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The electric vehicle revolution critics can’t dispute

Each year, electric vehicles (EVs) are delivering consumers better torque and performance, lower fuel and maintenance costs, and dramatically less pollution and carbon emissions.

So why are critics launching campaigns that spread misleading narratives to convince us otherwise? Because transportation electrification poses a threat to the world’s dependence on oil, and well-financed special interests will go to any length to protect their profits. While those interests have accelerated efforts to sow doubts about EVs, it’s incumbent on us to see past the misdirection and set the record straight.

No matter how you slice it, EVs are cleaner than gas-powered cars and will only get cleaner as our electricity generation does the same. While EVs have zero tailpipe emissions, opponents are quick to point out that the manufacturing and charging process is not carbon-free.

While it is true that no manufacturing or power generation is yet reliably emissions-free, it does not change the fact that EVs are clearly cleaner than gasoline-powered cars. When we evaluate the entire process of manufacturing an EV and sourcing the electricity, EVs generate up to 67 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) over their lifetime than their gas-powered counterparts.

Put simply, an EV powered by coal-fired electricity is still cleaner than an automobile powered by gas. And unlike gas-powered cars whose carbon footprint is set, as the power sector continues adopting less costly renewable energy, EVs become cleaner and cheaper too.

Another favorite half-truth of the special interests tries to link EVs to unethical mining practices for critical materials. This is an important, though deceptive, concern. The global demand for lithium, cobalt and other critical materials is set to grow whether or not a single additional EV is produced. The reason is because of the continued rapid adoption of batteries for personal technology devices that require these critical materials. Yes, including the phone, tablet or computer you’re reading this on.

Dampening the demand for EVs may be good for oil refineries, but it does nothing to address critical materials supply sourcing. Rather than denying the inevitable and growing need for these critical minerals, we must seize the transition to EVs as an opportunity to establish robust domestic supply chains with ethical and humane practices. Including groundbreaking recycling work being done by American companies that has the potential to reclaim up to 95 percent of critical materials from scrapped batteries.

With smart policy, a strong EV sector will create thousands of good paying critical materials and manufacturing jobs and improve our national security. We must remain focused on solutions, instead of getting distracted by the misinformation campaigns of incumbent, polluting special interests.

Anti-EV campaigns have also accused EV customers of unfairly benefitting from federal benefits that don’t accrue equitably to all Americans. These campaigns, ironically, are commonly led by wealthy interests who have uniquely and disproportionately benefited from decades of oil subsidies. Like any new technology’s product cycle, the first EVs were more expensive but have evolved into a market far more diverse and affordable. 

Now the market offers many EVs below the average cost of a gas-powered car, and nearly all electrics have a lower total cost of ownership. Resilient batteries and a growing charging network make the rationale for going electric even more compelling. As more and more Americans experience this reality of accessibility, we must advocate for policies that meet every community’s needs and drive benefits for those most affected by air pollution and emissions.

In the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region, people of color breathe in an average of 66 percent more vehicle pollution. Transportation electrification stands as a promising solution to cleaning up air quality in these areas and protecting public health. But resigning ourselves to EV critics who want to lock our economy into decades of carbon-intensive transportation is the worst possible outcome for those most affected.

It is also absolutely critical to build out a stronger public charging system that meets every community’s needs. We’ll all be served by deploying EV chargers in transportation corridors, workplaces, retail settings, municipal parking and rural areas. Equitable charging investments must incentivize medium- and heavy-duty fleet vehicles and better support harder-to-serve disadvantaged populations.

Utility companies are natural partners for many communities seeking to build out critical charging infrastructure to enable EV deployment. Yet critics have resorted to scare tactics about the potential of skyrocketing monthly bills if utilities also invest in vehicle charging infrastructure. These talking points are not rooted in fact.

If the related costs of charging infrastructure were passed on to utility consumers, the impact on monthly bills would be a matter of cents rather than dollars. In almost all cases, utility investments will leverage other public and private financing, further minimizing costs to ratepayers. And widespread vehicle electrification increases grid efficiency, which instead applies downward pressure on rates over time. The truth is that in order to meet every community’s needs, we need the federal government, local leaders, third-party charging companies, site hosts, and utilities working together.

The electric vehicle revolution is well under way. While EVs continue to innovate, so too will the attacks from EV critics as they fight to maintain their carbon supremacy over our economy. But the real truth is that transportation electrification continues to drive value for American consumers and communities alike, and we continue to work to ensure that everyone benefits equally.

Joe Britton is executive director of the Zero Emission Transportation Association.

Energy & Environment at The Hill