Electric vehicle here to stay

The electric vehicle is a smart choice that allows Atlanta to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. More than 1,700 plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) are registered in Georgia, with roughly 90 percent here in the metro area. These numbers are a clear indication that the technology has passed the litmus test locally, and the feedback we’ve heard from owners serves as proof.

The benefits of these vehicles resonate with families and businesses. These zero-emission vehicles do not have tailpipes and do not produce carbon, and they can directly impact our ability to attain federal air quality standards.

Drivers can unplug from a night’s charge, commute to the office, ferry kids and repeat with ease the next day — all before having to recharge. A growing number of employers have also installed charging stations for building tenants and guests to accommodate the needs of “beyond the pump” drivers.

Developing infrastructure to support technologies like PEVs also creates jobs. The city of Atlanta has partnered with Clean Cities Atlanta, the U.S. Department of Energy’s EV Project and the Southeast Regional EV Deployment Readiness Program to accommodate growing demand.

The EV Project, whose goal is to install 300 charging units in metro Atlanta and Macon, is now encouraging drivers to sign up for a free BLINK membership. BLINK is a low-cost option for drivers to access a network of public chargers.

Since 2010, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability has worked with vehicle manufacturers and infrastructure providers to inform residents about PEVs and their technology. The Office of Buildings has expedited permitting for EV infrastructure charging installation for residents and businesses, making it possible to leave city hall with a permit in one day.

As my office continues to work with the Atlanta City Council to pass legislation like our rainwater harvesting ordinance, the farmer’s market ordinance, and progressive zoning measures in conjunction with our Departments of Watershed Management and Planning, Atlanta will continue to be a globally competitive city that provides value to taxpayers.

The Atlanta Beltline, the Atlanta Streetcar and our newly expanded recycling program, Cartlanta, demonstrate a commitment to our people, economy and environment.

By 2020, manufacturers estimate that PEVs will account for 5 to 20 percent of vehicles sales, and most domestic and import automakers have a PEV offering — from trucks to luxury vehicles.

As a city, we must collectively reduce our carbon footprint, and reduce the burdens we place on our energy and water utilities. But the first step is behavior change.

The PEV is a great alternative to the gas combustion vehicle that is providing an even greater impact on our city and the air we breathe.

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Denise Quarles is director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability for the city of Atlanta.