Electric vehicles are poised to play an important role in the transition to a cleaner energy future.
Electric vehicles (EVs) emit fewer greenhouse gases than diesel cars and help reduce air pollution.
“We know that the future of transport includes autonomous vehicles, connected vehicles, [and] electric vehicles,” North Carolina Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette said at a recent press conference. “We need to…ensure that access to providing this variety of clean mobility options…is there.
At the same event, Governor Roy Cooper announced a new executive order with ambitious climate goals, including expanding the goal for electric vehicles in North Carolina.
“We will increase the goal of having 1.25 million zero-emission vehicles on North Carolina roads by 2030,” Cooper said.
This is in addition to the current goal of reaching 80,000 electric vehicles in North Carolina by 2025.
However, as of last month, there are only about 30,000 zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) registered in the state.
There are at least three main reasons why there aren’t more electric vehicles in North Carolina: a lack of availability, infrastructure, and education.
Rick Sapienza, director of the Clean Transportation program at the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center, points out that people need different types of cars and that the variety of electric vehicles continues to grow.
“We [are getting] more vehicle types: minivans, SUVs, pickups, sedans… even mid- and heavy-duty options,” Sapienza said. ” They arrive. There are more and more every year.”
But ongoing supply chain issues are leading to a shortage of available vehicles.
“You wait months and months for an electric vehicle,” Sapienza said. “There aren’t any on the pitches. And if there is one on the pitch, it’s already sold.”
North Carolina state agencies are experiencing the same problem.
Haley Pfeiffer-Haynes, assistant secretary for service operations in the State Department of Administration (DOA), is leading efforts to electrify the state fleet. A recent state report identified about 3,000 state-owned cars that can be replaced by electric vehicles over the next few years. However, due to supply chain issues, the state cannot get exactly the cars it prefers.
“We’re doing things to improve gas mileage and improve our fleet’s greenhouse gas footprint, even when we can’t replace something with an electric vehicle,” Pfeiffer-Haynes said. “And so far, 70% of the cars we ordered last year are hybrids.”
Hybrid electric cars run on both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor powered by batteries.
Pfeiffer-Haynes agrees that more electric vehicles are entering the market, but adds that these vehicles have a higher initial cost than diesel cars.
“We hope this dissipates over time as production ramps up,” Pfeiffer-Haynes said.
North Carolina does not have a state electric vehicle tax credit to help reduce the initial cost. There is a federal tax credit of up to $7,500, but it only applies to specific vehicles.
Sapienza argues that the initial cost is worth it in the long run, as electric vehicles cost less than diesel cars in terms of maintenance. He also said the total cost of electric vehicles is expected to come down soon.
“The prediction is that within five years we will be price parity, which means it will cost the same price to buy an electric SUV or a gasoline SUV or a diesel SUV,” Sapienza said. “Economies of scale will help bring the price down, the price of components will come down. Battery prices have come down significantly, and they still need to come down further.”
State agencies are working to build the infrastructure needed to charge electric vehicles.
As for funding, some of the money North Carolina is getting from the recently passed federal infrastructure bill will focus on increasing the number of charging stations. The state set aside $1 million from the 2016 Volkswagen settlement to apply for grants to install even more infrastructure.
The DOA plans to seek funding to install more charging stations in downtown Raleigh to potentially charge more state-owned electric vehicles. The same state report mentioned earlier also identified areas where charging infrastructure would be most efficient.
“We’re taking that data and we’re looking at state property where we can start putting that charging infrastructure in place and using that federal money for that,” Pfeiffer-Haynes said. “There are a lot of moving parts. When these places were built, you never imagined that we would be powering a lot of vehicles from that. So there could be some infrastructure upgrades.”
One of DOA’s strategic goals this year is to increase awareness around electric vehicles.
Pfieffer-Haynes said her agency is setting up online training for state employees and the general public that will answer questions about electric vehicles.
“As someone who has embraced electric vehicles myself, I know I had a lot of entry questions,” Pfieffer-Haynes said. “’How am I going to handle this? How am I going to charge for this thing? “It’s important to educate people so they feel comfortable driving an electric vehicle.”
Likewise, some of Sapienza’s responsibilities include educating private and public entities about electric vehicles.
“It’s amazing the myths or misunderstandings that people have out there,” Sapienza said. “How do you put people at ease to make a decision? People are afraid of the unknown. My job is to provide information for people to make an informed decision. »
To help people get to know and feel more comfortable with electric vehicles, Sapienza and his team organize ride and drive events. People can test electric vehicles and ask questions.
Sapienza said these events are at least somewhat successful. He has had several people return to these events over the years with their own electric vehicles.
“That’s why I tell them ‘go try one out.’ Whether you buy one or not, go try one out,” Sapienza said. “Have fun. Now I [don’t] sell a thousand vehicles at my ride and drive event[s]. But take this victory. You move the ball forward.”