As Electric Vehicles Boom Globally, Federal Policy Is Holding Back Growth in U.S.

More carbon dioxide emissions come from transportation than from generating power, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. In 2017, transportation accounted for 29 percent of total carbon pollution, just ahead of the 28 percent from the power sector. And a recent report from Environment America shows that well over half of transportation emissions come from light-duty vehicles such as cars, SUVs, pickups and vans.

Clearly, to reach near-zero carbon emissions by 2050, we must move from a transportation system dependent on oil to one powered by electricity. But that won’t happen without government policies to promote the transition.

Globally, the auto industry is pushing ahead. Boston Consulting Group reports that the top 29 automakers have committed to invest $300 billion in EVs by the end of this decade. The report estimates that in just five years, buyers will be able to choose among 400 fully electric or hybrid EVs. But analysts at Atlas Public Policy say the vast majority of automakers’ investment will be outside the U.S. – if Congress doesn’t act.

“All things being equal, the strongest markets are now driven by public policy,” Atlas founder Nick Nigro told E&E News. “It’s up to U.S. policymakers if the U.S. is going to reclaim that mantle of policy leadership.”

Boston Consulting Group’s analysis shows that China and the European Union command half the EV market now, due to their emissions standards and incentives. The analysis projects that in 10 years, fully electric and hybrid vehicles will be half of global auto sales. But the U.S., under current conditions, will lag far behind: In 2025, U.S. sales of EVs will be less than a third of the EU’s.

As emission standards drive EV sales worldwide, the Trump Administration continues its attempts to roll back Obama-era emission standards. One bright spot in federal policy is that the Department of Energy is committing over $100 million to battery research. EWG is joining other environmental groups in urging Congress to include an extension and expansion of the federal electric vehicle tax credit in economic stimulus legislation precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, state governments are not sitting still. Details have to be worked out, but SmartCities Dive reports that 12 mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states have formed a consortium to reduce carbon transportation emissions in the region by 25 percent, which includes support for EVs and charging infrastructure.  

California recently released its proposed Transportation Electrification Framework to build out charging infrastructure for the five million fully electric vehicles it plans to put on the road by 2030. A recent report by Next10 finds that by 2030, California’s transportation electrification goals could add up to $140 billion to the state’s economic output and create up to half a million new jobs.  

The private sector is also filling federal policy gaps. According to Utility Dive, ChargePoint, a private industry installer of EV charging stations, and the National Association of Truckstop Owners recently announced a $1 billion initiative to install charging stations at 4,000 travel plazas and gas stations nationwide.

Congress must step up. We cannot effectively reduce carbon emissions without electrifying the vehicles we drive every day. Our economy and quality of life depend on it.

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