Let’s be realistic. The transition from gas powered cars and trucks to electric vehicles has not dramatically changed the look of the country’s highways.
Yes, momentum is building, and automakers are ramping up EV production and many new models are expected over the next few years. But polls show that consumers are hesitant to make the switch, citing concerns over the high purchase price, limited driving range and lack of sufficient charging infrastructure. Only half of adults who are aware of electric vehicles say they are likely to seriously consider purchasing one. And here is the statistic that stands out in 2022: less than 1% of the 250 million cars, SUVs and light-duty trucks on the road in the United States are electric.
Further dampening optimism is the reality that cars on the road today including new gas-powered and hybrid cars will be around for a long time, as modern cars last about 16 years on average. So transitioning the U.S. auto fleet is likely to be a slow process, particularly since electric vehicles are still under a period of iterative development with an unproven lifespan.
How then, can the U.S. reach its goal of carbon-neutral by 2050, an achievement that relies on a future with mostly electric cars?
Clearly, to accelerate the use of zero-emissions vehicles, policymakers must consider innovative measures to get drivers to switch from gas-powered to electric vehicles (EVs), a slow process at best considering only seventeen million new cars are sold each year. Projecting from this figure about half of the cars on the road would be electric by 2050. This figure is in stark contrast with President Biden’s goal of half the cars on the road to be electric by 2030!
Standing in the way is slow evolution of the battery technology, which gives EVs a higher price tag, a limited range before recharging and requires a refueling infrastructure that is non-existent compared to the omnipresent gas station. Therein lies the “Catch 22.” There aren’t enough electric cars to make charging stations profitable, nor enough charging stations for drivers to realize the potential utility of owning an electric car.
The infrastructure bill that passed Congress in November 2021 includes a $7.5 billion investment to install a half million new charging stations across the U.S. The details are unclear as to where these stations will be installed, or if they will be distributed in underserved areas but the bill’s investment in charging infrastructure could be the turning point in the deployment of electric vehicles in the U.S. (Currently there are about 18.5 EVs per charger, but to be credible at least one charger is needed for every 10 EVs in addition to home charging).
A scenario for reaching Biden’s ambitious goal would include continuing the $10,000 purchase incentive for all-electric vehicles, funding the robust infrastructure goal of 100,000 charging stations and promoting the sale of hybrids and plug-in hybrids as a bridge to help transition consumers to battery electric EVs.
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