If you aren’t yet behind the wheel of a hybrid or electric vehicle, chances are you will be over the next 10 to 15 years. At least that’s what some experts are predicting. In the next decade or so, reports indicate that electric vehicle (EV) sales will continue to grow in North America (which has led the market) and surpass gas-powered car sales.
According to Navigant Research, annual plug-in EV sales in North America are expected to exceed 1.1 million by 2024. By 2030, Argonne National Laboratory predicts electric cars will make up 58% of the light vehicle market while non-hybrid gas cars will only comprise 23%. This will reduce oil consumption by save 2.4 million barrels per day and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.
That is good news, but others are cautioning against the EV hype and point to a 17% drop in plug-in electric vehicle sales in 2015 from the previous year. An article from Bloomberg Technology sites falling gas prices, high EV vehicle prices, and battery life and charging concerns as potential reasons for the drop in sales.
While battery prices and efficiency have come a long way in recent years, it seems manufacturers are well aware there is more progress to made if EVs are to remain competitive in the automotive industry. In December, Ford, one of the top sellers of plug-in hybrid vehicles and second largest electrified vehicle seller in the U.S., announced the expansion of its electrified vehicles research and development program. Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors are also all in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Battery Consortium to help develop and advance battery technologies for hybrid and electric vehicles.
Newer and cheaper battery technologies certainly may play a part in great EV adoption over time. But what would get you in an EV today?
Well, the likelihood of you driving a plug-in in the near future may depend on where you live. For example, much of the west coast (think Seattle, Oregon, San Francisco, and LA) leads in registered EV owners. One reason? There are many available charging stations. If you can’t easily and accessibly charge your car, you probably won’t drive electric. The San Francisco Bay Area ranks first for the number of charging stations available in relation to EVs on the road. And California, which is already home to the most registered EV users in the country, isn’t showing signs of slowing down.
The Golden State recently took another step toward meeting its goal of deploying enough charging stations to support one million electric vehicles by 2020 in line with the Charge Ahead California Initiative. (The initiative aims to accelerate the deployment of zero-emission vehicles and provide transportation choices to achieve clean air standards and meet the state’s GHG reduction targets.) A pilot program approved earlier this year is to deploy 1,500 EV stations in Southern California Edison territory, plus another 3,500 charging stations in the San Diego area.
What should make this of interest to wind-power advocates is the dynamic pricing that encourages vehicle charging when there is an abundance of renewable energy on the grid. According to a related press release, the state utility’s “SDG&E’s dynamic ‘Vehicle Grid Integration’ rate will vary to reflect the market price of producing electricity, making it cheapest to charge when renewable resources like wind and solar are plentiful. Paired with user-friendly web interfaces and smartphone apps, this should allow EV drivers to maximize their fuel savings.”
What better incentive to get behind the wheel of an emissions-free vehicle than by adding wind power to the mix? One state located a little further east, Minnesota, has also bought into the power of wind to motivate potential EV drivers.
Great River Energy, Minnesota’s largest energy cooperative is letting electric vehicle owners in its territory use wind power to offset the electricity used to charge their cars at no additional cost. It’s offering the service as part of its new Revolt program, and what it calls “a groundbreaking initiative to make EVs a thing of today.” According to Green River Energy, a non-profit electric co-op with 1.7 million customers, the average EV uses about 4,000 kilowatt-hours (kWhs) of electricity a year. So, to ensure members are covered, the utility is dedicating 5,000 kWhs of wind energy a year for 10 years.
If growing the wind industry alone is not enough for you to jump in the seat of an EV (and it should be!), incentives may help. Minnesota has also put forth two proposed bills: HF 3513 would grant tax rebates of $2,500 for new EVs, and $1,500 for new plug-in hybrid vehicles. California already offers similar rebates (check out Plug In America for a list of incentives offered by state).
EV advocates in Colorado must view the Minnesota action as a sort of green gauntlet. Come January 1, 2017, Colorado will take the lead in this area by offering EV buyers a $5,000 flat tax credit that can be signed over to dealerships, so consumers can save right when buying instead of waiting for tax season. What makes this credit the best so far in the country is that eligible buyers can pair the incentive with the $7,500 federal tax credit, slashing $12,500 off a consumer’s taxes. Money talks, right?
While some quibble over how easy it will be for new EV car buyers to qualify for the flat tax credit, there is no argument that Colorado is dedicated to lowering state emissions and raise renewables. The state ranks third in wind-industry employment (thanks, in part, to a Vestas’ nacelle and gearbox manufacturing facility) and was fifth in the nation for new wind-power capacity additions last year.
According to the Denver Post, the number of turbines has doubled in the state since 2009 and their number is slated to increase further. Wind generated 67% of Xcel Energy’s Colorado-made electricity one morning in November and 54% for two 24-hour periods in October.
Those are numbers unmatched in the rest of the country. Now if Minnesota’s Green River Energy can offer wind power at no cost to electric vehicle consumers, perhaps a state like Colorado should follow suit? Same goes with Texas (the leader for total installed wind capacity). And how about Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, and North Dakota, where wind resources are the strongest in the country?
In the first quarter of this year, the U.S. saw more wind turbine installations since 2012, and as the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has pointed out that demand continues to rise for wind’s low-cost, zero-carbon energy. According to a recent AWEA report, wind-power costs have also dropped by 66% in the last six years.
With added state and federal incentives, wind power seems the ideal match to get more American drivers behind the wheel of electric vehicles. Let’s hope we see more of it dedicated to emissions-free driving.
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