Opinion

Clean air: Charging ahead with electric vehicles

A traffic jam in downtown Los Angeles. (Photo: Prayitno, Wikimedia)

Every year the American Lung Association publishes its State of the Air report, a report card to rate progress in California and across the country in cleaning the air and protecting the public’s health, and every year a majority of California counties fail to make the grade. In fact, California’s cities and counties dominate our lists of most polluted in the United States. Pollution from cars, trucks, buses and ports, among other sources, contributes to the dirty haze of smog and soot that plagues many areas of the state.

From Sacramento to San Francisco to San Diego, unhealthy air affects the majority of Californians. The Los Angeles area has remained atop the Lung Association’s list of worst polluted cities in the nation throughout the past decade, and San Joaquin Valley cities including Bakersfield and Fresno have recently been listed as the most impacted by deadly particulate pollution. Cleaning up the air is a big challenge, so everyone needs to be part of the solution. Now is the time for elected leaders and residents around the state to join the American Lung Association and charge ahead to electric cars instead of guzzling gas.

Clean electric cars are the direct result of California’s long history of leadership in pushing for tougher vehicle and emission standards.

Last week marked a tremendous milestone for clean air and healthy lungs with 100,000 plug-in electric vehicles sold in California since market launch in late 2010. This milestone shows that real change can happen – and that California’s leadership is driving that change. Clean, battery electric vehicles have gone from showroom floors to people’s driveways in record numbers. But we need to do more to make plug in vehicles dominate the roads and relegate gasoline cars to past history.  Consumers now have lots of choices in electric cars with approximately 18 different battery electric and hybrid electric vehicles now available for sale from 14 automakers – and the market is growing, and more technologies like hydrogen fuel cells are coming to the market now.

Consumers need to know that battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles that don’t use gas for most daily trips are a real choice now.  They save money, cut pollution, reduce lung illnesses, help protect our climate and they are fun to drive!  A network of public charging stations is springing up to support these clean plug-in vehicles, and the beginnings of a robust hydrogen fueling infrastructure is underway.  Clean electric cars are the direct result of California’s long history of leadership in pushing for tougher vehicle and emission standards and represent real hope for those suffering from lung disease.

Just two key California policies enacted to promote cleaner, low carbon transportation fuels could reduce health costs by $8.3 billion by 2025.

Illnesses linked to smog and soot pollution send thousands of people to hospitals and emergency rooms for lung and heart conditions every year in California, lead to missed work and school days, and pose high health costs. Reports have shown the costs of dirty air are at least $28 billion annually in our state. A recent study co-authored by the American Lung Association in California demonstrated that just two key California policies enacted to promote cleaner, low carbon transportation fuels could reduce health costs by $8.3 billion by 2025.

Exacerbating the problem, warmer temperatures caused by climate change will increase the threats to human health. We can expect more and more intense heat waves, unhealthy days for ozone and increased smog and soot emissions generated from fuels, power plants, forest fires and other sources.

We call on all Californians and Governor Brown to continue the momentum and charge ahead for clean air.

Deploying 100,000 electric vehicles on California roads is a great start to help solve our air pollution and climate problems, but there is still more to do to reach the Governor’s goal of 1.5 million clean cars on the road by 2025 and ramp up to millions more. In order to get there, we need to strengthen the commitment to electric transportation and make electric cars as common place as gas cars are today.

A key next step is for Governor Brown to sign progressive zero emission vehicle technology bills into law this week – which is National Drive Electric Week. Both Senate Bill 1275 (de Leon), the Charge Ahead California Initiative, and Senate Bill 1204 (Lara and Pavley) the Clean Truck, Bus, and Off-Road Vehicle and Equipment Technology Program, would advance the fight for clean air and a healthy climate through wise investments of state revenue. The American Lung Association in California and a dozen fellow health and medical organizations supported these bills to bring the benefits of electric vehicles to all Californians, but especially our most disadvantaged communities.

These bills, together with California’s forward thinking clean car and clean fuel programs, will make it easier for more Californians to consider buying, leasing and driving plug-in cars whenever possible. Clean electric transportation can be made available to all communities with additional support for cleaner transit, electric car-sharing and other clean mobility options.  We call on all Californians and Governor Brown to continue the momentum and charge ahead for clean air so all Californians and future generations of our children have safe places to breathe.

Ed’s Note: Olivia J. Gertz is ​President and Chief Executive Officer of the​ American Lung Association in California​. ALAC is a member of the Plug-in Electric Vehicle Collaborative.


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: