Lifestyle Sustainability

Climate City: It’s Electric

By Joshua Blanco

The idea of electric vehicles (EVs) taking over our roadways may seem implausible to some. But when it comes to putting the brakes on climate change, it might be one of the most important choices we make.

So why isn’t everyone putting down the gas pump nozzle and rushing to their nearest EV dealer? The simple answer: misinformation.

Nissan Leaf with solar panels charging. Photo by Joe Baum, Blue Ridge EV Club

David Erb, an automotive engineer who recently retired from his teaching position at UNC Asheville after a long career as an academic, says that while there can be legitimate reasons for not owning an EV, most of the ones people give are not legitimate. But that doesn’t stop people from trying to make a case against EVs.

Of these, one of the most common is what he refers to as “the

long tailpipe,” the claim that electric vehicles are essentially just coal-fired cars with a longer tailpipe. “It has elements of truth,” he says, “but the bottom line is that a vehicle with a plug is significantly cleaner than one without a plug.”

He says on average, EVs still give off less than one-third the carbon emissions of a gasoline car. And while gas cars get dirtier as time goes on, EVs do the opposite—they get cleaner.

Along those same lines, many have touted the notion that the embodied energy, or the amount of energy it takes to manufacture an EV, is much more than that of a gas vehicle. Analyses supporting this argument are often complicated and made to appear overly complex to the average consumer. “They basically lie to you,” Erb says. “They use that complexity as a place to hide the bodies.”

He uses the Tesla Model 3 as an example. Despite having only slightly more embodied energy than that of a BMW 330i, the operating efficiency of the Tesla is so high that it can make up for it in a matter of months.

Then there’s the price tag. Granted, Teslas aren’t known for being the cheapest car on the market, but they’re not the only option out there, either. Not only can you end up paying less for an EV, you’ll also have a much easier time maintaining it as well.

Still, a lot of people believe holding on to the car they already have is the greener option. “It’s counterintuitive,” Erb says, “but in reality the best thing you can do for the environment is engage in a little consumerism.” By voting with your dollar, you can fill the automotive food chain with electric vehicles.

Fortunately the state of North Carolina is already working toward this goal, using measures like Gov. Cooper’s Executive Order 80, which, among other things, plans to put 80,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025.

But if we want to continue enjoying the benefits of transportation like we do, we’ll also need to do our part as individuals. As Erb puts it, “One person working alone did not cause this problem, and one person working alone won’t solve it either.”

The good news is Asheville already has nearly 100 charging stations within ten miles of city limits, according to ChargeHub. What’s more, Plug-In NC reports an estimated one to two thousand new EV registrations in 2021.

“Asheville is a ripe place for this,” Erb says. “It’s very accepting of new ideas and new ways of doing things. I just find that incredibly refreshing.”

For more facts on electric vehicles and to find more information on owning one, visit or

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