Electric Vehicles Could Help Slash US Emissions — if Their Rollout Can Overcome the Hurdles

As the country’s largest emitting sector, contributing 28% of annual emissions, US transportation needs to decarbonize quickly

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Welcome to Climate on the Ballot, Covering Climate Now’s weekly elections newsletter. Every week, we’ll pass along a topic and offer up some advice on how to integrate it into your coverage. Vea la versión en español de “El clima en la boleta.”

This Week: Electric Vehicles

With electric vehicles, American consumer choice meets climate action. EVs are vastly more energy efficient and produce significantly fewer emissions than gas-powered vehicles. But their high price and limited charging infrastructure in some markets have also made them a focus of climate pushback. Don’t be swayed: Transportation is the country’s highest emitting sector, accounting for 28% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. To address climate change in time, the industry needs to be transformed.

Reporting Ideas

  • Report on how EVs are selling in your market. There are currently about 2.7 million EVs operating in the US. Despite some hiccups last year, 2023 sales are at the high end of forecasts, according to Inside Climate News.
  • Talk to consumers who are — and aren’t — buying EVs. The high price of EVs is one hurdle cited by consumers who have resisted buying them. Carmakers in recent years have been pushing electric SUVs, which have higher profit margins — and higher price tags. But there are cheaper alternatives. What’s happening to prices in your market?
  • Investigate your state’s EV policies. Every state except for South Dakota took policy and deployment action on EVs in 2023. California has set especially aggressive mandates for EV adoption: 35% of new 2026 cars sold must be zero-emissions; in 2030, that number jumps to 68%, and 100% in 2035.
  • What’s happening with charging stations? The Biden administration, which aims to have 500,000 EV chargers operational by 2030, announced in January that it would give $623 million in grants to help build out an EV charging network across the US. Has your state applied for funding? What’s the status of your area’s EV charging infrastructure?
  • Visit charging infrastructure and ask drivers about their experience driving and charging EVs. The Department of Energy has built an interactive map for alternative fuel stations, including EV chargers in the US and Canada.

Take Inspiration

  • A small North Carolina town will soon have two solar-powered EV stations, Queen City News reports. A number of Oklahoma businesses will receive federal money to install EV charging stations, according to KOCO News 5. Fox 43 shows local officials working to bring charging stations to rural Pennsylvania.
  • To avoid the next auto bailout, Heatmap founder Robinson Meyer argued in a New York Times op-ed that the federal government needs to help US carmakers compete against Chinese companies, in particular BYD, which is ramping up production of inexpensive EVs.
  • At least 25 members of Congress have switched to EVs, reported E&E News, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and two House Republicans. Texas senator Ted Cruz says he’s thinking about it because his daughters “think they’re cool.”

Spotlight Piece

A second term for Donald Trump could result in the equivalent of an additional 4 billion tons of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere, according to a new Carbon Brief analysis. “If Trump secures a second term, the US would also very likely miss its global climate pledge by a wide margin.”

Want to share feedback and stories inspired by this newsletter? Shoot us a note at editors@coveringclimatenow.org.