Take Action: Act Locally

While state and federal governments make policy, it’s often at the local level that real change occurs. As a resident, you can have a strong voice with your town, city or county. Most residents generally don’t take the time to speak up, so a few voices united on an issue may count for a lot, and even one voice can be enough to start the conversation.

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Here are some local actions you can take to accelerate the switch from gasoline vehicles to clean alternatives at the local level.

1.     Contact your local government: Cities control land use, local charging infrastructure, curb space, zoning, building codes, and parking codes. Often a simple request to local government leaders can result in a change that makes a real difference.

a.     Look up how to contact your city council, when city council meetings are held, and the agenda for the next meeting. Usually city council meetings include an opportunity (typically 2-3 minutes per speaker) for public comment on any topic, even if it’s not on the meeting agenda.

b.     Send an email or make a comment at the next city council meeting encouraging action in one or more of the above areas.

Sample message or talking points:

I have lived in this city for ___ years, and I care deeply about our air quality and the climate.

I think it’s important for our city to move beyond gasoline use and toward clean transportation such as electric vehicles.

Vehicle emissions are the leading preventable cause of air pollution. They increase risks of asthma, heart disease, lung disease, cancer and dementia. A study from MIT found that vehicle emissions cause 58,000 deaths a year in the U.S. – more deaths than car crashes or secondhand smoke.  The worst effects are on children, people of color, and people who commute in heavy traffic or live near busy roads.

In addition to causing air pollution, transportation is our country’s single biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions. To address climate change, we must address vehicle emissions.

Phasing out gasoline vehicles will also save our residents money on fuel, create green jobs, spur economic growth and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

Our city can and should take steps to facilitate the transition away from gas vehicles. Here are a few ideas of actions we could take:

[Select any one or more of the measures below that you believe are most important for your city – feel free to add your own!]

●      Installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure in public places, workplaces and multifamily units, especially in disadvantaged and low income communities (using local grants if available, or other incentives such as those offered in California). All across the country, many more EV chargers will be needed to meet demand.

●      Building codes requiring electric vehicle charging infrastructure in new construction (see examples here, and here (starting on page 36))

●   Electrification of the city-owned fleet (see here for the Public Fleet One-Stop EV Procurement Portal, here for public fleet rebates, here starting on page 22 for heavy duty fleet vehicle vouchers, here and here for sample city policies requiring new public fleet vehicles to be electric, and here for an overview of city policies to electrify municipal fleets.)

●      City education and outreach (like EV ride and drive events — click here to bring a National Drive Electric Week event to your community, and outreach on EV incentives for low-income residents)

●   Tracking and reporting on a regular basis the total gasoline sales for the city (driving that number down is key to reducing carbon emissions)

●      Adding wayfinding signage at major intersections indicating the location of nearby public electric vehicle charging to let non-EV drivers know that there are plenty of chargers available

●      Modelgreen leases” allocating costs and benefits of adding electric vehicle charging infrastructure in multi-unit developments

●      Free parking, no tolls and access to high occupancy vehicle lanes for clean vehicles

●      City arrangement with transit agencies that public fleets (e.g., buses) will be non-gasoline

●      Streamlined, free, online permitting for electric vehicle charging infrastructure

●   Improve infrastructure for public transit, biking and walking

I would be happy to help our city make progress on any of these measures.

Thank you for your leadership.


[Your name and address]

2. Contact your CCA: Community Choice Aggregations, or CCAs, are local quasi-governmental groups that aggregate commercial and residential electricity accounts to procure electricity from clean, renewable sources (the utility continues to deliver the power, maintain the power lines, and do the electricity billing). Many CCAs also develop local programs to increase the use of renewable energy — including through promoting electric vehicle adoption. Click here to find out if your county or region has a CCA. If so, attend a local CCA meeting and ask for the above measures.

3.     Encourage other city residents to send similar messages to the city council. Often a handful of residents speaking up on an issue is enough to mobilize the city to take action. To take the group to the next level, consider starting an Electric Auto Association Chapter in your area.

4.     Ask your employer, your landlord, your supermarket, your shopping center, place of worship and anywhere else you visit, to put in electric vehicle charging stations.



5.    Submit an Op Ed or Letter to the Editor

Educate your community about the impacts of gasoline vehicles and the need to phase them out with an Op Ed or letter to the editor. Use the following template as a starting point, or write your own. Look up the guidelines for submitting an Op Ed for your local paper, as they may include specific word count limits. Let Coltura know if your letter is published!

Sample Op Ed:

It’s Time to Switch from Gasoline to Clean Alternatives

A growing list of countries has announced plans to phase out gasoline and diesel passenger vehicles by 2040 or sooner. Our state should join that list and pass a law that ensures our new cars are clean, zero emissions vehicles starting in 2030 or sooner. Here’s why:

Fight Climate Change:  Every gallon of gas burned emits 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is the main driver of climate change. Transportation is the country’s biggest source of carbon emissions, accounting for 32 percent of our carbon footprint.

Improve Health: Vehicle emissions from gasoline and diesel vehicles are also the country’s largest source of air pollution, causing 58,000 premature deaths annually, and increasing the risks of asthma, lung disease and cancers – especially in children and those living near busy roads.

Boost Jobs, Economy, Energy Independence: Transitioning to clean electric cars would move dollars from crude oil (much of it imported from OPEC countries and Alaska) to the domestic/local economy. 

Promote Equity: Low income families spend about three times more on gasoline as a percentage of income than do middle class families. Fueling a vehicle with electricity is 1/2 to 1/5 the cost of fueling with gasoline.  Maintenance costs of electric vehicles are also much less than of gas cars.  Also, disadvantaged communities of color tend to be located near busy roads and freeways, where vehicle emissions cause higher rates of asthma, cancer, and dementia, and impose additional health care costs and lost workdays.

Clean Alternatives to Gasoline Vehicles Are Good and Improving:

Tesla, Chevy, Hyundai, Nissan and Kia electric vehicle models are getting 200 to 300+ miles of range per charge -- more than enough for the average American commute of less than 40 miles a day. For longer trips, super-fast chargers are already popping up around the country that will rival gas refueling speeds. More models of electric SUVs, minivans and pickup trucks are coming every year. Ford has announced an all-electric version of the F-150. There are many convenient ways to fuel electric vehicles — those with access to electricity at home can charge while they sleep -- no more waiting at gas stations and breathing toxic fumes. Lifetime costs for many EVs are already lower than for gas cars, due to savings on fuel and maintenance -- and even cheaper for those with solar panels. Sticker prices of EVs are are expected to continue dropping as battery technology improves. Issues around variety of makes and models, affordability and charging infrastructure are being addressed now, and will be resolved well before 2030.

Here are steps each of us can take to transition away from gasoline vehicles in our state:

●        Commit that your next car will be a zero emissions vehicle; ditch your gas car and buy or lease an electric one now if you have the means to do so.

●   Ask your legislator to support legislation providing that all new vehicles must be clean, zero-emission vehicles starting in 2030 or sooner.

●      Advocate for your city and county government to introduce and support building ordinances that require electric vehicle charging infrastructure in new construction and retrofits.

●      Ask your city, your employer, your landlord, your supermarket, and your shopping center to put in public electric vehicle charging stations.

Transitioning quickly to clean vehicles is critical to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement goals and minimize the catastrophic impacts of climate change. We’re already on the road to clean cars; we just need to accelerate. 

6.     Submit a Perspective to your local public radio station

Local radio stations often broadcast listener perspectives. For instance, here are the guidelines for the National Public Radio affiliate in Northern California.

7.     Post on NextDoor.com

NextDoor.com is a private social network for neighbors and communities to communicate about matters of local interest. You can post on NextDoor to alert neighbors to relevant events in your area such as city council meetings on measures related to the transition away from gasoline vehicles, opportunities to test drive electric vehicles (your own EV if you’re willing!). It’s also a place to remind neighbors to avoid idling their gas vehicles in populated areas such as schools during pick-up and drop-off.

8. Ask auto dealerships in your area to join the PlugStar program to become trained in selling electric vehicles and get leads, recognition and rewards.

9.     Volunteer with Coltura

Coltura has volunteer opportunities for people everywhere.  Please email at us info@coltura.org and we’ll find the perfect volunteer opportunity for you. 

For additional guidance and resources on local action to promote EV adoption, see this article as well as the AchiEVe Policy Toolkit: Model State & Local Policies to Accelerate Electric Vehicle Adoption (Sierra Club and Plug In America, June 2018), and visit the Plug In Electric Vehicle Resource Center.