Editor’s note: Today’s editorial originally appeared in The (Eugene, Ore.) Register Guard. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
Gov. Kate Brown probably already knew this, but it turns out that executive orders aren’t magic wands. The one she signed in 2017 setting a goal for Oregon of 50,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2020 doesn’t guarantee success on its own.
As of the beginning of this month, the Oregon Department of Transportation reports that the state is little more than half-way to Brown’s goal with 26,218 registered electrical vehicles — about 1% of passenger vehicles in the state. Lane County is nearing 2,000 registered electrical vehicles, out of around 328,000 vehicles total.
Reaching 50,000 EVs statewide by the end of 2020 won’t be easy, and Brown hasn’t done enough beyond her order to make it happen. If Oregon is committed to doing its part to combat climate change, lowering vehicle emissions is critical, and electric vehicles can play a crucial role. As Brown noted in a statement accompanying her executive order, the transportation sector accounts for 40 percent of Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions.
So how does the state achieve this worthwhile goal? Obviously, the approach needs to change, and it needs to involve more than just state government.
Local governments can do their part by working to convert their vehicle fleets to electric. Oregon residents can do their part by at least considering electric vehicles when it’s time to buy a new car. The state and federal governments offer combined rebates and tax credits of $7,500 to help offset the higher price of such automobiles.
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One key factor to encouraging people to buy electrical vehicles is making sure the infrastructure to serve them is in place — most critically, charging stations. Oregon is using nearly $11 million from its portion of the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal to upgrade its charging station infrastructure.
That money will help put more fast-charging stations along Interstate 5 and other highways and upgrade existing chargers so they are compatible with more electric vehicles. That’s good. People won’t buy electric cars if they fear they might get stranded during a drive in the country or while running errands. When the settlement money dries up, though, the state should invest more.
It’s also important to have charging stations in town. According to a website that maps charging stations in Oregon, Eugene is doing well in that regard compared to other cities of its size with 36 stations within a 10-mile radius of the city center, second only to Salem’s 39. Other mid-sized cities outside the Portland metro area have about half as many.
The private sector can help, either voluntarily or through local development rules. Eugene businesses should be encouraged to make some prime parking spots EV only, and perhaps Eugene could consider requiring a certain number of charging stations per available parking spots in larger lots.
Brown’s 50,000 electric vehicles is not likely to happen by 2020, but reaching that target is attainable soon after. As with most important goals, however, it will take all hands to achieve it.
From the governor, down to counties and cities, the private sector and even individual Oregonians shopping for a new car.