J.R. Tolbert: Smart policy puts Florida in the driver’s seat on electric vehicles

Loading energy of an electric car in Prague Czech republic
The state is now number two in the country in electric vehicles sales.

At the time, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ unprecedented $25 million investment in electric vehicle infrastructure may have left some scratching their heads. That investment was followed by DeSantis signing into law SB 7018 which empowered the Florida Department of Transportation and numerous stakeholders to create an electric vehicle roadmap for the state.

Those policy decisions made years ago laid the foundation for Florida to emerge as a leader in electric vehicles. The Governor and state legislators, like Sen. Jeff Brandes, deserve serious credit for positioning the state to capitalize on and lead the movement toward electrification.

The state is now number two in the country in electric vehicles sales. And, as a result, the state will receive the third-largest allocation for federal funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal (the 2022 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act).

The first tranche of funding will total somewhere around $25 million. That new investment could deliver as many as 100 new fast chargers on the state’s major highway systems. The state must submit its proposed plans to the federal government by August 1. Thanks to the earlier diligent and forward-thinking planning by the state transportation department in creating a state roadmap (SB 7018), much of that work is already done.

Smart EV infrastructure policy has attracted private investment and will continue to spur business activity to the Sunshine State. Recently, Smart City Capital announced it will deploy 200 ultrafast chargers in the state. And, another firm, Wise EV, announced last week that it set to install is an initial deployment of 25 fast chargers to Florida gas stations with more to come.

The real growth in the EV market may be in the commercial sector. Cenntro Automotive, a manufacturer of electric commercial vehicles, will open its $25 million facility in Jacksonville early this year. The 100,000-sq.-ft. facility will support the company’s production of its vehicle lines, with a possible expansion to support additional vehicles and a battery packing operation. When fully operational, the facility is expected to create up to 34 jobs, including R&D specialists, highly skilled technician positions, and administrative support. The new facility is expected to produce more than 50,000 vehicles within four years, along with assembly, quality and testing processes, parts warehouse, distribution, and administrative functions. ABC Companies, a nearly 100-year old bus company based in central Florida, is not only selling new buses but repowering existing fleets, transitioning them to electric power.

To continue capturing the economic gains of electrification, Florida’s policymakers should prioritize attracting investment and innovation in the EV sector. State legislators and the DeSantis administration should move from the planning to deployment stages to ensure the state has the infrastructure in place to support commercial and passenger vehicle travel across the state. This includes ensuring a steady supply of raw materials, which has been a major priority of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on the federal level. It also includes continuing to create a business-friendly environment for the manufacturing sector. Doing so will keep Florida at the forefront of this unprecedented transformation.


J.R. Tolbert is vice president of Strategy and Partnerships for Advanced Energy Economy (AEE).

Guest Author


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