How are the White House’s transportation initiatives measuring up?

Three years ago, the Obama Administration outlined their goals for “Building a 21st – Century Transportation Sector” in their Climate Action Plan. The goal of the plan included increasing fuel economy standards and expanding advanced transportation technologies.

We’ve come a long way in those few short years. The Administration has dramatically increased fuel economy standards for our cars, which aims to achieve a 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) fleetwide average by 2025. Through this initiative alone, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) over the lifetimes of the vehicles sold (MY 2012-2025) will be cut, save families more than $1.7 trillion in fuel costs, and further reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Just last week, new rules to dramatically improve the fuel efficiency of heavy-duty trucks and buses and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions were also finalized.

Studies have confirmed that transportation is now the second largest source of GHGs. Today’s fuel economy fleetwide average standard is 35.5 miles per gallon so we have more work to do to reach the target of 54.5 mpg.  Some reports contend that we will fall short in meeting the fuel economy standards and that an “emissions gap” will remain. To close this “gap,” however, analysts argue that automakers will need to step up electrification.

Today, we have half a million electric vehicles on the road in the U.S and more than 13,000 public charging stations.  It’s impressive growth, but represents less than 1% of car sales.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energyof U.S. car sales.

If we are to cut greenhouse gas emissions and fill that “gap,” these numbers need to dramatically increase. Recent studies indicate that we can replace more than 85% of cars with electric ones and achieve mass adoption. If we do this, we could achieve a 60 percent reduction in total U.S. gasoline consumption and reduce GHGS by 30% (from 2014 levels).

A new  initiative announced last week should further spur this growth and put us on a new path toward achieving these goals. The White House announced a new collaboration between the Department of Energy, (DOE), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Transportation (DOT) and more than 50 companies including utilities, car manufacturers, charging companies and governmental associations.

The collaboration has created a set of Guiding Principles to Promote Electric Vehicles and Charging Infrastructure. Implementing these principles will help increase access and availability of charging stations for electric vehicles, provide some $4.5 billion in loan guarantees for “commercial-scale deployment of innovative electric vehicle charging facilities”; help establish charging corridors; establish a national network of fast charging stations, encourage local governments to increase the number of electric vehicles in their fleets, including incentives, offer guidance for funding for electric vehicles and charging stations; an EV Hackathon, which will “ bring together coders, data scientists, topic experts, and interested members of the public to discover insights and develop new solutions;” establish EV-ready building codes; among other initiatives.

EVs charge on sunshine in Asheville, NC

Utility coordination is also going to be critical component to this plan to facilitate “smart charging,” support charging infrastructure and manage load. DOE signed an agreement with the American Public Power Association to help facilitate this coordination. In the Southeast, Duke Power, Florida Power & Light, and Southern Company, including Georgia Power, Gulf Power, Alabama Power and Mississippi Power, have signed onto the Guiding Principles …  and committed to increasing their EV initiatives.

According to the White House release, Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power is working to increase EV adoption and use of EVs in Georgia by increasing public/community charging stations and offering rebates to residential and business customers for installing EV charging stations. Southern Company, through its SO Prize competition winning project, REVolution, has conducted onsite events in Pensacola, Destin, and Panama City, Florida, and is exploring other ways of expanding consumer outreach through online methods. The project aims to  help consumers  find the “best EV for their lifestyle”. Southern Company also have a goal of being 10 percent electric by 2018.

Another southeastern utility, Florida Power and Light (FPL), will be increasing its education and outreach, technology pilots, employee workplace charging, fleet charging, and launching an EV website. FPL currently has 74 Level 1 charging stations and 83 Level 2 stations for their fleet and employee vehicles. In addition to these new federal initiatives, EV infrastructure is also expected to be boosted by the recent Volkswagon (VW) settlement agreement. The settlement includes a $2 billion investment in EVs.

The future is looking up, but we’ll all need to push together if we are going to realize these goals.

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