Bipartisan Bill Could Help Boost Florida’s Growing EV Market

As AP reported, one of Florida’s newest laws–the Essential State Infrastructure bill–will lay the groundwork for building a vast network of electric vehicle charging stations along highways. Last week, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill which had bipartisan support in the state legislature.

As WGCU added, the law is part of a broader strategy, led by the Florida Office of Energy under Democratic Agriculture Secretary Nikki Fried, to design a roadmap for promoting use of electric vehicles and expanding charging stations statewide.

Why This Matters: Florida is one of the most at-risk states to climate change, with rapidly rising seas and more intense storms being an imminent threat. But helping more Floridians switch to EVs is challenging due to the 450-mile length of the state which exceeds the range of most electric cars. A coordinated charging network, however, can help encourage more people to overcome their “range anxiety.” Additionally, this bill envisions a new network of “staging areas” in rural communities along Florida’s turnpikes to help drivers of electric vehicles quickly evacuate northward during hurricanes or other emergencies.

Go Deeper: Industry analysts say Florida has emerged as the nation’s fourth-largest market for EV sales. From 2017 to 2018 the number of electric vehicles sold in Florida nearly doubled and the number continues to climb thanks to the Sunshine State’s love of vehicles.

The Specifics: As WGCU wrote, the new law requires state officials to send the governor and lawmakers a new plan by July 1 next year to build more charging stations along state highways, with a status report due by Dec. 1.

  • The law also requires the state to estimate the loss of gas tax revenue, which in Florida accounts for roughly one-quarter of state highway funding. Other sources include registration fees, tolls, bonds and other revenue.
  • Officials are studying where to build charging stations and how to design better ones, to make electric vehicles more attractive for road trips. It is still unclear whether the stations will be solar-powered or connected to the electrical grid, but officials are studying how the new stations will affect Florida’s grid.

Solar in the Sunshine State: Electric vehicles are only as environmentally friendly as the energy source by which they’re powered. States that have more renewable energy as part of their grid energy or incentivize home solar installations have the most potential to decrease emissions through electric vehicles. As it stands, the state of Florida is not a particularly solar-friendly state

As the Sun-Sentinel wrote, a major roadblock to the growth of solar in Florida is the fact that the state prevents third-party solar power purchase agreements. These agreements allow a developer to build solar on a home at little or no upfront cost to the homeowner, who then buys electricity from the developer, usually at rates lower than utility rates, over a fixed time, usually from 10 to 30 years.

Perhaps that’s the next challenge Gov. DeSantis can help overcome.

How the Bill is Being Received: The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s Dory Larsen wrote:

This is a big win for Florida’s consumers as it will grow the electric transportation market faster and create opportunities so more Floridians have access to increased cleaner transportation options. The law is also one of the first pieces of state legislation that acknowledges the risks of climate change and identifies electric transportation as a means to combat it.

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