Pennsylvania DEP: How Can We Spur Electric Vehicle Adoption?

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Pennsylvania could gain almost $2.8 billion in benefits from lower greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions, help reduce respiratory disease, increase consumer savings, and create jobs if just three in 10 vehicles were electric, according to a new plan released by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Led by the DEP, a coalition of public and private partners called “Drive Electric PA” analyzed the barriers to electric vehicle (EV) use in the state. They developed Pennsylvania’s Electric Vehicle Roadmap, recommending 13 strategies to increase the use of these zero-emission vehicles.

Partners include PennDOT; the Pennsylvania Departments of General Services and Conservation and Natural Resources; the Public Utility and Turnpike Commissions; and about 100 industry, business, community and academic partners.

“Interest in electric vehicles is increasing, but until now, there’s been no statewide plan to foster a cohesive approach,” says the DEP’s secretary Patrick McDonnell. “We developed research-based strategies for government and private planning and policy decisions to help increase the opportunities and benefits of electric vehicles across the state.”

Transportation generates 20% of GHG emissions in Pennsylvania, according to the DEP’s draft 2018 Greenhouse Gas Inventory. Gov. Tom Wolf’s executive order on climate change requires that 25% of state government passenger cars be replaced with EVs by 2025. A few cities, such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and organizations are working to expand EV use locally, and increasing numbers of residents, businesses and organizations are applying to DEP rebate programs for EVs or charging stations, the DEP says. For example, in the past two years, Pennsylvania residents have received more than $3.3 million in rebates for 2,135 EVs.

Still, there are only about 15,000 EV in the state – a fraction of the approximately eight million passenger cars registered, according to the department.

By 2023, an EV will emit 50% less GHG than a traditional gasoline-powered car, according to Pennsylvania’s Electric Vehicle Roadmap. The plan projects that if three in 10 cars and light-duty trucks were electric by 2033, Pennsylvania could enjoy almost $2.8 billion in benefits; asthma and other respiratory disease related to air pollution would be lower; more jobs in EV manufacturing and infrastructure would be created; consumers would save money through fuel efficiency and less maintenance; and utility ratepayers would have lower costs from improved efficiency in the electric grid.

However, public knowledge of the benefits of EVs is low, according to the DEP. The Electric Vehicle Roadmap identifies seven strategies to start to overcome barriers to EV adoption in just two years:

• Develop policy or legislation to encourage utilities to invest in transportation electrification and leverage their expertise and consumer relationships to improve the electric market in a way that maximizes benefits to ratepayers and society;
• Establish statewide EV sales goals;
• Expand DEP’s Alternative Fuel Investment Grants program for municipalities, businesses and organizations;
• Increase investment in charging stations and public awareness of them;
• Create an education program and a cooperative program to support fleet purchases;
• Develop a consumer education campaign; and
• Develop an outreach program to raise awareness of EVs among car dealerships.

The plan recommends six other strategies for five years and beyond. Coalition members are now collaborating on potential ways to put the strategies in place.

Pennsylvania’s Electric Vehicle Roadmap was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy through a contract with the DEP.

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