We certainly applaud Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s call to action on addressing climate change through reductions in carbon emissions – especially in the transportation sector.
However, reducing emissions solely through electric vehicles (EVs) is not going to get our state to carbon neutrality. The state needs a comprehensive approach that also invests in the other, more green transportation solutions: biking, walking, and public transportation.
When it comes to purchase incentives, the Governor should incentivize e-bikes as well as EVs. Why?
- E-bikes produce 81% fewer carbon emissions per mile than EVs. This is due to the latter having greater manufacturing emissions as well as more emissions associated with their electricity and road infrastructure requirements.
- E-bikes use the existing electrical infrastructure and aren’t hampered by the lack of a charging network. This is perhaps one reason why e-bikes are outselling EVs in the U.S.
- E-bike use improves physical and mental health, which reduces health care costs.
- E-bikes were a proven success in the City of Detroit’s Essential Workers Micromobility Pilot. The Pilot user survey found that 95% of the respondents were interested in continued use of the e-bikes. 55% wanted to use them year-round. It gave Detroiters a dependable, affordable transportation choice for their work commute.
Perhaps the most important reasons to go beyond EV incentives are equity and environmental justice.
Subsidizing EVs only helps those who can afford to operate a vehicle. Approximately 34% of Detroiters don’t own a vehicle. According to the University of Michigan Poverty Solutions Report, The Financial Well-Being of Detroit Residents, auto insurance premiums average $5,414, or 18% of the median income in Detroit. An estimated 60% of Detroit drivers don’t have auto insurance according to the Detroit Police. Consumer Reports says, EVs “cost more to insure than equivalent gasoline-powered cars.”
Only incentivizing EVs leaves many people behind.
Another major issue is air pollution. While EVs have zero tailpipe emissions, 90% of all road traffic particulate matter (PM) comes from unregulated, non-tailpipe sources, primarily tire wear and the suspension of road dust. One recent study found some EVs emit an estimated 3-8% more PM 2.5 than equivalent conventional vehicles due to increased curb weights and increased tire wear. Many Detroit communities already pay a heavy price for transportation-related emissions and that will continue if we only encourage EV adoption.
Again, we need a more comprehensive approach that incentivizes other green travel modes for all Michiganders. We’re certainly not against EVs. We just know that an EV-only strategy won’t get us to where we need to be.