Announcing the new ATE Website

By Philip Jones

I am delighted to announce the new launch of ATE’s redesigned web site this month. We have been working on this for some time, both to create a better design as well as to provide a wide range of substantive studies, filings, and materials for those in the EV ecosystem. Our original web site was quite basic, so we used the Covid-19 pandemic as a trigger to relaunch the site.

Today is an exciting and dynamic time to be in these spaces of e-mobility, electric vehicles, and building out the infrastructure for transportation electrification. Many opportunities exist for bright and dedicated people to make a mark in this space, thereby leaving a positive legacy to their children and future generations. We at ATE focus on the States, especially their public utility commissions as well as other state energy and environmental offices, to support this market transformation with good policies and regulations. We believe it is in the States, counties, and cities where the rubber meets the road for adopting electric vehicles and building out charging infrastructure.  Of course, the recently enacted Federal Infrastructure bill will provide welcome funding to state and local governments to advance these efforts.

I am pleased to say that the States have continued to move forward in several ways over the past 18 months, even with the covid crisis. Utilities have been designing and implementing both pilot programs as well as programs at greater scale.  Utilities have also been developing and filing new rate designs to incentivize EV owners to charge off-peak, and to assist commercial EV service providers with transitional relief from demand charges until higher utilization of the chargers is reached.  We emphasize more collaboration, less litigation and fewer divisions among stakeholders in the EV ecosphere.  We continue to advocate for a strong utility role as well as robust roles for private service providers and auto and truck OEMs as we build EV infrastructure.

In other words, we believe in an “all hands on deck” approach.  Most of the credible studies that have assessed the need for capital investments in infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), whether it be Atlas Public Policy, ICCT, BNEF, or others, have put forward huge numbers in the tens and sometimes hundreds of billions of dollars.  Yet here in North America our EV adoption and infrastructure build-out continue to lag our counterparts in China and the EU.  We need to do better.

Our market for public EV charging is still nascent, with the market development (and business models) still developing.  We still face many challenges in developing these markets. Industries such as electric utilities, OEMs, and EV hardware and software service providers have had to learn to coordinate and collaborate better.  Interoperability remains a key unsolved issue in too many cases.  And there is still too much unnecessary friction in the system of public charging. We at ATE are trying to advance solutions to overcome these challenges in over 20 States, and we have achieved many successes working with multiple groups.

Yet the fundamental trends in technology, public policy, economic development, carbon reduction and air pollution benefits are marching inexorably forward. The largest cost driver in an electric vehicle has always been the lithium-ion battery that provides suitable range.  With greater scale in the industry and hard work by USDOE, national laboratories and universities, the recent cost reduction in batteries has been remarkable.  Battery costs below $100 per kWh and moving toward our government target of $65-$70 per kWh (cell level) are clearly within our grasp in the next several years.  The adoption curve for EVs and charger deployments will steepen quickly as we achieve these cost reductions.

Policymakers in the States increasingly understand that the EV transformation is no longer just a vision, but indeed a pathway toward a brighter future of widescale decarbonization, clean transportation, lower consumer costs, and a more distributed and modern distribution grid. Many states are also realizing economic development benefits from the creation of this new industry.

However, we must continue to explain the multiple benefits of transportation electrification that go beyond traditional utility planning and cost-benefit methodologies. Cost/benefit calculations should include cleaner air, better public health, and improved economic development. The recently passed bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (HB 3684) will certainly help stimulate activities in the EV ecosystem. No, it is not a panacea, but rather a down payment on a much larger suite of investments to be made over the next two decades.  Significant efforts and investments will continue to be needed by utilities, auto and truck OEMs, EV service providers, federal, and state and local governments.

Finally, we need to keep the ultimate focus on the consumer (both EV owners and ratepayers), on business and on society at large; all will benefit from the dramatic transformation of these markets.  Sometimes we underestimate the scale and scope of this transformation.  We fail to see its breadth across the major industries of energy, electricity, automobile and truck manufacturing, supply chain, and software and IT sectors. Instead, we become consumed in the intricacies of rate design issues, and the complexity of charging infrastructure and power levels.  

We need to make it easier for the EV owner to seamlessly access and utilize this infrastructure. Systems and networks need to communicate with each other, and the payment and billings for these services should be clear, easy to use, and affordable.

I think we can get this right if we approach these challenges and opportunities in a spirit of collaboration. We at ATE sincerely believe that a rising tide will lift all boats. I hope that you enjoy our newly designed web site and will make good use of its resources in the months and years ahead.