In the very first edition of the RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicles Blog, I shared my transportation story. That was over a year ago, and now we are approaching a new decade, which will be sure to bring just as much change as the last. Here’s a quick rundown of what I see as the biggest transportation changes over the past 10 years, what’s coming next, and how I plan to clean up my own transportation use in 2020.
10 years of transportation
In 2010, 3 days after my 16th birthday I got my driver’s license, kickstarting my experience with personal transportation.
In 2015, I purchased a red (Go Badgers!) 2010 Ford Escape. I didn’t even think about buying an electric car. Sometimes, I opted to drive my car because it was warm and easy, despite having the option to reduce my emissions by walking, taking the bus, driving my moped, or biking.
Then, in July of 2018, I started working at RENEW. I was immersed in clean energy – and quickly realized that my transportation choices didn’t align with my values.
I spent a year learning as much as I could, evaluating my lifestyle, and crunching the numbers on an EV purchase. I bought a Tesla Model 3 and moved to an apartment with solar on the roof. My husband and I are an all-electric, one car household. I call a rideshare when I need it – and in Madison, I can call an all-electric rideshare with Green Cab.
This is not the transportation future I imagined when I started my transportation story in 2010. I have more options, and produce fewer emissions, than I could have imagined 10 years ago. Madison is a walkable city that has an all-electric cab company, BCycle electric bikeshares, beautiful bike paths, and an extensive bus system that is being renovated and electrified. I can (and do!) take advantage of these options to live my clean energy values more fully.
A clean energy resolution
As I reflected on my personal transportation choices this decade, I decided to make Clean Energy Resolutions for 2020:
- Buy carbon offsets for my air travel.
- Try not to rideshare alone. I will bus when possible and call a Green Cab when I need to, reducing my solo rideshare trips (it’s not really “sharing” when I’m the only one in the car that needs to go there).
How has your personal transportation evolved over the decade? What would your Clean Energy Resolutions be?
Here are a few options to dip your toe into a clean energy transition this year:
- Pledge to take the bus once a week in January
- Instead of a “swear jar” have a “lights jar” at home – anyone caught leaving a light on when they’re not in the room owes the jar $1
- Take part in National Bike to Work Day this May, bonus points if you get coworkers involved
- Look into your utility’s green power program, or other ways to offset your home’s electricity use, like solar
- Test drive an electric car (I bet you’ll like it!)
- Become a RENEW Sustaining Member
- Get a solar site assessment – at home or your work – to see if solar is right for you. See our list of trusted installers here
What will next decade hold?
This decade saw a lot of change in the way people get around. Rideshares like Uber and Lyft became common, electric scooters took over sidewalks nationwide, and electric vehicle sales tipped over 1 million in the U.S.
I expect that next decade it will be even easier to get around with enhanced micromobility options, cleaner buses with more bus routes, and more electric vehicle models than ever. These transitions are happening nationwide and Wisconsin is no exception. In addition to Madison, La Crosse, Milwaukee, and Racine all have electric buses ordered. Madison is working toward bus rapid transit, which will make commuting faster, cleaner, and more equitable for thousands of Wisconsinites. Micromobility is happening everywhere too – the founder of Bird Rides, one of the big scooter-sharing companies, grew up in Appleton! And, there are bikeshares in cities as small as Wisconsin Rapids and as large as Milwaukee. Together, these options will make it easier to get where you need to go, with fewer emissions.
For passenger vehicles, expect 200 different EV models to be available by 2025, giving us more size, shape, price, and brand options in the electric vehicle market. To add to it, I am really excited to see how the transition to autonomous vehicles will play out, especially as we transition to electric and shared mobility at the same time.
Buckle up, it’ll be a fun ride!
The Energy Gang, a Green Tech Media (GTM) podcast, dives into energy, clean technology, and environmental issues. We’re very excited to welcome Katherine Hamilton, one of the show’s co-hosts, as our keynote speaker at our annual Renewable Energy Summit to take place on Thursday, January 16, 2020! Katherine is also the Chair of 38 North Solutions, a public policy firm focused on clean energy and innovation, which she co-founded.
While we wait for Katherine’s visit to Wisconsin in January, we’re listening to The Energy Gang Podcast. I was especially intrigued by the October 26 episode, “Who’s Trying to Re-Kill the Electric Car?” The title is a spoof on the film, Who Killed the Electric Car? which came out in 2006. The documentary is a reminder of previous attempts to make electric vehicles mainstream. In 1997, after a California air emissions mandate, General Motors launched the EV1, the first electric vehicle made for the mass market. After only 6 years on the market, the EV1 was recalled and the vehicles were destroyed.
This Energy Gang episode digs into the question: Are we in the midst of the same story at a grander scale?
Who (if anyone) is re-killing the electric car?
There is certainly momentum in the EV market that points to a long and prosperous life for today’s electric cars. Bloomberg New Energy Finance says 57% of passenger vehicles sales could be electric by 2040. EVs are already cost competitive, with a lower cost per mile to operate and very little maintenance.
With more and more electric vehicles, we demand less and less gasoline. This sets up an interesting dynamic between oil companies and electric utilities. While these industries have often agreed (or left each other alone) on big policy issues, they’re beginning to fight over the market to fuel our vehicles.
We’re just beginning to see how this conflict will play out. Transportation is a huge market – Wisconsin alone spends $8.4 billion per year (yes, that’s billion with “b”) to fuel our vehicles, all of which is sent out of the state, and much of it out of the country, to purchase liquid fossil fuels to run our vehicles.
It’s no surprise that oil and gas companies see electric vehicles as a threat. In fact, many of them are pivoting to include electric vehicle charging in their line of services. In Europe, gas companies own a lot of the public charging infrastructure and BP recently bought Greenlots, a charging station software provider.
What about our local gas station owners? The Energy Gang says they don’t seem to care that much, but they are considering installing EV chargers. Gas stations could somewhat easily switch from one fuel to another, and keep people buying items in their convenience store, where they make the bulk of their profits.
How to Make Sure EVs Survive This Time
Utilities stand to gain from a growing electric vehicle market, and they are catching on fast. As energy efficiency has made big gains, overall electricity consumption is growing more slowly than it has in the past. Electrifying vehicles and other appliances is a real growth opportunity for power companies. Five years ago, utilities weren’t proposing programs to promote electric vehicles except in California. Now, utilities in 25 states have plans to invest in public electric vehicle charging.
In those 25 states, at least 10 have oil-affiliated groups pushing back. In Wisconsin, we are working hard to get the facts out about electric vehicles and make sure consumers and decision-makers understand the benefits of this transition, and the downsides to our current, expensive transportation fuel:
- EVs are for everyone. EVs are already cheaper to own and operate, and the costs of the vehicles themselves are coming down fast.
- EVs are better for the environment and will continue to get cleaner as our grid gets cleaner. Internal combustion engines, on the other hand, only get dirtier over time.
- In our view, power companies, government, and private businesses should be working together to build the charging network needed to support these vehicles, just like we built roads when cars first came along.
We’re watching this story unfold in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission opened a docket to investigate the electric vehicle market and explore the roles that utilities and regulators could take in this new market. Stakeholders are welcome to participate in this docket. So far, dozens of organizations and individuals have submitted comments ranging from supportive and excited to questioning or downright anti-electric vehicle.
Our hope is this docket will help to build clarity and momentum in the market. We have allies who also believe in this transition, and we will continue working together to make sure the electric vehicles of today survive.
Consumers are driving the transition
Electric vehicle adoption will be in an exciting transition and one that I’m grateful to take part in. I was 2 years old when the 1997 EV-1 came to market. Had it not been “killed,” maybe my first car would have been electric? We’ve come a long way since then. Now, consumers are driving the EV market and demanding high quality electric cars. The market is delivering and we should keep it thriving.
If you want to learn more about electric vehicles and clean energy, you should attend our Renewable Energy Summit on January 16, 2020 in Madison, Wisconsin! Keynote Speaker Katherine Hamilton will be discussing these issues and more. Our Presenting Sponsors are on the cutting edge of our clean energy future, with Invenergy developing large-scale solar and wind projects and Zerology establishing the nation’s first all-electric taxi fleet!
I’ve been following the NRDC Fellows’ EV road trip across the Midwest. They drove, they charged, and they wrote about it. This particular blog post, about the Midwest electric vehicle market, caught my eye. At first, maybe it was due to the colorful maps, but I found an underlying message for Wisconsin in this post: Keep the ball rolling.
There is so much potential for Wisconsin to be a leader in the electric vehicle market, and these statistics prove it. With hardly any pro-electric vehicle policy, Wisconsin is keeping up with states like Minnesota and Michigan. Think about what we could do if we keep the ball rolling! Recent wins like the Volkswagen Settlement Funding signal a bright future for Wisconsin’s electric vehicle market.
July 02, 2019
Ada Statler Jessica Russo Madhur Boloor Patricia Valderrama Samuel Garcia
This is the sixth blog in a series about our Midwest electric vehicle adventure.
We’ve written about electric vehicle (EV) policies and pilot programs in the Midwest, as well as sub-trends we’ve seen along our 1,300+ mile electric road trip route. But it can also be helpful to see where the numbers stand overall. These maps look state by state at EV sales numbers, market shares, growth, charging infrastructure, and related jobs. Notably, the places where we’re seeing the most EV-related activity (darker blues in the map) are also generally where we’ve seen the introduction of more EV-friendly policies.
Looking at the number of new EVs bought in a state can seem like the most straightforward way to understand how many clean cars are on the road there. But without taking population and car ownership numbers overall into account, it is hard to really get a sense of where EVs are taking off and where they still need encouragement.
Looking at EV purchases as a percent of market share within each state is a bit more helpful as it allows you to consider how big of a presence EV sales are in the state’s market. For perspective, the highest EV penetration is in states like California, where the 7.84 percent EV market share of new vehicles bought in the state in 2018 represents 46.8% of national EV sales that year—likely due to Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEV) Standards that require automakers to stock EVs in-state. The ZEV standard goal is 2.5 percent market share for EVs by 2025 and 8 percent market share by 2030. No Midwestern states have joined the coalition of states with ZEV standards. Nevertheless, Illinois and Minnesota lead the region with 1.2 and 1.14 percent EV market shares respectively. (It’s no coincidence that both these states also have a relatively high number of public chargers, and that Minnesota has been moving forward with utility charging programs.) Policies like ZEV standards could go a long way toward reducing barriers to EV access in this region and expanding consumer choice.
It might still be hard to get a sense of EV growth without looking at how the market share changes from year to year. The short of it: quickly! This map shows the change in EV market share over one year. Notably, some states, like Illinois, have grown faster (as a percent change) in the past, while others, like Nebraska, are just starting to see more growth and thus appear to have greater growth.
Increasing the number of public charging stations is essential in order to enable longer-distance travel in electric vehicles and ownership options for roadtrippers, and for those who may not be able to charge an EV at home. This data source looks at number of plugs as opposed to stations because there may be anywhere from one to eight plugs at a single charging station. Both the total plug count and the total station count are important: we don’t want any EVs to have to wait in line to charge, but we also want to make sure that stations have a useful geographic spread.
It’s important to note that these ports are not evenly distributed throughout the state. Most are concentrated in larger cities, with a few along major highways. In our experience, there are certainly spots where more could be useful. For instance, even in Missouri, which has the largest number of absolute charging ports in the region, it would have been very difficult for us to travel in our Chevy Bolt (a longer range non-Tesla EV) between the state’s two largest cities, St. Louis and Kansas City. This is just one example of the need for more strategically distributed chargers.
Thanks to the NRDC team for allowing us to share their blog. Check out other blogs from the NRDC Fellows Road Trip here.
Wisconsin has secured Volkswagen Settlement funding for electric vehicle charging stations!
Governor Evers signed the State Budget today, with 78 partial vetoes. One of those vetoes was used to edit the section designating Volkswagen Settlement funding. In the signed budget, up to $10 million can be used for electric vehicle charging stations.
Over the next two years, Wisconsin is expected to receive $25 million in Volkswagen settlement funding. Evers’ veto reinstates his original proposal which allocates $15 million to replace public buses and up to $10 million for electric vehicle charging stations.
Together, we sent 443 letters to legislators telling them that electric vehicle charging stations are important for advancing clean energy in Wisconsin. Thank you for your support in making this issue heard!
Now, Wisconsin will join the 45 other states taking advantage of this huge opportunity to kickstart the fast-growing electric market. We are eager to see the future of clean transportation in Wisconsin, and believe this funding will go a long way toward making electric vehicles accessible for all Wisconsinites.