Fear Mongering About Range Anxiety Has To Stop — CT Governor Calls Out EV Opponents

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In mid-December, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont was fed up with unrestrained political opponents who were fear mongering about electric vehicles (EVs) and their infrastructure. Lamont administration’s goals include making cars and trucks up to 90% cleaner, requiring vehicle manufacturers to deliver more zero emission vehicles to Connecticut drivers, and to increase consumer transportation safety protections.

A California-led coalition of states is committed to phasing out the sale of new, internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles no later than 2035. Lamont wants Connecticut to join, but members of the legislature’s bipartisan Regulation Review Committee refused to support changes to the state’s vehicle emission rules. Lamont and legislative leaders are taking a different direction, explaining they will push for a full vote on a bill enacting the standards. They’ve been holding meetings ever since to assuage concerns about vehicle costs and urban availability of charging infrastructure.

Connecticut is not alone. Many state governments are battling fear mongering about transportation emissions.

It’s All about Range Anxiety — Or Is It?

“They’re all gnashing their teeth about range anxiety,” Lamont told reporters after a speech in which he called out Republican opponents who have questioned the state’s ability to handle the transition toward electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Range anxiety is frequently cited as a detriment for EV ownership. Ironically, the highest percentage of people who express range anxiety are those people who don’t yet own their first EV, according to a November, 2023 report. While 76% of future EV owners worry about range, nearly 59% of current EV drivers report none.

Additionally, range anxiety decreases with experience. The report noted that range anxiety peaked for people who were 1-2 years out from purchasing their first EV. After the owners became more attuned to the rhythm and flow of an EV, they became less concerned about charging. Really, it’s just after 3+ years of ownership that a blip of range anxiety occurred in the study — likely, confidence in their rides allowed EV owners to become more adventurous and to travel farther from their regular routines.

Dependable Chargers, Coming your Way

“There won’t be a charging station near me. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to get it done,” the CT governor play-acted, implying that drama more than pragmatics was behind the EV attacks by opponents. Touching on all-too-common fears about performance and viability of EVs, opponents like to pull out the “charging” argument, but that’s so last year.

That’s because SAE International now affirms that Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS) connector will become the standard. Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Rivian, and a number of EV charging companies are adopting the NACS connector through adapters or future product offerings. The standard could help boost consumer confidence in EVs as the White House, the auto industry, and other stakeholders strive to encourage EV mass adoption.

Our CleanTechnica writer, Fritz Hasler goes so far to say, “the reliability of the Tesla Supercharger system is unparalleled.” Non-Tesla vehicle drivers will grab an adapter, plug it in, and it’s really won’t be just Tesla’s NACS plug anymore, will it?

Transportation Equity Must Be Addressed

“We have this image of hybrid vehicles and EVs, those are for latte-drinking Tesla drivers who don’t understand how expensive life is for the middle class,” Lamont said. “We’ve got to make sure we show that we’re bringing down the cost of transportation.”

Well, 90% of current automobile owners would spend less if they switch to an EV. That makes sense, right? The cost of ownership over the life of an EV is less than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. And we could say that there are bunches of reasonably priced EVs in comparison to their previously used ICE counterparts. Sure, these are starting places, but transportation equity is not about this particular moment in time — it’s about how the benefits and costs of transportation investments have often been distributed inequitably, with communities who are historically underserved bearing a higher share of the burdens of the transportation system and lower share of the benefits.

Transportation equity is a major topic of concern in CT, and Lamont recognizes its relevance and importance. The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) admits it is is aware of discrepancies in transportation access and pollution. The CTDOT is now imbuing environmental justice throughout the planning, design, construction, operations, and maintenance of its projects across all travel modes.

The efforts of Lamont and his cohort are in line with the US Department of Energy, which has promoted President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative and has noted how 40% of the benefits of climate and clean energy investments will go to disadvantaged communities. The DOE says that the initiative creates good-paying jobs, revitalizes local economies, provides affordable, sustainable housing, boosts workforce development and training, promotes reduction of legacy pollution, and invests in critical infrastructure for clean water. There are 167 DOE programs under Justice40 that provide a pathway for equitable deep decarbonization that transforms and builds wealth in underserved/overburdened communities.

Governors Coalesce around Reducing Transportation Emissions

Several other state governors are fighting fear mongering as they attempt to reduce transportation emissions in their states. Here’s a mere sampling.

Governor Dan McKee, state officials, and environmental champion legislators announced in May that Rhode Island will join 7 states in adopting a policy aimed at reining in carbon pollution by slashing tailpipe emissions from cars, trucks, and SUVs. McKee explained the new acts would help to minimize climate pollution across the state “but especially in environmental justice communities and ensure adequate customer choice on electric vehicles in the future.”

New Mexico’s Governor Lujan Grisham revealed in July that the state would move to adopt Advanced Clean Cars and Advanced Clean Trucks rules to further advance state goals of ensuring for access to zero emission vehicles (ZEVs). The New Mexico Environment Protection website says these rules will “fight climate change and improve local air quality. Unlike gasoline and diesel fuels, electric cars and hydrogen truck fueling stations will not pollute groundwater throughout our state.”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced the filing of the Advanced Clean Cars II rule for adoption on December 18, directing the state toward better air quality and cleaner choices for new vehicle buyers while combating the worsening climate crisis. New Jersey joins a growing number of states that are requiring vehicle manufacturers to make zero emission vehicles an increasing percentage of their new light-duty vehicle sales beginning in model year 2027, ramping up to 100% ZEVs by 2035.

Final Thoughts about EVs & Fear Mongering

As more research takes place, less fear mongering about EVs will occur, because so much innovation is quickly wiping out the EV/ICE discrepancies. For example, more than a dozen Michigan State University faculty are collaborating on a project to explore and drive innovations in battery chemistry, electrical systems, the materials that make a car, and more. It’s one of many, many projects that have the potential to change the EV landscape in 5 or 10 years.

CT Senate Democrats will hold a caucus meeting to discuss the potential for legislation codifying the California regulations. State Representative Joe Gresko, D- Stratford, said that opposition within the Senate caucus remained a “big piece of the puzzle” following multiple rounds of meetings in the House. Gresko mentioned that legislative leaders were supposed to meet around the holidays to determine whether there is enough support to call a special session in January focused on the issue of the California regulations — instead of waiting for the regular legislative session to begin in February.

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