Electric Vehicles

Low gas prices tempt consumers to buy gas guzzlers, but they should resist

In the past six months, the price of gasoline in the United States has declined precipitously - from its June peak of $3.63 per gallon to less than $2 in some parts of the country now.

The effect this sharp price decline will ultimately have on greenhouse gas emissions is not yet known, but a reasonable estimate is that emissions will rise as less efficient cars and trucks become popular for the first time in years. Luckily for the climate, stronger federal fuel economy standards will mean that emissions from the transportation sector won’t rise nearly as much as they would have.

Using travel data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), monthly vehicle sales data, and fuel economy calculations by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoetle of the University of Michigan, we calculate that vehicles purchased in last five months will emit 7.8 million more metric tons of greenhouse gases than if car-buying habits before the gas price drop had continued. An average car emits about 43 metric tons of greenhouse gases over its useful life, so the additional emissions are about the same as putting 180,000 new cars and light trucks on the road.

The sudden plunge in gas prices can make it tempting to forget the lessons of the past.

Public policy, private investment needed to keep EV market growing in 2015

Sales of electric vehicles (EVs) were up 25 percent last year, and automakers are looking to boost sales further in 2015 with new and updated models. Clearly, EVs have moved beyond their infancy. But continued growth in the EV market will require smart public and private strategies to expand charging infrastructure so motorists don’t have to worry about running out of juice.

Advancing the deployment of low-carbon vehicle technology, like EVs, is essential if we’re going to achieve meaningful emissions reductions from the transportation sector, which is responsible for 28 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases. Globally, the problem is more acute as the number of light-duty vehicles on the road is expected to double to more than 2 billion by 2050.

Automakers will begin introducing their second generation EVs beginning this month with the 2016 Chevy Volt. While sales will likely jump because of the incremental improvements from the first generation Volt, more time is likely needed for batteries to improve and charging infrastructure to be deployed.

Our work for the Washington State Legislature shows that new business models to foster private investment in charging infrastructure will be vital, but public sector policies and incentives will still be needed in the near term to keep the market growing.

The Role of Clean Energy Banks in Increasing Private Investment in Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure

The Role of Clean Energy Banks in Increasing Private Investment in Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure

December 2014

by Matt Frades, Janet Peace, and Sarah Dougherty

Download the full paper (PDF)

This paper explores how Clean Energy Banks, or other similar organizations aimed at leveraging public funds to attract private investment in clean energy deployment, could help reduce the barriers to EV charging infrastructure by (1) supporting the development of viable business models for charging services in the near term and (2) helping scale up private capital investments into EV infrastructure in the longer term.


Janet Peace
Matt Frades
Sarah Dougherty

PEV Market Updates

Each quarter, C2ES presents updates on the state of the PEV market, technology and policy highlights, and spotlights on the activities of select grant recipients. These activities promote electric vehicle readiness in each of these communities by fostering public-private partnerships to deploy electric vehicles and to increase public access to charging stations.
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Plug-in Electric Vehicle Market Update, Fall 2014

About the PEV Quarterly Webinar Series

C2ES’s quarterly State of Play webinar addresses the current state of the PEV market, presents new research, technology, and policies that may affect the future of PEV deployment, and highlights new accomplishments from select awardees from the Clean Cities Electric Vehicle Community Readiness Projects. The projects promote PEV readiness in each of these communities by fostering public-private partnerships to deploy PEVs and to increase public access to charging stations. A full list of projects and a map of grant recipients can be found on the Department Of Energy Clean Cities website.

C2ES is participating in a series of webinars on plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) markets and the progress of the Department of Energy Clean Cities EV Community Readiness grant recipients. A new webinar, hosted by DOE with input from Argonne National Laboratory, will be presented each quarter with market updates, technology and policy highlights, and spotlights on select grant recipients. The first presentation, held on September 29, 2014, focused on the economic and financial impacts of PEV deployment. The webinar can be found online at the DOE website (C2ES slides here).

Consumer choice appears to be limited and BEVs are gaining ground. Although 18 PEV models have been sold in the United States in 2014, only six models made up 90 percent of total PEV sales, on average. Besides the Tesla Model S, these vehicles are small or compact cars, so PEVs are unlikely to accommodate the needs of most vehicle buyers. Notably, BEV monthly sales in 2014 are now approximately equal to monthly PHEV sales. Automakers with the largest PEV sales have focused on either BEV or PHEV technology (see chart below). In addition, many BEV models are only be offered in California, Oregon, or the remaining eight states that participate in California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle program. These vehicles make up less than 10 percent of the overall PEV market.

The chart below (source: Hybridcars.com September 2014 Market Dashboard) shows which auto manufacturers lead the market in total EV sales, which automakers have EVs make up the largest share of their sales, and which technology each company predominantly sells to consumers. Not shown in the figure is Tesla Motors, which sold 1,300 BEVs comprising 100% of its total auto sales. 

Publicly available charging infrastructure may not meet the needs of existing PEV drivers. Robust charging infrastructure is a necessary component to developing a stronger PEV market. Charging station power level and location information from the U.S. Department of Energy indicates a publicly available charging network that 1) does not enable access to large sections of the country, and 2) may not be sufficiently dense to accommodate the number of PEVs on the road. There is currently a national ratio of 14 PEVs for every public Level 2 charging port and 182 PEVs for every DC fast charging location. Compatibility issues exacerbate the scarcity of DC fast charging ports, as nearly all ports only support the CHAdeMO charging standard or Tesla’s proprietary charging standard.

Recent research identifies ways to improve the PEV ownership value proposition. The Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC) published a study that uses New England’s electricity rates to estimate potential earnings that individual and fleet PEV owners could gain through participation in frequency regulation services. The cost savings through PEV-delivered grid services, up to $40 per vehicle monthly, could help consumers reduce PEV price premiums. Further, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory estimates a PEV could provide between $1,400 and $6,700 over the next decade in grid support services for regional power markets. These studies raise, but do not directly address, concerns about battery degradation as a result of additional battery cell cycling, and complement the research conducted at the University of Delaware, which runs a vehicle-to-grid pilot project with PJM Interconnection that earned participating vehicles $150 per month.

Biogas-generated electric vehicle charging is now covered by the federal Renewable Fuel Standard. The Renewable Fuel Standard, administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has faced serious challenges meeting the cellulosic ethanol requirements since 2011. In response, the EPA expanded the number of fuel pathways to meet the standard in July 2014. The EPA established a pathway for biogas-generated electricity to charge electric vehicles. Eligible biogas producers include landfill operators, dairy farmers, and municipal solid waste and wastewater treatment facilities. VEIC estimated each PEV could generate $80 worth credits other RFS program, which could be used by utilities or private charging service providers to improve the value of providing charging services. Importantly, only bio-based fuels are eligible for the RFS program, so the new PEV pathway cannot be extended to solar or wind power.

States are reviewing options for regulating charging service providers. Regulations designed to apply to large electric utilities may be applied to smaller, privately-owned electric service providers and could weaken the business case for electric service providers to deploy charging infrastructure. Fifteen states have exempted charging service providers from regulation as electric utilities so long as they do not conduct activities similar to a utility, such as procuring electricity on the wholesale market. State revision of charging regulations is an ongoing process—Massachusetts, West Virginia, and Utah finalized regulatory exemptions this past year.

Consumer outreach and education are valuable tools for creating PEV awareness. In recent interviews, each Electric Vehicle Community Readiness grant recipient stated that education and outreach were vital to fostering consumer familiarity and comfort with PEVs. Three of the four grant recipients interviewed indicated that ride and drive events are one of the most effective methods of reaching potential consumers, in particular through leveraging public-private partnerships with local organizations and auto dealers. These events generate positive stories about PEVs, but finding a direct link to PEV purchasing can be difficult. A project aimed determining if there is a connection between ride and drive events and PEV sales, Experience Electric, is currently collecting data in the San Francisco Bay-area.

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Clean Cities Coalitions are updating and distributing projections of state economic benefits through PEV deployment. Two Clean Cities PEV community readiness grant recipients, Drive Electric Ohio and the Oregon Business Development Department, commissioned studies on the local economic impact of PEV deployment. These studies estimated the effects of PEV deployment on the state economies. The studies used a model developed by IMPLAN that estimates costs and benefits using information on local economic outputs and market projections. Drive Electric Ohio’s study, which was released as part of its PEV Readiness Plan, found that each PEV on the road adds $1,300 annually more than a gasoline-powered vehicle to the state’s economy. Oregon’s study, which was part of the Energizing Oregon plan and was conducted through the Northwest Economic Research Center at Portland State University, determined that the PEV industry produces approximately $260 million of net economic activity in the state. Drive Electric Ohio presents its analyses at conferences and when engaging with state legislators. Drive Oregon, the associated non-profit that the Oregon Business Development Department has tasked with implementing its EV initiative, is supporting a follow-up research paper from Oregon State University that will be completed during the fall 2014. No competing models have been used in these regions, so there are no bases for comparison. IMPLAN’s model has recently been used by electric utilities in other regions to project EV economic impacts and by government agencies to estimate economic and job impacts of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.

PEV Market Updates

C2ES is participating in a series of webinars on the plug-in electric vehicle market and the progress of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Clean Cities Electric Vehicle Community Readiness grant recipients. A new webinar, hosted by DOE with input from Argonne National Laboratory, will be presented each quarter with market updates, technology and policy highlights, and spotlights on the activities of select grant recipients. These activities promote electric vehicle readiness in each of these communities by fostering public-private partnerships to deploy electric vehicles and to increase public access to charging stations.

The list below will be updated for each new webinar. Check back here regularly for new presentations.

More about Clean Cities Electric Vehicle Community Readiness Grants:

PEV Dialogue Initiative Publications and Tools

C2ES and its partners have published papers and created tools to help stakeholders enable a national PEV market. 

EV-Grid Integration Workshop

Representatives from state agencies, the electricity and charging industries, and non-profit organizations gathered for an in-person workshop held in Boston on February 20, 2014. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss the key issues around integrating PEVs with the electrical grid. The workshop was organized by the NESCAUM, with help from C2ES, ICCT, NRDC, and UC Davis. These five groups jointly produced a summary report that summarizes the recommendations and proceedings from the workshop.


Clean Cities Community Electric Vehicle Readiness 

The C2ES 2014 report, "A Guide to the Lessons Learned from the Clean Cities Community Electric Vehicle Readiness Projects," summarizes the lessons learned from 16 government, educational and nonprofit groups that received $8.5 million in U.S. Department of Energy grants to advance the deployment of electric vehicles. 


PEV Action Tool

C2ES created the PEV Action Tool in 2013 to help state transportation departments understand their role in facilitating electric vehicle deployment. Learn more about the project here, including two in-person workshops C2ES conducted.


PEV Action Plan

Read the PEV Dialogue Group's 2012 Action Plan on integrating electric vehicles with the U.S. electrical grid.

C2ES wrote a comprehensive literature review on electric vehicles in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States for the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). Funded through a U.S. Department of Energy grant, the literature review is a comprehensive look at the opportunities and challenges for electric vehicles in these states relying on the latest research and market data.

Read our 2011 literature review on electric vehicles with a focus on issues and solutions related to vehicle deployment and integration with the U.S. electrical grid.

Read our 2011 white paper on the state of play in the electric vehicle market.


Firsthand lessons on public charging for EVs

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My ride for the weekend: BMW’s first mass-produced all-electric vehicle.

Washington, D.C., is well-situated for day trips with mountains, forests, beach and bay all a short drive away. On a recent weekend, I was lucky enough to tool around in style. BMW lent me their new electric car – the i3 – and asked that I race it around the DC metro region. (Or perhaps that’s just how I heard them.)

The car handles beautifully the way you’d expect a BMW to, and proves there’s no performance tradeoff by going with an electric vehicle (EV). For most drivers, EVs like the i3 can accommodate daily driving needs. The average American only travels 30 miles per day. In particular, EVs are well suited for commuting because a driver can charge at home or the workplace. But day-tripping with an EV can take more planning and I learned firsthand that a robust public charging network is essential if EVs are to make more headway in the marketplace.

At C2ES, we often cite the importance of public charging stations to extend the range of EVs and give drivers confidence that an EV is a practical replacement for their conventional car. To allow EV drivers to travel as they would with a gasoline car, quick charging stations are needed along major roadways. Multiple, slower charging stations (referred to as Level 2) should be at key destinations to provide redundancy in case stations are in use or down for maintenance. Those are some of the conclusions of our new paper assessing the public charging infrastructure in Washington state and the same can be said of Washington, D.C.

Assessing the Electric Vehicle Charging Network in Washington State

Assessing the Electric Vehicle Charging Network in Washington State

September 2014

by Nick Nigro, Jason Ye, and Matt Frades

Download the full paper (PDF)

The Washington State Legislature is interested in exploring government’s role in fostering new business models that will expand the private sector commercialization of electric vehicle (EV) charging services. This paper provides an assessment of the existing EV publicly available charging network in Washington.


Jason Ye
Matt Frades
Nick Nigro

Don't toss out the good electricity with the bad

One way to reduce power plant carbon emissions is to reduce the demand for electricity. Encouraging customer energy efficiency is one of the building blocks underpinning the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan. But the plan does not distinguish among uses of electricity. That means, without further options, the Clean Power Plan could inadvertently discourage states from deploying electric vehicles (EVs), electric mass transit, and other technologies that use electricity instead of a dirtier fuel.

In all but very coal-heavy regions, using electricity as a transportation fuel, especially in mass transit applications, results in the emission of far less carbon dioxide than burning gasoline. In industry, carbon emissions can be cut by using electric conveyance systems instead of diesel- or propane-fueled forklifts and electric arc furnaces instead of coal boilers.

Under the proposed power plant rules, new uses of electricity would be discouraged regardless of whether a state pursues a rate-based target (pounds of emissions per unit of electricity produced) or a mass-based target (tons of emissions per year).

EPA has a few options to make sure regulations for power plants would not discourage uses of electricity that result in less carbon emissions overall.

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