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Electric Vehicles Approach Tipping Point

When the first hybrid cars hit the streets, people would point and stare, even stop owners on the street to ask questions. Was it a fad? A novelty? A toy for green enthusiasts? Time has proven otherwise. In the first quarter of last year, the hybrid Toyota Prius was the third best-selling family car in the world. When the latest generation of plug-in electric cars hit the mass market three years ago, they evoked the same mix of reactions as hybrids did: enthusiasm, curiosity, and some skepticism. However, they’re selling at more than twice the rate at which the first widely available hybrids left dealers’ lots.

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The 2014 Chevrolet Volt (photo courtesy General Motors).

Thanks to some savvy, forward-looking plans in many states across the country, electric vehicles are charging ahead. Yesterday, Charge Ahead California, a coalition of community-based, public health, and environmental groups, including NRDC, announced a campaign to place 1 million electric vehicles on California’s roads within the next 10 years. California is also part of an eight-state coalition, including Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, which recently agreed to work together to get 3.3 million electric vehicles on the road by 2025. And the recently signed Pacific Coast Climate Action plan, issued by the governors of California, Washington, and Oregon, and the premier of British Columbia, also calls for scaling up electric vehicle sales.

Why the push for more electric cars? Because right now, they are incontestably the cleanest vehicles we have. They’re clean because they produce zero tailpipe emissions—none. No smoke, smell, pollution, nothing coming out of the tailpipe. Eliminating tailpipe pollution is a major public health victory. In California, four out of ten people, often from low income communities of color, may face increased risks of asthma, cancer and other health hazards because they live near busy roads. By reducing pollution, electric cars, buses and trucks help create healthier communities, with less illness, fewer missed days of work and school, even longer lives. The Charge Ahead California campaign will also advocate for rebates and vouchers, ride shares, cash for old cars and other policies that will bring electric vehicles into vulnerable communities instead of merely whizzing past their doors.
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