Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Florida is Missing the Boat on Electric Vehicle Readiness

Sadly, Florida was not among the eight states that announced a partnership to put 3.3 million new zero emission cars and trucks on the road by 2025.  Last week California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont announced a bevy of new programs that will support electric vehicle adoption, many of which have already proven successful in California. These new programs include strong financial incentives, EV-ready building codes, purchasing of electric vehicles for public fleets, special EV electricity rates, and better standards for charging stations. The first step in the process is to establish a taskforce to share ideas that will help promote the adoption of zero emission electric vehicles.  The agreement also targets hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.  

Not surprisingly, California is the leader in this initiative because of their strong Zero Emission Vehicle  (ZEV) mandates which other states have agreed to adopt. They are also miles ahead with their expansive charging infrastructure, consumer incentives, and other EV-friendly policies.  They've proved the "chicken and egg" argument about which should come first, the car or the infrastructure, to be arbitrary.  These two things can only happen in tandem. California has also proven that when there is a political will, there is a way.  The need to clean up air pollution, reduce dependence on oil, and protect consumers from volatile gas prices provided the impetus and state leaders chose to act. The announcement last week by eight forward-thinking governors to follow the lead shows a commitment to take the same successful measures that produced successful results and replicate them in their home states. 

Florida, on the other hand, has left consumer incentives to the near-bankrupt local governments and has very little EV friendly policies in place, particularly in the infrastructure realm. Electric vehicle sales are growing exponentially across the country and Florida now sits at a comfortable #4 in sales, which isn't bad. However, it is still not convenient for drivers that either commute long distances or wish to take long trips to own an EV because of the lack of infrastructure. The need for better incentives and for fast charging locations along interstates is clear and urgent if we want to move the market past early adopters.

It's also important to remember the bigger picture: Florida is helplessly addicted to oil and vulnerable to those who advocate for more offshore oil drilling. Each gasoline-powered vehicle that we replace with a zero emission one, we'll see positive, measurable results in oil consumption and a reduction in harmful air pollution.  An electric vehicle can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35-60% depending on where you live (according to the Union of Concerned Scientists "State of Charge" report).  Bottom-line: electricity is the only transportation fuel that will only get cleaner over time especially as we retire dirty coal-fired power plants and bring more clean, renewable sources of energy online.  

Florida could benefit tremendously by following the example of California and the other seven states that have committed to spur electric vehicle adoption. There is a lot at stake and the sooner we embrace this clean technology, the better.

Want to take action? Follow this link to send a message to the Rick Scott Administration asking them to support electric vehicle programs in Florida.