urlIt is no secret that air pollution is a significant environmental concern that contributes not only to diminished air quality in cities and counties, impacts the health of citizens, and is a significant factor in global warming. It is widely recognized that one of the major contributors to air pollution, along with industrial plants and wildfires, is the car industry. Car exhaust in gas-powered vehicles contains nitrogen dioxide, a common pollutant, but there is also benzene, an air pollutant that is very toxic and can frequently be detected at gas stations.

While you cannot necessarily influence how much pollution your local Shell or BP station spews into the air, you are in control over your vehicle. Measuring car emissions and making sure they stay at acceptable levels is the law in the vast majority of states in the United States. Your registration may not be renewed if your vehicle fails to pass the emission level test, but even if it does, finding ways to lower your carbon footprint and drive “greener” should be at the back of any environmentally-conscious driver’s mind.

The best thing you can do is to switch to an electric vehicle! Not only are there 20 car models available across the country and over 25,000 charging stations set to appear in California alone within the next five years, as reported by CBS SF Bay area, but there are also tax breaks and reimbursements available to EV (electric vehicle) buyers. For instance, a $7500 federal tax credit is offered to EV owners, and there are state-specific tax credits available as well: consider, for instance, an additional $5000 in credits for electric car drivers in Georgia or up to $2500 in credits in California along with carpool lane access. The highest incentive is offered by Oklahoma, where you can claim up to 50% of the cost of the vehicle in credits! Depending on the state, these incentives are available both for plug-in vehicles (think Chevy Volt) and for battery-operated cars (like Nissan LEAF).

It is true that even electric vehicles leave a carbon footprint, because you have to charge them electrically, and 67% of electricity in the United States is generated by natural gas and coal-burning. However, the percentage of electricity generated  from renewable energy like wind and solar energy is steadily on the rise and up to 6% in 2013, while coal energy consumption is decreasing. Electric cars contribute to less fuel burned and less gasoline consumed: according to UCS.org, driving an electric vehicle in 2014 in Georgia alone helped reduce car emissions by 220000 tons and burning of gasoline by 4.5 million gallons. In general, no matter the state, emissions from electric vehicles are significantly lower than those from compact gas-powered cars, even the most fuel-efficient ones.

Last but not least, rapidly developing electric vehicle technology makes electric car progressively easier to operate and cheaper to own. Reduced emissions, decreased air pollution and carbon footprint go hand in hand with tax credits and the fun of driving a new-generation vehicle – sounds like everybody wins! Now is definitely the time to own one.