five years? Is it going to actually get me my commute and helping people understand that when their commute is much shorter than they realize. And they actually don’t need 500-mile range? But now the EVs that are coming out have that. They are meeting, they are meeting that to help with those range anxiety considerations. Thank you, Katherine.

KJ: All right. We’re heading back to Ryan. Ryan, I know AEE is a big supporter of transportation electrification initiatives like expanding EV adoption, charging infrastructure and clean energy workforce development. How does the reduction in vehicle miles traveled support the goals that AEE has?

RG: Sure so, yeah, we represent and I work with every day companies that are operating at every vehicle class from electric school buses, transit vehicles, government owned vehicles all the way down to like duty passenger vehicles and then all the charging stations and technology that comes with it. It’s important, I think, to keep these two related ideas separate, which is energy used versus emissions burned. So if you have a transit bus, for example, that’s running on diesel that’s filled and taking people into a downtown core, you have much less energy used and fewer miles traveled, but more emissions, right versus likewise, if you had 50 people taking an electric vehicle from an outer area into a downtown core driving 50 miles, but they’re charging those vehicles on a 100% clean grid in this example. So in that scenario, you have zero emissions, but you have way more energy use and more vehicle miles traveled. So both of those considerations are going to need to be involved in order to sort of solve this. This transportation puzzle, especially when my scenario there was 100% clean grid that’s basically not true anywhere in the country. So part of the problem here as well is that we have a transportation system that is funded by a sales tax on gasoline. And in many states, in many areas, that’s a tax that is not indexed to inflation. It hasn’t been increased in decades. It’s an unpopular thing to do to raise taxes on gas, and that goes for Democrats and Republicans. And at the same time, vehicles are getting more fuel efficient. They’re lasting longer on the road. So all of these factors sort of disincentivize fuel conservation. It’s a disincentivizing on mode shift to more efficient transportation types. And that’s especially true, I think, in urban settings. So we hear all the time from policymakers that the transportation funding is drying up. A lot of people are scapegoating EVs in that conversation because they don’t pay that tax on gasoline. But what we need to be focused on is a transition from a consumption model to an efficiency model in our transportation system. And as more and more EVs come online, that’s going to be even more important. 

KJ: Absolutely. Thanks, Ryan, and Thanks for making that connection to us when it comes to vehicle miles traveled. 

BSLO: We hear all the time, how many times have we heard? But what about the gas tax? Oh god, so much. And you know, Ryan, I imagine that as we expand vehicle, miles traveled as well. And we need fewer and fewer, hopefully single occupancy vehicles on the road that also decreases just the sheer number, the burden of electrifying every other vehicle that’s out there. So hopefully those two solutions can really be mutually beneficial and reinforcing. So Linda this next question is for you, and it’s part of the reason I was so excited to have you on this event because I think the work you’re doing at GRID Alternatives with shared mobility is such an excellent example of the intersection of both reducing vehicle miles traveled and transportation electrification. So I’d just love to hear more and have you elaborate on the role you think shared mobility plays in tackling transportation emissions. And I’m curious as to also as a side note how the pandemic has impacted these services as well. 

LK: Thanks, Blair, and I invite Brian and others to jump in right to work at Lime. So there’s a lot to say there with how that had that worked out last year. But it is an opportunity. Shared mobility is not new. People have been sharing mobility. Communities of color have been sharing mobility because that’s just how you got around. You had to catch a ride from somebody. You know, you didn’t have a way to get there. The bus wasn’t coming in time, so it’s not a new concept. Sharing resources is not a new concept, but the advancements in this space are around technology, of course. Things like e-bikes, electric cars are obviously a part of that process, and the advancements are also in the models. The business models, the car sharing space has definitely been experimenting with what that looks like and how to price those things. And so the opportunity is really to say, OK, you know, how do we diversify how people get around So that they’re not reliant on owning a car and having it somewhere to park? And you know, by the way, cars are parked 95% of the time. So what are we really paying for? At the end of the day, and so you know, what we’re experimenting with in California is actually investing in public shared mobility. So there’s a program that is coming from climate investment funds called the clean mobility options, and that’s actually focused on helping communities, disadvantaged communities as defined by things like screen, which looks at pollution burden and low income community definitions, where investing in community driven needs based driven projects that identify what type of mobility people want or need, whether it’s e-bikes or bike share or car share, micro transit and actually piloting those models and testing them out in the community and seeing how that works. So there’s state investment. There’s more local based investment, local taxes, sales taxes, for example, or going towards some of these projects locally transportation. The local transportation agencies are investing in bike share and in car sharing micro transit. So it’s looking at, again, the model where especially with an app based society where that’s actually been the key driver of making some of these projects successful is that you’re bringing that on demand model and making and sharing it with a project or program that’s easily available. Some of the success factors, of course, is how available it is. Like if I have to walk two miles to get to a bike, that’s, you know, that’s not really useful, but if it’s definitely more widely available, you know. So there is an efficiency aspect to it to making it available. Bike share was very successful in Sacramento, for example, based on the number of available bikes and also the landscape. But then e-bikes, for example, are actually helping in places where the topography otherwise wasn’t really that great for just a regular bike share system, right? So a good. We are the area that we work in. Clean mobility is actually, you know, in addition to bringing projects on the ground, what we really do is advance the process to include equity because it’s great to have these investments in the policies. But if you’re leaving people out of the equation, then shared mobility, electrification, these things are not really going to go anywhere, because you’re leaving out people that depend or rely on a cheaper way of getting around. So we have a program through the Air Resources Board where we have an outreach arm for advancing EV incentives to folks that are low-income and from disadvantaged communities. So that’s access clean California. You can look up incentives that you would be eligible for and in our shared mobility arm is also working with directly with community to identify those projects, things like e-bike libraries and micro transit that can actually support people, getting around, getting around efficiently and getting around and ways that they would want to get around right and not just force upon them. 

BSLO: Yeah, to take a bike from my house to my office, I definitely want that e-bike. There are some pretty hefty hills, so that can really help with the topography for sure.

KJ: Katherine, this next question is for you, as director of the clean transportation for all campaign, I imagine you work. Your work involves both expanding access to public transit as well as electric vehicles. More and more we we’re seeing these two solutions being pitted against each other as an either/or situation. How does this narrative impact your work in the climate movement overall? 

KG: Kim, thank you for that question. And I think as we’ve heard, you know, in previous answers, you know, these solutions must work together, reducing VMT on its own. Well, won’t address all of the emissions. And if we just focusing, if we’re just focusing on replacing every car that runs on gas. With an electric vehicle, we won’t achieve the emissions reductions that we need in the short window of time to really avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. And that’s really our mission at the Sierra Club’s clean transportation for all campaign. We want to ensure that we all live in healthy communities with affordable and accessible clean transportation options. Whether that’s by walking, taking an e-bike, riding a cargo bike like I have riding the bus or the train, or driving an ATV for people who choose to drive. So shifting land use patterns is also a huge part of this, and Sierra Club volunteers and staff around the country are looking at this angle, too. On a personal note, my son was born in 2020 right before the pandemic, and I often think about how his childhood will coincide with our critical climate goals. So especially since my work, we’re constantly talking about what’s happening in 2025 or 2030 or 2035. So in his first 10 years, that really represents the decade of ambitious climate action and where we need to make up for lost time due to climate denial and a commitment to the status quo. And that’s really a status quo that was dictated by big oil and auto manufacturers that for years have ignored the science and not really truly invested in electric vehicles. And when he was and when he will be 15 in 2035, we will need to be well on our way to making sure that we’re not driving fossil fuel vehicles and that we are driving much less than we do today. The Rocky Mountain Institute recently released a report that says that by 2030, we need to be driving 20% less, and by 2035, that’s even more so. So looking at those benchmarks, we they’ve actually set targets for looking at that reduction there. So personally, I really do evaluate every trip and and while I don’t own a car right now, I do have a membership to a car share program that runs here in d.c. I also have this electric cargo bike that really has a cute child seat. And so my son is really safe when we go up and down the hills of DC. So, so yeah, there’s a lot of options there, and the solutions really need to work together. 

KJ: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, Katherine. And yes, I think the crux of the work that we need to do to reduce transportation emissions is one we want to electrify all the vehicles that we can single occupancy vehicles, but we don’t want that to be the only option. We want people to feel like transit and alternative modes of transportation are safe, reliable, and affordable for them. So definitely thank you for answering that question for us, Claire. 

BSLO: Absolutely, I think really framing those solutions as mutually reinforcing as complementary, not as an either/or scenario, but making sure that we as climate advocates, as transportation access advocates, that we’re coming together and coalescing around these solutions to help push them forward is important. And Katherine, side note, I love that your son’s first car will be an electric vehicle like I- I think that’s so awesome that we have a generation of kids coming up right now that, fingers crossed, if all of us here do our jobs, I suppose that they’re never going to have to know what a gas powered vehicle is. And I think that’s really a fascinating idea to think about where we are as a generation. But I do know that there’s something big and shiny on everyone’s radar right now, and that’s definitely what’s happening in Washington, d.c., at the federal government on Capitol Hill. So this question is for everyone. And Ryan, I’ll pitch it to you first and then we’ll move across Zoom. So, and I think there’s been some questions in the Q&A about this as well with what’s going on, Why is this so hard, So how do these pieces of federal legislation moving on Capitol hill combine these two complementary strategies and what are you excited about and what do you think there needs to be improvement on? 

RG: Sure just a tiny question there, but yeah, looking forward to Katherine’s son thinking about internal combustion engines, the way I think about VCRs and stuff like that, the newest generation doesn’t even know how to use them. Yeah, on this federal package that’s making its way through. I’m really encouraged to see some of these reforms to the federal incentive program around EVs and EV infrastructure. So I mean, I think if they’re crafted right, we’re going to see much faster about adoption, greater access to those credits, extending those programs out, covering the used EV market, which is not currently covered. I think that’s going to be a really important way to increase equity and access to the programs, really encourage to see school bus and transit funds electrifying those fleets. Talk about school buses, a vehicle to prioritize getting diesel fumes out of and then even purchases of electric bikes. Some some tax credits for those as well. So that is a long time coming, in my opinion, seeing credits for bikes instead of just passenger vehicles. So I’d also really love to see federal research and development funds going towards accelerating those battery technologies, especially at those larger vehicle types that where the science is not quite there. I talked at the outset about how important those emissions are to curb hope that makes it into the final bill. So, you know, I’d also add on the charging infrastructure side. States are desperately in need of this investment. They’re trying to solve these regulatory agencies. They’re trying to solve this really thorny issue of building out charging capacity everywhere from like these dense urban environments where the grid is already sort of at capacity and trying to find places for folks to park to. Connecting rural corridors. Making sure that those communities aren’t left behind. So, you know, we need to make sure we do this in a way that all communities have equitable access to those resources. So we’re focusing a lot of time at AWS right now on helping regulators and state legislators know what they don’t know. Get those planning processes started and then anticipate make sure that they have the programs ready when, when and if something does make it through. 

BSLO: I love that saying, you don’t know what you don’t know, it’s so true, so it’s great that you all are helping do those education efforts. Katherine, Linda, do you guys have things to add? 

KG: I’ll jump in here, Yeah. We have in d.c., we’ve been very, very busy with all of the policy conversations at the hill, the way we see it, the bipartisan infrastructure deal and the reconciliation package must move in tandem to really maximize the investments in clean transportation. And that’s really where we’re going to see the climate wins by ensuring that both of them pass together. We’re advocating for major investments in pollution free buses on two fronts and Ryan touched on this. But I’ll elaborate a little bit in terms of supporting public transit. Right now, we need to make sure that transit agencies are expanding routes as opposed to cutting routes and when they retire buses that they’re able to adopt zero emission buses. So really making sure that we are funding the public transit agencies at the level required. And in addition, in terms of electric school buses, Ryan mentioned this as well. But just to provide the statistic today, more than 20 million children commute to and from school, and nearly all of them ride on diesel school buses. So our kids really deserve to breathe clean air on their way to school and not the harmful pollution spewed by diesel buses. And then the one other thing that I want to mention in terms of the bills running through Congress right now is it’s a little bit outside of our scope today, but the healthy ports portion of the investment healthy ports are contribute a huge pollution burden to disadvantaged communities, and it is a big part of transportation emissions overall. So just so heartened to see so many important investments in clean transportation at the hill right now. And I’m so grateful for all the advocates that are working so hard to really make this happen because it’s really the moment that we’re calling for right now. 

BSLO: All right, Linda, I’m so sorry, I made you go after both of these two. Is there anything you want to add? 

LK: I mean, they’ve both covered quite a bit. And so and I’ll be honest and not in the details of the day to day work there. And so I appreciate everyone who is working on that. And you know, obviously there are a lot of wins. You know, if things move forward for the Advancement of electrification of things, as Ryan mentioned the e-bike credit, and that’s essentially what it’s going to take these investments. And that’s what we need in California. We’re putting up a lot of money, not only the policy structure and framing the programs that’s anticipating this funding to come through, but it needs to happen on what needs to happen at the federal level, too, because we have to move everyone across. I mean, the transportation, environment, and the system, it works together. We can’t just build up in California and have other folks fall behind. It’s just not going to work that way. So it has to be a concerted effort so excited for this process and also just kind of crossing fingers to see how things move forward. 

BSLO: I know Kim and I spend a lot of time talking about how we need to expand access to electric vehicles, we can’t just let it be something that only wealthier communities are able to reach. So absolutely agree that really making sure that those incentives and state level investment because California really stepped up yesterday. And hopefully we’ll see a lot more of that from the state by state level. The federal government has a huge role to play, but really interested to see how states are going to continue moving that momentum forward and not making sure their role isn’t eclipsed. So Thanks guys for and particularly thank you for addressing the importance of where that charging infrastructure gets developed. And Kim’s going to kick us off now to the Q&A with, I think, a related question. 

KJ: Yeah, absolutely. And this is a question from the audience. So whoever feels comfortable answering this question, go right ahead. We know that charging infrastructure is something that we have questions and concerns about just generally, but that’s especially true in multifamily dwelling units. And so what policies or strategies do you all think we need to be pursuing to ensure that folks have access to charging infrastructure if they live in an apartment building or a condo community? 

LK: I’ll jump in here. California is actually putting up some funding for that very, very effort for, especially for affordable housing communities, and so that policy is obviously the emphasis in the funding. You have to also get basically landlords, the property managers on board. I mean, just as an anecdote, I have a plug-in hybrid and I was using the outlet in the laundry room that’s right next to my parking to get things charged here and there, and the landlord came and put a box over the outlet. So they were not happy about me taking advantage of that. Well, you know, as more and more cars are going to be electric or plug in, there’s going to need to be a change for that when you have so many people living in apartments. And so it’s an investment, it’s getting the landlords and property managers on board. New developments obviously have to be, you know, I don’t I can’t say if I know any requirements right now, but I imagine that there is maybe there is no this more directly, Ryan? See you. 

RG: Well, yeah, Yeah. Thanks so this is a good example of where we have to think about these from the system level impact like this is dealing with building codes. All new buildings need to have the ability to have level 2 charging and not just the plug that Linda runs from the laundry room like this is a big improvement for folks to get an electric vehicle. And I think if we’re going to get to 100 percent, if we’re going to get to 50 percent, even those early adopters who probably would have otherwise but don’t feel comfortable with the charging scenario that they’re envisioning for themselves. So getting those hook UPS in all new dwellings, being able to retrofit a lot of states need to pass or clean up legislation to make sure folks are able to do that when they want to. But then also putting down public charging networks in urban environments where you have more of those also will help people feel comfortable even if they don’t live in a building that they can charge in having those reliable and visible charging stations and then very dense urban settings like Manhattan or something. There’s not a lot of places to park so that that becomes even more important to be able to park those big buildings and multi-unit dwellings. Yeah, and 

KG: I’ll just add really quickly that Sierra Club’s attorneys are often involved in proceedings that are taking place at the utility level to ensure that utilities are investing in transportation electrification. We’ve seen a lot of really good examples of that in California. There was just recently a major investment that was announced in Connecticut. And so a lot of these transportation electrification plans often have a dedicated amount that needs to go to disadvantaged communities and also multi-unit dwelling. So ensuring that it’s not just on the property owner or just relying on the tenants to advocate for themselves, you know, really, if the utilities can be involved as well helping to support the community getting that investment, it’s another really important angle to look. 

BSLO: Well, spoiler alert, Generation180 in Virginia, Clean Cities and green energy consumers alliance, we’ve actually been working during the pandemic on a toolkit to help people who work or who live at multi-unit dwellings who are struggling to get access to charging infrastructure. So stay tuned for that because just helping with that dialogue is really crucial. But Kim and I worked on in 2020 right to charge legislation here in Virginia, and it was so crucial. But it’s half of that battle. Just because someone can’t block someone from installing EV charging infrastructure doesn’t mean that upfront cost isn’t so burdensome that they don’t need real help. Whether or not it’s financial incentives at the utility or the state or local or even government federal government level, we need all of them. So I’m going to ask one more question and then Kim’s going around us out as well because we’ve got 8 minutes left. So let’s go ahead and give this one to Ryan, actually, because you mentioned how much you’re working with fleets as well in your work, and there’s been a lot of news about the US Postal Service and the role that they play in transportation, electrification, and they’ve got such short light routes. And we’ve got a question here in the audience, Q&A says. Is there any good reason that the Postal Service is trying to get hybrid vehicles instead of going fully into electric? I think we saw they’re trying to electrify 10% of their fleet instead of really leaning in. Are there efforts to help move this needle forward and can you explain what people can do to help? 

RG: Well, if the question is, is there any good reason, no, there’s not any good reason. The Postal Service is the proposal that came out is pretty inadequate to meet the moment and the taxpayer pays an insane amount when you dig into this, like the amount of maintenance that goes into maintaining these, these post office ones. I think they were bought in like the 80s or something like they’re like decades old vehicles and just the maintenance alone. Total cost of ownership of converting these fleets to electric only would pay for itself in a matter of years. So, you know, I know that there’s an effort. There’s been a couple of legislative efforts on the hill to sort of force that transition. I’m not I don’t follow this particular issue closely, but I do know that there’s been some efforts in the reconciliation package to try to make that happen and then some other standalone bills. I believe it’s merkley, but I’m not. I’m not positive about that. But, you know, this is another one where, you know, the more attention that gets put onto fleets. And this is why government fleets, not just at the federal level but states the states need to go through this process of figuring out what, what vehicles they have and how they’re going to electrify them and on what schedule. There is a lot of states I an effort like that is underway in Virginia in this next session here, but you know, it takes a lot of times the states don’t even know how many vehicles they have, let alone. So there’s an audit process as well. So, you know, the post office has a lot of BMT and you know, they’re predictable routes. These these post office vehicles have very predictable load patterns, so they’re of interest to utilities, potentially as a grid service when they’re not being in use. So a lot of potential there doesn’t make any sense. Not to move forward in a more aggressive way. And I don’t know if anybody else. I’ll get off my high horse. 

KJ: I think that was great. No, thank you. Thank you all for answering all our questions and Thanks to the audience for giving us some follow up questions to ask as well as we wrap things up. I’m going to take us out on a high note. And so I’d like to hear from all three of you about what makes you all hopeful with regards to eliminating emissions from the transportation sector. 

BSLO: Don’t all jump in at once. 

KG: OK, I’ll kick us off. So this is a personal story of something that happened yesterday in d.c. I attended an event at the EPA and this was with colleagues and allies, and we all met and we had mobilized our members over the course of the public comment period, when the EPA is reviewing their clean car standards and all in all, between many different clean car many organizations advocating for clean cars. There was about 200,000 comments that were submitted in less than two months. These were all submitted electronically, of course, but we did a very small event in front of the EPA, where a few local kids, which are really future climate advocates, advocate symbolically in empty boxes but symbolically delivered boxes of comments to administrator Regan. And he was there and accepted the comments. And I know that, you know, things are very much up in the air with this rule, but we’re all advocating to make sure that this rule is a game changer for requiring manufacturers to urgently produce cleaner cars. And I’m really heartened by the amount of outreach and support that our campaigns had, so I’m feeling uplifted this week.

BSLO: Linda do you want to go next?

LK: Sure, it is a hard question, especially in the climates that we are in at this moment, but what gives me hope is when someone who’s totally out of this space not involved in this dialogue, day to day is telling me things like decided to walk to work this week or, you know. You know, I took the bus for the first time. Those sorts of things always feel good. And I think the pandemic accelerated certain things that we hadn’t been able to achieve before. On that scale, for example, people being able to work from home and have access to jobs that way. So commuting has changed things like park lifts, you know, of course, there’s issues with those as well, but actually taking up space in the streets so that people can actually take back streets for things like play and and, you know, living a quality experience among your community. So I’m hopeful that we are becoming conscious to not only our need to change our own personal patterns, but the fact that the political structure, the economic structure and the social structure has to change. In order for this to even be realized on the scale that it needs to be realized at the pace it needs to be realized. So I do see a greater consciousness around this that’s going to then impact what actually happens. 

BSLO: Oh, that’s awesome. Ryan, last but not least?

RG: yeah, sure. So this is kind of what I call the power of now, right? So there’s a really exciting time right now to be tackling these issues. We have the technologies, the products to and the ideas to completely redesign this whole system and the people who are making policy right now, who are elected at this very moment in time get to decide how to apply that technology for the greatest good and to solve the problem. And I think that’s a really empowering idea, which wasn’t true five years ago or 10 years ago and probably hasn’t been true, certainly in my lifetime and probably my parents lifetime. So sometimes you forget with the enormity of what we have in front of us that we actually do have the tools to solve this problem. And so I think that’s really, really exciting.

BSLO: I love that, yeah, we absolutely have all the tools at our fingertips, we just need to get it done and we need that political will. And on that note, as we thank our panelists and we wrap things up, it is 1 o’clock on the dot, very timely. We’re going to post in the chat an opportunity for folks to help move that conversation forward to help ensure that these two pieces of federal legislation are getting the job done and the timing couldn’t be ever more important. There are votes coming up tomorrow, so please take this opportunity to really make your voice heard. Help us push for some of the most historic investments in public transit that this country has ever seen help move the needle on electric vehicles and keep an eye out for everything from our three awesome panelists. They are all working on these efforts, and we’re really, really thrilled that they took the time today to have this conversation with us. So thank you, everybody. Stay safe. Really loved having you all and have a good rest of your day. Have a good national drive electric week. 

The ‘Going Electric’ pledge:

“I want to help accelerate the transition to 100% clean energy. I pledge to make the next vehicle I purchase an electric car.”


Beyond EVs: more ways to tackle transportation emissions

April 7, 2021

This article is from the April 7, 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).

We talk a lot about electric cars (for good reason), and how electrifying transport will help us slash the relentless rise in greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. Electrification is a critical piece in solving the climate puzzle, but it’s important to remember that we can’t just “electric car” our way out of the climate crisis and call it good.

A quick look at the numbers reveals the immense challenge we face. Globally, the transport sector—mainly road, rail, air, and marine transport—accounts for around a third of the world’s final energy consumption and for nearly a quarter of energy-related CO2 emissions. Still today, we depend on oil and petroleum products to meet a whopping 95 percent of our transport energy needs. Despite the important shift toward electric mobility, so far only around 1 percent of transport activity worldwide is powered by electricity (most of it non-renewable). Put simply, the transport sector is a huge fossil fuel guzzler, and we need all-hands-on-deck to mitigate its growing impact.

There’s literally no way to get to a livable, low-carbon, clean energy future without making changes to how we move ourselves and our stuff around. But at the current pace, any improvements we’re making in vehicle efficiency are more than offset by increases in the overall volume of travel, and in growing sales of larger, heavier vehicles (like SUVs). To get to zero emissions, we need to move faster in tackling the highest-emitting culprits, including privately owned cars and heavy-duty trucks, as well as aviation and shipping.

So how do we do it? Here are some of the promising “other” ways to address rising transportation emissions, many of which complement the electric revolution.

How to approach things: “Avoid-Shift-Improve”

A helpful way to bucket the many ways we can tackle transport emissions is the Avoid–Shift–Improve framework. The idea is to prioritize those strategies that “avoid” the need for motorized travel to begin with, followed by measures that support the “shift” to less carbon-intensive modes (public transit, car- and ride-sharing, walking and biking, and low-carbon freight). As much as 40 to 60 percent of the needed emission reductions can be achieved through “avoid” and “shift” strategies, including policies that limit vehicle traffic (like road pricing) and that incentivize travelers to use more efficient transport (such as creating low-emission zones in city centers). The rest of the cuts can be achieved through critical “improve” strategies, like efficient vehicle design and clean energy tech (including electric mobility). According to Project Drawdown, electric cars are the second most impactful strategy in transportation—after public transit—to slash carbon emissions.


bike and pedestrian lanes in New York City

Planning sustainable cities and managing transport demand

Key to supporting the types of “avoid” strategies that lead to reduced motorized travel is better city planning and building more livable urban communities. Here, the focus is less on supporting the movement of vehicles, and more on improving access for both people and goods through smart urban design and land use. Solutions include: remote work and carpooling; “multi-modal” planning (offering an integrated network of transport options); “complete” streets that support safe access for users regardless of how they’re traveling; and transit-oriented development and 15-minute cities, which reduce travel distances by integrating people, buildings, services, etc. All of these efforts would incentivize people to avoid driving and enable them to have cheaper, easier, and safer access to alternative transportation modes like public transit, biking, and walking (thus supporting the “shift” measures that are also needed to reduce emissions).


electric public transit bus

Rejiggering urban mobility through public transit

Critical to the shift away from high-carbon transport is building more high-quality public transport, which can move people much more efficiently than private cars. This includes more efficient (and increasingly electrified) urban rail, i.e., subways and streetcars, as well as cost-effective bus rapid transit, or public buses that travel in dedicated lanes so they can maintain a timely, set schedule. According to Project Drawdown, prioritizing public transit can bring about the biggest emission reductions from the entire transportation sector by 2050. Unfortunately, public transit is on the decline worldwide (and COVID-19 hasn’t helped), even though the benefits are clear: fewer road accidents, more equitable access to transport, and overall reductions in both congestion and emissions.

More efficient cars and trucks

Also key to reducing emissions from transportation is improving the efficiency of all those gas vehicles that can’t immediately be electrified, especially passenger cars and heavy trucks. To maximize emission reductions, countries need to adopt stricter fuel efficiency standards for internal combustion engine vehicles, and eventually to phase out these vehicles altogether in favor of electric and other vehicles that have zero tailpipe emissions. In the U.S., heavy-duty diesel vehicles account for only around 4 percent of vehicles but consume more than 25 percent of all fuel. Options for boosting efficiency include retrofitting fleets to be more aerodynamic and to use anti-idling and automatic cruise-control devices, as well as designing new zero-emission models. Overall, Project Drawdown lists “efficient trucks” as the third biggest transport-related solution for reducing emissions. However, improving efficiency alone won’t cut overall energy use in transport. 


jumbo airplane jet flying in cloudy skies

Tackling aviation emissions

Another biggie is tackling air travel. Pre-COVID, commercial passenger and freight aviation contributed around 2.8 percent of energy-related CO2 emissions, and emissions from air travel were rising rapidly. Project Drawdown lists “efficient aviation” as the fourth biggest transport-related solution for cutting emissions; however, the soaring demand for air travel has offset overall gains in efficiency from innovations like improved engine designs and lighter-weight materials. Additional solutions for reducing aviation emissions include retiring older aircraft, using fuel-saving practices, and scaling up the use of sustainable aviation fuels (as the newly unveiled Aerion AS3 airliner aims to do). Shifting consumer behavior (i.e., flying less) is also key to emission cuts: in Europe, rising climate awareness has led more people to replace short-haul flights with trips via high-speed rail.


container ship sailing

Super-efficient shipping

Anyone who followed the recent saga of the Ever Given, the massive container ship stuck for nearly a week in the Suez Canal, has an inkling of the enormous scale of maritime shipping, which accounts for more than 80 percent of global trade by volume. Shipping currently contributes around 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but its climate impact continues to grow. Solutions for decarbonizing shipping include developing more energy-efficient vessels (with better hydrodynamics and fuel-saving designs), using slower operating speeds, and switching to low-carbon fuels (like biofuels or electricity-based hydrogen). In 2018, the International Maritime Organization adopted a goal of at least halving shipping’s emissions by 2050 (from 2008 levels), but progress in this area remains slow. 


High speed train in Japan

Revolutionizing rail

Last week, President Biden released a massive infrastructure proposal that included a call for an $80 billion investment in U.S. passenger rail. This would be a win-win and reflects the growing global interest in rail transport, including both high-speed inter-city rail and rail freight, which has much lower emissions and energy use than road freight. Globally, rail is the most energy efficient transport mode, and railway emissions have actually declined as train designs have improved and as more rail corridors are powered by electricity. Rail is by far the most electrified transport mode (at around 40 percent), with a growing share of this electricity coming from renewable sources. High-speed rail is considered a key solution to shift passengers away from air travel, since it’s around 3.4 times less polluting than flying.


Moving forward

Reducing transport emissions is a massive challenge, and it’s clear that transitioning to low-carbon transport requires a multi-pronged suite of improvements. It’s not just about electrification, cleaner fuels, and vehicle efficiency, but also about how we build our cities, manage transport demand, and improve overall access for people and goods. In other words, the broader “avoid” and “shift” measures are equally important as technology-based “improve” strategies, and they need to be prioritized as such. Electrifying transport will only be effective if it’s understood to be part of a broader shift toward more efficient, integrated, and low-carbon ways of moving both people and goods around the planet.