The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has changed the world as we know it and will have a number of lasting effects on society. For example, transit has been highly impacted since most of us are not traveling at all.
However, when we get to the other side of this pandemic, we will get back into our cars and buses to go to work, school, and our holiday destinations. We should take this opportunity to make better choices for our health, the economy, and the environment.
We can have a cleaner world if we make different choices
Today, residents of notoriously polluted cities like Delhi, Los Angeles, New York, and Milan are enjoying clear skies as air pollution drops. Venice’s canal waters have turned clear from the familiar murky green. Climate scientists have said that global air quality is improving dramatically as the outbreak sends many countries into lockdown.
The public health benefits of transitioning to electric vehicles (EVs) are well known. With EVs, there is a dramatic reduction in tailpipe emissions and particulate matter. And unfortunately, the coronavirus has impacted those with compromised immune systems the most, thereby reminding us that clean air is imperative to protect our most vulnerable.
Regulations are important for the continuation of recent climate trends
In the midst of this pandemic, certain laws have been enacted that could cause irreversible damage to the environment.
The recent decision to lower fuel efficiency standards creates an environment where customers will end up spending more money fueling their vehicles while simultaneously increasing how much they pollute the air they breathe.
In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also announced a relaxation of environmental rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing power plants, factories, and other facilities to pollute more without any penalties.
In times where we are fighting a virus that attacks our respiratory systems, it becomes even more important that countries, states, and cities promote policies that result in decreased air pollution. Yet, irrespective of government regulation, as consumers we still have the choice to drive zero-emission vehicles. We have the choice to invest in transportation that reduces our carbon footprint, eliminates fuel-based emissions, and enables us to stay on the path toward restoring our environment.
We need to support EVs and charging infrastructure more than ever
The global economy is likely headed for a recession and the price of oil has reached historic lows, according to the Wall Street Journal. Despite this, EVs with superior driving performance, higher sustainable benefits, and reduced total cost of ownership are on the horizon. Therefore, a strong case can be made for consumers switching to EVs in the coming years.
However, given the current climate, we may witness a short-term slowdown in EV sales. Therefore, it is critical that we keep up the momentum on building EV charging infrastructure so that our current and future drivers have access to the resources they need.
Looking again at the US situation, Congress recently passed a $2 trillion stimulus package and is already prepping for the next phase. Same with many other countries around the world creating stimulus packages, investment in critical charging infrastructure has to be part of the conversation. Only then can we create clean future-proof jobs and help improve the health of us, our fellow citizens, and our cities.
Both the US and Europe are reviewing the current legislation and incentives for EVs and charging infrastructure. These are important moments, where extending tax credits for EVs and funding for charging at workplaces, multi-unit dwellings, and along interstate highways can spur short-term economic growth while also promoting long-term environmental and health benefits.
In addition, US states and utility commissions should continue existing EV charging programs to expedite the installation of new charging stations. This will help to create jobs for thousands of utility workers, construction workers, electricians, installers, and manufacturers of charging equipment and components—all while promoting EV adoption.