The Future of Electric Vehicles: Commentary by Brent Bailey, Central District Commissioner for Public Services
The following is a comment from Brent Bailey, the Central District Public Services Commissioner
Cars are as closely intertwined in American history, culture and innovation as almost anything else you can imagine. Vehicles give us freedom, autonomy, image and trust. For well over 100 years, cars, light trucks, SUVs, and vans have carried us home from the hospital, school, work, vacation, and all the other errands we had to do. With a few exceptions, the drive train of the automobile has always been powered by an internal combustion engine, which is mainly operated with petroleum-based fuels. While the automobile advanced many of the great things America is known for today, its use has significant costs related to road deaths, tailpipe emissions, fuel procurement, and general maintenance.
Despite the well-known social, environmental, health, and geopolitical costs of the traditional automobile, Americans are emotionally attached to our cars and light trucks. I love my GMC Duramax. So if, despite the known effects, we are unwilling to give up our cars, would people consider adopting less powerful vehicle technologies – such as an electric vehicle?
There are approximately 287 million registered vehicles in the United States. The number includes passenger cars, motorcycles, trucks, buses, and other vehicles. (US population is 333,406,000) Americans buy approximately 17 million petroleum-powered vehicles each year. In contrast, electric vehicles (EVs) will account for nearly 600,000 of the vehicles sold in 2021. Electric vehicle sales increased in 5 of the last 6 years.
Are Americans Trending To Buy An Electric Vehicle Now? The 2021 Global Automotive Consumer Survey found that 41% of US drivers said they would be considering an alternative drive car for their next vehicle.
Consumers interested in electric vehicles like the environmental benefits, the ability to bypass gas stations, and the low maintenance costs. But the travel options, vehicle costs and other issues make 45% of US drivers believe that traditional gasoline cars are the way to go. Two-thirds of Americans surveyed say that electric vehicles must have a range of at least 200 miles.
Until recently, early adopters, backed by some state and federal incentives, spurred electric vehicle sales. But as technology advances, consumer knowledge increases, and the range of electric vehicles expands, customers are slowly turning to electric vehicles. Wider adoption of EVs is likely to require greater coordination from government, manufacturers and dealers.
On August 5, 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order 14037, which set the goal that 50% of all new vehicles sold in the US will be emission-free by 2030. The ordinance also directed the EPA to begin developing new emission standards for light and medium-duty vehicles for model years 2027-2030. The automakers have not only announced their support for the goal, but also announced their own corporate paths for the transition to electric vehicles in use.
General Motors (GM) announced plans to launch 30 new electric models by 2025 and produce its last gasoline car and SUV by 2035. GM even turned the Hummer into a fully electric vehicle. Ford announced that 40% of its vehicles will be electric by 2030. To support these goals, GM is investing $ 35 billion and Ford is pledging $ 30 billion.
Stellantis (Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram) intends to have over 40% of its US sales in low-emission vehicles by 2030. Volkswagen expects half of its US sales to be electric vehicles by 2030. Audi intends to phase out internal combustion engine production by 2033 and not bring new EV models onto the market until 2026. By the early 2030s, every new Nissan vehicle offering will be electrified in key markets. Toyota will electrify all models by 2025 and expand the range of hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles. Many other automakers have set goals for converting their fleets.
One of the main obstacles to the rapid adoption of electric vehicles is “range fear”, or the fear that a vehicle will not have enough range to reach its destination. However, improvements in battery technology, control systems, and the availability of public charging stations have allayed concerns.
To continue offering convenient charging options across the region and enabling electric vehicles to be driven without major disruptions, six major utility companies – including American Electric Power, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Entergy Corp., Southern Co., and the Tennessee Valley Authority – announced that plan to enable EV drivers to seamlessly travel across major regions of the country through a network of DC fast EV chargers.
There are three “levels” of chargers available for electric vehicles: The standard 120-volt wall plug charges slowly, but is the most accessible; 240-volt “Level 2” is the same socket required for tumble dryers or electric ovens and provides a full charge in eight hours or less; The DC quick charger “Level 3” can charge a battery up to 80% in 30 minutes. Level 2 chargers are the most common, with over 44,000 nationwide and 93 in Mississippi. Check out the DOE locator for alternative gas stations. Most plug-in electric vehicle owners charge at home over 80 percent of the time. You just have to get used to plugs instead of gas pumps and allow a little more time for the charging process. Consumers have shown that they can adapt to the ownership and range of electric vehicles.
Assuming that 40 million electric vehicles will be on the roads in America by 2030, you might be asking, “Where does the power come from to charge all of these vehicles?” According to the DOE, the power to power all of these vehicles should come primarily from renewable energy sources and natural gas originate. To make this vision a reality, electricity from intermittent sources like wind and sun must be stored, likely through large-scale battery technology, so that electric vehicles can be charged overnight or at other times when supply exceeds demand. At the same time, many utilities are taking advantage of the growth in EV sales as an opportunity to harness excess wind and solar power generated during windy or sunny times when supply exceeds demand.
Regardless of this, the supply companies have to invest in new network and charging infrastructure in the short term. These short term investments are likely to be mainly in the electricity distribution network. Total electricity consumption has remained constant or has decreased, and therefore the US power system has enough generating capacity to support the growth of electric vehicles without the need for large investments in generation immediately. The gradual pace of the introduction of electric vehicles should allow utilities to adapt and adapt. Regardless, the investments required to improve the resilience of the grid, allow the flexibility of the flow of electricity and ensure the available capacity for a growing fleet of electric vehicles is real and those investments are paid back by the fee payers.
As automakers seem to be relying on electric vehicles, they are also relying heavily on new facilities to support the manufacturing process. Ford Motor Co. and Korean battery maker SK Innovation announce plans to build a $ 5.6 billion electric vehicle and battery plant in Tennessee and a $ 5.8 billion double battery plant in Kentucky. GM is currently building a battery plant for Ultium Cells near its Spring Hill assembly plant in Tennessee, where the Cadillac Lyriq electric SUV will be built. GM has committed to building at least two more battery factories in the United States. The first vehicles have just rolled off the assembly line at Volkswagen’s newest factory in Chattanooga, TN. Tesla’s Gigafactory in Austin, Texas is preparing to produce the Model Y and CyberTruck. The Mercedes-Benz plant near Tuscaloosa, AL, is in the midst of a transition to manufacturing electric vehicles valued at $ 1 billion. A Canadian lithium-ion battery recycling company will also build a facility in Alabama. Nissan will continue to manufacture the Leaf in Smyrna, TN.
The southeast represents a significant proportion of the country’s electric vehicle manufacturing jobs and investments. However, southerners have been slow to adopt electric vehicles in their homes. Why? One reason for this could be the lack of incentives. While the federal government offers electric vehicle tax credits up to $ 7,500 and charging station tax credits up to $ 1,000, no state in the southeast offers tax credits or financial incentives for buying electric vehicles. Rather, most southern states charge an electric vehicle fee, some up to $ 200 a year.
Regardless, electric vehicles have the potential to reshape the transportation sector in the United States, drastically reducing CO2 emissions, and paving the way for vehicle-to-grid integration. On average, electric vehicles convert over 77% of the electrical energy from the grid into wheel drive, while gasoline vehicles convert only between 12% and 30% of the energy from gasoline into wheel drive. Although electric cars still emit carbon emissions through the manufacturing process and the fossil fuels used to generate the electricity they need to charge, their improved energy efficiency results in significant emissions reductions.
I admit that there are still significant hurdles to widespread adoption of electric vehicles by consumers and that petroleum-powered vehicles will be in the market for decades to come. And I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface of the EV debate. However, the economic, environmental and energy security arguments for electric vehicles are becoming stronger and stronger. Do your own research, weigh the costs and benefits of an electric vehicle, determine your needs and goals and make an informed decision about which type of vehicle is best for you.
In addition, Mississippi has joined the Southeast Regional Electric Vehicle Information Exchange (SE REVI), a regional collaboration of state and territorial energy bureaus across the southeastern United States focused on sharing information and best practices, and collaborating on EV planning. Infrastructure, policy development and programs focused implementation. The states and territories participating in SE REVI have published a cross-state electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure map to enable the coordination of investments in EV infrastructure across the region. This resource will help facilitate the coordination of investments in EV infrastructure to alleviate EV owners’ concerns about on-the-go charging access.