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“Electrify Your Ride” The Push for More EVs in VA

Terry Lee White / Adobe Stock

Virginia is 13th in the nation for electric vehicles on the road. But buyers who want “EVs” often have to go out of state to purchase them.  That’s because those states have gotten behind the wheel and created incentives to purchase them, as well as the infrastructure for vehicles with zero emissions.

“With electric vehicles, there is no tailpipe, so there is zero tailpipe emissions,” says Stuart Gardner.

That’s because they run on an electric charge, not on gasoline.

Gardner is program director at Generation 180, which just put out a new report it called ‘Virginia Drives Electric.'  But as yet, that’s not quite the case.

A recent poll found Virginians are willing, even eager to consider electric vehicles for their next ride, but the report contends, the state isn’t making it easy.  “We did a comparison with Maryland, our neighbor to the North to compare inventory of electric vehicles in six comparable cities. And we found that Maryland had 45 to 55% more electric vehicles in stock than Virginia.”

The report says, that’s because Virginia has not joined 14 other states who are part of something called the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate, or ZEV for short, that offers price breaks for buying electric and puts member states at the head of the line for getting these vehicles to their dealerships.

“And there's a lot of great electric vehicles coming to market in the next couple of years," says Gardner. They're guaranteed to get that. They're going to be the first on the list as the manufacturers determine where they distribute electric vehicles across the country. These ‘ZEV’ states are going to be first in line.”

Meantime, there are still roadblocks to buying electric vehicles in Virginia.

“One of them was, that the electric vehicles, when I was shopping, were selling out,” according to Emily Robey Morrison. “There just weren't a lot available in the kinds that I wanted that were in my price range on the East coast or in Charlottesville, in particular at that time. And I really needed to go ahead and get a car. I couldn't wait three months from then when the dealership was able to get another set of electric vehicles in.”

And there are other things that put the brakes on buying electric. Like something known as 'Range Anxiety.' That’s when you’re afraid you’ll run out of electric charge before you reach your destination.

“It's just not as easy yet, especially in the Southeast to get from charging station to charging station. And I was a little worried about being stranded.”

Ultimately, Morrison went with a hybrid gas /electric car instead of the EV she’d hoped for.

“My teenagers were really driving the push to get an electric car.  They're very conscientious and worried about climate change. So, we were having a lot of family conversations about what's the responsible decision here. We really wanted that for our family.”

Currently there are about 24,000 electric vehicles in Virginia. That’s about 1.5%  of all vehicles on the road here.
“We have three policy recommendations in the Virginia Drives Electric report. One is the point-of-sale incentive. This is an equitable incentive, where, at the time of purchase, you get a certain amount of discount," Stuart Gardener says.

The price break might be about $3,500 depending on the model.

“The second is what's called TCI.”

"TCI " stands for Transportation and Climate Initiative.

“Virginia officially joined TCI, but hasn't yet signed that memorandum of understanding that says, what are those targets that we want to achieve?

Their third policy recommendation is about the broader efforts for the state to get closers to zero emissions.

“What we're saying is, the next step is transportation. Transportation represents about 48% of carbon emissions in the state. And we need to address that.”

When the general assembly convenes for a one-month session in January, Generation 1- 80 hopes legislators will pave the way for more electric Vehicles in Virginia and the infrastructure to support them.

On December 15th six state legislators will questions from the public about how and why to accelerate the transition to electric transportation. Here is the link to join in.

Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.