Transitioning to Electric Vehicles

Transitioning to Electric Vehicles
Emission-free transportation is a critical step in the fight against the climate crisis. With policies and incentives to promote decarbonization such as the Federal Sustainability Plan and ground-breaking funding mechanisms and programs through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the electrification of transportation is underway. Are you knowledgeable enough to prepare for this ongoing transition?

Our recent webinar, The Future of Electrified Trans­porta­tion presented by Jeff Doyle, Tim Sorenson and Matthew Goss, discusses trans­porta­tion elec­tri­fi­ca­tion from policy, transit, and energy perspec­tives. Here is an overview of what they covered:

Electrification and Policy

Reducing oil dependency and elec­tri­fy­ing trans­porta­tion will vastly improve emissions, but to make real impact, mass adoption of electric vehicles is necessary. Fortunately, there are many major initiatives happening concur­rently to accelerate these efforts. Most, if not all, major automakers are increasing electric vehicle (EV) production, with many pledging to produce only EV within the next 10-15 years. In addition, states and cities are imple­ment­ing meaningful policies and offering incentives to encourage elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, and the recently signed Bipartisan Infra­struc­ture Law outlines key funding and investment plans.

But how do we actually transition to full electric drive and how do agencies implement zero emission vehicle transitions? Undoubtedly, the transition to electric drive vehicles creates both challenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties for public agencies and the industry. As agencies consider their next steps, they must first understand electric vehicle basics, market drivers, policy, and adoption rates, as well as oppor­tu­ni­ties and risks. According to the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the western U.S. is currently leading the nation in EV regis­tra­tions, with half of EV sales concen­trated in California. While we still have a long way to go, we are positioned well for moving forward.

Comparing where we were in 2015 (after the initial push by the Obama admin­is­tra­tion 2008), major automakers have stated that achieving 40-50 percent new vehicle market share for EVs by 2030 is feasible. Following the new Federal Sustain­abil­ity Plan, agencies are focusing on converting their own public fleets, as a strong push into elec­tri­fi­ca­tion.

Vehicle Refueling Source:
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Agency Planning and Implementation for Zero Emission Transitions

Imple­ment­ing a solid transition plan begins with a basic under­stand­ing of electric vehicles and must address needs at the power source and where to charge (power distri­b­u­tion), before developing a full-scale plan. Access to charging infra­struc­ture begins with utilities and these providers are in a unique position to fill critical gaps between EV adoption and the imple­men­ta­tion of large-scale charging stations. Transit agencies, in particular, have made great strides in elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and the new provisions outlined in the BIL will only increase these efforts. The new statute defines six specific require­ments for transit grant appli­ca­tions related to zero-emission vehicles. At the basic level, each plan must:

  • Demonstrate a long-term fleet management plan
  • Address the avail­abil­ity of current and future resources to meet transition and imple­men­ta­tion costs
  • Consider policy and legislation impacting relevant tech­nolo­gies include an evaluation of existing and future facilities and their rela­tion­ship to the technology transition
  • Describe the utility or alternative fuel provider partnership
  • Examine the impact of the transition on the applicant's current workforce by identifying skill gaps, training needs, and retraining needs of the existing workers

To develop an imple­mentable plan and make sound decisions, a strong multimodal team is vital and must be part of the initial efforts. This team should include trans­porta­tion, envi­ron­men­tal and sustain­abil­ity, permitting, civil, electrical and power, archi­tec­tural, mechanical (fire protection), operations and maintenance.

Whether a transit agency or other government agency, it’s a good idea to begin framing a transition plan with the end in mind – what do you want to achieve and what are your overall goals? Other areas that must be looked at include existing and future fleet/facilities, technology needs, grid assessment, equity, costs, resiliency and sustain­abil­ity, workforce training, and fleet energy needs.

Typical challenges often involve charging times, compat­i­bil­ity and grid capacity, infra­struc­ture avail­abil­ity, range anxiety and charging behaviors, renewable energy options, and retro­fitting existing infra­struc­ture.

Charging Infrastructure Considerations

Adding charging infra­struc­ture is not as simple as choosing a location and dropping in charging stations. Other factors need to be considered. For example: will there be redundant/alternate sources of power? If vehicles are utilized for critical activities, and utility power becomes unavailable, should emergency/standby power be required to keep EVs charged and ready to go? Are there climate-related events such as flooding that may pose a threat? Should chargers be standalone devices, or should they be networked and communicate with each other? Would the charging stations impede traffic flow or acces­si­bil­ity? What charging levels will be deployed? The answers to many of these questions will depend on the location, the community, and the infra­struc­ture already in use.

Lastly, it’s important to examine how facilities need to be scaled up to support EV and understand the hidden costs. Zero Energy Building energy accounting, including vehicle charging energy inside the building, would assess energy used for heating, cooling, ventilation, domestic hot water, indoor and outdoor lighting, plug loads, and process energy.

Addressing the Big Question: Funding and Investment

The Bipartisan Infra­struc­ture Law opened the door for converting elec­tri­fi­ca­tion talk into reality. With broad-based and unprece­dented funding oppor­tu­ni­ties such as the $7.5 billion for a national charging network and competitive programs such as rural charging and increasing EV charging access in disad­van­taged communities, we are poised to see significant accel­er­a­tion in trans­porta­tion elec­tri­fi­ca­tion.

EV Barriers Source: Harris Poll commissioned by Volvo USA, October 11-17, 2018, of 1,510 US drivers ages 18 and older.

The National Electric Vehicle Infra­struc­ture (NEVI) Formula Program is a guaranteed distri­b­u­tion from the federal government to all states through their trans­porta­tion departments. The formula program will provide a total of $5 billion over 5 years. This funding is to be used for EV charging infra­struc­ture, with the program’s first priority of completing a nationwide network of charging stations along federally approved Alternative Fuels Corridors (AFC). AFCs are formal desig­na­tions made by the Federal Highway Admin­is­tra­tion (FHWA) on routes, primarily interstate corridors, based on information provided by the states. Corridors are first proposed by the states, and after reviewing to determine whether the underlying conditions are met, FHWA will formally approve and designate the corridor. Nominations for new Alternative Fuels Corridors are currently being solicited, and many states already have FHWA AFC-designated corridors.

AFC This map illustrates the Alternative Fuels Corridors that are nominated (light green) and approved (dark green). Source:

Other potential funding categories for EV-related projects include the Carbon Reduction Program, truck emissions at ports, state energy grants, deployment technology for enhanced grid flexibility, clean school bus program, and competitive low or no emission grants. Though there are many additional consid­er­a­tions, policies, and infra­struc­ture require­ments that will need to be addressed before deploying any EV plan, covering these basics provides the foundation for elec­tri­fi­ca­tion. The Trans­porta­tion Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion webinar addresses the topics mentioned above among additional insights regarding the shift to the vehicle fleet.

Map of the US Alternative Fuel Corridors Map of the US Alternative Fuel Corridors
The Future of Electrified Transportation Webinar
Learn about transportation electrification from policy, transit, and energy perspectives in order to better prepare for upcoming changes to the vehicle fleet.

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