The future of the auto industry is electric.
This year’s Super Bowl LVI ads underscore the consumer shift away from gas, as automakers BMW, GM, Chevrolet, Kia, Nissan and Polestar each showcased their zero-emission vehicles to viewers across the globe.
And here in Arizona, we are pioneering a more sustainable transportation future. Our state has emerged as one of the epicenters of electric-vehicle innovation in the country, highlighted by an influx of manufacturers and suppliers that have expanded here. This has fueled quality jobs and a given a jolt to Arizona’s economy.
But putting more zero-emission vehicles on Arizona roads means more than economic development. It means the promise of improved air quality and a cleaner, healthier environment for all.
Tailpipe emissions are a leading source of air and climate pollution in Arizona, and it’s no secret that our state is a living example of the disruptive impacts of climate change, from extreme heat and historic drought to ozone pollution and destructive wildfires.
But there are steps we must take to ensure Arizona fully unlocks the benefits of electric vehicles. We need our state lawmakers to adopt a statewide, zero-emission vehicle plan, as proposed in SB1152.
SB1152 would unlock tens of millions of dollars in federal funds designed to bolster EV infrastructure in states. Arizona stands to gain at least $76 million to help build out its zero-emission vehicle network.
A plan isn’t optional. Under the federal infrastructure law, states are required to submit an “EV Infrastructure Deployment Plan” that describes how the state intends to use the federal investments. This must happen by August 1.
Arizona Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly were instrumental in passage of the infrastructure plan and Arizona can’t afford to miss this opportunity.
We also call on state agencies to implement this plan guided by comprehensive input from a wide range of stakeholders, including those in rural Arizona and in lower-income communities.
It’s important this rollout, and our transition to clean energy more generally, must consider equity and justice that includes all geographies and socio-economic status.
Developing a statewide charging network that all people can access to power their vehicles eliminates a key roadblock to a meaningful transition to electric vehicles.
Another roadblock is upfront costs of EVs. Lowering the cost of a non-emission vehicle through a tax credit is currently being negotiated in Congress. Enabling buyers to save up to $12,500 on the price of a new EV is essential for a widespread transition.
And this transition is happening. In the U.S. alone, the big automakers like GM and Ford are embracing the shift to zero emission vehicles at a rapid clip. General Motors plans to unveil an all-electric lineup by 2035, ending its legacy with gas. Ford has announced that 40% of its vehicles will be electric by 2030. Other big automakers have similar pledges.
We must embrace this opportunity. If we act now, we can build a more equitable charging network, improve our air quality and public health – all the while revving up our economy and saving the planet.
Dan Stellar is state director of The Nature Conservancy in Arizona, whose program, Arizona Thrives, is a statewide alliance committed to moving from carbon-based fuels to clean energy to drive our economy.