Commuting by car is so ubiquitously American, it’s hard to imagine an alternative for many. Over ¾ of workers in the United States drove to work by themselves in 2013, and an additional 10% carpooled. Indeed, America’s 20th-century modernization shaped the nation into an automobile-centric one, where cities catered to driving above all other means of transportation. As people began to live farther and farther from urban centers, the car became fully ingrained in the American way of life. However, over the past few decades, its environmental effects have become all-too familiar. Luckily, there may be a way to mitigate this without forcing Americans to wean themselves off of their favorite transportation method–switching to electric cars. To entice the public to switch, the federal government should follow Norway’s lead and create a strong economic incentive to switch to electric vehicles. This can include waiving the sales tax for electric vehicles, renewing the Car Allowance Rebate System, and investing in infrastructure like charging stations.
With the benefit of hindsight, we now have the data on the significant environmental cost our reliance on cars has brought. Transportation accounts for 29% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, 57% of which are private automobiles like cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks. Like many issues regarding climate change, acting sooner rather than later is the key for making a significant reduction in damage to the environment.
But what does “acting” look like for decreasing America’s reliance on gas automobiles? The electric car is certainly an easier solution to swallow than public transportation, since it doesn’t require a significant lifestyle change for citizens, nor expensive investments in trains, buses, etc. for cities. How can the government effectively transition Americans to electric cars for the sake of our planet?
The federal government can follow Norway’s lead to make electric vehicles more attractive to Americans. Norway is the first country in the world to achieve higher electric car sales than petrol, diesel, and hybrid engines. One of the main reasons is simply because it makes more economic sense for many Norwegians to purchase an electric car over a gas vehicle, and this is by design by the Norwegian government. For example, fully electric vehicles in Norway are exempt from taxes imposed on vehicles that run on fossil fuels. This tax is not insignificant–the nation has a 25% sales tax on non-electric vehicles. There are other incentives too, like the ability to use bus lanes.
Biden has signaled that he’s interested in renewing the Car Allowance Rebate System (or CARS) for electric vehicles. CARS was a program that let consumers trade in their less efficient, older vehicles for newer, more fuel-efficient ones. With a CARS program that lets consumers trade in their old cars for electric vehicles, the federal government would be creating a strong incentive for people to get a new electric car rather than a new gas car.
Like Norway, the federal government can also waive the sales tax for electric vehicles, making the up-front cost of purchasing an electric car cheaper. One of the main factors preventing Americans from buying an electric car is the cost, yet many studies show that electric cars are actually cheaper in the long run even without strong incentives from the federal government. This is because they are less expensive to maintain than gas vehicles, and gasoline is pricier than charging an electric car. If the federal government can make the up-front cost cheaper than gas vehicles, then electric cars will be cheaper both upon purchase and in the long run, making the electric car a much more attractive option for citizens.
A more understandable deterrent is the lack of charging stations. In 2020, there were just 84,000 plugs in the United States. It’s a difficult balance, since without charging stations, people won’t buy electric cars, but without enough electric cars, there’s no need for so many charging stations. The federal government can continue its strong push for charging stations to ensure that there are enough–Biden plans to build 500,000 new ones by 2030. Without sufficient charging stations, it can be difficult for Americans to financially justify purchasing electric vehicles. 
If the federal government can incentivize the purchase of electric vehicles, it will be a step in the right direction for their adoption en masse. However, this mass adoption can only happen if the U.S. has sufficient capacity for these vehicles. By creating economic incentives and maintaining the infrastructure to support them, electric vehicles can be a reality for America.
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