Florida transportation officials say infrastructure efforts the Legislature launched have given the state a head start on the road to electric vehicles.
Officials from the state Department of Transportation and Florida Power and Light briefed House and Senate panels Wednesday on the recent history and future of electric vehicles in Florida. This week, the first committee week ahead of the 2022 Legislative Session, also happens to be National Clean Energy Week.
“This is really a jumping off point,” Assistant FDOT Secretary Brad Thoburn said. “We’re early on this. We’re watching a ton of other activities and pilots and different policy conversations coming on.”
FDOT has worked with the Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Service Commission to develop a master plan for building charging station infrastructure to expand Florida’s electric vehicle network. Expanding the grid would help address the problem of “range anxiety,” fears that electric vehicle drivers won’t find the power stations necessary to make their trips — kind of like running out of gas.
Gov. Ron DeSantis last year signed legislation mandating the electric vehicle study, described as a road map for the state’s electric vehicle infrastructure needs. Findings were released in December.
That master plan will help “orient” Florida in preparing for future electric vehicle demands, said Senate Transportation Committee Chair Sen. Gayle Harrell.
“I think within five years we’re going to have a huge number of them on the road, and we have got to be prepared to do that,” Harrell said.
Electric vehicles could make up 35% of cars on the road in Florida by 2040, according to FDOT’s high estimate. Moderate estimates place that percentage around 20%.
“EVs are coming. It is not a matter of if, it’s simply when,” said Florida Power and Light Vice President Matt Valle.
Cleaner vehicles also mean less fuel consumption. FDOT estimates revenues from fuel taxes, which fund road infrastructure, could decrease by as much as 20% by 2040.
Brevard County Republican Rep. Randy Fine told the House Tourism, Infrastructure & Energy Subcommittee that he had purchased an electric vehicle before he even joined the Legislature in 2016. In addition to asking about how many charging stations would be included at each new site, Fine inquired about increased electric utility taxes that come with charging a car at home.
“If I’m consuming power, I’m paying taxes on that,” Fine said.
Thoburn explained those taxes aren’t dedicated to transportation like the gas tax. However, that could be part of a future policy conversation.