Companies know that clean vehicles are the future | Opinion

A Tesla electric car charges at a public charging station in Germany. Electric cars are growing in consumer acceptance and popularity. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Odd as it sounds, the vehicles we all depend on are the key to a cleaner, more prosperous future for Minnesotans.

Across the U.S., companies large and small are accelerating plans to electrify their fleets and expand electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. For many of Minnesota’s largest employers, transitioning to EVs would go a long way to meeting their sustainability goals while also cutting costs.

Minnesota has the chance to put strong policies in place that would take advantage of this significant shift in corporate demand for EVs so that Minnesotans would reap the cost-saving and health benefits of cleaner vehicles. An important place to start is by implementing strong clean car standards. 

In December, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) released a proposal for clean car standards, and it is currently making its way through the rulemaking process. If fully adopted, these standards would give residents and companies more access to a wider array of clean vehicle options, including SUVs, pickup trucks and delivery vans. That’s one of the reasons why a group of six companies — including Clif Bar, IKEA Retail US, JLL, Lime, Lyft and Uber — submitted a letter to the MPCA in support of Minnesota’s clean cars standards.

Transportation is currently the number one source of climate pollution in the state and the country. Minnesota has fallen behind on the climate goals enacted through the bipartisan Next Generation Energy Act in 2007, and these companies are backing strong clean car standards as a way to help Minnesota get back on track.

Clean car standards present an opportunity for Minnesota to reduce climate pollution while supporting the economy. New analysis from non-partisan research groups Energy Innovation and Rocky Mountain Institute shows a pathway for Minnesota to reduce climate pollution while also adding billions of dollars to the state economy and creating a plethora of new jobs. A key element of the pathway is improving availability of EVs through the adoption of clean car standards.

Making the switch to EVs also offers a plethora of benefits beyond reducing climate pollution. Perhaps at the top of the list for companies are the savings from lower fuel and maintenance costs. Though EVs are technologically more advanced than gas-powered vehicles, they are far simpler mechanically. With fewer moving parts, they cost less to maintain, are not in the shop as much and are more reliable.

These benefits are likely why more than 200 clean transportation professionals predicted in a recent Mortenson survey that half of fleets will be made up of clean transportation options in five to seven years.

But it’s not just companies and vehicle owners that stand to benefit from the transition to EVs —all Minnesotans would see cost savings and improved air quality. Gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles contribute to air pollution, which can greatly exacerbate asthma and other respiratory problems. In Minnesota, air pollution from sources like cars and trucks contributes to approximately 10% of all deaths each year and more than 1,300 hospitalizations as a result of heart and lung problems — disproportionately impacting rural Minnesotans. EVs are at least 40% cleaner than their conventional vehicles, and they will only become cleaner as the electricity grid becomes increasingly powered by renewable energy.

The health benefits of EVs are especially important now as we work to protect Minnesota’s communities from the COVID-19 pandemic. A nationwide study conducted last year found that COVID-19 patients in areas with high levels of air pollution are more likely to die from the infection than patients in regions with healthier air.

It’s clear that strong clean car standards would be a win for Minnesota’s economy, the health of its residents and the environment. We applaud state leaders for recognizing the importance of these standards in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.