PhotoEverybody knows that electric cars help reduce air pollution but studies show that there may be two hidden benefits that electric cars have over conventional vehicles.

The first is that they can help reduce the “heat island effect.” This refers to built-up areas, usually in urban settings, that are hotter than nearby rural areas.

For example, the annual mean air temperature of a city with one million people or more can be 2-5 degrees warmer than outlying areas. This is due to the heat given off by gas-powered vehicles and other machinery. This difference can jump as high as 22 degrees during the evening in warmer months.

Electric cars only emit about 20% of the heat that gas-powered vehicles do. Introducing more of them into cities could create a noticeable difference in temperatures.

The second benefit is that they can save you money by lowering the amount of power you use. By reducing the heat island effect through reduced emissions, you will no longer have to spend as much money on air conditioning costs -- which is another benefit to the environment.

Heat waves kill

Decreasing temperatures in urban areas is a necessity. Increased temperatures lead to higher demands for energy, increased air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illnesses and deaths, and poorer water quality.

Jianguo Liu, head of the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability at MSU and director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, points out that “heat waves kill, and in terms of climate change, even one degree can make a difference.”

But if the environmental impact isn’t enough to change your mind, there are also many monetary benefits to owning an electric car.

At the federal level, you can earn a consumer tax credit of $2500 for every plug-in electric car that you own. This can be increased by $417 for each kilowatt per hour (kWh) of battery capacity your car can produce in excess of five kWhs. The total credit allowed per vehicle is capped at $7500, and all vehicles currently on the market qualify for the full credit.

There are even more incentives offered at the state level across the country, at least in some states. These include rebates and tax credits for the purchase of vehicles and charging infrastructure, as well as access to carpool lanes and free public parking in some municipalities.

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