Small steps can move Oregon forward in electric transportation
By Jeff Cogen, Multnomah County
Jeff Cogen is chairman of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners and also serves as chairman of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s Transportation Electrification Executive Council. For more information on EVs in Oregon, visit www.evroadmap.us, www.facebook.com/evroadmap and follow on Twitter @evroadmapus.
Whenever I drive an electric vehicle, there are a few things that always strike me. First, these innovative cars are reliable and fun to drive. Also, you’re in a car that gets the equivalent of 133 miles per gallon — without the cost of filling a gas tank. But most important, whenever you drive you’re helping contribute to a healthy environment by not burning fossil fuels that pollute our community’s air with tailpipe emissions.
I serve as chairman of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s Transportation Electrification Executive Council, and I believe Oregon is on the forefront of big change when it comes to the use of EVs. And if everyone — from local governments to businesses to our residents — steps up to embrace this new technology, I firmly believe that we can improve Oregon’s economy, livability and health by leaps and bounds.
At Multnomah County, we're piloting an electric vehicle program that helps us make progress on core county values of sustainability, innovation and economic development. Under this pilot program, we’ve added four Nissan LEAFs to our fleet.
The value of these vehicles is simple and straight ahead:
• Multnomah County employs more than 4,500 employees at 100 different locations scattered across 470 square miles of land. Last year, our employees drove 3,674,187 miles. The carbon footprint of EVs is 83 percent lower than that of similar internal combustion engine cars in our fleet. It’s my hope that through our electric vehicle program, the county will lead the way in infusing sustainability into our community’s mindset.
• Our Nissan LEAFs keep some of the county’s vehicle fuel dollars circulating locally, rather than immediately leaving the state. The Oregon Department of Energy estimates that $6 billion leaves our state economy each year to pay for gasoline and diesel fuel. Electric vehicles provide insulation from gasoline price spikes, and help expose our employees and the public to these terrific cars. That’s smart thinking.
• While the electric vehicle industry is still in its early stages, it has enormous economic development potential. Look at how well these vehicles are selling. It’s clear the technology is gaining popularity, and they’re selling faster than hybrids did in their first year. Oregon-based companies have the good chance of capturing a major share of the nascent market for electric vehicle components, such as embedded chip systems, telematics, batteries, software and charging infrastructure. And that translates into more jobs for Oregonians.
The entire council shares my excitement about this growing sector. Many of us believe that Oregon’s best shot at landing an outsized share of the economic growth from the electric vehicle industry will hinge on our ability to prove that Oregon is a premier launch market for the cars.
So consider if you or your company can go electric the next time you think of buying a car. Even one car can make a difference for your bottom line and it will go far in helping protect the environment. Together, our individual actions will add up and propel Oregon forward.
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