Legislation puts utilities in driver’s seat for EVs

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) developed the American Clean Energy and Security Act (HR 2454) to deal primarily with greenhouse emissions from passenger vehicles.

This bill, currently making the rounds through the House of Representatives, extends the federal government's commitment to lowering emissions through alternative fuels and electrification. Waxman and Markey led markups of HR 2454 starting on May 18 with the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming voting 33-25 in favor of its provisions on May 21.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act's first section is the most important for green vehicle advocates. Title I requests an EV infrastructure plan from every utility in the United States to cover every aspect of mobilization from charging stations to billing.

Waxman and Markey also included a provision in Title I that would require every EV charging system to accommodate every vehicle regardless of manufacturer. HR 2454 recognizes the financial challenges to regional utilities by requiring automakers to include instrumentation in each vehicle to handle billing and electrical usage.

American automakers struggling to make ends meet would receive help through a financial assistance program established under HR 2454. In recognition of the costs of EV production, Waxman and Markey want the federal government to supply money for changes to traditional manufacturing facilities that would be used for EV development.

General Motors, Ford and Chrysler would be able to offset up to 30% of adaptation costs for developing EV models like the Chevy Volt. The federal government will focus these funds on auto technology that meets new emissions standards and reduces oil dependence.

The Department of Energy would be tasked with testing, implementing and overseeing EV infrastructure from region to region if HR 2454 is passed. Energy Department officials would conduct studies of existing transportation including light rail, busing and neighborhood EV programs before initiating EV mobilization.

The federal government would work with automakers, utility companies and local authorities to surmount technological and bureacratic obstacles that could delay EV implementation. HR 2454 casts a wide net over electric vehicle development including hybrids, plug-ins and fast-charging capabilities.

The overwhelming majorities for Democrats in the House and the Senate should keep HR 2454 moving smoothly through Congress. Waxman and Markey anticipated questions about utility billing, EV development and infrastructure implementation in this thorough piece of legislation.

Even as HR 2454 moves into federal law, questions remain about the speed at which electric vehicles can be delivered to American consumers. The Big Three automakers have the technology but have been surpassed by Japanese and South Korean automakers in the alternative fuel market.

Smaller automakers like Tesla Motors may be gaining momentum but their production capacity is still relatively limited. HR 2454 would take America in the right direction but the mobilization of EVs and accompanying infrastructure could take a considerable amount of time.



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