County’s Climate Goals Hinge on Electric Vehicles

The 2021 Montgomery County Climate Action Plan set a lofty goal: zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2035 and an 80% emissions reduction by 2027. To meet this deadline, county officers are focusing on the switch to electric vehicles.

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2018, 42% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Montgomery County sprouted from the transportation sector.

The Climate Action Plan assumes that 30% of the county’s total emission reductions can be achieved by transitioning to electric vehicles and away from fossil fuel, according to a county council transportation and environment committee presentation. The remaining 12% of the total county emissions attributed to transportation is expected be reduced from the public increasing its usage of public transportation and choosing to take fewer car trips.

The county has a head start, with many residents already owning electric vehicles and charging systems in place.

Montgomery County has the most registered battery powered and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles of any Maryland county, according to Maryland Department of Transportation data. Nearly 20,000 registered battery electric vehicles are registered with the county as of October 2023.

“We have nation leading climate change goals,” County Climate Officer Sarah Kogel-Smucker said.

Kogel-Smucker called electric vehicle charging and preparedness a “critical component” to reach county climate goals in a November county council committee meeting. While electric vehicles are better for the environment as a whole, Kogel-Smucker said they are also better for car owners.

The county, state and federal governments are working together to spread the word about electric vehicles, make electric cars more affordable and dispel misinformation about this critical infrastructure.

How the county is spreading the word about electric vehicles

Brian Booher is the Senior Planning Specialist for Zero Emissions Vehicles for the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection.

Booher, along with other officials, are working to make buying an electric vehicle easier and more approachable for county residents.

The Montgomery County Electric Vehicle Purchasing Co-op, a program started in Booher’s office, works with eight local dealerships to highlight incentives and discounts that make purchasing or leasing electric vehicles more affordable. The co-op sends out a regular newsletter with incentives like free home charging installation and cash back on purchases.

Education is also playing an important role in the county’s electric vehicle platform, Booher said. The county has made an effort to create “electric vehicle experiences,” where the public can see an electric vehicle, learn about them and ask questions to vehicle owners. These are events either created solely for this electric vehicle education or supporting existing events.

“To increase awareness and overcome some of the lack of knowledge about EVs,” Booher said was the focus of the electric vehicle experiences.

De-charging range anxiety 

Range anxiety – the fear that electric vehicles will not have enough battery life to reach a destination – is one hurdle that Montgomery County officials are attempting to overcome. 

Over 500 public charging stations are available across Montgomery County, including 100 fast chargers. These stations are located in parking lots, parking garages and parks. 

Newer electric vehicle models have increasingly longer ranges. In 2023, the average electric vehicle sold in the United States had a 300-mile range between charges, according to a Bloomberg analysis.

There are three levels of electric vehicle charging: 1, 2 and 3.

Typical household outlets (120V) are level one chargers and provide five miles of range for every hour the vehicle is plugged in, according to the county website. Level two chargers (240V) are occasionally found in homes to use with dryers and stovetops or installed by an electrician. These chargers supply 25 miles of range for every hour of charge. The most efficient charging outlet is Level three (480V) – supplying 40 miles of charge in only 10 minutes. Level three outlets are only found at public charging stations. 

Booher, who is an electric vehicle owner, said that one added aspect of electric vehicles is the convenience. Instead of stopping at the gas station, he simply charges his car while at work and at home.

“It is tremendously convenient … you can plug in your vehicle when you get home at night and wake up with a full charge in the morning,” Booher said in an interview with MCM.

However, the planning specialist said that more charging stations are needed, especially on interstates. He recently drove from Maryland to the northeast and although he did find charging stations, he did experience long wait times.

“We definitely need more interstate charging, fast charging to support the number of cars that are getting added to the road more and more every day,” Booher said.

The county has applied for federal grants to install more charging centers in county owned facilities, according to Booher.

The price question

One common fear about electric vehicles is a higher upfront cost compared to a gas-powered vehicle – but county and federal tax breaks might make that a worry of the past.

Electric vehicles used to be more expensive than gas vehicles, but in recent years the cost as been coming down to the point that new electric and gas vehicles are almost even in prices today, Booher said.

An average electric vehicle cost $5,000 more than a gas-powered vehicle in July 2023, according to Cox Automotive data.

The federal government offers an up to $7,500 tax credit for many new, qualified plug in electric vehicles. Maryland provides an additional $3,000 tax credit to some qualified purchases.

“That is going to make it cheaper than any new gas vehicle that you’d be looking at,” Booher said about the two tax credits.

The price of ownership – the cost of fuel and maintenance – for an electric vehicle is also lower than a gas vehicle, Booher said.

A report by Energy Innovation, a nonpartisan policy firm, found that every electric vehicle model in every U.S. state is cheaper to fill than a gas vehicle – a savings of $1,000 for some car types.

Are county vehicles electric?

To achieve Montgomery County’s ambitious climate goals – both the county government and the public have to join together on electrification.

Calvin Jones is the Division Chief of Fleet Management Services with the Montgomery County Department of General Services. He is responsible for the entire county vehicle fleet – approximately 3,500 vehicles. This includes police cars, buses, snow plows and more. To meet county goals, Jones is focused on replacing gas-powered vehicles with electric.

“Wherever a zero emission vehicle is available, that’s what we buy,” Jones said in an interview with Montgomery Community Media.

One hinge to meeting county goals is that many vehicles the county needs, like dump trucks, aren’t available in electric or zero emission forms yet or available in the area, Jones said.

The county has already acquired 14 electric buses and have 100 on order for the next three years, according to Jones. One microgrid was built, with another on the way, to support the electrification of the county bus fleet.


With the 2027 and 2035 deadlines steadily approaching, county officials say that time is of the essence.

“In order to meet County’s climate action goals. We need to electrify the vehicles that are on the road and we need to do it as quickly as possible,” Booher said.

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