Comment: UK electric vehicle projects could be a model for the US
The following commentary was written by Brian Gemmell and Graeme Cooper. Gemmell is the Clean Energy Development Manager at National Grid in the United States. Graeme Cooper is the Head of Future Markets for National Grid in the UK. See our commenting guidelines for more information.
The electric vehicle revolution is almost upon us, as automakers launch moderately priced electric vehicle models with sparkling new technology, longer battery life and eye-catching designs.
But to make the revolution possible, a vast electric charging network is needed to power these cars and allay drivers’ fears of running out of charge far from a charging station.
According to a recent study by consulting firm Ernst & Young, sales of electric vehicles will overtake fossil-fueled cars and trucks by 2033 in the world’s largest auto markets. According to the same study, sales of non-electric vehicles will represent less than 1% of the global automotive market by 2045.
With carbon emissions from transportation currently the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, a shift to zero-emission electric vehicles is good news. With the costs of electric vehicles falling and gasoline prices rising, buying an emission-free electric vehicle is already a smart choice.
A major obstacle remains: recharging EVs. With a transportation sector dependent on fossil fuels, the infrastructure needed to quickly charge many electric vehicles is in its infancy. Today, recharging an EV is not like filling a gas tank. A full charge can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. It’s an obstacle for someone who travels 400 miles to their grandmother’s house.
And what about large fleets of vehicles, like the trucks used by Amazon or UPS? While the typical driver can travel only 40 miles per day, some fleet vehicles can travel hundreds of miles each day, requiring regular refueling. The electrification of this fleet and these long-haul vehicles will require a dedicated charging infrastructure.
To meet the aggressive decarbonization and climate change targets set in the United States by the Biden administration and major states like New York and Massachusetts, investing in electric vehicle charging infrastructure must be a priority. The bipartisan infrastructure bill currently before Congress is a good start. It includes $ 7.5 billion to create a nationwide network of electric vehicle chargers and an additional $ 2.5 billion to advance electric buses. But this is only the beginning.
As we seek to meet the needs in the United States, we can learn lessons from “the other side of the pond”. In July, the UK released the world’s first greenprint aimed at decarbonising all modes of inland transport by 2050. The Transport Decarbonization Plan is the first zero-emission transport plan for a large economy, covering everything from aviation and shipping to roads and rails. .
The plan not only includes the phasing out of production of polluting light vehicles by 2035 and by 2040 for heavy goods vehicles, but also a commitment to deploy thousands of ultra-fast charging stations. The plan also calls for reducing all emissions by 55% by 2030.
The greenprint’s focus on electric vehicles deserves attention in the United States. The UK plan offers three main lessons:
1. Supporting the charging of electric vehicles will require investments in enabling infrastructure.
A transition to electric vehicles – here in the United States and Europe – will require a significant change in infrastructure. High-speed charging stations along highways and near neighborhoods and businesses will be needed.
To help eliminate independence anxiety, the UK has embarked on an effort – aptly named Project Rapid – to ensure that there is a fast-charging network ready to meet the needs of people. future customers of electric vehicles. The UK has assumed that every motorist is always within 30 miles of a fast charging station. To achieve this mandate, the UK government has pledged $ 1.3 billion to support the installation of at least six ultra-fast chargers at every motorway service station by 2023, with 6,000 fast chargers installed in ‘by 2035.
For obvious reasons, the United States will need to make a much larger investment to meet the needs of electric vehicle customers in a much larger country. For example, today in New York there are approximately 60,000 registered electric vehicles. In order for the state to stay on track to fulfill its clean energy mandates, 850,000 electric vehicles will be registered by 2025. To achieve an acceptable level of rapid penetration of chargers to support all these vehicles It will not only be necessary to invest in the chargers themselves, but the grid infrastructure to provide electricity to these chargers.
2. Heavy goods vehicles will be essential to meet emission targets and reduce local pollution.
Heavy goods vehicles, truck fleets and buses represent a disproportionate percentage of CO2 emissions emitted in the United States In Massachusetts, heavy goods vehicles make up only 3% of on-road vehicles, but account for almost 30% of CO2 emissions cars .
The electrification of fleets, buses and other heavy vehicles will improve air quality and noise pollution in environmental justice communities, which are most affected by heavy vehicle traffic, close to health centers. distribution or major highways.
We need a plan to electrify the needs of large fleets now, because meeting them will provide significant benefits in terms of reducing emissions.
3. Policy makers, industry and communities must work together.
The success of the UK Transportation Greenprint will depend not only on government efforts to encourage and spur this change, but also on private investment and community support.
Here in the United States, policymakers, industry leaders, and communities must work together to locate and install charging stations and invest in the electrical grid that powers them. In many states, the commitment to cleaner transportation systems has already been made. But the hardest part remains: to make this commitment a reality.
The future of EV is coming: In just nine years, at least three in ten cars sold in the United States will be electric. The electricity grid must be ready to meet this significant growth in demand. Three critical industrial sectors – energy, transportation and digital technology – must work together to make the future of electric vehicles a reality.
We can start planning for this carbon-free future now – and learn some lessons from our friends overseas at the same time.