With gas prices continuing to increase, Chapel Hill residents may find themselves envious of the rogue Tesla they spot on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. After all, those of us without electric vehicles have been paying a pretty penny to fill up our gas tanks.
Despite what many may think, electric cars are no longer an unattainable item or some futuristic idea.
Take Chatham County, for instance. Vietnamese manufacturer VinFast selected the county as the site for its newest electric vehicle facility. This will be North Carolina's first car manufacturing plant, as well as the largest economic development in the state's history, according to a press release from Gov. Roy Cooper.
Unsurprisingly, many are wary of the transition from gas to electric. Some anticipate fewer job opportunities within the fossil fuel industry or are concerned about the sustainability of producing electric car batteries.
But the work being done in our communities, including the VinFast electric vehicle facility in Chatham County, could also serve to assuage concerns.
VinFast’s new factory is expected to create an astounding 7,500 new jobs, with the likelihood of new jobs at factories around the nation. There could potentially be 150,000 jobs created within the industry if electric vehicles amount to 50 percent of U.S. auto sales by 2030, according to an Economic Policy Institute report.
Based on these numbers, it's clear the transition to electric vehicles is inevitable and necessary. Federal and state governments should be making commitments to help make that transition faster and easier.
North Carolina should further this effort by installing more public electric charging stations in order to allow electricity to become available for those investing in electric vehicles. It's not enough for VinFast to simply be present in the community: The general population must be empowered with the tools to buy and own electric vehicles.
While it is true that electric cars outscore the average gasoline vehicle during the production process, due to the lithium-ion batteries requiring more energy and materials to make, they make up for their higher manufacturing emissions within 18 months of driving — at most. They continue to outperform gasoline cars until they are no longer usable.
To make an even bigger difference to the environment, electric buses and trucks are a necessity. With public transportation being an essential part of Chapel Hill’s infrastructure, it is incredibly important that Chapel Hill makes the switch from gas to electric. The town already has three electric buses in operation.
These buses cost approximately $1 million each. This, along with VinFast’s $2 billion investment, shows that North Carolina is committed to change and that there are willing investors to this necessary shift.
And these investments are worth it. Electric vehicles cost less than half as much to operate as gas-powered cars, according to a 2018 study from the University of Michigan. There is no denying that switching to electric-powered vehicles is beneficial in both the short and long run.
Other communities in the Triangle should follow in Chapel Hill and Chatham County's footsteps in producing cleaner emissions, and recommit to being net-zero in their own transportation projects.
Say goodbye to the loud cars revving their way past you, gas fumes in your lungs and worrying about how much you’re going to pay for gas. Goodbye to rushing to fill up your tank before work, because you can charge your car overnight and while it sits in the driveway.
Goodbye to polluting our environment, and hello to electricity.
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