The Fuse

The EC Tells Congress: Expand Federal EV Policies to Enhance U.S. Energy Security

by Alex Adams | @alexjhadams | March 12, 2019

To enhance U.S. energy security, federal policies that promote electric vehicle (EV) adoption and bolster EV infrastructure must be expanded, Electrification Coalition (EC) Vice President Ben Prochazka told Congress last week.

Electricity prices are substantially less volatile than gasoline or diesel prices, increasing by an average of less than 2 percent per year in nominal terms since 2000.

Testifying to the House Committee on Transport and Infrastructure, Prochazka noted that in contrast to the volatility of oil, electricity is diverse in source, domestically produced and stable in price. In his testimony, he added that electricity prices are substantially less volatile than gasoline or diesel prices, increasing by an average of less than 2 percent per year in nominal terms since 2000. In addition, the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that the existing grid has enough capacity to accommodate more than 150 million EVs without significant system upgrades.

“Currently 92 percent of the U.S. transportation system is powered by oil, which is a volatile, globally-priced commodity traded on an unfree market. We need aggressive policy interventions that spur a transition to alternative fuels. Electricity is diverse in source, American-made, low in cost and stable in price,” he told the committee.

Yet despite these benefits, Prochazka told Congress that EV adoption has yet to reach the tipping point due to a number of barriers to widespread consumer uptake. Fears persist over range and charging anxiety, drivers considering the switch are often put off by the higher upfront cost, and federal and state policies are still in flux.

In his written testimony, Prochazka argued that Congress and the administration should continue to support the 30C and 30D federal tax credits, which support critical R&D efforts and incentivize consumer adoption at this nascent stage of the industry’s development. In particular, retaining the $7,500 federal purchase incentive is vital to continuing to build momentum because some automakers have entered the tax credit’s phase-out stage.

Electrifying Bus Fleets
In addition, policies that promote electrifying city and municipal bus fleets will prove crucial in reducing oil dependence and enhance U.S. energy security. To encourage this transition, Prochazka wrote that the EC recommends low-cost loans to finance EV bus purchases, as city budgets implicitly penalize electric options by prioritizing upfront costs in their purchasing programs. Further expansion to the U.S. DOT’s Federal Transit Administration Low or No-Emission Bus Competitive Grant Program, and other related initiatives, will help spur the electrification of municipal fleets.

“The city of Greensboro, NC, is launching 16 electric buses, which will eventually eliminate almost 2 million gallons of diesel. Extending that to the 70,000 city buses and 400,000 school buses operating nationwide—if just half go electric it would save $6 billion annually and cut 58 billion gallons of diesel use,” Prochazka added.

Critically, Prochazka added, federal policy is required to expand the U.S. network of charging infrastructure, in order to allay consumer fears over range and charging anxiety. Expanding the Federal Highway Administration’s Alternative Fuel Corridors program would prove key to this effort. Finally, improving EV charging signage would offer two benefits. Not only would it help existing EV drivers find charging stations, but it would also reassure drivers thinking of making the switch to an EV that the requisite charging infrastructure is available.