Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Putting the Pedal to the Metal for Electric Vehicles in 2017

By Joni Sliger, Energy Fellow
Recharging a Toyota RAV4 electric vehicle
Credit: Warren Gretz / NREL

Vehicle electrification is vital to a clean energy future, and it is a process that may soon accelerate in Oregon. Improving Oregon’s transportation system broadly is one of Governor Kate Brown’s top four action items for this legislative session. Her legislative agenda notes that an improved transportation system is necessary as the “backbone of a thriving Oregon economy” and that it can help the state reach its greenhouse gas reduction goals (currently, to reduce emissions 10% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 75% below 1990 levels by 2050). Transportation is Oregon’s highest emitting sector, according to the Oregon Greenhouse Gas Inventory, and amounts for more than a third of all Oregon’s emissions. To combat climate change and meet Oregon’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, we need a cleaner transportation system; for that, we need vehicle electrification.

Some electric vehicles are present in Oregon, but the market has a lot of room for growth. According to a new online dashboard designed by the Center for Sustainable Energy for the Auto Alliance, Oregon ranks third in the nation for the state’s market share of light-duty electric vehicles, measured from 2013 to 2016. But this market share—the number of electric vehicles out of all vehicles in the state—is still only 1.5%. While the proportion of electric vehicles relative to all vehicles is higher only in Washington and California, the overwhelming majority of vehicles sold are not electric. Oregon has made more progress in deploying electric vehicles than most of the U.S.: for example, despite a relatively small population, Oregon ranks 10th in the nation for number of electric vehicles sold, with 10,825 electric vehicles sold in the state from 2011 to 2016. However, Oregon still needs to do more to electrify its transportation sector. 

One way to galvanize the market is through public investment. For example, the Mayor of Portland is one of four West Coast mayors working together to support the transition to electric vehicles. In a Request For Information (RFI) to auto manufacturers, the mayors announced their interest in obtaining or leasing up to 24,000 electric vehicles. The mayors propose to change city fleets to electric vehicles, hoping to lead by example by adopting electric vehicles. Additionally, they hope such high demand will help the young market transition to mass production, eventually resulting in lower prices for all consumers. The bid for the RFI is due March 1, so manufacturers still have time to submit proposals.

While we can hope for legislators to act this session to further support vehicle electrification, they have also taken action recently. Last session, Oregon legislators passed the Clean Electricity & Coal Transition Act. As my colleague, Andrea Lang Clifford, wrote last year, the new law requires the state’s utilities to propose EV charging infrastructure programs, which the PUC may approve if it finds the proposals to be prudent investments of ratepayers’ money. As Andrea noted, this is an incremental step, heavily dependent on the PUC’s views of prudency. While the utilities submitted their proposals in late December 2016, the PUC has yet to rule on them. Among the proposed actions are (1) pilot projects for new charging infrastructure (including charging stations five electric Tri-Met buses); (2) educational campaigns, including showcasing electric vehicles at car shows; (3) additional research into the technologies involved; and (4) a rate change for vehicle charging to incentivize the market switch. (You can read Pacific Power’s applications here and here; PGE’s here; and Idaho Power’s here). The PUC is set to have hearings on most of these applications in early February and decide whether the proposed actions are worth the cost to the ratepayers, so stay tuned to learn how the PUC rules on these proposals.


This year, Oregon legislators are ready to work on major transportation legislation. Hopefully, legislators will advance vehicle electrification and continue moving Oregon towards a clean energy future. 

1 comment:

  1. In order to protect the environment and reduce the percentage of vehicle emission issues, we have found the use of electric cars. These are now the popular choice for people in different zones and mostly due to its environmental-friendly nature, people are giving more importance to this vehicle concept. In different countries also government support this concept of vehicle electrification.
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