Electric Vehicles (EVs) still generate greenhouse gas emissions, since the electricity they use is not carbon-free
Source: US Department of Energy, Emissions from Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles
Powering vehicles by electricity was an early concept. William Morrison designed a vehicle based on electricity in 1891.1
In 2020, almost all of the over 400,000 cars and trucks sold annually in Virginia were gasoline-fueled and diesel-fueled internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs). These included hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). They recaptured some energy during regenerative braking, where rotating wheels turned the motor and created electricity stored in the battery. In basic hybrid vehicles, that battery could not be recharged with electricity from an external source.
Those vehicles were in competition with plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs, also known as Extended Range Electric Vehicles or EREVs) and all-electric vehicles (EVs, also known as Battery Electric Vehicles or BEVs). As a group, PHEV's and EV's were also known as Plug-In Electric Vehicles (PEVs) Those batteries could be charged up by connecting to the electrical grid for as little as 20 minutes or as long as 10 hours.
In 2020, electric cars were only 2% of the new car market. However, one-third of Virginians were considering purchase of a PHEV or EV as their next vehicle, and another 28% were considering some form of electric vehicle for a future car purchase. Consultants warned:2
Calculating the life-cycle costs of a car includes estimating both initial purchase costs and annual operating costs for fuel and repairs, to determine total costs of ownership. In the early 2020's, traditional vehicles fueled by gasoline/diesel typically had a lower initial purchase price, even when governments provided special subsidies and tax benefits. Annual operating costs were significantly lower for vehicles which used electricity, either partially or completely, but the demand for gas-fueled cars will continue.
By 2050 there could be just as many cars fueled by gasoline/diesel on the road as there were in 2020. There will be more cars in total due to population growth, but electric cars will be a higher percentage of the fleet. Even after manufacturers stop making cars using gasoline/diesel, it will take 10-20 years for all the old cars using fossil fuels to wear out unless there is a government buy-out of "clunkers."3
Buyers also had to consider the range of their trips when choosing what type of vehicle to purchase. An EV with a 100-mile to 200-mile range was adequate for most trips, on most days, but might not be suitable for long-distance travel.
a 2021 study revealed that availability of Combined Charging System (CCS) stations would limit travel even on interstates
Source: Commonwealth Transportation Board, Electric Vehicle Readiness Study
The network of refueling stations for cars burning gasoline/diesel was ubiquitous. Drivers of EVs could plug into any outlet offering 120 volt, alternating-current, known as a Level 1 recharge station. However, EV charging stations offering a fast recharge were far less common.
In 2020, powering up a battery for an EV to recover full driving distance site at a Level 1 station required 8-12 hours. That created no issue for workers commuting to a job within 40-50 miles; they could recharge the EV at home overnight. A slow recharge was no issue for drivers with a destination within the range of one charge, and the driver was staying overnight at the destination. Linking to a 120-volt outlet at a hotel or friend's house was relatively simple.
There are also Level 2 and Level 3 recharge stations. Level 2 sites use a 240-volt recharge from a dedicated 40 amp circuit, with a standard cord attachment. A typical EV can be fully recharged in 6-8 hours at a Level 2 station.
gas stations allocated most space for refueling with petroleum products in 2020 - but by 2040, electric recharge stations may no longer be on the sidelines
A Level 3 station relies upon a 480V, direct-current (DC) connection to provide most of a recharge in just 30 minutes. In the early 2020's different models of cars used different cord attachments, complicating the ability of Level 3 charging stations to service all customers. In addition, Tesla used a unique Supercharger designed to bring a depleted battery to 80% power in just 40 minutes.4
Potential buyers of Plug-In Electric Vehicles (PEVs) in Virginia anticipated recharging most often at home. Nonetheless, people driving cars with a range of 250 miles still desired the ability to plug in at grocery stores, restaurants, shopping malls and warehouse clubs, recreational areas such as parks, and at entertainment locations such as movie theaters.
For longer trips, there was a need to establish a network of charging stations to relieve the "range anxiety" of running out of battery power before finding a place to recharge. Gas stations such as Wawa installed chargers, but discovered that selling electricity was not profitable.
Residential customers received a bill from the utility companies which varied as the amount of electricity used varied. However, the utility company's price for commercial customers included a "demand charge" as part of the bill. The utility had to build the generating capacity to meet periods of peak demand, and the cost of that extra infrastructure was passed along to commercial customers. Drivers at high-speed recharging stations created peaks in demand that created spikes in utility bills that left Wawa and others struggling to price recharging services at a rate which would allow recovery of all costs and making a profit as well.
The US Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in 2021. Nationwide, it provided $7.5 billion to fund a network of 500,000 EV chargers, of which 75% had to be locatd in "alternative fuel corridors." Under the 2016 Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, the US Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration corridors in Virginia included:5
I-95: From Washington DC to Petersburg, VA
I-64 from VA Beach to WV border
I-66: From Strasburg to Washington, DC
I-81: From MD border to TN border
I-85: From Petersburg to VA/NC border
The Federal Highway Administration approved Virginia's Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Plan in 2022. That qualifid the state for $100 million in National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) funding for creating publicly-accessible electric charging stations, along with refueling infrastructure for hydrogen, propane and natural gas vehicles. By 2023, the alternative fuel corridors in Virginia had expanded to include 985 miles on:6
by 2023, 985 miles of interstate highway in Virginia had been designated as "alternative fuel corridors"
Source: Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Electric Vehicle Readiness Study
Virgina was impacted directly when California announced a ban on selling gasoline-only vehicles starting in 2035. After the deadline, at least 80% of car sales must be electric and 20% may be hybrid gas/electric.
The Virginia General Assembly in 2021 had adopted California's vehicle emissions standards and electric car sales targets, using a provision in the Clean Air Act allowing states to accept either Federal standards or California's stricter standards. There was no option in the Federal law to establish Virgiia-only standards.
Major car manufacturers had already committed to a fuels transformation. Honda set a 2040 date, and Toyota set a 2050 date, to stop making gasoline-only or diesel-only vehicles.
the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) 511 website identifies the location of different types of EV charging stations
Source: Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Virginia Traffic Information
American and European manufacturers announced tighter timelines. Ford declared it would end production of gasoline-only or diesel-only vehicles after 2040, and to stop sales of such cars in "leading markets" in 2035. General Motors planned to switch its manufacturing in 2035. Volvo, which makes trucks in Pulaski County, set a 2030 target for making just electric cars. Volkswagon was the most agressive in making the switch, ending production of gasoline-based vehicles in 2026.
The Virginia Auto Dealers Association supported adoption of the California Air Resource Board standards. Manufacturers of electric vehicles prioritized shipment of those cars to states which had adopted California's standards, and the dealers wanted more vehicles shipped to Virginia for sale to customers. While over 99.9% of Virginia cars still used gasoline or diesel in 2022, the future market was already clear.7
Electric trucks were operating on I-81 in Southwestern Virginia in 2022. Camrett Logistics, which provided warehousing and distribution services, used an electric truck that it purchased from Volvo to transports items to the Volvo Trucks North America plant located in Dublin. The shipments involved trips no more than 10 miles away from the Camrett Logistics warehouses. a 90-minute nightly recharge was supplemented wit a mid-day recharge, and the ruck was in service 20 hours per day.
At the time, it cost $800,000 to purchase a Class 8 (heavy) electric truck compared to $150,000 for a diesel equivalent. Gas stations selling diesel were readily available, while Camrett Logistics had to spend up to $75,000 to install an electric recharging station. The use of an electric truck was an experiment; the fuel savings alone would not justify the investment.8
in 2022, charging stations were available all along I-81
Source: US Department of Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center
electric vehicles are not a new concept - this one was recharging in 1919
Source: Library of Congress, Electric auto at re-charging station
in 2021, most owners of electric vehicles lived in the mos urbanized areas plus the City of Charlottesville/Albermarle County
Source: Commonwealth Transportation Board, Electric Vehicle Readiness Study