In January 2020, BlastPoint put together a list of five trends in the electric vehicle industry that we hoped would flourish sometime during the year. Then COVID-19 hit and everything changed. The pandemic doesn’t seem to have thwarted progress in transportation electrification, however.
Some of our wishes have come true, and other promising ones have taken shape. It’s truly remarkable that all of this has happened – in spite of, or in some cases even because of, the global pandemic.
As this IEA Technology Perspective report shows, “Our central estimate today is for global electric car sales to slightly exceed 2019’s total to reach more than 2.3 million and achieve a record share of the overall car market of more than 3%.”
How is the EV industry making it happen? Below are just some current solutions under way.
Advocacy, Investments in Alternative Mobility for Lower-Income Communities
EV infrastructure expansion is critical for lower-income communities. They see the bulk of air pollution from factories and traffic congestion, the fewest green spaces, and high numbers of low-income-earning residents. People in these neighborhoods are often also essential workers, like grocery store clerks, and statistically, they face more negative health impacts, so are thus most at risk of contracting COVID-19.
Given that electrification of vehicles can alleviate air quality issues, these are precisely the communities and people who would see the greatest benefit from economic investment in EV infrastructure expansion.
But, as the American Prospect reports, “Living in charging deserts amplifies ‘range anxiety,’ how far a car runs before needing a charge. Supermarkets like Whole Foods or big-box stores like Walmart that often have charging stations aren’t usually found in most communities of color—unless they are gentrifying.”
For more on ‘EV charging deserts,’ click here.
Greenlining Institute’s website says that, “For years, we have engaged with CARB (California Air Resources Board) staff to think beyond funding just personal electric vehicles and embrace clean mobility projects that include people who don’t want or need to own a car — projects like electric vehicle carshare, bikeshare, microtransit, and more.”
As a result, their programs now include clean mobility projects for public transit, school transit, and for private residents of low-income and minority neighborhoods.
The Urban Institute and others continue to work toward expanding micro-modes of transit, like ride-sharing, scooters and e-bikes, in distressed communities as well. “To ensure new mobility services successfully increase equitable access to transportation,” they say, “local policymakers must intentionally incorporate equity considerations into planning and implementation by assessing and responding to barriers to transportation access such as cost of use, service availability, geographic distribution of routes, physiological challenges, and social barriers.”
Southern California Edison is rolling out the second phase of its Charge Ready program, during which it’s committed to expanding charging stations across California by 48K units. In particular, it aims “to install at least 30 percent of charging stations in communities that are disproportionately affected by pollution and economic hardship.”
Forth Mobility’s SILVERS project in St. Louis will move forward thanks to funding this year from the Department of Energy for Advanced Innovative Vehicle Technologies. With SILVERS, Forth promises to “increase EV adoption and reduce transportation-related operating expenses for social service agencies in low-income communities,” according to its July 23rd announcement.
We’re excited to know more conversations are happening around infrastructure expansion in low-income and minority areas, as we believe in equitable access to transportation technology for all.
More EV Investment in Rural Communities
While America’s pastoral small towns haven’t widely embraced electric vehicle technology, more opportunities to connect residents of rural areas to cities have been made possible.
Michigan will see EV infrastructure expansion in the coming months of 36 fast chargers located along major highways, thanks to “$1.7 million in grants from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE),” according to InsideEVs.com.
And Duke Energy has been working to expand charging infrastructure across the U.S. South. Citrus County, Florida, population 140K, is made up of small towns but now enjoys 11 new chargers, thanks to Duke’s Park & Plug program, set for a 2022 completion.
Farm workers around the world can expect to see a transition toward more EV in their equipment. Electric tractors have been around for some time, but FutureFarming.com’s March 2020 interview with three top John Deere engineers shares why electric is the future of farming.
We think these developments are incredibly important. They fold more stakeholders into the EV movement by including viewpoints that are typically not requested or recognized by industry groups where carbon emissions issues are discussed. Given these circumstances, we believe utility companies and technology manufacturers have an opportunity right now to build strategic partnerships, make wise investments and create transportation equity for rural residential and business customers.
Renewed Interest in EV Technology Due to Extreme Weather Events
The Green Car Congress’ August 2020 study shows that by “replacing 75% of cars with electric vehicles and increasing renewable energy for every generation, savings could reach as much as $70 billion annually.”
This is not insignificant. With deeper analysis of the market and economic evidence to support the shift to EV, we think more stakeholders will be ready to commit to zero-carbon goals in the coming months.
More Electric Fleet Vehicles on the Market
A new breed of fast charging, fully electric, medium-weight commercial trucks is now available to North American buyers. EVDriven.com reported just this week that Kenworth, in collaboration with Toyota, has launched its first EV trucks to be deliverable by year’s end.
When you consider this development in the context of COVID-19, it makes sense that fleet electrification should see an uptick in the coming months. More people are shopping online, having consumer goods delivered to their doors. In addition to medium-weight vehicles becoming more widely available, we expect to see more lightweight EV trucks, vans and SUVs be used for commercial business purposes.
City Governments & Policy Advocates Join Forces
COVID-19 has left already-struggling local governments cash-strapped, and shifted attention to public health and safety. As such, many EV expansion projects that had been underway in cities around the world saw major setbacks.
Our friends at the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Sustainability & Resilience, for example, had received grant funding for two fast charger installation projects last year; one for City fleets and the other for public use. It was an exciting development and put Pittsburgh into the spotlight in regard to clean transportation initiatives. But with the emergence of the coronavirus crisis, these projects were put on hold.
However, says Rebecca Kiernan, the City of Pittsburgh’s Principal Resilience Planner, ” We are making a lot of good progress on coordination between departments and authorities, and we’re planning and strategizing where to site government-funded public charging.”
She adds that the City has partnered with NRDC (the National Resources Defense Council) to draft a strategic plan that utilizes free technical assistance from the American Cities Climate Challenge to support those efforts, and that the plan should be completed this winter.
“This planning is where we’ll start to prioritize how we can complement the private market; whether by focusing on capacity/number of chargers available, or coverage/the locations of gaps in charging accessibility. So, we’re moving along, albeit a little bit more slowly.”
This is all great news, and these steps forward present big opportunities for electric utilities to increase revenue during tough times. Identifying the best regions, partners and customers for growing EV infrastructure is the next step that companies need to take. In order to do so most effectively, a customer-centric approach is crucial.
What other trends are you seeing in the EV industry? What more would you like to know? BlastPoint is watching the electrification of fleets and infrastructure expansion issues closely to help our energy partners better understand opportunities in the market. If you’d like to learn more about targeting partners and business customers for EV program expansion, download our new report, Commercial Business Personas for B2Bs, and contact us if you’re ready to get started!