Las Vegas Sun

October 17, 2017

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Electric vehicles a key topic at Nevada’s special session

Kudos are due to the hard-working members of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s New Energy Industry Task Force for advancing the discussion of how to better promote electric cars in Nevada and accelerate adoption of electric vehicles, or EVs. Research by the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project shows significant economic and other benefits as use of electric vehicles grows in the Silver State.

The task force recommended that the Legislature study financial incentives to spur adoption of electric vehicles. Nearby states, including Utah, Arizona and California, have adopted incentives (in the form of rebates, tax credits or reduced license fees) and are seeing increased sales of electric cars as a result. Nevada should not be left behind.

The benefits to Nevadans will add up as more EVs are sold here. First, just as the U.S. benefits economically when we reduce the quantity of foreign oil we import, Nevada benefits when it reduces the amount of fossil fuels it imports for transportation fuel. Nevada imports virtually all its vehicle fuel, meaning that almost all of the money spent on fuel — more than $5 billion annually — leaves the state’s economy. This is a significant economic drain when Nevada has abundant natural resources available to produce another transportation fuel: electricity.

A 2014 study by our senior transportation analyst, Mike Salisbury, confirmed that electricity is the least expensive transportation fuel available to Nevadans. People who drive electric cars can save up to $1,300 annually on fuel costs depending on the price of gasoline. The same study showed that — with increasing adoption of EVs — the total economic benefit to the state in reduced fuel costs could reach $138 million per year by 2030.

The money that Nevadans save on fuel is disposable income that could instead be spent on local goods and services, which boosts local economies. Shifting spending from imported fossil fuels to local goods and services also creates jobs.

A study by Dr. David Roland-Holst, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, found that money spent locally creates 16 times more jobs than dollars spent on importing fossil fuels.

Money spent locally also generates additional local and state sales taxes.

It is important to recognize that electric vehicles are not affecting gas tax revenues in Nevada. To date, only a fraction of 1 percent of all vehicles in Nevada are electric, and their impact on gas taxes is negligible. Eventually though, as the number of EVs grows, it will be important to ensure there is a mechanism to capture the equivalent of gas tax revenue. One innovative approach would be to begin charging a fee when the car is registered.

These fees could initially be invested in EV-charging infrastructure, then transition to highway funds as the number of EVs grows large enough to meaningfully affect gas taxes.

Electric cars can substantially reduce air pollution, improving health and reducing health care costs.

Because of these significant benefits, the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project considers accelerated adoption of electric cars to be an important topic for the upcoming session of the Legislature.

We urge the state to take the next step with proposed legislation to help boost EV sales.

Will Toor is transportation program director at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, a public-interest organization dedicated to advancing energy efficiency.

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