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Advancing Electric Vehicle ambitions in the United States: making mass adoption a reality
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On a mission to advance the path to net zero emissions by 2050, the Biden Administration has committed to invest in and enhance nationwide electric vehicle charging infrastructure, provide incentives for electric vehicle buyers and electrify federal fleets.

With a plan to invest $15 billion to build a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and electric corridors by 2030, the Administration sets a strong foundation to advance zero emission vehicles in the U.S.1 Shifting light, medium and heavy-duty vehicles to electric has the potential to reduce 82% of transport related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the country.2 This is essential to reaching climate goals, avoiding catastrophic weather events and improving the quality of life in major U.S. cities.

It is important to reflect that modern EVs have been around for the last decade. Even with environmental benefits, advances in battery range, reduced operating costs and the growth of charging stations over the years, stimulating private and public interest and demand has been a challenge with the higher up front capital cost of purchasing EVs and variables around charging and maintaining them.

According to Wood’s Director of sustainable transportation and asset management, Naeem Farooqi, “for EV mass adoption to become reality in the U.S., we must take what we have learned from past behaviours as signals for what we should improve. With American automakers such as Ford and GM advancing their own lines and over 100 electric models projected to be in U.S. auto showrooms by 20303, we can make this the decade that turns the tide toward EVs if our solutions meet these challenges head on.”

Addressing a major hurdle to EV adoption: range anxiety

Given the number of miles that fleet vehicles travel each day, the fear of not having sufficient battery life to complete daily operational requirements and not being able to find a charging station in time, is the biggest challenge faced by fleet owners. It is also a major fear of private vehicle owners.

The U.S. has over 270 million vehicles on the road with 112 million being privately owned.4 Despite 45 plug-in hybrid and EV models on the market in 2019, they represent only 2% of new light-duty vehicles sold.5 Interestingly, a study found that 20% of EV owners returned to gasoline-powered vehicles.6 Why? Because of anxieties associated with battery range and charging convenience.

Factors affecting EV battery range

Factors affecting EV battery range

Today many EV owners live or work in communities that do not offer adequate charging infrastructure that can reliably and affordably keep their vehicles powered, known as charging deserts. Until vehicle batteries offer longer range capabilities under the multiple stresses they face, or improved access to charging locations, EV adoption will continue to suffer. The proposed plan to add additional charging locations in the U.S. will help to bridge this gap, but they must be easy to use and accessible for users.

Strategic studies to understand driving routes, behaviours and obstacles to adoption, will provide necessary inputs for network design and help persuade vehicle owners to make the switch. Building a network of chargers is complex, requiring a mix of public-private partnerships with charger suppliers, utility companies and commercial owners. With the right investment, using the best technology to assess optimal locations for charging and power corridors, as well as efforts to educate stakeholders around the EV charging options available to them will enable successful adoption of EVs.

Understanding the sum of all parts: total cost of ownership

When it comes to purchasing EVs, consumers and fleet owners often appreciate the idea, but not the price. Without a full understanding of the total cost of ownership (TCO) associated with purchasing and operating EVs, they are cautious in making the transition.

Wood recently performed a TCO analysis on behalf of a Canadian public fleet operator, comparing gasoline, hybrid and electric versions of the Ford F-150, America’s best-selling light-duty truck. Factoring maintenance, salvage, battery replacement and incremental operating costs, along with GHG emission profiles of regional energy sources and different charging options to power the vehicle, migrating fleets of F-150 trucks to plug-in hybrid and electric options far outweigh their gasoline equivalent, even without considering government incentives and carbon offsets.

F-150 gasoline, hybrid and electric TCO and emissions comparison over an 8-year lifecycle

Graph analysis

*TCO analysis based on a specific use case and duty cycle. Results will vary with different vehicle types and operating requirements.

Over an eight year vehicle lifecycle, the all-electric F-150 provided savings of more than $21,000 dollars and 91 tonnes in tailpipe emissions, based on an annual usage of 10,000 miles. Acknowledging that varying vehicle types and operating requirements will have different results, the key takeaway is that EVs can be cheaper than gasoline-powered vehicles when assessing the full picture. Costs will continue to come down as battery technology improves, raw materials required to produce batteries become more affordable as EVs advance at scale, more battery reuse and recycling solutions develop and continued incentives are available. A new study suggests EVs will be cheaper to make than fossil fuel vehicles in every light vehicle segment across Europe in 20277.

TCO is an important tool, providing valuable insights to decision makers, from personal vehicle owners to policy makers and fleet owners, it can help with purchasing decisions, assessing financial viability, shaping business cases and mapping a transformative journey. In today’s world, the need for a resilient approach to quantify economics and sustainability is also key to success. Risk in falling short of accounting for wider costs and their impacts can result in failure to meet sustainability goals. From skills, society, facilities and the infrastructure required, to environmental and weather impacts, a comprehensive analysis of all factors will help manage uncertainty and bring the best outcomes in advancing fleet adoption over time.

Closing the gaps: adopting EVs with confidence

Leading the charge to a zero-emission future, Wood is helping cities, governments and industries bring their electric visions to life.

From pilot studies which advise electric rapid vehicle charging points across city networks that provide the best return on investment and value to drivers, to guiding public transport fleet owners in securing energy to power their electric bus fleets, Wood is working with multiple entities to advance their energy transition plans, meet their ambitious net zero goals and create a more sustainable, resilient and livable future.

Combining Wood’s expertise and state-of-the art tools allow for simulating an infinite number of variables that can impact EV route planning, from topography and weather conditions to grid connectivity, vehicle operating requirements and personal driving patterns. Working with charger manufacturers, utilities, academics and commercial landowners to integrate all perspectives and model true TCO for hardware, infrastructure, and energy, Wood is closing the gaps in range anxiety and costs, so transportation authorities and fleet owners can plan and invest with confidence.

“Designing a network that balances a variety of stakeholder needs and interests is certainly going to be a challenge, but a possible one. Achieving the ultimate route to zero emissions requires a 360-degree view of all anxieties, costs and benefits associated with people, facilities, technology, infrastructure, and the environment. The data, tools and expertise are all within reach. It is about working with the right partner to enable you bring it all together and achieve your EV ambitions,” says Naeem.

Sources

  1. Biden Administration advances electric vehicle infrastructure (White House briefing room statement)
  2. Federal Vehicle Standards | Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (c2es.org)
  3. Auto Pacific in the news: EVs are coming
  4. Number cars per household in the U.S. | Statista
  5. U.S. Plug-in Electric Vehicle Sales by Model (energy.gov)
  6. Why some electric car owners revert back to buying gasoline-powered vehicles (techxplore.com)
  7. EVs will be cheaper than petrol cars in all segments by 2027, BNEF analysis finds | Transport & Environment (transportenvironment.org)
Author
Naem Farooqi
Director of Sustainable Transportation and Asset Management
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