This week, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (the largest automotive lobby in existence) released a set of principles relating to the EV charging infrastructure that it believes will be absolutely necessary to spur consumer adoption of electric and alternative energy vehicles in the United States.
“For the auto industry’s transition to electrification to be successful, customers will need access to affordable and convenient charging and hydrogen fueling, easy-to-understand utility rate structures that reward off-peak charging, and improved charging times,” John Bozzella, CEO of the alliance, said on Wednesday. “And we must also work together to grow EV sales without leaving low-income, rural or disadvantaged communities behind.”
That’s corporate-speak for “we need to stop catering to wealthy buyers and the government needs to pay for as much of this as possible.”
Unless you’ve been in a coma since the Bush administration, you’re likely aware that people are paying to support electric vehicles via taxes and the bill just keeps getting bigger. Joe Biden has made EV advancement one of its primary goals, as the U.S. House of Representatives is prepared to move on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that’s already been passed by the Senate. While the current version doesn’t set aside quite as much money for charging stations as originally envisioned, it’s still ready to dole out $7 billion for the cause. This is on top of multi-billion dollar investments from automakers, prior infrastructure bills, state-backed initiatives, and a decade of subsided EV sales.
While the discourse tends to focus on how alternative energy vehicles are going to be the saviors of this planet, manufacturers frequently gloss over some of the less-than-ideal environmental aspects of battery production. They also never bring up how swapping their production lines over to electric cars will require a fraction of their existing workforces, fewer mechanical components, and allow them to more easily utilize connectivity services that lock product features behind digital paywalls while mining consumer data. If automakers (or the lobbying groups) were as concerned about the environment as they claim, they’d probably shut down operations and recommended everyone ride bicycles. But the reality is that they see electrification as a potential goldmine in savings that simultaneously paves the way for new sources of revenue.
That said, if we’re seriously going to try and engineer the electric revolution — rather than letting the market gradually decide what works — then the AAI is correct in stating that we’ll need to pour cash on the problem.
The alliance wants general support for a widespread EV charging infrastructure. This includes scaling up public and utility investments for chargers (level 2) and hydrogen fueling stations while finding a way to ensure energy prices don’t explode through the roof or electrical grids fail as millions of EVs are plugged in every single evening. The AAI is also pushing for new building codes that would require EV chargers in all residential parking areas and any newly constructed homes.
How can this daunting task be accomplished? According to the alliance, only via strengthened partnerships between public and private entities. The group has said the automotive industry will have invested more than $330 billion by 2025 and the path ahead will require more money from serious partners and “expanded roles for utilities, energy regulators, and other stakeholders to create opportunities for new and existing businesses to participate in this clean transformation.”
Frankly, it sounds like there will be too much central planning — leaving your author concerned about the potential for corruption and roadblocks as decision-makers make unilateral decisions that don’t work for all markets. There’s also a lot here that’s not being considered, particularly the chip shortage that it’s absolutely demolishing industrial productivity right now and the heightening demand for hard-to-source materials required for battery production. Though, if we’re to keep to the tight EV timelines that everyone seems to want, there may be no alternative but to adhere to most of what the AAI is proposing.
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