There’s general agreement among industry analysts that sales of electric vehicles (EVs) will continue to grow. Those same analysts, though, may not agree on the pace of growth. BloombergNEF (BNEF) in its “Electric Vehicle Outlook 2019” report said it expects yearly passenger EV sales will hit 10 million in 2025, up from just more than 2 million in 2018, then rising to 28 million in 2030, and 56 million by 2040. BNEF expects more than 500 million EVs will be on the road worldwide at that date.
The BNEF report said that by 2040, “we expect 57% of all passenger vehicle sales, and over 30% of the global passenger vehicle fleet, will be electric.”
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a group obviously concerned with the electrification of transportation, in a recent report said it expects there will be 300 million EVs on the road worldwide in 2040—six times more than the group predicted in a 2015 forecast, but still some 200 million fewer than BNEF’s forecast. ExxonMobil, another oil major, forecasts just more than 160 million EVs in service worldwide in 2040, some 70% lower than the BNEF base case.
There’s also disagreement among politicians about the role of EVs in the future of U.S. transportation. Sen. Bernie Sanders, among the front-runners for the Democratic presidential nomination, has said he wants to move the entire transportation sector to zero-emissions vehicles by 2030, offering hundreds of billions of dollars in incentives to trade in old gas-guzzling cars and trucks. Two other Democrats, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, have called for all new passenger vehicles to be zero-emission by 2030 and 2035, respectively.
President Trump, meanwhile, has mocked EVs and chastised automakers over their push to increase mileage standards for vehicles, tweeting last year that Ford founder Henry Ford would be “very disappointed if he saw his modern-day descendants wanting to build a much more expensive car, that is far less safe and doesn’t work as well, because execs don’t want to fight California regulators.” Other Republicans have pushed to kill the federal EV tax credit, and add a new annual tax for EVs.
Not all Republicans share that view. Tim Echols, a member of the Georgia Public Service Commission, has said his state was wrong to end state-based EV tax credits in 2015, leading to a nearly 90% drop in EV registrations in Georgia. He also has called for an extension of federal EV tax credits.
Echols, who recently delivered a welcome to attendees of POWER’s Connected Plant Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, has been driving an EV since 2013. In a recent dialogue with POWER, Echols talked about the importance of EVs as part of making energy use more efficient, and how it could reduce electric rates, something lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should be able to support.
POWER: Why have fellow Republicans been so reluctant to support electric vehicles?
Echols: “My fellow Republicans have seen how the climate change agenda has been weaponized against them, and they see EVs as just a part of it I think. We need to talk more about grid utilization, efficiency, keeping money in the state, and homegrown fuel to win them over.”
POWER: What in your background or experience led you to support EVs?
Echols: “My family owned a car auction growing up, and I worked at a Ford dealer right out of college—so I love cars in general. Because I regulate energy, I felt I needed to understand all the fuels including EVs, so I got my first one in 2013.”
POWER: What’s the idea behind the EV “brain trust” that meets monthly at Cox Automotive?
Echols: “Cox Automotive has put their money where their mouth is, and invested millions in an old auction facility making it into a new electric mobility concept. I felt that with Lyft housed there, and now Georgia Power’s Electric Transportation office, it made sense to pull the EV leaders of Atlanta together monthly to plan and strategize.” [Editor’s note: Cox Automotive is an Atlanta, Georgia-based business unit of Cox Enterprises. Cox Automotive consolidates all of Cox’s global auto businesses, which includes Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader.com.]
POWER: What’s the goal?
Echols: “I believe that collaboration enables acceleration—on many fronts. By using Cox as an anchor, especially considering their Rivian investment of $250 million, others in the EV space may want to be near them.” [Editor’s note: Rivian is a Plymouth, Michigan-based EV manufacturer.]
POWER: Are you optimistic about [Georgia] House Bill 732 and reinstating EV tax credits, when state budgets are so tight?
Echols: “I am not optimistic that anything can be done on bringing back a state tax credit this year. I am now suggesting to counties that they consider creating small rebates for people who buy and own EVs in their county with incentives of around $1,000.”
POWER: What will it take?
Echols: “It will require a member of leadership in the Georgia Capitol to spend their political capital on pushing for it. And that has not happened yet.”
POWER: What EVs have you owned?
Echols: “My first EV was a 2013 Nissan LEAF, which my wife and daughters quickly commandeered. After that, another LEAF, and then a Kia SOUL EV. I [recently] bought a 2017 [Chevrolet] Volt.”
POWER: Which EVs coming out soon are you most excited about and why?
Echols: “Cox Automotive’s recent market report showed plug-in hybrids on the decline in sales, and that was a bit shocking. The Volt and other cars with the 250-mile range are what we have been waiting on—but we need those state credits to convince people to take what they still perceive to be a risk in purchasing.”
POWER: How can EVs support energy efficiency, why should utilities back adoption, and how can all ratepayers benefit?
Echols: “With load declining on a per-person basis for residential customers of utilities, EVs make more sense than ever—if they are being charged at home. Utilities can advance this effort with home charger rebates or even selling them and [providing] financing. We need to make sure our Republican friends know that declining load equals inefficiency. EVs can help put downward pressure on rates. EV charging helps all ratepayers by making better use of generation. When ratepayers are incentivized to charge during off-peak periods it makes great use of plant generation—which we are all paying fixed capacity costs for regardless of consumption.”
—POWER staff (@POWERmagazine).