Stimulus Plan Energizes EV-Motoring

EV-Motoring is coming. The governmental activity aimed at stimulating the economy may significantly impact the arrival of affordable, mass-market plug-in electric and battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

According to reports from the Senate, the push toward electric is coming from several different angles. Brian Wynne, President of the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) says, “The stimulus bill is a historic opportunity to accelerate the electrification of America’s transportation sector. From what we’ve seen in the package thus far, the bill should provide critical support for battery manufacturing, recharging infrastructure and electric drive vehicle deployments in the U.S.”

In a conversation with EV-Motoring.com, Wynne noted that, “What we’re trying to make happen is difficult because we’re in an economic time when our manufacturing sector is shedding capacity, when what really needs to happen is for that capacity to shift to production of batteries and more electric vehicles here.” Wynne’s comment illuminates the reality that there is not one U.S.-owned manufacturer of automotive-quality lithium ion batteries operating on American soil. The tax credits contained within the stimulus package may help remedy this situation, as well as overall shortage of automotive-grade Ni-MH batteries that currently exists in the market.

Wynne also explained that if the federal and state governments rapidly shift their fleets to electric or hybrid vehicles (the stimulus package contains funding for this), the volume of these orders would help jump-start the production of more affordable electric vehicles for non-governmental drivers. “The internal combustion engine and our current fueling infrastructure are fairly efficient, and presently, there’s not a powerful economic argument for regular drivers to switch from gas to electric, but that switch is inevitable, and we’re doing what we can to accelerate the process.”

Recognizing the volatility of oil prices coupled with the fact that the U.S. spent $430 billion on imported petroleum last year, the EDTA’s position is that the U.S. manufacturing industry must be prepared for a major shift to electric vehicles when the economy rebounds and oil prices rise with renewed demand. According to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, if 73 percent of the nation’s passenger vehicles were fueled by electricity, the U.S. could displace an estimated 6.2 million barrels of oil a day, about 52 percent of current oil imports. The money once spent on foreign oil would remain in the U.S. economy instead of heading overseas.

Depending on the details that are included in the approved stimulus package, it’s likely that there will also be something about a Renewable Electricity Standard, a move designed to bring renewable-derived energy rapidly online. “The reasons to pass such a provision are as compelling as ever, if not more so,” said Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). “A renewable standard can reduce our dependence on fossil fuel sources, reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. Another effect of this reduction is to cause a reduction in the prices of the fossil fuels displaced. Such a standard diversifies our resource base, lessening the effect of supply disruptions or shortages, creating greater economic stability.”

According to the EDTA, the shift to EV-Motoring could happen quickly. The extant national electric grid and power generation capabilities could presently handle the charging of 40-80 percent of the nation’s vehicle fleet at off-peak hours if, magically, the fleet shifted to electric drive. Wynne clearly stated that improvements need to be made to ensure the grid’s capacity and reliability. Funding for some grid improvements are also in the stimulus package.

Stay tuned for more details on what the enormous stimulus package contains, and how it will affect the way we motor into the future.