Accelerating Electric Vehicles in Minnesota
In April, a group of Minnesota utility, regulatory, and nonprofit representatives convened at the 2017 eLab Accelerator at the Rocky Mountain Institute to consider how to increase the adoption of electric vehicles in Minnesota.
The e-Lab Accelerator is a four-day workshop that brings together teams of energy experts from across the country to work on projects that advance opportunities for distributed energy resources. The Rocky Mountain Institute provides trained facilitators and energy experts to assist each team with their project.
This year, CEE joined a team assembled by Fresh Energy that included individuals from Great River Energy, Xcel Energy, Great Plains Institute, and the Public Utilities Commission. Our group’s project objective was to “advance electric vehicle policy in Minnesota by identifying near-term policy priorities and developing a strategic plan for policy roll-out.”
During our time at e-lab Accelerator, we were able to solidify a shared vision for increased electric vehicle penetration in Minnesota and identify some important barriers and solutions to advancing electric vehicles in Minnesota. The team left e-Lab Accelerator with a better sense of why electric vehicles are important for Minnesotans and a shared understanding that coordinated collaboration with each other and Minnesota’s other electric vehicle stakeholders is necessary to meet our goals. Since collaboration is key — and a cornerstone of Minnesota’s success in achieving our clean energy wins — we want to share some of the outcomes from our conversations.
Benefits to Minnesota
Our group began our discussions by determining the ways in which increasing electric vehicle penetration would benefit Minnesota, identifying environmental, economic, and equity benefits.
Already today, utilities boast generation profiles available to power electric vehicles with lower carbon emissions compared to equivalent internal combustion engine vehicles. And with the onslaught of time-of-use pricing and low or negative wind prices at night, fueling an electric vehicle is increasingly cost effective.
From an equity standpoint, because of their lower operational and maintenance costs, increased penetration can help increase the cost effectiveness of shared mobility and public transit, to the benefit of low-income communities. Pairing electric vehicles with renewables can also help improve the air quality in high traffic areas.
Barriers and Opportunities
Getting to the nitty gritty, our team dug deep to determine current barriers to electric vehicle penetration and how we might begin to overcome those barriers. For one, Minnesotans don’t have access to all of the electric vehicle models that are available in states like California, where zero emission vehicle policies drive high-penetration and create concentrated value propositions for manufacturers and auto dealers. Additionally, our charging infrastructure is relatively nascent, which may be a barrier to building consumer confidence. Increasing electric vehicle visibility and making purchasing simple — especially for first-time buyers — will stimulate the marketplace.
With this in mind, our team identified scalability and awareness as key priorities to overcoming the barriers electric vehicles face in Minnesota. Put another way, access, visibility, and simplicity as the top issues that need to be addressed in order to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road in Minnesota. Three initiatives team members are already working on to tackle those issues here in Minnesota are electric bus collaborations, corporate and local government fleet challenges, and mass education and engagement.
Sharing this work with stakeholders in Minnesota is a crucial component of achieving our goals, particularly early on as we continue to assess existing efforts, barriers, gaps, and opportunities. We hope that our work at e-lab Accelerator and the initiatives we identified will provide a roadmap for electric vehicle work in Minnesota and help strengthen the current collaboration and momentum in our state.
Image credit: Michael Hicks via CC