Electric vehicles save money, make big step toward reaching net zero CO² by 2050

Climate experts say electric vehicles must dominate American auto sales by the end of this decade to reach “net zero” CO² emissions by 2050.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the nation and world to reach a target of “net zero” CO² emissions by 2050, climate experts say electric vehicles and light-duty trucks must dominate American auto sales by the end of this decade.

But what will it take to make that big a change in America’s vehicular fleet that quickly? What will it mean for Jacksonville? What benefits will we see?

There is already an option to buy an electric car or a hybrid when buying a new vehicle -- even for pickup trucks and sports cars. Making that choice is a big step toward sustainability and zero emissions.

We spoke with a new electric car owner -- and a doctor -- about making the switch, and the impact it can have.

Erik Gonzalez has always loved and driven European cars, but he recently invested in a Tesla Model 3.

“In my time having owned a Model 3, so far I’ve driven roughly 6,000 miles and that equates to cost savings of about $1,000 to $1,100 so far,” Gonzalez said.

The electric vehicle market includes more than just Teslas. Most mainstream manufacturers including Audi, BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, Genesis, GMC, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Mini, Nissan, Porsche, Volkswagen and Volvo are already selling electric car in the United States.

Megan del Pizzo, vice president of Tom Bush Volkswagen, is excited about the electric car future.

“Volkswagen’s really getting into electric vehicles in a big way,” she said.

Not only will the vehicles save money because you’re not buying gas, but most new electric cars sold in this country can also earn you a $7,500 federal income tax credit. And with no oil changes, spark plugs and other requirements of gasoline engines, there’s less maintenance cost for electric vehicles, as well.

It also helps clean the air since roughly 20% of air pollution comes from vehicles.

“Increased levels of air pollution actually does increase your risk of hospitalization for COPD, COPD exacerbations, ER visits, asthma,” said Dr. Scott Helgeson, senior associate consultant, pulmonary and critical care medicine at Mayo Clinic.

Jacksonville is a growing city with more and more traffic and studies show that those most impacted by pollution live closest to highways, making this also an environmental justice concern.

“It would cut down a lot on this potential development of these respiratory cardiovascular diseases,” Helgeson said.

Research by Net-Zero America at Princeton University concluded that Florida could avoid nearly 10,000 premature deaths by 2050 if electric cars dominate new sales.

An estimated $20 billion in health care costs could be saved as well.

This month, JEA started a new program for electric vehicle owners that saves them even more money on electricity by offering a $7/month incentive if they charge their cars overnight from a dedicated charging port.

“I just signed up for it. I got approved last week (as) a matter of fact,” Gonzalez said.

JTA is on board, too, already acquiring a couple of zero-emission, all-electric buses to its fleet this year -- taking a first step toward long-term sustainability.

“Electric transportation is available right now for everybody and you can participate in some way,” said Dave Mckee, JEA’s program manager of electrification.

Switching to electric transportation is just one way to improve sustainability. Alternative energy jobs in Florida grew by 2.9% last year, increasing by 3,480 jobs since 2019.