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Despite the Momentum for Electric Vehicles, the Future is Still Uncertain

Many in the media, myself included, have touted the inevitability of electric vehicles.

And for good reason. In unison, the automakers, the federal government, several state governments and the utility industry have declared 2035 the year the entire U.S. will flip the switch to all-electric transportation.

The thinking is that federal regulations have worked to cut diesel emissions. Certainly, they’ll work again to usher in the electric vehicle era.

Or will they?

Diesel emissions mandates were incremental changes, like reducing the sulfur content in diesel, increasing engine efficiency, enhancing aerodynamics and improving transmissions. But switching the entire U.S. and global fleet and fueling infrastructure from fossil fuels to electricity? That’s a much heavier lift by orders of magnitude. You’re not making small changes to existing technology supported by existing fueling infrastructure. No, you’re making a tectonic shift requiring several big pieces to fall into place. Product availability. Infrastructure capacity and accessibility. Grid resiliency.

With hundreds – if not thousands – of entities needing to collaborate and coordinate, we must ask: How do we plan to pull this off? Is there a plan? For example, I live in Florida, where we deal with hurricanes most years. I’ve written a lot in UFP about the potential challenges for utility fleets using EVs in extended storm response situations. And I have yet to speak with anyone in the industry who has this figured out.

And what about the public? What’s the plan to ensure public safety with 100% EVs before and after a hurricane? When millions of vehicles sit bumper to bumper on the Florida Turnpike for double-digit hours trying to evacuate at the absolute hottest time of year, will they have sufficient charge to get to safety? What’s the plan to ensure they do?

I’m an optimist. But I also believe in the power of negative thinking to ensure we’ve thought through the risks. What could derail mass-market electrification? What are the unintended consequences? How will we counteract those issues?

If we are to usher in the all-electric vehicle era by 2035, we must ask the tough questions and demand the hard answers to make such an ambitious effort successful.


Sean M. Lyden

Sean M. Lyden is the editor of Utility Fleet Professional magazine.