Metro, Newton

Green Newton Promotes Use of Electric Vehicles in the City

Leslie Zebrowitz bought her Tesla as a gift to her grandchildren, but she said she did not think the environment would also reap the benefits of her gift. 

The “Electric Driving: Fun, Carbon-Friendly, and Affordable” seminar was part of Green Newton’s series of talks on the environment with the co-chair of the Newton EV Task Force Zebrowitz and five other panelists—Ellen Meyers, Green Newton President Marcia Cooper, George Kirby, Liora Silkes, and Newton City Councilor Alicia Bowman. The event was open to the public on Sept. 23 as well as on Sept. 30 from 7 to 9 p.m. on Zoom. 

“I hope we look back on this and say that these are the horse and buggy days,” Zebrowitz said. “I really think we have to move on, we just have to do it”. 

Newton needs to make structural changes to its transportation systems, and the best way is through the use of electric vehicles (EVs), Zebrowitz said. About 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the city come from residential and personal vehicles, according to Zebrowitz. 

“It is the most impactful way we can reduce that enormous section of our city’s greenhouse gas emissions,” Zebrowitz said.

Based on the Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan, 100 percent of new car sales in the state must be EVs by 2035, Zebrowitz said. In Newton, the Newton Climate Action Plan calls for 33 percent of cars in the city to be electric by 2030. Zebrowitz said these goals are aimed at reaching carbon neutrality in Newton by 2050.

“But where are we?” Zebrowitz asked. “We are not very far along. Only 1.25 percent of Newton’s cars were EVs in 2020.”

Zebrowitz addressed common questions and concerns surrounding the purchasing of an electric vehicle in her presentation, including car charging, taxing, high pricing, and anxiety surrounding the range electric cars can travel between charges. 

Electric vehicle owners can charge their cars at home overnight, at their workplace, and in some cases at street utility poles, Zebrowitz said. She suggested using the ChargePoint app to locate the stations in Newton. 

“People don’t realize there are charging stations in many places,” Zebrowitz said. “If you have an electric vehicle, you’ll have an app on your phone that will show you where they are and tell you if they’re free.”

Kirby, another panel member who said he has owned a Nissan LEAF for over eight years, also advocated for EVs due to the cost benefits and efficiency of at-home charging stations. 

Part of the appeal of the car is the tax benefits, Zebrowitz said. When installing an electric vehicle charging unit, there is a 30 percent federal tax credit for electric vehicle–charging unit installation up to $1,000. When purchasing a new EV, people can receive up to $7,500 off the purchasing price.

There is less maintenance associated with EVs, as they have less than 20 moving parts compared to gas cars’ almost 2,000 parts, Zebrowitz said. The regenerative one-pedal driving also reduces the use of brakes in some EVs. 

“You will be amazed how easy it is,” Kirby said. “I finally had to replace my original brake pads after 8 years of driving.”

Kirby also said electric charging is less time-consuming. Most owners can charge their car overnight or during the day unattended, without having to hold a gas pump at a gas station. 

“You get your lunch, you get your coffee, you don’t have to stand there with a plug in your hand,” Kirby said. “It’s like plugging in your phone at night.”

The panelists also spoke about other forms of electric transportation—electric bikes, scooters, and trucks. Zebrowitz said he has been in touch with city hall and that it is hoping to get electric school buses. 

“It’s just much healthier for the kids, and it’s also just healthier for the air around the buses because of all the stops and goes,” Zebrowitz said.  

For Bowman, driving her electric bike, electric scooter, or electric car around Boston is a daily event that she said brings her great enjoyment. She said the efficiency of the vehicle and spending less time at the gas station are just some of the appealing features of electric transportation. 

“I choose one of those other vehicles as often as possible, which just saves a lot of time and energy, and it’s fun,” Bowman said. “To me that’s the future of transportation, having a couple of ways to get around.”

The panelists also explained the importance of the timeline of buying an electric car. 

“We are not saying everyone tomorrow go buy yourself a new car, we are talking about replacing vehicles at the end of their lifetime,” Zebrowitz said. 

As for the future of the City of Newton, Zebrowitz encouraged viewers to help spread the word and to continue learning about electric vehicles by reaching out to Newton’s EV Task Force. 

“The electric wave is coming, and for all the reasons Leslie explained, it’s a far better drive,” Kirby said.

Featured Image by Keara Hanlon / Heights Senior Staff

October 7, 2021