Rural Communities Could Benefit Most from Electric Vehicles

Analysis in Four States Shows Clean Transportation Delivers Thousands in Savings

Published Nov 12, 2020

WASHINGTON (November 12, 2020)—A new analysis of rural areas in four Northeastern states shows that shifting to a clean transportation system, including a bigger role for electric vehicles, has positive benefits across the region—but the savings are biggest for rural drivers.

The new study, conducted by M.J. Bradley & Associates with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), shows that cleaning up the transportation system reduces both pollution and costs for rural drivers in Maine, Maryland, Vermont and Virginia. According to the study, a typical rural driver can save more than $1,900 every year by switching from a conventional gasoline car to a comparable electric vehicle, adding up to tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the vehicle.

“Our transportation system is outdated, with limited options, high costs, and unsustainable levels of pollution,” said Maria Cecilia Pinto de Moura, senior engineer in the Clean Transportation Program at UCS. “But there’s an opportunity to build a better system, one that protects the climate and delivers real savings to rural drivers.”

The study identifies several reasons why drivers in rural communities tend to spend more of their income on gasoline—which means bigger benefits from adopting an electric vehicle instead. Residents of rural communities, on average, drive longer distances than their urban counterparts, which means they spend more money on fueling their cars. Switching to an electric vehicle would result in savings ranging from $1,900 to $2,800 every year, according to the study. They also tend to drive larger and older vehicles with lower efficiency. In addition, rural residents are more likely than urban residents to live in single-family homes, improving their ability to charge their own vehicles.

UCS experts say that state governments can help their residents take advantage of the benefits of cleaner transportation through smart, targeted programs, including electric vehicle purchase incentives, public charging infrastructure, the electrification of public service fleet vehicles, outreach and education, and regional planning to improve transit, walking and biking options.

“Transportation is the biggest source of global warming pollution in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions, so climate solutions have to include a focus on how we get around,” de Moura said. “Fortunately, we can build a system that gives all people more choices, more access, cleaner air and lower costs—and that doesn’t just apply to people living in the region’s cities.”

For more information, de Moura writes on the benefits of clean transportation in rural communities at the UCS blog.