Byron Dorgan

The Obama administration is said to have given its support to the Electric Vehicle Deployment Act of 2010, which could provide billions of dollars in additional subsidies for EVs. The legislation, which was the subject of a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing yesterday, would target as many as 15 "deployment communities" with the hopes of flooding each zone with electric vehicles and charging stations in the coming years.

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Electric Vehicle Bill Wins Some Powerful Supporters, But Can it Pass?

By · June 23, 2010

Byron Dorgan

Senator Byron Dorgan chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is one of the co-authors of the Electric Vehicle Deployment Act.

The Obama administration is said to have given its support to the Electric Vehicle Deployment Act of 2010, which could provide billions of dollars in additional subsidies for EVs. The legislation, which was the subject of a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing yesterday, would target as many as 15 "deployment communities" with the hopes of flooding each zone with electric vehicles and charging stations in the coming years.

The most recent version of the legislation would appropriate a total of $4 billion dollars to up the existing $7,500 federal electric vehicle subsidy to $10,000 and provide funding for public and and private charging infrastructure within the deployment communities. It would force participating communities to provide an additional $2,500 per vehicle credit and match 20 percent of the federal funding it receives. The EVDA would also fund battery research and establish a $10 million prize to the first company to produce a "cost effective" battery capable of yielding 500 miles of range on a single charge.

Though the total appropriations figure and the number of deployment communities that will be included in the program are still very much in the air—various reports have the total cost of the bill ranging from $6 billion to $12 billion—some things are unlikely to change. The EVDA will emphasize making public charging infrastructure widely available in those communities as a means of building consumer confidence in the technology. The subsidies it provides would be rapidly dispatched in the hopes of putting at least 700,000 electric vehicles on the road within five years—though that number could go up depending on how much funding is approved.

But is it the Best Way Forward for Electrification?

At issue in Tuesday's hearing was whether passing a bill targeted only at electric cars means that the government is prematurely "picking a winner" in the alternative vehicle technology race. Kathryn Clay, director of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, also voiced strong concerns about focusing the program so narrowly around a few select regions. "Attempts to prejudge the market bring tremendous risks, and the problem is compounded by making just a few large bets," she told the committee.

The bill is heavily supported by the Electrification Coalition, whose Electrification Roadmap inspired the broad architecture for the legislation. The coalition is a non-profit industry group comprised mostly of CEOs from companies like PG&E, Nissan, Coda, Cisco and FedEx.

"The Electrification Coalition believes they have the support, but if it passes, it'll be without the full buy-in of many stakeholders," says Chelsea Sexton, co-founder of Plug In America and a frequent contributor to Plugincars.com. "While most are taking it up behind-the-scenes, several other electric drive/utility industry groups and organizations are also concerned about its implications."

Many of those groups are particularly concerned about the size, number and exclusivity of the proposed deployment communities. Playing favorites with subsidies could actually hurt public perception of plug-ins in areas that aren't eligible for the money. The selection process for sites will be competitive and based on a variety of factors ranging from population density to demographics, to climate. Would the end result of that process actually reflect which regions stand the best chance of fostering EV adoption, or will that be outweighed by other considerations?

Will it Become Law?

The EVDA may not have the full support of automakers or even the electrification community, but it does have have a few very powerful allies. Senator Byron Dorgan, who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, co-wrote the bill with Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Jeff Merkley. Senator Dorgan is a longtime supporter of both electric and fuel cell vehicle technologies and is considered one of the more powerful Democrats in the Senate. He also has a well-earned reputation for winning funding for the programs he favors.

With Dorgan's support and a push by the White House, the chances that some form of this legislation will become law are much better than remote. Still, there is a high likelihood that the bill will end up attached to another piece of legislation, such as the controversial energy bill. If that happens, the fate of the EVDA will depend on a frenzy of horse-trading and the prospects of the larger bill itself.

Comments

· Christof Demont-Heinrich (not verified) · 4 years ago

As an EV and a PV+EV advocate, I'd like to see this pass -- but I do have reservations about concentrating all the money in select markets. I understand the logic behind this -- if you spread the money too thinly, it might not be effective. But I'm already frustrated by the fact that I live in a market (Denver-Boulder) that's been bypassed for the government subsidized Coulomb Technologies ChargePoint America program. Why should some people get a "free" home charging station and not me just because they have the dumb luck of living in the "right" market?

If, as a strong plug-in supporter, I'm already frustrated with money going some places and not others, I'd have to guess that many people outside of the EV loop would be even more angered by some places getting money and others not getting it -- and/or they'd use it as a way to criticize the legislation as steeped in favoritism.

However, if designating select markets is the only way it's going to be passed, I'd rather have it passed than not passed...

· · 4 years ago

I think there's potential situations in which a little competition among regions can be a good thing, but I see too many bad outcomes to it here. Yes, there's a certain appeal of "any money for EVs" vs "no money", but it doesn't the EV story either to waste money by not considering how best to leverage it.

And don't get me started on the charging programs! ;o) The amount of public infrastructure being deployed in those limited communities is enough to form a framework for the nation.

· Samie (not verified) · 4 years ago

Naturally the market for the Leaf, and (Volt, EV Focus, iMiEV) will be fragmented at first. Is it unfair? Yes. An example is say if you live in Cedar Rapids Iowa or (pick a Midwest town) you will not pay MSRP or below it for a first generation EV or plug-in. Additionally, outside traditional hot-spots for EVs, most car dealerships will be reluctant to carry them becasue of the reduced profits from maintenance. Most small markets may have the consumer interest or demand but dealerships will be hesitant to carry them & if they do they may jack up the sell price thousands above the MSRP, or use EVs for a bait and switch showroom trick. That is why penetrating markets that are most favorable to EV consumers makes sense at first.

Outstanding work plugincars.com
Though I don't understand why so few comment on the excellent reporting done here

· Ben Brown (not verified) · 4 years ago

Chelsea,

I'm not sureI'm getting this right so please correct me where I'm not quite right... Don't most ev owners charge their vehicles at home to get a full charge as possible and not worry about range as much... Public chargers are slightly more cosmetic than critical to ev driving...? In a city, like Kalamazoo, Michigan for example, could we get by with 2 to 4 for the whole city, with most charging being done at home? In that case would the money be better spent actually spread out for rebates to purchase evs?

In terms of nationwide access, if I live in Montanna, I may want to buy a ev, but rebate or no, I'd take into account it might be the equivalent of 150 mile drive to the next private 120v electrified outlet, [let alone public chargers] . In that case I'd have an ev for local driving and my present gas car for driving out of state.

You have a better sense of how realistic these scenarios are. Am I close?

· · 4 years ago

On one hand, I think it is crap that a select few communities will be given benefits the whole nation pays for. Especially since I am in a community that has no chance of being selected. On the other hand, if they are done right, they will become a model for what is possible for the rest of the nation, which could spur further investment for the rest of us. Unless the oil & coal party, er, I mean Republican party doesn't take back control of the congress at the end of this year, which seems very likely.

· ACAgal (not verified) · 4 years ago

Chelsea:
The Fisker Karma, Nina and the Chevy Volt will have plug-in and gas systems (there may be others with split systems that I am not aware of, but that's all my memory gives me). Like you, I think the likelihood is that many people will plan on keeping their older gas vehicles for long trips and using a new electric vehicle for local driving. Unfortunately, if gas vehicles are not used more than a few times a year, the fuel degrades and there are other "housekeeping" issues.

Locally, I can recharge at the nearest Costco (or buy gas there), the largest shopping malls (where I can not buy gas, but I can spend lots of money), and at home (solar on the roof...I like my solar). I cannot drive from here to Montana, Colorado or Utah in a pure EV, and I do have family in the region. So yes, I am on the fence between EV and EV+gas. The one thing I dread is driving across the desert, and having a gas vehicle fail because I forgot some "housekeeping " trick, or not being able to charge my EV. For that reason, I am mulling over exactly the question you ask. If I had the Big Bucks, I'd buy the Karma, just because it is a beautiful car.

· Mike Simpson (not verified) · 4 years ago

Are we really talking about incentivizing the "500-mi battery pack"?! I can buy a 500 mi battery pack at the supermarket today... so long as I put it in a 0.002 Wh/mi car... How about some attention to R&D of a 500-mi car (not just the battery)... or better yet, development of the affordable 100 Wh/mi 4-passenger highway-capable/safe car...

· · 4 years ago

I can't help but wonder why the most consistently thoughtful views on the right incentives (regarding EV/infrastructure build-out) are not fully considered in devising these incentives. I suppose it's not how our topsy-turvy political system works.

Yet, the enthusiasm and political will to do something is there. That's great. Now is the time. Maybe threads like this one can help, at the very least, to create the right discussion. Everybody needs to speak up if they have an opinion on the emerging laws/incentives.

· · 4 years ago

(Sorry for length, hitting several of these comments at once!)

I unfortunately think we'll see dealers mark up plug-ins regardless of area, and some consumers are already committed to patronize the dealers who don't. When it comes to federal consumer incentives, I favor a more nationwide approach- I don't think a buyer in one zip code should get $7500, while a buyer in the next one over gets $10,000. If a state or locality wants to add something to what's available federally, great- but since EVs already face some backlash over being seen as only available to the "chosen", I'm concerned about the potential for varying federal incentives- and this regional approach in general- to feed into that.

There are aspects of the bill I really like- workforce development, for example, or providing technical assistance to regions. I'm ok with some financial support too, but this "competition" approach concerns me. It solicits regions to come up with the most creative things they can to foster EV uptake- which is great, but unless those applications are being evaluated by some folks with deployment experience (which so far doesn't appear likely), we risk wasting billions of dollars in the name of creativity. Given that we already know from experience some things that are really effective, and there are some clear areas of work that need to be done, I wish we'd spend what funding we can get on implementing that stuff in any region that is receptive and looks like it could be a promising EV market before we worry so much about the "creative" stuff. There's also a potential issue of dumping hundreds of millions of dollars into a region that has a great proposal, but may not actually be a good market- once that support ends, the region could nosedive, which isn't in the best interest of the technology or its supporters. Same thing with mandating rural regions, etc.- none should be ruled out on that basis, but neither should be pick and fund one purely because of that.

As an X PRIZE alum, I believe in the power of that sort of competition too- but yes, this particular battery prize is misguided. You can give any vehicle 500 miles of range by stuffing enough kWh of any battery into it. And, I don't think 500 miles is the right goal anyway; we need to focus on metrics that are likely to move the most consumers, and cost would be a better goal, in my opinion. But since the bill calls (appropriately) for a good chunk of r&d anyway, this whole prize seems superfluous.

On infrastructure- Ben, you're basically right. Most consumers, especially the early adopters of the first couple years, will charge at home, so we need to prioritize making that easy and cost-effective. Second is likely workplace charging- it's the easiest way to accommodate apartment dwellers and folks who can't otherwise charge at home, or people who need to charge at both ends. Public charging is largely a safety net, and we know from experience that drivers like knowing it's out there, but don't need it on every corner- or even need it to be particularly fast. Level 2 charging (at 40+amps, not 15) is the sweet spot for public sites, balancing speed and cost effectiveness. I'd give Kalamazoo more than 4 chargers, but certainly not hundreds. Depending on the city size, some number of dozens is a nice place to start- what many of these charging schemes forget is that we can always add more once we see where the cars pool and where it's needed. But it just doesn't make sense to me to put in excess charging now that will go unused, fall out of warranty before sufficient cars come, and incur public backlash over publicly-funded stranded assets.

As for why more views aren't included...a lot of it is eagerness and egos. I love that there's lots of new blood coming into this, and that the east coast is getting involved. But there's historically been a rift between east and west coast, between northern/southern CA, security hawks and enviros, etc. I think all of the stakeholders- automakers, policy makers, etc., could benefit by spending some time with experienced EV drivers and the folks left over from the last generation of EV deployment. There may not be many of them, but they're easy to find and eager to help- and they've skinned a lot of these knees already.

· · 4 years ago

egeorge1 said: "On one hand, I think it is crap that a select few communities will be given benefits the whole nation pays for."

I do clearly understand the seeming unfairness of this situation. I do want to point out what I read on a bumper sticker a few years back: "We all live down wind." The point is that we actuall all DO benefit from increased EV adoption - no matter where it happens. We all get cleaner air. Cleaner water. Less oil dependency. Increased national security... even if it doesn't directly make the cars cheaper for each and every one of us.

· ACAgal (not verified) · 4 years ago

I agree with the comment of darelldd. "We all get cleaner air. Cleaner water. Less oil dependency. Increased national security... even if it doesn't directly make the cars cheaper for each and every one of us."

I think I should note that one reason Southern California, and Northern California already have some charging stations is that some of our utility companies have kept the RAV EVs in operation. Some of our utilities are also testing current models of EVs, CNGs, and similar.

If there ever was a case for cleaning up the air on the west coast, it is because the normal wind flow (thanks to the earth's rotation) is from west to east. So cleaning up California helps clean up Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and points east. Everyone who got California smoke during those horrible forest fires of not too long ago, also gets our normal particulate pollution, whether we or they like it.

There are secondary heavy pollution areas developing from the Mississippi, east. From what I have read, most of the noxious gases (eye burning crud), are transportation related. I have been saddened to read that other east-coasters are now suffering from the the problems we have endured and tried to fight, since the 1940's. I have hoped that everyone could understand that we all breath the same air, and we need to keep it as clean as possible for everyone. The same can be said for water.

· Charles Whalen (not verified) · 4 years ago

My wife and I own two 2002 Toyota RAV4-EV all-electric cars that we have been driving as our daily drivers for over 5 years now.

In addition to a dozen years of experience on Capitol Hill with Congress earlier in life, for the last few years I have had the privilege and honor of drafting EV policy and legislation for my state, with a lot of help and collaboration from a number of EV industry veterans from around the country. In discussing this piece of legislation with them, I've come to the following conclusions:

The EVDA is ambitiously well-intentioned about vehicle electrification. However, in its enthusiasm to pursue “Manhattan Project” scale initiatives, it’s overlooking some simpler but more effective approaches, as well as unintentionally feeding longstanding negative messages about EVs.

The first challenge is the competitive regional approach. While fostering “creativity” may be useful, much work in the last several years has gone into creating consensus among a variety of EV stakeholders around the things we know are effective in creating “EV-ready” regions and accelerating EV uptake. A template of these things can be found at www.projectgetready.org. So, while there may be additional creative ideas, it makes more sense to many of those stakeholders to implement the things we know, before we spend hundreds of millions- even billions- of dollars on the things that might work. To that end, the offering of technical assistance and funding that the EVDA includes is very useful, but should be used to apply this template to as many areas as possible- and based on market potential, not arbitrary demographic metrics. Picking an area because it is rural, for example, risks sinking huge amounts of money into a region that may not actually be viable, only to have it flounder when such support stops in a few years. It also forces automakers to choose between sending their limited vehicle supplies (and other resources) to regions where the market is known and those which are unknown but funded under this plan.

Another significant concern about the regional plan is the intention to raise the federal tax credit to $10,000- but only for buyers in designated regions. There is already a negative perception that EVs are only for the “chosen”, and some resentment about providing financial incentives at all to early adopters who tend to be of inherently higher financial means; increasing incentives only for some buyers feeds these problems. While some states and regions are incentivizing their own residents, it’s important that any federal incentives remain consistent nationwide, regardless of whether the amount is increased through this legislation.

One of the most common points of misunderstanding is that because some public charging is useful to address “range anxiety”, more must be better. In fact, most initial buyers will charge at home or at work- so beyond a bare framework of public charging as a “safety net”, deploying more of it does not create demand for more cars. Further, PHEVs and EREVs like the Prius and Chevrolet Volt aren’t dependent on public infrastructure except for a minimum amount of public or workplace charging available to apartment dwellers or others that can’t charge at home. These two types of plug-in vehicles are expected to make up a significant percentage of the market in the near-to-mid term. For all of these reasons, the EVDA’s infrastructure efforts should be shifted to emphasize residential and workplace charging over public charging.

While there’s a current trend of installing infrastructure now for a vehicle deployment level some decades hence (e.g., Nissan/eTec’s project is installing infrastructure in certain cities now for the number of EVs they expect to be deployed by 2050), the extra infrastructure creates an issue of “stranded assets” and breeds public resentment over taxpayer dollars funding chargers that aren’t being used to capacity. Additionally, the chargers end up being long out of warranty before they see regular use. Because the excess charging is generally installed to create visibility, it’s actually more effective and fiscally responsible to install more signage along roadways and within cities to direct EV drivers toward the chargers that are often already nearby, but overlooked. Once vehicles start to be deployed and “pool” geographically, more public charging can always be added as needed.

One of the more interesting aspects of the EVDA is that it seeks to identify overlooked market areas- this is a very useful goal, but would be better accomplished by doing an objective nationwide assessment of the various metrics that make for a promising area, and grating support accordingly. There is also a huge consumer education need in all market areas; this would be a worthy use of a portion of the funding sought in the EVDA.

There are elements of many of these suggestions in the current iteration of the EVDA, but priorities need to be shifted some to arrive at a piece of legislation that would engender more enthusiasm by the EV stakeholders. Expectation of broad support requires willingness to broadly engage.

· James Poch (not verified) · 4 years ago

I am strongly opposed to the approach of EVDA for the reasons explained. Elite communities, unfair tax policies, segregation of vehicle allocation, etc. I am actively informing my community at www.plugincarolina.org that such an approach, though well intentioned, will do more harm than good. Right when we are on the eve of electric vehicle deployment, we are presented with a five year government program/learning exercise. The market is ready. The vehicles are ready. The tax incentives are ready. Now let's continue to improve incentives for all communities and get out of the way! As
I mention in my blog, the EVDA approach will be the Bill Buckner, "unforced error", of the EV movement. It will hinder rather than help EV/PHEV/EREV deployment.

· Paul Scott (not verified) · 4 years ago

While I love incentives to engineer positive results (carrots), what we need now are incentives not to do something negative (sticks). We've already got some pretty good incentives for buying plug-in cars and installing charging infrastructure. The utilities are mulling over providing EV charging rates that will incentivize off-peak charging, and municipalities, stores and workplaces will provide free charging here and there, so we seem to be flush with carrots. To offer more carrots to only a few select regions will engender envy, or worse, in communities not so lucky.

Which brings me to the big elephant in the room - taxing gas. This is a huge stick just sitting there waiting to be used.

It's not like there isn't justification for increasing the gas tax. We all pay for the war over oil that is Iraq. We all pay for the non-Iraq military costs of protecting access to oil (RAND calculates this cost at $75-$85 billion/year). We all pay for decreased quality of life by having to breathe polluted air, drink polluted water and seeing our land contaminated by the effluent of combusted petrol products. The list of negative effects brought to us by oil is very long.

Instead of digging up more carrots and handing them out to a few lucky folks, we'd be better served if our leaders used the big stick they have to engineer our society in a positive way.

· · 4 years ago

It's great to see an exchange of so many perspectives on this legislation. I think that moving forward, it's important that we don't let any one group like the Electrification Coalition or companies like GM or Nissan totally dominate the discussion on EV adoption.

Assuming that additional incentives are on the way (it's far from certain at this point,) we need to tell our local elected officials not just what we oppose, but what we want. Remember, this is not a national news issue in the same way that health care or financial reform is --- many members of Congress are probably mostly unfamiliar with the ins and outs of EV adoption.

This is the kind of issue where a call or a letter to a local representative could actually make a difference. If you've got a perspective, let them know about it!

· Anonymous (not verified) · 3 years ago

Any form of electric vehicle which provides safe transport for people to travel is the best option we need to see more petrol cars not being used this will help with traffic problems and reduce congestions on our roads the segway and the Ecoboomers are a good choice
this will also help young people to get to there jobs as they cannot aford insurance for cars

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