While electric vehicles have been around since the dawn of the automobile, they are finally going mainstream. By 2025, more than a fifth of all US cars sold are predicted to be electric. This enormous shift will have major positive impacts on the environment and people.
Why do we care about electric vehicles? Well, the region around Louisville ranks in the top 25 most polluted cities for year-round particle pollution. Electric vehicles could go a long way toward reducing this pollution. Compared to gasoline vehicles, electric vehicles are almost 3 times more energy efficient, and they produce no tailpipe pollutants (including smog-producing particulate matter like NOx or Hydrocarbons). All of this amounts to cleaner air. They are quieter, quicker, and require less maintenance than cars with an internal combustion engine. And, if you power your electric vehicle with renewable energy, you can almost completely cut your carbon footprint when driving.
Basically, electric vehicles are pretty awesome. Whether you care about public health, the environment, or simply want to drive something that accelerates like a sports car, electric vehicles could be for you.
This summer, I have been working with the Drive Clean Louisville team on the electric vehicle plan. I compiled a significant amount of research, reading through dozens of studies and plans for other cities, and used these findings to aid the Drive Clean Louisville team in determining the next steps to take for electric vehicles.
The fewer gasoline and diesel powered vehicles we have on the roads, the cleaner our the air, so an increased electric vehicle adoption in Louisville would benefit our city and its residents. Increasing electric vehicle ownership quickly, however, requires effort. Many barriers exist in Louisville which prevent people from purchasing an electric vehicle. The main three are driving range anxiety, the prices of electric vehicles, and our lack of charging infrastructure. These concerns must be addressed to increase EV ownership in our community.
Americans on average drive fewer than 40 miles per day, so for the majority of car trips, the 151-mile range on the newest Nissan Leaf is sufficient. Furthermore, an increasing number of automakers are selling electric vehicles with ranges comparable to those of gasoline-powered vehicles: the current Chevy Bolt has 238-mile range. GM, Tesla, Nissan, and BMW currently sell electric vehicles with ranges that exceed 120 miles, and Volkswagen plans to invest $40 billion by 2030 in electrifying its models. Furthermore, according to a Department of Energy study, the median electric car range has increased by more than 50% since 2011. With the ever-increasing ranges of new electric vehicle models and the introduction DC fast charging which charge a car to 80% in under 30 minutes, range concern is less of a concern.
Prices, however, remain prohibitive. The longer-range electric vehicles cost upwards of $30,000. While the federal government currently offers a tax credit of up to $7,500 on these vehicles, many people are not willing to pay the high price. To make electric vehicles more affordable, many cities and states across America offer purchase rebates and tax incentives for purchasing electric vehicles. For example, Maryland offers a $3,000 tax credit on the purchase of a new electric vehicle, and they also offer up to a $700 rebate on residential chargers. Fortunately for prospective buyers, prices are expected to decrease dramatically over the next few years as battery technology improves and production costs decrease.
The availability of charging stations in Louisville is the most pressing problem we must solve. While gas stations are abundant, DC fast chargers are not. Not everyone is able to charge a vehicle at home, and some drivers might need a quick charge during the day. Louisville’s public charging infrastructure exists, but it is lacking. Fortunately, things are changing.
EVolve KY, a local non-profit, installs electric vehicle chargers that are free to use. So far, through their Adopt a Charger program, EVolve KY has installed over 10 chargers at places like Bernheim Forest, the Norton Commons YMCA, and Safai Coffee on Bardstown Road. Electrify America, a major installer of electric vehicle infrastructure, is also considering Louisville for its next cycle of investments.
Things are looking up in the Louisville EV community, and the Drive Clean Louisville team is working hard to ensure that the city meets the needs of its citizens and steadies the transition into electric vehicles. The team has been in contact with Electrify America regarding investments, has generated an electric vehicle survey report to understand the local electric vehicle climate, and is exploring other ways to promote clean transportation in our city.