Georgia preps for America’s shift to electric vehicles

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Georgia has become a leader in electric-vehicle manufacturing by luring factories that will create thousands of jobs.

Now state officials must figure out how to build the charging infrastructure needed to handle the explosive growth of electric cars and trucks that’s expected to transform driving in Georgia and across the nation in coming years.

The number of electric vehicles on American roads is expected to rise from about 3 million in 2021 to 48 million in less than eight years, a consultant told state lawmakers this week. And that was before California announced it would ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035 — a move expected to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles around the world.

That transition poses some challenges for Georgia officials. Besides ensuring there are enough publicly available chargers for all those vehicles, they must decide how to regulate and tax the electricity they’ll use. And they must figure out how to pay for road construction and maintenance as gas taxes gradually diminish.

“It’s important we get his right,” state Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, told a legislative panel Wednesday. “This policy is going to have an impact on the state of Georgia for decades to come.”

For years, the widespread adoption of electric vehicles has seemed like part of the hazy future. Only 1% to 2% of vehicles on the road in 2021 were electric, Shannon Peloquin, a partner at the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., told lawmakers.

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But electric vehicles are expected to account for 15% of vehicles by 2030. And 34% of Americans in a recent survey said they would consider an electric vehicle for their next purchase, Peloquin said.

Manufacturers are getting the message, rolling out new electric models and building factories to make them. Georgia has used billions of dollars of incentives to land factories by Hyundai, Rivian and SK Innovation.

“We know where that market is going,” Yuval Steiman, director of eco-compliance and research for Hyundai Motor North America, told a panel on electric vehicles at Georgia Tech last week.

To address climate change, the Biden administration has encouraged the transition to electric vehicles through infrastructure spending, tax credits and higher fuel economy standards for automobiles. The Georgia Department of Transportation will get $135 million through last year’s infrastructure law to install charging stations on key highways over the next several years.

The goal is to have charging stations that meet certain specifications every 50 miles along the nation’s highways. That would give motorists confidence they can take long-distance trips.

GDOT plans to install 30 to 35 stations to fill gaps along Georgia highways. Planning Director Jannine Miller said GDOT won’t get into the charging business. Instead, it will partner with private companies to do the work.

Georgia has about 1,300 publicly available charging stations overall. But it will need more as the number of electric vehicles proliferates.

The state may play a role in encouraging the development of charging stations across Georgia. That’s one of the issues the legislative committee will study.

Another issue: Current state law prohibits most businesses from selling electricity. Instead, publicly available charging stations often rent spaces by the hour or the minute.

Gooch said lawmakers likely will change the law to allow businesses to charge customers for electricity. That would also allow the state to tax the electricity — which may be a crucial source of future revenue. Gas taxes currently generate about $2 billion annually for road construction and maintenance.

“If everyone suddenly stops buying motor fuel and starts charging their cars at home, what would be the impact on the Department of Transportation?” Gooch said. “We know that would be devastating.”

The legislative committee will hold several hearings this fall and produce a report on its recommendations in December. The General Assembly could act on those recommendations next year.

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com


Electric vehicles by the numbers

  • 2021: 3 million on the road, or 1% to 2% of all vehicles
  • 2030: 48 million on the road, or nearly 15% of all vehicles
  • 34% of American consumers say they will consider an electric vehicle for their next purchase.

SOURCE: McKinsey & Co.