The Future of Electric Vehicles

The Future of Electric Vehicles
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There’s a quiet revolution under way in the automotive world: the transition to low- and no-emission vehicles.  And if you attended last month’s Los Angeles Auto Show, you witnessed the rewards these vehicles bring to consumers, the environment, and the economy.

130 Zero- and Low-Emissions Vehicle Options By 2025

“More than 40 plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles are already on the market in the US – like the Nissan LEAF– and our choices will continue to grow over the next few years, with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles like the Hyundai Nexo and the Toyota next-generation Mirai at the LA Auto Show. By 2025 there will be 130 electric vehicle (EV) models from which customers can choose.  

These new zero-emission cars, crossovers, and SUVs are the result of enormous investments by auto manufacturers, and they’re investing $225 billion over the next five years to electrify their fleets.  That’s an amount roughly equal to what all automakers combined spend globally on capital expenditures and research and development in a year.  This is a serious venture with tangible results for consumers and the environment.

New entrants into the personal transportation sphere will also be building zero-emission pickup trucks, city buses, delivery vans, and performance hypercars for consumers and businesses who are demanding new technologies.  Moving people and goods can and will be done with cleaner and more efficient technologies.

Customers Want Electric Vehicles But Many Are Waiting For The Infrastructure 

One critical component to this transformative shift to low-carbon transportation is the customers.  The normal barriers to widespread customer acceptance of new products – price, quality, and convenience – are steadily being overcome.  Battery costs are a fraction of what they were ten years ago, but still have some ways to go to be competitive. 

According to a recent AAA survey , 63 percent of Americans cited "not enough places to charge" as a reason not to purchase an electric vehicle.  While many EV owners can charge their cars at home, they can’t yet recharge their vehicles with the ease and speed of gas stations.  Charging infrastructure is being built, and new fast-charging technologies are coming on-line.  Hydrogen refueling, on the other hand, has yet to break past the California market.

The US Can Be A Leader In Electric Vehicles With Public Investments And Smart Public Policy

There are more than 63,000 public charging stations in the US, a third of which are in California, but we need hundreds of thousands more to reach our goals.  Many auto manufacturers are publicly committed to providing more stations, and companies are partnering with electric utilities and others to make charging stations more widely available.  Government support at all levels – federal, state, and local – is critical to pushing the market to the next level.  Governments can leverage their resources to spur investment in the charging and fueling infrastructures needed for EVs. 

Auto companies have seen the future, and the future is electric.  The question is: what is the best policy to get us there?  We need to build the market from the consumers up, with incentives to help spur demand for the next-generation fuel efficient technologies.  The federal government and several states offer consumer tax credits and rebates for the purchase of electric vehicles.  Those programs work, and there are worthwhile bipartisan efforts underway in the Congress and in state legislatures to expand them. 

The US has a great opportunity to be a leader in automotive innovation that can bring a wealth of benefits to Americans and the environment.  If the public and private sectors are aligned, we’ll reach our destination quickly and safely.  

Julia Rege is the senior director for environment and energy at Global Automakers. Prior to joining Global Automakers in 2011, Julia served as senior regulatory engineer at the Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc., focusing on energy and environmental regulatory issues. 


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