Whether we like it or not, the race is on for the electric vehicle (EV) revolution. But making a city EV-ready is no small undertaking. So what is a realistic and welcome timeframe to cement the infrastructure in cityscapes?
The Arizona Technology Council’s annual Smart City Summit recently convened the brightest minds in technology and other business and government thought leaders to explore the landscape of smart city strategies, discuss emerging best practices and examine the specific strategies needed to bring a smart city vision to reality.
As the trajectory toward urbanization increases, this must-attend event was the ideal opportunity for the 200+ attendees to learn about the advances in the development and implementation of a wide range of technological innovations.
The summit’s Smart City panel, titled “Autonomous & EVs Transform the Urban Landscape,” moderated by International Research Center President Mark Goldstein, featured Nitsa Einan, VP of Business Development at Imagry; Burrell Kilmer, Managing Director for Energy at Navigant Research; and C.J. Berg, Energy Innovation Analyst at APS.
The one thing all of the expert panelists readily agreed on was that much more could be done in the state of Arizona for greater adoption of electric vehicles.
The good news is that power to run electric vehicles can be generated locally and cheaply from renewable sources, unlike other transportation modes that pump hundreds of millions of dollars out of the local economy and into far-away oil wells and coal mines.
So what exactly does Greater Phoenix need to do to encourage greater adoption of electric vehicles? According to these experts, state-policy driven initiatives to develop charging infrastructures is the first step. Without ample charging stations, electric vehicle owners won’t go very far.
Additionally, electric vehicle adoption rates are based on specific factors such as the availability of purchase incentives like a tax credit. In other states where electric vehicles are gaining traction, these states have set ambitious goals and have mobilized utilities to influence greater adoption.
What’s also influencing adoption of electric vehicles is that citizens have a greater awareness of environmental issues.
“Concerns over air quality as well as the economic benefits are driving the adoption of electric vehicles among consumers,” said Burrell Kilmer, Managing Director for Energy, Navigant Research. “With electric vehicles come less smog, a better environment and increased quality of living.”
“From a customer’s standpoint, a lot more can be done to optimize the electrical grid,” said C.J. Berg, Energy Innovation Analyst at APS. “Furthermore, it would be beneficial to spread costs across users.”
The engaging panelists also discussed how autonomous vehicles (AVs) are impacting the transformation of the urban landscape. The global transformation of cities
“EVs and AVs have some convergent points regarding the global transformation of cities, but they are very different,” noted Nitsa Einan, VP of Business Development at Imagery, an innovative company building the world’s first mapless autonomous driving platform.
Einan added, “EVs have more to do with the movement of environmental issues and climate change. Where we are today as far as adoption of EVs, it’s primarily on the west coast and east coast… the states that have adopted zero-emission policies and regulations. And that’s a factor to where things are going to grow first, so expect that trend to continue.”
“With Arizona’s regulatory climate and exceptional roads and highways, driving conditions for autonomous vehicles are much more favorable that other regions and states,” added Berg. “Weather is a huge factor. Some of the real-world conditions that AVs have to navigate make it more challenging. Conditions like snow, rain and visibility definitely influence the adoption of autonomous vehicles.”
Designating certain lanes solely for autonomous vehicles also will expedite the adoption of AVs,” said Einan. “AVs communicating with other AVs will ensure greater safety.
Questions remain, however.
How will EVs sustain themselves? What is the expected cost to build the necessary infrastructure for charging stations and where to put them? Will the gas stations of the future have charging stations?
Part of the answers may come from Greater Phoenix’s strength in its data center sector. With a growing trend of leading data centers, supplying clean, renewable energy for future EV users may be easier than we think.
“A key aspect is still to be determined, and that is how will entrepreneurs and companies make money off vehicle charging,” speculated Burrell Kilmer, Managing Director for Energy, Navigant Research. While electricity may be cheaper, it still takes much longer to charge a vehicle than to fill up a gas tank.”
“A prominent push for infrastructure to support EVs on the electrical grid is clearly needed,” added International Research Center President Mark Goldstein. “Fitting our city to accommodate AVs and EVs will enable to see Arizona grow and prosper.”