The Coming Push for Electric Vehicles in Virginia

by James A. Bacon

Now that Virginia is committed to a 100% renewable electric grid by 2050, the push is on to decarbonize the transportation sector. In a word, that means persuading Virginians to switch from cars with internal combustion engines to electric vehicles (EVs). In an early sign of what’s to come, a Charlottesville-based group, Generation180, has published a report detailing policies needed to encourage widespread adoption of EVs in the Old Dominion, “Virginia Drives Electric 2020.

There is much good that can be said of electric vehicles. They have lower fuel prices and maintenance costs. Generation180 says the cost is $6,000 to $10,000 cheaper over the car’s lifetime. If that were accurate, I would expect to see more than 24,000 EVs on Virginia’s roads. Still, I buy the argument that the cost is increasingly competitive. Moreover, there is the social benefit from reduced pollution and lower CO2 emissions. I suspect those numbers are hyped and exaggerated, but clearly there is some benefit. All things considered, I think EVs are a great idea. But let’s not suspend our rational faculties when discussing them.

Generation180 has identified barriers in Virginia to rapid EV adoption. One is the shortage of inventory in automobile dealership showrooms. “We found 1,347 new and used electric vehicles in Virginia, compared to 2,399 in Maryland. In other words, inventory was 44 percent lower in the Virginia cities than in the comparable cities in Maryland.”

Another barrier is limited access to charging stations. Virginia has 1,520 public Level 2 plugs and 478 public DCFC plugs to support approximately 24,000 EVs. By comparison, Maryland has 1,909 public Level 2 plugs and 432 public DCFC plugs — 343 more plugs — to support 25,000 EVs. However, the report notes, Virginia is using funds from a Volkswagen settlement to build the statewide charging network.

The report advocates the following measures to promote EV ownership:

  • Enact tougher clean-vehicle standards — the “Advanced Clean Cars Program” — that will raise the cost of vehicles with internal combustion engines.
  • Fund a point-of-sale EV rebate to bring down the up-front cost of EV ownership. Studies have shown that a $1,000 increase in state EV subsidies can boost sales by 7.5%. Bigger rebates for lower-income communities, of course.
  • Sign Virginia onto the Transportation and Climate Initiative. This regional interstate cap-and-trade system would raise the cost of conventional vehicles and generate revenue for public transit, electric buses, and EV incentives.

There you have it — that’s what the green social engineers have planned next for us. They don’t want to create a level playing field for EVs, they want to tilt the field.

Now, for one moment, let us imagine a future 30 years from now when Virginia has a 100% renewable electric grid and a 100% EV fleet. We’re living in CO2 nirvana, doing our fair share to combat climate change. But we’re more dependent upon the electric grid than ever — not just for heating and cooling, running our appliances, and charging our iPhones and PCs but for locomotion.

In an ideal world, the automobile batteries in every garage will interact with the electric grid to help manage the hour-to-hour variations in electrical supply and demand — a good thing. But you don’t built reliability into the electric grid sufficient to manage hour-to-hour changes in supply and demand, or even day-to-day changes, or even seasonal changes. You build an electric grid resilient enough to survive extreme weather events that occur every two, three or four years — events in which clouds block out the solar panels, and/or strong winds take wind turbines offline, and/or extreme temperatures create massive surges in electric load for three or four days at a time. If the system fails in all-EV world, the consequences are even worse than if it fails today.

If we go this route, we need to build an electric grid that is robust enough to survive the rare-case scenario. I just don’t see the environmental groups giving any attention to what such a grid would look like or how much it would cost to build. It’s an afterthought — we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. That philosophy isn’t working for California, however, and it won’t work any better for Virginia.

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54 responses to “The Coming Push for Electric Vehicles in Virginia

  1. The length of my commute (22 miles each way) lends itself well to the use of an electric vehicle, and I have considered buying an electric motorcycle. But as long as the electric equivalent of a 25o cc dual-sport motorcycle costs nearly as much as a Suzuki GSXR1000 sport-bike I’m going to stick with my gasoline powered two-wheelers.

  2. Batteries are one issue.

    Electric vehicle batteries typically must be replaced every seven to 10 years for smaller vehicles and three to four for larger ones, such as buses and vans. I do not know the cost of that replacement process.

    Declining performance for an electric vehicle battery is evidenced by fewer miles of driving per charge and more frequent plug-ins by owners.

    While these lithium-ion batteries can be recycled, it is a high technology process to ensure that lithium does not wind up in the water supply.

    There is also a market for re-purposing automotive batteries that are no longer suitable for automotive use but retain enough energy storage for less demanding uses.

    The only thing owners can’t do is put them in the landfill.

  3. I think someone is going to have to address the PPT implications of going eclectic. Them there EV’s ain’t cheap and that PPT can be a little steep for things over $40k.

    • It’s what keeps junk on the road.

      One thing that struck me when I lived in Texas (1990s) was the number of new cars (usually clean — no rain), and the dearth of smoking tailpipes as compared to Virginia.

      A 1970 Chevrolet that kills mosquitoes at every intersection is worth its weight in unpaid PPT.

  4. What if it were YOUR responsibility to do something with your used motor oil , anti-freeze and worn out tires or for that matter the trash you generate each day?

    What would happen?

    See this is why we do rely on government to deal with these issues, no?

    Yes, we would have the private sector develop a “market” for the stuff but what would they do with it with no government role?

    We sorta already know the answer, right?

    The same goes for things like grid reliability. If Dominion doesn’t deal with the issue responsibly – some of the first folks to feel it will be their investors. They do have an opportunity and a responability to provide an integrated resources plan that lays out the issues with respect to the grid and it’s ability to meet demand and remain reliable.

    • “What if it were YOUR responsibility to do something with your used motor oil , anti-freeze and worn out tires or for that matter the trash you generate each day?”

      It is.

      • It appears Larry has never noticed the $2 per tire removal fee he’s been charged at the Pep Boys.

        • Oh I HAVE and it’s NOT voluntary and it IS govt-mandated and that IS the point. If they gave the tires back to you what woud you do with them? We already know the answer to that, right?

          And WHO fixed that problem? The free market?

          • The used oil is certainly recyclable and recycled. Not if you do the job yourself, maybe, but in the commercial garage. I’ve seen houses built with the tires :).

            https://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/LandProtectionRevitalization/RecyclingandLitterPreventionPrograms/UsedOil,OilFiltersandAntifreeze.aspx

          • How about your used tires? if they gave them back to you – what would you do? Would there be a “market” for them? Would someone pay you for them? How many folks would just dump the tires somewere? We already know the answer to this, right?

            Just like some folks would dump their used motor oil in a ditch.

            The point I’m making is that it does cost money to reduce pollution and the government basically requires you to pay for proper disposal. It’s yet another fee or tax for which you don’t really get anything… nor have a clue as to how much it should cost or not. You just pay and you have no idea if the money is spent cost effectively or not.

          • When I change my own tires, I pay a private individual a reasonable sum to dispose of the old ones. Once he has a truckload of them he takes them to a privately-owned recycling outfit which shreds them so the rubber can be repurposed. It can be used in asphalt mixes as well as many other products. The steel recovered from the shredding process is passed on to another privately-owned recycling outfit. The guy I pay makes a few bucks from me (and others), and he also probably makes a little bit from selling the tires he collects to the recyclers.

            My household garbage is picked up by a private trash hauler who takes it to a privately-owned recycling operations. From there, items which cannot be recycled are sent to one of several available landfills. Some landfills are publicly-owned and some are privately-owned; but in my part of the state, trash pick-up and hauling is an entirely private affair.

            My used oil and old antifreeze are accepted free of charge at my local publicly-owned/operated “convenience/transfer center” from which it is collected/picked up by a privately-owned recycling outfits. The same “convenience center” accepts old car batteries. Those are picked up by a different privately-owned recycling outfit. The county pays nothing to these recyclers for this service.

            So yes, the “free market” is a major part of disposing of unwanted or worn-out terms – and where I live private industry is the primary provider of these services.

          • Wasn’t there a burning tire dump up in NoVa awhile back? Didn’t it smolder for a year or so?

            The $2 is worth $10.

            Oh, apparently there has been more than one.. 2002 in Roanoke, 2016 in Faifax…

            And this one https://cen.acs.org/articles/91/i43/Tire-Inferno.html

          • Yes, yes it is voluntary. You are free to take your old tires home with you and dispose of them in a manner you see fit.

            “If they gave the tires back to you what woud you do with them? We already know the answer to that, right?”

            I don’t think you have a f’n clue Larry, I’m from rural PA there are lots of other uses for old tires beyond burning them. (It is however nice to know that you still use ad hom attacks when you claim to be above them).

            https://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/LandProtectionRevitalization/SolidHazardousWasteRegulatoryPrograms/WasteTires.aspx

            “And WHO fixed that problem? The free market?”

            Recapping of old tires used to be a big market, it started to fail in the 80’s and the Government stepped to fund them. It would behoove you to know what you’re talking about before your pontificate, however I know that you’re incapable of doing that.

    • There is already a private market for used batteries.

      The car companies make money when you replace them after warranty runs out, and other companies make money to either remove the lithium or repurpose the batteries. No government intervention required, other than to make sure they don’t wind up in landfills.

      Same is true of recycling or repurposing when car is totaled. The insurance companies figure that into the premium.

      • Used vehicle batteries are often used for home or business energy storage. Normal electricity use has nowhere near the energy density and transfer requirements that are needed for vehicles, so what no longer works in a car can still have years of useful service in a house, for example.

    • “What if it were YOUR responsibility to do something with your used motor oil , anti-freeze and worn out tires or for that matter the trash you generate each day?

      What would happen?”

      Ah, those were the days. Used oil kept the grass from growing into the chainlink fence, a pan of used antifreeze kept the number of feral cats in check, and tire swings… everyone should have two. After that, some nylon webbing, and voila, Ho Chi Min sandals for sale.

      • “After that, some nylon webbing, and voila, Ho Chi Min sandals for sale.”

        While HCM sandals are quite fashionable, it is best not to make yours from a steel belted radial – unless you like annual tetanus shots…

  5. Without a base-load supply of electricity, 100% renewable is a theoretical, as well as practicable, impossibility. If coal and natural gas are phased out, that leaves only nuclear power supplying base loads. That is why the carbon free dream is simply not possible without including nuclear power.

  6. There are several things to consider:

    There are likely to be considerably less vehicles needed to move people in the future. Currently, automobiles are used less than 6% of the day. Ride sharing and autonomous vehicles will require fewer vehicles to move the same number of people. Improvements in mass transit, easy and inexpensive first and last mile solutions, etc. will also help.

    We will also probably commute less in a post-covid world. Many businesses will attempt to cut real estate expenses and reduce office space for employees who might come into the office only a few times per week.

    It is correct that batteries in vehicles will be part of the grid. They can store excess energy production during the day for use at other times. Grid-to-vehicle energy exchange will probably be available in public and corporate parking areas as well as from home to facilitate this.

    Numerous options are being developed for longer term energy storage. For example, storing excess energy produced in the spring and fall when energy production is high but demand is low. This would help deal with extreme weather and low production during the winter.

    As trucking moves to autonomous driving to reduce labor costs, traffic might be less congested as many of the trucks move to nighttime driving. Employment might suffer, since truck driver is the number one occupation in many states. But young people are not fully replacing older truck drivers as they leave the industry – hence the push for autonomous trucks.

    Car dealerships are at great risk from the move to EVs. That is why many dealerships do not promote them or have them in stock. For many dealers, parts and service make up a majority of their profits. A Tesla has only 14 moving parts and requires very little service. And the service comes comes to the customer. EVs undermine the current dealership business model. That is why Tesla sells direct to the customer.

    • Given consumer experience with batteries for laptops, tablets and smartphones, why would anyone think batteries for motor vehicles will be substantially better?

      I was talking with a friend who has an EV. He’s generally quite happy. He did complain about longer trips. Either he has to cut the trip into multiple segments to recharge incrementally or take a long break to “fill up.” He candidly said that the EV adds several hours to a 500-600 mile trip.

      • What a great entrepreneurial opportunity … combination bar, marijuana lounge, fast charging station along all the major highways. Charge your car while you relax. I even have a name for the franchise of hundreds of such establishments … “Crush, fry and fly”.

        The big profit maker is the Cheetos dispenser on the way out to your car after it’s charged.

  7. Baconator with extra cheese

    So who is going to buy cars for the Equity crowd?
    Non-POC colonizers destroyed the earth…. who’s going to puck up the electric car tab for the POC non-colonizers?
    Better mine a lot more lithium….

  8. In this new home it would be very easy to rig a plug where I park my car (unlike at the condo), and I will seriously consider an EV as the next vehicle. The charging tariffs make that attractive, I think. But to Jim’s point I want to also have the other vehicle ready to roll on regular fuels. This is not the first time the industry has tried electric, and it failed the first time for some valid reasons. Not all vehicles will work well that way.

    • Yeah, but now there is Formula E. Once they start racing them, marketing them is always more likely to succeed. It’s amazing what developments move from the track into production.

      Somehow, I can see that a flat cap and driving gloves would suit you.

      • Formula E is good racing. This past season was a lot more competitive than Formula 1 was.

        • New cars and classes always are. Until class rules tighten up, the machine really is a part of the equation. Once class rules get tight enough, that’s when the skill of driver/crew dominates.

          In some one design regattas, they actually rotate the boats between days/races to further eliminate the equipment variation effects.

          Wouldn’t it be fun to do the same in road races? Half way through the race Hamilton swaps cars with one of the Red Bull drivers…

          • That would be fun.

            Formula E has operated under some pretty tight class rules right from the start, which is why the racing has been so close so often.

          • I like watching F1. One of my old office mates was ate up with it. Did you watch any of the virtual race? Silly question.

          • As far as being “ate up” with it, I have a broken piece from the front wing of a Jordan F-1 car. It’s signed by Eddie Jordan. My wife and I got it at the 2000 Canadian Grand Prix. It sits on a display shelf in our living room.

            As far as competitive motorsport racing goes, though, MotoGP motorcycle racing simply cannot be beat. There’s been nine different race winners from four (maybe 5?) different manufacturers this season with one race left to go. Those guys do things on motorcycles that you’d swear defy the laws of physics.

          • Sweet. While not a real race enthusiast, there is one car. It’s THE car. GT-40. Saw one of the originals at Amelia Island last March. Drool.

      • “It’s amazing what developments move from the track into production.”

        Yes. Just about every major technological advancement except cup holders was either introduced by or developed/perfected by people in the auto racing industry prior to being put into widespread use in “regular” cars. Things like:

        tubeless tires
        radial tires
        power brakes
        electronic ignition
        disk brakes
        power steering
        ergonomic seats, headrests
        safety restraints
        anti-lock brakes
        traction control
        aerodynamics
        four-wheel steering
        fuel injection
        supercharging
        active suspension
        etc.
        etc.

  9. Two EVs in every garage, a chicken in every convection oven.

    • Nope. Chicken’s going to be outlawed – too much CO2 generated raising them.

      You’ll switch to 100% organic all-natural vegetable-based fat-free carbon-neutral chicken-like meat substitute or you’ll be sent to a reeducation camp!

  10. Hey guys – where can I get a GreenTech car? You know – the electric vehicles Terry McAuliffe and Tony Rodham were going to make back when McAuliffe was running for governor? Does anyone know where the showrooms are? I can’t even find their website.

  11. Oooh is there gonna be some screaming on here this month.

    VNG Applicable Riders… $30. that’s like 7x what was there last month.

  12. Tire recycling in Virginia

  13. I am not a big electric vehicle advocate, but I like hybrids a lot.

    The combination of our high annual Car Tax and lack of state subsidies makes many cars much more expensive in Virginia than Maryland (and DC). Not that I think we should add big subsidies, but I am out-voted.

    I would rather reform our Car Tax to remove that albatross on all new car sales in Virginia. That would give more incentive to replace older cars with cleaner new cars, including hybrids and plug-ins.

    At this point many blue states have added subsidies for plug-ins, whereas red states are putting “fuel” taxes on registrations for hybrids and plug-ins.

    Taxing hybrids extra is unfair because they do not use electricity, but red states don’t care.

  14. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    $1.69 a gallon today in Front Royal. Warren County is the king of cars without mufflers or exhaust systems. Double dare the mighty Governor Northam to try and decarbonize Warren County. He will need the entire State Police force just to get across the first of the double bridges.

    • You’re right, they could never take the county by force. They could cut off the power to Warren County and barricade at the double bridges, and life would go on as usual, and just as has it has been since 1866.

    • Yes that is my point.
      Modern cars like Prius and most other new cars are essentially zero pollution, due to so many regulations over the years to make cars cleaners, and inventions to clean up the exhaust. The “Left” is saying we must mandate electric vehicles due the millions of Americans being poisoned by gasoline cars. Problem is: nobody is being poisoned…once again it is the Left playing Chicken Little. If, and that’s a big IF, there is a pollution problem it could be old cars and diesels/trucks.

      The Left feels we should just assume a priori that mass murder is in progress and must be stopped, by mandating electrification. Electric cars are not selling without huge subsidies, and are not so great yet, but that is treasonous to the left to say that right now. Even JBacon is drinking the EV Kool-Aid, sounds little like above.

  15. Looks like Maryland’s electric vehicle subsidy just expired, but Maryland has lower car taxes, and allows free use of HOV lanes.

    When hybrids first came out around 2001 (Prius/Ford Explorer/Honda Civic) Virginia was the first state to allow free HOV to Hybrids. Virginia hybrid sales immediately went out the roof as I95 commuters used this loophole to clog up the HOV lanes with Prii. In California the HOV lanes are essentially plug-ins only lanes now.

  16. Here is a quick estimated comparison, Virginia (Alexandria) vs. Wash DC.
    Vehicle: Toyota RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid
    Cost: $40,000

    Cost in DC:
    $40,000 Car
    $ 2,400 Sales Tax
    – 7,500 Federal Subsidy (Tax credit)
    – 2,400 DC subsidy (tax free)
    $32,500 Final cost in DC RAV4 Plug-in

    Cost in NoVA (Alexandria)
    $40,000 Car
    $ 8,000 Sales + Annual Car Tax (10 years)
    – 7,500 Federal Subsidy (Tax credit)
    – 0 Va. subsidy
    $40,500 Final cost in NoVA RAV4 Plug-in
    So my Virginia choice is the non-plug hybrid RAV4:
    $28,000
    + $4000 Car Taxes
    $32,000 Total for Hybrid in Va.

    But in many Blue states, the $40k plugin RAV4 is cheaper than the $28k Hybrid

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      1968 VW Beetle for sale in Alexandria. Runs. Wheels included. 2 grand. Slap antique tags on it for cut rate insurance. 21 polluting miles per gallon. Charcoal carbon canister is not included. Since it is antique the property tax will only be about 20 bucks. Air cooled VW is the only way to go!

      • Baconator with extra cheese

        I’ve been looking for one. Are you serious?

      • Yes our Car Tax system in Virginia is highly rewarding for keeping older dirtier vehicles, and highly punishing to buying new, cleaner cars.

        You can see from my numbers above, a DC resident could buy a luxury RAV4 Prime plug-in as cheap as I can get the economy base model hybrid in Virginia.

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