Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Point-counterpoint: Should Wisconsin transition to electric vehicles?

Recent grant money dedicated to electric vehicle charging network raises debate over electric cars
Aina Mohd Naser

The Biden administration granted Wisconsin $78 million in federal funds to expand the state’s electric vehicle charging network Sept. 17. The approval is part of a nationwide effort to increase dependence on electric — rather than gasoline-powered — vehicles. Should Wisconsin continue to transition toward electric vehicles, or do the consequences outweigh the potential benefits?

Point: Electric vehicles should become the norm

Over the last decade, there has been a surge in the use and development of battery-electric vehicles. With a concern for the ongoing effects of climate change, many car-buyers and manufacturers are transitioning to electric in hopes of saving energy and limiting air pollution. This comes with a higher demand for charging stations throughout the country. In response to this shift, the federal government apportioned nearly $78 million in funding to Wisconsin’s project to build more Electric Vehicle charging stations across the state.


These funds come from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, which Congress passed in November 2021. The Biden Administration hopes to renovate the country’s infrastructure to encourage the use of renewable energy vehicles. Wisconsin’s interconnected project calls for the construction of 400+ station locations, adding up to around 1,000 new EV Supply Equipment ports.

This investment seems to be a smart one, as it will reduce pollution rates, positively impact the fuel and energy economy and lay down a foundation for the future of electric transportation.

One of the obvious benefits of electric vehicles is their eco-friendly nature, most notably in regards to air pollution. While conventional cars rely on fossil fuels such as gas and diesel for power, EVs use electric motors powered by rechargeable lithium batteries.

This means EVs do not emit any sort of carbon dioxide emissions. Replacing conventional cars with EVs thus has the potential to improve our air quality. While a transition to EVs cannot fully eliminate emissions in our air, adopting and encouraging the use of EVs is certainly a step in the right direction.

Universal changing tables in Dane County addresses issues of gender inequality

Another aspect of the use of EVs is how it will affect the economy. Since these vehicles don’t run on fossil fuels, there is a rational potential for the average cost of fuel to reduce as demand for it lessens. This would also lead to less dependency on imported oil. Consumption from locally produced electricity sources might increase in tandem, which could make our economy significantly more independent, as well as bring in new jobs in the energy sector.

EVs are also a good financial decision for consumers, as they will end up saving money on fuel costs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, drivers can save as much as $14,500 on fuel costs over 15 years by driving an electric vehicle. The cost of powering an electric vehicle is close to the equivalent of just two dollars per gallon.

Lastly, this investment will lay down the foundation and infrastructure needed for the future. While electric vehicles may not be extremely popular among certain groups, it is likely we will see more and more electric vehicles in the near future. Many private-sector companies such as Ford and General Motors have made commitments to go fully electric within the next 10 years.

While there is an argument that the price and effort to create the infrastructure necessary for these charging stations is too high, the eventual economic and environmental benefits will outweigh the costs. Today, it is common to see gas stations everywhere you go. Maybe tomorrow, we will start seeing charging stations along highways and among residential areas, ultimately for the better.

Brett Huser ([email protected]) is a freshman studying journalism and mass communication.

Counterpoint: Electric vehicles must be implemented mindfully

Generally, electric vehicles produce fewer carbon emissions than gasoline vehicles, according to the EPA. A transition to electric cars, however, must be examined closely, because EVs present their own unique challenges in the larger move toward sustainability.

Affordable housing project generates new solutions for farmers

For one, the system powering electric cars matters. According to the New York Times, most EVs draw energy from a combination of coal and sustainable power grids, which makes their environmental footprint smaller than traditional vehicles.

Using predominantly coal-powered grids, however, can actually produce worse environmental outcomes than something like a hybrid vehicle, which uses gasoline and an efficient battery to improve mileage. In the Midwest, coal-power grids dominate energy production, meaning EVs being charged in Wisconsin are likely not very sustainable.

Additionally, issues arise in sourcing materials such as cobalt to produce lithium-ion batteries, which power electric cars. Obtaining cobalt can be environmentally damaging and unethical, according to the New York Times.

For one, the mining processes produce harmful waste products that impact the environment and surrounding communities. Also, the vast majority of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where working conditions are largely unregulated, raising human rights concerns.

Obtaining materials for EVs can also be difficult for manufacturers. Minor disruptions in supply chains have caused some companies to halt production, according to Forbes. This raises questions of whether the economy is ready for the transition to EVs, as the Biden administration suggests. It also introduces the possibility that companies will turn to unethical practices to meet market demands.

Point-counterpoint: Addressing sustainability at UW

On the back end, problems persist with recycling lithium batteries once they’re done being used in cars. Economic and technical challenges of recycling these materials have prevented extensive research. But without a plan for how to reuse or recycle batteries on a large scale, many could end up in landfills in the near future.

Finally, the transition to electric vehicles, while beneficial by some standards, presents equity issues. Right now, the typical owners of electric cars are high-income men, according to the MIT Science Policy Review. This means the initial stages of the project would benefit this demographic before other subsets of the population.

Also, reliance on electric cars can exacerbate racial and income inequalities, according to NPR. Expanding the infrastructure for private transit draws resources away from public services. Public transportation is both a sustainable and accessible option for many Americans. The focus on individual EVs undermines the larger effort of effective urban planning that allows for easier mobility, stronger communities and more sustainability.

Undoubtedly, electric vehicles represent an opportunity to significantly reduce carbon emissions in the United States. But, unless we can answer the more difficult questions that address the nuances of a transition to electric vehicles, we may not be headed for a more sustainable future after all.

Celia Hiorns ([email protected]) is a sophomore studying journalism and political science.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *