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Switching to electric cars is key to fixing America’s ‘critically insufficient’ climate policies

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In order to meet its share of the carbon pollution cuts needed to achieve the 2°C Paris international climate target, America’s policies are rated as “critically insufficient” by the Climate Action Tracker….

Currently, transportation and power generation each account for about 30% of US greenhouse gas emissions, so those sectors represent the prime targets for pollution cuts.

But the power sector is already rapidly decarbonizing because coal can’t compete in the marketplace. In some regions, new wind and solar with battery storage have already become cheaper than continuing to operate existing coal plants, and the International Renewable Energy Agency has concluded that by 2020, “all the renewable power generation technologies that are now in commercial use are expected to fall within the fossil fuel-fired cost range.”….

….Cost and battery range have been the two barriers to widespread EV adoption. However, both have rapidly improved over the past several years. In 1996, the GM EV1 was the first modern mass-produced EV. It had a range of approximately 100 miles (160 km) per charge at an estimated price of $34,000 ($50,000 in 2016 dollars), which amounts to $500 per mile of range. Tesla produced its first car – the Roadster – starting in 2008, with a range of 244 miles (393 km) at a price of around $100,000 ($410 per mile). Nissan first sold its electric Leaf in 2011 for $33,600 with an 84-mile (135 km) range ($400 per mile).

All three companies have since dramatically improved their EV prices per mile of range. The 2018 Nissan Leaf sells for $30,000 with a 150-mile (240 km) range ($200 per mile). The Tesla Model 3 will sell for $35,000 with a 220-mile (354 km) range or $44,000 with a 310-mile (500 km) range ($140–160 per mile). The Chevy Bolt sells for $36,620 with a 238-mile (383 km) range ($154 per mile)….

…American power generation is already rapidly decarbonizing. To fulfill its responsibility for helping the world stay below the 2°C temperature guardrail, the transportation sector is America’s next clear big target…..All major automakers recognize that the shift from fossil-fueled cars to EV is inevitable, and are investing accordingly.

A price on carbon pollution would accelerate the transition. US gasoline prices remain low at around $2.50 per gallon, which leads to more Americans buying cars with low fuel efficiency. 97% of US car sales are still purely gasoline-powered. The transition to EVs is proceeding slowly, but it’s coming, and it will be a big part of any future American efforts to meet climate targets.

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