Feds move to boost electric car use

Keith Laing, Detroit News Washington Bureau
9:37 a.m. EDT November 3, 2016

Washington — President Barack Obama’s administration is moving to accelerate the development of electric cars by establishing 48 national charging corridors on U.S. highways that will cover nearly 25,000 miles in 35 states and Washington, D.C., fulfilling a mandate from Congress that was passed in 2015.

The list of proposed initial electric car charging corridors includes interstates where signs are ready to go that are similar to current roadside alerts for food and gas stations that are nearby highway exits. The list includes Interstate 94 across southern Michigan. Interstate 80, which essentially would connect Detroit to points west to Chicago and beyond, and points east to Cleveland and beyond, is included on a separate list of highways that are still waiting for signage.

The White House said the charging corridors, which will be managed by the Federal Highway Administration, will “ensure that electric vehicle drivers have access to charging stations at home, at work, and on the road — creating a new way of thinking about transportation that will drive America forward.”

The U.S. Transportation Department was required to set up the electric car charging corridors by Dec. 4 as a result of an infrastructure funding law passed last year.

The White House said Thursday that “28 states, utilities, vehicle manufacturers and change organizations are committing to accelerate the deployment of electric-vehicle charging infrastructure on the DOT’s corridors” as part of the effort to boost electric car use in the U.S.

The United States Department of Energy is also planning to conduct a pair of studies “to evaluate the optimal national electric vehicle charging deployment scenarios, including along DOT’s designated fueling corridors,” the White House said. Additionally, administration officials said 38 new businesses, nonprofits, universities and utilities are committing to provide electric car charging access for their workforce.

The announcements follow an earlier commitment of $4.5 million in loan guarantees from the White House in July that are available to facilitate the development of more charging stations for electric cars.

The effort to boost the number of electric-car charging stations in the nation comes as federal regulators say that U.S. automakers may miss the goal of achieving a fleetwide average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, a marker set by the Obama administration in 2012.

Automakers have said low gas prices have dampened enthusiasm for fuel-efficient cars and electric vehicles. Trucks and SUVs have been top sellers.

“Sales of EVs remained low, and since automakers have 30 models on sale, we want to sell them in higher numbers,” Wade Newton, director of communications of the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said in an email to The Detroit News. “More infrastructure will help make potential customers more comfortable with moving away from a traditional gas engines.”

Environmentalists, meanwhile, have pushed for more stringent auto emission rules to boost the adaption of fuel-efficient cars.

“Encouraging the rapid transition to electric vehicles is an all-around win for our climate, our public health, and our economy,” Sierra Club Electric Vehicles Initiative Director Gina Coplon-Newfield said in a statement. “Electric vehicles are already cleaner than gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles today. Coupled with renewable power, electric vehicles offer the promise of 100 percent clean transportation as we move forward.”



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