Arkansas is poised to lead the future of mobility
The introduction of electric vehicles is not a question of “if it will happen”, but of “how soon will it happen?
Almost 78% of the car ads in this year’s Super Bowl featured a plug-in vehicle. Consumers are increasingly interested in electric vehicles, primarily due to a variety of benefits, including cost savings through reduced fuel consumption, reduced maintenance and reduced emissions. Some EV drivers are seeing additional savings by charging with energy generated by their own solar panels.
Alongside growing consumer interest, government investments are also driving the EV market. The bipartisan infrastructure package will allow $54 million in support for charging stations across the Natural State. While the exact amount is unpredictable, Arkansas Secretary of Energy and Environment Becky Keogh has shared plans to install fast chargers about every 50 miles. Tesla intends to install five additional Superchargers in Arkansas over the next two years, while money from the Volkswagen Mitigation Fund will help install multiple chargers and will soon even flow toward DC fast chargers. The additional access to charging stations will only add to the already growing adoption of electric vehicles.
In general, urban areas tend to have more electric vehicles than rural areas. However, the adoption potential in Arkansas is significant in part because of our rural nature. More than 23% of the vehicles on Arkansas Highways are pickup trucks. As the electric pickup market grows through dealers like General Motors, Ford and Rivian, to name a few, planned rollout in remote states will result in more charging stations in those areas.
The FBI agents aren’t the only ones laying the groundwork for this transport movement. Governor Asa Hutchinson recently announced plans for a Council on Future Mobility during his annual State of the State address. Council membership includes private sector representatives including Walmart, JB Hunt and Canoo, as well as public sector involvement through Public Service Commission Chair Ted Thomas, Secretary Keogh and Arkansas Department of Transportation Director Lorie Tudor. Overall, this council is well positioned to provide a way forward and create an innovative atmosphere that will continue to attract businesses in this space while providing consumers with what they sorely desire.
A particular obstacle impeding our progress on this front is ACA § 23-112-403. Arkansas is one of only 12 states with laws restricting direct sales from manufacturers to consumers. Unfortunately, Arkansans often prefer other states to buy electric vehicles. A market approach would no longer prevent consumers from getting a desired product, while at the same time making us as a state more competitive.
The recent investment in Arkansas by groups like Canoo and Envirotech is an example of the significant economic impact our industry is having across the state. In fact, Envirotech is working with Shine Solar to integrate solar panels into their Osceola operation, which also illustrates the role that renewable energy can play in the bigger picture of electric vehicles.
Ultimately, this electrification movement helps keep the natural state beautiful, but it also helps our home state grow as an innovative place to live and do business.
Publisher’s Note: Lauren Waldrip is executive director of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association. The opinions expressed are those of the author.