Eye On Illinois: State leaders doing homework on EV deployment

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Electric vehicles are not a zero-sum proposition.

Perhaps an obvious statement to many, but a useful reminder as a balance to thoughts like Saturday’s column praising Illinois leaders who are investing in EV innovation as a means of bolstering local economies and educational and professional opportunities.

Optimism for such developments, while well founded, must come with an acknowledgement these are long-term strategies. We’ve got Shell and BP stations about 600 yards from the back door and a Tesla dealership a mile the other direction. If I had to guess which will still be standing in 50 years, my money is on the ones selling energy drinks and scratch tickets.

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland

That wager doesn’t reflect overall pessimism about electric vehicle advancements, but pragmatism about the speed at which our society can and will be able to redevelop. Judging by the inbox, I’m not alone. Reader P.H., of Sterling, wrote Saturday to mention a television commentator who questioned whether the California power grid is equipped to handle that state’s intended full conversion to electric vehicles concurrent with other demands on the network, specifically air conditioning, as in a recent oppressive heat wave.

That naturally led to thoughts of home and asking, “Can the electrical systems throughout our state as well as the whole country handle a much heavier load with electrical vehicles? Are you aware if research has been considering if the electrical needs of the future will be met with today’s service or what needs to be done to prepare for high percentages of electrical vehicles on the road? Of course, that percentage depends highly on if they are affordable by those of us much less affluent than those now able to buy them.”

These are fair questions, as is wondering about the original source of the electricity that fills the batteries, especially if the overall goal is decreasing or eliminating fossil fuel reliance. This isn’t to imply our leaders aren’t asking the same questions, only a reminder this is a slow, complicated process, one that seems to start with assuming a permanent reliance on single-passenger vehicles and the attendant roadway infrastructure. (In other words, mass transit and bike lanes are, at best, secondary considerations.)

A good starting point for examining how Illinois is approaching these challenges is the Department of Transportation’s dedicated EV website, dot.illinois.gov/home/drive-electric-illinois. This includes a link to the 41-page EV deployment plan submitted to the federal Joint Office of Energy and Transportation on Aug. 1.

There’s frankly an overwhelming amount of information to navigate, yet no guarantee leaders are asking all the right questions. In this campaign season, it’s prudent to push aspiring officials for their insight and perspective on this issue that will only grow in significance.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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September 15, 2022 at 05:14AM

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