In all of Virginia, Northern Virginia – with its urbanizing and wealthy population — is the place where electric vehicles are most likely to be popular.
But will a population demanding choices support having no choice? That’s the requirement of a law passed in 2021. Does the Commonwealth have the capacity to seriously switch to 100% electric vehicle (EV) sales by 2035 … without being a detriment to Virginians?
The current data outlook says “no.” A bill to repeal the law, HB1378, has passed the House of Delegates and is on the way to the State Senate. Virginia’s lawmakers should approve it.
According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), there were 8.5 million vehicles registered in the Commonwealth in 2021. Only around 30,000 of those vehicles were electric. Moreover, the state has only 1,181 public charging stations with 3,435 EVSE ports currently available. Considering most of these charging stations are Level 2s, which can take around eight hours to fully charge a vehicle, replacing more than eight million internal combustion-engine vehicles with EVs is unsustainable.
While it is true that Virginia will be installing more charging stations on highway corridors, drivers will have to share these stations with everyone else on the road — unless they opt to install a charger at home. The new charging infrastructure, however, won’t be cheap. According to NeoCharge, the total cost of installing an EV charger can range anywhere from $800 to $4,000. That number doesn’t include the electricity bills incurred when charging the actual vehicle. And rural Virginians who don’t have easy access to highway corridors and may not be able to install their own chargers, have been effectively ignored by this legislation.
Millions of new EVs will also result in a significant drain on our power grid. The average electric vehicle requires 30 kilowatt-hours to travel 100 miles. That is the same amount of electricity the average household uses each day to run appliances, computers, lights, heating, and air conditioning. If every driver starts consuming this much electricity regularly, the U.S. Department of Energy predicts that the national consumption of electricity could increase by as much as 38% by 2050. Where is all of this additional electricity supposed to come from?
The strain that would be felt by our state’s electric grid would be astronomical. Currently, our electric grid is primarily powered by natural gas and nuclear energy, but it also includes power generation from renewable energy sources. However, many of these renewables, such as wind or solar power, are not able to be sufficiently stored for electrical generation down the line. According to Roy Nutter, a Computer Science and Electrical Engineering professor at West Virginia University, “power storage will be required if we are going to move toward fickle power sources such as solar and wind. Solar does not work at night. The wind doesn’t blow all the time.” Virginia does not have enough power storage capacity to do this on a large scale.
Simply put, if we are unable to improve the Commonwealth’s power storage to provide for EVs, the grid won’t be able to handle it. The result will be Virginia looking like California, which asked its citizens not to charge their cars amid a heatwave last summer–just days after announcing the switch to 100% EVs.
No matter your beliefs on the subject, the data doesn’t lie — Virginia isn’t ready for the Clean Cars law, which currently mandates that 35 percent of all new cars and trucks sold by 2026 must be electric; 100 percent by 2035 If the Commonwealth expects to see a 100% EV future, enormous, costly changes must be made, and at the current rate, we won’t be ready by the 2035 deadline.
If Virginia’s elected lawmakers value sensible and realistic efforts to improve Virginia, they should unanimously support repealing Virginia’s Clean Cars law. There are ways to make Virginia greener, but this initiative is both counterproductive and unrealistic.
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