A new report from NRDC, Driving Out Pollution: How Utilities Can Accelerate the Market for Electric Vehicles details how and why the electric industry can supercharge the national market for electric vehicles (EVs). Utilities, in particular, are well positioned to play a leading role in this national effort and to ensure the home of the American automotive industry is ready to drive on a cleaner, cheaper fuel—electricity.
Before you dismiss the idea as something only the West Coast can do, look right here in the Midwest where Kansas City Power & Light’s Clean Charge Network and Michigan’s own Consumers Energy’s charging station proposal demonstrate an initial commitment to providing the infrastructure necessary to support widespread electric vehicle charging.
Utilities are uniquely positioned to spur a rapid deployment of charging stations, increase public awareness of EVs’ economic and environmental benefits, and incentivize drivers to charge at times that will help bring more solar and wind onto the grid, enhancing electric vehicles’ clean air benefits. As utilities enter the world of EVs, they’re presented with an opportunity to better utilize the existing grid in ways that benefit both consumers and the environment. By design, utilities are equipped to use spare grid capacity to charge vehicles, leverage existing customer relationships, partner with independent EV charging companies, and create rates that maximize EV owners’ savings.
Some utilities and states are already taking concrete steps to increase electric vehicle use. California and Oregon adopted laws directing the electric industry to accelerate the electrification of the transportation sector, and additional utilities in the West, Midwest, and South are pursuing EV infrastructure investments.
The century old automotive industry is undergoing a transition toward clean energy vehicles. Michigan is harnessing and improving battery technologies to keep the industry competitive and satisfy growing consumer demand for EVs. During two weeks in April, nearly 400,000 people put down $1,000 deposits for the forthcoming Tesla Model 3, a moderately priced EV with a range in excess of 200 miles. But GM will beat Tesla to the showroom with a similarly priced EV that also has a range in excess of 200 miles—the Chevrolet Bolt, which will go on sale later this year.
Already, Michigan is leading the Midwest in advanced transportation jobs, which make up nearly 32% of clean energy jobs in the state. Put another way, Michigan’s clean transportation economy employs more people than the state’s entire fossil fuel sector with nearly 28,000 jobs. Those jobs are evenly split between electric and hybrid vehicles, which make up the lion’s share of these advanced transportation jobs. The potential for growth on top of this leadership is great. According to the Detroit Chamber, since 2009, Michigan has created 45,000 jobs specific to automotive manufacturing and 61 of the top 100 automotive suppliers to North America are headquartered in Michigan. All the ingredients rest here within state lines.
Decreasing Pollution and Electricity Prices, While Increasing Grid Reliability
Economic benefits are only one of the advantages coming from the proliferation of electric vehicles. With a dramatic increase in electric vehicles, fueled by clean energy such as solar and wind power, utilities can put us on the road to meeting our climate goals, reduce harmful pollution, and insulate drivers from roller-coaster gasoline prices while strengthening the grid. Below is a walk-through of how these benefits can come about:
Electric vehicles, the supporting infrastructure, and forward-thinking utilities will transform the way Michiganders think about cars. Soon, when you look at your car, you’ll see so much more than just a vehicle that drives you to work or the game—you’ll see a powerhouse that protects your wallet, health, grid, and the economy.