Back in 2011, Fresh Energy conducted an intensive, six-month deep dive into the issue of plug-in electric vehicles (EV). With the help of several local and national experts, we studied a full range of EV-related issues and policy implications. But we also wanted to address one main question: should Minnesota embrace plug in vehicles?
The answer? A resounding yes.
EFFICIENCY AND HEALTH
On average, plug-in electric vehicles are three times more fuel efficient than conventional passenger vehicles. This is reflected in the miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) rating for electric cars. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the 2014 Ford Focus Electric gets 105 MPGe in combined city and highway driving, while the 2014 Nissan Leaf gets 114 MPGe.
These are eye-popping fuel economy numbers, but the benefits of EVs don’t end there. Because they fuel up on electricity, EVs don’t consume oil or emit ground-level exhaust—an important health benefit. In fact, when EVs are charged with renewable energy they don’t generate any emissions, period.
“There is a strong link between outdoor air pollution and increased asthma episodes and other respiratory conditions,” said Robert Moffitt, a spokesperson for the American Lung Association in Minnesota. “Air pollution can be harmful to everyone, but it is especially bad for children, the elderly and those with existing lung conditions. Reducing tailpipe emissions is vital to protecting our air and our health.”
And EV sales are quickly growing—in part due to high levels of customer satisfaction and word of mouth. Nationally, there are more than 180,000 EVs already on the road. Minnesota ranks among the top 10 states in per-capita EV adoption, despite our cold weather and large rural population. One local Minnesota plug-in vehicle owners’ circle estimates that its members have driven over two million miles on electricity. (That translates to over 660,000 kilowatt-hours driven.)
TAILORED UTILITY RATES
Here in Minnesota, electric utilities are helping to support the trend toward EV adoption. For example, Connexus Energy and Dakota Electric Association (distribution cooperatives that serve the north and southeast Twin Cities metro area, respectively) have developed innovative EV-specific rates. By allowing EV drivers to charge their cars at reduced off-peak rates, these utilities encourage charging at a time of day that imposes the least cost on other ratepayers—usually at night.
As electric vehicles continue to gain popularity, it’s increasingly important that all utilities begin preparing to accommodate and enable the transition toward electric vehicles.
AT THE CAPITOL
Fresh Energy is advancing a bill this legislative session that will improve residential EV charging for Minnesotans statewide and provide benefits to all ratepayers. The bill, HF 2884,
- provides Minnesota residents a convenient and attractive way to charge their electric cars at home and see the savings on their utility bills,
- sets utility price signals that encourage the adoption of EV charging habits that reduce utility and ratepayer costs, and
- removes regulatory uncertainty, along with barriers that currently discourage utilities from becoming champions for EV adoption.
Check back often to follow the bill’s progress along with other practical ideas on Fresh Energy’s 2014 legislative agenda.