A global race to electrify the transportation sector is underway and America has the chance to pull ahead. Winning this race will save consumers money, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, and improve our air quality and public health. This is why I have authored the Electric CARS Act, which extends and expands the current federal consumer electric vehicle (EV) tax credit, gives consumers an immediate markdown at the dealership, eliminates the cap on how many credits can be provided by manufacturers, and extends the electric vehicle charging infrastructure tax credit.

Buying a car or truck can be one of the most consequential financial decisions we make. From its safety and comfort to its price and looks, we carefully consider all the options and choose what is best for our needs. Increasingly, consumers are considering safer, more powerful and innovative zero pollution electric vehicles in their purchase decisions.

Consumers are on the right track. Electric vehicles have fewer moving mechanical parts, lower maintenance costs, and cleaner, cheaper electric power. For a two-car family, this could save them more than $2,200 annually compared to owning gas-powered cars. Companies that convert to an all-electric fleet of vehicles will see even more savings, lowering their costs and boosting profits. What was once seen as a costly new type of car has quickly turned into an electric vehicle sector offering many vehicles that sell below the average cost of a sedan, with nearly 100 electric SUVs, crossovers and truck models set to be released in the next few years.

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Encouraging the purchase of electric vehicles is a key step as we work to bring down our global emissions and combat the current climate emergency. Electric vehicles have a 67 percent smaller lifetime carbon footprint than gas-powered cars, helping us to slow and reverse the warming of our planet that is causing extreme weather, climate migration, and worldwide food insecurity.

And while good for the consumer, the planet, and our economy, electric vehicles will also dramatically improve public health outcomes in every community. The transportation sector is responsible for 55 percent of the smog-causing nitrogen oxide particles that still blanket some cities. According to a Union of Concerned Scientists study, communities of color in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic breathe in 66 percent more air pollution from vehicles than white residents. Electric vehicles eliminate these emissions, which will drastically improve health outcomes and begin to address systemic environmental and health inequities.

Owning an electric vehicle is cheaper in the long run when compared to a combustion vehicle, but we need to make the up-front price of an electric vehicle more competitive for more people. Currently, the tax credit only helps those who can wait until tax season to redeem it, and then only if they owe taxes. My legislation will allow consumers to get the tax credit as an immediate discount at the dealership, helping make next generation transportation accessible to more people.

While electric vehicles provide significant benefits for drivers and public health, we also have the potential to capitalize on this new economic opportunity and create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs. China, Japan and Europe are moving to create demand for these vehicles through public policy that encourages electric vehicle manufacturing and adoption. We have a choice between cultivating this sector and encouraging its domestic growth, or risk getting lapped by foreign competitors. Some policymakers are trying to hold us back by making excuses, raising new taxes on cleaner vehicles and increasing costs for consumers.

Instead of stalling out, Congress can invest in a clean transportation future that creates jobs here at home by passing the Electric CARS Act to strengthen purchase incentives and further invest in charging infrastructure that serves the needs of every community. Current law is perversely incentivizing imports over domestic manufacturers, like GM and Tesla, who have led the way on electric vehicle production, but now cannot offer the full consumer tax credit due to a per-manufacturer cap currently in place. My legislation removes this cap so that every manufacturer can offer the full tax credit to consumers.

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Further, the incentive to build electric vehicle charging infrastructure expires at the end of every year, which adds uncertainty and delays electric vehicle infrastructure deployment. The Electric CARS Act fixes that too, encouraging investment in charging stations and other infrastructure that makes electric vehicles practical and accessible.

The climate, health, and economic potential of electric vehicles is clear. To keep America in the lead, we need to cultivate a strong advanced vehicle sector in the U.S., provide equitable access to the next generation of vehicles, and support cleaner communities everywhere.

Welch serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.