Pennsylvania Looks to Increase EV Adoption Statewide

Can a new coalition convince Pennsylvania's government and citizens to go electric?

Getty Images / Peter Ptschelinzew

With electric cars being the hot topic of many auto manufacturers this year, many states are looking to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road. Unfortunately, outside of already well-established hotspots, electric car-friendly infrastructure dwindles. Pennsylvania is looking to become the next state with an initiative to promote the adoption and daily use of electrified automobiles, and several government entities have spawned a coalition to do just that.

A group known as the Drive Electric Pennsylvania Coalition has been in the making since 2016. The state's Department of Environmental Protection established the group as part of a statewide stakeholder collaboration with a set of common goals in mind: promote the public acceptance of electric cars, and increase the number of EVs on Pennsylvania roadways.

On Monday, the Coalition presented its draft plan to begin transitioning Pennsylvania to one of the few EV-friendly states in the nation. Together with the DEP and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the coalition was able to identify the increased number of EVs on the road which will occur within the next decade, which has been jump-started by manufacturers like Tesla and Volkswagen who are already hard at work to ensure it can meet projected consumer demand.

The problem is, like most states, Pennsylvania consumers aren't yet generating the demand for electric cars similar to leading states on the west coast like California and Washington. Of the 8.1 million passenger cars in Pennsylvania, only 4,364 new EVs were registered in 2017. The Coalition believes that this is partly due to the lack of trust and familiarity with the platform, as well as the severe lack of public charging infrastructure in Pennsylvania.

The proposal drafted by the group reportedly includes marketing campaigns to earn the public's trust in EVs, building code amendments to incorporate charging stations into new and existing structures, and even a state rebate program - something which previously stimulated Georgia's EV adoption to be among the highest in the nation. Unfortunately, a rebate may prove to be too little, too late, as major manufacturers are closing in on the maximum number of federal tax credits currently available, though the pressure is on to keep the credits available.

"Generally speaking I believe that Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are the likely highest saturation of EV," a spokesperson told The Drive, meaning that the two large cities on opposite sides of the state will likely be some of the biggest early focuses.

States will soon need to take the electrification of its roadways seriously, especially as the number of vehicles offered by some automakers begin to shift away from gasoline-powered cars and towards powerplants that run on batteries. Not only will the infrastructure need to ensure that drivers have more places to charge their cars in public, but it will also need to support the increased demand on the power grid. This could lead to a shift of taxation as revenue is lost from the gas tax, meaning that state governments will need to find alternative ways to fund its transportation initiatives.

The final plan won't be ready for review until June, but conversations revolving around the best way to get consumers into the driver's seat of an EV are already underway. This movement isn't the first organization that has popped up to advertise the practicality of electric cars for a state, and surely won't be the last. As electric cars begin to become more commonplace, the public will begin to buy into the new vehicles and states need to be ready. Should Pennsylvania's approach work well, it may be a model that other states could follow to ready their infrastructure for the incoming change of electrification.