Change often can be unpleasant. Change often can be hard. And change often is necessary.
So we’d like to commend the state of Oregon for taking a massive step forward for a cleaner environment, to combat climate change and to preserve livability for coming generations.
In mid-December, the Environmental Quality Commission adopted rules that will require all new passenger cars, trucks and SUVs sold in Oregon to be electric or plug-in hybrid by 2035.
The timeline is important, as is the inclusion of plug-in hybrids. More on that in a bit.
But first, in case you didn’t know, climate change is real, and that simple statement has been a constant for our editorial board for years.
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Oregonians are feeling the devastating impacts of climate change, including hotter and drier summers, more extreme weather events, and huge wildfires. The consequences of climate change span the globe and appear to be accelerating.
Reducing emissions from gasoline-powered cars is key to combating climate change — those account for the greatest share of Oregon’s greenhouse gases at more than 30%, according to a recent article from the Oregon Capital Bureau.
The switch to electric vehicles will be true progress, but Oregon currently doesn’t exactly have a sterling infrastructure set up for electric vehicles, especially in more remote areas of the state.
The lack of charging stations is especially notable for residents of Central Oregon or Eastern Oregon, as well as outdoors enthusiasts, who might travel long distances in sub-freezing temperatures and over mountain passes during the winter — according to AAA, the average EV’s driving range decreases by 41% when the temperature dips to 20 degrees.
Plug-in hybrids, where an internal combustion motor kicks in when electric batteries run down, are a nice compromise in the Advanced Clean Car Rule II for those who feel like they need a backup fuel source, just in case.
An additional 12 years from now, however, gives time for more charging stations to be set up throughout our system of highways, providing for a safety net in extreme conditions or for those in far flung corners of the state. According to the Oregon Capital Bureau, the Oregon Transportation Commission has approved $100 million from federal funds to upgrade charging stations and other infrastructure along highways in the next five years.
Car and battery technology also will certainly improve in the next decade or so as major manufacturers focus more on electric vehicles. And residents should expect to see the price of EVs drop relative to gas-powered cars as electric becomes more prevalent in the marketplace.
And speaking of cost, we won’t get into how much cheaper it is for maintenance with an electric vehicle.
EVs certainly are becoming more commonplace in Oregon, which is second in the nation in share of new vehicles sold that are electric, with about 1,000 a month, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Currently, there are 57,700 EVs registered in the state.
Oregon and Washington are among about 20 states that are following California’s lead for electric vehicles as allowed under federal law. Not all states will move in this direction, but the entire West Coast is driving into a new tomorrow.
The new electric vehicle rules aren’t some sort of magic bullet that will solve Oregon’s problems regarding climate change. And more steps undoubtedly are needed regarding vehicles, including better public transportation and alternatives such as safe bicycle routes so people don’t have to rely on personal automobiles.
But this is a nice start.
It feels as if we’re near a tipping point with electric vehicles, similar to the internet and cellular phones in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The journey from newfangled to omnipresent and ubiquitous was rapid. One year, the technology seemed quirky and unreliable. The next, it was everywhere and part of the fabric of our lives.
Electric vehicles are the future, and it feels like Oregon is pushing things forward with its new automobile rules. This change is what’s best for Oregon and the planet.