Bipartisan bills would stimulate electric vehicle infrastructure

What's this? Legislation that both Republicans and Democrats are pushing?
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

What's this? Legislation that both Republicans and Democrats are pushing? Together? Too bad that the industry they are trying to support, automobile makers, appear less than excited about their idea.

Both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate have proposed legislation calling for work on creating the foundation for electric vehicles to be used more broadly. Both bodies are proposing to set up pilot communities that would pay out consumer incentives to get residents to switch over to electric vehicles.

The House bill, called the "Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Act of 2010," is supported by Ed Markey (D.-Mass.), Judy Biggert (R.-Ill.) and Anna Eshoo (D.-Calif.) Markey is the Chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. The legislation would award $800 million to five communities around the United States, which the goal of deploying 700,000 electric vehicles over the next six years. Residents would receive $2,000 incentives to buy the cars (at least the first 100,000), and any American would be available for a tax credit that would reduce the cost of buying an electric vehicle by $7,500. Consumer and businesses would also get money for setting up charging stations.

In a statement, Rep. Biggert said: "The [act] will accelerate the deployment of electric vehicles and put new energy technologies within the reach of more consumers and motorists. It also will help regional communities establish themselves as models for the development and installation of the next generation of transportation infrastructure, including public charging stations."

The Senate bill is backed by Byron Dorgan (D.-N.D.), Lamar Alexander (R.-Tenn.) and Jeff Merkeley (D.-Ore.) It would spend a bit less money, although it proposes selecting a larger number of communities (up to 15) that would receive grants of $250 million to get on board the early work in building out a viable electric vehicle infrastructure. Some larger hybrids would also be covered; there is also money set aside for research and development.

The Electrification Coalition, which is an organization that represents various members of the electric vehicle, is all sorts of happy about the legislation. The group actually released a suggested roadmap for infrastructure last fall. About a month ago, the group also published what is calls an economic impact study. Among its findings:

  • By 2030, electric vehicles would have the effect of creating 1.9 million new jobs, including 560,000 in manufacturing.
  • By that time, the typical household would be able to direct $3,687 saved in energy for transportation back into other spending.
  • Cumulatively, between 2011 and 2020, the study suggests that the United States would import nearly 11.9 billion fewer barrels of crude oil than it would otherwise have imported.

In some of the initial coverage of the new legislation, a spokeswoman for the Association of Automobile Manufacturers suggested it was too elitist. So, even though the bills have bipartisan backing, you can bet there will be the usual squawking associated with an established segment wanting to prevent upstarts from getting a leg up.

Personally speaking, I'm conflicted on electric vehicles. Despite the impact study, we as Americans drive around so much that we really need to address what sort of energy will juice up these charging stations. Sure, we're decreasing our oil dependency; instead, we're firing up the coal plants to create the electricity to charge up our cars and trucks.

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