With Tesla propelling Nevada to the forefront of electric vehicle discussion, it is a good time to call attention to the benefits of electric vehicles (EV) in Nevada and ask policymakers to help Nevadans reap those benefits.
Here at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), students and faculty at the Center for Energy Research (CER) are eager to work together with Las Vegas community leaders to model sustainability and provide research for policymaking. Since over two-thirds of Nevada’s population reside in the Las Vegas metro area, it is not surprising that some of the school’s efforts are focused around the study of how electric vehicles and buses can reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality – two of the city’s major quality-of-life issues.
One thing we’ve learned is that Nevada offers the cleanest electricity in the Southwest for vehicle fuel and at very low cost. Fully electric cars have zero tailpipe emissions, which makes them a great choice for commuters in urban areas where conventional transportation disperses air pollutants throughout the city, a health hazard particularly during winter air inversions. The emissions from producing electricity for cars are far lower than from the tailpipes of gasoline vehicles, due to the fact that the local electric power provider has one of the most diverse and extensive renewable energy portfolios in the United States.
EVs cost very little to refuel compared to gasoline. NV Energy’s website notes that EV owners who drive 1,000 miles/month and charge their EV during the utility’s off-peak hours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. will pay just $16-$24 per month for the additional electricity. The website notes that, comparatively, it’s like paying $.75 per gallon of gasoline.
A recent PEW Environmental Group fact sheet on electric vehicles reports that, in the U.S., 94 percent of cars, trucks, ships and planes depend upon oil for fuel, an expensive commodity for which there is increased competition from developing nations. In Nevada we send about $5 billion every year to California and Utah, states from which we purchase nearly all of our transportation fuel. We are far better off economically if we fuel our cars with inexpensive electricity produced here in Nevada, keeping our energy dollars at home to boost our own economy.
If the price was comparable to other cars, I would by an electric vehicle and I suspect others are like me. Many other states have helped make EVs affordable and Nevada should consider doing so as well. A state rebate on the purchase or lease of an EV in Nevada will help people afford the up-front cost of the cars. Coupled with a federal income tax credit up to $7,500, a rebate policy will help more people afford EVs.
UNLV has a number of free EV charging stations on campus so, in my case, I could conveniently charge an EV both at home and work. However, not everyone who commutes has that option so we need policies in Nevada to install more charging stations. Last year, NV Energy budgeted $500,000 to share the cost of installing 133 charging ports at 47 locations (UNLV was one). But in order to meet the needs of more drivers, we need a statewide decal or registration fee dedicated to funding public charging stations.
We also need to allow EV fueling station owners to charge for their product. The Public Utility Commission of Nevada allows only utilities to sell electricity from EV charging stations. If that rule were changed, I envision a broad and innovative network of fueling stations at schools, restaurants, retailers, businesses and parks—anywhere people will linger for an hour or more.
These suggested policies will help boost the number of electric vehicles in Nevada and help us realize their benefits to our state.
Yahia Baghzouz, PhD, PE is a professor of electrical engineering and an associate director of the center for energy research at UNLV.