Convoy Pushes for Statewide Network of Electric Vehicle Charging Ports
By Justin Braun
(April 2020) – Electric vehicle (EV) charging ports can be found just about everywhere you can drive in the Orlando region. If it seems like there are more than ever, it’s because there are. The sale of plug-in electric vehicles (EV) in the U.S. has grown at an average rate of 25% per year since 2013, a result of rising gas prices and an increased interest in people’s impact on the environment.
Orlando has responded by installing public charging stations across the region, earning the reputation as a national leader in electric transportation. For now, EVs represent less than 1% of all cars on the road. But experts predict EV ownership could grow to 5% or even 10% over the next decade.
The trajectory of EV growth makes a strong business case for a robust EV infrastructure to support the everyday driving habits of residents and visitors alike. Beyond allowing for an influx of EVs, public safety will also benefit from an infrastructure expansion. Without it, what happens to EVs forced to evacuate under the threat of an impending hurricane?
Evacuation-related traffic can be challenging even for traditional, combustion-engine motorists. Factoring in range anxiety for EV drivers, especially considering the lack of charging stations on Florida’s major highways and toll roads, it’s clear Florida is driving toward disaster unless more is done to prepare EV drivers for an emergency.
To highlight the need for a statewide EV charging station infrastructure, a convoy of 10 EVs carrying a delegation of 35 elected, business and community leaders traveled to Tallahassee for the opening days of the 2020 legislative session. Hosted by the Orlando Economic Partnership (the Partnership), the group traveled in EVs sponsored by Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) to proactively advance the region’s legislative agenda to key lawmakers.
“We want to make legislators aware of and encourage them to support building a statewide EV charging infrastructure along major corridors and hurricane evacuation routes, intended to eliminate range anxiety,” Clint Bullock, general manager and CEO of OUC, said during a media event prior to the delegation’s departure.
Since 2010, OUC has helped install more than 150 EV charging stations across the region as part of Project Get Ready, a collaboration between the industry and government to promote the EV movement.
“We need to be strategically placing fast-charging stations in key corridors so people can evacuate quickly. We have to do that at scale and think about how that will ultimately play out,” said Jeff Brandes, a Republican state senator who represents the Pinellas County area, in an interview with Automotive News conducted during Orlando’s Autonomous Vehicle Symposium.
This session the Legislature is working to pass a bill that will develop a plan to build statewide infrastructure for electric vehicle charging stations. PCS/SB 7018 would require the Public Service Commission, in coordination with the Florida Department of Transportation and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, to develop and recommend a plan for the development of EV charging station infrastructure along the state highway system.
“As one of the fastest-growing regions in the U.S., adding 1,500 new residents each week, meeting the needs of Orlando’s growing community is critical to the success of our economy,” said Mark Shamley, a board member and the public policy council chair for the Partnership. “Ensuring the business community’s voice is heard by legislators helps guarantee Central Florida has the resources it needs to succeed well into the future.”
But the need for EV infrastructure is only one of many important issues impacting the Orlando region.
“Our legislative agenda is critical to the continued success of the Orlando region’s economy,” said Tim Giuliani, president and CEO of the Partnership. “Our legislative focus is to advocate for tools that will help keep our momentum in economic development while also championing initiatives that effectively increase access, mobility and broad-based prosperity for all who participate in the regional economy.”