Electric vehicles (EV) may be the silver bullet.
EV’s, a technology that could recharge the US economy, reduce its dependence on foreign imported oil, create domestic jobs, cut polluting carbon emissions, and eliminate noise pollution from traffic, were the topic of discussion last week at the US Senate Committee Hearing on Energy & Natural Resources.
“Electric vehicles have great potential and we want to see them transform the industry,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), ranking member of the committee, in her opening remarks.
On the table were two recent bill proposals, S.948, The Promoting Electric Vehicles Act of 2011 and S. 734, The Advanced Vehicle Technology Act of 2011.
The first bill, proposed by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), would provide $300 million in grants over 5 years for the deployment of electric vehicles in certain communities, a program called the “National Plug-in Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Program.” Its aim is to select 30 pilot communities that would each receive $10 million in grants for EV infrastructure that would be built simultaneously to EV deployment, thereby solving the common chicken-egg problem of new technology implementation. It would also allow for, with EV technology being tested on a large scale, the country to learn best practices of EV use and to move ahead with national-scale deployment in subsequent years.
The Advanced Vehicle Technology Act, proposed by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), would provide government incentives to convert medium and heavy-duty vehicles, such as trucks and tractor-trailers, into hybrids and EV’s. In proposing the bill Stabenow also seeks to promote domestic battery manufacturing, an already booming industry in Michigan.
“If we can take these technologies and move them to large vehicles, we are doing even more,” she said at the hearing.
Chair of the committee Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) also encouraged large-scale federal deployment, noting that electric garbage trucks would be an interesting place to start. Murkowski joked that if this would make her garbage truck silent, she would jump on such a measure.
Although EV’s also require vasts amount of power, the five expert witnesses that testified at the hearing emphasized that electricity was a more domestic resource than oil and could be derived from a wide range of sources, including renewable generation sources.
Vice President of Electric Drive Transportation Association Genevieve Cullen added that EV’s could be charged overnight, when generators are typically dumping unused electricity.
“We have enormous amounts of unused electricity at night, equal to the output of 65 – 70 nuclear power plants between 6am and 6pm,” Merkley said in his opening address to the committee.
Seifi Ghasemi, chairman and CEO of Rockwood Holdings, emphasized that the infrastructure for EV’s is already in place and could be easily implemented.
“Electrification of transportation is technology that we have,” Ghasemi said. “There is nothing new about this and we have the infrastructure. Every house has a garage and every street has a streetlamp.”